Review: Tucan Travel Tour - Southern Africa Circuit
Seeing animals on Safari in the wild has been on my bucket list for yonky donks.
I finally got the chance to tick it off my list when I booked my Tucan Travel Tour.
We had a few other companies in mind (including G Adventures) but it worked out that we would get a longer tour for less money if we went with Tucan Travel. It’s worth shopping around and seeing the included excursions/optional extras for each tour before you book with one. Different companies have different pros/cons - for example, G Adventures focuses more on sustainable travel and helping local communities and businesses.
We decided to book the Southern Africa Circuit, which started in Cape Town then towards Zimbabwe, crossing through Lesotho and Swaziland on the way. After Zimbabwe, it was on to Zambia then Botswana and finally Namibia before heading back into South Africa to Cape Town.
It was a total of 7 countries and loads of stamps in our passports so we were both happy! There were a few National Parks (NPs) included too so we were almost guaranteed to see the Big Five while we were there - and we did!
The tour fits a LOT of countries and places into a relatively small amount of time. This means it’s mostly one night/two night stays before packing up and moving on. It’s good because you get to experience the whole of Southern Africa in 42 days, but on the other hand, it can become tiring moving so fast. If you can master the art of falling asleep on the truck, you’ll be sorted! It seems like a lot of places but trust me, the time flies by and you’ll be back in Cape Town before you know it!
We booked our tour through our local travel agent, STA Travel. We needed to book our flights to Cape Town as well as our India flights too so it made sense to get it all in one place! They price matched so we went in knowing how much Tucan was offering for the tour (approx £1800). The price was cheaper because it was on sale so we jumped at the chance to get it booked. You have the option of waiting until the last minute to see if there is a massive drop in price but we couldn’t be that spontaneous. I need to have things organised to help my brain from overloading lol.
What we didn’t bank on was the amount of things that wouldn’t be included. We should have read the dossier closer because it’s all explained in there but the excitement took over! These optional extras added a chunk to the total cost of the tour but not as much as our spends!! We also had a local payment of $780 each to pay before we left. This is for the tour leader to pay for food, accommodation etc while you’re on the road. So the main cost of £1800 was for Tucan and diesel as far as I can tell!
This is the rough break down. I tried to keep on top of recording spending as much as I can but it got away from me sometimes…
Main Payment - £1800
Local Payment - £600
Optional Extras - £510
Spends - £2580 (including lots of beer and the nights we upgraded camping to paid accommodation)
So in total, our 42-day tour cost us around £5490 each. That’s a total of £10,980 for two of us.
To say we went over budget is an understatement but we had an absolute ball… We treated Africa as our holiday so we did a lot of “yolo” moments like Skydiving, Ziplining, Shark Cage Diving, Devils Pool and walking with Rhinos.
How It Works
Our tour was camping throughout. Tucan also offer accommodated tours where you stay in a bed (the luxury!) or a hostel everyday. We opted for the cheaper tour and spent our nights inside our canvas tent.
On Day 1, you’re given your tent and you spend the next month and a half putting that tent up and down every few nights. After camping in Scotland a few times, we were accustomed to tent life so it didn’t really come as a shock to us. We were just really unprepared when it came to ground mats!! We only had a cheap one I had picked up for 50p in B&M one day so it literally felt like it was non-existent. Some of the campsites have gravel for campsites too so I’d highly suggest investing in either a self-inflating one or at least a thick one! God loves a thick one!
Everyone on the tour is expected to pitch in and do some work when it comes to breakfast, lunch and dinner. For the first few weeks, I was professional carrot shredder.
You’ll be split into groups and each group is assigned a task for that day and then it rotates. One group will clean the truck, the other will prep the equipment for food, the next group will cook, the other will clean up. The system worked well (once it was all setup!) and I kinda enjoyed getting a variety of jobs instead of everyone pitching in all the time. When it’s a free-for-all, you end up seeing the same people doing everything and the same people sitting having a cheeky cigarette!
Your Tour Leader is a leader - not a guide! They make sure nobody dies and that you have a good time! They are supposed to keep you hype about your trip and keep everyone on track with the itinerary. Total transparency, our tour leader was shaky at first and after a few comments, I’d assumed he was homophobic and instantly took a dislike to him. After we sat down one night and had some chats to clear stuff up, we realised it was a misunderstanding and things changed from then on! More people joined our tour, he became organised and upbeat and we all had an awesome time and got on brilliantly.
On the tour, you’ll have some “free days”, which means you have no planned activities but there are a few options for activities depending on the location and campsite etc. Most of these extras are affordable like the Chobe Sunset River cruise which cost us $35 each and it was an incredible opportunity for us to see elephants close-up as well as hippos swimming around the place! The rhino walk inside Swaziland was a highlight for us too. It cost us around $110 each and it was SO worth it. The guide, Lynette, was amazing and told us loads of stuff about local culture, history and (of course) the Rhino. We were within spitting distance of a herd of Rhino and it was terrifying but thrilling at the same time. If you’re doing this tour - I’d highly recommend that walk!!
The Addo Elephant Park, Etosha National Park and the Kruger National Park fees are included in the tour and they were the best parks we visited. Kruger is absolutely huge so it was a perfect opportunity to see a load of animals while we drove through and camped inside it. The campsites inside the park are really nice and have swimming pools, petrol stations and shops etc inside them. You’re in the big overland truck for the game drives which is a massive bonus. All the other people are stuck in their cars, craning their necks to see the top of a lions head while we towered over them and could see the whole pride.
When we booked, the Okavango Delta tour was optional but after we’d booked our trip, Tucan started to include it as standard so we paid a bit more for it. It was one of the best parts of the trip. Gliding over the water in the Mokoros and seeing the hippos through the reeves was so peaceful and relaxing. Camping in the bush with the animals was scary but thrilling - especially after the guides had told us what to do if we see lions, elephants or rhino (basically, run if he runs lol).
The Africa Tour was incredible. We saw all of the animals we wanted to see and met some amazing people on our bus/truck! It exposed me to Africa for the first time and it was an unforgettable experience. You start to realise how little you need to be happy once you start to see the different levels of poverty in each county. The people we saw didn’t have cars, iPhones, great jobs or even a house with a proper roof but they were happy.
I think I’d definitely do a tour again in the future but I’d change 3 things.
I’d be more prepared so that my expectations are realistic (buy a good bloody ground mat!!)
I’d be mindful with my money and not throw dollar bills around like I’m at the strip club.
I’d invest in a tour that has a few more “optional extras” included (like entrance fee for Vic Falls) and also one that feels like it helps the local community a bit more.
Hope this helps a bit if you were thinking of booking a camping tour around Africa. It absolutely does not need to cost you the earth (like it did us), but we’re easily sucked into the YOLO life and drinking beer with the youngsters etc lol.
Having the tour took so much stress out of our first big chunk of travelling. It’s all organised for you so you don’t have to worry about renting cars, driving around by yourself or staying in any dodgy places! A tour is easy, safe and gives you exposure to like-minded people.
If you’re booking a tour, I hope you have a absolute ball and see all the animals and have all the fun. The camping will challenge you at times but the people really do make the tour. As long as you have a good group and stay positive - it’ll be unforgettable!
Be your best self, always x
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