Travel Journal

East Africa Road Trip - FAQ

East Africa Road Trip - FAQ

Late last year, my partner and I decided to rent a rusty Landrover and set off on the adventure of a lifetime. Here are all your questions answered. 

Where did you go?

From Nairobi around Lake Victoria and back to Nairobi in 5 weeks.
You can see our entire East Africa itinerary here.

Afterwards, we flew to Zanzibar, Johannesburg (drove to Blyde River Canyon and Kruger NP) and made one final pitstop in Cape Town. This took us 9 weeks in total. 


How did you arrange your car?

We went with JeepKenya (also known as 4x4 Kenya), a company we wouldn't recommend to anyone. The owner was unreliable, corrupt, and mostly out of communication. The car we found ourselves in* was entirely unfit for a road trip; especially considering the lack of sealed roads.

With that being said, we wouldn't change a thing in hindsight. If you do however want to make your life easier in the first place, don't go with JeepKenya and refer to the other operators Google will welcome you with.

The reason we ended up with Lionel was that all other car rental services were either booked out or unable to provide cross-border insurance.

*His name is Lionel, and you can read about our love/hate relationship with this handsome fella here.


What does this mean for you?

Book far in advance and consider a Toyota over a Landrover.

It's a touchy subject for those of us who have fallen madly for a Landrover, but the simple truth is a well kept Toyota won't overheat and leave you stranded in the middle of nowhere. And that comes from someone who has indeed been left to it in the African savannah after the odd passionate outbreak of her Landrover.


What if I don't want to drive myself?

Go with a guide or a tour. Almost every car rental company will suggest you hire a driver. While we declined, it is far more common for visitors to pay extra for a local to tackle both road conditions and any bureaucratic nonsense one encounters at border checkpoints. 


Did you feel in danger?

No. We truly didn't. Yes, there were the many breakdowns and the occasional scene of corruption (i.e. being overcharged), but we never felt in physical danger. However, please note we are well-seasoned travellers and consciously took precautions not to get ourselves in danger (limit being outside after dark, not show off possessions, etc.). Without a certain amount of sensibility concerning wealth and race, danger can be experienced.'

 

How much money should I budget?

National park and conservancy fees are not to be underestimated, especially when paying for an entire vehicle by yourself. Streetside food costs near to nothing and camping is very affordable, while high-end lodges can easily ask for USD1000+ a night. Aim for at least USD120 per person per day. Research park fees before you go, as they can range from USD75 for the Maasai Mara to USD600 to see mountain gorillas in Bwindi, Uganda. If you're keen on seeing gorillas across the border in Rwanda, rates start USD1500 pp. 

 

Where can I find more information?

We found lonely planet (in pdf and book form) to be very helpful. Once there, ask locals for help. English is widely spoken. Before you go, download offline google maps onto your phone - a lifesaver for us many times over. 

 

How can I stay at the Giraffe Manor and how much is it?

You can check availability here. It is located in Nairobi, Kenya and an airport pick up is included (as is all the food and beverages). Expect to pay at least USD1130 per night for two persons. 

 

Is there anything I should do to prepare myself?

And open heart and an empty sd card are all you need. Reading about tribal cultures and the political history of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania certainly helps and will help you get the most out of your precious time there. 

Of course, a visit to your GP is entirely necessary. Don't leave this too late as it can take several months for all your vaccinations to be updated. 

Upon flying to Nairobi, the queue for visas on entry was much faster, so there is no need to worry about arranging this before you leave. Always carry proof of your vaccination records, travel bookings for exiting the country, copies of your passport and USD cash.


Why not go by aeroplane between the national parks?

Because East Africa is much more than its animals.


Do you have any video clips?

Loads! Go to my Instagram page and look for Africa Stories in my saved highlights.


Best Animal Encounters?

Bwindi National Park in Uganda (Mountain Gorillas)
Kibale National Park in Uganda (Chimpanzees)
Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya (the most crowded concerning tourist numbers, but also the densest regarding wildlife; in our experience)


Most recommended camps/hotels you stayed at?

Besides the (questionable) comfort our rooftop tent provided, staying at the below places felt entirely surreal; in the best way humanly possible.

And Beyond Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp, Maasai Mara, Kenya
Kyaninga Lodge, Uganda
Four Seasons Serengeti, Tanzania
The Giraffe Manor, Nairobi, Kenya

Click here to see our exact itinerary. 


Best experiences?

Walking around a traditional Masai market in the middle of nowhere* in Tanzania.
Witnessing the wildebeest migration at sunrise in the Serengeti in Tanzania.
Self-driving across the Maasai Mara and spotting our first lion and lioness.
Swimming in volcanic lakes in Uganda.

*there is, in fact, a spectacular lodge nearby called Shu'mata Camp


What should I expect?

The most magnificent, otherworldly wildlife encounters. Smiles that couldn't get any bigger. Vast skies and magnificent sunsets. Sheer silence. An almost primal longing to reconnect with nature and understand the intricacies of its wild inhabitants. Freedom.

Heat. Crowds. Hunger and scarcity so vivid you will never forget. Corruption. Dust. Mud. Therefore, torrential rains or complete drought. Traffic jams that won't make sense to you. Inequality. Mild confusion, both personally and from those facing you.

Expect to question your place and privilege in this world. Maybe even your choice of politics.

Expect to learn about tribal cultures; to wonder about ways of life you couldn't imagine before.

Expect to gain a whole lot more respect for this planet and all its earthlings.

To sum up, expect natural beauty, personal growth, physical and mental challenges besides all the other beautiful reasons we choose to travel.

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