Celebrating Christmas Day in the desolate Sossusvlei, Namibia, chasing the flamingos and shipwrecks along its Skeleton Coast, ringing in the New Year at the iconic Victoria Falls and kicking off 2017 in style with a bucket list trip into the Okavango Delta: it was finally time for our Africa adventures. Two weeks, four countries and a million memories, Africa we’re on our way!
A Namibian Christmas
We waved goodbye to the cold Irish winter and spent Christmas Eve navigating the skies between Dublin and Windhoek in Namibia keeping our Christmas spirits high by breaking out our Christmas hats and the occasional Christmas tune. After touching down in Ethiopia and South Africa our thoughts of Christmas quickly turned to new adventures and we substituted our turkey dinner for a crisp sandwich (cos that’s how we roll!) and continued on our way!
As we touched down in the blistering sunshine of a Namibian summer it felt like we were in a different world.
Potholes and gravel roads were our introduction to Namibian driving and we amused ourselves spotting mongoose (in my heart I still hope they are meerkats but, either way, they’re beautiful!) and onyx. Our first stop was Sossusvlei, the heart of the Namibian desert, and, with its burnt orange sand dunes and endless desert sands, it was akin to landing on the moon. The open plain of Deadvlei where the isolated, and long dead, camel thorn trees stand, reminded us of the battle of life overcoming all challenges and its stark beauty was overwhelming. We ran through hot sands, climbed the huge sand dunes and giggled uncontrollably as we made out of control descents down their steep sides.
Stories of shipwrecks and seals led us up to the Skeleton Coast where the treacherous Namibian coastline has long been a graveyard for unsuspecting ships. We checked out the ship wrecks on land and shore and ended our journey at the Cape Cross Seal Reserve where the seal population stands at over 100,000. We gagged at the smell, oohed and ahhed at the plentiful and very cute seal pups and watched as the adults fought over their tiny patches of land. It was an incredible sight to behold.
Our skeleton coast adventures came to an end with a stopover in Walvis Bay where vibrant pink flamingos lined the bay, giant sand dunes surrounded the town and the beautiful sunsets took our breath away.
New Year at Victoria Falls
With New Year fast approaching it was time to hit the road for Zambia to check out the mighty Victoria Falls. We celebrated in style at the iconic Royal Livingstone Hotel and happily lapped up the never ending luxury. Our evenings were spent drinking G&Ts on the sundeck watching the mist rising above the thunderous Falls while zebra and giraffe wandered among us on the grounds.
We couldn’t resist the opportunity to hang over the side of the Falls in the terrifying yet irresistible Devil’s Pool. Our adventure saw us zipping along in a speedboat, swimming across the mighty Zambezi river and clinging on for dear life in the Devil’s Pool as water thundered over our shoulders into to the Falls below. Devil’s Pool is by far the most terrifying thing we’ve ever done and a true once in a lifetime experience.
With Zimbabwe just down the street it was inevitable that we would pop over the border and we were rewarded with incredible views of the Falls in all its glory. As the mist of the Falls cooled us down in the intense Zimbabwean sun there was no place we’d rather have been.
A dream come true: the Okavango Delta
A few hours on the road and one speedboat trip later we entered the lush green surroundings of Botswana where elephants and giraffe lined the roads as we drove towards Maun, a busy Botswana town which is the gateway to the Okavango Delta. Our obsession with wildlife documentaries had propelled the Okavango firmly to the top of our bucket list and we couldn’t wait to explore one of the greatest wildlife areas of the world.
Getting into the Delta was as beautiful as our time in it: we hopped on a tiny Wilderness Air plane which flew us into our first camp, the stunning Little Vumbura .The views were incredible as we soared over the crystal clear waters and swampy grasslands, passing over the meandering Okavango River and spotting huge herds of elephants that wandered through the plains below.
Every moment in the Vumbura Plains brought unexpected adventures: hippo splashed beneath our sundeck as we slept, a three day old baby elephant taking one of its first journeys under the protective guard of its mother stumbled alongside our safari truck, a majestic cheetah stalked for pray and sunbathing lions lolled in the grasses as we drove in the evening sun. We listened to lions roaring across the plains as we sipped sundowners in the bush and were met with a grumpy hippo blocking our path home as he took the opportunity to cool down in a puddle in the path rather than the deeper waters surrounding them.
As we left Vumbura for our second Wilderness Safari camp, Xigera, we couldn’t believe it when a tiny plane landed on the airstrip and we took a private flight across the Delta. Xigera was just as memorable as Vumbura and we saw a different side to the African bush. Vast plains stretched out as far as our eyes could see and new borns skipped through the plains among the huge herds of impala, red lechee, wilderbeast and zebra. Stunning birds in a rainbow of colours flew alongside us and we awoke each morning to their beautiful calls.
Our excitement at the wildlife sightings are intertwined with the fun of our camp adventures: dancing to local African songs, sipping G&Ts at the campfire, excited 5am wake up calls, easy chats over dinner and cheeky monkeys having a party on our roof before dawn. Our Okavango dream came to an end all too quickly and we left camp with a tear in our eye and promises to return for more adventures in the Delta.
Two weeks of incredible African adventures came to an end as we made the long trek back to Johannesburg for our flight home our heads filled with memories of deserts, shipwrecks, the thundering Victoria Falls and the unknown wilderness of the stunning Okavango Delta as we already plot our return to the continent that has captured our hearts.