Historical Overlanding Africa Style


Hopefully, names such as Livingston, Burton and Speke ring a bell with some readers? If not then one should seek out these names and discover classic European exploration of the African continent. This was done in a style, peppered with danger and an adaptability that nowadays seems impossible. But, always remember the Europeans had to ‘adapt’(some more willing than others!), whilst their African porters and guides, subjected to the same danger and disease fared better most times, but shared the same torment in other situations.


Late 60s on.


Europeans have always had a desire to explore and Africa lures many with its intensity and mystic, hence that old phrase, ‘The Dark Continent’. I recall listening in awe to a primary school teacher, who after his ‘National Service’ stationed at the Suez Canal, decided to ride a BSA Bantam motorbike south to Cape Town in 1952. He used to bring spears and shields to the classroom and talk of sleeping wild with the sound of Lions. Stirring stuff at 12 years old - my stage was set!


Siafu is a name that is known to be the first commercial ‘Trans African Overland’ tour company. With Siafu, mere mortals of average suburban fitness, had the chance to cross the ‘Dark Continent’ by joining Landrover groups with experienced drivers and camping supplies. More suppliers entered the game. Some fell by the wayside (Siafu), others prospered with names that still echo in the ears of travelers –  Exodus and Dragoman to name two.


From the early 70’s to now, the political and danger areas of Africa have oscillated up and down the continent, subsided and increased. The travelling habits of people have changed from long (1 year) African journeys to shorter (1/2 month) experiences. Current political, security and health situations, do not allow the classic Europe to Cape Town truck trips to operate consistently.

Increases in general tourism has meant changes to the experiences of the 1960s and 1970s. This is due to improvement (from Africa’s perspective and quite rightly) in some roads and increased air services at a lower cost. This means more people travelling which puts pressure on facilities resulting in a need for more control to secure a positive ecological and social outcome. These controls, in many cases, are sadly lacking. Lower airfares and more frequent services, also bring tourists who have less consideration regarding the ecological and social balance, as long as the beach holiday is cheap! Countries who offer such tourism often turn a blind eye as the rulers and property owners like the hard currency!


My connection with Africa has not dimmed after establishing a tour operating business and raising a family. Aside from child sponsorship and sending tourist to Africa I have merged my interest in Africa, music and community development, by working with well known community radio station 3PBS in organizing their Music, Wildlife and Community development Safari.

Some good stories of very early overlanding.



River Ferry 1970's All hands!!
Typical Pan African Highway 1970's Zaire
2nd across after waiting for river to subside - stuck! A fit Brent running to secure winch wire!!!

No OHS for this game viewing!!