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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Namibia: Where the Wild Things Are

Our overland truck stopped in Swakopmund, Namibia for three nights in hostel accommodations so the group could do laundry, run errands and participate in several adventure activities. Between the two of us, we’ve already experienced these main attractions in other places (sandboarding in Peru, skydiving and quad biking) so Chis and I took the time to sort out our insurance claim. We had one group dinner out on the town which was followed by a trip to the karaoke bar and a Namibian club for some dancing. Down the road from the hostel was the Mermaid Casino. Chris agreed to give me a whopping 300 Namibian dollars over the course of two days to play with. Nothing is more fun than winning free money. Well, I lost it all ($30 USD) in my failed effort to grow our travel budget so no cocktails for me for the next few days!

The next evening we drove to a bush camp in Spitzkoppe which is most recognized for its desert rock formations. It vaguely reminded us of our trip to Joshua Tree National Park in southern California. We spent the day hiking around the boulders and climbing up the rocks.We caught the sunset at the top of a large rock formation that peered out over the sprawling desert landscape. As the sun was setting in front of us, the moon was rising behind us at the same time. It was an incredible sight to see. Instead of pitching a tent, a group of us climbed up to a flat rock with our sleeping bags and pads and slept under the full moon and stars.Back on the truck, we stopped along the road where an indigenous community was selling handmade jewelry. The people lived in small huts nearby and wore only loin cloths to cover their private areas. They would rub red mud on their hair and bodies as their method of bathing and to keep themselves cool under the hot sun.We continued driving until we reached our campsite set within a cheetah park. We spent time playing and petting three domesticated cheetahs and one cheetah cub. These cheetahs have been raised with domesticated dogs for their entire lives but still have their natural animal instincts. When they purred, it resembled more of a low growl.We piled into the back of a pickup truck to drive around the adjacent sanctuary where wild cheetahs roamed. With a bucket full of donkey meat, we watched as the cheetahs started to stalk the truck for food. The meat was hurled into the air as the cheetahs fought for it and once successful, would trot away to savor its catch.

For dinner (and the subsequent two meals), we enjoyed a whole lamb cooked right on the spit in our campsite…delicious!Our last big stop in Namibia was Etosha National Park. In two days, we had three scheduled game drives that were each four hours long. We saw so many different types of animals and birds we thought we’d just share a few highlights which included herds of giraffe, hundreds of zebra and a small family of lions.We stopped at a watering hole where we spotted a lone elephant. Within minutes, herds of elephants emerged from nearby areas.We saw three of the “Big Five,” which are the most dangerous animals in Africa to hunt. The three we spotted in Etosha were elephants, lions and two black rhinos. We were so lucky to see the black rhino which are hard to spot because they are becoming increasingly endangered. Most people claim to see all of the Big Five but what they normally spot is the white rhino. Only 5,000 black rhinos are left in the world and it’s expected they will become extinct within four to five years.We have not seen a leopard or a cape buffalo yet (the remaining two of the Big Five) but hope to check these off the list in the Okavango Delta, Chobe National Park or in the Serengeti. After an amazing week in Namibia, we are off to our next country…Botswana!

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.

South Africa to Namibia

Still reeling from the previous nights events, we boarded the truck for our 42 day overland tour with a trip leader, cook, driver, 12 others from all over the world (China, Korea, Germany, Australia, South Africa, England and Canada). The overland truck seats up to 30 people so we each have two seats to ourselves for a little extra comfort. This will change in a week once we pick up more people in Swakopmund, Namibia.Our first destination was the Cederberg Area just a few hours north of Cape Town. We pulled into our first campsite and were completely surprised at the level of accommodations. Our camp was set within a gorgeous winery. Grapevines and soft lush grass provided a beautiful and comfortable spot to pitch our tent for the first day.After setting up camp, we enjoyed a wine tasting and sunset over the vineyard farms at the campsite bar. It was stunning and definitely rivals the natural beauty of Sonoma or Napa.We awoke, broke down camp and kept driving until we reached the Orange River which creates a natural border with South Africa and Namibia. Once we settled into our campsite for the evening, we walked to a nearby cliff above the Orange River to take in the sunset over the surrounding areas.Days are very dry and hot so we spent most of our time in the Orange River playing with the dogs that lived at the camp.While swimming in the river, Chris lost his wedding ring. He searched in vain for his ring in the dark four foot deep water. It was just the icing on the cake after losing all of our other possessions. We joked that part of us will always stay in Africa and that perhaps the De Beers will eventually find the ring and resell it.

Later that day, we crossed the border to Namibia. The truck took us to Fish River Canyon, Africa’s largest and deepest canyon where we hiked along the rim and took in another beautiful sunset.While in Namibia, Chris and I and a few others had a four mile run under the hot African sun. We met up with the rest of the group to walk through the Gariep Canyon.The following morning, we climbed up Dune 45 to take in our first African sunrise. It was a beautiful site as the sun lit up the surrounding red sand mountains around us.We took a smaller overland vehicle a few miles further into the dunes to Namib-Naukluft National Park.The park is home to an area known as Sossusvlei. Here, interesting looking dead trees and dried river beds can be found. The backdrop of red dunes and blue sky provided the perfect opportunity to take colorful photos. Who knew dead trees could look so cool?We climbed up another nearby dune before heading back and setting off to our next destination.Other notable stops in Namibia have included the Tropic of Capricorn, a flamingo colony and a quick stop to pet a few camels.So what does a typical day consist of you might wonder? Most days include very early mornings and long drives to get us to the next destination. Some days we’ll drive two or three hours, sometimes up to eight hours depending on the day’s itinerary. The roads are bumpy but it’s fairly comfortable in the truck. Our driver, Servius, is the most kind man in the world and takes his job of protecting the lives of 16 others very seriously. I have a soft spot in my heart for Servius and climb in the front of the truck to ride with him on short drives. Chris is the best at spotting game from our truck – it must be the hunter in him. He’ll look out the window and spot kudu, giraffe, gemsbok, springbok, baboons, warthog, zebra, ostrich and hyenas. He points them out to me in the distance to make sure I see them before sharing the sightings with the group. Most of the campsites have a full service bar, general store with snacks and souvenirs and a pool area to relax after the long day. We have been pleasantly surprised to learn that almost all of the campsites have drinkable water directly from the tap. Our cook, Onory, is amazing and we enjoy a wide variety of foods including deliciously thick homemade hamburgers, tender chicken that falls off the bone, steaks from the grill, pasta bolognese or authentic African cuisine. Nights are spent hanging out around the campfire, playing cards, laughing at the sayings and pronunciations of words from other countries and developing friendships with the ones that say them. We are very lucky to have an amazing group of people on our truck. We put up and take down our tents every day and after a week of camping, we’ve become accustomed to the daily ritual and so far, we don’t mind living out of a tent.

One week down and five to go!

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.