Tag-along 4×4 Tour Safari & Expedition Operators
While many would argue that a pure self-drive safari is the only way to explore the African continent, there are many valid reasons why this may not be the best option for you. There are other equally pleasurable, and some would say, safer, ways to immerse yourself in the African continent, two of them being going on a tag-along tour, and the other being joining an expedition on an overland truck. Let us look at tag-along tours first, starting with-
|Tour and Safari Contents:|
As the name suggests, a tag-along tour happens when a group of vehicles, each driven by a member of the tour party, tags along behind an experienced guide (in a lead vehicle) on a pre-planned route. Depending on the option chosen, and of course, the tour operator, these routes can take in several countries, and cover several thousand kilometers in a time span of up to 4 weeks.
There are several distinct advantages to this approach, not the least of which is that you are never completely alone in a strange and often forbidding environment. In practice, and as opposed to a pure self-drive safari on which you are in large part left to your own devices, the group starts the tour together, largely stays together during the tour, and finishes the tour together as a group. So how does this work, and why would this be a preferred option, when what you really want is peace and solitude, as opposed to the trouble and strife that travelling in a group often brings? Let us explain-
As with anything in life, you need to be sure what you want and need. Travelling in a group is not for everyone, but neither is travelling alone through terrain that can be extremely intimidating, if not downright scary. If you are not afraid of this, or if you are capable (and willing) to deal with border crossings (that can be trying at times), or are fit enough to dig a heavy 4×4 vehicle out of sand or mud, and if you are not afraid to deal with local laws, customs and cultures, a pure self-drive safari is for you. However, if you are not willing to deal with these issues on your own, then a tag-along tour is the ticket for you. Here is how a tag-along tour works in practice, and what you get for your money-
|Tag-along Tour Contents:|
As a rule, reputable tag-along tour operators maintain the vehicles used and driven by tour party members to the same high standards that operators of self-drive safaris do. They also make sure to only use vehicles that are up to the rigours of African off-road conditions, and besides, their vehicles are fitted out and equipped with the same equipment you would have received had you booked a vehicle for a pure self-drive safari.
Depending on the chosen operator and tour package, the documentation required to cross international borders may or may not be included in the tour price. However, whether it is included or not is not the main issue; the main issue is the fact that since you will be accompanied by a representative (or sometimes the owner(s)) of the tour company who also needs to cross into the next country on the itinerary, virtually guarantees that all required documentation will be supplied to all members of the party, and that all documentation will be filled out correctly.
One of the main advantages of a tag-along tour is the fact that the hassle of planning routes, or of planning the best routes that take in all the sights, sounds, and experiences that Southern Africa has to offer is taken out of your hands.
Most, if not all tour operators are both experienced and registered tour guides in the countries in which they operate, or if they are not, they employ guides who are. This being the case, you will be led by a guide who has travelled the route you will be travelling many times before, which means that he knows (amongst other things, such as where refueling points are), the best game viewing spots and the best spots to practice wildlife photography, but more importantly, your guide also knows which parts of any particular route tends to get tricky when conditions get wet or muddy. In general, most guides will avoid these areas, but if avoiding them is not possible or feasible, he will assist with getting all vehicles safely through all obstacles.
Moreover, your guide has access to the best local knowledge on terrain and conditions should circumstances require that the tour deviate from the normal route(s). This happens more frequently than you might think, and for a variety of reasons but the point is that should this happen, you will have the services of a guide who knows how to get around the problem, and how to do so safely.
Tag-along tours or expeditions have the advantage that should something go wrong, like for instance, a vehicle breaks down, assistance is immediately available since the support crew usually includes either a mechanic, or a knowledgeable person who has the tools, equipment, and more often than not, the required spare part available.
Being able to repair the vehicle on the spot saves hours, and sometimes days of lost time, but in the unlikely event that the vehicle cannot be repaired, there is a vehicle available (the lead vehicle) with which to tow the broken vehicle at least to a spot where it can be repaired.
Having an experienced support crew is also a major boon should a vehicle become stuck. With a self-drive safari, you have to get the vehicle unstuck by yourself, which is not the case with a guided, tag-along tour. Guides usually have vast experience of recovery techniques and a huge store of recovery equipment in their vehicles which means that stuck vehicles can almost always be safely recovered in mere minutes.
From the above it should be obvious that tag-along tours have major advantages relative to pure self-drive safaris. However, there are some issues that you need to be absolutely sure about before you book such a tour, such as-
Bear in mind that you will be living in close proximity to up to a dozen strangers, and that some operators expect participants to share the workload when it comes to cooking duties, setting up camp, or clearing up a campsite when you continue the tour after a camp.
In many cases, the mechanic or technical guy does double duty as chief cook and bottle washer, and it could happen that he may require help in preparing meals, especially when weather conditions are trying, or when he has to perform repair work on a vehicle. In cases like this, every member of the party is expected to pitch in to get a meal on the table, so if you are not prepared to do this, a tag-along tour is not for you.
Moreover, you need to be able to get along with other people, and you have to be able to take direction or advice from the tour guide. A contrary attitude makes life difficult for the entire tour party, but more importantly, you will be spoiling the entire experience for yourself.
If you have never driven off-road before, you may not be aware that this type of driving is extremely tiring. It is like nothing you have ever done before, and you will soon realize that the intense concentration that this type of driving requires can you leave you more exhausted than you want to be.
Even though tour operators are acutely aware of the fact that their guests are not expert off-road drivers, some routes require that the party drive for six to eight hours continually to reach the next point on the route before dark. For this reason, it is important that you bring along a person who can drive, and who can drive for several hours at time because the effects of exhaustion is similar to those of alcohol, which as we all know, reduces judgment and driving ability.
So know that you know what to expect on a tag-along tour, you need to know something about the requirements most tag-along tour operators have in place. Bear in mind though that what follows is not an exhaustive list of requirements; you need to contact each operator listed in this guide to obtain the exact requirements each individual operator has in place. Let us start with-
As with pure self-drive safaris, most operators of tag-along tours insist that nominated drivers are at least 23 years old, and that their drivers’ licenses are unendorsed. You will also need an international drivers’ permit if your driver’s license in issued in a language other than English. Bear in mind that some operators require an international driver’s permit regardless of the language on your license.
While most operators offer “comprehensive” insurance packages, these are often not comprehensive enough to cover all possible eventualities, and they almost never include proper medical insurance.
In fact, almost all insurance packages offered by tour operators specifically excludes items like damage to the vehicle’s paint work, glass, wheels, rims, and interior. You need to discuss these issues with the operator when you first make contact, and while some may offer insurance waivers, the added cost is often more than the cost of additional insurance to cover exclusions purchased from your own insurers.
In addition, make sure you know exactly how much third-party, aka public liability insurance is included in the main rental agreement. This is important, since the offered insurance is almost never enough to cover all damages to persons and property, so get this figure from the tour operator, and purchase at least double that amount of insurance from your own insurers before you leave home.
Also bear in mind that in much of Southern Africa, first world-standard medical facilities are few and far between, and where they are available, they are ridiculously expensive. For this reason, any medical insurance you buy must include recovery of the beneficiaries, as well as interim care of, and repatriation to the beneficiaries’ home country.
Last but not least, you need to provide your own insurance against the loss, damage, or theft of your personal effects, with special emphasis on electronics such as cameras, computers, and the like. Tour operators generally do NOT provide insurance of this type, so make sure you have all your insurance related ducks in a row before you leave home.
While this will not disqualify you from a tag-along tour if you are, you need to make sure that you either have an adequate supply of your medication, or that you can obtain their exact equivalent(s) while you are on the tour. Bear in mind though that some preparations or even some ingredients in some medications that are freely available in Europe, are either banned in some Southern African countries, or are strictly controlled.
To avoid any potential problems and issues with your medication(s), talk to your own health care provider before you leave home, or obtain the relevant rules and regulations from the embassies or consulate offices of the countries you plan to visit when you apply for your visas.
As with pure self-drive safaris, the price of the tour only includes the rental fee of the vehicle, such insurance as you choose to purchase from the tour operator, and sometimes the admission to campsites and accommodation while on tour. The tour price does NOT include fuel, food, liquid refreshments, and other out-of-pocket expenses.
NOTE: The issue of food on tag-along tours needs to be cleared up at the time of first contact with the tour operator. Some operators offer self-catering tours, on which you have to buy and prepare you’re your own meals. In other cases, the costs of catering for all party members are included in the basic tour price, but be aware that this is not always the case. Make absolutely sure you know what you are paying for before you pay anything to anybody, because you could get stuck with a hefty added charge for food and catering you may not have budgeted for.
Make sure you discuss the amount of cash generally required for the particular tour you are interested in, and either bring that amount (Plus a little extra) along in the various currencies you might need, or buy the currencies you need at a bank or authorized money changer at the airport when you arrive. Do NOT swap currencies at informal money changers- you might be arrested, and even if you are not, you will be robbed blind by receiving the most unfavorable exchange rate ever.
Bear in mind that credit cards and travelers’ cheques are largely useless in the deep hinterland of Southern Africa and completely useless in much of the rest of Africa, so make sure you have enough cash, or that you can easily access your money while on the tour.
All of the above information should be enough to help you make an informed decision about whether a tag-along tour is for you or not. If you decide that this is the preferred option, you need to know who the most reputable tag-long tour operators are, which we will list next.
NOTE: Bear in mind that a listing here does NOT equate to an endorsement of that operator; similarly, if a particular operator does not appear on this list, it does NOT mean that operator is not worthy of consideration. We present this list of tag-along tour operators in good faith, and for general informational purposes only. Nonetheless, despite the fact that diligent research and personal experience have shown the operators listed here to be reputable, honest, and professional in their approach to both their businesses and your interests, the onus is on you, the prospective client, to do your own research and due diligence into the tour operator of your choice to ensure that your visit to Africa remains unforgettable, but for the right reasons.
Phone: +27 11 312 8084/8017
Mobile phone: 083 626-9409 / 083 644 5228 (Also after office hours)
Fax: +27 11 312 5606
Physical Address: 31 Gallagher Ave, Midrand, Gauteng, South Africa
Postal Address: P.O. Box 552, Ferndale, 2160
Contact form is available here.
Hire of 4×4 safari vehicle (camper option included)
• Travel pack (Books, maps, etc)
• Fuel costs
• All meals and soft drinks
• Reserve entry costs
• Accommodation or camping costs
• Professional guide’s costs
• Standard insurance cover
• Route guidance and assistance
NOTE: Alcoholic drinks are not included, and overall prices vary according to the tour option chosen.
Africa Expedition Support
SMS +254-725-459-063 / SMS +254-734-226-233
NOTE: The relative lack of contact details for Africa Expedition Support should NOT be taken to mean that the company is unresponsive. Nonetheless, we strongly advise prospective clients to contact this company via its comprehensive contact form, which is available here.
Africa Expedition Support offers a wide variety of tour options and itineraries that range from seven days, to as long as eight weeks though seven countries. Note that the eight-week safari has only TWO departures per year, and that advance booking is required for this option. With regards to the eight-week-long Discover Africa tour, the price includes the following-
• 4×4 overland Land Rover vehicle (max 2 people per vehicle or 2 adults and 2 children)
• Fuel, Road tolls, spare parts, international vehicle paperwork, ferries as per the itinerary
• Camping equipment (tent, camp bed, director camping chair)
• Kitchen and cooking equipment
• Guide/lead vehicle
• Experienced expedition crew
• Meals while camping
• Accommodation – 20% hotels, 80% camping
• Maps and local information
• Return ferry to Zanzibar
Excluded from the price of this tour are the following-
• International driving permit
• Meals while in hotels, lunches while in same campsite for more than 1 day
• Sleeping bag
• Personal comprehensive travel insurance
• Personal spending money
• Minor or adventure activities en-route (white water rafting, walking with lions, ballooning Serengeti etc); drinks and snacks, meals while staying in hostels/hotels
NOTE: The items listed here apply ONLY to the eight-week-long Discover Africa tour. Contact the company for details on what is included (or otherwise) on all other tours and itineraries.
Phone: Within Australia: 1300 988 378
Outside Australia: +61 (0)7 3266 2377
Managing Director: firstname.lastname@example.org
Physical Address: Suite 5 / 5 Zillman Road, Hendra, Queensland 4011
Postal Address: PO Box 2455, Ascot, Queensland, 4007
Contact form is available here.
Encompass Africa may be located in Australia, but the sheer variety of the safari types on offer from this company spans the entire spectrum from budget safaris, to luxury, bespoke tours that are tailor-made to suit your needs and interests. In fact, the number of available options makes it impossible to list all possibilities items here, so let us quote straight from their website-
“The other option is of course a tailor-made private 4×4 safari that we create based on your interests. It involves you arriving into Africa and meeting your private guide who is with you for the duration. After a short briefing about the customised vehicle, you venture out on your Africa safari exploring your choice of destinations and regions. This is the ultimate way to explore Tanzania [and other regions in Southern Africa] if you don’t mind travelling in a vehicle on roads and also game driving. The other option is fly-in safari. Botswana offers phenomenal mobile camping safari holidays with 4×4 vehicles as the mode of transport between camps and on game drives.
A very Australian style concept is the Tag-Along 4×4 safari tour. This means you get behind the wheel of a 4×4 secure in the knowledge that you have the guidance of a qualified naturalist and driver plus support crew should you need assistance. This style trip is done in Namibia and Botswana.”
NOTE: We strongly advise prospective clients of Encompass Africa to contact the company for detailed information on all possible safari types and itineraries.
Phone: +27 (0)11 264 2406
Mobile phone: +27 (0)82 622 6957
Physical Address: 289 Lister Rd, Johannesburg, South Africa, 2090
Contact form is available here.
IMPI SAFARIS offers tag-along tours in South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho, Namibia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Botswana. Note that while most other operators focus their tours on wildlife viewing, IMPI SAFARIS places an equal importance on the cultural aspects of the countries they visit. For instance, IMPI SAFARIS is the only operator that offers specialized tours through some of South Africa’s historic townships, such as Soweto, and others. Some of IMPI SAFARIS’ tour options and itineraries can be viewed here.
One more thing…
While there may be other tag-along tour operators that advertise their services on the internet, we believe that collectively, the four operators listed here offer the widest possible range of tour options, and best value for money, given the peculiar nature of travel in Africa. However, if none of these options are possible for you, there is yet one more way to experience Africa.
While this method is definitely not for everyone, crossing Africa on a converted (sometimes-AWD) truck is nevertheless an adventure of a lifetime for the younger set that generally does not mind the relative discomfort that comes with travelling on a truck, even though the truck comes with (almost) bus-like seating. If this sounds like something you want to do, here is how it works-
|Overland truck Contents:|
In simple terms, an overland truck is a truck that had been converted to resemble a bus, while keeping the toughness and durability that differentiates a truck from a proper bus. However, while the enclosed body of the vehicle provides shelter from the elements, the vehicle essentially remains a truck, which makes it very difficult to provide a smooth ride.
Nonetheless, there are dozens of operators that run truck expeditions all over Africa, but the problem with this is that there are instances where the comfort and safety of, and concern for passengers take a backseat to profitability. While there are many exceptions to this, we nevertheless advise prospective clients of truck operators to conduct proper research into the history, reputation, and services offered by each operator before making a booking, or paying any money to anybody.
The concept is simple. Each truck carries a set number of passengers, and all share in the work when meals are prepared, or when the truck needs to be dug out of a mud or sand trap. However, all reputable operators tend to avoid areas that get overly muddy at certain times of the year, as well as areas where the vehicle is likely to get stuck in sand, which means that if you choose the right operator, you may never get your hands dirty, or your feet muddy.
This largely depends on the tour chosen, but for the most part, accommodation is in campsites. Properly fitted-out trucks have ample storage space built into its main structure to hold camping gear and everything else that makes life on the road possible and bearable.
Most trucks have well-appointed kitchens built into their structures and depending on the operator (and the tour option chosen), meals are either prepared by a cook/guide/mechanic/tour guide, or cooking duties is taken in turn by tour party members. It may be worth noting at this point that almost all tour operators demand a set amount of cash, from each tour party member (or use a set portion of the tour price paid by each member), which amount is paid into a communal “kitty”, or food fund. This fund is used to finance all meals that are included in the tour price, and any money that remains after the tour may be refunded to each member in equal shares. However, this does not always happen with all tour operators, so make sure to discuss this with all operators you contact.
Most, if not all, operators are acutely aware of the fact that people sometimes do not get along, and while they will not ask you if you, personally, are a people’s person, they will generally not allow young children on the tour, or people with obvious disabilities that could make accommodating that person difficult, or bothersome to other people on the vehicle.
a Major restriction is those with passports from countries that make border crossings a very difficult encounter. Best to check well in advance with the operator of the overland truck.
As with holidays elsewhere in the world, obtaining visas and other travel documents for each country you will be visiting remains your responsibility. You also need to take care of your own insurance, which must include comprehensive medical insurance, as well as all inoculations required by each country on your itinerary.
Whether it is or not can only be answered by you, but given the obvious advantages of not having to drive a strange vehicle in terrain you are not unfamiliar with, the fact that you do not have to arrange accommodation or plan routes, and that an expedition on a truck is the most cost effective way to experience Africa, the minor discomforts and irritations that go with sharing a small space with strangers seems like a small price to pay.
Remember that the few items listed above only describe truck expeditions in broad terms, since there are far too many specifics to list here. Nonetheless, if you have an adventurous spirit, and an expedition on a truck sounds like something you could do, or want to do, consider using one of the tour operators listed below, since we believe that the operators on this list provide the most comprehensive and professional service at the best rates.
NOTE: Bear in mind that since we are not paid to list anyone, a listing does NOT amount to an endorsement of the operators listed here. Similarly, if any particular operator does not appear on this list, it does NOT mean that that particular operator is not worthy of consideration. The onus remains on you, the prospective client, to do your own research and due diligence into the services offered by any operator you may wish to deal with.
Nomad Africa Adventure Tours
Phone: +27 (0)21 426 5445
Physical Address: 39 Castle Street, (Corner Castle and Burg Street), Cape Town, 8001
Contact form is available here.
Note that Nomad Tours has a “Live Chat” function here.
Nomad offers a wide range of products, ranging from small group tours, to diving tours, to accommodate tours, to camping tours virtually all over Africa. Note that German-speaking tour guides are available on most tours. This company is widely recognized as the leader in the field of overland truck-based tours, but there are simply too many specific services on offer to list them all here. To find out more, visit this page for a sample of Frequently Asked Questions that cover the main aspects of Nomad Tour’s approach to their business.
Phone: +44 (0) 1524 419909
Physical Address: Truck Africa, 28 Grange St., Bare, Morecambe, Lancs. LA4 6BW, United Kingdom
Contact form is available here.
Truck Africa is based in the UK, and offers tours that range from as short as lees than 2 weeks, to epic tours from London to Cape Town over a period of 41 weeks. There are literally dozens of other tour options available between these two extremes, which, makes providing specific information about what is provided on which tours all but impossible.
However, as a general guide, Truck Africa generally includes the following in their tour prices-
• Spacious two-person tents and camping equipment, and cooking equipment and eating utensils.
• The truck’s kitchen includes a fire grill for cooking on wood, back-up gas cooker in case of rain, and cool box. A large awning acts as a kitchen extension.
• Also provided are professionally-compiled Medical Kit, amp to plug your I pod into, video charging facilities, camp stools, and reference books.
NOTE: A fairly comprehensive FAQ page is available here. We strongly urge prospective clients to visit this resource, as it explains many of the questions that you may forget to ask during your first contact with the company.
One last thing…
While there are dozens of tour operators that run truck-based expeditions located in Africa, Southern Africa, Australia, England, and even the United States, the two companies listed above have been researched extensively, and we believe that they offer the most diverse, professional, and economical tours. However, you may want to deal with someone else, which is why you need to visit the websites of as many tour operators as you can to find the one that will answer your needs best.
To help you in your search, we suggest the following resource- http://www.tourradar.com/i/africa-overland-truck, which is a compilation of several dozen tour operators. Here, you will find contact details, as well as details of tours on offer, plus details on departure dates, itineraries, and more. Good luck with your search, and we wish you many happy memories of the African continent!