We (Elana from the Sales Department and Wiebke from the Product Department) were very privileged to recently embark on an educational journey highlighting the Caprivi Strip in Namibia, the Western Okavango Delta in Botswana, as well as Livingstone in Zambia. Together with our trusted tour guide, Thomas Dhilwayo, this proved to be an awesome and eventful experience…
Bright and early on Friday morning (21 Nov) we met up at Cape Town Airport (well, one of us was a little late due to oversleeping) for our flight to Johannesburg. We then boarded the aircraft to Livingstone, where we arrived just after lunchtime. Thomas and our trusted vehicle, Endesha (and we will get back to this later), met us at the airport and off we went for our first three site inspection of this trip.
Early the next morning we set of for the Eastern Caprivi. We crossed the border into Namibia after about an hours drive. Border formalities can take some time, but seeing that we had an experienced guide with us, this process ran quite smoothly. Soon after that we were back on the road, listening to great music, courtesy of Elana’s awesome CD collection that she had brought all the way from Cape Town. Our first stop was the town of Katima Mulilo, which is (if we can even call it that), the main “capital” of the Caprivi region. We looked at some lodges and hotels in this area and were quite surprised at the variety of accommodation that is available in this area. After we had filled up both the vehicles tanks with Diesel and our tummies with some lunch, we headed off to the Mudumo National Park and to Namushasha Country Lodge, which was our final destination of the day. We got there quite late, so only had a little time to freshen up before we all met for a cold and well-deserved G&T for sundowners (well, we never saw the sun go down, but the G&T went down like a homesick mole). Namushasha is a simple accommodation, but has great character, tasteful meals and very well-trained staff. They went out of their way to make us feel at home. We shared a room at this establishment and on the way back from dinner, we discovered how much Elana dislikes bugs and anything that flies at her. We could not contain ourselves and burst out into a fit of giggles as Elana hopped all over the pathway in order to dodge the “vicious” bugs and moths that kept flying towards her. Finally, arriving at our room, we all managed to get a good nights sleep.
After an early breakfast we were taken on a boat cruise on the Kwando River. Our guide was awesome, explaining to us on how the local people make use of the plant life in order to survive or even to perform ceremonies like marriages. We learnt how to make drinking straws and necklaces from water lilies, as well as rope from Papyrus bark and were convinced that we could now survive in the Caprivi all by ourselves (yeah right!).
We then headed in a westerly direction towards the “town” of Divundu, which is situated about 25km north of the Mahangu National Park. Along the road that leads to the park there are 7 lodges. Of course, being the dedicated and very nosy tourism professionals that we are, we inspected every single one of them, before heading to Ndhovu Safari Lodge for our overnight tonight. Ndhovu is owned and run by a German Namibian with the assistance of another manager and very friendly staff. It’s definitely a home away from home. They have a “resident” pod of hippos that are only metres away in the river in front of the lodge – you won’t even need binoculars to see them! Dinner at the lodge was a delicious 3 course meal and we had 2 feathered visitors that flew under the thatched roof into the dining area. The owls were really beautiful and larger than what we had expected them to be. After chatting with the managers, we headed back to our tent where Wiebke firstly, had to chase a moth (it was a kamakazi moth) out of the room before we fell asleep to the sounds of night.
The next day was packed with action and a rather unfortunate incident. But… we managed to overcome everything and still get to our destination of the day in Botswana. This is how it all happened…. We left the lodge at 08h00 in direction of Mohembo border post to cross the border into Botswana. To get to the border post, we had to drive through the Mahangu National Park on the main road. We had a bit of time on our hands and Thomas suggested that we drive along a loop in the park along the river, in the hope to spot some animals. As we were driving along nicely with our eyes peeled, Endesha (our vehicle) started beeping, red lights came on and there was smoke coming out of the bonnet. Thomas immediately stopped the vehicle, got out and opened the bonnet. He then (very calmly, we must add) approached the passenger side and asked us to please pass him the fire extinguisher. Once we had heard that, we bailed like two mad women out of the vehicle, but Thomas luckily remained calm and managed to extinguish the flames within a matter of seconds. Within a few minutes Thomas had established what was wrong with the vehicle and called for assistance. We were then towed into Divundu to a workshop, had the problem attended to and were back on the road within 3 hours, which was not too bad, considering that we were in the middle of a national park and the closest town only had a little workshop, a service station and a grocery store. We were quite relieved that everything was fixed and also grateful that it had not happened whilst our clients were travelling. Of course, you can never say that these things don’t happen, but thankfully our guides are trained well and always know how to handle situations like these to their best abilities.
As we had a bit of a delay on this day, we were not able to look at any properties, as we still had about 100km to travel to our accommodation for the evening and the last 12km would take some time, as it was 4×4 terrain. We eventually arrived at Nguma Island Lodge in the Okavango Delta just after 18h00 and were welcomed by the team there. This day definitely deserved a G&T for a sundowner (for which we were just in time). And boy, can we tell you, the sundowners in the Okavango Delta are the best that we have ever seen! After freshening up we enjoyed an awesome home cooked meal together with our fellow guests at the lodge, before retiring for the night.
Up early we met our guide and poler on the boat deck at the lodge. We then headed into the channels and onto an island in the Delta from where we embarked on an hours Mokoro excursion. We saw an abundance of birds (managed to add quite a few rare ones to our birding list) and were also very lucky to see a Sitatunga (also known as marshbuck). Apparently these antelope are very shy and are rarely seen, so we were very chuffed, as both of us had never seen one in our lives! One thing to remember on a mokoro trip is to always take sunblock and a sunhat – or take the initiative from Wiebke and use Waterlily Leaves to block the sun! (Pick two or three lily pads and spread over any bare skin – you will then have a Lily Pad “sun-visor” – cool hey 😉
Back at the lodge we packed up our belongings and headed off for the site inspections that we did not manage to do the previous day. Early in the afternoon we headed to the Tsodilo Hills, which have quite a few rock paintings. Unfortunately, we did not manage to do a walk there, as our time was quite short, but we visited the museum that the local community has set up there. Our next stop was Shakawe, where we bought a new fire extinguisher for the vehicle, as well as some more groceries for the road. We then headed south again for the little village of Etsha 13 and onto Guma Lagoon Camp, which was our final destination today. The road to Guma is a very thick sand track and we all assisted in letting air pressure out of the tyres to make the last 12km easier to get through. The drive from Etsha 13 to Guma takes about half an hour and is quite an experience. But, once you get to camp, all the bumpy roads are forgotten when you look at the beautiful surroundings that you are in. After a quick shower, we met up with Taryn (the manager) on the viewing deck for a drink and a chat. It was awesome meeting the people that we usually deal with on the phone or on e-mail every day and we ended up chatting away and the next thing we looked at our clocks and it was already 11pm. Mark (Taryn’s partner and also manager at the camp) suggested that we take a slow boat ride onto the lagoon to have a look at the stars. This was a real special experience and I am sure one that we will always remember. We would have never thought that we could say: “We were out on a boat in the Okavango Delta close to midnight to watch the stars!”. Unfortunately, the weather did not play along and it started to rain, so we headed back to the camp and it was also high time to get to sleep, as we had another long day ahead of us tomorrow.
After a rather shorter nights sleep, we got up and took a quick boat cruise out into the channels of the Delta. Again, we cannot re-iterate how fabulous the birdlife is in this area! Once we got back to camp, Taryn and her team had cooked us the most scrumptious breakfast. The perfect way to start a long driving day! We left Guma and headed back into Namibia via the Mohembo border post. We still had quite a drive ahead of us, as we had to be at Camp Kwando, close to the Mudumo National Park tonight. After filling up Endesha in Katima Mulilo, we finally got to camp just before 6pm. We met up with the team there (again, these are people that we deal with on the phone or on e-mail every day) and enjoyed the best game steak that we had in a long time. As there was a lack of sleep the evening before, we were all fast asleep by 9pm this evening.
The next day Botswana was calling again, but before that we were taken to our next site inspection by boat. Thomas drove Endesha around and met us at the lodge. En route we saw an injured elephant that came down to the water to drink. Our hearts were broken as we saw him limping along, but the reality is that we are out in nature and that these things happen here. Once we were done with our site inspection at Lianshulu Lodge, we headed for Botswana and crossed the border through the Ngoma border post and into the Chobe National Park. We arrived in Kasane early afternoon where we looked at some hotels and lodges, before being taken by boat to the Namibian side of Chobe to have a look at an exclusive “houseboat” that is being built for that side of the river. Watch this space, as there will be more info once this is competed. Back in Kasane, we checked in at Kubu Lodge for overnight. Our dinner this evening was hosted by the awesome team at The Garden Lodge, who have also been one of our trusted suppliers for quite some time now.
This Friday was the final day of our educational and although, we were quite happy to be home soon, we were a bit disappointed that our trip would soon come to an end. We left Kasane and crossed the border into Zimbabwe, as we had set up some morning meetings in Victoria Falls. Once these were out the way, we made our way to the Zambezi Waterfront, which is basically our “home” in Zambia. After a meeting with the management there, we met up with another guide from Jenman, Chantel, and boarded the MV Makumbi for a sunset dinner cruise. As always, the cruise on the Makumbi is great fun and we were quite glad to be a team of 4 Jenman staff together. We saw a herd of elephant crossing the river, quite a few crocodiles and of course, the perfect African sunset! What a way to end our trip!!!