Making Africa Affordable

This is my sixth time to Africa. In my twenties I navigated a sizable portion of the continent with buses, trains and hitchhiking. I camped in rural areas and stayed in hostels. In the 90s I rented a car to drive across South Africa and got stuck in sand trying to make it across an obscure Mozambique border crossing. I think I’ve used every possible mode of transport to get around this remarkable continent.
The most exciting part of Africa in my opinion is the part that most people imagine: being in the wilderness with nature. Seeing lions, elephants and rhinos. Most of the greatest safari adventures are concentrated on the southern and eastern part of the continent. The biggest challenge of course is getting to the park, getting around once you’re there, having a place to sleep and finding food to eat. There’s plenty of safari companies that will solve all those problems for you, but it comes at a price. Game lodges can charge $500-$1000/night to get you around and make sure you have a safari experience. By the time you add up all the expenses for your family to get to Africa and a couple weeks of food and accommodation, you might decide that your dream vacation to Africa stays a dream.
Backpackers and other budget travelers circumvent some of the fluff and keep costs low by hitchhiking or using public transport, staying in hostels and eating street food. This can save hundreds of dollars a day. But there’s opportunity costs. It takes a long time to get anywhere, you’re often at the mercy of others. It can be difficult to get to remote areas and you really have very little control over your comfort and schedule. If you’re traveling with kids, it’s nearly impossible.
This trip I made a travel changing discovery whichI’d like to share with you. I rented a 4 wheel camping equipped truck, and in my opinion, it’s the only way to travel in this part of the world if you’re not on an Abercrombie & Kent budget. Whoever put this truck together left nothing to chance. It’s a home away from home that you can take anywhere with all the comfort you can handle. The greatest thing: it’s not very expensive!
The truck itself is a late model 4 wheel drive with towing bar, compressor, side exhaust for high water, special jacks to help you get unstuck in sand and a double diesel tank to get you 600 miles between fill-ups. You can’t help but feel a little invincible on bad roads.
The piece d’ resistance is the tent on top. It folds into a 4ft x 8ft bundle 18 inches tall and firmly attached to a stainless steel floor built on top of the truck. To set it up, you unzip the cover, slide open the built in ladder, and pull down. That’s it. It’s impossibly easy. No tent stakes, no poles. It’s camping magic! You can leave your bedding inside. It gets better though…. This isn’t a consumer tent like you buy from Academy. It’s build to be used continuously through harsh conditions. It doesn’t leak in the worst of rainstorms. The first night I slept in mine, a literal monsoon happened in the middle of the night. The flooding was so bad, my flip flops were carried 20 feet away from the truck and guess what? The tent didn’t budge an inch and there was not a drop of water in side. I was so excited about being out of range for any hungry lions , flash floods never entered my mind.
The side doors effortlessly open upward like a safari-esque Lamborghini to give you easy access to your gear and lock up like Fort Knox to keep your stuff safe and out of sight. There’s a gas stove that comes with enough fuel to cook for 2 weeks in the wilderness. A state of the art refrigerator slides out on a panel and has its own battery to keep drinks and groceries ridiculously cold.
When you open the back of the truck, 2 four foot long drawers slide out giving you access to your groceries and kitchen utensils. The truck comes with skillets, pans, cutlery, bowls, can openers, etc. Basically anything you need to cook with or eat with is included with your rental. There’s a giant water tank that works with compressed air to supply you with water to wash dishes, rinse off or make coffee with. If you run out of air pressure, no problem! Just connect the portable air compressor in the back.
Yesterday I was driving in some of the worst roads I’ve ever navigated. I was in Chobe National Park in Botsawana. The park is nothing but sandy tracks. We got off the main road and in spite of the power of the truck, got stuck in some deep sand. No one knew where we were. There were wild animals everywhere and we couldn’t be sure if there wasn’t a lion waiting behind the grass to pounce on us. We used the axe in the truck to chop some branches off a tree, the industrial jack to get the tires up, and the shovel to dig out the sand. If we couldn’t get out of the sand, we could have set up our tent, enjoyed cold drinks, cooked dinner and waited for someone to notice we were missing… Now that’s a great truck!

What does it cost? About $100-125/ day. You can drop it off in another city or COUNTRY if you’d like for less than the cost of flying there. The campgrounds  in Africa are full of curious animals and fun travelers. In my opinion, it’s impossible to have a better time traveling any other way. You can get more info from my friend Linkie @

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