I’d like to tell you that the reason you haven’t seen an update in a while is because we’ve all been off doing so much that I haven’t had any time to write one. That wouldn’t be entirely true though. There hasn’t been a blog in a while because we’ve been out having such a great time doing so many things AND because my computer died. But I’m back now and ready to tell you what’s been going on the last couple months.

Our week in Cape Town offered us a break from the truck. Some of the guys went out on a boy’s road trip. Mac, Katey, German, Carolina, and Spots took a trip up to the Kruger. A few hiked Table Mountain. Some went off and jumped in the water with great white sharks or jumped off a bridge at the world’s highest bungee jump. Gavin and I indulged in the conveniences of civilized life, visited the beautiful Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens and climbed Lion’s Head. We left Cape Town short a few but picked up Scotty, Ziggy, Emma, Jes, and Paige. From South Africa we headed straight up to Maun, the gateway to the Okavango Delta. 

A bit more than half of us decided to brave the mokoros and ventured out into one of the wildest places on earth. The Okavango Delta is the world’s largest inland delta. Where the Kavango River meets the Kalahari Basin: that’s the Delta. It’s home to a mind boggling assortment of different animals and a seemingly endless expanse of water and papyrus. Because of the relative inaccessibility, the area and the animals are virtually uncorrupted by encroaching development. And it shows. 

We entered the waters of the Delta in mokoros, traditional dug-out canoes which usually retain only about an inch of clearance from the water after 2 travelers, one poler, and a bit of luggage are loaded on board. The boats are powered by a poler, a man or woman who steers the vessel and provides the energy to move the boat forward by pushing off the bottom of the river with a long wooden pole. We traveled a bit over 2 hours in these unstable canoes, past hippos, through reeds, from our launching point to our bush camp. 

We set up tents and a fire onshore near the water. From there, Gav and Mac took mokoros out to go fishing and everyone else followed the guides further into the bush to look for animals and to learn a few tracking techniques. The following day, Jeremy and Phill gave poleing a try. It’s harder than it looks but neither fell in, which often does happen to the unsuspecting beginner. In the afternoon, we cruised out onto the water at sunset and over to a hippo pool where we watched a bloat of hippos before they took to the shores for their nightly grazing (yes, that’s right. A group of hippos is called a bloat.). 

After rejoining the group back in Maun we took off for the Chobe River for some wildlife viewing. Phill, Dave, and Dan headed out on a game drive through the park while most of the rest of the troops took to the water once again to see the action from the river. Those on the boat saw plenty of elephants. The guys on shore got to see a big male lion enjoying a meal.

Our next stop after Chobe was Livingstone, Zambia, right next to the awesome Victoria Falls. Victoria Falls is the adventure capital of Zambia and the group was more than happy to take advantage of that. There were bungee jumpers and elephant riders. Scotty, Ziggy, Katey, and Spots all went rhino tracking on foot. Mac, Gav, Greg, and I took a boat out on the upper Zambezi river to fish for tiger fish. It wasn’t the right time of the year, unfortunately, and Gav managed to catch a small tiger fish. Mac caught a couple really nice tilapia.

Then there was the sunset cruise, AKA, the “Booze Cruise”… Sorry, but what happens on the booze cruise stays on the booze cruise and I’m not at liberty to indulge you. 

We moved north-east through Lusaka and onwards to my personal favorite, South Luangwa national park where we camped on the banks of the wild Luangwa River. The campsite is unfenced and it isn’t uncommon for animals to pass through. In fact, Katey and Emma were woken up one night when an elephant came and started pruning the tree that they had pitched their tent under.

South Luangwa never seems to disappoint and this time was no exception. We witnessed a huge pride of lions stalking a massive herd of Cape buffalo. There was one moment when we were positive we would see a kill. There was a big bull who appeared to be stuck in the mud. All the lions had surrounded him, though at quite a distance. One young one moved in and it looked like it was all about to kick off. Turns out the bull wasn’t as weak as we and the lions thought him to be. He stood right up and told the young lion who was boss.

In addition we saw plenty of elephants, puku, zebra, giraffe, hippos running on land (much faster than you would ever expect they could), hyena…. The list goes on. We also get the rare chance to see some of Africa’s nocturnal wildlife in Luangwa. It’s one of the only parks that allows night driving. So, in addition to the stuff we have often seen we also got a look at civets, scrub hares, owls, and lions on the prowl. Very cool.

We left Zambia for Malawi. After leaving Lilongwe, we stopped for a few days at Kande Beach, right on the shores of Lake Malawi. You wouldn’t know Lake Malawi was a lake. Half the time the waves are nearly surf-able and you can only just see the other side of it if you squint a little. It’s a pretty fantastic place and we were lucky enough to have some lovely weather while we were there.

Jeremy decided to pursue his SCUBA certification here. He finished the classes and did his first open water dive. German, Carolina, Phill, Chris, Sean and Gavin also went out for a fresh water dive. Lake Malawi is home to the cichlid family of fish. These are the brightly colored fish that you usually see for sale in pet shops. Some species are mouth brooders: a fishes who protects their young and defenseless offspring in their mouth. You’ll see dozens of tiny fish venturing out of a larger fish’s mouth and then all dash back in at the sign of danger. It is a very cool thing to see. Lake Malawi also has more species of fish than the whole of the oceans in Southern Africa. You wouldn’t think that diving in a lake could be so incredible but it really is like diving in an aquarium. 

It’s also a bit of a tradition to roast a pig when one is at at Kande Beach. We got together with another African Trails truck and roasted 2. It began with Gav and the other driver, Dani, negotiating the price the evening before. They settled on a reasonable cost for 2 pigs. In the morning, surprisingly, only a few of us headed outside the gates of the camp to watch the slaughter. The rest of us stayed back by the truck and covered our ears. It took nearly all day to roast the pigs but the patience paid off. What a feast! We even had a movie star dining with us that night: Charlie Cox from “Stardust” and “Dot the I”. He was one of Dani’s passengers. It was also a memorable night because this is where Kev shaved his signature ponytail and beard. That was unexpected!

We spent a couple more nights camped on the shores of the lake at Chitimba Beach. While we were here, the heartier few climbed up the hills behind camp towards the village of Livingstonia. It is a brutal hike in the heat, nearly straight up the entire time. It was hot and the hikers came back very sore. They got some great views, though. There are waterfalls just below Livingstonia that are well worth a look. 

Tanzania was our next destination. We descended from the highlands in the south into the chaotic, virtual steam bath that is Dar es Salaam. This is where we took the ferry to the exotic isle of Zanzibar. We spent our first night in Stone Town, the main city of the island. We sipped pina coladas out of coconuts on the balcony of Africa House while we watched the sun set behind the traditional dhow sailboats. We carried on to the famous night market for a look at the endless selection of seafood and for Zanzibar pizzas: possibly one of the best things in the world. 
It sounds horrible but a Zanzibar pizza is mince, onions, peppers, Laughing Cow cheese, an egg, and some mayo wrapped up in a thin layer of dough and then pan fried in some clarified butter. Top it off with some chili sauce and you’ve got an artery clogging piece of heaven. They’re so good, even our pickiest eater ate one. 

After Stone Town was the Spice Tour. It’s an excellent day out: a visit to the slave dungeons ( Zanzibar was one of East Africa’s busiest slave trading ports), a look at the bustling local food market, lunch in a local house, and a trip to the famous spice farms. Visiting a spice farm might not sound that thrilling but it’s really quite interesting… and tasty.

Most of the gang went up to the northern beach of Nungwi. They enjoyed SCUBA diving and deep sea fishing ( I hear Katey and Spots kicked the experienced fishermen’s butts in this instance. Nothing like eating the tuna you caught yourself!) There was plenty of partying and relaxing on the beach to be had, of course, as well. German and Carolina opted for the quieter Eastern beaches which they thoroughly enjoyed. They even got to swim with wild dolphins!

Tanzania is, as you probably know, home to the iconic Serengeti national park. This is the Africa you see on the documentaries. It’s the Africa most people see in their head when they think of Africa. It’s the Lion King in real life. 

Nearly all of the troops hopped into Land Rovers and journeyed into the park. They witnessed hyena stalking wildebeest, a big pride of lions, the big herds of ungulates, and even a leopard!

Ngorongoro Crater was the last stop in Tanzania. The crater is an amazing place not just for the scenery but for the high concentration of animals. There are approximately 25,000 large mammals in the 12 km wide crater.

Those who went found elephants roaming their campsite. Make sure and look at the photos that Dan Spotowski took in the Tanzania album. Here, Sarah got harassed in the middle of the night by a wild pig that had some kind of an affinity for her tent. Their game drive in the crater yielded plenty as well. 

We left Tanzania and spent just two nights in Kenya before heading into the highland jungles of Uganda. Here we’ll go trekking to see the rare mountain gorillas. Some may ride the white rapids of the Nile river. One or two of us might try to summit one of the mountains in the Virunga mountain range. There’s also a visit to the pygmies or a trip across lake Bunyonyi. But I’ll leave all that for next time. …..