Fun and Games for Travellers: Keeping Entertained on an Overland Trip

Overland travel is by far my preferred mode of getting around the globe. It allows you to cover a lot of ground without missing the ‘in between’ and you can really immerse yourself in the experience. I covered nine countries (11 really, but two of them were for only a day each) in my 75-day overland trip from Nairobi to Cape Town with Oasis Overland last year and the itinerary was jam-packed with activities. Looking back I’m surprised at just how much we managed to fit into two and a half months.

“If you were so busy, why the post about keeping entertained on an overland trip?” you may ask. Because, dear reader, no matter how many countries you squeeze in, there is still going to be plenty of downtime. Overlanding involves a lot of driving (just call me Ms. Obvious), most of which is preferably done in daylight hours, and while you may be tired enough to fall into a deep sleep on the bumpy floor of your tent at 10pm, you’re still going to want to have some fun before then. Also, when it comes to travelling in developing countries, you can forget using the internet or watching the TV as a source of entertainment – you’re going to have to get creative.

Although I arrived in Africa alone, I joined an overland truck and travelled with a group of between 15 and 26 people so all of these games/means of entertainment are suitable for big groups. However, if you’re travelling alone they are great ideas for turning strangers into friends at a hostel! Also, backpackers that we were, all games were improvised using basic materials we found along the way.

Fancy Dress Parties

In two and a half months we managed to organise three separate fancy dress parties. Seriously. Even now it seems unbelievable to me that we were all able to put together costumes while on the road but it really is a testament to the old adage “where there’s a will, there’s a way”. Fancy dress parties are always great hilarity value but there’s something even funnier about being dressed up in the unlikeliest of locations.

kande beach malawi fancy dress

Our first fancy dress party was held at Kande Beach, Malawi. It’s an overland truck tradition, apparently. We picked names out of a hat and had to choose an outfit for that person (yes, it’s really quite cruel) with a budget of no more than $5. Where might one get a costume in Malawi? Oddly enough, there’s a market in Mzuzu, not too far from Kande, where you can find the strangest assortment of clothes.

halloween harare zimbabwe fancy dress

Shortly after our first fancy dress party in Malawi, Halloween happened. We were in Harare, Zimbabwe at the time and recycled our previous costumes. Someone had some make-up and a few Halloween songs and we went a bit mad πŸ™‚ We even made sure to dance the Time Warp. It certainly made that night at camp an interesting one… Even more interesting were people’s various attempts at taking their make-up off the next day without any make-up remover.

botswana fancy dress

Left: Paula the Baboon; Centre: Bobby the Birthday Boy, Brooke the… um… I’m not sure actually, and Hannah (me!) the Bee; Top Right: Emily the Barbie, Jane the Boxer and Naomi the Batwoman; Bottom Right: The Bombay Brothers.

Last but not least: The ‘B’ Party. As a tribute to Botswana, we organised a ‘B’-themed night. Botswana is a little more developed than the other countries and we managed to spend a few hours in a shopping centre to complete our costumes. Most of it was DIY though so it’s totally doable wherever you are. I made my costume by sticking black electrical tape to a yellow top, and used the same to draw out wings on my back. My antennae were sticks with balls of tape on the end, stuck firmly into my hair. Easy!


Ever heard of Downball? I certainly hadn’t until one bored afternoon in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. Due to the extreme heat and a group of guides who, for the most part, had no interest in interacting with us, we didn’t have much to do during the day. Sleeping became a bit tedious so we were left to our own devices to entertain ourselves. I believe it was Anand who came up with the idea of a Downball Tournament.

Downball is a bit like table tennis but your hand is the paddle and the ground is the table. All you need is a tennis ball and you can sketch the boundaries out on the ground.

downball tournament okavango delta botswana

Tom vs. Jo

Games Which Are Best Played Drunk

You probably don’t need my help with this one; we’ve all got our favourites. But with a bottle of gin going for roughly $1 in East Africa, we certainly played a few. My favourites:

Warrior Song: Each player assigns him/herself a gesture (ex.: pumping fists in the air, blowing kisses… but the naughtier, the funnier) and every player memorises each other’s. The group then starts to clap out a rhythm by slapping their thighs twice then clapping twice. Whoever is chosen to start the game has to slap twice, clap twice and then do the gesture of the next person s/he wants to pass the tag onto – all while keeping rhythm. Then the next person does the same with someone else’s tag and so on and so forth. The idea is for the whole group to keep up the rhythm while the tag is passed around the group, and the rhythm should speed up too. Anyone who falters has to down his/her drink.

If that makes no sense I can only suggest you take me out for a drink and I’ll teach it to you πŸ™‚

The Cardboard Box Game: Warning! This one can lead to serious injuries. I know you’ll play it anyway. All you need to play this game is a cardboard box such as an old cereal box. Taking turns, players have to stand up and pick the box up with their teeth… with their hands behind their backs and without bending their knees. Anyone who breaks the rules or falls over is out of the game. After each round, an inch-thick strip of the cardboard box is torn off. Eventually the box will be right down to the ground. It’s a great game if you’re flexible and interesting if you’re not.

I played this with a group of people in Jinga, Uganda and at the very last round, when the box was only half an inch off the floor, there were just two of us left in the game: me andΒ a yoga instructor. She won on that last half inch but I still deserve some kind of medal.

cardboard box game

The yoga instructor who beat me, wearing her cardboard box crown

Quiz Night

This one takes a bit of planning. I put together a quiz with seven different categories and, just like a pub quiz, teams played against each other. Everyone put $1 into a kitty and I was able to buy a bottle of vodka and bottle of wine, which the winning team kept. It was a great laugh and all you really need to make it happen is a few pens and some paper.

quiz night winners gweru zimbabwe

The winners: The Cunning Stunts

Just an idea: Don’t let the quiz mistress drink during rounds. She won’t be able to keep track of the scores very well. Ahem.

Turn Everything Into A Game

On one of those long afternoons at the Okavango Delta, a few people from the group decided to give themselves five minutes to gather as many items from the surrounding area as they could, and then set to work to create… something. Anything!

art okavango delta botswana

Vikki and Simone decided some weaving was in order

stick people okavango delta botswana

The group ended up making a stick-figure representation of our guide, Alun, and his lady friend πŸ˜€

Also in Botswana we discovered Beer Powder. That’s right, powder that magically turns into beer.

beer powder botswana

After letting it brew for 24 hours, a group of our bravest boys decided to try it. Anand gave a speech beforehand, presumably because he thought he should capture his last words on camera.

In Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, the majority of the group spent the day out on a walking safari tracking rhinos. A few of us stayed behind and tracked some rhinos of our own. We even made a short documentary about it πŸ˜€

I wish you could see the rhino up close. That’s Bobby. He put grey underpants on his head which we drew eyes onto, and used a bottle of DEET as a horn of sorts. I don’t know how clean those pants were.

Last but not least we had a long standing game going – Dick of the Day. Simone somehow acquired a wooden, carved zebra, which she didn’t want. We (and by ‘we’, I mean Anand again) decided to attach it to a lanyard, then at the end of each day we voted on who had done the stupidest thing that day and hung the zebra around his/her neck, where it had to stay until the next Dick of the Day was chosen. Poor Jo became quite well acquainted with that zebra.

At the end of the day, it’s all about attitude. You can either sit around being bored when you’re stuck in a vehicle/at a campsite for a long while, or you can use that time to have a good laugh. I know which I would prefer!

Have you played any whacky games while on the road? Share them in the comments!

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3 Responses

  1. Sarah says:

    Hehehehe sounds like you had a lot of fun! Where else can I see those videos hon because for some reason they won’t load for me on here!

  2. Simmy says:

    It looks like you had so much fun! How did the Beer Powder taste?

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