24 Days On a Road Trip to South Africa


Farhana Oberson during the road trip. PHOTO | COURTESY

Three weeks, 200 songs, fuel worth Sh80,000 and 5,700 kilometres later, Farhana Oberson arrived in South Africa from Kenya by road.

She started her journey in Nairobi together with six friends on a Toyota Land Cruiser.

On reaching Tanzania, then Malawi, she crossed to Mozambique.

“We were seven people in two cars. You don’t want it to be too many people on a road trip because it becomes hard to control the crowd, and you don’t want to travel solo because it gets boring,” she says.

They passed through Tanzania without much sightseeing, stopping in Arusha, Dodoma and visiting Mbozi meteorite in Mbeya, one of the world's largest meteorite sites.

In Tanzania, foreign visitors are allowed to drive with their international driving permits.

“Tanzania had the best roads of the entire trip and properly marked. It was so smooth and beautiful to drive but the speed limit is 50km/hour hence police with the speed guns are everywhere. So abide to the rules so you’re not fined instantly,” she says.

Four days later, they entered Malawi through Songwe border.

If you are a Kenyan, you do not need a visa to enter Malawi, a landlocked country whose main attraction is Lake Malawi.

The lake is 350 miles long so you can see it while driving down. At the lake, one can also do boat riding, kayaking and snorkelling and also watch cichlids, which are little, colourful, finned creatures. The lake has about 700 types of cichlids.

“There are lots of greenery and Lake Malawi is a must go to see. One place I also absolutely recommend is Cape Maclear, at the shores of the lake,” Farhana says.

They also toured the Zomba plateau which has waterfalls.

“Malawi has so much to do and to see,” she adds.

Fourteen days after leaving Nairobi, the road trippers reached Mwanza, a town in Malawi and then crossed to Mozambique.

“Malawi was properly paved but not compared to Tanzania. Mozambique was a mess, huge potholes everywhere, unpaved roads … Don’t drive at night if you’re going through Mozambique,” she says.

Their first experience in Mozambique was camping at the Gorongosa National Park, Sofala. They slept in tents at the Chitengo camp for a night.

“The best way to cut costs is carrying all your camping gear; tents, camping chairs... that way you can backpack and camp for as low at Sh 1,000 a night,” says Farhana.

In Mozambique, they started the day with a game drive, before driving to a coastal town in Inhambane Province of Mozambique called Vilankulo (or Vilanculos). Vilanculos is the gateway to the Bazaruto Archipelago, which has six pristine, undeveloped islands. One can also go horse riding at the beach, quad biking, kite surfing and sightseeing.

“We took a speed boat to Bazaruto Island. The island is so beautiful and looks exactly like Shela in Lamu. It has sand dunes. We later went snorkelling,” she says.

They finally drove to South Africa where they visited a sanctuary for orphaned elephants and The Lone Creek Falls, near Sabie in Mpumalanga, did a safari at the Kruger National Park, paraglide in Cape Town, whiled away the time with penguins at Boulders beach, and swam with seals at Haut Bay.

After few days in South Africa, Farhana travelled back to Kenya by air.

Road tripping is gradually gaining popularity among Kenyans. A road trip to South Africa can take 24 days if one stops in each country and tours places. Others do non-stop drives for five to seven days.

John Mutemi, is another road tripper who has driven to Rwanda more than ten times.

The tour guide with Challenger Adventures says people who take road trips revel their sense of independence compared to those who book holidays in hotels on set months.

To Rwanda, he usually crosses to Uganda through Busia, making a stopover at the River Nile for rafting. In Uganda, one can raft at Bujagali falls, do chimpanzee trekking at Budongo forest, visit Lake Albert and take a boat down the Kasinga Channel in Queen Elizabeth Park.

They also visit two gorilla trekking spots at Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda.

“For gorilla trekking, it is advisable to pay two or three months in advance especially if travelling as a group,” says John.

From Kampala, they drove to Masaka, to Mbarara then Kabale before crossing the border to Rwanda. Upon arrival in Kigali, Rwanda, they toured Kigali Genocide Memorial and other attractions such as Nyungwe Forest National Park which is also a popular destination for chimpanzee trekking.


Camping might not be the most glamorous option, he says, but it is adventurous besides being cheaper. “People are scared of driving to unfamiliar places. But it is safe,” he says.

He once took a trip to South Africa through Tanzania, to Zambia then to Namibia.

To drive in Zambia, one requires an international driving permit and to pays carbon pollution tax.

“When you get to Zambia you can decide whether to go through Namibia or Botswana. If you drive straight through to South Africa from Kenya it will take you seven days,” he says.

An all-around East Africa safari costs about Sh580,000. Aboard an overland with kitchen and cooking equipment, camping gear among other essentials, ardent travellers can also explore the best of Southern Africa and East Africa for about Sh810,000.