Trip feedback? Africa Big Lap

Travel Forums Africa and The Middle East Trip feedback? Africa Big Lap

1. Posted by Malan (First Time Poster 1 posts) 1y 1 Star this if you like it!

Has anybody done a similar trip and can offer some advice or tips? Here is a summary of the planned Africa Big Lap:

I have been planning this trip through Southern and Eastern Africa intensely for several months and have spent an enormous amount of time on the choice of travel vehicle/s, equipment, gear, emergency planning, the route, visa requirements, tourist destinations, campsites and budget. I’ve done a similar trip in Australia in 2012/13, covering 37,000 km around the continent and Tasmania for 12 months. On this trip I also travelled with a 200 series Land Cruiser and an AOR Quantum off-road caravan. This trip blog is also on Travellerspoint, titled Big Lap Australia 2012-2013

The choice of travel vehicle was a major decision. I had the choice to use my 80 series Land Cruiser with a rooftop tent, but was aware of the limited space it offered and the hardship I would encounter camping in bad weather or in campsites with no or filthy showers and toilets. The better manoeuvrability on difficult tracks was tempting, but in the end I chose the same configuration as in Australia, but this time towing an Echo4x4, Kavango Legend KA2 off-road caravan with my Land Cruiser 200. On the Australian trip this vehicle configuration gave us the extra luxury required and the freedom to camp independent of camp showers and toilets and the Land Cruiser and Quantum handled the most difficult 4x4 tracks without any problems. The KA2 is similar to the Quantum with independent suspension, big water tanks, big fridge/freezer, solar power, gas geyser, shower cubicle and external kitchen. I have my reservations about the KA2 because it was delivered brand new but with several defects and missing parts that caused me to doubt the quality control system at Echo4x4. They have since made a serious effort to fix all the problems but since their quality control system is still suspect in my mind and only the rough Africa roads will be a final judge of that.

The route planning was more difficult than the Australian Big Lap plan because of the multiple countries involved with potentially problematic border crossings, road conditions, water availability and diesel availability. In Australia I used Camps Australia Wide to plan which campsites to use. For this trip I used a combination of Tracks4Africa and iOverlander to plan routes and campsites. As with the Australian plan, I also had to consider the timing of my departure to avoid severe hot and drenching wet weather on the route as far as possible. The decision was to depart in Mossel Bay at the start of the winter season in May and travel through [b]Botswana, Zambia, Northern Malawi, Western Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Central and Eastern Tanzania, the rest of Malawi, Central and Southern Mozambique and back to Mossel Bay through Kwa-Zulu Natal and Eastern Cape provinces before the school holidays in December. In the second half of the trip we plan to take a break from camping and stay in lodges for 8 days on Zanzibar and Pemba islands.

The trip plan includes stays in and visits to 56 national parks and nature reserves as well as scuba diving in 12 locations in Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique and South Africa.

The past couple of months have been mainly spent on gear and equipment acquisition and preparation. The Land Cruiser had to be upgraded to handle the African bush and roads and I added a winch, snorkel, roof rack, rock sliders, drawer system, coil spring air bags, seat covers and new off-road tyres. I also imported a Stone Stomper from Australia, a strong, broad net that is attached between the tow vehicle and the caravan to prevent stones being thrown onto the caravan or bounced back onto the tow vehicle. Since the route includes 4,600 km gravel road or 4x4 tracks, this should prove to be a good investment. I also had to make modifications on the KA2 to make it more robust on the gravel roads and 4x4 tracks. I chose to match the KA2 rims and tyres with the Land Cruiser rims and tyres to effectively have two spare wheels between the tow vehicle and caravan. My son and I also covered the KA2’s wheel arches with Stone Chip, installed bigger mud flaps and added rubber fender flares to prevent stones being thrown against the side of the KA2. I also took the option of an additional water tank that gave the KA2 a capacity of 250 liters, enough water to independently camp for at least 5 days before refilling. In Australia I found this to be the main limiting factor how long could be camped in a campsite without water.

Trip planning is part of the fun of such a long and comprehensive continental trip. I’ve learned a tremendous lot about the different countries and their tourist attractions. The purpose of this trip is mainly safari combined with scuba diving and to enjoy the remote, natural African bush.

2. Posted by Peter (Admin 7217 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

That's one epic trip you have planned there. Thanks for posting about the planning process. Really interesting info for sure for anyone considering something similar!

3. Posted by GraemeBots (Budding Member 19 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

Dear Malan,
I am most envious and wish I had the time to do a similar trip myself. But with typically just 3 or 4 day windows available I have to be content with short trips around Botswana.
Just a couple of comments.....
1. I like to take some exercise whilst I'm traveling, and many African National Parks have fairly strict rules about where you can and can't get out of your vehicle. And in many you are also confined to camp after sunset. The sunset rule means that you are almost certain not to see common animals like springhares, porcupines and genets, which are strictly nocturnal. So if I can I prefer to stay outside the parks in a community campsite, where the rules are much more relaxed and I can go for a stroll in the evening to see what is around. It's fun meeting up with some of the local community too.
2. I'm sure you are doing the right thing by avoiding rooftop tents. We gave up on these some years ago. The freedom of being able to drive off for an excursion at the first glimmer of dawn without having to pack anything up is worth a lot. And it also means that members of the party that want to sleep in can do so, and those who want to go off at dawn can leave them to it.
3. I'm sorry to say that I've found iOverlander a bit misleading from time to time. To provide an example, I wanted to visit the Kgagodi Impact crater last weekend, near the village of Lesenepole. On the iOverlander map Lesenepole is shown as being about 30 minutes drive away from its actual location, and the Kgagodi Crater is not shown at all. Tracks4Africa have both the village and the crater in the correct locations. So I would be a bit reluctant to use iOverlander as a navigation tool. If locations are missing it doesn't matter - you can always ask someone when you get close. But if they are shown in the wrong location this can lead you astray.
Anyway, best of luck with your travels. Graeme