In the ten weeks on safari in southern and eastern Africa, Ross and I have a few lists of the best, the most significant, the spectacular, game sightings and rare sightings, exhilarating experiences, interesting eating and drinking, a range of transport and accommodation and good reads to share.
Cape Town, Atlantic Coast
Some 11,650 kilometres from Cape Town to Nairobi and more, as we did the Gorilla loop from Nairobi to Uganda and Rwanda and back to Nairobi, a 71 day road trip, which we thoroughly enjoyed with our leader Steve, our driver David and our three cooks Sampson, Charles and Mach. After this we flew to Lamu in northern Kenya for 5 days rest and relaxation, then Ross flew home and I flew to Tanzania to climb Kilimanjaro, the highest, free-standing mountain in the world.
Our safari wildlife count includes: 75 lions with the most seen in Serengeti and Maasai Mara; 5 leopard, with the most seen in Serengeti; 13 cheetah, the most seen in Maasai Mara; 25 rhinoceros, the most seen in Uganda; 4 chimpanzees seen in Budongo Forest in Uganda and 18 mountain gorillas seen at Park National des Volcans in Rwanda.
Ntambara, Silverback Mountain Gorilla
The most elephants were in seen in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, a parade of 40 at a waterhole and another 20 ambled in later; wildebeest and zebra were seen grazing the plains in the Maasai Mara in Kenya in their thousands; the most Cape Buffalo were seen in South Luangwa in Zambia, a herd of about 600; the most hyena were seen in Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania 12 in all; the most hippopotami were seen in the Kazinga Channel in Uganda, a crash of hundreds; the most crocodiles were seen basking in the Mara River in Kenya; the most giraffe were in Nakuru National Park in Kenya, a tower of 18 giraffes, the most flamingoes were seen wading in Walvis Bay in Namibia, that’s hundreds and the most seals were at Cape Cross in Namibia something like 100 thousand.
Greater and lesser flamingoes, Walvis Bay
The rarest sightings included two shoe-billed storks in Uganda, one caracal in Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania, one ardwolf and one honey badger in Etosha in Namibia and two genet in South Luangwa in Zambia.
The Maasai Mara was our favourite game park and followed by Etosha because it was our first opportunity to be up close and personal to elephant, lion, cheetah, rhinoceros, giraffe and gemsbok, all within our first 24 hours.
Elephant herd, adults, teenagers and babies drinking, Etosha
Most spectacular sand dunes are Sossusvlei dunes in Namibia and the most spectacular waterfall was Victoria Falls bordering Zimbabwe and Zambia.
Sand dunes, Sossusvlei
The smallest 5 we saw in the Dorob Desert in Namibia, the dancing white lady spider, the shovel nosed sand diving lizard, the transparent dune gecko, the desert chameleon and the side winder snake.
Shovel nosed sand diving lizard
The big 5 we saw in Uganda and Kenya, elephant, lion, leopard, cape buffalo and rhinoceros.
Cape Buffalo, South Luangwa
The ugliest 5 we saw in Kenya and Tanzania, the wildebeest, warthog, hyena, marabou stork and crocodile.
The best tours were the Small Five Tour in Namibia, the San bushman in Botswana and the San bushman cave at Silozwe near Bulawayo in Zimbabwe.
The best museums include the Slave Lodge, District 6 and Robben Island in Cape Town, and the Genocide Museum in Rwanda.
The most exhilarating-cum-frightening experience was white water rafting on the Zambezi at Victoria Falls. The most uplifting and mesmerising experience was the hot air balloon over the Serengeti Plains in Tanzania. The most hypnotic experience was being poled in a mokora, gently gliding through reeds of the Okavango Delta, Botswana. The most frustrating experience was paddling a Canadian canoe with Ross on the lower Zambezi, dodging fellow canoers and avoiding floating bloat of hippopotami.
The best foot treks were to see the mountain gorillas in Rwanda, the chimpanzees in Budongo Forest in Uganda, the white rhinoceros in Matobos National Park in Zimbabwe and the southern white rhinoceros in ZIWA sanctuary in Uganda.
The best breakfast was served on the Serengeti Plains under that shade of the Acacia trees with champagne flowing and an English breakfast with the fineries of silver service.
Champagne breakfast, Serengeti
The best restaurant was 95 Keerom in Cape Town. The best coffee we tasted was Tanzanian coffee in Arusha.
The best tea plantations were seen in Kericho in Kenya, the best pineapples were from Uganda, the best biltong was from Namibia and the best sausage was borie.
Ross collects beer labels and so he tasted as many beers he could find including Kilimanjaro, Serengeti, Primus, Pilsner Larger, Nile Special, Tusker and the best dark beer he found was Castle Milk Stout and Guinness, no surprises here. Our favourite soft drink was Stoney Tangawizi, a ginger beer that’s very similar to Queensland’s Bundaberg Ginger Beer.
Ross sinking a Primus, Uganda
The most interesting game eaten includes wildebeest, kudu, springbok, ostrich, crocodile and warthog. And of the antelope biltong, the best was kudu. We savoured some delightful South African wines including the Pinotage, unique to South Africa crafted from pinot noir and hermitage and lots of good quality reds at great value for $8-$15 per bottle.
Transport modes by air, ground and water. By air we travelled by South African and Kenyan airways, cable car to Table Top Mountain, by helicopter over the Okavango Delta in Botswana and by hot air balloon over the endless Serengeti Plains in Tanzania. We hopped on and off the red tourist bus in Cape Town, trucked with Imani for 71 days approximately 11,650 kms from Cape Town to Nairobi and then more through the gorilla loop from Nairobi to Rwanda and back and taxied around occasionally. Driven in pop-up safari vehicles in Matobos and Hwange National Parks in Zimbabwe and in Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania and Maasai Mara in Kenya. We caught a car ferry from Dar es Salam to Zanzibar, paddled Canadian canoes on the Lower Zambezi in Zambia, were poled in a mokora on the Okavanga Delta and poled in a canoe on a bird safari in the wetlands of the Kafu River, motored on a water safari on the Kazinga Channel in Uganda and sailed and motored in a dhow in Kenya. Risked our lives navigating 11 rapids, one a level 5 in a zodiac inflatable, white water rafting on the Zambezi. And had some walking safaris in Matobos National Park in Zimbabwe trekking for rhinoceros, in the ZIWA Rhino Sanctuary to see the rare Southern White Rhinoceros and Budongo Forest to see the chimpanzees in Uganda and to see the mountain gorillas in Rwanda.
Hot Air Ballooning, Seregenti Plain
We stayed in a variety of accommodation over 12 weeks. While most of the time we camped in our tent named Burundi and were visited occasionally by hippopotami in the middle of the night, we stayed in a few hotels in cities like Cape Town, Stone Town and Moshi, in cabins with barking dogs or tented camps in Nairobi, Jinja, Kande, Nungwi and Mosquito Creek. The most interesting stay was in a ‘Tarzan and Jane’ Treehouse in Nakuru and it was a joy to be the only guests at Alice’s Guesthouse in Lamu, Kenya, a level of luxury with our own man-servant-cum-caretaker Ali to attend to our needs.
Our home for 71 nights, Burundi perched on the Ngorongoro Crater Rim
Twice we crossed the equator, once near Kisumu in Kenya, where Barack Obama’s father was born and in Uganda and the Topic of Capricorn, only once in Namibia.
Sampson, Ross and David
We were fortunate to have a fabulous library on our truck, Imani as well as our leader’s personal wildlife and history library. Being the librarian, I had plenty of opportunity to explore and sort the dusty shelves and provide snippets of information regarding our collection to fellow travellers. Needless to say, many truck travellers had their own books to share or e-readers well stocked with reading material.
Ross and I read from every collection. Our list included: Management of WIldlife Resources by Ron Thompson; China in Africa by Chris Alden; Aid and Other Dirty Business by Giles Bolten; Ordinary Man by Paul Rusesabagina;The Long March to Freedom by Nelson Mandela; A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah;They Fight like Soldiers, They die like Children by Romeo Dallaire; State of Africa by Martin Meredith; In the Footsteps of Mr Kurtz by Michaela Wrong; Why Africa is Poor by Greg Mills; Out of Africa by Karen Blixen and Winds of Change, a girlie love story, the author not worth remembering.
Africa, well southern and eastern at least, we’ve travelled extensively now and have a little more of an understanding of the complexity of African life and culture, the mix of traditions in a modern world, of poverty, of disease, of food and water shortage, of corruption and violence and of a rare beauty. Our sincere thanks to our Dragoman leader, Steve White; David, our driver; and our cooks Sampson, Charles and Mach for sharing their experiences with us as this helped to translate and interpret our impressions and observations and to appreciate more deeply the rich tapestry of Africa. The lure of Africa still lingers. Once Africa gets under your skin, it’s there close to heart, forever. So, it is not surprising that there are some northern locations on our African list. Mali is far too dangerous, as is Egypt at present and other than those countries, Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria are on our travel- to-soon list.
Love Pammie and Ross