“I had a farm in Africa”. No, I am only joking, I had a truck. Actually, I didn’t even have that. I had a job. If you can call it a job. Are you planning your overland African Safari? Are you stunned by photos of sunsets and scenery of Southern and East Africa? Do you dream of Dar es Salaam beaches, long for Lake Malawi and do you go totally Toto about the Serengeti and Kili? I spent a year traveling around SOUTHERN and EAST AFRICA. Here are some of the highlights:
Apologies for the quality of the pictures. They were taken on film, printed and added to my travel albums before the days of social media and digital photography. What you see here are quick shots of the prints from the albums, taken with my iPhone.
The Orange River on a raft – South Africa/Namibia
This adventure takes place on the border of the Northern Cape, South Africa and Namibia. You will travel along in rafts (inflatable or fiberglass depending on which company you use) and camp along the river. I have done it in both summer and winter and although the colder months are a little more chilly in the evenings and you need to pack warmer clothes, you will be fine. The tour operator will also give you all the info and support you need to have a comfortable experience. Don’t worry if you can’t swim and if all goes well, you won’t even get wet. Mud fighting optional, but highly recommended. Companies you can book your adventure through: FelixUnite, Umkulu, and Bundi
Sossusvlei, Sesriem and the Fish River Canyon – Namibia
You’ve entered the land of extremities. Hot days. Hot hot. And cold evenings. Especially in the winter. There is a lot of sand and little water. And it is beautiful. The Fish River Canyon is majestic and if you ever get the opportunity to join a hiking party on the multi-day canyon hike, grab it with both hands (and look after your feet when you do).
Swakopmund, Etosha National Park and the Namib Desert – Namibia
The seaside resort town of Swakopmund has exploded into an adventure paradise. The country has all varieties of desert; sandy desert, rocky desert, deep space and just short of celestial bodies. Sky Dive over the dunes, ride them on fatbikes, quadbikes or use your own quads and hike up Dune 45. The view is worth it! You’ll be transported to space and Mad Max backdrop as you drive through moon landscapes on your way to Spitzkoppe. Look out for Martians.
Okavango Delta – Botswana
Botswana is popular for game viewing, and lodges abound. If possible, try to go to a slightly more remote area. It might cost more to get there, but you will be removed from all the tour operators and pissed off hippos. Our tours avoided Maun and went around the western, less touristy side of the Delta. Vehicles are left in a safe camp as you pack mokoros and meander through thick papyrus and reeds to arrive at one of the numerous islands. The water is almost totally mud free and super clean thanks to all the plants and sand acting as the perfect filter.
We camped under the trees and swam in the channels. We formed a circle with the mokoros (dug out canoes) and took turns to keep an eye on the surrounding water for any danger. This acitvity is NOT advised in more popular areas where crocs and hippos are used to humans and get in the way of your holiday. In fact, it is NOT advised AT ALL. I am not sure I will do it again. We did game walks with a local guide, read our books under the trees and chased away flies. If you can stay safe, slow and sober, your time in the Okavango can ONLY be magical.
We always stayed at Makwena, but I think they are not operational anymore.
Only take what you can carry. Carry wood, carry water, carry babies, but put your worries down.
Take cover: campsites where hippos charge, elephants roam and mosquitos hover.
Victoria Falls – Zimbabwe and Livingstone – Zambia
Victoria Falls is another adrenaline hub and watering hole and the internet is full of ideas and information on what to do. Mine included eating Mopane worms, Bungee jumping , Bridge swinging, River rafting, River boarding, Sunset Cruising. You won’t be bored.
A group photo: Names forgotten, memories engraved forever. Actually, I can still remember almost every passengers name, or at least something about them.
Lake Malawi – Malawi
Life in Malawi is slow. You will also forget that you are landlocked. The lake size varies between 560 and 580 km long and 75 km at its widest point. It was nicknamed “Lake of Stars” by David Livingstone, inspired by the fishermen boat lantern lights shining across the water at night. The lake is home to various endemic snails and fish and is great for scuba diving enthusiasts.
Similar to a beach holiday, activities include swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving (no need to wash your gear afterward), chilling and beer drinking. We enjoyed numerous sunrise swims and beach bonfires.
Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar – Tanzania
A touch of Arabic influence in Africa. Bleached beaches and turquoise water. You can get to Zanzibar by ferry or charter a small plane from Dar es Salaam. The ferry is comfortable, but the flight gives you a great view and gets you there faster. Make sure you stay in Stonetown for at least one night before you head to the beach resort. Crazy driving, interesting shopping and history in Stonetown. Swim, dive, chill. Get a massage. Eat fish. See fish. Also see Zanzibar (in pictures).
Ngorogoro Crater (Conservation Area) – Tanzania
A capsule of wildlife like a childrens’ book on Africa, filled with animals, this World Heritage Site is literally a bowl of life. It ist 180 km west of Arusha.
It was named by a Maasai as El-Nkoronkoro meaning Gift of Life. The crater is 610 m (2,000 feet) deep and its floor covers 260 square km with an estimated height ranging between 4500 to 5800 m high. It also made the list of Seven Natural Wonders (February 2013). It is expensive to get in and you will not be allowed with your own vehicle.
Serengeti National Park, Masai Mara, Lake Naivasha, Kakamega Forest – Tanzania and Kenya
Too many still to mention. The world famous national parks are still very wild and you will feel very exposed if you are camping. Campsites are not much more than a level, cleared and fenced piece of bush. We clustered bathroom visits in groups of 5 people minimum to stay safe and you don’t hang around far from the fire too much after dark. Facilities are basic. At first, I wasn’t sure what the fuss (and high entry fees) were about, but that all changed after the first sunrise in the Serengeti and a game drive through the yellow grassy fields. We spotted a pride of lions. Say “Mufasa”.
You can opt for many of the luxury lodges and your experience will be totally different, I am sure. I prefered our approach – it kept our risks and rewards very real.
Activities in the parks are mostly centred around game viewing and options range from open back vehicles to hot air balloon safaris. Some include breakfast or dinner under a tree or shady spot with beautifully dressed white tables and silverware (just like the brochures, if you are lucky).
Tanzania and Kenya is filled with variety. Towns and cities have all the supplies you would need and fresh fruit and vegetables are easy to find. We covered all the classic parks and was lucky enough to also be allowed time in and around the Kakamega Forest. It is Kenya’s only tropical rain forest and is close to the Ugandan border. You have to keep your wits about you – we almost got lost between the Elgon teaks and white stinkwood trees, looking for Colobus monkeys.
I can also mention Lake Victoria, the great bookstores in Nairobi, Mount Kenya (where we got married)…It feels like I am forgetting a few more, but this will have to do.
FOR TIPS ON HOW TO SURVIVE YOUR AFRICAN ADVENTURE READ HERE
I am happy to answer any questions on the work I did and trips we took. Shoot away in the comments below.
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