Our favourite things to do are mostly centred around being in the outdoors and enjoying natural areas, so we are more likely found seeking out the lesser known parts of areas we visit, and the least populated areas. In past years, we've been known to hike for days, hauling heavy packs into remote valleys and forests just to avoid the usual front country crowds and see wild animals truly in the wild.
After the last trip to the Southwestern US, our next trip was a bit more adventurous safari in Botswana. What an experience that was! Next trip is a visit with family in North Carolina, which gave us an excuse to spend a week driving the Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park and also the Blue Ridge Parkway all the way to Great Smokey Mountains National Park. In fall 2010 we did a longer overland trip, back in Africa. Eight countries, 11,300 km, 47 days, starting in Nairobi, Kenya, traveling through Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botwsana, Namibia, ending in Cape Town, South Africa. Sleeping in tents.
So now it is back to Africa yet again. It seems that we keep wanting to go back. Maybe it's because there are only 20,000 lions and 10,000 cheetahs left in the world, and with their territory fast shrinking, the likelihood of extinction within the next few generations is high.
Or maybe it's because the people in Africa are warm, friendly and indomitable even in the face of extreme hardship. Or the beautiful, wide open, unspoiled wilderness areas. Whatever the reasons, we keep going back.
June 8th 2012
The flight from Epupa Falls was a hoot. Our little plane was still waiting for us at the short air strip, where the pilot had left it two days ago when we arrived. There had been no other planes either coming in or going out. This was a short airstrip, so the pilot really gunned the plane to get us off the ground before running into the bush. It was a good thing we had all stripped down to not much more than our photography gear (no big lenses), a change of underwear and a toothbrush. Later we speculated on what would have happened if our group had been two more. The altitude of 8,000 feet for the flight didn't allow for much game spotting, even though we flew right over Etosha Park. The only thing ... read more
June 4th 2012
Great travel scenery today. We flew in a 12-seat Cessna plane for the 3 hour trip from Swakopmund to Epupa Falls on the border with Angola. No toilet on this flight so water intake at breakfast is kept to a minimum. The route followed inland from the Skeleton Coast through the region called Damaraland. This is a mountain landscape with dry valleys between and very few tracks of vehicles for 100’s of kilometres. The occasional circle of acacia thorn branches seen below from 2000 metre height in the plane is evidence of cattle herders’ kraals. The mountains are relics of ancient craton collisions worn down to rounded sandy peaks. When it does rain here the evidence stays in the sandy soil stream beds where drought tolerant shrubs line the route of the occasional water. But no ... read more
June 2nd 2012
The Swakopmund Hotel is a grand old lady, formerly the train station, and we were delighted to be there for two nights, which gave us all an opportunity to regroup, do some laundry and see a little bit of the town. Up early in the morning (as usual) for a drive up the Skeleton Coast to Cape Cross to photograph the seal colony. Richard decided to spend his morning at the Crystal Museum, a place he visited 18 months ago when we were in Swakopmund. The East winds were blowing furiously and not only were they hot, but they created a terrific sandstorm. We could hardly see, and when we arrived at Cape Cross, we really didn't want to get out of the vehicle because of the sand blasting everything. However, brave it we did, with ... read more
June 1st 2012
Ever since we flew through in the searing heat of midday back in October 2010, it has been Kayla's dream to return to photograph the famous dunes of the Namib-Nakluft National Park, and she was not disappointed. After a cross country drive from Keetmanshoop that took most of the day, Antonio stepped on the gas and persuaded the park guards that we should be admitted to the park for a late afternoon photo shoot of the dunes. When there was no more light left and our ISO was pushed as high as it could go, we checked into the Sossus Dune Lodge, which is just inside the park. This was a strategic move - we wouldn't have to wait until the gates opened at 6 am for our sunrise shoot the next day. Sure enough, we ... read more
May 28th 2012
May 28, 29, 30 – Bagatelle Lodge, Keetmanshoop, road to Sossusvlei We travelled south from Na’ankuse, watching the Kalahari sands gradually take control of the environment. The last 50 km to our night at Bagatelle Lodge near the town of Mariental were crossing dunes that were running north south as far as could be seen. The dune is red sand about 100 metres high and each dune is spaced 500 metres apart. So it was a roller coaster drive across them. In the evening we transferred to Toyota 4x4 for a couple of hours of dune buggy excitement. Several spots offered Oryx, springbok and kudu viewing and concluded with dune top “sundowner” for beer, pop and chips and glorious sunset for the photographers. Next day we continued south to the quiver tree forest near Keetmanshoop where ... read more
May 27th 2012
Up at a leisurely time this morning and a nice breakfast at Elegant House in Windhoek. Laston picked us up for the transfer to Na'ankuse where we discovered one of our photo tour group had already checked in and was on a feeding tour of the animals. This is an amazing place run by Marlice and Rudy van Vurren, but mostly it's Marlice who has a special relationship with the animals. They have many staff and lots of willing volunteers to lend helping hands for this huge menagerie that includes a pack of African wild dogs, lions, leopards, cheetahs, baboons, caracals and a huge assortment of farm animals. For anyone traveling to Namibia, we highly recommend a visit to this magical place. It came to the media attention when Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie visited and ... read more
May 25th 2012
Already we can see we’ve left the rough life behind. Our guest house, Elegant House, lives up to its name, and we are in the city of Windhoek, Namibia population 340,000. This morning, we arrange for a city tour, driven by Laston, who operates a transfer and tour service. The night before, we had missed him at the airport because our plane was early, and since no one was waiting for us, we left with a taxi driver who was available. So when Laston arrived expecting us, we had already left! Today, he starts by taking us to the pretty sights of Windhoek. It is Africa Day and all the shops are closed, but we are not interested in shopping anyway. As a side note, it turns out we should have done some shopping this day, ... read more
May 24th 2012
What a lovely warm sunny day! Willem has invited us to visit the Crocodile Farm this morning, and to stop in to say hello to his wife Sally. They used to own the croc farm, and their home is on the other side of it on the Thamalakane River. So we go out to the road hoping to flag down a taxi. Alas, the ones going by are all full, so we asked the hotel to call one for us. Luckily, Omphile, who works at the hotel, says he is available for the day to take us to the Croc Farm which is 10 km out of town. It’s a chance for him to earn some extra cash. So we pile into his vehicle and set out. The morning is warm, and after some negotiating with ... read more
May 23rd 2012
Wednesday May 23 was an epic. We left our last safari camp at 7 AM expecting to arrive back in Maun before supper time. It’s about 100 km of soft sand in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, followed by another 150 km on paved pothole road between Rakops and Maun. The donkeys eat the pavement if it has too much salt, resulting in very deep potholes, not to mention the animals that are constantly in the road. Our travelling partners (5 Italians) were unusually quiet as they had not seen any predators during our 8 day safari and were obviously disappointed. However after 3 hours of 4WD on sandy track we sighted two lions mating right near the road. Then Willem spotted 3 cheetah brothers sniffing around a termite mound, and suddenly our travelling partners began ... read more
May 22nd 2012
May 16-22 Central Kalahari Game Reserve Penduka Safaris - Mobile Safari Richard writes: Early morning starts (up at 6 AM and away at 7 AM) were the normal for this safari. The temperature at dawn kept us in warm fleece jackets until 9 AM and by 11 AM we we putting on sun screen in 30 C heat. The blue sky has no clouds horizon to horizon, dawn to dusk. This is late fall in the Botswana. The central Kalahari is very, very dry so the plains are brown and the grass is sparse. Rivers are on flood from rain in Angola but it is all underground by the time it reaches the Kalarhi. Wildlife congregates each at their own time around water holes from deep pumped wells powered by solar panels. We see some dry ... read more