31 October 2004

Namibia and Botswana

October 2004

Colin, Peter, Terry and Kevin in the Khaudum National Park
Day 1

Collected at by Ken, our group organiser then a detour to collect Terry’s waterproofs, Terry, Peter and Kevin having experienced a big storm on the first night of their journey from South Africa into Botswana. A trouble free journey to Heathrow, dropping the car at the very efficient ‘Purple Parking’ in Hayes, arriving early at Heathrow and forcing us to sit down and have a beer or two! Boarded the South African Airways 747 and found our seats with good legroom but very narrow indeed. A couple of Castle Lagers, some food and a mixed bag of films sustained us through the 10-hour flight.

Ken Hall, our organiser and chief spotter!
Day 2

Landed about 0900 in Johannesburg and found it under cloud and quite chilly. Transferred to our Windhoek flight after a mistaken bout of queuing that would have seen us admitted into S Africa. Flight departed 1100 and we passed over the route the lads were on…miles and miles of absolutely nothing. At Windhoek, a surprisingly small airport, my luggage failed to arrive and we were told that it’ll be on the next flight 2 hours later. Then the lads arrived, after a 1600km journey, and everybody headed off into Windhoek, 40km away, to collect the second 4WD vehicle and provision up. Terry and I returned to the airport later and found my luggage had arrived…big relief!

The team, Etosha National Park, Namibia
Now our journey together started, heading north for 300km on the B1 to get as close to Etosha National Park as possible. Mainly scrub and low trees on the route, with numerous Warthogs seen close to the road. Barren isolated mountains in the distance. Ken showed his early form by passing Terry and I at 160kph but then promptly broke down in the town of Otjiwarango with an electrical fault that cost us a valuable hour. Reluctantly we headed out into the dark (danger of animals on the road at night) and another 40 minutes or so found us at Ombinda Lodge, just south of Outjo. A couple of beers with some dinner, killed a couple of spiders in the bedroom and to bed, leaving Kevin and Peter in the bar, getting on well with some locals who promptly introduced them to the delights of snuff and various spirit concoctions!

Day 3

Our first morning in Africa arrived. Cool, fresh and a cloudless sky. Guinea fowl started the day with a very noisy clucking noise at 0400, just two hours after Kev came to bed. Breakfast, a quick Garmin GPS lesson and then on the road for an early push to the Andersson Gate, the southern entrance to Etosha. 
Within minutes we arrived at the first waterhole, Ombika, seeing zebra, springbok, oryx and giraffe in abundance. Then on to our first camp area, Okaukeujo, a well laid out camp and lodge, with a tower for viewing the surrounding pan. Could not get a lodge for the first night so camping became inevitable.

Entering Etosha National Park

Ombika Water Hole, Etosha
Springbok, Etosha
Giraffe, Etosha
Zebra, Etosha
Then off to visit the numerous waterholes to the east, starting with Gembokvlakte and Olifantsbad where we observed elephant, giraffe, zebra, red hartebeest, black-faced impala, kudu, and gemsbok (otherwise known as oryx). The dominant male zebra summon their ‘harem’ of females when it is their turn to drink at the waterhole. Some big bird nests were seen in the trees in the locality, the biggest belonging to the buffalo weaver bird. We drove further east to Rietfontein and experienced our first lion sighting, four lionesses huddled lazily together under a tree 50m from the road. With elephant randomly crossing the road ahead of us, Ken and I drove a nearby ‘detour’, taking us down towards the salt pan, looking like a great white sea in the distance.

Kudu, Etosha

Salt pan looking north across the Etosha National Park
Black rhino tracks spotted on the road and we came across a lot of ostrich. Turning back towards Okaukeujo we watch pied crow at the Salvadora water hole on the edge of the pan and saw kori bustard and secretary birds. At the nearby Homob water hole we spotted two female and one male lion. One female and the male are tussling over a kill. Then back to camp for beer, dinner and the first night in the vehicle roof tent. Awoken to go and view five black rhino at the floodlit waterhole within the camp, one of which aggressively challenged one of three giraffe attempting to drink there also. Jackals wandered the camp at night, lions roaring at the waterhole later on, but the tent proved too cosy. A dry, warm and bug free night.

Water hole at Okaukeujo

Day 4

Up early and through the gates by 0700, heading for Okandeka. Ostrich seen out on the pan with solitary giraffe. Plenty of springbok and small herds of blue wildebeest, then three lion spotted in the distance. Returned for breakfast and secured a lodge for the coming night. Then off again to visit Gembokvlakte, Olifantsbad and Aus water holes again, before taking the road to Rietfontein. A lengthy but unproductive route to Halali Camp for lunch. 
Rietfontein was a busy water hole with elephants taking a mud bath after bathing in the pool and we were challenged by a 5 year old bull elephant. Zebra, kudu, springbok, red hartebeest, giraffe and warthog seen. 

Get off my case!
Young lioness, Etosha
Ostrich sheltering their brood
After lunch we returned in the direction of the camp, seeing a cuckoo hawk and vultures feeding on a zebra. Kevin and I drove together this afternoon and towards the end of the drive we happened upon six lionesses coming towards us in order to shelter in a culvert under the road. After that spectacle we were then awarded with the classic sight of elephants covered in the local pan dust, giving them an almost spectral appearance. Amazing!

Elephants dusted in the white Etosha sand

Returned to our lodge and had a braii with plenty of beer and wine. Jackals continued to wander past us and lightning could be seen in the distance. During the evening we decided to leave Etosha the next day and head for an adventure in Bushmanland.

Day 5

No breakfast this morning in order to get an early start across the Etosha National Park. Not much seen at the waterholes at the western end of our journey except for a sighting of a large male lion on the grassy plains en route to Rietfontein. White rhino seen in the distance to the south of us. Then we had two sightings of black rhino, both close to the road. The scenery changed as we headed east, giving us more open views of the salt pan, but the water holes were not particularly productive…we were already getting blasé about the normal plains animals! Visited Okerfontein before meeting up with Ken and Terry at Namutoni Rest Camp, where they had already provisioned up for the next stage of our journey.

Black Rhino
We left the park, driving out on to good roads to Tsumeb (famous for the mining of specimen crystals) and Grootfontein. Lunch of crisp sandwiches appreciated by all! I passed the time learning how to use the Garmin GPS…a must for the next part of our trip. Then the long run into Bushmanland along a mainly straight gravel road for about 250km, encountering a little rain on the way before we reached the area’s administrative centre, Tsumkwe. It was getting late but unfortunately the lodge and camp was full so we were turned away, albeit with some very useful advice from the Assistant Manager, Brian. He advised that before we venture any further we should deflate tyres to 1.6 bar, remove the spare wheel from the underside of the vehicle to increase ground clearance, lock the hubs and engage permanent 4WD.
We also concluded the lively debate that had ensued over the previous 24 hours about whether we would have enough fuel to get out to the other side of the park. Brian advised that if we had enough fuel in our tanks to travel 500km on the road we would have enough to get to the filling station at Divindu, about 300km away, as travelling in deep sand roughly doubles fuel consumption. Although there was still an element of doubt about our fuel tank capacities we achieved a consensus that we would have enough, and we set off into the gathering gloom, armed with a very detailed map produced by the lodge owner’s wife which gave GPS coordinates (albeit on a different convention to that I had learnt) to get us through the park.
Heading directly north into the Khaudum National Park we did a 60km dash up rough dirt and sand tracks, finally arriving in the dark at the Sikereti Camp around 2000. The advice that Brian had given us about having just a light touch on the steering wheel when in sand, letting the vehicles’ tyres follow the track themselves and nudging the vehicle back when it started to stray was sound. This was really our first camp in the wild, with warning signs telling us to beware lion, elephant and hyenas in the camp at night. We had a braii and a few beers, enjoying clear views of the southern sky. True to form, hyena visited just after we turned in for the night.

We have been warned! Sikereti Camp
Day 6

We had a very early start, up at 0515 with Terry to sort vehicles, grab a quick breakfast and take down the camp. We followed the advice of the Sikereti Camp manager and took a different route to that we had planned, necessitating a re-programming of coordinates into the Garmin using the UDM convention – metric rather that the traditional degree/minutes protocol. We set off at 0730 into the Khaudum National Park, stopping first at the Soncan water hole and then to Omuramba where we sighted a skittish bull elephant and then a leopard that quickly took off into the dense bush of the area, having spooked the elephant some more.
Up to Dussi and then east to Tari Kora, seeing more elephant, before heading north to Leeupa, Doring and up into the Khaudum Omuramba (‘vague waterbed’) taking us in a westerly direction towards the Khaudum campsite. We experienced two further elephant sightings, one a huge herd of more than 100 animals. It was interesting to watch the herd matriarch pushing young elephant into the water hole in some sort of queuing system. During our journey through the Khaudum we experienced an enormous variety of terrain, deep sand, bone shaking rutted tracks, forest interspersed with savannah and wooded dunes. In the dense cover we saw Damara dikdik twice, plus eagle and white-headed vultures. Fascinating and challenging country indeed!

Leopard, Khaudum National Park
Elephant at Tari Kora
We decided to get through Khaudum in one day, so started our exit journey at around 1400, heading true north for Katera near the Namibian/Angolan border. The journey, roughly 45km, took 2½ hours with deep sand most of the way. Peter had to drive much more slowly behind us because of Terry’s back. Overall it took 9 hours to cover 150km, which, after allowance for 1½ hours of stops, meant that we had achieved an average speed of 20kph! Only two other vehicles were seen that day, almost complete isolation.

Khaudum National Park
Deep sand tracks, Khaudum National Park
'Bushmanland' near Botswana/Namibia border
Exiting Khaudum National Park
On the main road to Divindu we saw many villages with the circular huts made of reeds and contained in small compounds to keep the predators out. We managed to refuel then got to Popa Falls Lodge a day earlier than planned, securing two rondavels for the night. Kevin was a little unimpressed by the number of small spiders crawling on the beds but after a quick swipe and spray of ‘Doom’ knockdown we could almost call it home! Had a good dinner at the lodge before turning in, but disturbed by lizards scuttling around the room during the night. Another early night, lights out at 2100.

Village near Popa Falls

Day 7

Breakfast, then reflated tyres giving us a relatively late start. We went a few miles down the road and decided to stay at Ngepi Lodge next to the Okavango River. We took a boat trip and saw many hippos, plus small crocodile and much birdlife, including my personal favourite, the pied kingfisher. 

Pied kingfisher
Our accommodation for the night was a traditional reed hut, populated by lizards and, as we were to find out later, a mouse with a very long tail. We had some R and R today although this was tempered by the need to clear up the mess in the back of our truck caused by the rough tracks in the Khaudum…many broken bottles of wine, powdered glass (!) and food ruined.
We took an escorted game drive into the nearby Mahango National Park during the late afternoon, seeing several Baobab trees, buffalo in the distance, crocodile, a rare sable buck, fish eagle, roan antelope, red lechwe and two tsessebe (similar to wildebeest but less common). We returned to the lodge as the sun set, with the sound of singing villagers in the distance.
Sable, Mahango National Park
Red lechwe, vulture in foreground
Ngepi Lodge
Had a good (outdoor) shower on our return, but over dinner Kevin said he felt unwell and retired to bed early. Discovered two mice in the rafters when I got back and slept under a mosquito net for the first time given the proximity to the river.

Day 8

An incredibly noisy night, broken by Kev’s need to got to the loo several times, with elephants trumpeting in the distance (sounding very disturbed) and birds which started up at 0330. Worst of all though, was the intense humming noise from the tree above our hut at about 0530, which sounded like a swarm of bees. Stayed well under the mozzy net until that one subsided! It turned out to be the sound of a particular type of fly that drinks dew from the flowers of that tree before the sun evaporates it off!
Kevin stayed in bed whilst we had breakfast, but eventually we had to move, as we had to do the 400km drive east into the Caprivi Strip to get to the Botswana border. Basically a relentlessly straight road to Katima Mulilo, passing through a couple of small locust swarms (which the locals seemed to ignore completely). Kevin slept most of the way, giving him a chance to recover, before we finally turned south east to reach Ngoma Bridge, the border with Botswana, crossing the Chobe River.

The Caprivi Strip
There were many villages en route, with reed roofs and mud walls, interspersed by very large grey termite mounds. After completing the relatively painless border formalities we entered the Chobe National Park but our plans to stay at the Ihaha Camp were thwarted due to the recent anthrax outbreak at this end of the park. Accordingly we checked into the Chobe Safari Lodge near the thriving town of Kasane, securing two comfortable rondavels next to the river, having rejected the extremely dusty campsite that was also plagued by baboon.

Chobe Safari Lodge, Kasane
Hippo on the Chobe River
Went to the bar, had dinner and to bed by 2030 … a long couple of days had taken their toll! Kev slept right through.

Day 9

Ken, Peter and Terry went off for an early ‘drive’ and I stayed with Kevin to get him going. Hippo in the river directly next to our rondavels…sneaky creatures! Had breakfast with Kev but he felt a bit nauseous afterwards and had to miss the boat trip timed for 0830. It was a fast boat and we were quickly into the deep channel of the Chobe River with a great variety of waterfowl, plus monitor lizards, crocodiles and hippo everywhere. We saw our first puko who were grazing with Impala. Elephants hereabouts were relaxed and enjoyed wallowing in the river and nearby mud pools. We saw baboon and some buffalo. There were also a couple of buffalo carcasses, possibly as a result of the local anthrax outbreak. Birds seen included great white egrets, squaco heron, African darter, reed cormorants, African jakana, African skimmers, goliath heron, white fronted bee eaters, open billed stork, spoonbill, fish eagle and pied kingfishers.

Elephant, Chobe River
Vervet monkeys, Chobe
Chobe - big herds of elephant seen
Bee eaters 
Had lunch with Kevin who managed to enjoy some soup and it looked like he was on the recovery track. At 1400 we took two fishing boats and sped up a natural channel linking the Chobe and Zambezi rivers for a couple of hours fishing. We towed lures on fairly lightweight tackle and Ken, Terry and Peter quickly hooked a couple of good sized tiger fish, soon followed by Kevin who successfully landed an 8.5kg catfish and a small tiger fish shortly afterwards. I managed to catch a small one as well but then the fishing seemed to go quiet towards the end of our time.

Kev with (large) catfish
Stumpy with (small) tiger fish
A fast run back to the Lodge was followed by a short game drive in the Chobe Riverfront area in which we saw many elephant coming down to the river for evening refreshment, plus our first sighting of waterbuck, numerous vultures, a family of baboon and red lechwe. Over dinner we resolved to head for Zimbabwe the following day, with Ken staying behind to explore the Chobe area some more.

Day 10

Kevin now fine. 0700 we had breakfast before heading into Kasane for soft drinks and some healthier snack food for our forthcoming travels. After a 20 minute drive we reached the border post at Kazangula. Queuing behind a large group of Spanish tourists it took us an hour to get through Zimbabwean formalities during which we parted with about £70 each to cover a visa, customs duty, vehicle charge and compulsory insurance plus a ‘carbon tax’. What a rip-off! Then 70km down a straight, rather dull road to the bustling town of Victoria Falls through the Masesti Game Park. We parked next to the entry gate, ran the gauntlet of many people hustling us to spend money on everything from water to carved elephants before entering the Victoria Falls Park itself. We spent a hot hour and a half walking along the rim from the David Livingstone Monument east to ‘Dangerous Point’, overlooking the first of the deep gorges downstream from the main falls area. The sight was impressive with drops of over 95m but at this time of the year it is somewhat less of a spectacle than it would have been following the rains (due in November), but a great sight nevertheless.

Victoria Falls
We returned to the town to book a Bungee jump from the Victoria Falls Bridge over the Zambezi gorge exiting the falls area. Lots of hustlers in the town, but we were quickly booked and back to the border crossing with Zambia to gain access to the bridge. Cost $75 each…a bargain given that this is the second highest commercial bungee jump in the world (following the recent opening of a 200m plus jump at the Blouwkraantz Bridge in South Africa)! 

Zambezi Bridge, Zambia/Zimbabwe border and bungee jump!
Crossed the bridge to get weighed for the jump (me 79kg, Kevin 89kg, Peter 102kg) and then down to the jump station where we watched three visitors from Seattle leap before us, with all the usual woops of American delight. The professional (Zambian) staff quickly put us at ease, and we were soon into harnesses to wait our turn. Kevin jumped first and really enjoyed it, flapping his arms mid flight like a bloody great bird. 

Weigh-in for the bungee jump at Victoria Falls
Kevin, first to jump...

He survived...
Peter followed, achieving a big swing under the bridge, his heavier weight obviously giving greater momentum. Then my turn. Felt strangely calm as I stood on the edge ready to jump and only realised what I had let myself in for when I was in the early stages of flight. Let out a big yell then swore profusely…certainly the noisiest jump of the day but great fun, albeit slightly disorientating as you swing upside down 111m below the bridge. I was expecting some physical shock at the bottom of the bounce but it was a very soft sensation and it felt like you were weightless as you transitioned to an upward movement. Weird! Quickly retrieved and returned under the bridge to the Zambian side. Great stuff!

Stumpy in flight off the Zambezi Bridge

Yeh right, don't need to do that again!
Then back to the hut to buy video, digital photo stills and the inevitable tee shirt, before running the gauntlet of the hawkers again (bought a bronze bracelet from one as I was in a very good mood by now!). Kev also bought me a copper bracelet as a reward for jumping the gorge. Back at Kasane a few beers had to be drunk before dinner in town, a slightly disappointing affair in characterless surroundings. The ‘Kingclip’ fish was good though.

Day 11

Started with a 7 a.m. boat trip on the Chobe, or at least that was the plan, as the guide failed to show up on time. We had breakfast instead whilst the booking office got it sorted out, then on to the river for two hours where we saw Buffalo crossing the shallow channel and close up again on Sedudu Island. Kevin reached the ‘Big Five’ with this sighting. Many close ups of crocodile and hippo, waterbuck and impala and pied kingfisher, fish eagle and the wonderful but elusive malachite kingfisher. We saw hippo on the riverbank and saw elephant as a finale for our trip.

Chobe - magnificent for elephant spotting

Buffalo on Sedudu Island, Chobe River
Malachite kingfisher
Crocodile, Chobe
Monitor lizard, Chobe
We went into Kasane to reprovision and refuel but everything was frustrated by a power cut which lasted a hour or so, delaying our departure to Savuti, 180km away. We finally got on the road at 1215 and after reaching Ngoma Bridge we turned south on to the rough track to Savuti. We should have deflated the tyres again as the track was very rutted and I got the vehicle stuck in deep sand up to the axles as we travelled past the village of Kachikau, necessitating a rescue by local people who kindly dug us out. We powered on into increasingly hilly terrain with deep sandy tracks now the norm when suddenly we realised that Peter’s vehicle was no longer behind us, presumably stuck somewhere themselves. We waited about half an hour and fearing that we may ourselves get stuck again decided to walk back down the track to see if we could assist. After a kilometre in deep, hot red Kalahari sand we were met by Terry and Kevin who informed us that they had been towed out by a Botswanan Army tuck and advised to go no further.
Apparently, the Army had had to return to their camp nearby to get a tow chain and had left an armed officer with them to protect them against wild animals. This led to the rather alarming aside made by one of the Army chaps to Kevin after seeing Ken and I walk down the track. His comment, ‘so your friends are not worried about the animals then?’ rather said it all! Terry was not at all keen to proceed so Ken and I returned to our vehicle in searing heat and Ken managed to turn around without getting stuck again. We headed back to Kasane through some great acacia and Baobab country and en route decided the best way of getting around to the Moremi and Okavango area was to undertake a 750km drive (yes, 750km!) via Kazangula to Maun with an overnight stop in the Nata area of eastern Botswana. So we drove into the night, finally arriving on a fast but increasingly pot-holed road at about 2030. There was a constant danger of animals on the road and during the latter stages we were surrounded by a huge bush fire on all sides…surreal seeing bonfires in the bush for miles. A long and eventful day!

Day 12

We had an early start from Nata and drove 310km of straight road across the Kalahari Desert, passing between the Nxai and Makgadikgadi pans (unfortunately without seeing them) before reaching the busy, rapidly expanding town of Maun. We took some advice here on the best places to go in the Moremi National Park and booked a boat trip on the Okavango Delta for the following Monday. We then drove north to Audi Camp to confirm the boat trip but were advised to take a shorter trip later in the day due to the heat and restricted access due to private concession areas which now impact most of the delta.
After a hearty breakfast, back in the vehicles again with tar, then gravel, then easy (graded) sand to Moremi North Gate via the South Gate. After crossing a ‘flood friendly’ bridge we found the campsite, a very basic affair in a relatively exposed position and with many baboons in residence.

North Gate, Moremi
Roof tents, so that Kev can escape from monkey spiders!
Camp at Moremi
After setting up the ground tent we set off in an easterly direction along the Khwai River, seeing impala, hippo, tsessebe, red lechwe, zebra and distant elephant. This would be a relatively easy place to get lost due to the paucity of signposts although other game viewing vehicles were often seen.

Finch, Moremi
Dinner back at camp involved opening tins and consuming anything that was in them, probably the culinary low point of the trip! I had a very disturbed night with hyena rummaging for food in the bonfire outside my tent, noisy baboon in the trees, roaring lions and much elephant and hippo noise. I was ill in the night, probably due to some dodgy Merlot…not much fun with wild animals wandering about outside, so some improvisation proved necessary!

Day 13

We had an early start in camp but afflicted by stomach cramps I elected to miss the first game drive and stayed with Kevin in the camp. Even Kevin had lost his appetite again but seemed basically OK. The baboons were aggressive and pinched our sugar before being scared off by an equally aggressive Terry! Whilst we waited for the lads to return the camp was visited by vervet monkey, glossy starling and red hornbill, with ground squirrels in abundance. 

Red hornbill, Moremi
Woodpeckers were very active and trees noisy with crickets. The rest of the gang returned at 1130 having had a superb game drive with a close up view of leopard and having seen a pack of wild dogs devouring a recently killed Impala, whilst vigorously defending their prize against hyena and jackal. I slept a bit and with stomach cramps subsiding, five of us crammed into one vehicle to visit the Dombo Hippo Pool to the west.

Hippo, Moremi
Wild dogs, Moremi

Fortunately the wild dogs were still around so Kev and I got to see them, but it was too uncomfortable in the truck so we were dropped back at the camp again. Bottled up some water and got food out for the evening dinner, but the afternoon was unbearably hot and dusty…very uncomfortable, and eventually forcing us to retreat to the vehicle and the delights of the air conditioning. Early dinner for all, followed by a mammoth cleaning session for our truck equipment. Tanks were refuelled from the jerry cans and an early bed beckoned despite a lot of baboon noise. The large male had managed to nick our bread by this time.

Day 14

Up at 0515 and a lovely morning. We decided to grab breakfast in Maun, so we were on the road by 0700, taking 2 ½ hours to get there. We took luxury tents in the Audi camp before venturing into Maun to reflate tyres and get our vehicle checked out before the long journey back to Windhoek. The very efficient Toyota dealer in Maun quickly identified our problem: a new speedo cable was required but this was a minor issue and we returned to camp to repack for the final stages of our trip.
We had a boat trip up the river into the Okavango Delta at 1530, led by an ageing Zimbabwean called Drew (as Ken said, ‘never too far away from a beer’!). Viewing was limited. We saw plenty of local villages, goats, cattle and fishermen, plus a prison farm. We passed through the ‘buffalo fence’ into a private concession area but after half an hour passing slowly through tall reeds in increasingly narrow channels we were forced to turn around as we were getting too close to one of the private camps. Elephants were spotted walking through the reeds (water here is about 2m deep); as Drew said, this is ‘elephant heaven’. We were entertained by numerous pied kingfishers and eventually got back to camp in the gathering gloom at 1845. We had a great dinner at the camp restaurant, four of us enjoying an excellent Chateaubriand and some good wine.

Pied kingfisher
At the bar afterwards we bumped into some ‘overlander’ Brits, one of whom had attended the same school as me! Typically they were noisy and uncouth and Ken and I soon retired, leaving the two lads to join them for a few more drinks. This they did with great enthusiasm, eventually disappearing into the local town of Maun 12km away to sample the delights of the ‘sports bar’, before returning to Audi camp, courtesy of a local driving a pick-up, before having an extensive nightcap with the night security man! Kevin finally dropped into bed at 0240!

Day 15

I left Kevin lying in the big safari tent and set off for the border with Ken just before 0600. With a 500km drive ahead of us we were keen to get going and made good progress despite being stopped for a vehicle search 20km before the border. A petite female police officer asked if she could search our vehicle. We duly obliged and opened up the back of the truck, but on seeing the amount of luggage she quickly capitulated saying ‘there was too much’ to look through before defaulting to a superficial look under and behind the seats in the main cabin! We cleared the border at 1100 and 20km later we turned north into our final rest camp of the trip, the Zelda Game and Guest Farm, set in 10,000 hectares of which 5,000 was given over to game. They also had two families of Bushmen living on their land, most of whom were employed at the farm in return for money for food and school fees (an end to their traditional way of life seems inevitable). This was a very welcoming spot and we rested after a pleasant lunch in the shade. Then some R and R (nothing else available on the TV except MTV!) before a game drive late afternoon. The park was classic Kalahari bush desert, apparently well populated with Black Mamba, Spitting Cobra and Puff Adder; I was very glad to be in the truck! Here the animals were unused to seeing vehicles and humans, so saw lots of herds ‘in flight’. We had our first sighting of blessbok and eland and there were many Aardvark burrows. Warthog, Mongoose and the usual Springbok, Oryx and Red Hartebeest also seen.

Cheetah at Zelda
Leopard at Zelda
Back at the camp we saw Cheetah, penned in a four hectare enclosure, plus a six year old female leopard raised by hand after its mother was killed. This animal was caged and is now too dangerous for the keepers to go near. We had a couple of sundowners, followed by dinner and a chat with a couple of S African businessmen before bed at 2100. Kevin texted to say they had reached Kang in central southern Botswana.

Day 16

Our vehicle had been cleaned by the farm staff the day before, so in a shiny truck we completed the final 2 ½ hour section of road to Windhoek, with sufficient time to do a flying tour of the city, visiting the Parliament buildings and venturing down the busy Independence Drive. 

Then we went out to Hero airport to grab a quick lunch and return the vehicle to the hire company before going out to the International Airport 40km east. Checked in by 1400 and had an uneventful flight home, apart from a spectacular storm as we came into Johannesburg airport. We landed at Heathrow at 0600 and reached Bleasby by 0930.


In all, a great first experience of Africa and I was very impressed with the efficiency, cleanliness and friendliness in our host countries of Namibia and Botswana. My thanks to all the team for keeping their cool in one or two tricky situations and for the enthusiasm and good humour throughout. It was a journey that will be fondly remembered for years to come.

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