Drive of your life

5th May 2006 at 01:00
There are drawbacks to going on an overland safari: you no longer have to give up your day job to do it and no one will want to see your thousands of photos or listen to your leopard stories - they'll be too jealous. Try sticking to the highlights, which are...

Nairobi We got out of the capital as soon as we could and set up camp on the outskirts, where leopards have been heard growling at night. All I heard was the soppy campsite guard dog Bob, snuffling around the tents.

The David Sheldrake Wildlife Trust The first big "aaah!" moment as first an orphaned baby black rhino, then a whole string of motherless baby elephants, came out to play.

The Giraffe Centre The second big "aaah!" moment, swiftly followed by a "eurgh!" moment as the foolish person who tried to get the Rothschild giraffe to take food from between her lips was licked by its scarily long purple tongue.

Adam and Claire Our tour leaders, truck drivers, mobile mechanics, wildlife guides (helping us distinguish between various BLTs or "Bambi-Like Things"), and new best friends. But it's difficult to love everyone all the time on a smallish truck driving over ruined roads to a packed schedule.

And 5am starts make anyone chilly-tempered. Mostly, though, our grumps were short-lived and everyone got on remarkably well.

Denford Our cook and master of breakfast pancakes. Everyone wanted to learn how to haggle in Swahili in the market with Denford, and helping him was the most popular chore - even when it meant putting up his tent, so he could get on with dinner.

Game drives in 'Claudia' (the truck) Sitting high in her roof seats gave us the best view. We spit on your luxury Land-Rovers, rich people. With three crew and 13 travellers on the look-out, no leopard went unspotted. Odd bits did drop off her, but 20 is old for a supermodel and Claire sorted her out with a spanner and an oily rag.

Lake Nakuru That's where we saw eight rhino and two million flamingos, and tracked down and reported a local tour bus that was harassing a rhino. Adam got them banned from the national park. Shockingly, they turned out to be a school trip.

Lake Victoria A chance to sink our toes in the sand and have a few beers beside Africa's largest lake - and a welcome chance to upgrade to a room.

All that tent pitching gets a bit tiresome and it's good to have a chance to shake the grit out of your undies and sleeping bag.

Arusha Meeting the Masai, discussing everything from their jewellery to female circumcision, and visiting their school. Then taking a minibus into town. They're supposed to carry 14 max. On the way back I counted 23, and Diana said someone's dagger was digging into her leg. It belonged to the Masai warrior almost sitting in her lap.

The Serengeti Wasn't that where Claire warned us someone had surprised a lion in the loo last time?

The Ngorongoro crater A lioness lay down in the shade of a jeep in front of us and just wouldn't move.

Dragoman Overland, winner of this year's Association of Independent Tour Operators Responsible Travel Award, visits Kariandusi on 16-night East African Overland and Zanzibar trips between Nairobi and Dar es Salaam (from pound;476 per person, excluding flights and kitty of US$530); it has a 16-night Family Adventures trip over a similar route, and a five-week African East and South journey between Nairobi and Victoria Falls. Contact: 01728 861133;

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