Everyone sees the 'sales pitch' when it comes to Africa. Don't get me wrong - there is value in the glossy marketing brochure pics of Vic Falls and the Serengeti Plains but at a more human level some of the best 'stuff' in Africa drops under the radar.
Here is my Top 10 list of the best 'stuff' in Africa for 2010 (in no particular order). :)
1. Antelope Park, Gweru, Zimbabwe Home of the African Lion Environmental Research Trust and where you can take a Lion cub for a walk! Or swim with Elephants! In my opinion also the best camp in Africa! They have chalets and river tents too for the non-overland types and endless hot water from the trusty donkey boilers out the back.
2. Skydive Swakopmund, Namibia For a chick who is petrified of heights, getting me in a tiny Cessna plane with no seats and no door and sending it to 10,000ft is something of a drama. But ask me to jump out of one (parachute attached of course)? H*ll yes! I could free fall all day, there really is nothing like it. As they say "The best fun you can have with your clothes on!" The bonus is there are few drop zones more stunning than miles of sand dunes on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other.
3. Dawn over Sossusvlei Dunes, Namibia The colour, the quiet..... the 'nothingness'. Awesome! You really just have to experience it yourself.Miles and miles of rolling sand dunes, which look much like caramel ripple ice cream, stretching off into the distance.... You'll certainly feel it after hiking to the top of Dune 45 in soft sand to get the best view for sunrise! But it is so worth it!
4. Meerkats Hard to remember these are wild animals when they are so cute you just want to cuddle them and squeeze them and take them home. In their constant quest to stand on the tallest thing around (so they can see any predators who look hungry) they have no problem using your head if needed... or your camera tripod, truck or tent. Cute yes, but they bite too!
5. Warm Rain in Uganda While the bugs and red mud is not something to write home about, the warm rain in tropical Uganda certainly makes pitching your tent and cooking for 28 passengers a bit more tolerable. On the flip side, with humidity in the 90's in the wet season, never really getting dry isn't always fun either! But look at the bright side - at least you are never really cold!
6. Ma and BJ at Meserani Snake Park, Arusha, Tanzania No overland tour is complete without a trip to the Snake Park if only so you can meet 2 of the most hard case people on this continent. Not to mention to see the huge impact they have made on the local Masai community. Ma is the all-encompassing, strict, and loyal mother figure to all of the overland road crew past and present, and you don't mess with her if you know what is good for you. BJ is the story telling 'real africa' guy to have a whiskey with at the end of the day. Even the bar is famous! If the walls could talk.... Oh, and then there is a few hundred snakes to look at as well.
7. The Africa 'Small 5' You have heard about the Big 5, everywhere, all the time, constantly.... Lion, Elephant, Rhino, Leopard, Buffalo. There is a heck of a lot more in Africa than just the 5 species of animal you see in every book, you know! What about the 'Small 5'? Elephant Shrew: Like a mouse only smaller and cuter. Ant Lion: Like an armoured ant with pincers on the front. Red Billed Buffalo Weaver (bird): Very vocal and build HUGE nests where hundreds all live next to each other. Leopard Tortoise: Growing up to 60cms long and 35kg in weight you will certainly see them coming. Rhino Beetle: A miniature dinosaur with pincers on the front almost as big as the rest of it's body!
8. Campfire Stories and Guitar Sessions Maybe its the Kiwi in me but a good campfire and a good guitar player make for a great night. Or maybe it's a good campfire, a good guitar player and a good singer that does the trick. Either way, just don't ask me to sing...
9. Cocktails at Africa House Hotel, Stone Town, Zanzibar Once owned by the Sultan of Zanzibar before becoming the 'English Club', this little place is a well kept gem full of history. Sit on the deck of the Sunset Bar with locals and tourists alike, enjoy a cocktail and the stunning view over the Indian Ocean.
Just sit back, relax and enjoy the quiet. Awesome!
10. Classic African Road Signs
Got your own list of Top 10? Leave them below! :) HAPPY NEW YEAR!