After booking my Swakopmund to Victoria Falls trip, Ash (my better half) and I found ourselves with a date for our pre-departure meeting and a list of things to pack for our very first overland trip in Africa.
Even though I’d been told by a dozen people to pack lightly, I still managed to pack far too much stuff – my enormous backpack weighing in at 19.7kg – my hand luggage 7kg. In retrospect – the electric pump and the blow up matrass were a bad idea.
Before I knew it, our Swakopmund to Victoria Falls adventure had begun…
Day 1 Swakopmund
Today we were free to do our own thing. Mmm what to do when in a small town surrounded by the slopes of the Namib Desert… Quad biking!
Day 2 Spitzkoppe
Today’s path took us to Spitzkoppe - a beautiful mountain of granite that is over 700 million years old. Our campsite was shower-less and our toilet, a long-drop. Anything more would’ve been a sin. Being in such a naturally beautiful and undisturbed place it was refreshing to enjoy just as it was.
Day 3 Cheetah Park
Today we headed off to visit Namibia’s cheetahs in Otjitontongwe where we had the opportunity to stroke ‘tame’ cheetahs and watch wild ones leap for food at feeding time.
What a beautiful introduction to Africa’s resume of wildlife on our Swakopmund to Victoria Falls safari.
Day 4 Etosha National Park
Today was the day I got a true taste of Africa. Heading to Etosha National Park the path was filled with wildlife surprises. Warthogs, donkeys, wildebeest and giraffes were either in the middle of the tarred road or mere metres from the road’s edge.
Excitement filled the truck as we entered Etosha. Everyone who owned a fancy lens had it screwed on, ready for action. On our way to a popular watering hole we spotted almost every kind of buck – springbok, steenbok, impala and sable. We spotted wildebeest, eland, oryx, zebra and giraffe. Shutters went crazy. We were on our first proper game drive!
Day 5 Etosha Pan
Today we were let loose at the Etosha Pan in the National Park. What an absolutely amazing place. Basically, the pan is an enormous stretch of flat, flat, flat white crusty land that goes on for as far as your eye can see.
Day 6 Divundu
This morning we went on one last, short game drive through Etosha, and that was all we needed to get a completely lucky glimpse of an elusive member of the big five! The leopard.
The rest of the day we spent on the road; our destination: Divundu (just outside of Rundu). It was here that we got our first introduction to water dwelling wildlife; greeted by a hippo wading in the Kavango River just before we turned into our camp for the evening.
Arriving at camp just as the sun was setting, we headed to the wooden common room and viewing deck to watch the sunset. The large open balcony hung right over the Kavango River and before I knew it, my better half had already made friends with the lodge staff and was eagerly baiting a hook with chicken livers they’d given him, in hope of snagging a whopper of a tigerfish.
Day 7 Maun
We spent the better part of today travelling from Divundu to Maun. We woke at a fresh 04:30 and hit the road just after we’d shovelled down breakfast and made our on-the-road packed lunches.
After a long day on the road, we approached a spot near Maun that was to be our camping stop for the evening. As we drove in, we were introduced to the area with a story about how a good few months ago the nearby river flooded the camp, seeing both crocodile and campers occupying the same space. Welcome to Situnga Camp!
Day 8 to 10 Okavango Delta
Our two-night optional excursion into the Okavango Delta was a unanimous highlight for everyone on the Swakopmund to Victoria Falls trip.
Boarding a wooden (and then fibre glassed) makoro, we placed our daypacks and bedding around us in the narrow dugout canoe. Our local hopped on the back of our makoro and confidently navigated us through reeds, fields of lily pads, past elephants grazing on the banks of the Delta, and along the outskirts of an 11-strong hippo pool.
For the next two days we took nothing but photos… and a few pots of Okavango Delta water to boil for our coffee. Exploring, we fished, we swam, we made friends with the locals. We went on scenic walks in the mornings, and in the afternoons, when we weren’t off learning how to pole a makoro ourselves, or having a lily chain made for us by the locals, we were helping prepare lunch or dinner in true overland trip style.
Day 11 Kasane – Sunset Boat Cruise
After spending the better part of the day travelling to Kasane, we arrived at about 2pm giving us enough time to stock up on snacks and water before hopping on a Chobe River sunset cruise.
Within minutes we were spotting curious creatures. Our first find was a large water monitor lazing in the sun, perched on a tree branch protruding from the river. If it weren’t for some super sharp eyes, we would’ve missed him.
The cruise led us to experience a full-on water based game viewing safari. We saw hordes of birds including, the Lilac Breasted Roller, stalks and spotted eagles. We saw buffalo grazing. Hippos feeding. Crocodiles baking. Waterbuck swimming and impala bolting.
Day 12 Kasane – Chobe National Park Sleep Out
Our Chobe National Park sleep-out was really something! It started with an afternoon game drive to our bush camp. The path was definitely one for a 4×4, riding on rough dirt roads that looked fresh and were metres away from the Chobe River. It was on this game drive that I saw the highest density of wildlife in one place on the whole trip.
Day 13 Victoria Falls
On our early morning game drive out of Chobe National Park, we spotted lions! Scratch that… we watched lions! Our brilliant game drive ranger tracked those bad boys by looking out for fresh paw prints in the sand and by smelling the scent in the air. Now that’s pro!
As we approached the area where the lions were, a pungent smell hit me like a brick to the face. Dead animal. Dead elephant. Oh my goodness it stank. Three lionesses were gathered around the carcass, lying on it, ready for a snooze after what looked like an epic feast. Elated after our lion spot we returned to our camp in Kasane.
Day 14 Victoria Falls – White Water Rafting
Getting yet another early start, it seems that it’s never too early to be pumped full of adrenaline when in Africa. This morning’s agenda? Tackle the mighty Zambezi River in a rubber raft. Yes sir! White water rafting was on the cards.
The adventure included a hike along rocky banks, ruthlessly vicious whirlpools and rapids. It was the hard paddling through the rapids that ranged from grade 1 to grade 5 that ensured we didn’t capsize on our run.
Returning back to camp we realised that half the day had already whizzed by, so we hopped, skipped and hired ourselves a boat and skipper so that we could spent the afternoon dropping a line in the Zambezi River on a fishing charter.
Day 15 Victoria Falls – Elephant Back Safari – Vic Falls – Sunset Cruise
We spent our last full-day in Victoria Falls doing and seeing as much as possible. We got a dose of the Victoria Falls National Park on an elephant back safari, we visited the Victoria Falls and we spent the late afternoon drinking in the Zimbabwean sunset on a late afternoon boat cruise.
Day 16 Victoria Falls – Home
While packing our bags we sorted through all the things we were happy to part with. Ash and I gathered warm pants, t-shirts, shoes and pillows and headed out to barter with the locals. We returned with a few precious, carved curious they were more than happy to trade in return for our offerings.
We dragged our feet back to camp and caught our transfer to the airport. Our Swakopmund to Victoria Falls adventure was over. Home time.