FROM DESERT TO DELTA
One day you are on top the largest sand dunes on the planet. The next you are gliding on silvery water in a canoe on the Okavango delta. Finally, you dance in the rain from the biggest waterfall in the world. Join me on my trip from Cape Town to Victoria Falls, from desert to delta!
During those long hours on the bus, I put some of my pictures and short videos together and made a movie. Those 19 days cannot really be captured in 7 minutes, but if you are planning a new adventure this video will give you some ideas of what you can see in Southern Africa:
(Map taken from the trip "Desert Tracker" by Acacia at http://acacia-africa.com/tours/desert-tracker-19-days-16DTR19)
The name Namib means "vast place". As you leave the coast of Cape Town and South Africa and start traveling into Namibia, the landscape turns more and more into a vast desert. In Namibia you can visit picturesque places like the Sossusvlei, Dune 45 and if you are up for a thrill, jump out of an airplane over the oldest desert in the world!
As I pushed my legs up the last bit of the hill, I stopped to catch my breath. The red sand under my feet stretched as far as my eyes could see. The sand moved up and down like waves on the ocean, creating small mountains in the landscape. In front of me were trees, with their roots covered in dry, white clay. They were standing there so strong, so alone, yet so proud, gazing out over the desert. What I was looking at was the Deadvlei, also called Sossusvlei. It is a white clay pan in the middle of the largest sand dunes in the world.
You can visit Sossusvlei in the Kalahari desert. It is the longest stretch of desert in the world, starting in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, going through Angola, Botswana and ends where I was standing, Namibia.
One of the most visited dunes is the Dune 45. The name comes from the fact that it is at the 45th kilometer of the road that connects the Sesriem gate and Sossusvlei. The dune is 170 meter tall, and composed of 5-million-year-old sand from the Kalahari Desert.
FISH RIVER CANYON
In Namibia you can visit the Fish River Canyon, which is the second largest canyon in the world after the Grand Canyon in the US.
The Spitzkoppe means "pointed dome" in German. The granite is more than 120 million years old and the highest outcrop rises about 1,784 metres above sea level. Many examples of Bushmen artwork can be seen painted on the rock in the area. The Spitzkoppe Mountains were also the filming location for 2001: A Space Odyssey in the "Dawn of Man" sequences. In this camp site, there was no electricity and a simple toilet. But the experience of sleeping outside with no other lights than the Milky Way lighting up the sky, was unforgettable.
SKYDIVING IN SWAKOPMUND
As we took off from the ground, I could see the landing strip getting smaller and smaller through the big hole on the left side of the plane. I held on to the window which was covered in duck tape. I was on my way up to 10 000 feet in a leopard painted airplane. This was skydiving African style.
Anyone who has been climbing a steep mountain with me know I can be scared of heights. So when I got into a tiny plane with an open door, my stomach was filled with butterflies on speed. As I put my legs out of the plane at 10 000 feet, I closed my eyes. When I opened them, I was flying like a bird. I was rushing towards the ground at 220 km per hour. Under me was the oldest desert in the world. As I landed softly on the ground, the scary thing was I just wanted to do it again!
Swakopmund is the adventure capital of Namibia, and this is where the third most popular place to skydive in the world at the moment. The prices are low, and if you want you can get a video of your experience. I say JUST DO IT!
PET A CHEETAH
In one of the campsites you can get a very close encounter with animals you usually live in the wild. This cheetah named Oscar was born in captivity and did not know what hunting is. Luckily for me, because all he wanted to do was to cuddle!
In Botswana you can visit the largest inland delta in the world, the Okavango Delta, which is home to some of the world’s most endangered species of large mammal, such as the cheetah, white rhinos, black rhinos, African wild dog and lion. You can visit Chobe national park, with a spectacular elephant population of around 50,000 elephants. You can also meet the Bushmen tribes.
Go into a mokoro, a wooden canoe and let some of the guides use their poles to take you on a trip on the Oavango delta. The poling looks so easy, but after trying it myself I was really impressed with our guides! This is an art of balance, my feet and legs were so tired after only 15 minutes. I am glad it was my guide who brought us back after a night in the delta, and not me!
We spent the night in the delta, in a camp with no electricity. We were not allowed to go outside our tents in the night because of hippos, elephants and other animals. There is a toilet connected to your tent, so not to worry about being eaten by lions while going for that nightly pee!
MEET THE KHOISAN PEOPLE
When 70 year old Khayate smiled, his whole face was like a road map. I could see the thousands of trails he had walked in his face. When he was younger, he hunted the fastest animal on earth, the cheetah. Since the cheetah is a fast, but short distance runner, Khayate would run after it for hours until it was exhausted, then kill it with his spear.
"Khoisan" is a unifying name for two groups of peoples of Southern Africa. The Khoisan are divided into the San, or Bushmen, and the pastoral Khoi, or Khoikhoi, previously known as Hottentots. These people speak with "clicking" sounds. They taught me how to say thank you and hello, but the words were so hard to pronounce I don´t remember any of them!
Skubilas young 20 year old face, is smooth from less roads traveled in the sun. His generation does not live in the bush anymore. But Khayates knowledge about how to survive in the wilderness passes on to the younger generations.
As you watch the sun go down, you can sit few meters away from elephants drinking at the water hole in Elephant Sands. They don´t mind the tourists, as long as you drink from the bar and they can have their water whole to themselves! Who needs a pool when you have live elephant TV?
The trip ended in Livingstone, were you can see the largest curtain of water in the world, the 1708m wide Victoria Falls. The feeling of getting drenched by the water from the largest waterfall on the planet after 18 days in an overland truck was something I will never forget. The water level in the Zambezi river was almost at its highest and the water that fell down the 108 metre drop created two rainbows in the Zambian sun.
The indigenous name of the waterfall, Mosi-oa-Tunya—"the smoke that thunders", was noticeable. We were all soaking wet after a few minutes.
If you are brave enough, you can bungy jump into the Zambezi river. Just looking at those who were jumping was thrill enough for me. Rumors say if you are brave enough to do it naked, you get it for free!
The Zambezi River below the Victoria Falls is widely considered to be the very best White Water Rafting river in the world. The 1700 meter wide Zambezi river plunges 120m over the Victoria Falls and is trapped in a basalt gorge no more than 40 meters wide. The result is turbulent! For the next 70 km the warm waters of the Zambezi River offers some of the finest Grade 5 high volume rapids on the planet.
AT LAST: BE READY TO GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE
Camping in Africa for 19 days (or however long you choose to go for) involves getting out of your comfort zone. Expect cold nights during peak season in June and July where you need warm clothes, even in you sleeping bag. In many places I slept with two jumpers, pants and woolen socks. Most camp sites say they have hot showers, but many of them are lukewarm or even cold. You need to be ready to help out in your truck, every day your team has a new task. You might be cooking, cleaning, doing dishes or packing stuff before departure to a new campsite. You need to put up your own tent and make sure there are no scorpions under it before packing it. Be prepared for getting up before or right after sunrise most days, and driving for many hours. You are covering vast distances with the truck. Buy snacks so you don´t get too hungry in between meals.
One of those many cold mornings around the campfire.
Our overland truck, called "Rufunsa" after a river in Zambia.
Ready for the adventure? The trip from Cape Town to Victoria Falls is one of the top tours of the overland trip companies. It goes through diverse places of natural beauty, from desert to the Okavango delta, and to one of the world´s most famous waterfalls. HOW: I would recommend flying to Cape Town and home from Livingstone. Or the other way around. You can rent a car and drive through Namibia on your own, and camp in campsites along the way. Several tour companies arrange tours if you do not want to drive. I traveled with Acacia from Cape Town to Victoria Falls for 19 days, but you can also do shorter or longer trips all over the continent. You can usually choose between an accommodated tour where you sleep inside one of the houses near the camping grounds, or you can choose to sleep in a tent. The camping option is about half the price of the accommodated. I would recommend camping, as you get the real outdoor experience! A good tip is to book well in advance, I booked three days before leaving and was very lucky to get a spot, most companies are booked out during peak season in June, July and August. On these websites you can find the different routes some of the companies offer all over Africa: Acasia: http://acacia-africa.com/ Nomad tours: http://nomadtours.co.za/ G adventures: https://www.gadventures.com/destinations/africa/ WHEN: Peak season is in June, July and August, which is winter in the Southern hemisphere. The desert can be cold, but if you bring warm clothes (even to sleep in) you will stay warm. Summertime can be very hot and humid and is not recommendable. PRICE: For the camping option, the price is about 1000 rand per night (about 60 Euros) with Acasia, some are more expensive. Most trips have an activity package you need to buy extra, with Acasia it is 375 dollars. It pays for entrance to parks and most of the activities apart from the optional ones like skydiving, bunny jumping and so on. For the 19 day camping option I paid 21 000 rand, which is 1200 Euros or 1 379 USD. The accommodated was about double price.
If you are interested in the trip I did, you find it here: