After driving out of Etosha it was time for a final night in the capital city Windhoek where we bid farewell to a few of our group and welcomed a few more. This was a big driving day so relatively uneventful. We then headed to the Botswana border and other than my ear having a slight altercation with a thorny tree made it through very painlessly. We stayed in the Kalahari so extremely hot once more… We were lucky enough to spend some time with the San bushmen and do a bush walk with them learning about their traditional medicine and way of life. They used to chase animals on foot and then go back to the village to move everyone to where the food had been found, often 30 plus km away so they kept in pretty good shape! Also it was fascinating to learn how because food didn’t come that often traditionally they would effectively force feed themselves once food had been found because it goes stale quickly in the heat and then they adapted to store this excess food in their bottoms. We also were treated to some dancing and music which was really different to anything I’ve heard and mesmerising to watch and listen to.
The following day we journeyed to our stop just outside of Okavango delta where we had some down time with a bar and swimming pool, and importantly the best wifi of the trip so far! That night turned out to bring the first rain of the rainy season… It did so in the shape of a storm that lasted pretty much all night with thunder and lightening happening simultaneously over the campsite. This meant our trip to the delta in the morning was slightly delayed whilst the weather was assessed to see if it would be safe. In it seems typical Africa fashion the sun soon came out and it became boiling hot again. We travelled in off-road vehicles to the dock where we would hop on our dug out canoes to travel to the island we would be staying at. We had a ‘poler’ each, so imagine like the guy on a gondola using a pole against the ground to go through the delta. Pretty much instantly we spotted two hippos bobbing there heads in the water less than 20 metres away… Everyone apart from me seemed a lot less concerned about this fact but luckily we didn’t get too close so they just kept minding their own business. We arrived on our island a couple of hours boat ride later. So this night was proper bush camping, as in no fences or anything and wildlife such as elephants and hippos can come into camp if they so wished, our toilet was a hole that was dug in the ground to be covered once we left. We were given a safety briefing about being especially careful at night and then told to run in zig zags if it came to that… Overall it was an awesome experience and my nerves came to nothing in the end, we had a swim in the delta, went on a busy hike, danced and played games around the campfire and generally had a really good night in the wild.
The following couple of days were big travel days but we got to stay in some cool places. We stayed amongst the baobab trees the following night and then went close to the Zambia border for our final night in Botswana. We went on a boat cruise getting to see plenty of hippos, baboons, crocodiles and buffalo. It was also a really nice time cruising up and down the river. The border crossing to Zambia ended up being a bit of an adventure the next day. After checking out of Botswana we had to get a ‘ferry’ across to Zambia the other side of the Zambezi river. Now this ferry was more of a sketchy looking metal motor powered raft which surprisingly could take a couple of lorries at a time, however it did the job and got us across. We then waited for our visas whilst getting accosted by several gentleman selling some African ornaments an carvings after obviously sticking out as massive tourists! In the afternoon/evening we had some time to chill out so I opted to check out the hotel next door where supposedly they made great cocktails and had an infinity pool. Now the beer was cheaper, they had free snacks, the pool was incredible, the wifi great, but most of all a hippo actually had a stroll through the bar in the evening… Not word of a lie, it was an incredible experience!
The morning after we were up early as some of us had chosen to go to ‘Devil’s Pool’. So this was one main thing I had wanted to do ever since I knew about it. Basically there is a rock pool right at the edge of Victoria falls where you can swim and sit and lean over the edge of the longest waterfalls in the world. I just had to do it. It leaves from the Royal Livingstone Hotel, an extremely posh hotel which has its own resident giraffes and zebras, of which we saw both just on the drive through… We then went through the marble clad lobby to the riverfront where we hopped on a boat to livingstone island. We had a brief walk to view the falls before sliding into the water and supervised all swam across to where the pool was. Once you’re there and in the pool it’s a lot less scary than you’d think, you have a guide and another who takes all the photos for you. He took a lot… Then you all lean over the edge and take turns for a picture sitting on the edge with the guide, one pose you’re lying down and the pictures look pretty up close and personal… However he’s making sure you’re safe and not falling off the edge. As part of the day we returned to the island to a delicious breakfast of eggs benedict with scones and tea and coffee. After this we hopped back in the cab (after making use just because we could, of the Royal Livingstones 5* marble floored, hand lotion and hand towel available, bathroom facilities) and headed to the Victoria falls national park. The falls because of how low the water was were actually dry along a lot of the front however we saw the main falls and hiked down to the boiling pot where the water goes into the river to continue its journey. When the water is high the falls stretch a massive 1.7km…
We sadly lost some of our group and said goodbye before gaining some new travellers that were to join us all the way up to Nairobi. After more thunderstorms and a lot of mud packing away we had a couple of long driving days, the first about 8 hours and the second similar with a 4am wake up so we could get there in good time and avoid traffic. Now these long drives might sound like a chore but they’re actually pretty fun and eventful. There are lots of friendly people smiling and waving and villages to drive through and stop by in, not to mention the cows and goats in the road about every mile you drive! We also found out that a large part of Zambia (all we would be staying) didn’t have electricity.
We then arrived at our next campsite ‘wildlife camp’ which was next to South Luangwa National Park. By next to, I mean that it was a short drive by a national park with no fences… As our campsite also was open we had safety briefings on not leaving the camp and also checking for hippos before leaving your tent in the night. One big feature was monkeys, very cheeky monkeys who liked raiding the bin and generally stealing whatever they could get their hands on! We quickly learnt how close to wildlife you are when one of the staff (who had mentioned previously lions having killed a baby elephant in the area) asked if we wanted to see the lions. About a 1 minute drive and 100 yards from the campsite we saw two females. Other than being a fantastic experience it really brought home how real the wildlife is and how intimidating lions are when a couple of metres away from a fairly open vehicle! The next day we spent doing game drives through the national park, one at sunrise and one at sunset and night which were both fantastic!!! Our guide Moses was brilliant and other than finding us wild dogs (an endangered species and the first time he’d seen them this year), a leopard, hyena, buffalo, elephants, giraffes, zebra and plenty plenty more, he was really knowledgable and gave us a proper off-road driving experience! The only slight downside of the wild camping experience was all the bugs… So many bugs. As in driving on the game drive you feel them hitting you or slipping down your collar… Or you’ll find one inside some item of clothing and not quite know how long it’s been there or how it got there! I hit the hay early for a 4.15am start the next day and our border crossing into Malawi.
After we crossed into Malawi we were greeted by many more smiling waving faces as we headed down to the lake. It really was beautiful and peaceful here and we spent our first night having a bit of a celebration for one of the girls on tours birthday and then had a midnight swim in the calm waters of lake Malawi. The next day started with a village tour at 9, we were shown around the local village, school and clinic which was really interesting. Also full of lots of cute local kids who wanted to spend time with us and take pictures. It was great to see the village and the way of life, and we were even treated to more music and dancing from the village kids at a local dinner we had in the village that evening. Our next couple of days were spent further up lake Malawi where it was a great chance to relax and take t easy before a couple of huge drive days. By this I mean one we left at 5am arriving at our campsite after crossing through to Tanzania at around 6.30pm, and the next day we woke up at 2.30 and left at 3.30am so as to avoid the police who seem to love pulling you over and trying to solicit bribes… Also the traffic in Dar Es Salam which is a nightmare meant that we arrived at our hotel around 7pm so had a quick turnaround putting our tents up before dinner.
The next morning it was time for Zanzibar! After a more reasonable start we all hopped in Tuktuks to get our first ferry across to the main port where we would catch another over to Zanzibar. We arrived late morning in Stone Town and all hopped into our transport to the first hotel we would be staying. The beaches and location here was beautiful! After a slightly confusing drive through a village you get to the hotel, and all of the restaurants and shops etc are all located along the beach front so it’s pretty easy to get around. It was a lovely couple of days, swimming, relaxing, drinking some cocktails and exploring some of the local area including a turtle sanctuary! We also went on a sunset cruise on our second night which was so much fun, there were a bunch of locals playing drums on the boat and we jumped off at sunset and generally had a great time. We left the north part of the island feeling very relaxed and headed down to Stone Town, a very old historic town with many winding alleys and roads all making it extremely easy to get lost! We also visited a spice farm where I learnt (maybe a bit too late) that most spices actually come from trees… We also saw a slightly nuts man climb one of the highest coconut trees I’ve ever seen and sing is a song from the top. We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring some of the town before hitting the night food market to pick up some local grub. The next morning was a 5.30am breakfast so we could jump on the ferry to sadly leave Stone Town.
We did a bit more travelling through a couple of camp sites before heading to the Serengeti and Ngorogoro Crater for some game drives and more wild camping! It’s worth mentioning the campsite before we left called ‘snake park’, has a bunch of snakes (well guessed), and also other rescued wildlife and a Masai museum. We were there on feeding day so saw the snakes feeding on chicks and mice, although kind of unpleasant to watch it was still fascinating. Also they had a few Nile crocodiles which were the biggest I had seen and absolutely stunning to see.
So the plan was to drive from snake park past Ngorogoro crater through to Serengeti national park, where we would spend our first night before heading back over to stay at the rim of Ngorogoro. After a full morning driving we stopped for lunch at a campsite in Ngorogoro, this ended up being probably the most entertaining and unnerving of the trip! This was because of the kites circling above us and then swooping down and grabbing any food you may have in your hand, these were big birds and a couple of people got bits stolen by a couple of fly bys, there were also these incredibly ugly large vulture type things that looked like creepy old men… However they were more sinister looking and creeped up before running at any sign of aggression from us. We continued through to Serengeti in the afternoon passing lots of Masai along the way with their goats and cows. After sorting the paperwork at the gate to the national park we had a bit of a game drive before going to our campsite, we were very lucky and ended up seeing two leopards both in seperate trees, one of whom was munching on an impala it had caught, we also saw lions, more giraffes, hyena, zebra and elephants. We arrived at our wild camp late evening and after a delicious meal were briefed once again on the dangers of leaving your tent alone at night, we had to check outside for wildlife first and always go escorted to the bathroom. The main risk here was hyenas, who although not typically known for attacking people can be pretty unpredictable so we needed to be on our toes… Also this national park has lots of lions, elephants and hippos to watch out for so we needed to be aware of those too.
We woke up nice an early at sunrise to do a morning game drive (with a brunch in the middle just because) and after a seemingly slow start we saw a lot of lions! Probably one of my best experiences of the whole trip, the lions were all around the vehicles seeming completely undisturbed by our presence! Seeing these beautiful creatures so close was truly awesome. After our delightful brunch we ended up being lucky once more and spotting cheetah. I also felt very pleased with myself after realising I could put my camera to some binoculars to get extra zoom… and it worked a treat! Unfortunately after this is was time to leave the Serengeti and head over to Ngorogoro where we would be camping just at the top of the crater. The highlight of the evening was definitely Maryke our tour manager coming over to us and casually warning us by saying ‘hey guys, there are some buffalo heading over to the bathroom’. It turned out to a lot of people shock there were indeed two huge buffalo next to the bathrooms looming ominously!
After an early breakfast which included birthday cake! Yay for birthdays, we drove out to explore Ngorogoro crater itself. I did my usual routine of sticking my head out of the top like a animal seeking meerkat and we drove around the crater which itself is breathtaking. Being lucky enough to see lots of wildlife including hyenas and lion cubs. After lunch inside the crater we headed back out and back to snake park where we would be camping for our final night. It was lovely to celebrate not only one of the groups birthday but also the last night with everyone and sad that it would be the final night. We had a hog roast and plenty of alcohol to celebrate! After a final bit of nature with me finding a scorpion under our tent we headed into the Lando for our final long drive, with a bit of a wait at the border to Kenya. After arriving at the hotel in Nairobi having sat in Nairobi’s awful, and I mean some of the worst traffic I’ve seen awful, I said some sad goodbyes and headed to the airport (through more traffic) for my final flight back to London.