South Africa was a great introduction to my first time in the African continent. Cape Town is an atmospheric city which feels so homely you could be in your own town. Despite the traffic and the skyscrapers, you never feel insignificant and you are always reminded that you are beside the sea; usually, because the weather is so unpredictable, but despite this, it is still a place that knows how to show its beauty. Once I left the city and headed further north into the country I was introduced to an incredibly varied landscape, all stunning in its own right. There was a mix of lush green fields, vineyards nestled between mountains and land so rugged it looked as though we were on Mars!
Namibia was my second favourite country of the whole trip. Everything from the sunset covered sand dunes to Etosha National Park showed its beauty (though climbing a sand dune is MUCH harder than it looks)! One of the things that I loved the most about Namibia was the sheer vastness of it; we could drive for 250km without seeing another person, building or even car, with just dirt roads and mountains to look at. The simplicity of the country allows the sun to rise and fall on the most perfect of scenes creating colours you have only ever dreamt of; pure magic. Etosha is a fantastic national park too with so many animals to view, especially rare black rhino. If you find a watering hole, you may be lucky enough to see everything, from elephant and giraffe to a lion trying to attack a rhino, like I did.
I have to say, however, that it was doing a sunset cruise in Chobe National Park, Botswana that stole my heart. Cruising on the still waters with hippo mating, elephant herds eating and buffalo munching on grass was a sight for sore eyes and made you unable to accept just how many animals you were seeing simultaneously. It was as though you were in the middle of a documentary. The Okovango Delta was just as impressive, with nothing but the sound of reeds and ripples for the mokoro (dug out canoe) to push through. With the help of our poler, we moved effortlessly just a couple of inches above the water through the biggest delta in the world; a quiet escape I never wanted to leave.
After a few days of taking in the beauty of Botswana we headed to the crazy, activity-laden country of Zambia and more importantly, Livingstone, where there is an activity to suit any adrenaline-junkie needs that you have. Victoria Falls was an impressive site to witness and, being that it was dry season, meant that Devil’s Pool, a natural infinity pool on the very cusp of Victoria Falls, was open to the public, so I did it! I jumped into the Devil’s Pool over 100m above the bottom of the falls and it was a fantastic feeling…a total rush to know that you were just feet from going over the edge with thundering water surrounding you. To calm myself down, I also did a microlight flight over the Falls the next day to get a different, calmer, perspective of one of the 7 Wonders of the World and it didn’t disappoint. Gorge after gorge of millions of gallons of water all fighting to channel its way through with huge waterfalls adding to it with rainbows skimming the spray that the falls were creating – a true beauty to behold.
Needing to calm down after all the excitement, Malawi was the perfect place to spend some much-needed time by the beach to soak up everything…including the lake which takes up a 1/3 of the country and has a current and waves just like a sea. The village communities are large here and whilst they struggle on basic needs such as medicine and schooling, they more than make up for it in their willingness to better themselves in order to help each other; a truly wonderful thing to witness.
Tanzania, however, was by far my favourite country, not just because of the variety of landscape, animals and people it offered, but because it had everything you could wish to see within its borders. From the moment we crossed the border from the arid landscape of Malawi we drove through rich, luscious vegetation. There were thick banana plantations lining the road, terraces filled with cassava plants and tea plant fields for as far as the eye could see. The island of Zanzibar was a gem in its own right, with a mixture of history and nature, from the authentically rich Stone Town to the luxurious turquoise beaches of the North; a destination for every kind of traveller. Back on the mainland, we headed to the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater; neither of which disappointed because I could finally say that I had seen The Big Five. I had spent my entire trip waiting to spot the most elusive animal: the leopard. On the penultimate day, not only did we see one in the tree, but it ended up climbing down the tree and walking between our trucks, as did the adult male lion with his full mane the next day in the Ngorongoro Crater; incredible!
Sadly, I didn’t get to see much of Kenya. Not only did they have flooding where we were, but because our Government had upped their security warning about certain districts of the country, it meant that our guide warned us about not leaving the suburb that we were in. So we spent those days inside a shopping mall… not very African, but the fact that I didn’t get to see any of the real country only makes me want to go back and experience it properly!
You can find more pictures of Africa on Been to Africa’s Flickr.