A Travellerspoint blog

December 2017

Chapter 33 – Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia

By Neil and Nikki

sunny 25 °C


If you want to see the huge variation in language, culture and politics in Africa, then this 16-day segment of our Nairobi to Cape Town trip, supplied a view in technicolour. Travelling west from East Africa to Southern Africa, the change is quite stark, but all of it is stunning.

One of the greatest highlights of the Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and (half of) Namibia was sunset at the waterhole in the Etosha National Park in Namibia….

The waterhole at Camp Okaukuejo which hosts animals from across Etosha National Park both day and night. In the evening, thousands of birds fly backwards and forwards between the water and trees for over an hour. And then the low-lit flood lights come on and you can sit there the entire night watching elephants, lions, giraffes, leopards and numerous other beautiful animals come to drink.

Apart from hanging out with all of the beautiful people we’ve met on the Big Trip, the second most enjoyable aspect of the trip has been learning about this big old world we live in. And these countries provide that in spades. But more of that later on……

Just as a refresher, here is the map of our trip:

This chapter of our travels starts at the South Luangwe National Park in Zambia and goes on to the Etosha National Park in Namibia.


Zambia – Hippo country

Crossing over from Malawi, the second poorest country in the world, to Zambia was a stark difference. Yes, Zambia is blessed with the 15th and 17th biggest copper mines in the world, but it also is much less corrupt than Malawi (Zambia is 87th on the Transparency International corruption index (with the 1st being Denmark as the least corrupt) versus Malawi at 120th). Zambia also has a GDP per capita of US$1,230 per year, versus US$295 per capita per annum for Malawi. Interestingly the literacy rate in Malawi (66%) is higher than Namibia (64%), but is improving.

Zambia was, however, Hippo central. We stayed on the South Luangwa river which has LOTS of Hippos. Each night we could hear them grunting as they climbed up onto the river bank and headed into the foliage to eat. We had to be driven the 500m from the campfire to our accommodation after dark to avoid any inadvertent meetings!

Hippos are really quite big… And the noises at night coming from just outside of our cabin were, er, disconcerting! Here is a footprint in the mud outside our cabin which we took the next morning.

Later that night on a game drive we managed to spot some of the culprits who had been keeping us awake the night before! They stay underwater in the river and mudpools during the day so it is relatively rare to see them out of the water.

In South Luangwa National Park we went out both in the morning and afternoon to spot wildlife. There were wild dogs, hyenas and elephants during the afternoon....

There were lots of baby elephants in South Luangwa National Park.

But after sunset the real treat came as two male lions wandered out of the trees on the side of the road, prowling towards a herd of Impala.

Two male lions, brothers, wandering out of the gloom at dusk.

They evidently wanted to let their pride know where they were hunting that night and one gave a low roar which went on for about half a minute. Using its stomach muscles to squeeze its diaphragm it gave a grunting roar which can evidently be heard over 5 km away. If you want to hear it, Nikki has posted a video on Facebook. It was absolutely amazing.


Tribal textiles

Travelling west towards the Zambian capital, Lusaka, we stopped off at ‘Tribal Textiles’ where they hand make batik fabric and prints.


A gentleman putting the pattern onto a piece of cloth using a flour-water mixture.

It is a four-step process involving the application of the pattern using a flour and water mixture which is later washed out. Dye is then applied to the fabric and it is then baked in an industrial oven. Lastly the mixture is washed off and the fabric emerges with beautiful patterns and motifs.

A woman painting on the dye over the flour water pattern.

Nikki was particularly enamoured with the Singer sewing machines, both electric and manual (for use during the frequent power outages).


On our last night in Zambia we stayed in the Eureka Camp and Lodge and were greeted by a herd of zebras where the tents were to be set up! It was incredibly idyllic.


As mentioned in Chapter 32, our 41-day trip down to Cape Town was in fact two overland trips combined and Lusaka was our last night with the ‘first crew’ before joining a new group at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. We’d met, as we do on each overland truck, many beautiful people and we were particularly lucky to have our driver, Casper, and guide/cook, Prosper, taking care of us on the trip.

Our fantastic Nairobi, Kenya to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe Nomad group. The people on the trip changed a couple of times along the way, but it was always a great mix and we had some amazing times!

But we had to say “Au Revoir!” and prepare ourselves for the final leg. The Last Hurrah! The last 20 days down to Cape Town; Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and onto South Africa!


Zimbabwe – Victoria Falls

We were in a bar in Zanzibar with our first Nomad guide Prosper (who is Zimbabwean), when it was announced on TV that Robert Mugabe had, after a 37-year dictatorship, resigned as president of Zimbabwe. There was jubilation, back slapping, and hugs all round! Prosper, who is 33, had never known another leader of his country! It was a very special moment to be in Africa for. I’ll write lots more on that later on in this chapter. It is a fascinating, tragic, and appalling story, that hopefully, hopefully, will move in the right direction.

We made a long and hot crossing into Zimbabwe from Zambia in order to spend two nights at Victoria Falls, which straddles the border of these two countries.

Victoria Falls are an immense spectacle. They are one of the biggest waterfalls in the world, along with Iguazu in Argentina/Brazil, and Niagara Falls in Canada/USA. However, arriving in the dry season one can only appreciate what it must be like in the wet season as only half the canyon face has water flowing over it!

The first view of the falls from the devils throat, looking down the length of the falls.

The view of the falls from the first half which has water flowing over it even in the dry season. Further downstream the flow over the top ceases and there is an amazing view of the bottom of the canyon, which is normally covered by an impenetrable water spray.

Another special selfie moment at Victoria Falls. Unfortunately, it seems to be either us or the scenery….

The falls were named by this bloke:

Livingstone was the first European to see the falls in November 1855. He named them after Queen Victoria.

Similarly to Lake Baikal in Siberia which we would love to see in a different season (winter when it is frozen), our thoughts were that we’d love to see Victoria Falls at the end of the wet season. 500 m3/second were flowing over it when we saw it at the end of the dry season. In the wet season the flow increases to 5,000 m3/ second!


Botswana – Visit One

It’s worth, I reckon, putting in a map of Botswana to allow a bit of orientation of the country.

Here is a map of the borders between Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia. We crossed through the very top corner of Zimbabwe for one night in Botswana before heading into Namibia. We repeated this process a couple of times!

On the first day we drove from Victoria Falls down to the Chobe National Park (adjacent to Kasane, right in the north-east corner of Botswana). We were really fortunate that it was a cloudy day and this meant that the hippos, instead of staying in the waters of the Chobe River to keep cool, came out. It made an amazing sight!

Hippos out of water in daylight. A really rare sight!

But, for Nikki, there is no question that the highlight was during the sunset cruise when the elephants came down to have a drink.

Elephants coming down to the river to have a drink at sunset. There must have been over 20 of them milling about in two different groups. You can see the matriarch of one group off to the left, calling them to join her. They soon wandered off in search of something to eat.

But the cutest, and I’ll do a close up so you can see, was the infant elephant, only about 2 – 3 months old…

The baby elephant was so young that it hadn’t learnt how to suck water up through it’s trunk and so had to kneel down and put its head down into the water to drink…..


Namibia – Visit One

“Righto!” said a German bloke in 1890, “I want to have access to my colony, Tanganyika (modern day Tanzania) from South West Africa (which is now Namibia), and most importantly the Atlantic Ocean”.

The German bloke was the Chancellor of Germany. Why an Italian called Leo von Caprivi de Caprera de Montecuccoli was made the Chancellor or Germany, I’m not quite sure but, hey…..

“I can just run boats along the Zambezi all the way from Namibia to Tanzania”.

So the Brits said “Righto then, you can have a tract of Botswana through to Zimbabwe, but you must relinquish all of your claims to Zanzibar in return”. So it was all agreed and signed.

What the Brits didn’t mention was the small impediment of Victoria Falls…..

How I bet the Brits laughed! You can just imagine them in the club in London with a cigar and a whisky!


So Namibia now looks like this:

The Caprivi Strip is the thin strip of Namibia that stretches out over Northern Botswana…..

This tract of rather useless land became known as the Caprivi Strip and stands out like, well, it stands out quite a lot….

It did, however, have a good road and was excellent to get from the Chobe River to one of the most striking river features in the world. An Inland Delta. The Okavango Delta. (Its at the top left corner of Botswana).


Botswana - Visit Two – The Okavango Delta

My first thought when looking at the delta was that it must be unique. But it’s not. There are two other inland delta’s of a similar size in Africa alone; the Sud, off the Nile in South Sudan and another off the Niger.

BUT! Let’s talk about water. Its estimated that 11,000,000,000,000 litres of water flow into the Delta each year (11 trillion litres). (Did you know, by the way, that 11 trillion litres flows out of the Amazon in 18 hours? Just to give a sense of scale.) 60% of the water is used in plant transpiration, 36% is lost to evaporation, 2% goes to Lake Ngami, and 2% goes to the aquifer. The result is, in effect, a humungous waterhole(s). It supports 530 species of birds, 160 species of mammals, etc. Where does the water come from? Here is its catchment area:

The catchment area for the Okavango Delta. The water comes mostly from Angola.

Why is it there then? Well, thanks for asking! In simple terms, there’s a river and it doesn’t flow to the sea (hence an Inland Delta). But why?

It’s due to land rising in the east that stops the water flowing to the Linyanti and Zambezi rivers. The water is forced instead, by two fault lines under the Great Rift Valley, to flow towards the Kalahari….

The difference between the extent of the water in the dry and wet seasons is really stark:

Variations in the area covered by water in the Okavango Delta.

Now our visit to the Okavango was a bit of a special surprise. We didn’t realise that the people who had paid to be accommodated (as opposed to camping) were to be taken to a different lodge for two nights and then flown back out of the delta! Flying over the Delta was in fact something both of us had wanted to do, but had not been organised enough to arrange.

So we turned up in the Delta to a little bit of this….

No, No! Really! It is a tent! Taking glamping to a whole new level. Permanent tents at Mopiri Lodge.

I know. I haven’t seen a bath tub in a tent before either. Or his and her sinks….

And the food was very good. And a free laundry service. And swimming pools.

There were boat trips through the Delta.

Lots of papyrus smacked us in the face, but Moses was nowhere to be found…

Sunset cruises.

Lots of beer to be found, but no revelations.

Flowers! Innit!


Going past the Hippo guards on the creek back to the “tent”.

Bit blurry because I’ve blown up the photo, but that’s a hippo on the right-hand side going “Bloody Hell! What was that?”. There was one stretch of water where you had to get the boat past 4 hippo sentinels, and they would jump out at the boat as you zoomed past. It was more than a little hairy!

Being poled along in a Matatu.

The inevitable toe shot!

A Praying Mantis:

The smallest praying mantis we have ever seen!

And a grinning Cookie!

Neil at the prospect of a flight out of the Okavango Delta…

And that will be a hippo skull!

On our bush walk into the Delta there were plenty of animal skeletons to attest to the wide array of wildlife that stalks the plains. We didn’t see any live ones on our walk due to the dry hot conditions.

It was all rather fabulous! And finished off with a 10-seater flight over the Delta!

One excited guy after our flight out of the Delta. Our photos are still stuck on the GoPro but hopefully one day they will make it to light!

After flying out of the Okavango we had one more day in Botswana in a place called Ghanzi where we stayed in the Kalahari Desert before making our crossing back to Namibia. That night some of the local San people of the Kalahari Desert joined to share their music and singing. The San people are better known in the West as the “Bushmen”. A tribe of nomads discovered in the Kalahari Desert in the mid 1800’s and made famous by the movie, “The Gods must be Crazy”. The reality of their history is that they were the consummate bushmen and women, able to track any animals and survive in one of the harshest environments on earth. They were also hunted like animals and now only number 30,000, spread across Namibia and Botswana.

A performance of song and dance by the San people of the Kalahari Desert. The women sat around the fire, kept time with clapping, while singing. The men performed various dances.

I just happened to have the guitar there and, once they were finished, the San asked us for a couple of songs in return. If you go to visit the San people and they’re singing “Lei La Lei!” that’ll be from my performance of ‘The Boxer’! Ooops!


Namibia – Part Two – Windhoek, Etosha, and the DPRK (The Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea - aka North Korea)

Heading across into Namibia ‘proper’ (as opposed to the Caprivi Strip) memories started coming back to me of watching a conflict on tv when I was a lad. Something about South Africa. Fortunately, the Lonely Planet had a bit of information and the Interweb provided a bit more. But more of that later…

Namibia is about the size of New South Wales in Australia - 875,000 square kilometres. But it only has a population of 2.4 million people. The capital,
Windhoek, is a large country town. Suffice to say, there aren’t many people…

The main draw card for the north of Namibia is the Etosha National Park. And the highlight of the highlight was the rhino’s:

A very exciting moment as we managed to see the final large African animal on our list, and one of the big 5. We had seen rhinos in Uganda and Ngorongoro, but only from a great distance. Here it was a real encounter. This is a black rhino, identifiable by its overhanging top lip.

And contrary to first impressions this is also a black rhino, covered in white mud. The white rhino is in fact a mispronunciation of “wide”, which describes the defining feature of their wide top lip. Both the black and white rhinos are in fact grey in colour….

23% of the Etosha National Park is a massive salt pan where no animals live, but is spectacular scenery.

The salt pan of the Etosha National Park. In midsummer it is stiflingly hot.

After 350 odd days on the road we still speak to each other and everything!

We saw zebras with different stripes!

A unique feature about Etosha National Park is that it has many manmade waterholes to keep the animals in the park, as well as ensure they are visible for all of the tourists. As you can see from the salt pan, Etosha is an incredibly dry environment in summer. Without bore water, all of the waterholes dry up and the animals leave the park. However, it is increasingly unsafe for the animals to venture outside of the park, both due to poaching and encroachment on local farms. For this reason, there are many manmade waterholes that are kept full year around to supplement the natural sources of water.

This meant that even in summer we were able to have some very special moments at Etosha:

A solo male elephant who joined us at the waterhole, along with a multitude of zebra, oryx and springbok. We stayed for half an hour and watched different groups of animals troupe in and out, looking for water. At one stage a thirsty hyena threatened the tranquillity of the other animals but was eventually forced away by sheer numbers.

Another of the manmade watering holes inundated with zebra, springbok and a giraffe.

While in Etosha we were lucky enough to stay at two amazing lodges which had waterholes that were accessible day and night, lit by dim spotlights that allowed us to view the animals at any time. The sunset in the first photo is from one of these waterholes, as is the following of a beautiful elephant that came to drink with us on our last night.

A special night waterside watching animals wander in for a late-night drink. There were a couple of lions wandering around in the background, but they decided not to come forward.


The Political, Economic, and People aspects to Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia.

The Capitalist-Communist battle for Africa.

Way back when we were travelling through South and Central America I wrote quite a bit about the century long battle for influence and control between Capitalism (in the Red, White, and Blue Corner – represented by the USA), and Communism (in the Red Corner – represented by the USSR). I didn’t fully understand that South and Central America was just one theatre of operations for Russia and America. A similar battle was being fought in Africa.

Most countries in Africa gained independence in the 1960’s, and it was often a socialist leader that got in. I’m sure a factor in this was the desire for equality after a century of colonialism. I was talking with a young bloke called Matt in a bar in Botswana and he threw in a profound comment. He said that the first leaders in Africa after countries gained independence had been focussed on gaining independence and maybe not so much on running a country. They became corrupt and bled the countries dry. They also generally didn’t believe so much in democracy and freedom and therefore stayed in the top jobs for 2 to 3 decades. The new leaders succeeding these, Matt noted, had lived in corrupt countries for decades and knew that it was not good, and so are better leaders. Interesting, I thought and absolutely true for most of the countries in this blog.

Firstly Zambia. They got independence in 1964 and Kenneth Kaunda, the first president was a poster child for this battle.

Then let’s move on to, as Archbishop Tutu called him, “a cartoon figure of an archetypal African dictator”, the former (Hoorah!) president of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe. He got into power in 1980 after a freedom struggle that was backed by communist powers. He leaned, as intimated above, towards a socialist system. I’ll describe the Zimbabwe catastrophe in further detail below.

Botswana, it can be said, is the ‘successful developing country’ poster child for sub-Saharan Africa, Africa as a whole, and quite possibly the world. I’ve mentioned before the corruption index of the organisation ‘Transparency International’. Botswana is at the same level as Portugal, i.e. not very corrupt at all.

When diamonds were discovered in Botswana in 1967 the government cut a deal with the massive South African diamond house, De Beers, for them to develop the diamond fields with Botswana keeping 75% of the profits. And you know what? The Botswana leaders put those profits not into Swiss bank accounts, but into the country, avoiding both the ‘communist trap’ and the megalomaniacal dictator syndrome.

Namibia was, without doubt, the forefront of the communist/ capitalist battlefield. In 1966 the UN said that South West Africa (as it was then called), was not a colony of South Africa. South Africa said South West Africa was a colony, and so began a 2.5-decade long battle to obtain this county as its own. The Peoples Liberation Army for Namibia (PLAN), the militant wing of the South West African Peoples Organisation (SWAPO) were backed by 19,000 Cuban soldiers (Cuba at the time was funded by the USSR) stationed in Angola to the north. North Korea was also a big supporter. And this is when I had a bit of a Eureka! moment. How did South Africa survive with an abhorrent apartheid system for so long? South Africa was capitalist and vehemently anti-communist. To the West (the UK and USA etc.) therefore, this ideology was more important than the human rights violations that were being committed and the apartheid system. It was not until the worldwide tide of public opinion turned against apartheid in South Africa and, arguably, the USSR had failed, that South Africa relinquished its claim on Namibia.

Namibia finally got its independence in 1990.



Once again, let’s include a map:

Map of Zambia, bordering some of the more unstable countries in the Africa, and yet benefitting from the wealth of the southern African countries.

As you know, I love graphs. Take a look at this one.

Yeah, yeah. Blah, blah, blah… But look at it. Gross Domestic Product is a measure of the growth rate of an economy. Look at it since 1997. Above 5%? That is a TIGER economy.

Yes, it is a poor country, but it is moving in the right direction. And at a rapid rate of knots.



Lordy! Lordy! Lordy! This moron:

Robert Mugabe

He is right up there on the list of the worst leaders an African country, or any country in the world has had ever.

Where would you like to start? Murder? Destroying a country? Let’s kick off with murder.

Mugabe got into power in 1980. There was a group of Zimbabweans in Matabeleland. Mugabe ordered the murder, or maybe genocide would be a better word, of up to 80,000 Matabele’s by his Fifth brigade – trained, by the way, in North Korea. No, he has never been called to account.

To destroy (hopefully not irrevocably) a country takes a long time and a lot of effort. Let’s look at the statistics:

- Overall GDP of Zimbabwe is US$ 17.1 billion.
- GDP/ capita is US$ 970/ capita/ year.

How did he do it?

By using quite innovative methods of ruining a country:

- Number 1 – steal money from the country for his own pocket. That is standard African Dictator behaviour.
- In the 1980’s and 1990’s the economy did actually quite well then, due to mismanagement and corruption by the government and the eviction of 4,000 white farmers, the economy declined at a rate of 6.1% per year from 1999 and 2009.

Zimbabweans in 2005 had the same purchasing power as 1953!

Zimbabwe is the blue line. That’ll be a country going into the toilet then. Note Zambia’s increase starting in about the year 2000.

The disaster of the Zimbabwean economy continued with it getting involved in the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo between 1999 and 2002.

Zimbabwe’s lack of “democracy, respect for human rights, and the rule of law” led the world to action. The USA in 2001 passed the ‘Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001’. This imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe. Hyperinflation occurred, and the inflation rate reached 11,200,000% per year. The currency was cancelled in 2009 and Zimbabwe now uses the US dollar.

Zimbabwean dollars are still available for purchase by tourists (the only people interested) at a nominal value. These are our Russian friends holding up a $1,000,000,000,000 note. Yes, a 1 trillion dollar note.

The country is destroyed. Mugabe, you’re an idiot! I really hope Mnangagwa does a better job. But who knows?


The propaganda machine worked very well for Mugabe. One of our guides, who was born during Mugabe’s reign, was very pleased Mugabe had resigned but was very appreciative of what he’d done. I didn’t comment because I hadn’t done the research. Now I have……

I should say, however, that the literacy rate is 89%. Fantastic! But the unemployment rate is 90, yes NINETY percent.



The poster child for African and world good governance. Similar to many African countries, Botswana received independence in the 1960’s. As I wrote earlier, diamonds were discovered in 1967 and Botswana cut a deal with the South African diamond house that Botswana was to keep 75% of all profits from this industry. Protecting their interests by way of agreement was ground breaking. And then the government didn’t steal it! They put it into roads, tourism, education, etc! Their statistics are:

- GDP is US$ 15.3 billion
- GDP/ capita is US$6,788

What have they done? As I wrote in the previous chapter, if you want the wealth of a country to increase:

1. Don’t blow up your, or other peoples, countries. Tick.
2. Don’t put the country’s wealth in Swiss Bank Accounts. Tick. Corruption rating is about 40th out of 176. About the same level of corruption as Portugal.
3. Focus on ploughing the money back into the country; infrastructure, education, and health. Tick, but….

The stain on Botswana’s record? The HIV/ AIDS rate of 21% (versus about 6% for most of the other countries we’ve been through). More on that later….



Wow. Big country. Only 2.5 million people. About half the population density of New South Wales in Australia.

What was I saying before? Don’t blow up the country? Yeah. Nah. Namibia bombed/got bombed/ was a pawn in a bigger battle, up to 1990. But since then GDP has been doing this:

A table of the growth in Namibia. It’s not good, and not bad.

Overall, it appears to be moving in the right direction:

GDP of the country is now US$11.8 billion
GDP per capita is now US$5,078

The ties to Kim Jong Un, he’s the manager of this North Korean Girl Band:

The Moranbong band from North Korea. Set up and managed by Kim Jong Un.

The ties were very strong including, maybe for a bit of Uranium. However, the latest lot of sanctions have put paid to that.

North Korea did build a few nice buildings including this:

The memorial centre in Windhoek.

Overall, Namibia is doing really well. It’s 54 out of 176 on the corruption index.


The HIV/ AIDS epidemic

I mentioned earlier that, whilst the HIV/ AIDS rate in the countries that we’d been to was about 6% (in Australia it is less than 1%), in Botswana it is 21% which is hideous! Yes, there is free retroviral drugs but it got me thinking, why is Botswana’s (and many Africans countries) HIV/ AIDS rate so much higher than that in the West?

In Australia the Grim Reaper advertising campaign ran on TV from 1987 and was very effective in reducing the HIV/ AIDS rate in Australia.

Not having safe sex will bring around the Grim Reaper….

The HIV/ AIDS death rate around the world is shown below:


The number of infections are reducing :


And the number of people receiving anti-retroviral treatment is increasing.


In our last chapter I put down a graph of the Life Expectancy for Africa and it was a happy scene:


What didn’t click in the last chapter, however, was the flat line that you can see from around 1990 to about 2005 for the life expectancy for Africa as a whole. A bit more digging, however, shows this graph for life expectancy.


Do you see the line for Zimbabwe? It dropped from 61 in 1987 to 43 years in 2003 and has now recovered to 58 now.

So why is it so bad in Africa? Fortunately, Martina Morris, Professor of Sociology and Statistics at the University of Washington in Seattle has asked the same question. She came up with some absolutely fascinating results:

1. It is common in Southern Africa for both men and women to have more than one sexual partner during the same time period, i.e. for men and women to have long term relationships with 3 or more people at the same time.
2. The risk of HIV infection is comparatively low from a single sexual encounter with an HIV person; between 1 in a 100 and 1 in a 1,000. But from repeated sexual contact with an HIV infected partner, the risk is much higher.
3. The chance of condom use continuing with a long term partner is much reduced.

The HIV/ AIDS infection rate, and death rate are now dropping in pretty much every African country

Of course, comments by certain African Presidents about showering to reduce the chance of HIV infection don’t help the case…


The Finishing line is in sight!

We’re down to the last 3.5 weeks! A bit more of Namibia to go, and then we’ll arrive in South Africa, the last country of our trip, and country 49!

Thank you for reading the blogs. There aren’t many to go! Happy Christmas!


Posted by capetocape2017 10:06 Archived in Botswana Tagged zambia namibia zimbabwe botswana Comments (1)

Chapter 32 – South through Tanzania and Malawi

By Nikki and Neil

sunny 25 °C


Oh My God! We’re down to the last part of the trip. The 41 day truck trip from Nairobi to Cape Town! 33 degrees of latitude. About 10,000 km’s. 9 countries.

Whereas we booked one continuous trip from Nairobi to Cape Town with the African overland company Nomad, it is in fact from their perspective actually 3 or 4 tours joined together. This means the people on our tour change at different junctures. The first leg of the trip was from Nairobi to Zanzibar, about 10 days, where 5 of the ten people on our tour left and we picked up another 14! This group stays together until Victoria Falls, when we join a new truck and group heading south to Cape Town.

This chapter covers our trip from Nairobi, through the game parks of Tanzania to Malawi.

A big call out needs to be made to the rather fabulous, should be professional photographers, Amber and Alina, who have provided us with some of their wildlife photos for this part of the trip. It was that, or play “identify the blob” in our iPhone photos!

As I write this, the highlight of the first leg of the overland trip was this:

When a lion is this close to the car, and is as handsome as this Lion, who can resist? This photo was taken in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area where there were so many lions lolling in the sun, mating or just generally waiting for dinner that even the iPhone had a chance!

This is the route we are taking overland through eastern and southern Africa:

The route of the 41 day truck trip from Nairobi to Cape Town. This blog covers the first 16 days; from Nairobi through Tanzania (including Zanzibar) and Malawi.


The Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area

These two wildlife areas in Tanzania are amongst the best in Africa. The Serengeti is 14,763 square kilometres. What makes it particularly special is that, due to the plain having impenetrable volcanic rock under the surface, trees are rare which makes the wildlife viewing fantastic.

The concentration of animals in and around the Ngorongoro and Serengeti are among the highest in Africa. It was a very slow 4WD ride into the park as there were so many animals to stop and photograph. Credit: The Fantabulous Amber.

I’ve been on a few game drives in my time and to see a leopard is rare. To see one with it’s kill in a tree is even more lucky. On our first evening in the Serengeti, we saw two leopards in two different trees, both with a kill from a recent hunt. One was feeding on a warthog and the other an Impala. The one above had had it’s fill of meat and was having a rest….

Not being one for skins or furs, we had never appreciated how stunning the coat of the leopard is. This one lazed on the branch above us in the sunset, showing off her gorgeous colours. Credit: Amber.

This one, however, was in the middle of munching her way through an impala….

It is amazing how a leopard could drag such a heavy carcass into a tree. They are incredibly strong! I hadn’t noticed this before posting this picture, but in the middle of the bottom is the deceased impala’s head. Credit: Amber

We were in the Serengeti for 1 whole day and 2 half days, and so spent many hours out on the plains spotting the animals. There was an absolute overabundance of impalas, antelope, buffalo and wildebeest, but it was the leopards, cheetahs and lions that were the highlight of the Serengeti.

These beautiful cheetahs were sitting under the shade of a tree in the middle of the road. Despite 6 or 7 vehicles sitting around watching them, they were completely unfazed and out lasted our curiosity! Credit - Amber.

Mother and baby elephant sharing a moment as the herd moved across the plains in the afternoon towards their watering hole. Credit: Amber.

I think this is a Marsh Eagle. Credit: Amber.

An appropriately smug looking lizard! If I had his colours, I’d be pretty happy too. Credit: Amber

We saw both solo and packs of hyenas though out the Serengeti, at one stage having a stand off with a herd of zebras over a waterhole. Credit: Amber

As we said though, the lions were the stars of the show. We saw large family groups with lots of young cubs:

The cubs were so playful and the adults so patient! This mother and cub were sitting in a group of around 15 enjoying the sunset near a waterhole. Credit: Amber.

And solo male lions...

A very special sunset moment with this beautiful guy. Credit: Amber.

And this cheeky fellow! Credit: Amber.

This little one was sitting on a rock near a pride basking in the sun, watched over by 2 male lions.

Here is the group of female lions, adolescents and cubs, snuggled up on the rocks.

And this is us, watching the wildlife!

One of Nik’s favourite moments on the trip was when we were heading out of the Serengeti and a herd of giraffes decided at that moment to wander across the road!

On our way from the Serengeti to Ngorongoro Crater a herd of giraffes crossed in front of the car, gracefully wandering into the distance.

The Masai Mara people live in southern Kenya and northern Tanzania. They have been given special dispensation to live in the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation area so as to allow them to continue to live in their traditional nomadic way of life. We visited a Masai village while travelling through the area. It was fascinating to see how little their way of life has changed in hundreds of years. Whereas they now purchase water in the dry season, they do not have electricity or sanitation and their houses are incredibly basic (woven wood and mud, with dirt floors). They are very fiercely proud of their culture and independence. We enjoyed being able to see this culture first hand, but did not really enjoy the experience as it was (as we feared) an exercise aimed more blatantly at extracting money than sharing the culture. I am sure there are much better ways to do this and we would recommend a better planned visit to the Masai should the opportunity arise.

However, we still had fun:

I don’t think I’ll give up the day job! Credit: Amber

The female and male Masai sing and jump for us in front of the village. If you look carefully you will see my hat making a guest appearance on the head of one of the Masai. I think I was lucky to get it back!

We’d noticed a few of the young men with the white painting of their faces. It turns out that they’d recently been circumcised. This happens around the age of 12 or 13. The young men go out into a camp in the bush together for a month for this ceremony and when they return they are considered men. Credit: Amber

Sunset over the Serengeti from our final night. Credit: Amber


Ngorongoro Crater

About 2.5 million years ago a massive volcano cone collapsed and formed what is now the Ngorongoro Crater. The crater is 19 km wide and is one of the biggest unbroken calderas in the world that isn’t a lake. It really is a “Bloody Hell! That’s amazing!” sight. We camped on the lip of the caldera for one night before descending into the crater for a game drive the next morning.

View of the Ngorongoro Crater, created millions of years ago when the volcano collapsed in on its magma chamber, creating this incredible reserve which is fed by natural springs. As it never lacks for water, the crater is also never short of wildlife, who migrate here throughout the year looking to food and water.

And a view of us and the Ngorongoro Crater!

Sometimes on this trip things have happened when we’ve said “Crikey! That was lucky!”. Like when we were in the Toyota Landcruiser going down the very steep dirt road into the Ngorongoro Crater and this happened:

I’m not a car expert but I don’t think this should happen. Witson, who was driving, noticed immediately and managed to steer the car into the drainage gulley and not over the cliff. In his slightly understated way he just said “I think something is wrong….”.

We got out of the car to survey the damage. Other 4WDs stopped and the drivers said in Swahili “Bloody hell Witson! Never seen that happen before!”. While we were standing around watching these discussions we noticed an elephant and buffalo standing on the hill above us. Then we heard the guides all yelling “Get back here! Run! Get back in the car!”. A guy had climbed out of one of the cars stopped behind us a wandered back up the road without telling his driver. What he hadn’t realised was that there were 2 lions also on the hillside above us and one had walked down the hill to look at this tasty morsel! He clearly forgot that we were in the middle of a game park!

Watched over by 3 of the big 5, we waited for another 4WD which came to pick us up and drive us around the crater.

It was as spectacular as we’d been hoping.

We learnt about how lions shag. Did you know they shag for 7 days! Crikey!

Post-coital bliss. Despite a distinct lack of privacy, these two were sharing a personal moment on one of the roads through the crater.

So a lioness gets on heat and picks out a lion as the “shag buddy”. Then about every 20 minutes they get down to business for about 1 minute. Then rest and repeat. For seven days. As I said. Crikey!

Having written about the birds and the bees, this is a bird…

A Superb Starling. Credit: Amber.

And a Blue Starling. Credit: Amber.

There were also hippos, zebras, buffalo, impalas and antelope in abundance:

The hippo pool was such a contrast to the dry plain around it, full of both hippos and birds enjoying the cool water.

This is a juvenile zebra. You can tell by it’s mane which has more brown than the adult zebra.

The Ngorongoro is also the home to 36 rare black rhinos, which are critically endangered. Whereas we technically did see one, it was on the side of hill a few kilometres away and cold only been seen (kind of) through binoculars. So there are no photos and hopefully we will be lucky enough to have a closer sighting as we head south.

Now, I’ve never had the wheel fall of my car before, but if it did happen I reckon it would take a few week to fix back in Australia. But not in Africa. The wheel fell off at 8am due to, we found out, the pins holding the wheel bearing shearing off (did I hear someone say “lack of maintenance”?).

We met up with Witson back in the camp at 6 pm. So the car must have been fixed by 3 pm. 7 hours to fix that problem and it was repaired in situ….

Witson with the repaired car. A true African experience!



We’d been on the road for about 320 days and apart from the San Blas islands off Panama, we hadn’t seen beaches as good as Australia’s. Then we arrived in Zanzibar. My Lord! White powder fine sand. Turquoise water. Great bar/ restaurant on the waters edge. It was sublime!

A much needed beverage to wash away the dust of the Serengeti!

The pearly white beach at Nangwe on the north coast of Zanzibar island. Our haven for 2 days.

It was just what the doctor ordered. Great rooms. Air conditioning. Sleeping in. Restaurant for descent food! Fantastic!

Slavery and the Omani empire

It was the Brits who, having built much wealth and much of the British Empire off the backs of slaves and the slave trade, outlawed it in 1833.

Zanzibar had been the centre of the east African slave trade since the 12th century, as well as an important centre for the trade in ivory, wood, and spices, and was a powerful city state. After a brief interlude of Portuguese control in the early 1500’s, the Omani Arabs took over in the mid 1500’s. Zanzibar was so prosperous that in 1840 this bloke moved his court from Oman to Zanzibar and ruled both Oman and Zanzibar from Stone Town.

Said bin Sultan.

In 1862 Zanzibar became a British protectorate, although it remained under Omani rule. This eventually helped in the banning of slavery. The slavery memorial in Stone Town, the old sector of Zanzibar city, is very powerful.

An evocative sculpture in the Slave Market memorial in Stone Town, Zanzibar. It is estimated that between 1830 and 1863 600,000 slaves were sold in Zanzibar.


Farrokh Bulsara

Another event that happened in Zanzibar that I think is of note was the birth on 5th September 1946 of Farrokh Bulsara.

Photo of Farrokh Bulsara in his school uniform

He was the son of a Parsi family from India, his family having moved from Gujarat to Stone Town, Zanzibar because his father had a job with the British Colonial Office. At age 8, he went to St Peters Boarding School near Bombay, India and was noted to have great skill on the piano, being able to listen to a tune and play it back immediately.

Forward 16 years to 1970 in London when he met up with some blokes Brian May, Roger Taylor, and a little later, John Deacon and formed a rock band. That band has now sold over 150 million records.

Farrokh Bulsara is arguably the greatest rock band leader of all time. He is, of course, better known as Freddie Mercury. The band is Queen. The outfits they wore were very dodgy.

Freddie Mercury in one of his more conservative outfits.


David Livingstone

One of the giants of exploration of Africa by Europeans is this bloke:

Dr David Livingstone, born 19th March 1813 in Blantyre, Scotland.

He was the son of tea salesman and the second of seven children. He went to work in the local cotton mill at the age of 10, working 12 hours a day until he was 25 years old. At the age of 21 he read the appeal for medical missionaries in China and started saving to study Greek and Theology at Andersons College in Glasgow, before going on to Charing Cross Hospital Medical School from 1838 to 1840. At the age of 27, he was ready to go….

In 1840 that Livingstone met London Missionary Society (LMS) missionary Robert Moffat who was on leave from Kurunam, a missionary outpost in South Africa. He was excited by Moffat’s vision of expanding missionary work northwards. Another major influence of Livingstone was T.F Buxtons arguments that the slave trade might be destroyed through the influence of legitimate trade and the spread of Christianity.

After trying missionary work from about 1845 to 1851 in and around Botswana, Livingstone became convinced, after three trips far north of Kolobeng, that the best chance for successful evangelising was to open up Africa to European traders by mapping and navigating its rivers which might then become “Highways” into the interior.

As I sit on the edge of the South Langwe river in Zambia writing this, I find it difficult to comprehend that it was only 160 years ago that this was the map of Africa.

Map of Africa from 1840. Notice the interesting location and expanse of Ethiopia.

It was a deep, dark, unknown entity.

In 1852 Livingstone headed out on the first of his African journey (see the red line on the map below). It was on 16th November 1855 Livingstone became the first European to see what is now called Victoria Falls. On this first trip he was also the first recorded European person to make a trans-African crossing at such a southern latitude.

It was on his second trip (in green on the map below) from 1858 to 1863 he was the first European to see Lake Malawi.

A map taken from the information at Victoria Falls showing Livingstone’s extensive journeys across Africa.

In 1866 Livingstone headed out another trip to try to ascertain the source of the Nile.

On this trip there has been wi-fi virtually everywhere and we’ve been skyping with our families roughly once per week. It seems virtually incomprehensible, therefore, that Livingstone was “lost” for 6 years! The last that was heard from him was in 1867, and then it all went quiet.

In 1870 the New York Herald engaged Henry Stanley to go and look for Livingstone.

It was on the 10th November 1871 that Henry Stanley, in Ujiji, on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, after a journey of almost a year, uttered the immortal words “Dr Livingstone, I presume?”. By the way, Livingstone replied “Yes. And I feel thankful that I am here to welcome you”.

The meeting on 10th November 1871 between David Livingstone and Henry Stanley.


Livingstone and slavery

One of Livingstone’s great passions was the abolition of slavery. His efforts raised the profile of the slave trade and helped the world move towards ending slavery.

After all of his work, he unfortunately died on 1st May 1873 in Chief Chitomba Village, close to Ilala, Lake Bangweulu, in what is now Zambia, a month before slavery was abolished in Zanzibar. His heart was buried under a tree:


And a wooden cross placed above it. The cross is now in the cathedral in Stone Town, Zanzibar.


His body was preserved and carried the 1,600 km to Zanzibar, and then transferred to London. He is buried in Westminster Abbey.


Travelling to Lake Malawi

It’s long way from Zanzibar to Lake Malawi. The ferry rider from Zanzibar to Dar es Salam (a thoroughly unnoteworthy city) takes about 2 hours and was pretty uneventful apart from absolutely torrential rain. We then had an overland drive to reach the Mikumi Game Park, where we stayed for 1 night, through the highland town of Iringa, and then over the border into Malawi.

Mikumi was a completely different park to the Serengeti. Full of trees and wallowing ponds, it was harder to spot the animals, but they seemed more concentrated in a small area.

Our safari truck, ready to start looking for animals in the Mikumi National Park.

We had an amazing encounter with a herd of elephants that crossed the road in front of our car…

That’ll be an elephant then!

An unexpected encounter as a herd of elephants crossed in front of the car and walked past. We all held our breath and didn’t make a noise!

As well as Zebras.

The zebras in the south are a different type, with clearer markings and colours. They were incredibly striking. Credit: Alina (another wonderful Nomad traveller!)

And naughty monkeys! Don’t leave a ketchup bottle on the table!

Caught in the act! This sneaky monkey had managed to steal a bottle of sauce and made his way to the bar for a drink! The monkeys were a real issue everywhere we went. It was important to keep tents, the truck and rooms closed at all times as they would sneak in to steal anything they could get their hands on. Credit: The Splendiferous Alina


Lake Malawi, Livingstone, and the great rivers of southern Africa

Livingstone spent much of his life searching for the source of the Nile and, whilst he found the primary source in 1855 and named it Lake Victoria, after Queen Victoria, there was still conjecture about what fed Lake Victoria. When he found Lake Malawi it took some time to discover that it drained into the Zambezi River system. As I was a little foggy about which lake drained into which river system, I thought I’d include this:


Lake Malawi is one of the major fresh water lakes of southern Africa, but also of the world. It is 576 Km long and about 70 km wide at its widest point.

On the way to Lake Malawi we visited a Baobab tree forest:



Then onto Lake Malawi…

The inevitable toe shot….

This is the view from the Ngala Lodge, Lake Malawi.

A great place to hang out and relax……


Malawi, Tanzania, PJ O’Rourke, and Corruption

The Gross Domestic Product per person in Malawi is US$ 295/ person per year. There is one country that has a lower GDP/ person, South Sudan. Malawi is, by that measure, the second poorest country in the world.

It was about 15 to 20 years ago that I read this book:

Why PJ O’Rourke called the book “Eat The Rich”, I don’t know. The premise of the book? “Why are rich countries rich and poor countries poor?”.

Of course, money doesn’t buy happiness, but it does buy health care. And roads. Etc.

PJ O’Rourke was a writer for the music magazine ‘The Rolling Stone’ before moving onto ‘The Economist’. Each chapter in the book was on a particular country. For example, one chapter was called ‘Tanzania – How to make nothing from everything’. Another was called ‘Hong Kong – How to make everything from nothing’.

It was in 1969, under the rule of the President Julius Nyerere, a policy of the ujamaa (or familyhood) village was set up. An agricultural collective whereby tools were commonly owned and everyone worked on the land. Virtually communism. O’Rourke’s view was that Tanzania, a country with everything, lots of fertile and well-watered land, minerals, a significant workforce, was impossibly poor.

Hong Kong, on the other hand, had nothing; no land, no minerals, but also had a significant workforce, and was rich. Why the difference?

He put it down to a number of factors (which I have added to and maybe altered….):

1. The rule of law. There needs to be an incorrupt police force and judiciary. This wasn’t (and isn’t) the case in Tanzania and was, and is, the case in Hong Kong.
2. Education has to have a high priority in the country and be good.
3. The government needs incorrupt and focussed on building the living standards of the citizens
4. A country shouldn’t destroy stuff in internal conflict or external wars.
5. Capitalism, whilst it has its faults, is better than communism (although a slightly middle ground like there is in Scandinavian countries is, in my view, the ideal).


There is on our trip, a lady of the Baha’I faith and, when you’re on a 41 day trip from Nairobi to Cape Town by land, you get a bit of time to converse about life, the universe, and everything. She explained that one of the basic principles of the Baha’i fiath is that humankind has moved from the Judeo-Christian view of the Time of Prophecy to the Time of Fulfillment. i.e we’re in the time when humankind will/ has started to work together for the common good. And, if you know me, you’ll know that I am, to the core of my soul, an optimist. I’ve had a look at the improvements in the lot of humankind over the past 700 years and we have made giant strides. Some of them are in the graphs below:

Life expectancy is getting better!

Colours are good! Look at this! There are now NO countries with a life expectancy below 40. And VIRTUALLY no countries with a life expectancy under 50. And VERY FEW countries with a life expectancy below 60 years!

And kids that die under the age of 5 years. Africa is the red line! This also has the effect, over time, of lowering the birth rate.

Even armed conflicts are killing as lower a percentage of humankind as at any time in the past 700 years:

Now look at this! So on the left hand axis is the rate of deaths from conflicts per 100,000 people between 1400 and now. It is now as low as at any point in the past 700 years.

But after armed conflict, Corruption is the biggest scourge in the world today. I’m a numbers person (in case you hadn’t guessed!). As we’ve been going through Africa, I’ve had the lists of GDP by country, GDP/ capita by country, and the Transparency International corruption ranking open on my computer. Then I thought “I wonder if there’s a correlation between GDP/ capita and the level of corruption?”. And do you know what? Someone else has thought the same question before and put the result on-line.

So, as expected, there is a strong correlation between the level of corruption (on the horizontal axis with 1 being very corrupt and 10 being not corrupt at all) in a country and the GDP/ capita (on the vertical axis).

Hmmmm….. Then I thought “Why?”. Some of it is intuitive. If someone is stealing a countries wealth, then the virtuous circle of wealth creation (more wealth = better education = better educated people = more productive people = more wealth), is broken, or at least, diminished.

Once again, I mention that this is not about money or wealth per se. It’s that, as our Bhutanese friends with their focus on ‘Gross National Happiness (GNH)’ have known for many decades, two of the four pillars of GNH are education and healthcare, and they both need dough. So does money/ wealth buy happiness? Well, No. And Yes.

I mentioned earlier, investment confidence, whether it be from a shop keeper or a multinational is immensely important to an economy. If the factors mentioned by O’Rourke (and added to by me) are not there, investors will either not invest, or will take their money (and jobs, and wealth) elsewhere.

Fortunately, my thoughts about corruption is not unique or new. And, in a similar way to the strides taken to improve infant mortality, the world has been taking well, maybe not strides but certainly steps to address the corruption issue.

In 1977 The US senate passed the Foreign Corrupt Practises Act that made it an offence in America for an American to bribe someone overseas. This was a massive step and one for which the US lawmakers and citizens should be proud. This was followed by the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention in 1997. My best mate was involved in rolling out the anti-corruption message across a humongous multi-national company and now that company doesn’t pay bribes. So this is a massive step.

There is reason to be hopeful. China is carrying out massive ant-corruption purges and it is only a question of time before that ethical stance is rolled out overseas.

Overall, I’m very optimistic about Africa as a whole. Massive steps have been taken in the past 100 years and, in my view, the rate of improvement is increasing!


We’re nearly there!

Blimey we’re getting close. It’s onto Zambia now before Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, and on to South Africa! Down to the last 38 days of the trip!


Posted by capetocape2017 07:41 Archived in Tanzania Tagged zanzibar malawi slavery livignstone Comments (1)

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