Uploaded the better pictures from Africa to imgur, if you're interested, difficult as it was to cut down several hundred elephant pictures to a representative handful.
- Swakopmund and Surroundings
Odd little town; still firmly German in character and language. Streets and buildings named after Bismark or Kaiser Wilhelm are side-to-side with those named after modern African leaders. Quaint central German architecture will sit on one side of a road, while on the other, desert sands stretch out to the horizon. The nearby town of Walvis Bay is similar, if slightly larger and with British influences taking the place of the German, and with a harbor full of seals, dolphins and pelicans.
The desert and mountains are spectacular; in some places very reminiscent of central Australia. Also home to the welwitschia plant, an unusual species described by Charles Darwin as the 'platypus of plants' due to its unique combination of traits rarely seen together.
- Etosha National Park
Dry, almost a desert in many places, the giant national park is nonetheless filled with animals, and staying here made for some of the most satisfying days of our holiday. We saw giant herds of elephants, zebras, kudu, springbok, impala and wildebeest, alongside jackals, warthogs, ostrich, and rhino. We were even lucky enough to spot a pair of lions at the waterhole, and a leopard one night!
We suspect because of the dry season and the current drought, animals were clustered around the handful of waterholes in greater numbers than usual. Whatever the reason, it was absolutely magical seeing a herd of at least thirty elephants, from elderly animals with worn tusks to tiny babies only a month or two old hiding beneath their mothers.
- Okavango Delta
Another highlight, even in the dry season. Accommodations were wonderful, with elephants and other animals visible from the balcony of our rooms! As water flows south-east from Angola, birds follow, so we saw great flocks of cranes and eagles feasting on the fish of the river, alongside graceful lechwe antelope.
They proved only a sideshow, though, compared to the real stars, the hippos! At least thirty rose from the water as we came around a bend in the river, surfacing, snorting, and submerging again, occasionally stopping to challenge us with a threatening 'yawn'. It is rather intimidating being eyed by several dozen half-submerged hippos, any one of which could easily overturn our boat if they grew aggressive.
- Chobe River and Zambezi River
Sadly, we only had a single night here before crossing the border and reaching Victoria Falls, but it was delightful! Like the Okavango, the Chobe River flows from Angola – where it's known as the Cuando – before flowing south-east through Namibia and Botswana. Much of its length is protected national parks, and the countries that control it have been surprisingly good about managing its water in a sustainable way.
We sailed down part of it at sunset, taking in the view and the diverse wildlife. Hippos, though not as numerious as at Okavango, alongside giraffes, cape buffalo, various antelope, any number of birds, a handful of baboons, and a great many basking crocodiles!
- Victoria Falls (Mosi-oa-Tunya)
Our final stop saw us cross the border into Zimbabwe, and the great falls more than lived up to their reputation! They were almost full when we visited, so mist and spray blocked much of our view, but really, that just added to the sense of size and power. We got drenched – a welcome relief after the arid stretches of Namibia and Botswana.
Like everywhere else we visited in Africa, the Falls had their fair share of wildlife. Baboons crossed our path at the Falls themselves, while near our hotel, we were treated to the sight of whole families of vervet monkeys and banded mongoose. Finally, on the hotel lawn itself, we ran into a small group of warthogs, who seem to have found a niche as lawnmowers.
All in all, an excellent holiday, and I recommend everywhere we went. If I went again, probably instead of doing the overland tour from the coast, I'd fly direct to Windhoek and then travel direct to Etosha and stay there for a few days, then return, fly over to Maun and from there go to the Okavango Delta and spend as much time there as I could afford. Both were the absolute highlights of the trip, and I heartily recommend them to anyone looking to visit southern Africa.
If you do want the full overland experience, though, we booked with Nomad travel, and they provided an excellent service. Accommodation and meals were much higher quality than I expected, and while the pace was hectic, I never felt like we were being rushed from one attraction to another – the driver was always willing to stop and give us as much time as we wanted if we spotted something interesting.