It is about this time last year that we were in the latest stages of planning the Africa trip. After a two week stay in Namibia, recounted in detail in the previous post, we crossed by car into Botswana. We had some reservations about the border crossing and feared that some clueless looking European tourists may be subject to additional checks and questions. However, it turned out both Lonely Planet and our travel agent that recommended the itinerary were right. Nothing more than a security and sanitary check (for fresh fruit or vegetable) were organized at the Ngoma Bridge crossing into Botswana.
Once in Botswana, the first port of call was the Chobe National Park. We made the Chobe Bush Lodge our base and started a few days of park exploration and trips.
Compared to Namibia, Botswana seemed firmly located on the world international travel map. Whereas in Namibia we would drive almost alone and share lodges with a few more couples (except maybe for the camps in Etosha), Botswana received us with more hotel-like accommodation and facilities. Maybe it was also our choice of accommodation in Kasane but we were definitely feeling less expeditionary with a large supermarket across the street.
Independent of your travelling style and choice of accommodation, the Chobe park remains one of the legendary game reserves in Africa. And the experience is different from Etosha where life evolves around the waterhole. In Chobe you have the Zambezi river that provides the main attraction to wildlife. Therefore you have two options (and therefore more opportunities for wildlife spotting: 1) you go by boat on the river and watch animals coming to drink and even swim (first swimming elephant of my life) or 2) you go safari classic in a open 4×4 vehicle. We did both, spending one day on the river and half a day in the bush. I preferred the river, especially because it was the first time I say hippos up close, basking in the sun.
The trip to Victoria falls was organized by the lodge and I believe it was a better choice than attempting it alone. The border crossing into Zimbabwe looked definitely less fun than the one into Botswana and the lines of vehicles and tourists waiting to be let through were quite impressive. Attempting the border crossing seemed particularly tricky with a rented vehicle, with the guards handing over a bunch a papers to fill in. When you go in for a day trip, this might not be the best way to spend your limited time.
Once in Zimbabwe, the road to the town of Victoria Falls was short and well maintained. The small city-village is an adventure sports paradise: bungee-jumping, zipp-lining and different types of itineraries were on offer around the falls.
The one-day trip around the falls was our less-adventurous choice. We admired the falls from a series a view points, getting soaking wet in the meantime (we were visiting at the height of the wet season and the amount of water was larger than usual). And we loved every minute of it. We liked it so much that we spent the first day of 2015 getting soaking wet at the other monster falls (Iguassu) but this is a story for a future post. The noise of the huge amount of water plunging some 100m into the ground is deafening. Fittingly, the local name for the falls is Mosi-oa-Tunya or the Smoke that thunders. We rounded up the day trip with a walk on the bridge linking Zimbabwe with Zambia and an view of the Zambezi canyon.
After the four days in Kasane, we headed to our last destination on the African continent: the Okawango Delta. A small plane took about an hour from the Kasane airport to the landing ‘strip’ (this is an exaggeration, it was rather a landing dirt road next to the Gunn’s Camp.
We loved the isolated Camp and the kindness of all staff. The were maximum 10 permanent tents and we had a huge one just for us. There were fixed hours for waking up (someone would pass by with a hot cup of coffee and kindly remind you that breakfast starts in 30 min.) and everybody in the camp would eat together around a large wooden table in the main building. Tents were linked to the main building by a pathway of bridges that reminded you that we were living in a water-land. Then you had a large choice of activities, centred on spotting birds and wildlife in the delta. I loved the mokoro boat ride despite the long introduction of what to do if a hippo attacks this ancient kanoe. I learned the most from a bush walk: following in the footsteps of an elephant and looking in the trees after rare birds.
Most memorable, one evening we met a 10-person group coming from Australia and New Zealand and we spent hours sharing stories about travel. One lady in the group had even written a book about travelling from UK to Australia in a light-wight aircraft. It was the perfect ending to a great African adventure.
The way back home was uneventful, even if really long. 4-seater plane from the Gunns Camp to Maun, Botswana Air from Maun to Jo’burg, British to London and then a last small hop from London to Brussels. And I would do it all again in a heartbeat!