Africa summary

So, the continent that we secretly weren’t sure we would make it to? It was our favourite of the trip. From safaris to sand dunes through Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Rwanda and Uganda, here’s the summary of our two and a half months in Africa:

Destination highlights:

  • The amazing first full day on our overland tour in Chobe National Park, Botswana where we saw giraffes, zebras, elephants. This was shortly followed by a game cruise where we watched elephants wash, play and swim and hippos duck and dive in the water. It was an incredible introduction to African wildlife

  • Wild camping in the Okavango Delta, Botswana was brilliant what with our own private ‘pool’, floating down the waterways on dugout canoes and the stunning scenery and sunsets; seeing huge elephants, hippos and zebras on a game walk was the icing on the cake

  • Quad biking up, down and on vertical angles across massive sand dunes near Swapokmund, Namibia

  • Driving through the deep green Drakensburg Mountains (South Africa) up the bumpy, winding and stunning Sani Pass into Lesotho

  • Self-driving through the Kruger National Park (South Africa) with intimidating elephant encounters and spotting leopards and lions at night

  • Walking tour around Volcanoes National Park (Rwanda) with a local guide where we saw beautiful lakes  and stunning scenery whilst learning about progressive Rwandan society

General highlights:

  • The overland tour with Absolute Africa from Victoria Falls to Cape Town was brilliant: really well organised, with a great tour leader, a decent group and it was loads of fun
  • Camping in the wild was a particular highlight as we were surrounded by epic scenery and loved eating, drinking and socialising around the campfire
  • Great hostels and places to stay e.g. hostels with pools in Livingstone and Cape Town
  • Spending nearly a month driving around South Africa was incredible, changing our route on a whim and having loads of freedom
  • Animals by the side of the road continued to surprise and delight us, every day was a sightseeing day
  • Spending time with friends in South Africa and staying in luxury accommodation!

Food and drink highlights (I wasn’t expecting much in this category but we had some really tasty stuff):

  • Meaty game stews and steaks, including animals such as zebra, kudu and warthog
  • Braais (BBQs), especially the overland tour leader’s Nando-beating grilled chicken
  • Home-cooked food on the overland tour. We thought cooking in groups would be a nightmare but we had some tasty meals and it went surprisingly smoothly

  • Brochettes (meat kebabs) were popular in Rwanda and Uganda, the best one we had was in a brown paper bag doused in chilli oil,  at the side of the road to break up a bus journey

  • Rwandan chilli oil, the best I have ever tasted (and the only that comes in an eye drop dispenser!)

  • The restaurants in Cape Town were as good as you’d find in London: stylish, modern and innovative

  • Cheap good value wine everywhere: we discovered South Africa Pinotage which was delicious

Lowlights:

  • Not seeing much wildlife in Etosha National Park (Namibia), despite it being one of the premier places for seeing animals in the world
  • The lingering affects of apartheid were still very noticeable in South Africa, with the majority of blacks living in shanty towns and working in low paid jobs while whites enjoyed a lifestyle similar to their European counterparts
  • Moreover, we sadly encountered some very open racism from a few white South Africans
  • Bad drivers and seriously bad potholes in South Africa 
  • Wifi was slow or non-existent, a contrast to everywhere else we have visited, but this did mean we read more books
  • South Africa was much less safe than anywhere else: we were told to take taxis at night for a walk of just a couple of blocks
  • Our canoe capsizing in the ‘rapids’ of Orange River (Namibia)
  • Getting pick-pocketed in Kigali (Rwanda), supposedly the safest capital in Africa!

Observations:

  • All conversations, no matter how perfunctory began with a genuine “Hello, how are you?” from very friendly locals
  • In some ways the continent was more developed than we expected with well-stocked supermarkets, mini malls and chains (lots of Nandos)
  • But in a lot of ways it was the least developed area we have visited, with basic one room mud houses without running water, electricity and sanitation
  • In South Africa there were always people beside the road trying to hitch a lift, however they usually held out money so presumably the public transport system is not extensive enough
  • Tipping is expected, unlike in most of Asia or Latin America
  • Toilet paper goes down the toilet rather than in the bin – the opposite of ‘more developed’ Asia or Latin America
  • Presumably due to the aids epidemic, free condoms are available everywhere, we saw them at border posts and in post offices
  • Houses were often round!
  • People are always walking alongside the road and are often carrying things on their heads

Favourite photos:

Chobe NP, Botswana
Okavango Delta, Botswana
Okavango Delta, Botswana
Scenic flight over Okavango Delta, Botswana
Dunes, Namibia
Oudtshoorn, South Africa
Joubertina, South Africa
Drakensberg, South Africa
iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa
Swaziland
Kruger NP, South Africa
Kruger, South Africa
Kruger, South Africa
Blyde River Canyon, South Africa
Cape Town, South Africa
Volcanoes NP, Rwanda
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda

Next stop: Italy

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