Trans Africa Safari Expedition
A 4x4 adventure of superlatives
Philosophy and itinerary of the Trans-Africa Expedition
There are many reasons to travel: the escape from everyday life, the search or the addiction for ever new adventures. Whatever it is, it remains a fascinating experience and adventure across the African continent that will accompany you for the rest of your life and will certainly change you to some extent.
Out of Africa has captivated explorers, adventure travellers and rally junkies alike. As a teenager, I sat mesmerised in front of the amazing impressions of the Paris Dakar Rally, with the wish in the back of my mind: I want to experience AFRICA, once in Paris Dakar or better still, once across the entire continent!
Everyone who has travelled Africa several times and knows the addiction "Adventure Africa" as a "life elixir" knows how difficult this part of the world is. After three years of planning and three subsequent expeditions, we have come to grips with these difficulties and know that this is an experienceable, exclusive adventure that will be remembered by EVERY participant.
My name is Joe Küster, founder of OVERCROSS with well over 100,000 "Africa kilometres" tour experience as a guide.
In 2014, over a cup of coffee and the question of life's last adventures, the idea was born in the offices of Schaaf Federtechnik in Möglingen.
The starting signal for a handful of participants to cross the African continent. After a few thousand kilometres, the first expedition failed miserably. Two years later, with a total of three years of preparation and a "burnout syndrome", I started the Trans Africa expedition again. This time planned "according to the general plan"! A motorbike tour guide, a support guide in a Land Rover Defender and an online tour guide were specially assigned, briefed and trained for the expedition. An emergency phone and satellite monitoring as well as a "direct line" on site were also provided. With this mega effort, this mega expedition could start, which was and remains an indescribable experience for the participants.
After more than 20 years of experience in Africa, you can believe me that this expedition (besides my children and the great love at my side) is THE adventure, what the "world" means to me. After 45 days, the trip will have changed you and will stay with you for the rest of your life.
Two years after returning from the TRANS AFRICA EXPEDITION, I know that for me as a guide and organiser, this expedition was both the most strenuous and the most "liberating" thing I have ever done in my life!
Picture: Trans Africa Off Road Safari Expedition.
Maybe this trip is the craziest, most exhausting, most expensive and most pointless thing that has ever crossed your mind. A typical participant of this EXPEDITION is an academic or entrepreneur with a fair amount of responsibility and obligations, a type of person who immediately leaves the comfort zone for an experience, in order to master 15,000 kilometres of Africa Expiriance with minimalist equipment and a sworn expedition team. A cold beer from the cooler now and then, eating in the bush, sleeping in the roof tent. The rest is the experience, which you will experience every day anew on the journey.
An expedition for people like you and me, people who are already travelling when they hear key words like: "Camel Trophy / Paris Dakar / Somewhere in Africa", a special breed of people who reduce the number of participants and the equipment in advance.
Trans-Africa | Wildcamp - Wagenburg
Arrival day: Transcontinental flight to South Africa
We flew through the night with South African Airlines and landed at Cape Town International Airport (CTIA), South Africa's second largest airport, at around 11:00 am.
The shuttle will take us to Table Bay on the north-western edge of Cape Town. We pick up the vehicles at the warehouse of the forwarding agency that took care of the transport. We connect the batteries, stow luggage and equipment. We drive to the nearest petrol station where we fill up our vehicles before we drive the first kilometres to our campsite at the foot of Table Mountain. Welcome to the Cape, welcome to Mama Africa in the heart of Cape Town!
Cape Town | The Trans-Africa Safari Expedition starts here
Start zur Transafrika-Safari-Expedition
At the Cape of Good Hope we take the start picture after sunrise over Africa!
Here we go: once across the African continent! Past Cape Town we drive around the bay to Somerset West. Short stop for breakfast and on to Chapman's Peak Drive. Via the legendary and relaxed Garden Route we reach Mossel Bay and enjoy the view of the Indian Ocean. In the late afternoon we will reach Knysna Park before sunset, closing the first day of travel on a wildlife safari with a South African sundowner.
South Africa | The Trans Africa Safari near Addo National Park
Adrenalin along the Garden Route
We fold in the roof tents for the first time and take off to the bridge 50 kilometres away. Today we have 211 metres of free fall for breakfast. Alternatively, we can hook you up to a cable car that will catapult you through the forest at a height of 30 metres! If you're still hungry then, you'll get a dessert to go with your adrenaline breakfast. "On the road again": On asphalt we reel off the scenery of the Garden Route.
South Africa | Along the famous Garden Route
Lesotho: Over the Sani Pass into the Kingdom
In the small town of Hofmeyr, a dreary transit town, we make our breakfast stop and fill up tanks and food for today's marathon day. Today's stage will be one of the toughest asphalt stretches in southern Africa. We cross KwaZulu-Natal and reach the border to the smallest kingdom in Africa: Lesotho. With 64 inhabitants per km², it is a small and manageable country with equally manageable border formalities, which we should have completed within half an hour. We drive up into the kingdom to an altitude of 2800 metres. Now it gets exciting for the "first time": over the highlands of Lesotho we reach the fantastic landscape of the Drakensberg Mountains, which characterise the scenery of southern Lesotho. Time and desire will be the deciding factor in the Kingdom of Lesotho when we spend the night at the "feet" of the 3482 high Thabana Ntlenyana at Bob's Campground. You can take a bath in the Matebeng River and enjoy the only luxury far and wide to the full. It will be the first and last cold bath and the first and last cold night south of the equator.
After the Garden Route we reach the foot of the Drakensberg Mountains
On the road to the battlefield
Clouds of fog move up the Thabana Ntlenyana, we move with them and cross a continuous fog bank to the summit. It is cold and damp until we reach the next valley and the African sun bathes the Lesotho landscape in bright green. Breakfast in the highest bar in South Africa before we tear out of Lesotho over the Sani Pass, which is the third steepest pass in the world, and reach the Mkhomazane border post into South Africa at the foot of the Drakensberg Mountains. After our third border crossing we cross the state of Kwa Zulu Natal and towards evening we are standing on the "Battlefields" in the former kingdom of the Zulu. The Zulu War of 1879 was an undeclared war between the Zulu and the savage tea-drinking people. After the British Empire, with its superiority in arms, defeated the Zulu at the Battle of Ulundi, the Zulu Kingdom ceased to exist as a sovereign state. It is in the midst of these battlefields that this day of travel ends.
Land Rover Zebra on the Trans-Africa Expedition
Safari to the Kingdom of Eswatini
Morning ceremony: tour briefing and a last sip from the coffee cup, then the engines are started and we drive to Swaziland. Via South Africa's country roads we reach the border to the Kingdom of Swaziland. The route stretches through the mountainous kingdom to the Hlane Royal National Park. Hlane Royal National Park is home to the largest herds of lions, elephants, white rhinos and giraffes in Swaziland. We go stalking in the park ranger's Land Rover and enjoy the sundowner amidst the African wildlife, provided we haven't "worn ourselves out" in time between Swaziland's bends.
Swaziland - Give way
New Year's Eve Party at Gecko Lodge near Kruger Park
The last day of the old year begins relaxed: Sleep in, leisurely breakfast, on- and off-road through the forests of Swaziland to the border crossing of the state of Mpumalanga in South Africa. We reach Hazyview around afternoon and fill up ALL tanks until the new year! From here on, the length of the daily stages will decrease for the rest of the tour, as we have "only" done distance up to here in order to be able to take more time for the "real" Africa.
IT'S TIME TO PARTY - New Year's Eve in Africa and "only" eleven countries and one continent to go!
On the Trans-Africa in South Africa, at Gecko Lodge (near Kruger Park)
New Year in Africa: A Year of Adventure!
The new year in Africa begins with a hangover breakfast, coffee, aspirin, rollmops and a counter beer. We set off on a relaxed "sobering up tour" through the Kruger Park. The states of Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Kwazulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo are behind us and the last state, Northern Province, lies ahead. It will be rather "quiet" kilometres through the Kruger Park today, which we will drive in a northerly direction before heading back on the road to the border.
Lion family in Krueger National Park, South Africa
Once across Zimbabwe
Welcome to Zimbabwe! The border crossing takes place with the crossing of the Limpopo River, depending on the water level and the waiting crocodiles. After we have got the off-road vehicles through customs formalities, we are ready to go. The next stopover is Matobo National Park.
On one of the main African routes we reach Great Zimbabwe and dive into a piece of African history. The Rhodes-Matobo National Park, founded in 1926 and called Matobo National Park since 1953, is Zimbabwe's oldest national park. In 2003, it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It became famous not only because Cecil Rhodes is buried here, but also because of the imposing granite rock formations. Here, 2000 years ago, the Bantu are said to have left a rich heritage of rock carvings and rock structures such as the impressive "Great Zimbabwe", which has been a World Heritage Site since 1986. The hills are still sacred places of worship for the Shona people. Here we set up our camp.
On the way from Zimbabwe to Zambia on the Trans-Africa Off-Road Vehicle Safari
Safari to the famous Victoria Falls
A new tour day begins with the sunrise over Africa. Fold in the tents, a sip of coffee, a biscuit and off we go. We start the engines and drive off- and on-road towards the north-northwest. Today's itinerary takes us past Hwange National Park. Depending on the course of the tour, group dynamics and interest, we will go on safari in Hwange National Park. The end of the day's stage is the Zambian border, where we will reach one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites again after about 500 kilometres. Welcome to Mosi oa Tunya, better known as Victoria Falls, which separates Zimbabwe and Zambia with the Zambezi River.
Trans-Africa trip to the impressive Victoria Falls
From Livingstone to Lusaka
And "daily greets the groundhog" after a short, deep sleep: briefing, coffee, off we go. We reach Zambia via the 200-metre long Railroad or Victoria Falls Bridge. This impressive border bridge between Zimbabwe and Zambia was commissioned by Cecil Rhodes in 1903. The bridge was built in England, brought to Africa by sea freight and inaugurated by George Howard Darwin, Charles Darwin's son, after only 14 months of construction and erection. After receiving the Zimbabwean exit stamp, we cross 200 metres of exciting history before reaching Zambia on the other bank of the Zambezi. Clearance at customs and then off on an unspectacular asphalt "racetrack" and a dead straight off-road shortcut towards the north-east. Zambia is derived from the border river Zambezi, which runs between Zimbabwe and Zambia. The Railroad Bridge over the Zambezi is the only link in the Victoria Falls region. Crossing the Zambezi, we enter Zambia, which is ranked 141 out of 187 in the Human Development Index (2014). 99% of the black African population speaks about 72 Bantu languages. The country ahead of us is rather sparsely populated with about 19 inhabitants per m² and for us Africa begins as we imagine it.
Welcome to Zambia!
Expedition Zambia, the safari into the unknown?
We travel across the vast highlands of Zambia to the Malawi border. Zambia, formerly known as Northern Rhodesia and independent since 1964, offers a variety of animals and plants in large national parks. However, it is best known for its waterfalls, of which Victoria Falls is the most famous. Other large waterfalls can be found all over the country, which, due to the subtropical location, wash down violent and impressive masses of water during the rainy season. The sparsely populated country sometimes has no infrastructure on the extensive stretches. So it is obvious that we are in for an itinerary in Zambia that holds ALL the surprises, because we travel (how could it be otherwise) in the rainy season, with fierce tropical storms and temperatures between 24 and 38°C. Past Zambia's national parks and across the great Luangwa River, we cross the entire Eastern Province, where cotton is grown on barren soils and aquamarines are still found today that can fetch up to US$1000 per carat.
Trans-Africa Crossing in Zambia
At Lake Malawi
Like every morning: discussing the day's stage over coffee and biscuits and starting the engines with the first rays of sunshine... we don't want to give the impression that we are a self-help organisation, but it is the discussions that make the journey easier. We reach the border to Malawi via the asphalt stage. Today's travel day is only interrupted by the waiting time at the border post. We use this to have breakfast, refuel, brush our teeth (yes, this is not neglected either, because even if the pants are only changed once, the teeth must not suffer) and write postcards. With a lot of luck, we get our turn quickly and thus avoid writing postcards (although the mothers at home might be a bit curious and miss us already). After completing the Malawian border formalities, the crossing of Malawi begins! We drive to Lake Malawi on relatively good roads, off the road and along the lake off-road to the lodge. Jump into the water, lick our wounds and eat a delicious crocodile meal - with a view of the other crocodiles in the lake.
Lake Malawi on the East African Rift Valley
Through the East African Rift Valley
Malawi lies almost entirely in the East African Rift Valley and is rather densely populated with 120 people per km². The lifeline of Malawi is Africa's third largest lake, along whose shores we will travel today. Sunrise over Lake Malawi, discuss the day's route, coffee, biscuit, go! The route leads along the western flank of Lake Malawi, which covers about 30,000 km². As usual, we will approach the border to Tanzania "pole pole" (Swahili: slowly). While the border formalities are being processed, we can enjoy the "delicacies" of the Songwe border river. As usual, we refuel, eat and write postcards before getting back into the car seat and driving through a new African country. For this afternoon, we have endless tough African kilometres on dirt roads ahead of us. This day will stick in our bones for a long time with its challenging stretches. At sunset, we will reach the coffee region of Tanzania, where we will conclude what is expected to be one of the toughest days of driving!
Beware of elephants: On the way from Malawi to Tanzania by off-road vehicle
Tanzania: Welcome to the "most fertile" and youngest country in Africa
With a fertility rate of 5.3% and an average age of 15 years, Tanzania is probably one of the youngest countries in Africa, with 43 inhabitants per m². After yesterday's exhausting day, we will start the day with a leisurely breakfast and enjoy the freshly brewed coffee directly from the plantation at our leisure. We cross the endless expanses of Tanzania, roaming along the more or less well-maintained roads/tracks along the well-known Ruaha National Park in a northerly direction until we reach our night's camp "in the 1000-star hotel" Tanzania. Here in Tanzania, a few mechanic friends will be waiting for us for a "pit stop"! The next day, all the oils come out and all the wear parts that we were able to/needed to order by phone on the way are now replaced. Time out until the sun rises again the next day. We have a leisurely breakfast, discuss the day and set off again for Kenya.
Huge herds of animals cavort in the Tanzanian savannah
Stopover Kilimanjaro with destination Nairobi
Unfortunately, there is no time for the Ngorongoro Crater, the Serengeti or the ascent of Kilimanjaro on this Trans-Africa tour. But we have a "foretaste" of the beauty of the countries and can always come back or simply drive back again... Passing Mount Meru, we drive on towards the north. Through the eternal expanse, the euphorbias are the only highlight, until we reach Mount Longido, where we take a rest before we will reach the border to Kenya. After crossing the border from Tanzania into Kenya, we reach Nairobi. After about six thousand Africa kilometres we will take the time to visit the city and buy provisions for the next 14 days. In the evening we will eat a crocodile with some bikers from Nairobi and the Royal Enfield importer in the Kroko Bar. What we don't manage, we take with us as a "dogi bag". Towards evening we chain ourselves to the bar and wash the dust down our lungs until the doctor comes! We have enough time to sleep... when we are back home. Next destination: Ethiopia, the largest landlocked country in the world in terms of population! 1001 experiences lie behind us, 1001 kilometres across Kenya ahead of us. We ride until the sun goes down. The second marathon day, this time through the land of marathon runners. A day that could hardly be tougher. Sun full, dust thick and sweat running through the pores like.... whatever. It will definitely be the most indescribable adventure!
Kilimanjaro towers over the Tanzanian savannah
Trans-Africa Expedition to the Cradle of Humankind
The turnpike to Ethiopia goes up and we start through to Addis Ababa. The barren landscape becomes greener and lusher, an area with high lion, hyena, giraffe and elephant populations and in places disastrous roads and tracks. Ethiopia ranks 173 (out of 187) on the Human Development Index and is one of the poorest countries in the world. Half of the Ethiopian population is undernourished and lives mostly on subsistence farming. Tourism is a drop in the ocean. For us, the trip will perhaps bring the realisation of the luxury we live in and the importance of fair trade. Regardless of whether it is the milk from the farmer on our doorstep or the coffee that the food companies get for us as cheaply as possible at the expense of the poorest. For photographers, this country will probably be the highlight, even if we are on tour for ten hours a day, stops for photos and national parks like the Abidjatta-Shalla National Park we will treat ourselves to... as long as we are "in time"! We cross the African landscape kilometre by kilometre, from horizon to horizon ever further north, ever further towards the shower and the African urban jungle of Addis Ababa. The nightly conferences of the city dogs over the rooftops of Addis through the courtyards and streets of the city usually do not end before sunrise. TJA - This is Africa. But here it's the dogs that do it and here it's the politi... another topic!
Anyone who has ever spent an African night on a rooftop or in a cheap hotel by the hour amidst cockroaches, fleas and the barking of dogs knows why we will treat ourselves to a four-star hotel for tonight. On the other hand, we are so brushed and ironed after the hellish ride that we would sleep well in any doss house.
Safari Stage to the Origin of the Blue Nile
We pass Merkato, one of the largest markets in Africa with about 100 hectares, which is visited by a quarter of a million people DAILY. Freshly supplied with water and bread, we set off on the Ethiopian roads. Our first stage destination is Lake Tana at an altitude of 1830 metres, whose outflow in Bahir Dar is the source of the Blue Nile. Our day's stage destination is Gondar, the first capital of antiquity, where we spend the evening at Fasilidas Castle with the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians celebrating the Timkat festival in the legendary Bath of Fasilidas. Here and now in Gondar is the Epiphany festival with the procession and celebration of the baptism of Jesus Christ.... and we are there with you!
One of the famous rock churches in Ethiopia that we visit on our African adventure
Crossing the border from Ethiopia into Sudan
The Ethiopian roads and the last night will still be heavy on our bones. Today's driving day will be rather long and monotonous from the Sudanese border to Khartoum. We will cross the south of Sudan in one day on asphalt to the capital, where we will arrive shortly before sunset.
Sandstorm on the Trans-Africa Tour in Sudan
Endless Nubian Desert
Along the "Sudan Express" we will cross the Nubian Desert in two full days of driving. The desert area between the Third Cataract of the Nile and Khartoum is considered ancient Egypt's high culture. In the desert land of the tall Hamitic Nubians we will encounter cultural-historical relics of ancient pyramids, burial cities and temple ruins, which date back to the cultural heyday of the Kingdom of Kush before our era. We will spend the night in or near the oldest necropolis, the royal necropolis of the Kingdom of Kush. Filling up the water and petrol tanks for the last time in Sudan: Fully refuelled, we head back into the merciless desert, which will certainly demand our last strength before we cross the border at railway station 1 to the Kingdom of the Pharaohs.
The pyramids of Meroe in Sudan, silent witnesses of the ancient empire of Kush in Nubia
The last country of the Trans-Africa Expedition: Egypt
Inschallah, the ferry will welcome us in the morning hours. After unloading in Wadi Halfa, we can bring the off-road vehicles on board and enjoy the (old school) crossing on the pontoon or barge (depending on which is ready for use). On the Trans Africa Tour this will be our core date. The border situation between Egypt and Sudan is getting on the last nerve of every tour operator! Maybe that is the reason why no one offers it?! We leave Lake Nubia, which becomes Lake Nasser when we cross the border into Egypt. Ahead of us is the harbour town of Abu Simbel and a marathon with the authorities. With our new Egyptian number plates we can then drive into Abu Simbel for the long-awaited shower.
In Abu Simbel we get up close and personal with past millennia.
In the footsteps of the pharaohs to the Valley of the Kings
We leave Abu Simbel on tarred roads heading north along the Sahara and immerse ourselves in the desert world with its isolated volcanic craters and the monotonous mirages of the Sahara. After 250 kilometres we reach the Aswan checkpoint, finally a few bends and the Aswan dam. On the Khazan Aswan Road we cross the Nile and follow it northwards to the Valley of the Kings near Luxor. After visiting the tombs, we change banks again and visit the night performance of the Karnak Temple.
In Luxor, the beauty of Egyptian monumental art is revealed to us.
Off-road across the Sahara of the Pharaohs
We leave the green Nile belt and enter the Egyptian desert/Sahara in the early morning hours. We cross the desert tongue of Quena, if the road conditions and our condition allow it. Along the Nile we travel on to our big stage destination: Cairo. The streets become busier and you can literally feel the metropolis announcing itself with the crowds of people on the streets. West of the Nile we can see the pyramids of Giza from far away. A great goal has been reached. We are standing in front of the Sphinx and the pyramids, the stage goal Africa is reached after about 12 000 kilometres and we have crossed the length of the "black" continent once! Time for a good, cold beer.
The last big milestone shortly before the end of the journey: the pyramids of Giza near Cairo
We can take a relaxed approach to the last few kilometres from Cairo to Alexandria, where we load the expedition vehicles into the waiting containers. From this historic city, home to the famous library and one of the seven wonders of the world, the "Pharos of Alexandria" lighthouse, we return to Cairo and the airport.
The Mediterranean Sea near Alexandria: we made it! Once trans-Africa!
The last breakfast together before we fly towards the Central European winter. We say goodbye to new friends, an exciting time in our lives and probably the biggest adventure of your life: over 14,000 kilometres, 11 countries and a huge continent later, we are 1001 impressions richer!
Here is a rough description of the route:
- Cape Town - Lesotho,
- Lesotho - Swaziland,
- Swaziland - Kruger Park,
- Kruger Park - Zimbabwe,
- Zimbabwe to Zambia,
- Zambia to Malawi,
- Malawi to Tanzania,
- Tanzania to Kenya,
- Kenya to Ethiopia
- Ethiopia to Sudan
- Sudan to Egypt
This 4x4 expedition/safari through Africa is not a package trip to the beach and not suitable for every traveller! Therefore, we ask for your understanding that a personal interview is indispensable before a booking/confirmation of participation!
You can find our 4x4 rental vehicles HERE!