Leaving Ngepi behind we now push further into the Caprivi Strip towards Camp Chobe, our final destination in Namibia, right on the border of Namibia and Botswana. Soon the long drive, the heat is behind us and we are setting up our tents on the edge of the Chobe river.
As our fire crackles and the white wine clinks in the silver goblet we are treated to a most amazing HD show. A herd of elephant come down to drink at the river just 50m in front of our camp. And in the distance behind them a massive herd of buffalo is on the move. It's so large that a huge dust cloud hangs over them. As the sun melts away behind us we enjoy our evening meal and look forward to spending our last few days in Namibia on the edge of this beautiful savanna.
Did I say we had left the heat behind? It seems not. As we crawl into our tents at 9:30pm the heat does not abate. I haven't been this hot in years. I hope we will sleep. I doze…I must be alseep, I think?
"Dad! What's that noise?” I awake…I was asleep. But no more. The heat is oppressive.
“Dad, there's something making a noise in the kitchen area.” I listen. There is something moving in the kitchen. I shine the torch from within the tent but can't see what it is. “There's a noise outside our tent too,” says another worried kid's voice from their adjoining tent.
“There!” says Nicky in a muted gasp. “An elephant!”
As I peer out our tent I see a large dark form walking past the front of our tent. It's huge this close up. The kids are in a panic as more noises around the tent signal the presence of the herd. We convince them to stay quiet in their tent. We all wait. What's the elephant done in our kitchen area, where we heard it earlier? Will they leave our tents alone? Heat…silence. A low rumble. The elephants are still near. Heat…silence.
In the morning, as the sun slowly paints the land in colour chasing the darkness away, we arise to see what the elephants did. Besides on chair that has toppled over, there is no sign they have been here, besides their huge tracks all over our campsite. After a quick filter coffee to wake us fully to the day we head off to the lodge where we are scheduled to go on the Canadian Canoe Safari.
We walk down to the river and are soon in three canoes with our guides, Nelson, Andrew and Anton. I've never tried a Canadian Canoe. They are basically a “normal” canoe but someone forgot to tell the Canadians that a paddle can now have two ends. So the poor fellas have been canoeing on one side then the other all these years.
However it turns out to be really easy - well especially when I let Andrew, who was our guide, do most of the hard work. The river is really low, compared to the rainy season when this entire plane is flooded. While this means that the motor boats can't travel it makes for fun on the canoes. The river meanders like a drunken snake through this true African landscape. However, the wind starts to blow. This is a true African savanna after all, that's what you get. To me, it adds to the ambiance as the dust rises and swirls above a huge herd of zebra who are crossing from Namibia to Botswana.
We pull up our canoes to watch the zebra and they look warily at us. “We're going to walk to our snack spot from here,” Andrew says, “to avoid paddling through the dust.” And so we walk across the open planes towards a copse of distant trees. Andrew and Nelson start an impromptu game of soccer as they walk...with a ball of elephant dung. This is soccer Africa style.
When we arrive we are greeted by Amy the manager of Camp Chobe and she has set out a table with some welcome snacks. “I'm sorry about the wind,” she says, “but I've tried to position the Cruiser to protect us.” We don't notice any wind. We are just enjoying the vast splendor of Africa's hot open savannas enjoyed appropriately with a Savannah Lite in one hand and a tasty snack in the other.
The canoe back is easier as the wind is mostly behind us and the guides keep the children active by testing them on the various birds we have been seeing. “What's that?” Andrew calls to the girls in the other canoe while pointing at a black and white bird. “It's an Openbill lapwing,” says Hannah creating a new bird, before settling on “No, I mean a Blacksmith lapwing.” We might never be bird experts but at least we are slowly learning.
Arriving back at Camp Chobe and the day is now really hot. We spend the afternoon enjoying a mixture of swims, drinks and working on our devices in the lovely lodge lounge area. Finally as the sun heads towards its duty to wake the Aussies, we relax at our campsite once more toasting a beautiful day in Africa while the smell of our curry cooking mingles with the ever dusty smell of Africa.
It's our last day in Namibia. It's been an incredible country to visit. Encapsulated in our tents as the night comes alive with the sounds of the wild we watch a David Attenborough show on Africa. The amazing part is that he visits all the places we've just been to. Now it seems so much more real, especially watching it in the heart of Africa's wilds. Sleep beckons. “What adventures does Africa have in stall for us tonight?” I wonder as David's soothing voice pulls me towards sleep, “And so the zebra move across the vast dry planes of Etosha in search of water, hoping to….” Zzzzzz
For more information on Camp Chobe in Namibia, see here!
Swakopmond has been luxury. Great accommodation and the best coffee we have found since our favourite coffee spots more than 2000km away in Franschhoek, South Africa. But now it's time for the wilds again, and now we are headed to Spitzkoppe, a relatively short two-hour journey, although as always it includes 40km of gravel road.
It's 3:30pm when we arrive at the Spitzkoppe campsite, and the mercury is a whisker below 40c. This place must be torture in summer. Huge boulders rise above us…the Spitzkoppe I assume. Nicky leaps out to find out about where we are camping. We're in for a surprise. The campsites have no water, no electricity, and open-air long drop toilets. Eish! In Richtersveld we were expecting it…but this has taken us by sirprise…plus we’ve just come from the flat-white, air-conditioned luxury of our last place. Nothing like brusselsporuts after icecream - Hmm, not sure that analogy works as I prefer brusselsprouts to icecream, but I’m sure you get the idea.
We drive to check out the sites.
They're right. There's nothing. There’s only one thing we can do…go to their outdoor pub!
Beer, soaking in the outback environment and all feels good. We're also welcomed by two very friendly and very tame meerkats. It looks like these little fellas could add lots of fun to our experience here, but now we need to figure out our sleeping plan before it gets dark.
There's a covered shadecloth area next to a huge towering boulder. We decide to forget tents and just sleep outdoors under the shade cloth. If we are going to be in the wild, let’s embrace it with two hands…and a mouthful of dust - and hopefully not too many scorpions.
The evening is sealed with the perfect trio - watching a beautiful sunset from atop a giant boulder, sitting around a camp fire braai, lying on top of a giant boulder marvelling at the Milky Way and counting shooting stars. But now we must retire to our rudimentary campsite. Here’s hoping the wind doesn’t blow!
We survive! The night started warm but slowly as the desert cooled the temperature dropped. However, the wind remained away and our little gypsy shelter kept us all warm. The two resident meerkats are around. They are extremely cute and more than happy to be held when they're in the mood.
Nicky has discovered we can hire an electric bike for R200 for the day. So we grab the two they have and set out to explore. We soon discover what camping here is meant to be. There are some stunning remote campsites - as long as you are self equipped - own water, cooking equipment etc. - which we are. They're framed by huge smooth boulders that make excellent shelters and stunning backdrops. We scale one and sit and soak up the quietness. “You know what?” I say to Nicky as we sit enjoying the majesty of this place, “next time, now that we know what this place is about, we must camp out here in the wilds.” She nods her agreement… “next time” being tactitly assumed. If we were traveller-explorers before, we’re now addicted traveller-explorers! Nothing can be done to cure this problem, but feed the need!
Riding the gravel roads on the electric bikes is blissful ease. No effort required as they power effortlessly along under their battery power. To make us feel like we are doing something we occasionally spin the pedals. It’s like riding a magic carpet, through a fantasy world, as we silently fly along the roads in amongst massive boulders cast like a giant’s discarded die.
We’ve discovered the perfect lunch spot and so returning back to the campsite we pack our vittles and head out to The Arch. It’s a giant rock arch suspended miraculously in the air above another large boulder. We all clamber up and seat ourselves in the welcome shade of the arch and soon the sizzle of jaffles on the gas burner mingles with the clink of ice in our Sauvignon Blanc. Not bad for “roughing it”. Yet another truly epic picnic spot.
A group of tourists, from one of the many large overlanders we’ve seen, appear. These overlanders typically arrive in the late afternoon, setup camp, eat, and leave early the next morning. The trips are all about how many places can you see in how few days. Been there…done that! We watch as they snap a few photos of the arch and vanish as quickly as they appeared. “That’s not how I want to travel,” I say as I sip my wine. Everyone agrees. In fact that’s the difference between a tourist and a traveller. The tourist wants to see the sites, the traveller wants to experience the sites.
Back at the base we decide to grab an early shower. The open showers are warm and rejuvenate us leaving only one thing required. Something for the never-ending thirst of Africa. We settle at the pub sipping huge Rock Shandies, lying on the hammocks and playing with the meerkats. Another day in Africa!
Wait…the day is not over. There's still time for sundowners…of course! While Nicky drives the car Josh and I whizz along on the electric bikes as we head out to find the perfect spot to end another perfect day in Africa. We find a huge rock and we all clamber up it and enjoy the sunset as it paints the large rocks of Spitzkoppe the early evening hues of Africa’s special red. It’s rustic here. It’s dusty here. It’s remote here. It’s desolate here...It’s stunning here.
Desert time. Today we are heading out to explore the desert with Batis Birding Tours. At 8am a cool looking 4x4 vehicle rocks up outside our accommodation. Now that's service! “Hi, I'm Dayne,” the friendly driver says. “Welcome to our Living Desert Tour.”
We are heading out to explore a portion of the world's oldest desert - the Namib desert that surrounds Swakopmond like a threatening tsunami. “Hmm?” I wonder to myself as we whisk along the streets en route to pick up another group . “What in the world can we see in a dry desert?” We've driven through and walked in this desert already on our adventures in Sossusvlei. Besides a few Oryx it's seems pretty devoid of life. Well that is besides the 202 tyre carcasses we counted from Sossusvlei to Swakopmond.
To experience the desert like never before join a tour here.