Week 12: Lower Zambezi.

Week 12: Lower Zambezi.

Franks diary: 

 

It was the last stretch of road and I had to now drive it by myself. Having just dropped off my trusty and favourite travel companion Gesa at the airport, I headed East and left the busy streets of Lusaka behind me. I was headed to the famous Lower Zambezi National Park - a place I've always wanted to visit since first seeing it from afar in the Mana Pools National Park, just opposite on the Zimbabwe side of the Zambezi river. I had heard a lot about this place in my recent time in Zambia, so lets just say expectations were high!

These expectations were however met within the first ten minutes of arriving at my destination, as I was escorted from my vehicle to a boat, and transferred to a lunch in the middle of the mighty Zambezi...

From here I could really appreciate the Zambezi escarpment which is an extension of the East African Rift Valley and one of the reasons for the high biodiversity of the area - and what an amazing biodiversity it was! The area clearly boasts healthy populations of the larger cats:

It also felt like an absolute paradise for general game and birds, of which I managed to identify 118 species in 2 days! But what makes the area so special to everyone is the variety of guided activities that are available. Having the Zambezi river as the Southern boundary allowed me the option of exploring by boat or even canoe! Both of which give you a totally different viewing experience of this promised land.

Victoria Falls

After what felt like a far to short stay in the Lower Zambezi National Park (but oh so worth it!) I was now headed to the place where most classic safaris start or finish: One of the seven wonders of the world. Victoria Falls! I spent a couple of days on the outskirts of the Zambian town, Livingstone, where I once again enjoyed the Zambezi! However, on my final day here, and visit to the falls, I took a slightly different and more adventurous way: I joined up with an amazing rafting company and their guests, who set out on a rafting trip to see the falls from below…

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It was the start of their multiday rafting and camping trip down the Zambezi, where they conquer some world famous rapids! And what an amazing start as they got to explore, and have lunch, from the bottom of this natural wonder.

I left Vic Falls with a bang that day and said goodbye to the eager rafters as they set off down rapid number 1 (the first of many). At which point, having had all my non waterproof camera gear with me, I was grateful I didn’t follow as it was a very wet n wild adventure which I’m sure they won’t ever forget! Adding this one to the bucket list for sure!

I shot through Botswana, heading South and stopping along the way to rest overnight, reminiscing about past adventures and future plans. And now find myself back where my interest and passion for the African bush started: in the Greater Kruger National Park, in South Africa.

I’m now sitting in my old familiar chair, scrolling through the endless pictures and memories of our explorations…. It truly was the trip of a lifetime. 

Week 11: South Luangwa

Week 11: South Luangwa

Traditional Walking Safaris

There is nothing quite like a walking safari in the African wilderness. Nothing quite like getting up with the rising sun, stepping in the footsteps of elephants, feeling the ground beneath your feet. You never know what will happen once you get “out there” but so much is for certain: Anything and everything is possible.

Having recently completed our training as trails guides in South Africa, it is probably needless to say: We both love walking safaris. So South Luangwa was the one place in Zambia we truly couldn’t wait to explore: It is one of the oldest walking safari destinations and home to the most remarkable traditional bush camps. From luxurious to rustic – this National Park caters to every travellers needs – and we were fortunate enough to get a sneak-peak into all of them. 

 Perfect start of the day: A cup of coffee made over last night's coals...

Perfect start of the day: A cup of coffee made over last night's coals...

 Frank looking for birds

Frank looking for birds

 Not an uncommon sight in South Luangwa: Big herds of buffalo

Not an uncommon sight in South Luangwa: Big herds of buffalo

 Traditional walking safari

Traditional walking safari

 "Not much happening today, huh?" ;-) 

"Not much happening today, huh?" ;-) 

Spectacular wildlife sightings

But South Luangwa is not about the accommodation; it is about the incredible wildlife you encounter on either walks or game drives. In the last week we had some of the most spectacular sightings: Several different prides of lions every day; numerous leopard sightings – both in the daylight and after dark; hyenas and giraffes at close range on foot; and herds of elephants as well as rafts of hippos as far as the eye could see!

South Luangwa somehow managed to hold on to this “old Africa feel” we know from old movies without remaining stuck in the past. We were especially impressed by our guides, some of them having worked here for more than twenty years. They seem to take a lot of pride in high guiding standards and the old pass on their knowledge to the young.

 Over 40.000 hippos live in Luangwa

Over 40.000 hippos live in Luangwa

 A pride of lions resting after last night's meal...

A pride of lions resting after last night's meal...

 Good morning!

Good morning!

 Elephants and acacias - can it get any more "Africa"

Elephants and acacias - can it get any more "Africa"

The end of the road... for now. 

 

What a perfect finish it was to our three-months-roadtrip all over Southern Africa! Almost 15.000 kilometres of road travelled; we saw incredible places, met inspirational people and are more in love with this beautiful, wild, strange, exciting continent that is Africa.

As we are writing these lines, we are on our way back to Lusaka, where Gesa has to catch a plane back to Germany… for now. Frank will travel on to discover what the Lower Zambezi area has to offer. 

 Last sundowners for the two of us...

Last sundowners for the two of us...

 Elephant sunsets...

Elephant sunsets...

Week 10: The Zambezi, Liuwa Plains and Kafue Nationalpark

Week 10: The Zambezi, Liuwa Plains and Kafue Nationalpark

"Zambia". The name of the country alone has a ring to it. "Zambia" sounds wild. "Zambia" promises off-the-beaten-track-adventures. "Zambia" is a place not many tourists know of. - We couldn't hardly wait to cross the border from Namibia and explore this promised land!

The Zambezi

From the border post at Katima Mulilo we headed up North along the banks of the mighty Zambezi river. Naturally, we stopped for a chance to catch some Tiger-fish and went out on an early-morning cruise, the water flowing gently down the massive river, almost as smooth as silk. 

Little Vic Falls...

The main attraction that leads people into Zambia are of course the famous "Victoria Falls" near Livingstone. However, if you're trying to get away from the crowds, in the very West of the country lies a very beautiful alternative, hidden in the middle of nowhere: Ngonye Falls. Just after an easy walk from the visitor's centre, we soon heard the water rushing down the falls and enjoyed a chilled morning at the falls. The beauty about this compared to Vic Falls? - There was absolutely nobody else. 

Liuwa Plains

From Ngonye we headed up further North to Liuwa Plains. Situated on the upper Zambezi floodplains of Western Zambia, the plains are home to the second largest wildebeest migration in Africa, as well as to the famous "Lady Liuwa" - the last lioness from the renowned documentary. Isolated by a scourge of illegal trophy hunting that wiped out the rest of her species in the region, Lady Liuwa was the only known resident lion surviving on the plains next to a massive population of hyaenas. Almost ten years after the documentary was filmed, there are now five lions roaming the plains. 

We got to Liuwa during the wrong time of year and were a bit worried at first if we would see anything at all. But it turned out we got very lucky with sightings of wildebeest and Zebra, we also spend a late afternoon at a hyaena den and although they had told us, the lions of Liuwa were very hard to find, totally by chance we bumped into two of Ladys family members as well!

So after spending three days on the plains, we find that Liuwa is worth a visit - no matter the season!

Kafue National Park

We finished off our first week in Zambia with a bang! Kafue National Park is a truly wild place. Massive in size (...you could roughly fit in the whole country of Wales!), Kafue National Park is a stunning place to go out and explore. We spend three nights in the park in different lodges and watched some spectacular sunsets and had some amazing sightings!

Our highlight of Kaufe was certainly one early morning in the far North of the park, at "Busanga Plains": We were planning on accompanying three French photographers who wanted to see what Kafue has to offer from a hot air balloon - our plan was to film them set off. But we didn't get far...

Our camp was separated from the game vehicle by a rather long boardwalk (about 50 meters). As we woke up that morning we had heard the lions roaring close-by, but little did we know that they were walking down just on the very boardwalk we had to take to get to the car! It was a very early morning and the sun hadn't even come up, so approaching the whole pride of Busanga lions was a rather daunting thought. But the French guys had to make it in time for their balloon, so we made a few brave steps towards the lions - only to hear them roaring seconds later... We stopped and watched them in the light of our torches and discovered that the big male and one of the females were in fact mating! What an awesome sight to have and what a way to start our day! Yet, it was too dangerous to approach any further, so we made our retreat and watched them from the far. We found them again later though and spend the whole morning with the pride, stalking some lech-we antelope, playing with each other and contemplating whether or not to get into a fight with a hippo...

We are now in Lusaka, Zambias capital, for a much-needed restock on fuel and food and also, after over 13.000 kilometres on the road, our trusty Hilux needs a bit of a spa-treatment before we hit the road again tomorrow!

Week 9: Etosha & Khaudum

Week 9: Etosha & Khaudum

Iconic Etosha

There are places in Africa that are just as iconic as the flagship species the continent is known for: Just as much as elephants, lions and giraffes the salt pans of Etosha National Park are known throughout the world – and therefore Namibias number one destination for travellers.

In the hustle and bustle of Okaukuejo – the first stop on our journey from the South – we felt a little lost at first: After spending several days in the remoteness of Damaraland, being amongst other human beings almost was too much for us. Almost. Because what Etosha rewarded us with after we booked a campsite and restocked on firewood and meat, was a drive into a landscape we both felt like we know: The waterholes of Etosha actually look like they do on David Attenbourroughs documentaries; the elephants that roam the arid pans are massive and make for great photo oppurtunities because of the white Etosha sand they cover themselves with to cool themselves off! 

 The iconic Etosha elephant

The iconic Etosha elephant

We were lucky enough to witness three cheetah brothers out hunting some springbok in the middle of the day and we both agree that neither of us has ever seen bigger herds of Zebra than we did here! We’re telling you: There were so many zebras marching on to the waterholes that the entire horizon was covered in stripes!

 Two of the three cheetah brothers

Two of the three cheetah brothers

 Zebras for days...

Zebras for days...

 

Khaudum: Paradise for Off-roading!

From Etosha we headed to an area not as well known as Etosha but just as pleasing to the eye and promising in terms of wildlife: The Khaudum concession in the North-East of the country has one of the highest populations of elephants in the whole of Namibia! To be quite frank with you: We didn’t meet too many of them in person. As much luck we had in Etosha, it seemed to have left us a bit in Khaudum. What we did encounter though were a lot of flies. This is how we coped with them in the end:

 We're for wild...

We're for wild...

Nonetheless: What made this bushmenland so fun for us was the drive! Khaudum promises a lot of challenges for 4-Wheel-drivers as the area is covered in deep, deep, deeeeeeeeep sand for the most part. 

But we are glad to report that we didn’t get stuck once! However, this was also the most tiring drive of all so far, so when we finally made it out of the concession and onto the deck of our lodge overlooking the Okavango River, the beer at sunset was the best one we have drunk for a long time. 

... We are now back on the Caprivi strip for two days, preparing the car for the last leg: Zambia is waiting and we are ready to explore the third and last country of this trip!

Week 8: Damaraland & Kaokoland - Remote Rhino Country.

Week 8: Damaraland & Kaokoland - Remote Rhino Country.

Damaraland

It is a rare thing these days, to find yourself in a completely wild and remote place with not a single human soul kilometres from the ground you are standing on. Damaraland is such a place. After Frank spend a week with the "Save the rhino" - crew in South Africa, our Namibia-trip continued further up North to this remote moon-landscape. 

After a night at "Spitzkoppe" - a stunning granite rock formation and a popular must-see on every Namibia-trip - we headed further into No-Mans-Land. Damaraland is a heaven for 4-wheel-driving and we really put our tyres to the test here!

 Gesa in front of "Spitzkoppe"

Gesa in front of "Spitzkoppe"

 Sunset over "Spitzkoppe"

Sunset over "Spitzkoppe"

The road less travelled... 

The Ugab River is one of the strongholds of the desert elephants that roam in the Namib desert - and it is one of the most fun drives one can do with a 4-wheel-drive! Frank steered our trusty Hilux through the dry riverbed and had some advanced manoeuvring to do - clearly, not a lot of people take this road less travelled... 

 Frank has officially landed on the moon...

Frank has officially landed on the moon...

But no matter how rocky and challenging the terrain - it rewarded us with some spectacular views and a remoteness and wilderness that can hardly be found anywhere else in the world. A whole day went past without us seeing any other cars! 

 Gesa on top of the world...

Gesa on top of the world...

Kaokoland - home of the Black Rhino

From Damarland we traveled further North through the Kaokoland and the Palmwag concession - and here we had a mission: As trained Nature Guides, both of us were dying to see one of the last free-roaming black rhinos in the world - and this was the place to find them! We started our day early and made our way into the Palmwag concession, spend the morning with desert giraffes and elephants - which was a special sighting in itself, but not quite what we came here for. Finding the elusive black rhino in this remote landscape can feel like chasing a ghost at times and it took us till the late afternoon until we finally found it: A lonesome black rhino bull busy feeding on Damara Euphorbia and marking his territory as he strolled into the sunset. 

We had him all to ourselves for a very long time and both felt like this was a very special animal encounter to have - for all the wrong, sad reasons, as these incredible animals face distinction due to poaching. We hope you will get the chance to see these strange, yet amazing creatures in reality one day and encourage you to share our love for Rhinos by following RHINO LOVE on Instagram: @rhino_love_official

 The most special sighting in Namibia so far: A wild black rhino! 

The most special sighting in Namibia so far: A wild black rhino! 

We are now headed to the salty pans of Etosha National Park - our last stop in Namibia - let's see what else this stunning country has to offer in terms of wildlife-sightings. Bring it on, Etosha! 

 They certainly know how to do sunsets right in Namibia!

They certainly know how to do sunsets right in Namibia!

Week 7: Southern Namibia - Desert, Dust and Dunes.

Week 7: Southern Namibia - Desert, Dust and Dunes.

Welcome to Namibia!

"It feels like we've landed on the moon." - whoever has been to Namibia before may have said the same thing upon arrival. There certainly is a lot of space in this country - and a lot of sand which, on a windy day, can be quite the challenge...

But let's start from the beginning: It was with a bit of a heavy heart that we left Botswana behind - the country really had us at "Hello", so saying "Goodbye" was something both of us weren't quite ready to do. Luckily, Namibia welcomed us with open arms and some stunning locations in the South that left us no time to miss the Okavango Delta! 

From Windhoek we headed South via a strange, strange place in the middle of nowhere: The Quivertree Forest where on a rocky outcrop hundreds of these weird trees grow and make for a beautiful destination for sunset photos. 

 Frank and Gesa spend the afternoon at the quiver tree forest

Frank and Gesa spend the afternoon at the quiver tree forest

Fishriver Canyon 

From the quiver trees we made our way through a remote desert landscape all the way to Fishriver Canyon - a jaw-dropping massive canyon in the middle of nowhere! No wonder this place is referred to as "the edge of eternity." For Frank, this edge was quite the challenge because this Aussie is a bit afraid of heights, so to get the following shot was a very big achievement! 

 Frank and the edge...

Frank and the edge...

The nights at fishriver canyon can be quite windy and as it is winter now in Namibia, it also got pretty cold - which is why we were very grateful for an extra blanket as we listened to the wind howling through the canyon at night.

 Fish river Canyon - what a stunning place!!

Fish river Canyon - what a stunning place!!

Remote wilderness

To get a feel for this incredible country, we recommend to get off the beaten track and as far into the remote wilderness of Namibia as possible! We found ourselves a beautiful tent at the Namibrand Reserve. The only request we had for our afternoon game drive was: "Show us an incredible sunset spot!" - And our guide delivered, look at this amazing place: 

 Gesa enjoying a quiet moment in the Namibian wild

Gesa enjoying a quiet moment in the Namibian wild

 Endless roads in the Namibrand reserve

Endless roads in the Namibrand reserve

Big Daddy

From the remoteness of the Namibrand we headed over to a more crowded place which has to be on any Namibia-itinerary: the red sand dunes of Soussusvlei! And this is where the wind came into play that we talked about earlier: Guys, it was almost a sand storm as we started to climb "BIG DADDY" - reportedly the highest free standing sand dune in the world. 

To be honest with you: We may have made a little mistake by heading over to iconic Dead Vlei first for some pictures and then walking all the way to the steep end of the sand dune and climb up - too steep for us, as it turned out! With the wind blowing the sand in our faces we were struggling on the steep side of the dune and watched with envy how everybody else got up "the easy way". 

But how proud did we feel when we finally made it to the top and overlooked Soussusvlei in all  its beauty. We are fairly certain: In years to come we will still find the red sands of Soussusvlei in our pockets but it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and every little grain of sand will remind us of this windy day in the desert...

 Gesa at Deadvlei

Gesa at Deadvlei

 Frank looking up at "Big Daddy" - still optimistic before the climb...

Frank looking up at "Big Daddy" - still optimistic before the climb...

 The "easy way up..."

The "easy way up..."

 The "not-so-easy" way up...

The "not-so-easy" way up...

 What a view from the top!

What a view from the top!

For the next week Gesa and Frank will head seperate ways: Frank is going back to South Africa to join the "Save the Rhino Trip" and Gesa will head to Swakopmund to have even more wind blowing into her face from the Atlantic ocean...

Week 6: Alone in the Kalahari

Week 6: Alone in the Kalahari

We heard the lion roaring before we even saw him, lying in the tall grass right next to the waterhole. Just minutes before, Frank had said : "Absolutely nothing out here this morning." 

We got up early just in time for sunrise to make our way to the only waterhole at Piper Pan, right in the middle of nowhere in Central Kalahari, determined to find some Kalahari lions. We had been looking for them for three days in a row but in this vast and endless landscapes, all we could find were lots of fresh tracks. Just before we got to the Kalahari, we were privileged to spend a morning out walking with the San bushmen who grew up in this area and who showed us a lot of their tracking skills and amazing skills to survive in this brutal environment. 

 San-bushman digging up a root

San-bushman digging up a root

It is winter, the lions' need to drink isn't as pressing with the colder temperatures as it would normally be. In three days we traveled some 900 kilometres through the harsh desert, passing plenty of gemsbok, yellow mongoose, wildebeest and countless of bat-eared foxes - normally nocturnal but in winter active during the day. 

 Beautiful yellow mongoose on the look-out

Beautiful yellow mongoose on the look-out

 

Around deception valley we had a few cars passing us by, but apart from that we spend 48 hours pretty much without seeing any other human soul. What a rare thing to experience and what a privilege to have such a stunning place all to ourselves!

To follow fresh tracks of lions in this godforsaken environment is as exciting as a trip through Africa can get! We were determined to find them and got up early every single morning to catch them during their most active time of day. But it took us three days to finally hear that roar. 

It was a quiet roar, desperate, in fact it almost sounded a bit sad. We could see his beautiful black mane in the grass and rolled down the windows in order to see better. As he heard us talking, he got up and started to move, gently, slowly. 

 The struggle is real

The struggle is real

It took us a while to see in the early morning light that this lion was nothing more than skin and bones ; his eyes as wild as only lions eyes can be, but sunken into his gaunt face. It must have been a long time since this old lion last mad a proper meal. 

We stayed with him as he moved slowly across the pan, every footstep a struggle. It wasn't necessarily one of those sightings you wish to have on your safari - majestic lions, elegant cheetahs, gigantic elephants - but it was more real than that. 

The Central Kalahari Game Reserve is about as remote as you can get. It is an isolated place that needs some preparation. It is a wild place where not many human beings travel to. It is a harsh place where even lions struggle to survive. 

 Frank all by his lonesome

Frank all by his lonesome

 Red Kalahari sky

Red Kalahari sky

After three days in the Kalahari we pushed through on day four to make our way across the border into Namibia. We are now writing you these lines from Windhoek, where - after a hot shower and a full house breakfast - we will now hit the road to explore fish river canyon and Sossusvlei...

Week 5: Of Bushmen and Fishermen...

Week 5: Of Bushmen and Fishermen...

The Moutain of the Gods. 

"So how old are you?" asked Frank as we climbed up the female hill of Tsodilo. Rising dramatically from the Kalahari sands – the three main hills (male, female and child) have been a sacred and mysterious place for centuries - in fact "the Mountain of the Gods" was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002. 

"I think I am 55 years old, but I'm not sure," replied George, our guide, with a vague smile. George - that is not his real name, but the one he gave himself because it is easier to pronounce for the visitors he takes on walking trails around the hills. He belongs to the San-people who live at Tsodilo till this day. 

"I was born on this hill," he said and even showed us the exact cave where he came into this world half a century ago. 

Tsodilo is a sacred place where ancestral spirits dwell. In earlier times, his ancestors performed religious rituals to ask for rain or for help. They also put paintings on the rock face which can still be found today. These rock paintings are nearly everywhere – representing thousands of years of human inhabitation. 

George took us all the way around the female hill, pointed out rock paintings of rhinos, antelope and lions; told us stories from the past; lead us down ancient pathways that his people have been walking on for thousands of years. 

Fishing on the Okavango. 

After leaving Tsodilo Hills, we made our way to a close-by fishing lodge and spent the whole day fishing on the beautiful Okavango river. Frank caught the first fish of the day - after that they just kept on biting; we pulled about twenty tigerfish in total out of the glassy waters. Gesa had not been fishing in over ten years and was as excited as a kid when she felt a pull ten times stronger than the ones before on her fishing line.

"Pull! Pull! You need to pull!," shouted Small, the fishing guide, at Gesa as she battled with the rod. At the other end of the tight fishing line fought a massive tigerfish. As she finally managed to get it into the boat, Small helped Gesa to take the beast off the hook and measured its weight: 8 Pounds of Tigerish - the biggest one at the lodge this season!

Safe to say, Gesa is now "hooked"  - mind the pun...

 

 Franks fish...

Franks fish...

 ... and Gesas fish :)

... and Gesas fish :)

Preparing for the Kalahari.

Our days in Botswana are slowly coming to an end. But we will finish off with a bang! Before we head over to explore Namibia, we will spend 3 days in Central Kalahari. Right now we are back in Maun for a few days, stocking up  - not only on fuel and food but also on some warmer clothing and warm water bottles - we are expecting it to get shivering cold in the desert... 

 

 

 

 

 

Week 4: Chobe.

Week 4: Chobe.

... The dark blue waters of the Chobe River reach far and wide over the endless landscape; ahead of us lies Namibia; behind us lie 3000 kilometres of road we've driven over the last four weeks. 

Chobe marks the border between countries, for us it also marks the first big milestone of our trip. Four weeks on the road. One third of the trip over. One hell of a journey yet to come. 

We set up camp right on the banks of the Chobe and spent the afternoon watching the sun moving closer and closer to the horizon while hippos, buffaloes and elephants moved past. 

 Taking it easy next to the Chobe...

Taking it easy next to the Chobe...

 The most relaxed dagga boys we have ever seen! 

The most relaxed dagga boys we have ever seen! 

Most of our time at Chobe National Park was spent focussing on picture- and video-taking - both on the car, on foot and on a boat - and had some spectacular sightings. Chobe really delivers in terms of close-up big game encounters!

 

We also got the chance to visit an underground hide next to a waterhole which allowed us to get some great shots of elephants drinking there and investigating us peaking at them through little holes in the ground. 

 Taken from an underground hide!

Taken from an underground hide!

The greatest highlight for us was a photo-safari from the water. We got to try out some excellent cameras and big lenses and enjoyed a fantastic afternoon cruising along the Chobe river that ended with a spectacular sighting of seven lions on the banks of the river chasing some Mongoose who got the biggest fright of their lives! 

 Photo-safari on the Chobe 

Photo-safari on the Chobe 

 Now that's a close-up!

Now that's a close-up!

 Lions on the bank...

Lions on the bank...

 Run as fast as if you were being chased by a lion! 

Run as fast as if you were being chased by a lion! 

 Last sunset over the Chobe River

Last sunset over the Chobe River

After some amazing days at Chobe we headed further West to leave Botswana - for now. We will be back in a few days, but now we are driving a little loop into Namibia to explore the Caprivi. But for now we have set up our mobile office next to the Zambezi river to edit all the photos and videos we have shot over the last four weeks; to look back and reflect; and to look ahead and plan the coming eight weeks... We have seen so much already and yet, there is so much more to see...

Week 3: The WILD Life - Okavango Edition.

Week 3: The WILD Life - Okavango Edition.

When people tell you about a beautiful place, they tend to picture it with all the colors of the rainbow, creating an image in your head that seems almost too good to be true. The real thing can't possibly live up to it. Once you actually go see it for yourself, you end up disappointed...

...Not true for the Okavango Delta, guys!

This beautiful place on earth actually lives up to the expectations. Hell, we are convinced: The Delta exceeds all of them!

For the last week we have been sleeping out in three absolutely stunning locations: The Khwai Community Trust, the Moremi and Shinde private concession. Let us tell you all about it...

Khwai

With two 4WDs, we headed out from Maun with Welna & Johan to the Khwai Community Trust - an absolutely stunning piece of land where we lived on the wild side of life for three nights. Our campsite had no ablutions; every meal was cooked over the open fire; to wash ourselves, we relied on a tiny outdoor shower set up in a remote spot with only some curious monkeys to watch us. 

 Living outdoors...

Living outdoors...

 3/4 of the Steenhuisen family - watch out for the ele! 

3/4 of the Steenhuisen family - watch out for the ele! 

The river Khwai flows gently through the lush landscape, hippos call every few minutes and show their gigantic teeth from the water while elephants graze on the banks and leopards stalk through the thick bushes. Every night we heard the lions calling and we even found them peacefully snoozing in the shade of some Feverberrys one sunny afternoon!

 Sundowners in Khwai 

Sundowners in Khwai 

 Johan & Frank approaching...

Johan & Frank approaching...

For Gesa a big wish came true. Ever since this German-born has started her safari-guide-training in Southern Africa it was her dream to see wild dogs. She had to wait for over a year, but one early morning in the Okavango Delta, it finally happened: Frank had heard from a friend that the wild dogs were said to have a den close-by. Not expecting too much, we headed out to look for them and we couldn't believe our luck when we saw one of the dogs lying next to the road.

What happened next though exceeds all expectations Gesa ever had: Under some Mopane trees we found -believe it or not - 11 (!!) healthy and incredibly cute and playful wild dog puppies chasing each other and exploring the surroundings of their den. Frank switched off the engine and we quietly watched them as they came closer and closer to our car to satisfy their curiosity... what a special first sighting it was! It will stay with us for a very long time.  

 Curious wild dog puppies...

Curious wild dog puppies...

 

Moremi

As we said goodbye to the wild dogs as well as Welna and Johan who headed East to explore the Madgadikadi pans, we drove further on into the Moremi Game Reserve where we spend two nights. Frank knows the area quite well, having been here last year doing mobile safaris.

On our second night we sat up camp on a site right next to the water and put some steaks on the braai before we climbed up into the nest for the night. We don't know if it was the smell of the meat or maybe just sheer curiosity, but when we got up the next morning we found fresh leopard tracks on top of our own from the evening before - the cat was wandering around our car and marking its territory on our front wheel... If only he had shown his presence during the night with a little growl - we would have loved to have a peek at him... AND Gesa would probably have resisted the urge to use the bathroom after dark!

Shinde 

To put a fitting finish to this stretch of the trip, we left our faithful companion - our ride - behind at the Khwai airstrip and got onto a plane to the Shinde concession - an area that lies right in the middle of the Delta and is not accessible by car. Already during our landing approach did we discover that a truly special place awaits us. Beneath us lay an endless grass plain full of tsessebes, giraffes and zebras. 

 The open plains of Shinde: Giraffic Park ;)

The open plains of Shinde: Giraffic Park ;)

"This is it," said Frank as we got out of the plane and jumped onto a game viewer to our camp. As we travel through this beautiful and diverse country, we look for truly wild spots, remote settings and unspoiled Nature - and we both immediately felt that there is something very special to Shinde. Needless to say we were very excited that we got to go on a bush walk the next morning, looking for "the beasts" - three male lions that roam this area and that we had seen during our drive to camp. We didn't find the beasts, but oh! how we enjoyed exploring the beauty of Shinde on foot nonetheless! 

 Bushwalk in Shinde

Bushwalk in Shinde

 

So, in a nutshell:

We absolutely loved the Okavango Delta! And we will come back again... and again... and again...

The next stretch of road will lead us to Chobe - stay tuned as we dive into the National Park that is said to have the largest concentrations of game in all of Botswana! 

 
 

 

 

Week 2: We made it to Maun!

Week 2: We made it to Maun!

It is the strangest thing, how time always seems to pass too quickly when it is well spent. It feels just like it was yesterday when we met at Pont Drift border post on the banks of the mighty Limpopo, starting our trip all the way from the East to the West of this beautiful country by the name of Botswana. And yet, we are already in our third road trip week, currently recharging the batteries (both equipment and body) in Maun, the Mecca of Botswana, the gateway to the Okavango Delta.  

Nxai Pan: Life, unplugged. 

But first things first: After leaving stunning Kubu Island one very cold morning Frank steered the car over a small patch of highway straight into Nxai Pan. The roads leading to our campsite were a bit… challenging, let’s call it that. But we made it in the end and finished the day at a remote and wild campsite where we set up our rooftop tent - our nest, as we call it - two square meters that start to feel more and more like home…

The good thing about the two of us: We don’t need much. 

Life these days is as simple as it should be. 

 

Our first night at Nxai Pan didn’t offer much in terms of wildlife, but we enjoyed a quite and good night’s sleep in the company of only a few spring hares. Next day we changed campsites, only to discover that we forgot to restock on much needed camping essentials ( wood & beer). Word of advice to fellow campers in Botswana: Whenever you go shopping for these essentials - buy double of what you need. However, we were pleasantly surprised that the tiny Tuck Shop at our camp site was piled up with everything a camper’s heart could ask for. We sat up camp right next to a few old bull elephants and spend the afternoon looking for birds at a nearby waterhole. 

Early next morning Gesa was still very cosy in her sleeping bag, when she heard someone or something running around the car, moving stuff around. Carefully, she looked for the intruder: It was Frank, of course, busy packing up at five o’clock in the morning to go chase lions. Well, at least he had made coffee…

And lions we found! Just as the sun peeked over the horizon we saw two male lions approach the waterhole for a cool drink. Later on, we found a lonesome lioness stalking for prey, as well as plenty of ele’s throughout the day. 

Our stay at Nxai Pan was a sweet one, reminding us of just how little we need to be happy and how precious time spend completely unplugged and offline can be. There is no wifi in the wild, guys. But we promise you will find a better connection…

Meet-Up in Maun.

From Nxai Pan it took us a good 2 hours drive to Maun, where we met up with Johan and Welna who join us for about two weeks on the road. In Maun we are now meeting up with a lot of tour operators, guides and safari companies to get everything going for 2017 and find passionate and wild people we will hopefully build longterm relationships with. Thanks to everyone who took the time to meet up with us so far! It’s been an absolute pleasure!

The Delta. 

Needless to say: of course we also spend some quality time in the Okavango Delta, exploring this massive and absolutely incredible wilderness area. The water is slowly but surely coming in from Angola these days, flooding the channels more and more every day. Gesa went on her first Mokoro-trip and Welna faced her fears with a hippo on foot; while Johan and Frank spend some bonding-time at the Selinda spillway on bush walks, boats and planes in and over the Delta. 

Today we are restocking on food and fuel, before the four of us will head out to Khwai for three nights of much needed wildness after a few days in Maun with good friends, frothy cappuccinos and comfy beds. But as nice as a bit of “city life” may be every once in a while - we belong out there, all of us, where life is simple and wild. And now we cannot wait to go explore the North… Adventure awaits! Keep you posted, guys!

Week 1: From the Land of Giants to Kubu Island!

Week 1: From the Land of Giants to Kubu Island!

Hi everyone,

We are Frank and Gesa. We met during our training as nature-guides in Southern Africa and share a passion for the African wilderness ever since - which is what brought us here now! During the next six weeks we will take a walk on the wildest side of Botswana - and we want you to come with us!

Frank & Gesa

 

Mashatu - the Land of Giants

Our trip started on the most eastern tip of Botswana - in the Tuli-block lies the stunning Mashatu Game Reserve - also called the "Land of Giants" because of its abundance in massive Baobabs as well as the population of elephants that silently stride through the vast and ever-changing landscapes of the reserve.

"Tuli" is the Tswana word for "dust" - and dusty it was! But to our delight, as the sand and dust awards you with the most stunning sunsets night after night after night...

 

Cycling in the African bush?!

Yep, we did it here. Well, to be exact: Frank did. Gesa sat on the back of a game viewer recording the whole thing for future generations in case Frank bumped into an elephant... gladly he didn't.  As a trails guide Frank is used to exploring the African bush on foot, so for him it was a fantastic experience to get into the saddle and experience a completely new way of seeing the wild. 

 Two of the guides on their mountain bikes.

 

Off with the horses...

Not only can you explore beautiful Mashatu by bike, but also on horseback! And although neither of us are experienced riders (in fact, the last time Gesa sat on a horse was in kindergarten and the horse was made of wood...) we had a great time at the stables.

We truly think that this must be the adventure of a lifetime for experienced riders! 

 Right up close to the elephants!

 

A walk to Eagle's Rock

On our last day at Mashatu Game Reserve we finally got to put on our walking boots and climbed up onto Eagle Rock - one of the many, many lookout points the Land of Giants has to offer. With us was one of safariFRANK's legendary guides - Stuart, who has been working in the Tuli-block for the last twelve years and knows this pristine wildlife area by heart. Up on eagle rock we watched two Verreaux's Eagles catching the thermals and guarding their precious egg we found high above on the rock overlooking the dry riverbed of the Motloutse, where a young lion watched us from afar...

 Eagle's rock views. 

 

On the road

Testing our gear at Goo-Moremi gorge

Heading West after a lovely breakfast we enjoyed a chilled drive to a hidden gem enroute to the more famous wildlife areas. After driving on a dirt road for what felt like a very long time we made it to Goo-Moremi gorge - a community-run attraction not many people seem to know about. We were pleasantly surprised to find the campsite in an excellent and new condition and took the afternoon off to test all our gear and set up the rooftop-tent.

Before we called it an early night, Gesa played some tunes on the guitar while a warm fire crackled and a fiery-necked nightjar called somewhere in the distance. Early the next morning we went on a relaxed 1 1/2 hour walk through the gorge, learning a lot about the local trees and birds and clambering up and down the rocks till we reached a beautiful waterfall over which a resident colony of Cape Vultures nested - one of the only two colonies in the whole of Botswana!

 Frank setting up rooftop tent
 Gesa taking footage at the Gorge

 

Full Moon at Kubu Island

We didn't plan it this way, but our last night during week #1 was illuminated by a full moon at this magical place called Kubu Island - a rocky outcrop overgrown with Baobabs in the middle of the massive Sua salt pan. We watched the sun set in the West only to turn around a while later to marvel at the full face of the moon rising in the East. It was one of those special moments that words could never describe and pictures will always fail to capture... We guess you just had to be there.

And we hope someday you will...