Meeting the San Bushmen

Today we left the Okovango Delta and made our way to the town of Ghanzi, known as “the capital of the Kalahari Desert”, the largest continuous stretch of sand in the world. With that said, you can imagine the vastness and aridity that characterise this area. Also, it is freaking hot! Currently it is leading towards the end of the hot summer season, with temperatures around 40 degrees during the day and not much of a cooling down at night either.

So now imagine, it is early afternoon and the sun is burning down. You are standing in the middle of nowhere, just bushland around you, dry spiky plants everywhere. Everything is shallow, allowing you to see far into the vast area. This is the setting, in which we met the San. 1

These traditional hunter-gatherers are believed to be the original inhabitants of southern Africa and one of the populations from which all modern humans descend, and their culture is just as vibrant today.

They have been the most lovely people, proudly telling us about their culture and traditions. San women often act as the leaders of their family unit and are not required to be gatherers – many hunt too! It is an incredibly important part of San upbringing that their children’s only responsibility is to play and explore, because they view youth as an important time to enjoy life’s many offerings.3They have introduced us to some the many practices, they have developed in order to be able to sustain themselves in this tough habitat. Those included finding water, stored in the roots of particular plants or making medicine out of the leaves of others. They showed us how they use big egg shells containers to store water and how to make fire using two sticks. There is so much knowledge in these people and you could feel how deeply linked they are to our nature.

I was absolutely fascinated by their way of talking. They communicate through a variety of distinct languages that are all based on various clicking sounds, making it sound extremely unfamiliar and extraordinary. I’ll put a video up, as soon as i’ve got the opportunity.

While the San Bushmen are lively people who honor their culture, they sadly are not free from modern struggles. They have been oppressed, been evicted from their land and had to feel the force of society to conform to more modern practices. Regardless, they continue to protect and live off the incredible land they love and have called home for thousands of years, the Kalahari Desert.

 

Getting lost in the Okovango Delta

It is about time, that we show you some impressions of our last days, that we spend right in the Okovango Delta. This magical place definitely deserves to be on your bucket list and if that is not the case yet, allow me to tell you a little bit about it.1The Okovango Delta, which is one of the 7 Natural Wonders of Africa and a World Heritage Site, is the worlds biggest inland delta, situated right in the Kalahari Desert. The unique wetland is created by the rains that, every year as a cause of the rainy season, fill the Okovango River. That occurs between january and february and leads to a filling of the Delta from around March.

That is the time of the year, when the Okovango Delta comes to live: enlivened by the water the flora suddenly starts blossoming in a bright green and all sorts of wildlife, seasonally migrates into the Delta, to escape the dry season. For safari goers and nature lovers a wildlife haven is created.333We have been staying at the Elephant Bush Camp, which is located very secluded and unspoilt right in the Okovango Delta. With most of the customs of civilisation missing here (including phone reception) the camp is the perfect spot to leave everything behind for awhile and soak in the phenomenal beauty and serenity of nature.111Solely the journey to the camp, has been an adventure by itself. In 4×4 trucks we made our way through the bush to a river branch leading into the Delta. From there the Polers picked us up in their dugout canoes, called Mokoros. Poler, is how you call the person controlling the Mokoro and it takes a lot of practice to be able to safely perform this job. They stand on the back end of the Mokoro, and push a pole against the ground in order to move forward. A huge task for their balance as the boats are very instable and sway. But they were really confident with their task and the ride through the labyrinthine channels an absolutely enjoyable, with lots of things to see in the water and on the banks, such as giant lily pads and beautiful insects, birds and amphibians.222Arrived at the camp we enjoyed the rest of the day stand up paddle boarding on the river, before we were spoiled with the most amazing african 3 course dinner (I literally have no idea how they managed to cook a meal like this in a location so remote and primitive). And as if that was not highlight enough, dinner was served under the open sky, right next to the water, with the background noises of african wildlife and dessert was crowned by this unbelievable sunset. What an unforgettable experience.10After a night, sitting around the campfire, gazing at the overwhelming starlit sky and listening to african rhythms, we got up early the next morning to go on a bush walk. We got thought a lot about the Delta and how to read animal tracks and we got up very close to grazing elephants and some bathing rhinos. Most impressing though, was the skill of our guide to navigate around in this large area, completely sovereign, just using the features of fauna as his sign posts. Unbelievable to see how intimate people can be with nature.11

A game cruise on the Chobe River

After crossing the border to Botswana and travelling all the way to the city Kasane, the gateway to the Chobe National Park, we ended the day with a game cruise on the Chobe River, which is a major watering spot for large breeding herds of elephants, as well as families of giraffe, sable and cape buffalo. It was unbelievable how many animals we could see.

A huge elephant herd

There were huge herds, especially of elephants, which at the Chobe National Park appear in the greatest concentration in all of Africa. And all the species were really close together as well, sometimes even sharing the same watering spot. It was just an incredible picture to look at -so harmonic and peaceful, made even better by the fantastic scenery of the Chobe River and it’s prospering, green surroundings.

Hippos

It was just an incredible picture to look at -so harmonic and peaceful, made even better by the fantastic scenery of the Chobe River and it’s prospering, green surroundings.

In case you were wondering how giraffes drink -There you go!

But still, between all the moments of silent admiration, there were a view moments where we couldn’t help but laugh. It’s hilarious how out of nothing nature can sometimes sneak in little jokes, without intending on it. Like this giraffe for example: The poor thing is just drinking. Nothing unusual, but have you ever seen a giraffe drinking before? I haven’t! How funny does it look?!

He has clearly not been in the mood for posing..

Or this lazy elephant. Obviously too tired to hold up his trunk, just letting it hang over his tusk. (He has literally kept it there for the whole time!)

A beautiful sunset over the Chobe River

And this is how we have ended our day. Another terrific sunset over the Chobe River. Feeling lucky!

 

 

 

A sunset cruise on the Zambezi River

For the last two nights we have been staying at The Victoria Falls Waterfront Lodge in Zambia just a few minutes away from both the Victoria Falls and Livingstone. We had a fantastic stay in this beautiful place. The resort is situated at the riverside of the Zambezi, with a lively riverfront restaurant, bar and pool area from which you can still see the spray of the Victoria Falls stream downwards.

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Last night as a highlight on our last evening here, we went on a sunset cruise on the resorts private cruise boot. While sailing down the mighty Zambezi River, the fourth-longest river in Africa, we were spoiled with a delicious african barbecue called “braai” and plenty of drinks. We had an awesome time, eventually topped off with watching the sun set over the river – a phenomenal view.

 

The Victoria Falls

Today we went to see the Victoria Falls, the worlds largest waterfall and it was without any doubt one of the most breathtaking views I have ever encountered.

As the Zambezi, the river creating the Vic Falls is functioning as a natural border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, the falls are situated right in between them. This gives visitors the choice of two sides where they could possibly go and see the falls. However, 3 quarters of the Victoria Falls and most of the viewpoints lie within Zimbabwe, so this is the side we were going for.

We made our way through the Victoria Falls National Park, towards the waterfalls, not even questioning the direction for a second, as the low rumble of the water has already been heard from many kilometres of distance. After a while we noticed a fine drizzle in the air and soon after the trees were dripping pretty heavily. We couldn’t quite believe it, as all we could spot at this point was forest all around, the falls have not even been in sight. Then suddenly the trees ended and gave way to a unbelievable cliff face-on view of the gigantic Main Falls and the huge spray of water they created. It is wet season at the moment, so the water masses are at their annual maximum, leading to this massive cloud-like spray of water, that surrounds you and manages to soak you within seconds. I’ve always loved waterfalls -even the small one’s, just because I think they are pretty to look at. But the Victoria Falls are completely different. They radiate such a unbelievable natural power, dignity and invincibility, that I was just standing there falling silent in admiration – it was truly magical!

A game drive at Hwange National Park

What a day! I am back at the camp and absolutely drained from today’s game drive at Hwange National Park. But there are a few things that i really want to write down before I crawl in my sleeping bag. Two things to be exact, both of them seen today during the drive.

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Let’s start. So the first big thing that happened today was that we have finally seen lions. But not just one, it was a group of five. We were sitting in an observation tower next to the waterhole that you can see in the photos and were initially just looking at the herd of buffalos and some hippos that surfaced from time to time. But then suddenly the lions appeared and started to circle the buffalos. And for a while we thought we would soon become the witnesses of a hunt. But it came differently. One of the lions was not cautious enough and suddenly the herd of buffalos had closed in on him.

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In the last second he managed to save himself by climbing up a tree. But the buffalos encircled the tree so that he was caught up there. The other lions were all still close by, but obviously were not able to help. It took more than an hour until the buffalo herd finally moved and the lion could get back down. Even though I knew before that buffalos were pretty dangerous I was not prepared to see a situation like that, were the buffalos actually triumph over predators like those lions. It was also really fascinating how intelligent the herd has reacted and how they have been staying so close together to keep save.

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Now to a view that has been quite shocking. What you can see in the photo is the remains of a dead elephant surrounded by a venue of vultures. It is definitely a sad sight and the atmosphere when we were driving closer was a bit scary, not to forget the incredibly strong smell of decay, but still it had some fascination in it’s own way. It just is a part of the circle, i guess.

Walking with lions

After a surprisingly easy border crossing we made our way to the Antelope Park in Zimbabwe. This park is a private game reserve and home to the ALERT lion rehabilitation program.

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The organisation has developed a multi-phase lion conservation initiative to ethically re-introduce the offspring of captive-bred endangered African lions back into the wild. Part of the complex program is that the older cubs are taken on walks to explore their natural habitat.

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And I had the chance to experience a walk like that today! It was absolutely indescribable. Firstly the cubs were much bigger than I expected them to be. They wasn’t a big size difference to the mature lions. And even if I could pet them still, they were already quiet wild and definitely let you feel that you should watch your steps around them. Also I was absolutely fascinated by how beautiful they were and how majestic and composed they moved. That was definitely a one-in-a-lifetime-experience.

 

 

Krüger National Park!

Today was awesome! We left our campsite early in the morning to drive deeper in the Krüger National Park, where we have been on game drives for the whole day. The park is one of the biggest game reserves in Africa and has a the most species of large mammals of all of them.

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I was looking forward to this so long and it definitely was one of the greatest things I’ve experienced so far, to see all those animals walking around freely in their natural habitat. It was sometimes quiet hard to spot the animals cause they can hide and camouflage themselves so well. This made the it even more fun though, because you stay alert all the time in order to not miss anything and when someone in the group spots an animal everyone immediately gets really excited.

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This little baby elephant was my favorite spotting of today. He and his mama crossed the street right in front of us. While the mother was not interested in us at all, he gave us a long curious and joyful look. The cutest thing I’ve ever seen!

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At the end of our day at Krüger our Guide took us to a big plateau from which we could overlook the huge area of the Greater Krüger. It was a very nice ending to an amazing day at the National Park. We have been lucky enough to see 3 of the Big 5 already: Elephants, rhinos and buffalos. Cheetahs and Lions, I’ll spot you next time!

Tribal Dancing

So this happened tonight.

After arriving at our campsite in the evening, setting up our tents and having the most delicious traditional South- African dinner ( Mielie Pap ), these men and women from the close-by living Shangaan tribe have welcomed us with traditional dancing and singing. After their performance they even invited us to come and dance with them. It was lots of fun and we have laughed a lot, as we desperately tried to copy their moves.

We are already of to bed now, as tomorrow will be a big day for us all. We will go on our first game drive in the Krüger National Park and hopefully meet the Big 5.

Africa – The Beginning of a New Adventure

We have just arrived in Johannesburg/ South Africa this morning and somehow we still have not fully realised what is laying ahead. From tomorrow on we will spend the next month on a safari through Southern Africa, discovering nature and cultures we have never experienced before (read more about the tour here).

It is afternoon now and we are sitting on the veranda of the little lodge we are staying in tonight, drinking a tea, enjoying the beauty surrounding us and getting more excited for tomorrow with every second.