For many of us, 2016 has not been, shall we say, the best. I'm pretty on board with that sentiment but I have to admit that for my traveling life, it's been pretty great. I visited seven new countries and hit three continents (Asia twice!) that I don't call home, plus I made it back to London for the first time since high school. Not too shabby.
Right after Thanksgiving my dad, step-mom and I jumped on a plane and went to Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa for 12 days. We airstrip hopped between camps in the Okavango Delta on safari, drove across the border to Zimbabwe to see Victoria Falls and then flew to Cape Town for four full days of seeing as much as we could.
I had been on safari in Kenya a few years ago so I had an idea of what to expect. Botswana was quieter and more remote, a different experience with far fewer people around. It was also much warmer with one day hitting 116 degrees and the evenings settling into the low-70s. We visited two camps while we were there, Camp Moremi and Selinda Camp. Our first sighting of the trip was a leopard and her cub, one of the big five we missed in Kenya. While drought is ravaging much of the land, we were still able to spend one afternoon on a boat in the delta, getting up close and personal with everything from families of hippos to a dead elephant being eaten by a bunch of crocodiles! On top of that we saw just about everything: wild dogs, ostrich, giraffe, warthogs, several types of antelope, zebra, monkeys and lions not to mention so many kinds of birds. We ate like kings with the sounds of hippos just outside of camp making their way out of the water to graze in the comfort and safety of dark.
We flew out of camp and drove over the border to the Zimbabwe side of Victoria Falls for the night, trading in camp for a more traditional hotel. During low season you can access the falls from the Zambia side and swim in a small natural pool at the top - we saw one group of people doing just that. The views from the Zimbabwe side were spectacular, I can only imagine what its like when the falls are full after rainy season!
Finally we landed in Cape Town, rented a car and headed to our Airbnb in the Bo-Kaap district of the city, a heavily Muslim neighborhood where we heard the call to prayer every evening at 9:00 sharp. The dollar is incredibly strong against the South African Rand, great for US tourists but not so great for the South African economy. Cape Town had been high on my list for quite some time so I was excited to explore and make sure we packed in as much as possible in four days. We walked the city out first day, hitting the District Six Museum to learn more about the forced removal of over 60,000 South Africans during the apartheid reign. The museum is excellent, I would highly recommend it as an introduction to the city's history. We spent the other days on various activities, from a guided six hour hike of Table Mountain (we got to take the cable car back down luckily) to a day out in Stellenbosch wine tasting to a drive around the entire Cape Peninsula seeing some smaller towns plus the penguins of Boulders Beach, the Cape of Good Hope and Chapman's Peak. The food in the city was incredible and I have a new love for South African sauvignon blanc and shiraz. I could have stayed for at least another week without running out of things to do!
Not to be forgotten, the people of all three destinations were wonderful. From our safari guides and the staff at camp to our Airbnb hosts, everyone was so kind and helpful. We felt safe and welcome in the city, I'd recommend it in a heartbeat.
As usual there is a section of my big camera photos below along with a chunk from my phone. And per usual the photos don't do it justice! You'll see animals, scenic vistas, a few food shots, a dust storm, some selfies and some happy tourists. Also I can talk your ear off about it if you're so inclined!
And the iPhone photos...!