Encouraged by several people I have been talking to recently, here is finally my long awaited blog about my trip to Africa. More specifically: South Africa and Namibia. These two countries are a perfect combination, really complete each other. Namibia stole my heart with its beautiful, authentic nature, and sipping wine in Stellenbosch (South Africa, near Cape Town) was one of the most beautiful days of my life. Yes, seriously.
The Africa experience
After hearing several fascinating stories from friends and colleagues, and seeing numerous breathtaking nature documentaries, we knew for sure: we need to go to Africa! When planning this trip, me and my friend Anja searched and discussed what we wanted. We also looked into Botswana, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Victoria Falls, but decided to keep those for the future. We wanted a trip that was affordable, adventurous yet safe, easy to drive around, not too touristic or ‘standard’, and would show us the best of Africa: wild animals, savanna, desert, wine, interesting sights, some cool activities, culture, good accommodation… In total we had only about 2 weeks so I started puzzling. Choices, all those difficult choices…!
People, I can tell you: once you have been to Africa, you want to come back! The smell, the atmosphere, the nature, the people. It is so beautiful, so pure, so breathtaking, so unique… I can absolutely recommend to everybody to go and experience that African dream holiday for real. Having travelled to over 40 countries by now, I can still say that these two countries are absolutely some of the most spectacular and memorable countries I have seen. And we did it all by ourselves! Two young ladies driving around through the African desert in a VW Polo without 4G or navigation. Better not tell mom and dad we even picked up a hitchhiker one day!
Johannesburg & Soweto
So we started in Johannesburg, the business city of South Africa. Not the safest place to be honest, but in the Melrose Arch area you can walk around without any problems. We stayed at the Protea Fire & Ice, a stunning hotel! Moyo and The Meat Co are two personally recommended restaurants just around the corner of the hotel.
Before my friend Anja arrived I also went on a half-day trip to Soweto, short for South-Western Townships. My personal guide David from Vhupo Tours was a super nice guy who picked me up from my hotel. You can leave your big wallet at the hotel, but I would recommend to bring some change and toys like bubble blowers, pens, crayons, color books or balloons as you will come across things like a small super basic daycare where the kids have barely anything to play with. We also visited the house where Nelson Mandela lived from 1946 to 1962 and the Hector Pieterson museum and memorial. This township is the place is where the Soweto Uprising protests against the Apartheid regime began in 1976. Many of you will remember the iconic, dramatic photo of 13-year-old student Hector Pieterson being carried after he was shot by the police (and declared dead later on).
Waterberg horse-riding safari
We rented a car in Johannesburg and drove app. 2.5 hours in the northeastern direction to Waterberg. Our superior deluxe cottage at Ant’s Hill turned out to be one of the most beautiful places we ever stayed at. An amazing view over the savanna, private pool, outdoor shower, indoor bath, large canopy bed, and to complete all of this: daily horse riding safaris, ahhhh!! Imagine yourself, riding a horse between the giraffes, zebras, rhinos, etc. Dreams do come true!!
A few days later the horse riding safari party was over! Time to leave our superb cottage and drive back to Johannesburg, where we returned our rental car. From Johannesburg we flew to Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. Namibia is located northwest of South Africa, a former German colony. Super safe and one of the most beautiful countries you will ever see! We rented a VW Polo, checked in a pretty basic hotel (Hotel Pension Uland), strolled a bit through downtown and had a wonderful dinner at Joe’s. Cheers!
The next day we drove about 3.5 hours north to Otjiwarongo to visit the Cheetah Conservation Fund. The CCF does fantastic work in her close collaboration with farmers who have cheetahs coming to their land. More than 450 cheetahs are released back into the wild since the start up. Orphaned and injured cheetahs are given a large, safe sanctuary. In addition CCF plays a huge educational role in protecting this beautiful specie. We watched the cheetahs getting fed and drove around the land with a jeep to observe them in their natural habitat. So cool! By visiting you support the wonderful work that this organization does to preserve these beautiful, endangered animals.
We spent the night at Sasa Safari Camp in Outjo, where our host prepared a delicious meal for us on the ‘braai’ (BBQ) while we cooled down and enjoyed the view from the pool. From Outjo you drive in about 1.5 hours to Etosha NP, our next stop.
With 22,000 hectares, Etosha National Park is one of the largest wildlife reserves in Africa. It is located in the northern part of Namibia, about 120km south of the border with Angola. Etosha has tree large camps with waterholes: Okaukeujo, Halali and Namutoni, which all have an airstrip. Other camps are Dolomite and Onkoshi.
We stayed in a charming chalet inside the park, just a few steps away from the big waterhole of Okaukeujo Camp. This means we could spot the wildlife whenever we liked, day and night, any time the various animals come to the waterhole to drink some water. Totally worth it! We felt super lucky when a small group of three elephants came to the waterhole during our first day there. Zebras, rhinos, giraffes, kudus, wildebeests, springboks, impalas, gemsboks, etc. all followed this fascinating scenery right in front of us, like a BBC nature documentary on TV! God!
On our way through the park we spotted many different kinds of wild animals. One night we saw a mother rhino with her baby, plus a group of female lions. We also spotted a super cute Dik-Dik, a unique kind of antelope that lives in and around Etosha NP. Dik-Diks have one partner in their entire life and they stay in one place their whole life. According to an old bushmen story they do that because once they stumbled over a pile of elephant shit, which made them so mad they decided to deficate in one spot forever, so that the elephants would stumble over their pile of shit one day. 😀 Possibly you might find it confusing to learn that the restaurants of the park serve not much more than zebra, kudu and springbok. No pork, chicken, beef or lamb here!
Also worth a visit in Etosha is the Sprokieswoud a.k.a. Moringa Forest, which is full of the interesting so-called ‘sprokiesbomen’ (fairy-tale trees, Moringa Ovalifolia), family of the well-known baobab trees of Madagascar. The San believe that the sprokiesboom trees were thrown from heaven and landed upside down on earth. For good maps of Etosha NP check out this webpage.
The reason why we decided to go to Etosha NP in Namibia and skip the more famous Kruger NP in South Africa instead, was first of all a time based decision, but was also based on stories from friends and family. Most roundtrips through Southern Africa via travel agencies include Kruger NP and the so-called ‘Garden Route’, from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town. We heard too many stories from others about safari jeep traffic jams in Kruger (too busy), and many small touristy villages on the Garden Route full of salesmen and artists who more or less jump on every single new bus or car passing by…
Personally we prefer the ‘off the beaten track’, to see the authentic side of a country. Etosha has fully met our expectations, I would recommend everyone to go once in their lifetime. Who knows we can go to Kruger NP one day as well, to check if those stories are true or not?!
End of part 1
OK guys, this was it for part 1. Didn’t want to make this blog too long…! Hope you enjoyed it. The best is yet to come: the Himba tribe, Damaraland, Namib desert, Stellenbosch, etc. etc. With more landscape photos and lots of culture. Not to miss out on any of these adventures, please subscribe to my Newsletter (below on website), follow me on Instagram and/or Facebook.
Update Oct 2017
My second blog about the Africa Dream Trip is now online! Go check it out!