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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We love South Africa, but does South Africa love us?

We stepped off the plane in Johannesburg South Africa and were welcomed by the beautiful sound of…English.  We had finally made it to Africa after an 8.5 hour flight from Sao Paulo! We hopped on our connecting flight to Cape Town and were met by our airport pickup who drove us to Ashanti guesthouse.  After a long flight, we were happy to be in a deluxe private room complete with heated towel racks which resembled more of a hotel than a guesthouse.We heard the weather in Cape Town was going to be unfavorable for a few days. To make the most of the beautiful day, we dropped off our bags and walked down to the waterfront which was similar to Navy Pier in Chicago or Fisherman’s wharf in San Francisco. It was touristy but beautiful.Our first glimpse of Table Mountain was obscured by clouds and heavy fog.  Due to the poor forecast, we had one chance to climb Table Mountain and even then, we were expecting light rain and clouds.We set off in the morning and started ascending what could be the steepest hike we’ve done. The trail, although much shorter, could possibly give the Inca Trail a run for its money. We climbed as we watched tourists wait in line for the gondola to take them up to the top.  Instead of taking the more common trail, we started our climb from the far end of the mountain to take in the elevated views of the city before the clouds closed in on us. We walked on natural rock ledges and climbed straight up for nearly two hours.The clouds never came. In fact, the overcast sky started to break apart and within minutes, we were standing at the top with sunshine, blue skies and killer views of the city, oceans and surrounding mountains.The next few days were spent running errands and preparing for our 42 day overland safari with Africa Travel Company. The trip leaves Cape Town and traverses over eight countries until we reach Nairobi, Kenya. Our overland truck is massive and fully equipped to carry up to 30 passengers and all of our luggage, food and necessary camping equipment for the next six weeks. Yes, we will be camping the entire time – yikes!The day before our trip departed, we went back to the waterfront to exchange money for our tour. We spent a few hours drinking local brews and talking about how much we love Cape Town. The modern city is quite small but has everything you need – awesome bars and restaurants, outdoor activities and culture.  I could live here. We congratulated ourselves on a safe and successful trip to South America and were excited to leave on our tour of Africa the next day. That evening, we went to Mama Africa, a restaurant that serves local game, to round out our celebration. We had a mixed grill of crocodile (good but chewy and a odd pink color), ostrich, kudu, springbok (so good, tasted just like filet mignon if not better) and venison sausage.We returned to our guesthouse to shower and pack for our trip. Sadly, this is when disaster hit. While I was taking a shower, Chris went into the hallway to use the internet. We left the door unlocked so he could get back in… big mistake. Within these ten minutes, someone came into our room and stole my wallet, iPhone, our computer, external hard drive and underwater camera. We called the front desk to call the police. Long story short, the police came and we filed a police report. There is little to no chance we will ever recover our belongings. I was and still am, devastated. I cannot stop thinking that if we had come back from the restaurant later or if I didn’t shower so soon after returning, this wouldn’t have happened. I want my stuff back but more desperately, I want the files that were on all of the stuff that was taken. Chris has been so good about backing up our trip photos but we don’t have copies of several files from before our trip – photos of the last time we saw our friends and family this 4th of July, photos I took of our wedding weekend, photos of my brother’s family and my nephews in Raleigh. It makes me sick, sad and angry to think someone has those photos and I don’t. My blood boils when I think how careful we’ve been these past few months traveling through bus stations, airports and staying in shared dorm room accommodations only to have our stuff stripped in one of the nicest rooms we’ve stayed. I hate the fact that earlier in the day we celebrated leaving South America unscathed and then we lost our belongings a few hours later. This experience has been a very hard pill to swallow.

Does this make us want to stop traveling? Not at all. In fact, just the opposite. When auditing our stuff to see what was taken, we were incredibly relieved and so grateful to still have both of our passports so we could leave on our trip in the morning.  It would have been incredibly disappointing to go on a travel hiatus because of some desperate douchebag. It’s a miracle that nearly $1,500 in cash (which we needed to pay for the tour and all of the food and activities we were planning to do over the next six weeks) was laying on the bed overlooked and untouched. We feel very unlucky and lucky at the same time.

We realize we still have what matters. We are both safe. It scares me to think what could have happened if the robber was confronted by Chris returning to the room or if I had stepped out of the shower into the room while he was still there. We have travel insurance who should reimburse us for our belongs. Most importantly, we have each other and six weeks exploring Africa to look forward to!