We spent 3 weeks exploring Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe along with 10 other intrepid travellers, our guide Thulani and our driver Joe, experiencing the wildlife, culture and scenery only Africa can deliver. From the breathtaking magnitude of Namibia’s dunes and big game interactions to marvelling at the sights and sounds of Victoria Falls.
- Sossusvlei; In the Nama language, ‘sossus’ translates as a dead end or place of no return, while in Afrikaans the word ‘vlei’ refers to a shallow lake or marsh. Together, the name Sossusvlei roughly translates to mean a dead end marsh.‘
- Big Daddy’ attracts thousands of climbers sitting at a height of 325 metres.
- The sand of Sossusvlei is approximately five million years old.
- A variety of different animal species can be found roaming Sossusvlei, including antelopes, ostriches, rodents and birds.
- The sand in the region is given its distinctive red colour from the layer of iron oxide which coats it.
This extremely arid ecoregion comprises shifting sand dunes, gravel plains and rugged mountains. The world's oldest desert, the Namib Desert has existed for at least 55 million years, completely devoid of surface water but bisected by several dry riverbeds. These riverbeds are vegetated and are home to a few ungulates, such as Hartmann’s zebras. The south of the desert is extremely dry and even lacks dry riverbeds; gemsbok is the only large mammal to occur in this harsh environment. Thick fogs are frequent along the coast and are the life-blood of the desert, providing enough moisture for a number of interesting, highly-adapted animal species to survive
- The bay’s Bird Island is an artificial nesting area where resident seabirds such as flamingos and Cape cormorants can be spotted.
- The Swakopmund Museum documents Namibian history.
- The elegant Swakopmund Railway Station, now a hotel, also dates to the colonial era.
- On the seafront, the National Marine Aquarium of Namibia is home to rays and sharks.
- Adventure sports in the vast Namib Desert, bordering Swakopmund, include climbing wind-carved rock formations, sandsurfing and hiking.
ETOSHA IS FAMOUS FOR ITS WILDLIFE
Since Etosha National Park is the gateway to Northern Namibia and Ovamboland, it’s a very popular stop on any Namibian tour. Above all, it is known as Namibia’s foremost wildlife sancuary.
The landscape is unique and varied and subsequently home to a wide variety of animals. For example lion, elephant, leopard, giraffe, cheetah, hyena, springbok, two kinds of zebra, eland and many more species of wildlife are found here.
Etosha means the ”great white area” and refers to the huge salt pan. This is an impressive sight because it’s certainly the biggest salt pan in Africa.
Waterholes are usually a redeeming feature in any major national park and Etosha is no different. They are a great place to silently observe game and see them in their natural environment, away from noisy mechanical beasts that we often view wildlife from. Each waterhole in Etosha is different and animals spotted at each vary from season to season. The main waterholes in Etosha include Okaukuejo, Okondeka, Halali and Goas and Sueda and Salvadora.
Etosha is home to 340 bird species, about a third of which are migratory. The avian residents of the park make up an eclectic mix that ranges from flamingos to the colourful lilac-breasted roller and eagles soaring high above.
The Living Museum of the Mbunza
About 14 kilometres west of the Kavango capital Rundu you can find a place unlike any other: a traditional school for culture and at the same time a communal business for the local people of the Kavango. With this sustainable project they will be able to preserve their traditional culture and to generate an additional income.
As with all Living Museums in Namibia the main focus of the Mbunza Living Museum is to provide visitors to the museum with a detailed and authentic insight into the traditional, pre-colonial culture. The Living Museum, situated at the Samsitu Lake, is a traditional village of the Kavango, who have lived in this area for centuries. The village has been built entirely from natural material and the actors of the Museum carry clothes made from self- tanned, with Mangetti nut oil refined leather.
- The Caprivi Strip played a strategic military importance. 1965-1994 the African National Congress operations against the South African apartheid government. 1970-1979 saw the Rhodesian Bush war and the Angolan Civil War. The Caprivi Strip bared witness to continual military activity and multiple attacks on enemy territory by diverse armed forces using the Strip as an ideal corridor to access other territories.
- The Caprivi Strip also drew attention as Botswana and Namibia had a longstanding dispute over the strip's southern boundary at the International Court of Justice. The centre of the territorial dispute pertained which irrigation channel of the Chobe River was the thalweg, the bona fide boundary.
- In December 1999, the International Court of Justice declared that the main channel, and therefore the international boundary, set to the north of the island, hence making the island part of Botswana.
Bwabwata is a recently established park merging the former Caprivi Game Park and Mahango Game Reserve. The park preserves an area that has suffered heavy poaching. Wildlife numbers are recovering but a visit here is more about escaping the well-trodden tourist trail. Mahango Game Reserve has a floodplain attracting large numbers of elephants and provides access to northern Botswana. The few tourist facilities tend to be located around the park’s boundary.
- Each year the Okavango River discharges approximately 11 cubic kilometres (1.1 × 10¹³ litres) of water into the Okavango Delta. Most of this water is lost to transpiration by plants (60%) and by evaporation (36%) with only 2% percolating into the aquifer system with the remainder finally flowing into Lake Ngami.
- The Okavango Delta is affected by seasonal flooding with flood water from Angola reaching the Delta between March and June, peaking in July. This peak coincides with Botswana’s dry season resulting in great migrations of plains game from the dry hinterland.
- Generally flat, with a height variation of less than two meters across its area, dry land in the Okavango Delta is predominantly comprised of numerous small islands, formed when vegetation takes root on termite mounds, however larger islands exist with Chief’s Island, the largest, having been formed on a tectonic fault line.
- The 1000th site to be inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2014, the Okavango Delta is an important wildlife area protected by both the Moremi Game Reserve, on its eastern edge, and the numerous wildlife concessions within Ngamiland.
Flight over the Okavango Delta
Mokoro Boat Station
- A mokoro is a type of canoe commonly used in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. It is propelled through the shallow waters of the delta by standing in the stern and pushing with a pole, in the same manner as punting.
- Mekoro canoes are traditionally made by digging out the trunk of a large straight tree, such as an ebony tree or Kigelia tree. Modern mekoro, however, are increasingly made of fibre-glass, one of the advantages of which is the preservation of more of the large endangered trees.
- The boats are very vulnerable to attack by hippopotamus, which can overturn them with ease.
Moremi Game Reserve
- Moremi Game Reserve rests on the eastern side of the Okavango Delta and was named after Chief Moremi of the Batswana tribe.
- The Moremi Game Reserve covers much of the eastern side of the Okavango Delta and combines permanent water with drier areas, which create some startling and unexpected contrasts.
- The Reserve covers 5,000 square kilometres (1,900 sq mi) in extent, it is a surprisingly diverse Reserve, combining mopane woodland and acacia forests, floodplains and lagoons.
- Only about 30% of the Reserve is mainland, with the bulk being within the Okavango Delta itself.
- Moremi is the home to nearly 500 species of bird (from water birds to forest dwellers), and a vast array of other species of wildlife, including buffalo, giraffe, lion, leopard, cheetah, hyaena, jackal, impala, and red lechwe and African Wild dog.
Chobe National Park
Famed for its massive elephant populations, big herds of buffalo (matched only by some large lion prides) and incredible birdlife, Chobe National Park always leaves an everlasting memory.
The original inhabitants of Chobe were the Bushmen, followed by the – impressively named – Hambukushu, Bayei and Basubiya. In the 1850s, locals saw explorer David Livingstone passing through the area on his way to the Victoria Falls (a little over an hour away from Chobe National Park), and some big-game hunters seeking trophies and ivory. Luckily, for all the flora and fauna of this unique land, the area was first protected as a game reserve in 1961 and proclaimed as national park in 1968.
Chobe is also a great birding destination – more than 450 species have been recorded.
Hwange National Park
Hwange National Park is in west Zimbabwe. Its grasslands and mopane woods are home to large elephant herds, lions and African wild dogs. In the northwest, animals gather at Mandavu and Masuma dams, where there are concealed lookouts. In the southeast, waterholes include the Nyamandhlovu Pan, with its elevated viewing platform.
Covering more than 14,600 square kilometers(5,863 square miles) or 1,460,000 hectares it has more animals and a greater variety of species (107) than any other park in the country, and more than 400 species of birds.
The Victoria Falls have been billed as the Greatest Falling Curtain of Water on this Planet, making it one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
- The Victoria Falls is considered to be the largest waterfall in the world.
- They are not the widest waterfall or the highest waterfall but with all dimensions taken into account, including almost the largest flow rate, they are considered to be the biggest curtain of falling water in the world.
- The Victoria Falls are 1700m wide and are made up of five different “falls”. Four of these are in Zimbabwe and one is in Zambia. They are known as The Devil’s Cataract, Main Falls, Rainbow Falls and Horseshoe Falls in Zimbabwe and the Eastern Cataract in Zambia.
Flight over the falls and the Zambezi River
It is the mighty Zambezi River which flows over the Victoria Falls. The Zambezi River is over 1650 miles long and is Africa's fourth largest river (after the Nile, Zaire and Niger respectively) and is the only one that flows east into the Indian Ocean.
Height, width, volume... Victoria Falls is approximately 1700m wide, and varies in height from 80-108 meters. It’s one and a half times wider than Niagara Falls and is twice the height making it the biggest curtain of water in the world.
Victoria Falls Hotel
If it is Colonial grandeur you are looking for Victoria Falls Hotel is the perfect place. On arrival at the Victoria Falls Hotel you are greeted by the friendly staff. As you enter the building your senses are splashed with grand splendour as rich teak furnishings and century old picture frames take you back in time to the early 19th Century. The Hotel is steeped in history as it was originally built in 1904 as accommodation for the workers building the Victoria Falls Bridge. The bridge was built as part of Cecil John Rhodes’ dreams of a railway line stretching from Cape to Cairo. Rhodes was insistent that the bridge should be built in a place that the spray from the Victoria Falls would fall on the passing trains.
A 1952 14a Class Locomotive 512 heads up the Club car, Dining car and Observation car, which have been beautifully restored by Rohan Vos of Rovos Rail. Well-trained staff, dressed in crisp white colonial attire, synonymous with the steam train era are ever attentive to passengers. The cuisine, provided by the 5-star Victoria Falls Hotel, is superb.
We caught the dinner train at the Victoria Falls Hotel and took it to the bridge over the Zambezi River and then a short distance into Zambia.
Loco 512 is a 14a Class built in 1952 by Beyer Peacock in England and was in service from 24th November 1952 to 1994.
Victoria Falls Steam Train Club Car
Carriage No. 14661. This carriage houses the small lounge and bar, as well as the kitchen. This carriage can be used as a pre-dinner drinks venue for about 10 guests.
Victoria Falls Steam Train Dining Car
Carriage No. 197. This carriage is the sister to famous Wembley Dining Car. The carriage was built in 1923. This carriage still has the original fans and the 7×4 and 8×2 table configuration.
Victoria Falls Steam Train Observation Car
Carriage No. 225. This carriage sits at the back of the train and houses a bar and veranda viewing deck.
Town of Victoria Falls
The town of Victoria Falls originally became established as a trading post called Old Drift on the Zambian side of the river where they used to cross the Zambezi it was moved to the current day location of Livingstone in around 1900.
We spent 4 days in Victoria Falls enjoying the many fabulous sites. We stayed in two different but beautiful luxury hotels as part of our extended stay. Very relaxing after our 4000 KM trek across the African Continent.