Overland travel

First things first, Cape Town to Victoria Falls tours are almost always overland vacations. So, anyone with an aversion to road travel can look away now. These tours are about the route and the road as much as the destination. It’s the journey that counts, and the sense of adventure it brings – chucking your kit bag onto a bus and heading out, watching landscapes change with each passing mile, crossing borders and gorging on an entire region in a single epic trip.

The classic Cape Town to Victoria Falls overland route is around 5,000km long and spread over about three weeks. It takes in an amazing variety of landscapes, from desert to swampland, Atlantic coast to inland delta. Along the way, you’ll visit remote communities, hike up sand dunes and beneath towering mountains, see some of Africa’s legendary wildlife and soak up – literally when there’s a lot of spray – the mighty Mosi-oa-Tunya, the Smoke that Thunders.

Camping & catering

Most tours go big on adventure and light on luxe, so you’ll typically be camping along the route and putting up your tent each night – and even wild camping in the bush for a true back to nature adventure. The crew will take care of the catering, and because you’ll often be staying in remote spots, a huge number of the dinners and lunches are included.

Camping is definitely one of the most exciting ways to experience southern Africa, but before you sign up, be honest about your ability to do without a proper bed for three weeks, especially coupled with the long distances covered on this trip. There are often early starts, too, either to catch wildlife at its most active or to beat traffic and make good time on long travel days.

Our top Cape Town to Victoria Falls Vacation

Cape Town to Victoria Falls vacation in Southern Africa

Cape Town to Victoria Falls vacation in Southern Africa

A spectacular and diverse African journey

From US $3179 to US $3349 20 days ex flights
Small group travel:
2020: 29 Feb, 18 Jul, 29 Aug, 7 Nov
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On the road

Overland travel on the Cape Town to Victoria Falls route is always small group travel. Groups are typically no more than 12 people, with a minimum age of 18, traveling in a purpose-built vehicle. Chumming out with a group of likeminded travelers is one of the unique appeals of overland travel; camaraderie quickly builds and the scenery and stop-offs provide an endless supply of things to talk about.
Typically, the trucks don’t have air conditioning, but they have sliding windows which let in the breeze and make it easy to take spectacular snaps of the landscapes and wildlife. Vehicles usually come equipped with a reference library, and a fridge or icebox, so you can keep drinks and snacks cold. For game drives in national parks such as Chobe and Etosha, you’ll swap the main vehicle for a smaller safari vehicle.

As you might expect from an overland journey, driving is a fairly big component of the trip. The drive days can be long – some stretches take a chunky eight hours – but they are balanced by stays of two or three nights in some spots. The journeys aren’t just A-B hauls along faceless motorways, either. They are adventures in their own right, with epic scenery gliding past the windows. Driving 300km through the Namib-Naukluft Park to reach Swakopmund isn’t your typical five-hour journey, for instance. You’ll pass through one of the driest and oldest deserts on earth, with jagged rock formations and lunar landscapes unfolding before your eyes.
The roads are sometimes bumpy and if you’re traveling in the African summer (December to March), they may be affected by rain. In Namibia, 80 percent of journeys are on good gravel roads. However, the conditions are completely dependent on how the roads are being maintained at the time. Sometimes, they can be in a poor and potholed state. This can impact on journey times as well as comfort – expect to be bounced around, the so-called ‘African massage’ – and can be punishing on the vehicles. It’s always best to expect the unexpected – a flat tyre, a slow border crossing – and be prepared to go with the flow.

There’s no need to be an Olympian to go on an overland tour, but a certain level of stamina is definitely an asset. You need to be fit enough to haul yourself in and out of the truck eight or 10 times a day, which can get tiring, as can the constant setting up and packing up of camp. Consequently, overland tours are not easy for anyone with reduced mobility, but if you have taken an overland trip before and know it works for you, speak to the tour operator and they can work to accommodate you.
Written by Joanna Simmons
Photo credits: [Page banner: Sunway Safaris] [Intro: Oasis Overland] [Camping & catering: Oasis Overland] [On the road 1: Sunway Safaris] [On the road 2: Sunway Safaris]
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