Anyone visiting Africa might wonder, where do rangers go when they have holidays? Well, Africa is still the perfect place! I decided to become a safari guide after travelling to Africa on overlanding trips and have now made South Africa home. By keeping in contact with friends and family over Facebook I was invited to enter a competition by Overlanding Africa that could lead to winning a trip from Zanzibar to Johannesburg. What do you know, I won! Starting out on the beaches of Zanzibar, I was introduced to my group. We swam with turtles, we drank cocktails in hammocks on the beach, my camera even decided to take a trip without me around a local village before making its way back… luckily unharmed.
Above: Zanzibar Beach
Many days were spent driving through the vast expanses that Africa is known for but this meant that everyone in the truck was forced to interact to keep each other amused – and this is where friendships are made. This is what overlanding is mostly about and why people will always come back to this style of travel. It’s the people - everyone travelling together, initially as strangers and then leaving as friends. You can visit some fantastic places and see wonderful things but you know you’re going to meet some great individuals along the way. Malawi, too, is all about the people and, of course Lake Malawi, or “Ocean Malawi” – so big you can’t see the other side. Being able to meet a witch doctor on these shores was a highlight. Apparently I’ll be married within 3 years with 3 children and a successful career, great stuff! But it was surprising just how moving it was seeing the children around there.
Above: Left - Lake Malawi / Right - Alex Tweedie with a witch doctor
As we walked through little villages the younger children, not old enough to be in school, would yell out “The muzungus* are coming!” as they would crowd around and reach for your hand (or belt loop as I gathered a growing brood of 6 children at one point). On the shores of the lake we collected sunbeams and discovered “Exotic Fanta” during games of “Funny Bunny.” The favouritism of Exotic Fanta was only lost over the border in Zambia when a new drink “Janta” was discovered. It’s often about the little things when you travel, the stories that come out that often only your group will ever understand. Janta came about during a Birthday Cruise on the Zambezi. With drinks aplenty, the sun shining after the first storm of the season and birthday hats and party blowers for everyone we watched as the sun set over elephants crossing the Zambezi. It even overtook the fact that my tent got completely flooded – Janta can cure all of your woes apparently.
Above: Children in Malawi Livingstone
On the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe is the centre for an adrenaline rush related activity you can think of, the most well known of these is the bungee jump over Victoria Falls. As I had done this previously, I didn’t feel the need to go again but went to support the overlanders who were tempted. Even those that came for moral support along with me ended up jumping by the end of our visit! For some it can prove a life changing moment of overcoming fears (or in the case of a friend, realise that your fears are not of heights… rather of bridges). For others it is a pure excitement of living in the moment! I often get told to “bring out the Indiana Jones in yourself” at work, and this is a prime example –WWID, What Would Indy Do? For the quieter types, there are always options available, high tea overlooking Victoria Falls rather than jumping might be more to the liking of some (the scones are worth it I hear!). With the mix of people, you’ll get reviews first hand of places to consider going to on your next visit.
Above: Livingston Waterfront
Seeing the wildlife from the point of view of a guest rather than the ranger is something not to be taken for granted in my line of work and the possibility for wildlife sightings on an overlanding trip is unlimited. Of course you’re at an advantage having someone with knowledge of the environment around you rather than going it alone, and most guides have travelled the routes numerous times and gained an insight into the workings of each location – natural world and otherwise.
Above: Stalls in Victoria Falls
Chobe and Kruger were the stand outs for wildlife on this tour. Botswana’s Chobe National Park provided us with a never-ending supply of elephants, crocodiles, buffalo and hippos on the Sunset Cruise. Red lechwe, water monitors, and amazing birdlife including the rare saddle-billed stork were also located in a photographers dream setting. Taking the land option, Chobe gave us many other animals but the brief sightings of wild dogs and sable made the day for this little ranger. It doesn’t have to be the big things to make it memorable. In Kruger National Park, probably South Africa’s most famous National Park, watching a dragonfly in love with a backpack or reacting to a very cheeky vervet monkey who had a taste for Doritos (inside our vehicle!) were just as fun as seeing the rhinos and elephants not five-minutes from the gate. Buffalo, mating lions a fantastic Giant Eagle Owl spotted by one eagle-eyed guest, were some of the other delights of the day. With the final evening at hand, we said hesitant farewells around the fire and blessed Facebook for an easy method of keeping in contact. Many of the group since being on the tour have already caught up further in their travels again in various places around the world – South Africa, Brazil, Australia to name a few. Although some may have gone straight home, for others, they’re always travelling. But in this sense it makes a tour like this even more memorable – now you have more friends to either live vicariously or to plan your next adventure with!
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Post written by Guest Blogger Alex Tweedie
Alex is an Aussie expat now living in South Africa as a Field Guide (ie. ranger). She has travelled extensively through Southern and Eastern Africa on a number of overlanding trips as well as taking people around the lowveld of South Africa herself. *foreigner or white person