Cairo to Nairobi overland tours

If you want to explore some of Africa’s wildest spaces and ancient cities without the hassle of organising everything yourself then an overland truck tour from Cairo to Nairobi is an excellent option. You’ll travel from the desert landscapes of Egypt to the safari parks of Kenya via little-visited regions of Sudan and Ethiopia, many of which you simply couldn’t reach under your own steam. What’s more you’ll cover a huge amount of ground in a relatively short space of time without the need for damaging short-haul flights. You’ll stay in low-impact locally-run campsites and guesthouses, so your footprint is lighter and you’re contributing valuable funds, while getting to meet local people in the process.
You’ll travel with a group of up to 24 others, as well as a driver and a tour leader. Along the way you’ll meet up with experienced local guides who can tell you everything you need to know about whichever pyramid, ancient city or national park you’re visiting, as well as fill you in on local gossip, politics and culture. There’ll be plenty of opportunities for other cultural exchanges, too. You’ll visit a cattle market in Sudan, for example, encounter different ethnic groups in Ethiopia’s Omo Valley and meet plenty of talented artists and makers as you travel down through the continent.
Getting up close to a huge variety of wildlife is another boon, with everything from snorkelling in the Red Sea to meeting gelada baboons in Ethiopia to a classic East African safari on the agenda. But there are also those off-menu wildlife encounters that seem to happen every day on trips like these – coming across camels blocking your path on a remote desert track; watching a massive swarm of bats swoop overhead at dusk; hearing the distant grunting of hyenas at night; or even having your bags broken into by a baboon. Overland truck tours certainly aren’t for everyone, though. You’ll be spending long hours with your truck-mates, and there’ll be gruelling drives, nights spent back-to-basics camping, and daily chores to take part in. Plus you do sacrifice some independence for the good of the group, with limited time to go off exploring on your own. And then there’s the fact that you’ll be spending long hours with the same group of people for weeks on end. Like your family, you can’t choose your truck-mates, so patience and an easy-going nature will stand you in good stead.

Cairo to Nairobi itinerary & highlights

Cairo to Nairobi covers over 12,000km, a journey of around nine weeks, depending on the route taken. For much of the journey you’ll follow the Nile, through Egypt, into Sudan and as far south as Khartoum and then along the Blue Nile towards remote reaches of Ethiopia. From here you’ll move onto the parks and reserves of Kenya, with some tours taking a detour into Uganda and Rwanda for gorilla trekking. This itinerary can also be done in reverse, from Nairobi to Cairo.

Egypt

Getting to know the country’s ancient heritage is high on the agenda here, and you’ll explore the pyramids at Giza as well as the temples and palaces of Luxor, the Valley of the Kings and Edfu. You’ll also spend time waterside, with snorkelling, diving and windsurfing along the Red Sea coast all possible options.

Ethiopia

The ancient sites of Axum and Lalibela provide a healthy dose of history and culture, but you’ll also be able to get active by hiking in the Simien Mountains. While visiting the Omo Valley you’ll encounter several different ethnic groups, all of whom hold on tight to their traditions – though whether it’s right to visit them or not is up for debate.

Kenya

You’ve reached peak wildlife viewing once you hit Kenya, with the Great Rift Valley opening up some of the most dramatic scenery in the world – vast empty plains, hills covered in tea plantations and expanses of desert. Wildlife watching takes place at Hells Gate National park, Lake Nakuru National Park, Lake Naivasha and Masai Mara National Park.

Sudan

Sudan delivers the most extraordinary landscapes, from the black basalt, volcanic mounds that rise up out of the desert to the proliferation of pyramids, which segue in and out of the sands. You’ll be able to get to grips with modern life in this predominantly Muslim country in Khartoum – a meeting place of ancient, British colonial and oil funded modern architecture.

Uganda

Your main aim here will be getting up close to gorillas (on some trips this is an optional extra) in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park or Queen Elizabeth National Park. This involves a trek of up to five hours, plus around an hour with the animals themselves. You could also spend time at Jinja – Uganda’s adventure playground.

Our top Africa overland Vacation

Nairobi and Cape Town African overland truck tour

Nairobi and Cape Town African overland truck tour

The best of Eastern and Southern Africa overland

From £4455 to £4585 71 days ex flights
Small group travel:
2019: 2 Dec
2020: 11 Apr, 31 May, 20 Sep, 30 Nov
2021: 27 Jan, 10 Apr, 30 May, 19 Sep, 29 Nov
2022: 26 Jan
Travel Team
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Activities

What to do on a Cairo to Nairobi vacation can be as simple as losing yourself in nature and history as you experience landscapes like nowhere else on earth; but throughout the trip there will be opportunities to try a whole range of adventurous activities, most of which come at an additional cost. Think sailing down the Nile on a traditional felucca, hiking in the Simien Mountains National Park in Ethiopia, white water rafting on the Nile near Jinja or mountain biking through Hell's Gate National Park in Kenya. Check with your operator in advance to make sure you know which activities are and aren’t included.

The journeys aren’t just long-distance hauls along faceless highways, either. They are adventures in their own right, with epic scenery gliding past the windows, whether you’re passing through vast expanses of Sudanese desert, or gazing out at the plains of the Great Rift Valley. Trucks have big windows so you can make the most of the views, and your tour leaders will give insight into what you’re seeing, too.

Practicalities

Your home for this mammoth adventure will be a durable but comfortable and well-equipped purpose-built truck, that can deal with all manner of road conditions and comes with perks such as an on board library, charging points and a stereo system. You’ll travel with up to 24 other passengers, most of whom will be traveling solo, as well as a driver and a tour leader, though you’ll often have extra guidance from local experts at sites of specific interest – the pyramids, for example.
Distances are huge in this part of the world so you can expect early starts, long drives and some late finishes. You’ll travel by truck between each destination, and you’ll be on the road for between three-and-a-half and nine hours a day on travel days. Generally, you’ll spend one or two nights at each stop, though this could be longer – a few days in Jinja, Uganda for adrenaline activities, for example, and four or five days in Aswan to finalise Sudanese visas, where you can opt to take a felucca cruise.
Most nights will be spent camping out under the stars, either at purpose-built campsites or out in the wilderness, with the odd night sleeping at small locally-run hostels and guest houses. It’s important that everyone mucks in on these trips, so you’ll be involved in shopping for food in local markets, cooking for your group, collecting water and setting up camp.

Traveling responsibly

Jackie Woon, from our operator Oasis Overland:
“We are very aware of the impact a large group may have in a destination and speak to our groups about being mindful of this themselves. Respecting local customs and traditions is emphasised at the start of the trip. It’s really rare that the whole group will all undertake an activity together and therefore the impact of a large group are minimised.

Overland travel reduces the need for environmentally damaging flights. Our vehicles are regularly serviced and maintained to reduce their emissions and we take care not to overload them to reduce fuel consumption. The majority of our time is spent camping, so there’s no opportunity to leave the aircon on, or get the towels changed every day. Our crew are scrupulous about making sure no trace is left of a nights camping, so any rubbish is cleared.”
Written by Nana Luckham
Photo credits: [Page banner: DAVID HOLT] [Sudan: Nina R] [Kenya: Harshil Gudka] [Practicalities: Dylan Walters]
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