Subject: Camping in South West Africa
Hi Ziners,

My wife and I just returned from four weeks camping in South West Africa as 2 of 16 participants in a program operated Explore Worldwide.We had previously spent four weeks in Kenya and Tanzania, also as Explore participants.

The trip began in Cape Town, South Africa, a beautiful modern city dominated by the huge TableMountain which is within the city itself.High points of the city were visits to RobbenIsland, a prison island where Nelson Mandela had been a prisoner for several decades, the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, and a Cable Car to the top of Table Moutain.We spent a day on the CapePeninsula, including a visit to the Cape of Good Hope, often mistakenly regarded as the southernmost tip of Africa.

After stops in the wine country near Stellenbosch, we drove by truck through the semi-desert Great Karoo to Kimberly, famous for the discovery of diamonds in 1871, and site of the so-called Big Hole and the MineMuseum.

We then headed north and drove along the Trans-Kalahari Highway to Botswana and through the Kalahari desert, with a stop to see how Bushmen live and to enjoy an evening of dancing by the local Bushmen.We continued north through the Western part of the Kalahari to the Okavango Delta.

We transferred from our truck to 4WD safari land cruisers, and drove deep into an isolated campsite in the Moremi Game Reserve, thought to be the most beautiful gameland in Botswana and one of Africa’s greatest wildlife sanctuaries.We spent time on a number of game drives and boat cruises through the Delta’s many canals.

The Okavango Delta, and several other gamedrive stops on the trip, provided an interesting comparison with the Masai Mara, the Serengeti, Ngorongoro crater, and other natural parks in Kenya and Tanzania.The wildlife in those countries was more numerous, but the variety of wildlife on this trip was much broader; and the lush tropical scenery contrasted with the wide open grassy areas in Kenya and Tanzania.

We then drove East and North to ChobeNational Park, where 35,000 elephants live, the largest number of any park in Africa.We took a boat ride on the ChobeRiver where we came across large numbers of hippos, including a group of about two dozen huddling together.

From there we crossed over into Zimbabwe, where we spent several hours viewing the impressive Victoria Falls in Victoria Falls National Park; and then across the Zambezi River to Zambia where we were able to see the falls from that country, and where we spent time camping outside the Town of Livingstone.

Next, we headed West to EtoshaNational Park, an immense saline desert, in Namibia.We camped at two sites in Etosha, both of which had lighted waterholes where wildlife would come at night to drink.A special experience one night was seeing seven black rhinos at the same time.

Etosha was the last stop where we saw large numbers of wildlife.In the Okavango Delta, Chobe, and Etosha, we had seem cape buffaloes, lions, elephants, crocodiles, zebras, wildebeest, giraffes, rhinos, hippos, baboons, one cheetah, one lion, and large numbers of smaller animals.

We then headed southwest to the Atlantic coast, stopping on the way to view old Bushmen paintings and engravings, and to the Cape Cross Seal Colony, an almost mile-long stretch of seacoast where 80,000 to 100,000 seals were basking or swimming.

We spent two nights of comparative luxury in municipal chalets in Swakopmund, where a number of us took a boat trip to see dolphins and more seals.Two of the seals knew the operators of the boats, and would leap aboard to get their treat of fish.I had my first experience of being kissed by a seal.

Next, we began heading south through the Namib desert, the oldest desert on earth, passing through landscapes similar to those in the southwest part of the US, to the Namib-Naukluft National Park, site of some of the world’s most spectacular sand dunes, including one 300 meters high.We spent a day climbing on the dunes, and most of us took a spectacular morning balloon ride over the dunes.

We continued south toward South Africa, making a stop at FishRiverCanyon, called by some the second largest canyon in the world.Although quite impressive, it lacked the color and topography of US’s Grand Canyon.

We finally arrived back in Cape Town, where we had a final breakup dinner, exchanged e-mail addresses, and said farewells.

Dick Smith, Boston Area