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Africa

Namibia, Botswana, Zambia
November, 2005



Click on country to see detailed route maps.

Getting to Africa from Grand Cayman is no mean feat! We started on a Friday at 1.00pm, stopped overnight in Atlanta, continued onto Johannesburg the next day (a 17 hour flight with a quick pit stop in the Cape Verde island for refueling!) for another overnight stopover and finally arrived in Walvis Bay, Namibia, on Monday lunchtime.

enjoying the local street cafes
in Melville
  at the Apartheid Muesum
with downtown Johannesburg in the background

In Johannesburg we stayed at Akuwaiseni Guest House in a trendy suburb of the city called Melville.

During our stay, we visited the Apartheid Museum and some cool bars.

    our Johannesburg Guest House
www.akuwaiseni.co.za

The last part hour of the flight to Walvis Bay gave us a good idea of the vast, barren landscape that Namibia is known for. The view was of endless rolling sand dunes. From the remote airport it was a short drive to the resort town of Swakopmund where our trip was scheduled to begin. This town, on the Atlantic Coast, was billed as a "busy and bustling" place but in reality it was cold, ugly and dead!

Swakopmund, Namibia from the air. A town with a lot of German influence.

While in Swakopmund we spent two nights in the Dunedin Star Guest House, basic but clean, and took advantage of a "free" day before the big trek commenced to spend some time exploring the dunes. For a rather expensive US$360 each we took a private flight (www.scenic-air.com) in a single-engine Cessna to Sossusvlei.

Our transportation to the dunes

flying low over the Namib Desert
(note the distinctive tracks of dune-buggies in the lower right corner)

The journey took about an hour and our pilot, Jack, swooped and banked into Kuiseb Canyon and flew very low over the magnificent dunes.

On arrival at Sossusvlei we were immediately struck by how much hotter it was here in the desert than in the nearby coastal town. We were met by our guide, Oscar, who took us the 65 kilometer journey into the dunes over pot hole ridden, dusty tracks in an open 4-wheel drive truck

    1 hour ride to the Dunes near Sossusvlei

We saw Dune 45, the most accessible of the red dunes and so-called because it is the 45th dune from Sossusvlei.
Dune 45    

After bumping 75kms down the road we reached Deadvlei, arguably the most interesting dune due to the pure white, 1km long salt pan at its base, and the very dead trees therein - trees that have been carbon dated at 900 years old.

Deadvlei, with its 900 year old dead trees

This whole area is a popular spot for visitors at sunrise and sunset but we could only get there for midday - far, far too hot for climbing dunes! After the dusty hot journey we returned to Sossusvlei Lodge, (www.sossusvleilodge.com) close to the airstrip, for a great lunch and a much needed swim in the pool (all of which was included in the price of the trip!).

On the return flight to Swakopmund we took a different route which gave us a fantastic view of the dunes, one of the worlds most inhospitable waterless areas, and a portion of the skeleton coast, so named because of the numerous shipwrecks that can be seen half buried in the sand. Our pilot did a lot more swooping and banking to give us some good views of the shipwrecks and the numerous seal colonies. We arrived back at our guest house tired and dirty and in need of a good night's sleep before the start of our safari!

one of the worlds most inhospitable waterless areas

Our 14 day trip through Namibia, Botswana and ending at the Victoria Falls in Livingstone, Zambia was booked through Jenman African Safaris (www.jenmansafaris.com). The company is owned and operated by a friend of Jayne's who currently lives in Cayman which is why we chose this tour operator. We chose the "deluxe" option which for an extra $100 gave us 8 nights in chalets and 5 nights camping, as opposed to camping for the entire trip. As well as all transportation and accommodation fees the package price also included most meals and all park fees.


We started our day at 8.30 sharp in a sandy and tired Toyota Hi-ace (we later learned that this was its second from last trip before the scrap yard!). We traveled north along the coast under a hazy sky and through a barren, dry and dusty landscape.
coastal roads made with sand and salt water...
both of which are very abundant
   

Our first stop was at the Cape Cross Seal Colony, a place that as many as 200,000 cape fur seals ( the largest fur seal) call home during the breeding season. It was very noisy and very stinky!
    Cape Cross Seal Colony

From here we started the 200 kilometre journey inland to the Brandberg Mountain. Most of the trip took us over bumpy, dusty roads and it did not take us long to realize that all windows on the van had to be shut quickly whenever we saw an oncoming vehicle approaching. Luckily the roads were fairly empty for the entire journey!

the dusty roads of Namibia

By early afternoon we had reached the site of the infamous "White Lady" rock painting. To reach the paintings we had to walk for about an hour in some very intense heat, so intense than a few members of our group had to turn back part way through!
    2000 year old 'White Lady' rock painting

After recovering from the walk we had just a short trip to the Brandberg White Lady Lodge; (www.brandbergwllodge.com) our home for the next two nights. The lodge's pool (and the bar's cold Tafel beers, a Namibian staple!) provided some welcome respite from the heat and dustiness of the walk and the day was perfectly finished off with an Oryx steak.


Brandberg White Lady Lodge, Namibia

The next day we did a trek into the bush to seek out the famous desert elephants. Unfortunately, while we saw plenty of dung and fresh tracks, the elephants eluded us as they had passed through just a couple of days earlier. We did however see a large troupe of baboons who spent several minutes watching us curiously from a rocky outcrop.

Locals near Brandberg Lodge

We left Brandberg after an early breakfast and headed for the Twylfontein rock engravings estimated to be anywhere between a few hundred and a few thousand years old.

Twylfontein rock engravings

Our final leg of the day took us to the town of Outjo - a sophisticated place complete with internet cafes, a German bakery and a well-stocked supermarket.

After a very long hot and dusty day we arrived in Etosha National Park - for our first night in a tent! Our camp was at Okaukeujo, at the western end of the park.
Etosha National Park, Namibia    

We spent the evening by the watering hole which, particularly as this was the dry season, was a gathering place for all kinds of animals, including giraffes, rhinos, zebras and elephants. We were thrilled to see a few lions approach and even more so to see them scared off by the adult elephants, which, we assume, were protecting their young. That night we would have slept well in the tent, except the silence was broken throughout the night by the roar of lions!

jackals fighting over a carcass of an animal that had been killed earlier

The next day we had to be up before dawn to do a game drive through part of the park. We were fortunate enough to see some jackals fighting over a carcass of an animal that had been killed earlier.


Amongst many other animals we were also lucky to see a group of spotted hyenas - in two years of doing the game drives here our guide had not seen them before!

We returned to the campsite at 9.30am and after a good breakfast went back to the watering hole to watch the comings and goings of all manner of wildlife.
    Spotted Hyenas - Etosha National Park

Etosha
huge birds nests
resting lions

The following day we moved to the eastern side of the park to the Namutomi camp site. En route we saw two prides of lions, one of which had clearly feasted well the night before! Just before we arrived at the camp we saw a solitary leopard not far from the main road, apparently a rare sighting since they are nocturnal animals.
rare glimpse of a leopard
animal activities
at the watering hole
Etosha's salt pan

The following day we left Etosha and headed towards the Caprivi area of Namibia. We stopped in a small town called Tsumeb to get gas and provisions. On leaving the town the change in scenery was very noticeable. Gone were the concrete buildings and signs of civilization; the landscape was now dotted with traditional African villages, complete with thatched huts, minimal electricity and a lot of goats!


Our stop for the next two nights was at n'Kwazi Lodge on the banks of the Kavango River, which marks the natural border between Namibia and Angola.

n'Kwazi Lodge on the banks of the Kavango River, Namibia
www.safarinow.com/go/nkwazi/
It was a beautiful spot and the accommodation was charmingly African. The next day commenced with a substantial breakfast, lodge style.

We then went to a nearby village were we visited the school, church and some local families. The kids at the school looked mostly dirty and ragged but they sang beautifully and all seemed innocently happy.

They were thrilled to be able to see themselves in our digital photos, so much so that, on our return to Cayman, we had them printed and sent to the school along with some much needed supplies of pens, paper and calculators.
click here to see the children
at Mayana School,
near Rundu, Namibia (6MB)
visiting the Mayana School...the children loved to get their photos taken
the local village
Whilst at n'Kwazi we took advantage of the opportunity to go horse-back riding along the river at sunset. Our guide was very knowledgeable about the politics and economics of the area. Dinner at the lodge consisted of a huge buffet and this was followed by some native dancing….and some rather large amounts of rum!
click here to see
the church singers near
Rundu, Namibia (9MB)
horseback riding...overlooking Angola across the river
our riverside chalet at n'Kwasi
relaxing at the lodge at sunset

We left Namibia the next day and crossed the border into Botswana. The villages here looked in better shape than those in Namibia! We arrived in Etsha where we had to leave most of our property on the truck and pack only a few essentials for our two day trip into the remote Okavango Delta.


We were collected by a large 4x4 open topped truck for a one hour journey across some very deep sand. It was, to say the least, a very uncomfortable one hour! The truck kept stalling, it was incredibly hot and we quickly became covered in dust and exhaust fumes! We later discovered that the driver had forgotten to release the handbrake!
journey into the Okavango Delta, Botswana    

On arriving at the delta we transferred from the truck (thank god!) to a motor boat which took us on a ten minute trip to Makwena Camp ("mother of crocodiles" in the local language), a secluded island with nothing on it except a couple of bathrooms, a bar and a plethora of truly wild animals!

hippos in the water around our camp

After setting up our tent we went on a quick bush walk. The recent passage of elephants was evident everywhere in the form of large piles of fresh dung and some devastated trees! We also saw a large group of vervet monkeys, all watching us curiously from the trees and we heard the unmistakable sound of grunting hippos coming from the water. That evening, after our campfire dinner, I surprised Jayne with a bottle of wine that I had carried all the way from Cayman for her birthday.

The following morning we had to be up early to start the trip into the delta.

We took a motor boat for an exciting ride through the 12' high papyrus reeds. There was just enough space cut between the reeds to accommodate the boat and we often had to duck to avoid getting attacked by them!

Every so often we would come across an obstruction in the channel caused by elephants - the driver had to reverse the boat and take a big run-up to jump over the fallen reeds!
    click here to see the ride
through the reeds near
Makwena Camp, Botswana (4MB)

After about an hour we arrived at an island where we were met by some local "polers" with their "mokoros". Traditionally mokoros were made from a hollowed out tree but, even in the Botswana outback, environmental concerns were given credence and today's canoes are made from fiberglass - they looked very much like the real thing though!
traveling by Mokoro

The 11/2 hour excursion into the delta was a little uncomfortable on the floor of the mokoro but it was worth it for we came across a herd of elephants walking through the water just ahead of us.

elephants in the Okavango Delta, Botswana
   

We landed on another nearby island were we went for a long hike.

Much to our guide's surprise, we came across another herd of elephants and had to quickly retreat so as not to agitate them!

Our guide looked far more scared than we did! After a quick lunch we made an attempt at poling - only then did we realize how easy the professionals made it look!


hiking in the Okavango Delta

The next morning we were greeted by our very first sight of rain on the trip!

We were due to leave the camp by 8am but instead were given the opportunity for a lie-in until the rain eased. Later that morning we finally realized the rain was getting worse….it was leaking into the tent!....and we had no option but to pack up camp and get wet! By the time we had stuffed our soggy tents into their bags and rolled up our muddy tent we were both soaked and filthy!

The journey by boat and the open top truck back to the mainland was cold and uncomfortable and we were all relieved to finally get to our bags and some warm dry clothes!
improvising with garbage bag rain coats!    

the roads of the Caprivi Strip, Namibia
Camp Kwando, on the crocodile infested Kwando River

Our next stop took us back into the Caprivi strip of Namibia to Camp Kwando, a gorgeous spot on the banks of the crocodile infested Kwando river.

We were due to take a promising game drive from the camp into the famous Horse Shoe area but, due to the late start, we did not arrive in time! Our accommodation at the camp was in a thatched tent with an open air washroom - very cute but not so good as far as bugs were concerned...
Camp Kwando (www.campkwando.com)
at the Namibia/Botswana border
We then returned into Botswana, our passports filling up with stamps, for the Chobe National Park and our camp, Toro Safari Lodge in the town of Kasane. The town is situated on the banks of the Chobe River; where four African countries (Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana) and two rivers (Chobe and Zambezi) meet.


Toro Safari Lodge,
Kasane, Botswana
(www.torolodge.co.bw)
sprayed at the Namibia/Botswana border    
warthogs

Even en route to the camp we saw a variety of wildlife, from zebras to warthogs. After a quick break to lay our (still very damp!) clothes in the sun to dry we set off to the Chobe Marina Lodge, a place we knew to be beyond our budget, even after seeing only the driveway! This would be the departure point for our sunset cruise along the Chobe river.
click here to see the dancers at the
Chobe Marina Lodge, Botswana (3MB)
dancers at the Chobe Marina Lodge
(www.chobemarinalodge.com

Chobe River, Chobe National Park, Botswana


We were even fortunate enough to see a herd of elephants cross the river. At times the tips of their trunks were the only visible signs of them as they were swimming almost completely underwater!
Within minutes of leaving the dock our eagle-eyed guide had spotted crocodiles and it wasn't long before we were up close with yawning hippos and trumpeting elephants.



On the last day of our trip, this cruise on the Chobe was one of the highlights.

Chobe River, Chobe National Park, Botswana

The following day we left Chobe for the short drive to the ferry dock on the Zambezi River. It was then a quick trip across the river to the Zambian border and the town of Livingstone. The immigration "office" was not the most efficient of places - we each had to plough through a pile of ragged looking papers to find our visa!

arriving at the Zambian border

We were pleased to arrive at Thorntree Lodge (www.safpar.com/thorntree.htm) for a couple of days of luxury before heading home. We were immediately impressed with the excellent personal service and the superb location of our accommodation: "monkey thorn", our home for the next two days, was very "African" with a beautiful terrace that overlooked the Zambezi.

Thorntree Lodge, near Livingstone, Zambia

Thorntree Lodge was situated in the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park and we had wildlife right at our doorstep - the river was alive with hippos and the trees teeming with monkeys!

We made a big mistake leaving snacks in our room - the monkeys were not hesitant in coming in and stealing them while we were sleeping!



Livingstone is considered the activity capital of the area and is a popular place for backpackers and adventure seekers. I took advantage of the opportunity to partake of one of the areas most exhilarating activities outdoors activities; white water rafting down the Zambezi River.

White Water Rqafting on the mighty Zambizi River, Livingstone, Zambia
I saw the spectacular scenery of the gorges and the Victoria Falls from a unique perspective. The rapid are amongst the wildest in the world. In November the water level is at its lowest making the rapids even more thrilling! Rapid # 6, known as "the devils toilet bowl" had us all in the water and rapid #9 "commercial suicide" was rated a level 6, and therefore considered impassable - we had to get out of the raft and walk around it! It was an exhausting trip but I had to reserve some energy for the climb out of the steep gorge! After a much needed lunch and rest we spent the afternoon exploring the craft market in town. It was an interesting place - and you definitely need to have a thick skin to avoid buying things you don't want and a tough haggling stance to get the best bargain!

The next morning I had to be up at dawn for the final adventure of the trip; a ride over the falls in a microlight, a motorized hang-glider. The flight offered an awesome view of the falls and was a totally exhilarating end to our Africa trip! Later that day we were driven to Livingstone airport to commence the three-flight, 24-hour journey home!

Microlight tour over Victoria Falls, Zambia

We had a great time in Africa; the unique wildlife was worth seeing in its natural habitat as was experiencing the way that people live in some of the remote and poor areas. In hindsight we realized that doing a self drive trip around this part of Africa would have been a safe and more enjoyable alternative to being a part of an organized tour but we don't regret the experience!



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