Between 1848 and 1914 a wave of German academic explorers traveled to Africa, enticed by the promise of geographical, anthropological and botanical discoveries. These Afrikareisende (African explorers) composed narrative accounts of their journeys, which at the time were the main channel for disseminating their experiences to the public. This article focuses on three works from the first three decades of German exploration of Africa prior to German unification in 1871. The common aim of scientific discovery unified Afrikareisende and their passage through foreign space. An inextricable feature of this scientific ideology is the connection to rational, linear time. This article demonstrates how the perception and relevance of time is employed to transfer knowledge of the Self and Other to a German readership. This knowledge reflects not only the explorers’ experience of their personal identity but also the tentative beginnings of a collective German identity as it is defined in colonial space.