After a phenomenal game viewing experience in Tanzania, we headed off to Southern Africa for a self-drive road trip with the Lowell’s (Deb’s brother and his family who had joined us in Tanzania). A thirty-two hour travel day dropped us off in Zimbabwe to see Victoria Falls and begin driving ourselves “half way across Africa” as Laura would term it.
Mosi-oa-Tunya (Victoria Falls) itself was as impressive as one might imagine. Having skipped Iguazu Falls on the Argentina/Brazil border, we were not disappointed. The falls are formed along a fault line that forms a gash in the otherwise flat landscape. A fairly placid section of the Zambezi River suddenly drops over 100 meters in to a chasm running perpendicular to the river. The resulting crash of water sprays great quantities of water upward, creating a feeling as if it was “raining up”.
The afternoon we visited was windy and rainy too, so we ended up having it rain in all directions – from the sky, towards, the sky, and crossways! As you can see from our photos, we were drenched but all had great fun stomping around an area so powerful and magical.
For this leg of the trip, we rented kitted-out Toyota 4×4 trucks with tents that pop up over the top of the trucks. This allowed us to alternate two or three nights of camping with staying in lodges along the way. Our route took us from northern Botswana across the Caprivi Strip then down through Namibia all the way o the Sossusvlei in Namib Desert then finally back up to Windhoek.
This arrangement keeps you out of reach for most of the critters. Also, the truck/tent combination does not look like typical prey so no one is going to “hunt” you. Everywhere we stayed was in a proper camp, not bush camping, so we were usually surrounded by a fenced compound and had other campers near by. While it may sound crazy, it is actually a great way to see the country. Imagine barbequing wild game steaks over a wood fire while drinking a lovely South African wine under the stars in the Namib…pretty romantic and great fun.
Because it was the rainy season in this area, the game viewing was not nearly as prolific as it was in Tanzania but we did get to have a few memorable animal experiences that would not have been possible elsewhere. The first was sitting with a pod of a dozen hippos for a half hour or so. It was a truly magical experience to be the only group of folks watching the hippos from close range as the sun set over the Okavango Delta drinking gin and tonics. The other was watching a pack of jackals eating a springbok.
Unlike our time in Tanzania which was spent in near constant motion and involved jostling with other safari vehicles for the best view, both of these experiences happened without crowds around creating a much more intimate relationship.
Namibia is a beautiful country and one we would like to explore in greater depth. On this trip we missed the Skeleton Coast, Fish Creek Canyon, Moremi Game Reserve and a whole bunch of other experiences that would be fantastic to see.
Namibia has a wonderful mixture of people, game viewing, landscapes, and culture like its more famous neighbors but is largely absent from most people’s Africa itineraries. We were talking with a gentleman who is trying to improve the profile of Namibia as a tourist destination, especially within the United States.
In talking with him, we realized that Namibia is a lovely but underappreciated country, much like Nevada is a lovely but underappreciated state. Perhaps we have a soft-spot for the underdogs or just felt comfortable with the mixture of desert landscapes and wild country.