I’ve been so excited to post this guest blog article from a couple of backpackers in Africa! It’s written by the founders of Mzungu Backpackers which is a seriously awesome platform for backpackers in Africa. The founders are Gal Zanir and Ziv Oriol, both 26-year-old students from Israel.
Gal travelled for 10 month in 2015, from Ethiopia down to South Africa. Most of the time he was solo and some of it was with other travelers he met along the way. And Ziv went with his wife, Hadas, for 6 months from Uganda to South Africa, ending in 2016.
1.Tell me about Mzungu Backpackers. What is it and why did you start it?
Mzungu Backpackers is a project we started together almost 3 years ago. We both traveled in Africa separately, fell in love with this beautiful and colorful continent and wanted more people to experience it the way that we did.
The idea for “Mzungu- Backpacking Africa” community was all about having a place where backpackers in Africa can connect with each other, share recommendations freely while supporting local businesses, and to make a positive impact on how people travel this continent.
In Israel, we have a monthly meeting with backpackers heading to Africa. Amongst other things we talk about the harms of short-term volunteering, treating local people with respect and travelling in a way that helps the local communities thrive.
2. What made you choose Africa? And if you’ve traveled other places (ex. Southeast Asia, Europe, etc), how would you compare it?
(Gal) After comparing a lot with friends who traveled in other places, we have come to realize that what makes Africa so special are the PEOPLE.
Travelling here summons adventures that you can’t even imagine – one night a lady on the bus kept asking me questions and didn’t let me rest, and the next morning I found myself being a guest on her radio show broadcasting live to a million Ugandans!
3. For Gal – did you feel safe traveling alone? Did you feel lonely going by yourself? How did you meet people?
Well, I always get this question when I am telling people I traveled Africa on my own. But, “On my own” doesn’t necessarily means ‘alone’. In fact, I was never alone. I always found myself surrounded either by fellow backpackers in Africa from all around the world, spending days and nights together, getting to know many new friends, or either with local people, getting to know many of them so good that we are still friends today 3 years later.
Anyway, if traveling on your own was a bit complicated 3 years ago, now, that the “Mzungu- Backpack Africa, Together” website is up on the air- it is all much more simple! There are WhatsApp groups for each country where you can coordinate and meet new friends from around the world anytime you’d like and many more tools for forming this real community feeling between fellow travelers.
4. What would you say to a girl wanting to travel to Africa alone?
(Ziv) Over the past 3 years we have seen and been in contact with many girls who went on a solo trip to Africa. As a girl, it is definitely possible, and recommended!
Regarding safety, obviously normal precaution measures should be taken, but nothing more than I would tell a girl travelling alone to Europe. Also, with the Backpackers’ community, it’s easier than ever to find a travel companion when you get tired of being solo. Some of the community’s girl backpackers even wrote articles you can find on the website about the feeling of traveling as a girl in Africa as this is quite a popular question that we get a lot.
5. For Ziv, what was it like backpacking with your wife? What are your tips for other married couples wanting to backpack Africa?
(Ziv) We saw many couples on our trip so it really felt like the easy choice. I think there is somewhat of a comfort in always having a partner and I would recommend it to anyone in a relationship. However, it is worth mentioning that it’s not for everyone – if you are looking for luxurious suites and high class dining, maybe you should find somewhere else to go, but if you are looking for a trip where every day is an adventure – this is your destination.
6. What was your favorite thing that you packed? Or what’s the top gear you recommend other backpackers to buy before coming?
(Ziv) I think I would have to go with the backpack itself. During the trip the backpack becomes your home, and it’s meaningful to you much more than the few shirts it contains. We travelled with a tent, sleeping mattresses, and cooking gear – on that matter I would say its very fun to have and it could save some money on lodging, but it is not a “must have”, you can travel light and find anything you need.
(Gal) I would have to go with my Ukulele. If I would need to share a tip of something to take along with you to a long trip it would be a music instrument. I did not know how to play the Ukulele before my African adventure, but being on a long trip with a new instrument leaves you much time and opportunity to learn how to play it! My Ukulele now is one of my favorite instruments as it even has a drawing of a meaningful memory from each country along the way.
7. There is a myth that Africa is really expensive to travel… what do you think?
(Ziv) As a couple, we spent around 1100$ a month on average, including everything – Car rental in Namibia, safari in Tanzania and many other expensive things. Some of the popular tourist attractions are extremely overpriced, but that is not your “Every day” life on the trip. On the day to day life, if you eat, lodge and use public transportation like locals do, your expenses are at a minimum.
(Gal) Some of the myth has began with people coming for short trips to the most expansive attractions in the continent. For instance- 2 weeks trip in Tanzania would turn out to be quite expansive if you do the Safari plus Kilimanjaro hike. But if you spread this costs over a long trip in the continent it turns out quite cheap as day to day life as a backpacker in Africa ARE ACTUALY CHEAP.
More on cost breakdown of backpacking Africa (plus ways to save money).
8. How can Mzungu Tribe help new travelers? And how can people who have traveled Africa give back to the community? (adding tips, pics, etc).
Be a part of this warm and welcoming backpackers in Africa community! You are most welcome to join us all at Mzungu.org .
- Use the tip-maps when you travel and add cool new places for others to enjoy.
- Use the community WhatsApp and Facebook groups to meet new friends and discover new ways of traveling this beautiful continent, ask and answer questions.
- Enjoy the special discount vouchers , exclusively for Mzungu community’s Backpackers– it assures you the best prices in big attractions along the way, cuts off your costs, and support local businesses.
And most important – Take care of yourself and others, have a blast discovering this colorful and vivid continent, as you invite fellow backpackers to join as well, helping the community grow!