We had a lot of memories from our southern african camping trip. Here are some good stories and reflections about our trip.
Namibia Desert Camp:
The afternoon drive in Namibia was one of my top moments. I was in awe of the vastness of the country. We drove for about 2 hours and we didn’t see a single person. The views went on forever with amazing landscape, mixed in with one of my favorite animals, the Oryx. Namibia is so vast and so wild. It’s crazy how huge this land is. There is absolutely no one in sight and land is picturesque. The land is amazing in a completely different light. It’s not exactly beautiful but the openness and vastness of it is something completely different. And there is beauty in that difference. It’s a country for the explorer.
Our game drives were pretty special as well. The top moment for me on the game drive was in Etosha National Park in Namibia. After over ten hours of game driving, we had to decide to keep going for a little while or head back to camp. We decided to keep going and were awarded with a big surprise. We approached three cheetas that just killed a springbok. We sat there for a while as they ate the springbok, they kept popping their heads up and watching for lions or hyenas that might approach them and take their catch. The special moments for me are not just seeing the big five or catching a glimpse of other animals, but the moments when you get see the animals in action. This was one of those special moments. I also loved seeing the male lion, king of the jungle in Etosha. He was very majestic.
While in Zimbabwe we stopped on one of our game drives to have a drink and watch the sunset. While sitting there we suddenly heard a big elephant scream and a lion roar. Right across the pasture from us, we saw the impalas stop eating and appear to be on full alert. It was truly crazy to see wildlife in action. The noises seemed so close and adrenalin started going. We heard the lion roar again and then we saw the impalas all sprint away. We quickly packed up all of our stuff and jumped in the truck. We drove to the noise and discover 16 painted dogs, otherwise known as the African wild dog. Our guide explained that it was quite rare to see the painted dogs, especially so many of them. The painted dogs can tear an animal part in two minutes and can continue to eat the animal as they are running. Like I said, it’s not about seeing the big five it’s about seeing wildlife in action. Experiencing something seems to be far more important and excitng, than just seeing something. Experiencing a lion chase a heard of impalas is more wowful than seeing a lion sitting on the ground. It’s not about a checklist of species, but waiting around longer to see how those species interact in different scenarios.
My favorite aspect of the tour was all the game walks we went on. You are completely susceptible to any animals you approach, which gave us some adrenaline, knowing that we could very well walk near a wild lion, elephant, or anything else. We received direction from our guide on what to do if we came across a lion or elephant. He told us stories of elephants charging groups, which created some anxiety among the group. It was raw and wild. During our walk in Hwange National Park we were walking towards wild rhinos. We got very close on foot to a male white rhino, a mother and its baby. The power you feel when your that close is pretty incredible. They could charge at any second if we made a move that they didn’t like. We were in their world. In the Okavango Delta we saw two antelope sprinting straight towards us, then they quickly veered right at the last second. Nothing was more real than in the Okavango Delta. As we walked through the plains our guide told us the sounds we were hearing were bamboons telling others that they spotted a leopard or lion. I definitely felt very out in the open at that point. This was the real bush and it was obvious as our guide kept stopping to check for lions as we walked back to camp. It was pretty raw. There were no fences, everything was wild. The sounds we heard at night while camping in the Delta were crazy. Usually when camping in the United States you are awaken by raccoons, but the nights in the Delta we heard hippos and lions.
Camping on the Orange River:
The first week we canoed against some strong wind on the Orange river. It was tough! At one point we got blow backward 7 times in a row and were happy to pull on the long grass on the bank to crawl forward. It was worth the pain, and mental challenges though. Camping under the clearest sky of my life on the side of the orange river with no tent was something I won’t forget. Waking up every three hours and seeing the constellations move from the last place they were was amazing.
Kids on the side of the road in Namibia:
This wasn’t a highlight but more of a strong memory I won’t forget. We stopped for lunch on the side of the highway while in Namibia. We had been driving for about four hours and we were continuously passing these straw houses in clusters of 5-10 houses per area. Maybe 3 huts and one open shade spot and one small tin roof. As we are cutting the veggies and getting out the sandwich stuff, one child walks near the truck. We saw hello, he says hello and looks at us. We smile and say cute kid, thinking that will be the last exchange. As we continue to prepare our lunch, a few minutes pass by and we look up and around 8 children ages 4-8 are watching us. They move closer and closer to us. Everyone feels a bit weird about it, the children don’t say anything and just look at us. We are not sure if we should talk to them, but we start realizing they won’t be leaving. After preparation is done we start making sandwiches. By this time a few more children have joined. We realize that the kids staring at us are not in great shape. Most just have bottoms on with no shirts and no shoes. Their hands are dirty, faces rugged, white rings around their lips, stomachs hanging out either caused by liver problems or malnutrition, they stand there staring at the food. Obviously they were not in school and not taken care of by a mom or dad or grandparent. I don’t know if they were starving but they were definitely not fed well. Talk about perspective. This was real life perspective right in front of our faces.
We ate our sandwiches that we made with some people taking a lighter load than they usually do, due to loss of appetite. As we eat, they just wait. They don’t rush the truck or beg us for money or food. They just watch and wait. Maybe something will be given to us, they think. We decide to give the kids each a loaf of bread with some pieces of meat and tomato. They put out there hands for the food taking a few steps towards us as we have to keep backing up. It kept getting harder and harder to give them something because more kept coming and we had to pass out equal portions. We put everything away and start to drive off. A few of us start to tear up. The kids wave bye to us at the same time they check around the bench we sat on to see if we left anything they could pick up.
Smoking Elephant Dung:
Yes you heard me right. Our guide in the Delta said that smoking elephant poop relieves bloody noises and helps stomach pain or something like that. On our last night we found a fresh pile of it right near camp and proceeded to roll and smoke that shit. I am still waiting to see the pictures from that night, but it was quite the expierence.
Our three weeks in Southern Africa have left me in complete awe of the beautiful landscape and amazing wildlife. From the breathtaking coastline of the Western Cape to the vast Namib desert to the diverse wildlife in Etosha to the camping in the bush in the Okavango Delta to the grand Victoria Falls…each step of our journey was spectacular. Yes it’s true we traveled on a huge overland safari vehicle for 24-days straight, we camped 16 of those days and we covered almost 7,000 km. We were very lucky to have a small group of 8 people (plus Ed, our incredible guide) that all got along very well. The trip wasn’t always glamorous, in fact it was truly roughing it as far as I’m concerned! Although, I was sad for it to come to an end I also didn’t think I could bounce around on the truck for even one more hour or camp for another night!
Namibia Desert Camp:
We spent two nights at the Drifters Desert Camp, which is in a private nature reserve within the Namibrand Nature Reserve. This was by far my favorite camp that we stayed at. It was peaceful, serene, rustic and absolutely beautiful. I enjoyed our entire time at this camp but the highlight was our evening game drive in an open safari vehicle. We left the camp around 5pm and drove around exploring the reserve. The game wasn’t incredible, but we did see some giraffes and oryx. We stopped at perfect place to watch the sunset and it was simply spectacular. The scenery was unbelievable and the sunset created the most vibrant, beautiful colors. We didn’t see a single other truck, car or person the entire drive. It’s like we had that sunset all to ourselves. As we drove back to the campsite, with the wind in our faces and the sunset glowing behind us I was filled with an overwhelming joy! It was a sunset and a moment I hope I never forget!
I don’t remember exactly where we spotted our first elephant, I think it must have been in Etosha National Park. But I quickly fell in love with the beautiful gray ghost. I find elephants fascinating and so very special. After seeing my first elephant I desperately wanted to see a baby elephant. Ed said that it was a money back guarantee that we would see baby elephants in Chobe National Park. He was right, we saw large groups of elephants many with babies. But one of my top moments from the whole trip was when we saw a tiny (most likely around 2-months old) elephant walk by with its mother. It was so young that it’s ears still had a pink tinge. It stayed right next to it’s mother’s feet moving only when she moved and stepping exactly where she stepped. It was one of those magical moments. Never did I imagine that I would get to see such a tiny, precious elephant in the wild. Describing it now it doesn’t seem so special, but trust me it was fantastic.
A wild ride in the rain:
I think Wes mentioned how we went trekking to find rhinos in Hwange National Park, which was pretty spectacular. We found the rhinos pretty quickly, got out of the safari vehicle and started walking towards them. Once our guide felt like we had gotten close enough, we all sat very quietly in the grass field and watched in silence as the mother rhino and her baby grazed the field. Our guide made these funny nosies to notify the baby rhino that it was okay and we were his friends. I found the rhinos to be almost prehistoric and quite fascinating. After spending some time sitting in the field, we enjoyed a soda from a glass bottle and jumped back in the safari vehicle. We did find several other rhinos, but nothing was quite as wonderful as the moment sitting in the field. Now comes the exciting part. As we were leaving the park, incredibly dark and ominous clouds starting rolling in. Keep in mind we were in an open safari vehicle and had a 30 minute drive back to our camp site. We were all conversing in the back about whether or not our guide was going to put a cover up or if we were going to get soaked. Luckily we stopped just before exiting the park and our guide removed a cover from the back of the truck and secured it over the top of the vehicle, which also had sides (since there were no doors). As soon as we pulled out of the park, the wind started blowing, lightning and thunder were all around us and it started pouring rain. Oh, did I mention that Wes had decided to sit in the front seat with our guide so he wasn’t getting wet at all. Although the cover prevented us from getting soaked, there was rain coming in from the front and it was freezing. We were all huddling down in the seats trying to avoid the rain smacking us in the faces. The whole ride was absolutely hilarious, we could not stop laughing the entire way! We were freezing and wet, but it was such a fun adventure!
Getting to the Okavango Delta:
Looking back at our three weeks, the Okavanago Delta still is not my most favorite part of the trip. It was definitely the most that I have ever “roughed it” and I had a bit of a tough time. With all that being said, getting to the Delta was quite the adventure and definitely worth sharing. In order to get to our wild bush camp, we first parked our big Drifter’s truck at a campsite and loaded all our food/supplies/backpacks that we needed for two days into a speed boat. We took a hour and a half ride on the speed boat. It was a beautiful afternoon and there were fabulous birds everywhere, but there were also crocidiles lining the banks of the water and potentially hippos below us. There were times when the ride was a little tense, because our driver was getting a little to close to the crocodiles for our liking! After the speed boat ride, we unloaded all of our stuff from the boat and loaded it into a truck. We then had a very bumpy 45-minute ride in the truck through rural villages. Finally, we arrived at the place where we would get into the mokoro boats (traditional wooden boats). We unloaded everything from the truck and loaded it into the mokoro boats. We then had a relaxing 45-minute ride in a mokoro boat and finally arrived at the bush camp. I think we were all exhausted by the time we got there, but the fun was just getting started!
Other Honorable Mentions –
Night out in Maun:
Really this just is about everyone in our group for the whole safari. The trip ended up being great because we had a good group and we all got along. We also had a great guide who was a joy to be around. This night was a lot of fun. After the delta, everyone was pretty worn down and ready to have a drink. Everyone was up to it, so we decided to have a lot of African style shots, which were pretty fun. For one shot all the guys had to take their shirts off and the manager/bartender lit a shot on fire, then suctioned it to all the guys. It was a little painful, and getting them off was a little bit of a task too especially for the girls. I won’t show any pictures of the girl version of this shot, but it was a great night with new friends.