The Ultimate AfrikaBurn Survival Guide

Another one to check off my travel bucket list! I finally made it to AfrikaBurn, and it was an otherworldly experience that I’d go back for time and time again.

After experiencing Burning Man 3 times, I knew I had to check out this South-African community and, trust me, it does not disappoint.

If you have South Africa on your bucket list, I’d highly recommend getting there in time to explore the region, then heading to this amazing event.

Before you go, check out my ultimate AfrikaBurn survival guide.

Blonde at AfrikaBurn

What is AfrikaBurn?

AfrikaBurn is an official Burning Man regional event that’s held every year in Tankwa Karoo National Park in South Africa. Like Burning Man, it’s not a festival. It’s a “radical experiment in self-reliance.”

The AfrikaBurn website explain’s the event as “a community of participants who come together to create art, burning structures, costume, performance, theme camps, music, mutant vehicles and much, much more. All of this is created through the volunteer culture of the citizens of Tankwa Town.”

AfrikaBurn is an entirely volunteer event, meaning everything that comes in is brought by the community. There are no outside vendors, there’s nothing for sale, and there isn’t even anything for barter. AfrikaBurn aims to be radically inclusive of all people, and for those people to create a gifting economy where nothing is expected in return.

You are entirely responsible for bringing everything you need into the event, and every single thing out of the event. It really is an experience that is what you make of it!

Getting to AfrikaBurn

Getting to AfrikaBurn

It’s just over 300 kilometers (185 miles) north of Cape Town so, of course, I’d highly recommend checking out Cape Town at some point your visit. You can fly into Cape Town and then drive to Tankwa Town. It’s a long and rough gravel road most of the way there, so you can’t just take any old car.

You’ll need a 4×4 and, for obvious reasons, don’t skimp on the travel insurance. Also, keep in mind that the number of gas stations you’ll see will dwindle as you get into the Northern Cape Province of South Africa.

Be sure to fill up your tank and stock up on road-trip essentials supplies in the city before you hit the road.

There are also short flights from Cape Town that take you directly to Tankwa Town for the event. You’ll have to coordinate having your things brought out to your camp, however, as the weight restrictions won’t allow for you to bring everything you need with you.

For more comprehensive details on preparing for the Burn, be sure to check out the AfrikaBurn website and subscribe to their newsletter for updates!

Blonde at AfrikaBurn

What to Expect at AfrikaBurn

Before booking your tickets, it’s important to note that AfrikaBurn is a temporary city. It’s a place of music and art, but it’s not exactly a festival.

There is a lot of music, but it does not have a set schedule. Simply put, it’s best to come with a laidback approach.

Plan on doing a lot of walking or biking to explore. There are art and light installations everywhere. There are themed camps, and individual camps, but everyone is welcome. There really is something for everyone, including huge parties day and night. When you’re at AfrikaBurn, it’s all about just seeing where the day takes you.

The one thing you do want to plan for is the temperature. We’re talking desert climates and April is summer time here, so the temperatures are hot and dry and the nights can get very cold. It’s also a very dusty and rocky environment, so planning is key.

Food at AfrikaBurn

What to Pack for Afrikaburn

Afrikaburn is far from a music festival. There is absolutely nothing for sale. No vendors. No stands. Nada. If there is anything that you need, you must bring it with you.

AfrikaBurn is all about self-reliance and a gift economy. Rather than trading or bartering, people just give each other random gifts. A gift can be anything from a back rub, to a cone of ice cream in the middle of the desert. While it’s a cool concept, it does NOT mean that you come expecting to receive. You must come entirely prepared to survive. Bringing a gift and receiving one is simply the magic of the Burn.

Food

Depending on your camp, you’ll need to determine if you are on your own for food, or if your camp will be pooling responsibilities.

For food, I’d say stick with things that are easy to prepare and are non-perishable. I’m talking bars, trail mix, peanut butter, jerky, apples, oranges and whatever food you like that requires no heating or refrigeration.

As you’re packing food, think about waste. Remember, what your bring in must come out– and that includes trash.

Here are some ideas for snacks and easy to make meals:

  • Protein Bars
  • Fully-cooked Quinoa — high protein & filling
  • Fruit Cups
  • Tuna Pouches — so you don’t need a can opener
  • Fresh Fruit
  • Peanut Butter Pouches — individual packages are perfect
  • Pop Tarts  — how I earned my playa name “Pop Tart” 😉 (You won’t find these in South Africa though! So shop ahead or find something similar when you get here)
  • Giant Jar of Pickles — my go-to!

Reminder: Don’t bring a bunch of stuff that will create a lot of waste either as you need to keep your own trash and remove it from the Playa when you leave. This is part of a national park, so it’s our eco-responsibility to keep it clean and beautiful.

For drinking receptacles, I’d recommend bringing 2 large, reusable water bottles— one or water, and one for alcohol. Also, bring a reusable coffee mug for your morning beverages!

Lastly, don’t forget WATER, WATER, WATER!

I can’t stress WATER enough. 1.5 gallons/5 liters of water per day per person is recommended.

Keep in mind that this water is for bathing and washing up, too, so it’ll go a lot faster than you might think. A lot of stores in South Africa sell 5 liter bottles, so I’d recommend getting 1-2 per person per day.

Tent & Camp Materials

Check out Sportsmans Warehouse in Cape Town for new supplies, or GumTree, a local version of “Craig’s List” for used supplies. You’ll also need a sleeping bag, camping mat, potentially a fire source (to cook), and whatever containers you need to cook, prep and wash for your meals.

Don’t forget a chair, so that you’ve got a place to sit and relax.

Blonde at AfrikaBurn

Clothes

The weather can vary a lot in the desert, so I’d recommend bringing a variety of clothes. Every year is different.

Some years, you can lounge in a bikini during the afternoon. Other years, you need a warm coat at night.

Check the weather as the date gets closer, but whatever the prediction, don’t forget to bring layers!

I like to bring fun outfits for dressing up, but generally, I’d say the atmosphere isn’t as crazy as some other festivals. Rather than looking at the Burn as a costume party, remember that it’s an event that supports radical self-expression. So if one day you want to wear completely normal clothes because that’s what feels right, do it! I absolutely love planning outfits, but there are some nights where I’ve gone out in yoga pants and a t-shirt.

Dressing up is not mandatory and nudity is normal but far from expected.

Whatever you wear, pack a pair of good walking shoes. You’ll be on your feet a lot so comfort is essential. And don’t forget the earplugs! It’s a party atmosphere, so they’re important for helping you fall asleep in peace. 

Essential Tips

  • Everything said, I’d recommend joining a camp. Especially if you’re traveling from overseas! You’ll save money planning as a group and sharing responsibilities. It’s still an amazing experience going solo (I went on my own my first time to Burning Man) so don’t let the planning stop you from going!
  • Bring a bike. You can rent one in Cape Town, or buy one. There is a lot of ground to cover, and you’ll want to see it all! Also, it’s worth bringing a spare tire tube in case you get a flat at the Burn.
  • The event is expensive. Tickets start at R1500 and, if you’re traveling to South Africa, you’ll need to factor in flights, transportation and everything you’ll need to survive out there.
  • You’ll need a sturdy vehicle, so try to carpool (to make the trip safer and easier) and rent a trailer to tow your gear. Flat tires aren’t uncommon, so know how to change one and have a spare tire!
  • Organize a shade structure for your camp. It’s HOT out there and you’ll need to bring your own shade. There are local companies that rent stretch tents and some will even go to set up everything for you– just be sure to plan far in advance to make it happen.
  • When you’re packing, plan for essential hygiene items. Remember, you are responsible for EVERYTHING you’ll need. Including toilet paper. There’s only so much water you’ll be able to pack, so I’d recommend also bringing some baby wipes and hand sanitizer. It’s a really dusty environment, so you’ll start to feel grimy pretty quickly.
  • Open your mind. AfrikaBurn is radically inclusive, so you will meet all types of people. Lower your guard and leave judgement at home. This is such a huge part of the overall experience!
  • Explore solo. After 4 Burns, I’d say my most incredible experiences have been when I’ve gone off on my own. We tend to follow the crowd in our daily lives, making plans with friends, and doing what the group is doing. Even if it’s for an hour, go explore on your own and do what YOU want to do. There is so much to experience, and when you aren’t influenced by other’s decisions or desires, you will surely discover something entirely new and exciting on your own.

Read Next: The Beginner’s Guide to Burning Man

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Michelle

Author of many travel blogs and user of www.travelmustard.com