Like a whirlwind we whistled through southern Africa only too aware that we are putting the merest toe in the water of this great continent. But alas, there is a big world out there waiting to be seen and Africa proper will wait for another time. Botswana played host to us for the majority of the ‘Africa leg’ of this journey with South Africa and Zimbabwe the only two other countries on our list. Africa is indeed wild and unsurprisingly we had a wild time. Without further ado, here’s with we think will stain our memories most clearly as the years roll by.
Nxai Pan was but one of the National parks we visited and in total a short stopover in the game watching safari of Botswana. The Pans themselves were somewhat without note in comparison to the other camping adventures on our route; with one exception. We failed dismally in our attempt to banish expectation of seeing a big cat and it was at Nxai Pan, on our last day in a National Park that we finally got our sighting. In the few seconds of a bounding cheetah and it’s two cubs, Nxai Pan scrapes into number ten.
9- Shark diving, Gansbaai, South Africa:
This one is a bit of a no brainer, for a couple of scuba divers there’s little to compare with staring into the eyes of a Great White Shark. It would be higher in the list if not for the poor visibility and that we weren’t scuba diving at all, just bobbing on the surface. All the limitations in the world however cannot override the thrill of seeing these beasts in their habitat.
8- Khama Rhino Sanctuary, Botswana:
Take what you expect from an expensive National Park and place it in an affordable, well run park with great roads and you have Khama Rhino Sanctuary. But the stars of the show are undoubtedly the rhino’s themselves, these staggering beasts aren’t shows within a sanctuary, the sanctuary is but a stage on which the stars of the show wow their audience. To think that people kill these creatures just for the famous horn seems tragic beyond measure after seeing them so close.
I’ve heard of this place for over a decade, it’s where a young Charlie grew up, had his first day of school and carries his first memories of childhood friends. For so long this has been just a name to me and in visiting team Germany, Herman and Heidi, 12 letters have now become so much more. Playing golf, venturing into the bush for a braai (Barbecue) and poking around the shops means different things to both of us but equally indelible memories.
The term natural wonder is thrown about quite easily to many things but few are as worthy of the mantle as Victoria Falls. One of the three great falls of the world and set in the small town named after the falls themselves, this part of the world is a buzz of excitement. Add to the mix jumping off a 100m cliff on one of the worlds biggest swinging ropes it’s one of the places we are sure to visit again some time in the foreseeable future.
Africa just trots out wild places like foul language from a sailor, Cape Point is just one of those examples. Not quite the most southern tip of the continent it still retains the feeling of being an abrupt finish, the refinement of a grand funnel of wilderness drawn to a point. Sheer cliffs buffeted by raging winds are equal parts grace and ferocity in a delicate balance. Stand on the edge of the cliff and look north, an entire continent pours down on you from a truly beautiful place.
4- Stellenbosch, South Africa:
Anyone who knows us will know that we’re suckers for a wine region and again we give in to our own cliche. It’s probably not alone in the world for any particular feature but the combination of grand and gracious landscapes, gorgeous historical buildings and university town buzz marks it as a place to be. Oh, and we had really nice wine too, just a couple of glasses.
Into the truly heavy hitting end of the list comes Moremi and in particular the camping within the Moremi Game Reserve. We camped in a bunch of places but Moremi was the winner. Always on a river running into the Okavango delta we had uninterrupted views of a world untamed, and that untamed world had a good look at us too. The scenery was beautiful and the night time visitors from wildlife ranged from heart racing to awe inspiring in a place that defined the African wilderness to us on this trip.
It’s that word again, wild. Not in the animal sense this time, the Zambezi river lives up to it’s reputation as one of the wildest commercial whitewater rides in the world. Running off from Victoria falls we were tumbled, washed and hung out to dry by a river of humbling power the likes of which I’ve never seen, and this was in the high water tame end of the year. We must return.
On the back end of what will probably remain the worst week of this year to visit Chobe and Moremi we began the drying out process on the Okavango. Ironically the delta is where the great Okavango river dries out to nothing, sinking into the Kalahari sands to never reach an ocean. Our whole experience in the delta was typified by our boat ride through the reeds and into the broad waters of this famed wilderness. We had drama, we had excitement, we had grace and we had the sunset of the trip. We barely touched a fraction of the delta but in that glance we were taken. If much of Africa has been about a journey into the wild, then the jewel in that crown is the Okavango Delta