Africa Recap

Wow – what an incredible seven weeks overlanding in south and east Africa! An infinite number of wildlife, sand dunes as red as blood, domesticated cheetahs, boat rides, hiking up Table Mountain, wine tastings, African night clubs, swimming on top of a waterfall, and snorkeling in the Indian Ocean only begins to sum up the things we saw and did over the past seven weeks. We are thankful for each and every experience. The past month and a half has flown by and we can’t believe it’s already over. A few trip stats, favorite moments and places from our time in Africa:

  • Days in Africa: 48
  • Countries visited: 8 (South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya)
  • Miles traveled: 6,197 miles  or 9,973 kms
  • Nights camping: 35 nights (73% of our time in Africa)
  • Nights of rain on our overland safari: 2
  • # of Game Drives: 12  – Etosha National Park (3), Chobe National Park (4), Ngorongoro Crater (1), Serengeti (2), Nairobi National Park (2)

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Favorite Country: Botswana and Tanzania tie for our favorite countries in Africa and were also the countries where we spent the most time. In Botswana, we thoroughly enjoyed exploring the Okavanga Delta and camping in the bush in the middle of Chobe National Park. Tanzania was gorgeous. From the beautiful white sandy beaches of Zanzibar to the surreal landscapes of the Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti, Tanzania has a lot to offer. We hope to return someday to see the Great Migration of wildebeests and to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.S S

Favorite Place:  We loved exploring the Okavanga Delta by air, boat and foot. We had a blast camping on a remote island, swimming in watering holes, learning traditional African song and dance and seeing hippos just yards away while we took photos from our mokoros. We forgot to mention it earlier, but a huge thanks to the Brannon’s for the Okavanga Delta wedding honeyfund!S

Favorite Activity: White water rafting down the Zambezi River was absolutely insane and an unforgettable time. We had a blast getting beaten down by the wrath of the rapids. I’ve never been so close to drowning in my life and it’s moments like those when you feel the most alive.IMG_2334

Hardest Moment: Realizing we were robbed the night before our overland trip departed was the most difficult time for us. We were devastated that we had lost all of our pre-trip photos and our morale was low. Settling our insurance claim in Africa has been challenging and an overall pain. On the bright side, the experience has made us grateful for everything we still have…including each other. Thanks to everyone who reached out to us in support and have helped us sort everything out!

Favorite Accommodation: Nairobi Tented Camp wins this distinction hands down! Granted we were camping for the majority of the time, we still were very impressed with the level of service and overall ambiance of NTC.  The campsites are the only accommodations within Nairobi National Park and offer a unique, intimate experience with the African bush. Two great game drives within the park allowed us to see more lions, giraffe, and a white rhino (an animal we had yet to see)! The whole experience is second to none.SONY DSC

Best Game Park: Before we entered Tanzania, Chobe National Park would have taken the prize for our favorite game park. The park has a dense population of elephants, wildebeests, hippos and lions, open plains and the Chobe River which creates a surreal atmosphere.  It was amazing to camp in the middle of the park and listen to the animals move around and howl in the middle of the night. Plus, it’s where we spotted our first (and second) leopard. However, the Serengeti was amazing and takes the cake. The vast plains and overall landscape are breathtaking. It looked just how we imagined Africa to look in our heads. When we entered the park we had already seen all of the animals we’d hope to spot so our expectations were low. But it was in the Seregenti where we saw countless lions and our first kill…by a leopard nonetheless. There are only a few game parks where you can see the Big Five in one day and the Serengeti is one of them. Our expectations were completely met and it was a great way to end our 42 day overland tour.S

We originally thought camping in a tent for so long would take its toll on us but luckily it hasn’t. We’ve learned that we can sleep almost anywhere on almost anything. And the food…who would have thought you could gain weight in Africa? Well we did and will be traveling with a few extra pounds from eating three hearty and delicious meals a day.

African weather has been incredibly kind to us. Although some days were extremely hot, we had only two nights of rain on our entire overland tour. It’s very common this time of year to experience at least a few down pours but we have been very fortunate to stay as dry as we have.

I know we’ve said it before, but we are incredibly lucky to travel with the group of people we’ve met. After traveling for three and a half months on our own through South America, it was refreshing to hang out in a group and to meet such amazing people. They are our African travel family and it will be weird not to travel with them anymore. We love you guys – you know who you are!SIt’s been nearly five months since we started our around the world adventure. We are still going strong and are so excited for our next continent. But first, we need to make it through an epic two days of traveling. From Nairobi, we fly to Qatar and connect in Bangkok before we arrive in OZ nearly 40 hours later. We are looking forward to returning to a westernized country and spending time with our family-friends in Melbourne!

It’s been fun Africa, now it’s on to the next…

S

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A Little Vacation From Our Vacation At Nairobi Tented Camp

Our 42-day overland tour concluded in Nairobi, Kenya and after spending the majority of our time in Africa tent camping, we thought we’d go all out for our last two nights. We ditched the three person canvas tent and upgraded to Nairobi Tented Camp, an extremely unique camping experience in the middle of Nairobi National Park.

Tucked inside the bustling and congested streets of Nairobi lies Nairobi National Park, Kenya’s oldest national park rich in wildlife. Nairobi Tented Camp is the first and only tented camp inside the national park. In fact, it’s the first tented accommodation in Nairobi altogether. To get to the camp, we were picked up from the main gates of Nairobi National Park and driven to the campsite about 30 minutes into the park.

When we arrived, we had no idea what to expect from a bush camp. Our previous bush camp experiences consisted of only squat toilets. What we weren’t expecting was to be welcomed to Nairobi Tented Camp with fresh juice and a clean chamomile hand towel. And we definitely weren’t expecting the campsite to be so beautiful and…luxurious.SONY DSC SThe campsite is comprised of a few common tents used for meals and socializing and eight different standalone tents for guests to stay. We followed the Masai staff carrying our bags to our tent which would be our home for the next two nights. This was no ordinary tent…this was a hotel room in the African bush. Our glorified tent was fully equipped with sheepskin rugs, a king size bed, flush toilet and shower – we were in heaven! S S S S SThe thick forests and grasslands surrounding the camp make it easy to forget you are in the heart of Nairobi, one of Africa’s largest and most vibrant cities. Because Nairobi Tented Camp is in the middle of the wildlife reserve, animals can roam about freely. There aren’t any barriers or fences to keep wildlife out so every time you leave your tent, a Masai guard escorts you to the mess tents. In fact, the service is so impeccable that if you need anything at all, you blow the whistle in your room and a Masai guard or staff member will come to your tent to assist you with whatever you may need.SNairobi Tented Camp is a perfect model of eco-tourism done well. The entire campsite is completely eco-friendly. With the exception of the tent pegs, there is nothing put into the ground. All of the structures are impermanent buildings meaning that they could literally pack the camp up and move it without any impact on the environment. All electricity is solar powered and all garbage is separated for recycling and carried off to different groups who recycle it for a second life. The showers were bucket showers heated by log fires. Any time we wanted a shower, we’d simply tell any staff member and within 10 minutes, they would be carrying hot, steamy buckets of water to our tent for our shower.

The food we ate during our stay was amazing. Breakfast was eggs made to order, fresh baked muffins and bread, fruit, bacon, sausage and roasted tomatoes. Every booking at the camp includes a three-course lunch followed by a three-course dinner. Everything was homemade and cooked in their charcoal oven. One of our favorite lunch starters was a chilled avocado soup with fresh baked rolls. Delicious!S SOn our first day at camp, we went on an afternoon game drive through Nairobi National Park. The park is only 30,000 acres but is home to 527 species of birds, 4,000 zebra, 1,000 wildebeest, 14 species of antelopes, 50 black rhinos, 40 lions and several leopards, cheetahs and aardwolfs. It’s amazing to think that you can fly into Nairobi and within an hour be on a safari spotting giraffe, black rhinos and lions. It’s a very unique chance to view wildlife and see the city skyline at the same time. S S SOur safari guide stopped so we could stretch our legs and enjoy the approaching sunset. He surprised us by pulling out a cooler packed with beers, wine, gin and a few appetizers. They think of everything!SAt night, the entire camp is lit by low-watt LED lanterns. Everyone sits by the fire listening for animals before turning in for the night. Upon returning to your tent, your bed has been turned down and waiting in the covers are hot water bottles to keep you warm (it’s the little things)! During the night, we heard several hyrax screaming to each other as we laid in bed. Hearing the animals so close to your tent is what makes bush camping so exciting and unique.S SThe next morning we departed for a sunrise game drive. We were lucky to spot white rhinos (our first white rhinos!), a lioness and her two cubs as well as a male lion before the end of our drive.S SBefore departing on our next worldly adventure, we spent the rest of the day relaxing in the comfort of our plush tent reflecting on our amazing journey through Africa. Nairobi Tented Camp was the perfect ending to an unforgettable trip. The hospitality and service are unprecedented. The location in Nairobi National Park and overall bush camp experience are one of a kind. Visit Nairobi Tented Camp and experience it for yourself. Luxury awaits you in the middle of an African wildlife reserve!

Visit the Nairobi Tented Camp website for rates and reservations and for more information about Nairobi National Park.

Disclosure: We received a complimentary stay at Nairobi Tented Camp in exchange for sharing our experience. These thoughts and opinions are completely our own.

Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti

I don’t know what else to say except that the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti are absolutely amazing. We had low expectations going in since we had already seen all the wildlife we hoped to find in Africa. Well, we’ve learned you should never underestimate how exciting Mother Nature can be. But we’ll start from the beginning…

The remaining seven of us from our overland tour were picked up by a safari company and driven to the outskirts of the Ngorongoro Crater to camp for the night. I don’t know if it was the excitement for our game viewing the next day or the alcohol that we were consuming, but our gambling started to get a little more interesting. We stopped playing our usual card game and started upping the bets and playing high card. You get one card and whoever is dealt the highest card wins. When some people started getting low on cash, we started playing for other things, like haircuts. The girls started betting inches off their hair and the guys stated betting facial hair, leg hair and armpit hair. Our friend Dean has been growing his facial hair for nearly five months. Chris and Dean agreed that the loser of their hand had to shave off their moustache. Well, Chris lost and true to his word, he shaved his stache and is now rocking the Amish look. He still looks as handsome as ever…ha!S SThe next morning we departed for the crater. Ngorongoro Crater was formed 25 million years ago when a volcano collapsed. The crater rim spans 16-19 kilometers in diameter creating a natural enclosure and refuge for thousands of wildlife. The scenery is gorgeous.S S SThe middle of the crater is flat and grassy making game viewing fairly easy since there are only a few places animals can hide. Although we’ve already seen the majority of these animals, we were able to get much closer to them than in any other game drive.S S S SWe spotted three more black rhinos in the crater making it a total of five that we’ve seen on our trip. Given that there are only 5,000 left in the world, we were pretty pleased to have seen 1% of the total population while in Africa.

A few hours away from the crater lays the Serengeti. On our way there, we came across a herd of giraffe right on the road. We’ve seen giraffes but not this close and not the Masai giraffes which are much more vibrant in color.S SMasai for “endless plains,” the Serengeti is exactly how you picture Africa to look in your head. Beautiful acacia trees litter the vast expanse of land where the wild animals roam. S S S S
Nearly done with our first game drive through the Serengeti, we saw rapid camera flashes coming from a overland vehicle in the distance. We headed their way curious to know what they were viewing. Just a few feet from where we pulled up was a lion pride of 20+ lions and cubs. They were climbing trees, wrestling and pouncing on each other. Our guide said it was extremely unusual for so many lions, especially cubs, to be in one pride. They were everywhere and surrounded the vehicles that were rapidly showing up.S S S S SThe next morning, we set off just before sunset on our last game drive through the Serengeti. We thought it would be hard to top the lion pride from the night before so were focused on finding one last leopard. Ask and you shall receive. A leopard came sauntering down the road trailed by two other safari vehicles. We followed it and watched for a few minutes when a pair of jackals started trotting around in close proximity to the leopard. We asked our guide if there was any chance the leopard would kill the jackals for food but he replied it was highly unlikely. Not even 10 seconds later, we watched as the leopard crouched behind the brush ready to pounce. In an instant, we saw the leopard take a few long strides towards the jackals. The next thing we saw was one of the jackals lying limp in the leopards mouth halfway dead. It was awesome. In 12 years of game drives, our guide has never seen a leopard kill. He was thoroughly impressed with how lucky we were in our game drives.S SSadly, jackals mate for life and when the one jackal was killed by the leopard, the other jackal was devastated. It followed the leopard for the next 30 minutes nipping at its back legs and tail while barking and howling the whole time. It was sad to see it so distraught but incredible to watch the jackal’s bravery as it tried to seek revenge. As it wailed the entire time, we guessed that it was begging for the leopard to kill him, too.

Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti are so dense with wildlife, we found the Big Five (elephant, cape buffalo, lion, black rhino, lion and leopard) in less than a day. Everything we saw in Chobe and Etosha combined could be found in Serengeti plus more. If you can only go to one game park in Africa, Serengeti has it all. A big thanks to the Buns (Bunny) for the Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti trip! We decided to use your wedding gift for the safari since Chris didn’t get to accompany you on your earlier Africa trip. It was one of our favorite things we did in Africa!SAfter spending 10 days in Tanzania, we left for the border to cross into Kenya, our last country on our Africa trip. We stayed one last night with our tour group at a campsite in Nairobi and drank late into the night, gambled on pool and played rock, paper, scissors for $5 a game while reminiscing over the past six weeks.  The next morning it was time to say goodbye to the last of our friends. It was probably the most depressing moment we’ve had in Africa. It’s heartbreaking to think that even if you try your best, you may never see these people again. The photo below was taken just two minutes before all the girls broke out into tears.  SA big thanks to Africa Travel Company and everyone who made our trip unforgettable – we had an amazing time and miss you all already.

Stay tuned…we still have two more nights in Nairobi, Kenya, before we fly out of Africa and have one last stop planned before we leave!

Disclosure: We are traveling on an overland safari with Africa Travel Co. and have received a trip discount in exchange for sharing our experience. These thoughts and opinions are completely our own.