Excitement is mounting. A group of tourists gather outside the Saasveld Lodge in Cape Town after a night full of colorful dreams of Africa. The twelve trailblazers had been briefed by their tour leaders and had exchanged swift handshakes the previous evening; and were now, on a glorious autumn morning, about to embark on the journey of a lifetime. 5200 kilometers. Cape Town to Zimbabwe. The last of our bags are being loaded underneath, ‘Dindingwe’, the safari truck with a name meaning ‘cheetah’. This faithful feline would take the adventurers all the way from the bustling city of Cape Town to the intrepid Victoria Falls via South Africa’s neighbors’ - Namibia and Botswana. As the last traveler steps aboard the truck, Que, our driver turns the ignition and Dindingwe jumps to his attention. With the help of Blessing, our guide, these two would make our African dreams a material reality.
We depart from Saasveld Lodge and visit the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront to buy a few last-minute items before visiting Table View. Not a better place to say goodbye to arguably the most beautiful city in the world than from Table View, the trendy suburb that boasts a beach with an extraordinary view of the most iconic landmark in Cape Town – Table Mountain. With white sand on our shoes as a reminder of these precious shores, we are heading for Citrusdal, where we will camp for the evening. As we near our camp, ‘The Baths’, we are greeted by the pungent and sweet smell of citrus fruits. ‘Dindingwe’ takes a well deserved rest beneath the trees and prepares for her journey across the Namibian border the following morning. The explorers hop out of the truck and after a demonstration, put up their tents for the first time. Everybody finds their piece of Africa and erects their mobile home for the next three thrilling weeks that will follow. Once the tents are up, lunch is underway. Our first meal in the bush. Sandwiches and fresh fruit. After lunch some of us take a hike through the magnificent Cederberg Mountains working up an appetite for supper at Macgregor’s’, the camp restaurant. Supper is a great bonding experience for the group with much energized talk of the prospects of Namibia.
After a great first night’s rest and a hearty breakfast, we are ready to hit the road for a fairly long haul to the Felix Unite Camp, a few steps past the border post separating South Africa and Namibia. Although every man’s experience is a subjective one, it is here that my journey takes a curious detour from that of the rest of the group: Just metres from the Namibian border post, I dig into my rucksack and scratch for my passport. My eyes widen as it strikes me that I have brought my expired passport and left my new one at home. I wait with false confidence in the queue for my turn to guiltily present my passport to the official. She gives it one glance and says the inevitable – ‘Sir, your passport is expired, I cannot allow you to cross the border’. She explains that the only thing I can do is to arrange for somebody to courier my passport up from Cape Town to Springbok, the nearest town from the border post. Fair enough. But what would I do until then? Blessing, our tour leader tells me that there is a backpackers about twenty kilometers from the border post on the South African side. He could arrange for me to stay there until my passport arrives. Great. But even if I could get my passport couriered from Cape Town, how would I fetch it from Springbok? As luck would sometimes have it, another truck from Imaginative Traveller was scheduled to leave Citrusdal the following day on the same route as our group. I arrange for my passport to be hand delivered by to Leonard, the driver of the other truck, by a relative of mine. He agrees to pick me up at the border post and take me across the border with my passport. Perfect. Now I must find somewhere to sleep for the night.
The rest of my group leaves for the camp just five minutes away on the Namibian side and I am left at the border without a lift to the backpackers. I walk to the police station and ask a burly stranger in blue for a lift to the backpackers. After much convincing and a little paperback encouragement, he agrees. I arrive at the backpackers with nothing but the clothes on my back and some cash to pay for a room. I feel like Jack Kerouac as I stumble over to the bar and ask whether they have a room for the night. They explain to me that they only have camping space available; but after seeing my light luggage insist that I cannot sleep outside without a tent. My saviors show me to the staff quarters, a warm caravan - everything I need. I am received with the warmest hospitality. I eat a delicious dinner with the crew and climb into bed feeling extremely grateful. My faith in humanity has been temporarily restored. I get up early the next morning; say my farewells and set off to the border post with the police, some of whom happened to be stationed at the backpackers on assignment. I am fetched by Leonard and join the other group on their journey across the border into Namibia. I look over my shoulder and clutch my passport tightly, grateful that I had been more fortunate than I could have been. We are headed for the Fish River Canyon. It is an incredible feeling as I meet up with my group again that evening and share my mixed tales of despair and elation.
We wake up to the smell of a scrumptious breakfast before Dindingwe is on her way to Sesriem, our first destination in Namibia’s largest national park - the Namib Naukluft. We venture down into the Sesriem Canyon, where more than ten million years before, gravel and sand were cemented together with limestone to form this magnificent canyon teaming with exotic birdlife. We gawk at a most gloriously warm sunset from the balcony of Agama River Camp that evening, which perfectly contrasts the cool Windhoek Lager we toast to its remembrance. We are confronted with courageous sand peaks crisply carved in shades of orange bold against a bright blue sky. In Sossusvlei, Namibia’s dune wonderland, we see our first game of the trip; that includes some Oryx, ostrich and zebra. We make a stop to climb Dune 45, a dune composed of ancient sand brought from the Kalahari Desert by the Gariep River. While I try to fathom this extraordinarily vast desert landscape of rolling sand dunes sparsely scattered with Acacia trees and Nara plants, I cannot help but think that our journey has now truly begun. After breakfast at the foot of this sanded masterpiece, we embark on an extremely informative tour of Sossusvlei stopping at Dead Vlei – the bleak and dried out pan that resembles the surface of the moon.
The next morning Dindingwe is journeying towards Swakopmund, a German-style town nestled comfortably between the desert and the sea. Here we get a break from camping and spend two nights in Swakop Lodge reacquainting ourselves with the feel of snug linen, porcelain plates and cell-phone reception. Swakopmund is full of unconventional fun. Quad-biking, sand boarding, sky diving, hot-air ballooning, dolphin viewing, and tantalising food for good value are just some of the thrills in this quaint, gorgeous town.
After becoming familiar with the life we once knew, it was time to leave that all behind and get in some serious game viewing. We were in Africa after all; and we had had only a taste of some of Africa’s most glorious creatures. We wave goodbye to Swakopmund and head for Etosha National Park. As we near Etosha, the landscape transforms from sandscapes into a land of far greener pastures. We are soon greeted by some zebra, giraffe and numerous herds of Springbok. Crowds clutter around Dindingwe’s windows armed with beady eyes and clicking cameras. That evening we put our weary heads to rest at Etosha Safari Camp, before setting off for Waterberg Plateau National Park the following morning. With its forested mountains and delicate butterflies, Waterberg is a wonderfully lush contrast from the typical Namibian desert environment. Here we take part in a leisurely afternoon hike before returning to our camp for dinner. Gobabis is our next port of call and last stop before crossing the border into Botswana.
If I thought my escapades at the South Africa/Namibia border post were an interesting affair, I hadn’t been warned about the rather hilarious but mandatory technicalities of crossing the border post into Botswana. Foot and Mouth checkpoints await us around every bend of the permeable roads of the country. Here everybody in the vehicle is forced to disembark and stand in a plastic pan of muddy detergent before being allowed back onto the truck. Although to no amusement of the officials, this seemingly pointless but necessary act for too many reasons to mention had the entire tour group both irritated and amused. With wet shoes, we cross the border and stay at Zelda Game & Guest Farm, a sanctuary for leopard and cheetah - some of the most glorious cats in the bush. We are treated to both a leopard and cheetah feeding, which provides excellent photo opportunities before sitting down to an exceptionally tasty buffer dinner with a selection of game meat from which to choose.
We set off for Maun, the last stop before and gateway to - the renowned Okavango Delta. The roughing-it is about to begin. All the semi-luxuries of the past few days were about to become just that - a thing of the past. After spending a night at Island Safari Lodge; to our pleasant surprise once again in housed great accommodation, we are taken by boat to the Mokoro station. We are each assigned a Poler, a personal guide and helper for the two-day duration of our voyage into the Okavango Delta. Our Polers manoeuvre our luggage-loaded Mokoros (a traditional canoe made from a hollowed out Sausage tree) through the shallow waters of the Delta to our camp. Our narrow Mokoros part the reeds that crowd the meanders of the numerous channels and streams that divert from the Okavango River; as we head for the camp, where we will spend the next two nights. Here a plethora of wildlife lurk on the plains and swim in the pools of this ecological paradise. We are treated to guided bush walks, Mokoro lessons and authentic African cuisine.
We take the same path that we took into the Delta back to our vehicles, which transfer us back to the truck, on which we depart for Nata – our sleep over stop before Chobe National Park. Chobe is a vast reserve with an even vaster elephant population, where we are treated to a romantic afternoon cruise. As the orange jewel of a sunset slowly takes refuge below the horizon, we eagerly observe the banks of the Chobe River, which are absolutely littered with wildlife. Running commentary from our enthusiastic guide makes for a highly informative experience on the river. In the cold morning air, we depart for Victoria Falls, the last leg of our invigorating African journey. A small town with Zimbabwe’s chief attraction as its namesake, Victoria Falls boasts one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
A looming mist appears to thicken as one nears the falls as the tremendous sound of the crashing water increases in volume to a roar. The sound now seems to be coming from behind the curtain that gives rise to the most glorious rainbow. We walk along the humid paths of the surrounding rainforest under a refreshingly mild shower to observe the falls from a variety of angles; but still we cannot comprehend its instinctive beauty that I feel comes from its bombardment of the five senses. The town that hosts this natural splendour is a bustling tourist haven, where one can experience the immaculate hospitality of a nation as colourful as the most radiant rainbow. Apart from gawking at the largest waterfall in the word, we are briefed about the other activities on offer to us in the town. Bungee jumping, zip-lining and helicopter rides all while digesting a spectacular view of the falls is some of the fun that can be had in the town. Our free time in Victoria Falls is spent exploring the town craft market, sampling the local cuisine; and having drinks at the magnificent Victoria Falls Hotel that overlooks the bridge joining Zimbabwe and Zambia. On my last morning I walk with lions in a reserve that may as well be heaven. These magnificent creatures are reared in a controlled environment, socialising with humans before later being re-united with the wild.
Under a full moon that bids us a hearty farewell, our glasses chink a toast to a tremendously successful trip as we sit down to our last meal together. With the magical sound of a Marimba filling our ears, we begin to awake from our African dream that is now nearing an end. It is nearly the time for us to return to our home cities and our day-to-day existence, but not before we wish ourselves well in the future. Hugs and phone numbers are this time exchanged instead of greetings and handshakes. We head our separate ways until the next time we find ourselves in the slumber of an African dream.
Take a look at our exciting range of tours to Africa here
Our tailor made adventure holidays will truly inspire and delight the senses and will live in your memory for ever.more info
Join us on one of our worldwide adventures coming up over the next few months - all guaranteed to depart, all at 20% off.more info