Southern African Odyssey

 

Our Southern African adventure took us to five countries: South Africa, Zambia, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe.  I am not sure what I expected from our visit, but it definitely was not what we realized.  For one thing, I was most impressed by the people with whom I came to have any interactions …. be it service people or casual connections.  The genuine warmth of the people who were generally glad to have you visit their country was most sincere and gratifying. They smiled, they shook your hand and would ask “Where are you from?”

Beyond that, Southern Africa is an interesting array of contrasts.  Black vs white people, the very poor and the quite well to do, the natural beauty of the countryside vs the modern cities with high tech features.  There is a great divide between the black and white and that is economic .... the black people have an unemployment rate of 90% in Zimbabwe, for example; somewhat better in other countries, but still quite excessive. 

The poor live in shanty towns .... buildings that can barely stand up on their own, while the wealthier have very nice lifestyles with excellent amenities.  Education among the poor - we visited a school for boys and girls and they danced for us and told what they wanted to be when they grow up .... but that is actually where dreams go to die …it is not going to happen.

We visited Soweto, where the uprising that brought down apartheid in South Africa started and changed that country forever.   It is there where you see shanty towns all over the area.

We went to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe were we stayed in an old hotel .... very charming, right at the falls.  As we ate outside, baboons and warthogs played easily all about us .... even stole food off my plate.  The falls were quite remarkable.   While in Zimbabwe we walked across the bridge over the Zambezi River to cross into Zambia to see the falls from that side.

While in Zimbabwe we went on an animal safari in the Victoria Falls Private Game Reserve as well as into Botswana for an animal safari in Chobe National Park .   Excellent, intimate interactions with animals in both parks.

From there we headed to Namibia to climb the sand dunes for which Sossusvlei Park is quite well known.  Climbing the dunes was extremely hard and the wind was tough as the blowing sand cut right through us. 

On the shores of the Atlantic Ocean we went to Swakopmund, Namibia .... a resort town with a beautiful hotel and thousands of flamingos in the bay.  We also took a magnificent boat ride in Walvis Bay where we interacted with seals, pelicans and other birds.

Then we headed to Cape Town in South Africa to see the wine producing region, explore the city and to go to Robben Island where we toured the prison where Nelson Mandela was held captive for many years during apartheid.  Cape Town is a beautiful city with great weather and so much to do.  We took the funicular to the top of Table Mountain for views of the city below.

We said goodbye to most of our group as our time in Cape Town came to an end .... the main segment of our tour was over.   Six of us continued to Thornybush Waterside Lodge, a private game reserve near Kruger National Park. 

For the next four days we rose very early in the morning, at 5:00am, to get in our safari vehicle .... it was freezing cold and dark out - we had hot water bottles for added warmth - and for the next three hours we bobbed along the trails looking for animals.   As daylight approached, some warmth came, as did the animals.  Later we would have breakfast and rest until about 3:00 pm when we started our safari drive once again looking for animals as the cool evenings came with the darkness.   We returned to the lodge about 7:30 pm for dinner and an early bed time to repeat our schedule each day.

When the day finally came to leave, we had a long drive out of the game reserve, a flight to Johannesburg, and then two long flights home.  We thought much of our adventure .... reliving each moment.  While it was not a restful journey, it was exciting, it was educational and we were very glad to have been able to be a part of something so special.

 

 

South Africa: Mandela, Soweto and the Robben Island Prison

 

Picture slideshow of our visit

 

 

Zimbabwe: Victoria Falls and the Government School Visit

 

Pictures and videos of our visit

 

 

Zimbabwe: Our Elephant Safari and the Zambezi River Cruise

 

Pictures and videos of our visit

 

 

 Botswana: Chobe National Park

 

Pictures of our visit

 

Videos of our visit

Namibia: Namib Desert

 

 

Pictures and videos of our visit

 

 

Namibia: Swokopmund

 

 

Pictures and videos of our visit

 

South Africa: Cape Town

 

 

Pictures and videos of our visit

 

South Africa: Thornybush Private Game Reserve

 

Pictures of our visit

 

Videos of our visit