Paul and Diem’s African Safari – Part 2

Paul and Diem’s African Safari – Part 2

After our great first week, we were excited for the next portion of our safari. This second week would include more wildlife parks and sanctuaries where we would hopefully see Africa’s Big 5 (lion, elephant, water buffalo, leopard, rhino). Sadly we lost some good travel buddies from the first week but we picked up a few good ones as well. In a group of 21, there are bound to be cliques. During this week, the cliques solidified, making for some interesting interactions. During the process of putting this post together, I went through the pictures for this week and it really brought back a lot of memories. I also realized how many pictures of animals we took, some good, some bad. Some pictures I couldn’t even tell if there was an animal in the frame. All in all, it was another amazing week in the heat and it felt more like what I thought being in Africa would be.

Diem and the Himba locals

Day 9– Outjo. We had breakfast at Spitzkoppe and left around 6:30 AM. Spitzkoppe was the only campsite during our safari that did not have running water so we were happy to move on. After breakfast, we stopped by a Himba tribe and gave them the groceries and school supplies we bought for them. The local tour guide told us that the semi-nomadic Himba tribe are extremely susceptible to Western influence and have lost a large portion of their land to farmers, engineers, miners and many were displaced during the wars that raged between Namibia and Angola. The tour guide also told us that this particular Himba tribe is basically a “buffer zone”, or an “educational tribe” where tourists who would like to get a better understanding of the way of the Himba, their lifestyle and their traditions, can do so without interfering with those still living in their natural environment. The experience was a little strange because it felt a little like a zoo where we were observing the tribe but not really interacting with them and just taking pictures of the kids, the people, and the huts. After the guide took us around the tribe, we hung out with the kids and villagers for about an hour and then walked back to the truck because it was getting really hot.

Back on the truck, we drove to our campsite in Outjo and hung out at the pool to use their Wi-Fi. It’s been so nice to have campsites with a pool so we can cool down after a hot day and relax. After, we got ready for dinner and then back to the bar.  I thought it was going to be a low-key night because we were going into Etosha National Park the next day but we met some hunter tour guides and anti-poachers that had different plans.  They started us off by inviting everyone up at the bar to try some snuff off their freaky looking German machine. If you’ve never tried snuff, basically snuff is a smokeless tobacco made from ground or pulverized tobacco leaves. It is inhaled or "snuffed" into the nasal cavity. This machine better knocks up the snuff into your nose. We really didn’t want to do it but peer pressure is a mother. We were the only ones who hadn’t done it so we eventually caved. After every one did it, the guys bought us shots of Jaeger. Eventually, we joined their table to play their dice game and drink some more. We were getting up early so I went to bed around 11:30 PM but Diem didn’t want to leave the party. She stayed out drinking with some fellow tour members until 1 AM. I’m getting too old …

Animals around Etosha

Day 10 – Etosha. We left for Etosha at 6:30 AM. It was a little rough for Diem and the late night crew but everyone made it on the bus. It was an hour to reach the gates of Etosha National Park. When we got in, we did a game drive around park for 4 hours and saw giraffes, springboek, zebras, lions sleeping, jackels, squirrels, cochrans, and lots of birds. After the drive, we then headed to campsite for lunch.  A group of us relaxed around pool and camp. Our tour included an afternoon game drive from 4 PM – 7 PM which I got on but Diem stayed behind to relax.  Earlier, Cosmas told us that it is rare to find rhinos in Etosha and that Chobe is a better place to spot them. We got really lucky though on this afternoon drive. We saw 3 rhinos and one of them was really close. It was extremely hot but totally worth it. We got back, showered up and had dinner. There was an optional night game drive from 8-11 PM but we decided against it.

Day 11– Etosha. Today we had breakfast, packed up, and left at 7 AM. We went for a morning game drive and saw a bunch of the same animals as yesterday, except for the rhinos. We stopped at viewpoint in the middle of nowhere for pictures of the Etosha Pan. After driving through the park for a while, we arrived at our next camp at 1 PM for lunch and relax at camp ground pool. In the afternoon, some people went for a 4:30 PM game drive with the truck. Instead, we bought beers at the campsite store and chilled the rest of the afternoon until dinner. We wanted an easy night for a change so we went to bed after dinner.

More animals from Etosha. The far left is a jaguar that was moving a bit fast to get a good picture. Far right: Love is in the air

Day 12 – Windhoek. We ate breakfast and drove to Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. We stopped for lunch along the way and got into Windhoek late. Tonight was exciting for us because we actually were staying in a hotel and had a group dinner at an African restaurant. Dinner was pretty fun and we got back and drank in the bar with our fellow safari goers. Diem convinced one of them to buy an entire bottle of whiskey (sorry Monica!) which turned out to be brandy and we took shots until late. Even with a nice bed, we didn’t get a good night’s sleep because the AC in our room wasn’t working.

San tribe evening dance. This kid has moves!

Day 13 – Windhoek to Ghanzi. This morning, we had a nice breakfast buffet at the hotel. We also had to say goodbye to six fellow campers, one of them was part of our close group. We picked up 3 new Brazilians who were late and that apparently knew the Brazilian couple on the tour that we didn’t like. It was not a good trade of campers for us. We arrived at a campsite that was adjacent to the San people tribe. In the evening, the San performed a couple of dances to provide an insight into their culture of song, dance, and story-telling. Three men performed the dances while the women clapped and sang. There was a really cute kid that was doing the dances as well on the side. The tribe danced for about an hour and after the dance, we just went to bed.

Double fisting Christmas Eve

Day 14 – Ghanzi > Gate to Okavango Delta. In the morning, we tried to sleep in since some people were going on a morning walk and we weren't leaving the camp until after 8 AM. However, people were pretty noisy getting out of their tents for their walk so we ended up getting up before 6 AM anyways.  We gathered our laundry that we did the night before and packed up. Luckily we did when we did because shortly after, it started to rain.  When the others returned, we had breakfast and then packed up our tents to leave.  We drove towards the Okavango Delta and arrived at our campsite, Swampstop, in the early afternoon with plenty of time to relax at the bar. We setup our tents and hung out at the bar to use the Wi-Fi and have a few Christmas Eve drinks with some of our favorite campers.  We headed back to our campsite for dinner but it started to rain so we quickly finished dinner to head back to the bar.  After a few more drinks, we headed back to bed around 10 PM, when we thought the bar closed.  We later find out that they stopped serving at 11 PM but they didn't really stop the music or close until well after midnight.  Needless to say, a few campers were being very noisy and disruptive so it was tough falling asleep.

Day 15 – Okavango Delta. Christmas Day! Our gift was that today we began our long awaited Okavango Delta excursion.  Since we were staying two days in the Delta, we packed enough clothes for our stay in my suitcase and left the rest of our luggage on the truck. We packed up our tents and were driven about 40 km to the pickup point that looked like just a rest stop on the side of the road. We waited around for about 30 minutes before we were picked up by a large open air 4x4 truck.  They took us about 12 km through very rough narrow roads with lots of overhanging branches to dodge.  It was a fun ride nonetheless.  We arrived at the campsite and the staff gave us a brief orientation of the day's itinerary.  The campsite had huge pre-made tents so it was nice that we didn't have to setup our own tents for a change.  We put our luggage in our tents and then headed to the bar/kitchen area to hang out.  We ended up talking for hours with some fellow campers all the way until lunch time.  For lunch, they served us mac and cheese and salad.  After lunch we didn't have anything on the itinerary until a sunset cruise.  Diem and I went back to our tents to take a nap and shower up.

Sunset on the delta

Around 4:30 PM, we went for our sunset cruise on the delta.  It was a nice viewing boat and we went at a very leisurely pace.  It was a hot day so the breeze as we cruised along the delta was welcoming.  We spotted some hippos in the distance within the first few minutes.  Then we caught a glimpse of some crocs and lots of birds including eagles and cranes. The captain took us to a nice spot to watch the sunset. The sunset view over the delta was extraordinary. We saw beautiful colors above the green foreground of the delta. We spend around 3 hours cruising and then made it back just in time for dinner.  The staff really outdid themselves for our Christmas dinner.  We had roasted turkey, duck, sliced ham, mashed potatoes, rice, gravy, and vegetables.  They also nicely decorated the tables and everyone received a cute little popper with a gift inside.  They even gave us some champagne for a Christmas toast.  We had a great time but were pretty tired after dinner so we went to bed after.

Diem taking our guide for a ride

Day 16 – Okavango Delta. The next day, we went on our 1 hour morning cruise to the island in the delta where we got on a mokoro canoe and had a personal poler to row it for us.  We cruised for about an hour through the narrow channels of the delta to another island in the delta.  We docked and then went for our guided bush walk through the island.  We didn't get to see any animals but it was a very informative walk.  The guide led us back to where we docked after about an hour walking.  We stopped there for lunch prepacked by the campsite of sandwiches and apple.  We spent about an hour for lunch and after lunch the guide invited us to try rowing the mokoro canoes.  Diem was brave enough to try poling and she did a great job. The guide sat in the canoe while she did it so that he could save her if she fell in the water. I took pictures and video from the shore and thankfully she did fine and made it back to shore dry. After lunch we got back in our mokoros and headed back to the where the speedboat was docked. We took the speedboat back through the delta to our campsite.  We arrived back at camp in the late afternoon and did not have anything else on the itinerary for the rest of the afternoon until dinner.  There wasn't any Wi-Fi in the camp so we decided to hangout near the kitchen.  Diem taught the others some card games and we ended up playing the whole afternoon drinking Savanna ciders.  We only intended to play for a little bit but were having so much fun and got some of the quieter camper to join in on the fun. Dinner tonight was beef stew, rice, and vegetables. It was delicious, as usual, and after dinner we went to bed.

Day 17– Okavango Delta > Caprivi Region. After breakfast, we got back on the 4x4 truck and back to the pickup point to wait for our Nomad truck to pick us up. Today, we had a long drive ahead of us to Chobe National Park and another border crossing.  The shortest distance to Chobe is back through the Namibia border through the Caprivi strip so we had to deal with a couple of check points. The border crossings in Namibia and Botswana can be pretty eventful. Typically, you have to wait about 45 minutes in each to cross. In Botswana, they had us take our shoes out of our luggage and dab them on a muddy disgusting towel before letting us cross. It didn’t make much sense to us but the guide told us to just do whatever they ask so we could move along. Later he told us that sometimes tourists give the border crossing agents trouble and the agents detain the tourists and make them give them bribes or put them in jail for a while. After we made it safely through, we drove mainly through national parks so we still saw some animals and even elephants on our way there.  We couldn't really stop to enjoy them but it was nice to see them as we drove.  We got to the first campsite but the area was flooded so we had to go to plan B.  The guides had to talk to the front office and we drove an extra 20 miles to get to our backup camp. We setup camp, showered, and went to the bar for Wi-Fi before dinner.  For dinner, we had a braai grill and then went back to the bar for a few beers and more Wi-Fi.  We went to bed shortly after because it was supposed to rain throughout the night.

Day 18 – Caprivi Region > Chobe. Throughout the night, we woke up to a heavy downpour, thunder, along with other various noises.  In the morning, we woke up to more rain and some areas of the camp were flooded.  We quickly ran our stuff to the truck and then packed up our wet and muddy tent.  It was quite an experience.  Needless to say a lot of campers were very unhappy.  We quickly had breakfast on the truck and were told to wait in the camp reception area until the truck could be moved out of the campsite.  The truck made it out of the campsite so they told us to meet it at the gate.  We walked in the rain towards the gate and waited.  However, the truck didn't make it down the path to the gate because it was stuck in the mud. The guides had to call a tractor to tow us so we made our way back to reception to wait.  Some of the campers misunderstood instructions and didn't have their breakfast in the truck so the guides had to setup breakfast again for them.  Diem, some campers, and I were annoyed with their attitude toward the guides so we took shots of whiskey to ease our nerves. We finally got the truck out of the gate so we were able to get on and the tow truck followed us all the way to the main road to make sure we don't get stuck again.

One of the many hippos in Chobe, so big up close

We were really late and we were supposed to spend the day in Chobe to go on a cruise and 4x4 tour but it was becoming clear that we wouldn’t have time for both today. Along the way, some other campers wanted to skip Chobe and going straight to Victoria Falls.  As we crossed the border of Namibia and back to Botswana, that idea was quickly squashed that idea because the itinerary cannot be changed unless all the campers agree. One thing was for sure, all the campers did NOT agree. Besides, Chobe has been the most anticipated stop of this tour for me.  I've heard so many good things about the national park and all the animals that we would get to see up close.  We were supposed to get to Chobe by lunch time for our game drive but we didn't make it.  We arrived at our camp around 2:45 PM made a super quick sandwich lunch, and then ran for our sunset cruise at 3 PM.  It was a very leisurely cruise and had beautiful views. We got to see so many hippos on the riverbank. We got really up close to some as well as some crocs, buffalos, antelope, rhinos, and even elephants in the distance.  The sunset was gorgeous on the Chobe delta.  Everyone was in a lot better mood after all the great sights. After our cruise, we headed back to our camp for dinner.  After dinner, we shower up and head to the bar for Wi-Fi and drinks.  We only intended to stay for a few drinks but Diem ended up staying until past midnight with some other campers while I went to bed early.  Diem and her crew were noisy and drunk on their way back to the tents so that was a nice wake up call.

This second week was chock full of nature and activities. We had a lot of long drives which was an ordeal for some of the campers but we all got through it and had some amazing experiences with the animals. We were actually lucky that we only got one night of heavy rain while we were in our tents. For the rest of our safari we wouldn’t have to set up tents again but that doesn’t mean we were done camping.

See the full gallery of our second week here: African Safari – Part 2.

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Paul is a lawyer taking a mid-career break focused on capturing all his adventures during his yearlong honeymoon around the world.

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