On November 2015 I went on a 4-month trip through Southern and East Africa. I visited the following countries: Mozambique, South Africa, Lesotho, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania (+ Zanzibar), Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Ethiopia. These are my top 10 Africa trip highlights (in chronological order):
Swimming in Bazaruto Archipelago, Mozambique
By nature I’m not a beach person. I can swim and I enjoy water activities but I feel more comfortable in mountains and plains, but, yet, the beauty of the Bazaruto Archipelago in Mozambique impressed me a lot. The white sand beaches are pristine and unspoiled, the waters crystal blue, there’s abundant sea life for amazing snorkeling/diving and few tourists.
Sea bird-watching in the Cape Peninsula, South Africa
Africa is just great for bird-watching, each country has in average more bird species than the whole of Europe or North America. I took a pelagic boat trip from Simon’s Town into the continental shelf where I saw hundreds of birds feeding on the abundant fish and following the trawler boats. There are many species of petrels, shearwaters, gulls and skuas but it was the albatrosses that impressed me more,as they are so elegant but at the same time so robust and big.
It is unfair to point out one single bird-watching experience I had but the sea bird-watching trip in the Cape Peninsula was truly one of my Africa trip highlights.
Surreal desert landscapes in Namibia
Of all the places I visited, nothing is like the landscapes of the Namib Desert. From the orange sand dunes surrounded by salt pans of Sossusvlei to the mountain area of Spitzkoppe, this is one of the most impressive landscapes I’ve seen.
Meerkats in the Makgadikgadi Pan, Botswana
The Makgadikgadi Pan is one of the largest salt flats in the world. It is also one of the best places to see Meerkats (or Suricates as they are also called).
After a 3h off-road drive we found a “mob” of meerkats, a family of around 20 individuals. We followed and interacted with them for around one hour. These are very clever and funny animals and a pleasure to watch.
Canoeing in the Zambezi River, Zambia
I spent Christmas canoeing in the Zambezi River, in Zambia.
For 2 days we went downstream on the river, canoeing in the middle of Hippopotamus (sometimes as close as 10m from our canoes), listening and watching birds. The only other people were local fishermen. At one point we saw an herd of elephants crossing the river and we were able to get close to them. We spent the night on a small island where we cooked in the fire, had a drink to celebrate the Christmas Eve and slept under the stars. It was magical.
Wildlife drives in South Luangwa NP, Zambia
A leopard crossing the street in front of our car, a pride of lions hunting in the savanna while we were having tea, a pack of wild dogs killing an impala, giraffes, zebras, many gazelles, hundreds of birds, beautiful scenery…
South Luangwa NP might not have the big numbers as the parks in Tanzania and Kenya, or be so accessible as the parks in South Africa, but this was the park I enjoyed the most (and I’ve been to many). I described the main reason in the previous paragraph. Beside would like to highlight the fact that there are no hordes of tourists and I felt that the game drives are less obtrusive to the animals.
Chimpanzee tracking in Murchison Falls NP, Uganda
Chimpanzees live in deep forest in large families of between 15 to 150 individuals. They have a complex social structure, are territorial and depending on who you ask their DNA is 94 or 98% like ours.
Our guide took us through a path in the forest and for 20min there was silence. Then we heard some distant sounds and our guide took us on another path, the chimps were around 1km away. Some more walking and we saw first one on a tree, then a couple more in the ground, and then the high canopies of the tress were full of chimps. The sound they produce is crazy loud and to some level scary, also because they move very fast so it is difficult to associate the sound with the animal. For 1h we followed and observed them, and with the help of our guide we were able to understand a lot of their behaviour.
Personally this was the best wildlife experience I had in Africa and one of the best in my life.
Gorilla tracking in Volcanoes NP, Rwanda
This is a complete different experience from the Chimpanzee tracking. Whereas the chimps are loud, very active, mobile and mostly unaware or not interested in the “tourists”, the Mountain Gorillas spend most of their time eating, moving and resting (although they can be quite fast movers), and somehow they kind of interact with the tourists.
To get to the Gorillas we have to wait for the scouts to give us indications where we can find them. Then we climb, climb more and keep climbing a steep path through deep mountain forest until the area where the family is. We then move slow and approach them, and with a bit of luck they accept us and keep their calm (if not, they probably run away, or might even attack us). Finally we spend some time with them. I watched them mostly resting but young ones tend to be quite playful and inquisitive, approaching and even touching us.
This was one of the Africa trip highlights for most of the people I traveled with and I’m no exception. Being close to such powerful and magnificent animals is an experience of a lifetime.
Landscapes of Bale Mountains NP, Ethiopia
The Bale Mountains is a diverse and unique ecosystem in Ethiopia. In 3 days we visited grasslands full of gazelles, woodlands, mountain plateaus of around 4000m high and cloud forest full of birds. Due to the diversity and uniqueness it is a haven for endemic and near-endemic fauna, including the amazing Ethiopian Wolf (considered the most endangered canid in the world), mountain Nyalas, the Bale Monkey and many more mammals and birds.
I was expecting to enjoy more the Simien Mountains (which are beautiful but we did not chose the best way to explore them) but the Bale Mountains, for the diversity of the landscape and the opportunity to see such amazing wildlife (including 2 wolves) got the spot for one of the Africa trip highlights.
Climbing the Erta Ale Volcano, NP
This was unique, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to be so close to a volcano. I have a full post for this so please read it here.