Saturday, October 16, 2021


What about RVing somewhere else? Like AFRICA?

[Click any image to enlarge.]

By Greg Illes
A lot of people feel that Africa is so exotic and remote a destination that it’s beyond the reach of mere mortals (with mortal bank accounts). This is simply not the case.

We’ve discovered that it’s not only easy and affordable to visit Africa, but it’s reasonably safe to do so, and – best of all – you can actually RV there as a visitor!

[Full Disclosure: We have not at this time actually done any RVing in Africa; rather, we spent five weeks on the ground in Namibia and Zimbabwe, viewing the sights and talking to both locals and tourists about how to travel and see the countries.]

Virtually everywhere we went, we saw everything from tents to mid-size motorhomes, all roaming around the countryside and the national parks. They took their place alongside our open-air safari vehicles, and we all marveled at the rhinos and lions, and chatted about where we were from and where we’d been traveling.

For sure, one of the deeper joys of traveling is shared experiences. When those experiences involve majestic, wild beasts such as those found only in these countries, well, it hardly gets any better.

Yes, cost is always a consideration, but consider this: With some shopping, you can find round-trip airfares to Nairobi, or Johannesburg, for right around $1000 per person. A small two-person “campervan” (small motorhome) will rent for anywhere from $150 a day and up – call it $3000 for two weeks. Wow, sounds reasonable, right? Well, yes, but there is a small gotcha…

To travel around South Africa, Namibia, or Zimbabwe, you must have confirmed reservations for official places to stay for every night of your visit. I’m sure that savvy travelers and locals can and do get around this, but everywhere we asked and checked, this was the answer we were given.

So just wandering around and parking somewhere for the night (like in the western USA) is not something you can plan on. Just think of it as mandatory stays in “RV parks” – but parks like you’ve NEVER seen before.

The overnight accommodations across Africa range from austere to Buffett/Gates luxurious. You can stay for $50 a night or less, and you can stay for $2000/night PER PERSON or more. Really. And everywhere in between.

Here’s a medium-sized expedition vehicle at The Great Zimbabwe ruins.

The fabulous news is that tourism is King in these (and other) countries. There are more than 700 campgrounds and lodges in South Africa alone, and dozens of RV rental agencies that purvey all manner and type of RV, from simple B-class vans to serious 4-person 4×4 go-anywhere rigs. There is a very broad range of location and luxury (or austerity) to choose from.

We were surprised at several things regarding safety. First, there were a lot of people driving around, and we learned of NO accidents, maulings, or such while we were there. Doesn’t mean it does not happen, but not very often for sure. In general, we learned that if you give the animals space, they will not be troubled by you – or trouble you. The animals in the parks and conservatories are very used to humans and (best of all) do not regard us as food products.

Pop-ups are very popular. These folks were from the UK, renting out of South Africa, traveling in Namibia.

Second, there is a lot of supervision and policing, all for the sake of tourist safety. Tourists are the bread and butter of many economies, and it’s in their interest to keep people coming.

Yes, the folks who are given to impetuous or belligerent behavior can certainly get themselves a healthy dose of trouble. Those personality types should consider traveling in more forgiving locales.

Of course there’s no perfect safety, even hiding under your bed at home. Everyone has to pick their comfort level and risk level, and YMMV as they say. But we certainly never felt in danger, in many, many days and weeks of travel in some pretty wild places.

This is one destination where you simply cannot “wing it.” It takes a LOT of planning, and you may want to engage a professional safari travel outfit to help you. You’ll need carefully arranged flights, rentals and bookings, not to mention arranging for camping gear, knowing where to shop for food/gas/etc.

And don’t forget to allow yourself a little bit of time (a day or two) to at least minimally recover from the 6-9 hours time zone change.

You also might want to occasionally stay in a regular lodge, for some hot showers, catered food, and maybe a view of some elephants at your dining room deck.

We can assure you that it’s well worth the cost and effort. Everybody we talked to was absolutely loving their Africa experience, even with the occasional snafu. If you’re looking to drive down a track which has been blocked by a fallen tree – pushed over by a hungry elephant; if you’d like to stop your vehicle and wait for a herd of zebra to cross the road; well, driving around Africa is for you.

Although our excursion this time was all guided and we stayed in lodges, we are certain to include some serious “self-drive” (the local term) on our next journey to this wild and wonderful continent.

Greg Illes is a retired systems engineer who loves thinking up RV upgrades and modifications. When he’s not working on his motorhome, he’s traveling in it.

##RVT861 ##RVDT1457


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11 months ago

So in RVT all I read is how crowded the different parks are in America, how messy and destructive Americans are to their own once beautiful areas that they are being closed and now you are offering that they should expand their reach and destroy other counties pristine areas? How American.

Richard West
11 months ago

In 2015 we spent 3 weeks in Kruger Park in a rented RV Motor home. We are 15yrs full time here in the U.S., so we were well versed on the mechanics of such a venture. We picked up the RV(Basically a larger Class B. Which is a Full sized motor home in S.A.) at the JoBurg airport, drove to the North end of Kruger and worked our way South. My DW did an amazing job of scheduling, as every day was a planned overnight stop.
The entire stay was Magical. Other than the flat tire on the way to the airport to leave country! We are huge animal people, so being surrounded by wildlife all day was incredible. This was by far our favorite traveling experience. Other than a porter at the airport, everyone was very polite and helpful. We utilized various websites to avoid any trouble spots. Just as we do here in the U.S./Mexico.
As mentioned earlier, driving a Rightey for the first time, on narrow roads(Everything in S.A. is about 2/3 the size of U.S.) was an additional adventure.
But we LOVED it!

Diane Mc
11 months ago

We have friends in Australia who invited us on a 6 week tour of the eastern part of Australia as far west as the Outback, where only 10% of Australian’s have been. Friends had a caravan (trailer) pulled by a Land Rover Defender. We had a Land Cruiser pulling a Jumbuck (rubberized tent to keep out critters with raised area for sleeping. Amazing journey, beautiful country, great people. Camped & stayed in “RV” parks where some had “en-suites”. Which I & my husband took advantage of occasionally. Not real campers. But a trip of a lifetime, so couldn’t pass it up.

Skip Trafford
11 months ago

When the worlds ended, we would take off for two weeks and pretty much camped where we wanted. We didn’t have to tell anyone where we were going unless we were in Kreuger National Park SA where we HAD to camp inside a compound surrounded by a 25’ high fence to keep the critters out.

BTW, you haven’t RV’d in a global environment until you have driven a right hand drive RV in large cities in South Africa, Oz and NZ during rush hour!!!

Skip Trafford
11 months ago

(We were held up by a herd of Capetown water buffalo which necessitated us driving at excessive speed the last 20 minutes to get inside the huge guarded gates before 1800. Had we not made it inside by then, they would have escorted us off the Park to the nearest town and we would have been “excommunicated” from the NP system for not following the safety rules!) We spent 3 weeks in Australia in the exact same Mercedes RV 2 years later and after the tournament (2006), we took our time driving and camping along the entire east coast paralleling the Great Barrier Reef. At no time in Oz or Africa were we harassed or had to file a “flight plan”. (Not to say that has changed since 1998 -2010 when we were constantly competing globally in NZ, OZ, Botswana, Namibia, SA, Budapest and Scotland.

Skip Trafford
11 months ago

Part 2

When the worlds ended, we would take off for two weeks and pretty much camped where we wanted. We didn’t have to tell anyone where we were going unless we were in Kreuger National Park SA where we HAD to camp inside a compound surrounded by a 25’ high fence to keep the critters out. (We were held up by a herd of Capetown water buffalo which necessitated us driving at excessive speed the last 20 minutes to get inside the huge guarded gates before 1800.

Skip Trafford
11 months ago

We have rented RVs for several weeks at a time during separate trips to South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and all of the east coast of Australia. All were Mercedes RVs and were necessary during our time on the US National Archery Team during the biannual world archery championships in those countries. Our family of six all competed (current world record holders and an accumulation of 25 world titles for the six of us) and the RVs were spacious enough to sleep all six of us (our kids were early teens and pre teens; all four are now academy grads and on active duty).

Our kids got to meet and shoot alongside the Bushmen in Namibia since their bows were unable to reach the long shots ( up to 80 yards ). The tournament officials put them on the kid’s range where the distances were shorter.

Part one of 3; posting says my message is too long to post!

11 months ago

Very interesting. I do wish the writer would have actually taken the trip though because planning is essential but passing along practical experience is everything. It is a dream of ours to take our fully restored 1967 VW Bus RVing in Europe, NZ, Australia & South Africa Of coarse planning is on hold but honestly we had big problems trying to negotiate insurances, transport across the Atlantic, extended stay visas…. We know others have done this but find these blogs full of the joys of international RVing but of little actual substance. I could not even get the German embassy to respond to my inquiries when I wrote to them in German. I am sure you have readers who have taken smaller RVs internationally. I truly would like to see more articles like this. Why not send out a poll.

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