Travel Thursdays: AfrikaBurn 2016

by Karisa

OK, so AfrikaBurn doesn’t technically count as “travel” in the sense that it’s still local, but I think travelling deep into the Karoo qualifies it just this once. 😉

For those who are not familiar with AfrikaBurn it’s an annual event which takes place in the Tankwa Karoo where people from all walks of life come together to celebrate art, creativity, individuality and freedom of expression.

Part of the activities include the display & creation of art, the burning of large-scale structures, crazy costumes, live performance art, theme camps, music, parties, mutant vehicles, and pretty much everything else your imagination can think of.

(ever heard of Burning Man in the US?  So think that, but the African version)

Sounds fun right?  Yes it is.  But this festival also requires quite a lot of prep work.  You see, nothing is for sale at Afrikaburn.  You can’t buy supplies there & you have to come fully prepared.  There’s also a strong “gift economy” where burners are asked to gift something to the festival, whether it be food, drinks, entertainment, or a small keepsake, you need to gift something without expecting something in return.  This does mean that you’ll find theme camps that gift pancakes in the mornings for example, and you can try to coordinate your mornings to pop by, but you shouldn’t bank on just these freebies, you need to come with your own food, water and supplies to last you a week in the dessert.

Now to prepare yourself for this momentous event, there’s lots of super helpful information on which I highly recommend that you read.   I’m going to try and summarise my advice in a few short bullet points:

  • Google “rebar” – you will need these, trust me…  there’s no other way of securing your tent to the ground
  • On the topic of tents, it’s advisable to have some kind of cover over your tents to protect you from the sun during the day and help keep your camp snug at night.  Those Bedouin style tents seemed to do a really great job & held up well even on the day that we had a sand storm.  So if you can arrange one of those, you’re definitely winning.
  • Oh yes, sand storms… They don’t happen every year, but we were hit by one and they’re not fun when you’re not properly prepared.  We lost quite a bit of our camp which was a bit of a downer.  Again:  rebar & bedouin tent – these will save you a lot of pain.
  • A camping shower is an absolute must!  There’s nothing better than being able to wash off the dust at least once a day…  Do get one.
  • Bring enough warm clothing.  It may be hot hot hot during the day, but it gets really really freakin’ cold at night.
  • Get a good group together.  Like the saying goes: many hands make light work.  Create a cooking roster for example so everyone gets a turn to prepare a meal.
  • About 2 hours of your journey there and back is on a very daunting stretch of dirt road.  Sharp shards of rock are not a tire’s friend.  So go slow and make sure your spare tire is in tip-top shape.
  • The “open-air” toilets may seem a bit daunting, especially for girls.  But don’t stress!  They’re actually really cool.  I quite enjoyed my morning ritual while staring out into the dessert.  It’s strangely relaxing.

Then also familiarise yourself with the AfrikaBurn guiding principles – they’ll give you a feel for the general culture and vibe of the festival.  Everyone’s there to have a good time, but it’s also very much about mutual respect and consideration.

Right, that’s enough talking from me.  Let’s zone out and look at some pictures shall we?  I tried to edit down my more than 500 photos to just a top few… but I think I may have failed.  So apologies for the image overload.

I’ve split them into “day” and “night”  shots with a few comments along the way…

AfrikaBurn by day:

First timers need to announce their arrival

If you have some extra cash to burn, you can also arrive in style at the Tankwa International Airport

The famour open-air toilets… Always make sure you walk behind them, never cross in the front

It’s lejit 😉

Pink sunsets & bicycles are a kind of a thing out there

Our camp (pre sand storm)

Carry a flask or cup with you, you never know what surprises you’ll find en route. We regularly filled up at a tent in the Binnekring which handed out free wine

Dressing up is also a big thing… so start planning now…

Then just roam around and take it all in!

Street signs like these help you find your way back to your camp… If you can read a watch, you’re good – same principal applies



Our festival gift were these Africa pendants. You of course don’t have to cater for everyone attending the festival. For example we made about 350 of these to hand out

Walking the red carpet…

And keep an eye out for new art pieces… this one only arrived on day 3…

There are party buses & mutant vehicles which roam around all the time. Follow them!

Workin’ the golden light with my crew…

And AfrikaBurn by night:


My camera wasn’t that great at night – hence there being way more day shots.  But hopefully I’ve given you a pretty good idea of what to expect.

Keen to join in on the madness next year?  Then keep an eye out for ticket sales as these tickets sell out super fast.  For example last year I purchased my ticket on the last general public sale and it was sold out within 15min.

Ticket prices for 2017 still need to be confirmed, but to give you an idea my 2016 ticket cost me R1122.90 (which I purchased via Quicket).  Looks like the general sales rounds for next year are as follows:

1st General Ticket Sale Fri 4th Nov @ 12h00 noon

2nd General Ticket Sale Fri 3rd Feb 2016 at 12h00 noon

Read more about ticketing over here and then if you’re a first timer and you’re super keen be sure to create your Burner Bio now.  You will not be able to purchase tickets without it.  Then next step would be to download their survival guide and get yourself familiar with all the need-to-knows.

The 2017 theme is: Play (you can read more about that over here) and the dates for AfrikaBurn 2017 are 24 – 30 April 2017.

I won’t be doing it again next year (not really one of those “burners for life” people), but it was really awesome to finally tick off this bucket list item this year.  My summary advice would be:  Go forth, have fun & make memories, just ensure that you’re well prepared.


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