Our Vacation in Southern Africa
In 2003 and 2004 we went on vacation in Patagonia. But our travel agent refused to sell us any more plane tickets to Patagonia, telling us we had to go somewhere else. And we agreed that this was a good idea. We don’t exactly know why, but we chose southern Africa.
We didn’t really want to travel around southern Africa by public buses, staying in backpacker accommodations. For one thing, many of the major attractions in the area are only accessible to people who have their own vehicles. We considered renting a car, but we also looked through our collection of “adventure tourism” brochures. After much humming and hawing, we decided to take a 24-day overland tour all around southern Africa from the South Africa-based company Drifters.
The tour would start from Cape Town, then travel north into Namibia, visiting a large number of Namibian attractions. Then it would go east into Botswana for a visit to the Okavango Delta, then east again into Zimbabwe to visit Victoria Falls. Finally it would return to Johannesburg. This would involve over 6,000 kilometres of driving, but we didn’t have a problem with that.
We had booked the trip and the flights several months before leaving, so we were relieved when we finally got going. Cape Town is farther from Vancouver than just about everywhere else in the world, so we had a lot of flying to do. We had a couple of days there on our own, then the tour started. It spent another couple of days in Cape Town before heading out on the road.
Pictures of the tour group
Pictures from Cape Town
Pictures from Robben Island
Pictures from the wine country
Pictures from Cape Point
On the road to Namibia
After we left Cape Town, we travelled north on the N7 highway towards Namibia, where we would spend half of the tour’s 24 days. This took us through a part of the country called Namaqualand, which is noted for its display of spring flowers in the desert there. It was spring, and we did see some flower fields, but we were not there just at the right time for the best displays.
Pictures from Namaqualand
Our first destination was the Orange River, which forms the border between South Africa and Namibia. We spent a day and a half canoeing down the river. Then we visited the Fish River Canyon, followed by a couple of nights at a desert camp operated by Drifters.
Pictures from Orange River
Pictures from Fish River Canyon
Pictures from Drifters Desert Camp
Then followed a marathon day where we arrived at Sossusvlei before sunrise, spent the morning there, then drove to Swakopmund and arrived there in the evening. We had a well-deserved rest day there before continuing via the Cape Cross fur seal colony to visit the desert sites of Spitzkoppe, Twyfelfontein, and Palmwag.
Pictures from Sossusvlei
Pictures from Swakopmund
Pictures from Spitzkoppe, Twyfelfontein, and Palmwag
From there we went north, again, to Etosha National Park. We had seen a few large mammals already, but at Etosha we saw plenty of them. Elephant, rhino, zebra, lion, giraffe, you name it.
Pictures from Etosha National Park
After that we continued north, almost to the border with Angola. We stayed overnight in Ngepi Camp, a site in the Caprivi Strip on the banks of the Okavango River.
Pictures from Ngepi Camp
We got off to a slow start in Botswana, because the truck’s engine got stuck in second gear. So we spent most of a day crawling through northern Botswana at 25 kilometres per hour. We named this the “Botswana Slow-Motion Tour”. But this happened on a day where we were just driving between places, so the only result was that we arrived at our campsite much later than planned.
We had two places to visit in Botswana: the Okavango Delta and Chobe National Park. In the Delta, we flew in to a camp far in the Delta and spent some time being poled about the channels in mokoros (the traditional narrow boats of the local people). Paul got heat stroke in the Delta, so instead of going on the Chobe game drive he went to a medical clinic in Kasane. Unfortunately for him there were more animals of more kinds in Chobe than anywhere else in the trip, even Etosha.
Pictures from the Okavango Delta
Pictures from Chobe National Park
In Zimbabwe we first spent two full days in Victoria Falls. This was a welcome rest after all of the travelling we had been doing. We hadn’t had a day of rest since Swakopmund. We visited the falls there, of course, but most of our activities consisted of souvenir shopping at the various markets.
(Zimbabwe is getting a bad name in the press because of the activities of its ruling class. But we never felt unsafe or threatened when we were there; after all, tourists bring valuable hard currency into the country so it would not be a good idea to drive them away. However it is not as easy to deal with day-to-day matters in Zimbabwe as it is in the other countries we visited. Money especially is a problem. Nobody wants to deal with Zimbabwe dollars, so you find yourself using South African rands and US dollars and even things like pens and headbands when you are in the markets.)
After Victoria Falls we were on the road south to Johannesburg and the end of the tour. We stopped at Matobo National Park to see the balancing rock formations and to stalk white rhinoceroses on foot, and that was basically our last stop.
Pictures from Victoria Falls
Pictures from Matobo National Park
Back in South Africa
Back in Johannesburg, we stayed overnight in the Drifters Inn there, instead of immediately rushing to the airport. Since our flight did not leave until 10 pm the next day, we spent the day in Jo’burg doing last-minute shopping and relaxing.
Pictures from Johannesburg
Copyright ©2005 by Rosemary and Paul Clapham