Taking a Dragoman tour in Africa is one of the most popular overlanding routes in the world and a great way to spend a sabbatical.
We had a friend complete a Dragoman tour in 2017 and her stories left me wanting to learn more.
So I made contact with Tom from the Dragoman team to give me some more insight into what it’s like taking an overlanding tour in Africa.
In this interview, I ask Tom some of the big questions I had about taking an overlanding tour in Africa and we focus in on one of their newest tours, Gorillas and the Wilds of Rwanda and Tanzania a 24-day tour in Central Africa.
- Taking a Dragoman Tour In Africa – Key Questions Answered
- Gorillas and the Wilds of Rwanda & Tanzania Tour
- What Is the Route?
- What Is Your Favourite Part of This Trip?
- What Would I Need to Pack?
- How Do the Local People React to Seeing the Trucks Come Through?
- Do You Stop in the Same Places Every Time?
- Do Dragoman Tours Benefit the Local Economy?
- Are Guests Always in the Truck or Do They Get Free Time?
- Is Taking a Dragoman Tour in Africa Dangerous?
Taking a Dragoman Tour In Africa – Key Questions Answered
What is Overlanding?
Overlanding is exactly what it sounds like: travelling overland, usually in a 4×4 or a purpose-built overland expedition vehicle, and where the journey itself is just as important as the destination. Due to the nature of this type of travel, you’ll travel through those off the beaten track places which you don’t get to see with other forms of adventure travel. There’s no better way to travel if you want to really get under the skin of a country.
At Dragoman, we run overland tours all over Africa, along the length of the Silk Route and branching into Southeast Asia or to Mongolia in the north, around the Indian subcontinent, and all over Central and South America. Whatever the trip, overland travel is all about taking the time to really enjoy the journey.
Our overland journeys are designed to offer freedom and flexibility, rather than a strict day-by-day itinerary. As we’re travelling in our own vehicle, we’re mostly unrestricted in our ability to alter our schedule in response to local conditions.
How Much Does the Trip Cost? Do I Need Spending Money on the Road?
Prices for the Gorillas and the Wilds of Rwanda & Tanzania tour start from £2,495. This price covers the cost of the land trip, is based on shared accommodation, and doesn’t include insurance, visas, flights, or airport transfers.
In addition to the cost of the trip itself, you’ll also pay into a group “kitty”, which is a central fund used on the road by your tour leaders to pay for things the group does as a whole, such as hotel accommodation, campsite fees, meals whilst camping, and any included activities. The kitty system is unique to overlanding and allows us to have flexibility and transparency on our trips. At any point during the trip you can ask your tour leaders to see how your money is being spent.
You’ll also need some spending money to pay for any meals not included, such as those had in restaurants, optional activities, and for anything else extra you wish to buy, such as souvenirs. Whether you need cash or card depends on where you’re travelling, but it’s always a good idea to have at least a small amount of local currency for when you first arrive at your destination.
How Long Does a Dragoman Tour Last?
Dragoman’s overland tours run from 9 days up to a total of 235 days. Each of our individual trips can be combined with adjoining legs of the journey, so you can travel for as long as you want to.
The Gorillas and the Wilds of Rwanda & Tanzania tour runs for 24 days.
How Many People Are on Each Trip? What Kind of Ages/Backgrounds Are They?
Overland travel is all about sharing a unique experience with like-minded people, and your fellow travellers are as important a part of your adventure as the tour itself.
Our trucks can carry up to 22 passengers, and these will be people from all walks of life. There’s a much wider cross section of ages on our tours than most people imagine; a recent survey found that 33% of our passengers were aged 25-44 and 42.5% were aged 45-64. We can let you know the ages of the other travellers on any departure in advance if requested.
Where Do You Sleep?
We use a variety of accommodation on our overland trips, depending on the destination, from hotels, guesthouses and jungle lodges to tents, houseboats and yurts. Many of our trips include homestays during which you’ll get to spend some time with members of local communities.
On this tour you’ll be wild camping most nights, usually at well-equipped campsites or near local villages.
How Many Guides Are There?
On any Dragoman trip, you’ll have at least two professional tour leaders who have completed our extensive training programme at our headquarters in the UK. In East & Southern Africa, as well as much of Central & South East Asia, you’ll also be joined by a local crew member.
Gorillas and the Wilds of Rwanda & Tanzania Tour
What Is the Route?
We start in Nairobi with one of the absolute highlights of this trip: a 2-day visit to the Maasai Mara National Reserve near Nairobi, one of the greatest destinations in East Africa for wildlife, home to huge populations of cheetah, elephant, giraffe, zebra, antelope, hippo, and many more.
From there we travel on through the Samburu region, visiting a Samburu village and meeting the villagers, as well as Samburu National Reserve, a great place to spot big game such as leopard, lion and buffalo.
Our journey continues through National Parks such as Nakuru, Lake Mburo and Queen Elizabeth, as well as the city of Kampala and the adventure capital of East Africa, Jinja.
Next comes undoubtedly the highlight of the trip, an excursion in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest to see the incredible Mountain Gorillas.
What Is Your Favourite Part of This Trip?
The centrepiece of this tour is trekking to see the endangered Mountain Gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. There are approximately 786 Mountain Gorillas left in the world, and it’s estimated that half of them live here in Bwindi.
Another highlight is the hair-raising white-water rafting at the source of the White Nile at Jinja. This is the ultimate destination in East Africa for adventurers and adrenaline-junkies.
What Would I Need to Pack?
We have a comprehensive list of what to pack for an overland tour on our website.
We provide all the general camping equipment, including tents, but you’ll need to bring your own sleeping bag and roll mat. We’d recommend a sturdy pair of walking boots for trekking with gorillas. Make sure you avoid bright clothing and bring some muted clothing for whenever you’re trekking with animals.
How Do the Local People React to Seeing the Trucks Come Through?
Expect lots of waving and kids running after the truck.
Some people will stop and stare, particularly when our female crew are driving.
Do You Stop in the Same Places Every Time?
Our night stops are pretty much the same every time, but while we’re driving during the day, we might stop anywhere! It really varies.
Do Dragoman Tours Benefit the Local Economy?
We think so!
We shop in local markets, and we stay in small campsites and hostels run by local people. We hire numerous local guides throughout the trip for specific local knowledge and in this way we make sure our money goes directly to the communities we’re travelling through.
Are Guests Always in the Truck or Do They Get Free Time?
You’ll have plenty of time outside the truck.
Although you’ll have a couple of long drive days on this trip, most of the time you’ll be taking part in activities with the rest of the group, or you’ll be enjoying free time either to relax or to explore independently and take part in optional activities.
Is Taking a Dragoman Tour in Africa Dangerous?
In some of the places we travel through the conditions are inherently unpredictable, but we have a number of protocols that make sure we are always aware of what is going on in the countries we visit.
We will never take you somewhere that is unsafe. Our crew are the best trained in the business and our vehicles are the best overland trucks in Africa. When travelling in the more tourist-focused areas you need to be aware of pickpockets, but that’s about it.
Useful Tools for Booking Your Sabbatical
I always use Skyscanner or Agoda alongside Google Flights to make sure I’ve got the best price. I use Google Flights to save a route and monitor price changes and a combination of Skyscanner and Agoda to get the cheapest tickets.
If you are in the UK I would also highly recommend signing up for Jack’s Flight Club to get incredible flight deals sent to your email inbox every week.
When booking accommodation I always start with Booking.com as they generally have the best range and prices. I also regularly use Airbnb for longer stays and apartments in cities (use this link for £25 off your first stay). For a different experience try signing up to Housecarers for free house-sitting opportunities (get 10% off membership with this link).
Travel insurance might seem like an unnecessary cost, but when a flight gets cancelled, injury occurs or you damage a piece of gear you’ll regret not paying in advance. I’ve used World Nomads for two sabbaticals and (after badly damaging a hire car in Laos!) found the claim process to be simple and transparent.
Getting from the airport to your destinations is an added stress after a tiring flight, so take the guesswork out and pre-book with JayRide.com. Their prices often beat the local taxis and I've found them to be reliable and easy to use.