On the Road

We are changing the way we will be sharing our stories and photos by separating our Travel Journal from our Blog Posts. In our Blog Posts we will be writing about particular experiences and places. They will be somewhat shorter than they have been and still include lots of photos. Our travel journal, which we have called “On the Road”, is now published and includes maps of different sections of our route as well as photos we take along the way. The “On the Road” Index Page can help you find particular sections you are interested in.

The first instalment of “On the Road” is available now and it covers our trip from the south of Ethiopia to South Africa. If you are interested in our “On the Road” travel journal then please follow the link to the Index Page and then jump to wherever you want to go to. We would love your feedback about whether it is easy to navigate around and any suggestions you may have.

Wildlife on our Doorstep

Young BushBuck and Warthog, Chobe Safari Camp, Botswana

Chobe National Park in Botswana is one of great wildlife destinations in Africa and the Chobe river front section supports the largest wildlife population in the park. What a great place for us to enjoy a final safari before we finish this part of our African adventures.

Once we cross the border from Zambia to Botswana it is a short drive to Kasane where we are camping in the Chobe Safari Camp. We love our site next to the river and we are right on the border of the national park. As well as our great river views we can see elephants coming down to drink all along the river front and one evening an elephant approaches the edge of the camp, only an electric fence prevents him from wandering right into our camp site. As well as listening to the hippos snorting in the river we frequently hear the cry of the African Fish Eagles from the tops of the nearby trees, two sounds which immediately invoke wild Africa.

Initially we planned to stay for a few nights but we eventually leave after a five night stay. Several tame bush bucks and semi-tame warthogs with their young wander around the camp. The bush buck are so tame they walk right up to the camera and even allow us to gently pat their heads.

There is plenty of bird life including bright Red Bishop birds, Yellow Weaver birds, White-Browed Robin Chats and frequent sightings of Fish eagles. A bright green dung beetle investigates the droppings left behind from the warthogs.

We venture into the National Park early one morning. It is a short drive to the park entrance and we immediately head down toward the river. There is plenty of water throughout the park at this time of the year and during the morning we do not have much luck spotting animals at the river. There are plenty of water birds though and we stop frequently to watch them.

Game we see in the morning includes two hyenas heading down for a drink and investigating interesting smells on their way. As well as Impala, Kudu and Waterbuck, the park has good populations of the water loving Red Lechwe and a small population of the endangered Puku.

Chobe is well known for its elephant population and we are surprised that we don’t see any down by the river, especially as it is early morning. By late morning we have gone as far into the park as we plan and we turn back toward the entrance. Very soon we start seeing family groups of elephants heading toward the river and from then on we see more and more elephants heading down for a drink and a splash or swim. Before long we have seen hundreds.

A special sight is watching a baby elephant suckling.

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By this time the hippos are also ready to emerge from the river to graze.

The next day we take a boat cruise from the camp in the late afternoon. The water was calm and the reflections beautiful.

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Chobe Cruise, Botswana

We get some nice close views of the birds.

And get even closer to a Fish Eagle bathing in the river before he flew off to a neighbouring tree.

A large herd of buffalo were grazing on Sedudu Island.

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Buffalo Grazing on Sedudu Island, Chobe National Park, Botswana

And a family of elephants drink at the water’s edge.

We stop by some crocs basking in the late afternoon sun.

Before enjoying the river scenery on our return cruise to the camp.

Late afternoons and early evenings are spent watching the changing light and the sunset from the Sunset Bar but at other times we just watch the river from our camp site. Its no wonder we extended our stay but finally it is time to move on from this camp but we’re not going far.

Senyati Camp is less than 20 km from Kasane and not far south of the town of Kazangula so it doesn’t get us far on our journey but is well worth a stop over. The camp sites are very comfortable with lots of trees, a private shower and toilet and a sitting area with a sink. The real reason for coming here though is the waterhole with a fresh water fountain which the elephants love and an underground hide so you can get very close. On our last visit it was the dry season and we saw a steady stream of animals visiting the waterhole including hundreds of elephants over the course of the night, as well as wildebeest, buffalo and impala. There is plenty of water around at this time of the year and we wonder if the water will attract the animals anyway. When we first take our positions near the waterhole there are no animals nearby. As we sit we gradually see giraffe moving across in the distance and as time goes by we see more and more of them.

Senyati Camp, Botswana

Next a single male elephant approaches the waterhole for a drink and he is followed by several other males.

Later, as the sun is setting, a family group comes to the waterhole and as the evening progresses we see more and more of them. It has certainly been worthwhile making another visit here.

Senyati Camp, Botswana

Big Rain is Coming

Sunset over Lake Kazuni, Vwaza Marsh, Malawi

‘Big rain’ is coming. We have places we want to visit but the rain is already falling across Southern Africa so we make plans to drive through Malawi, sticking to sealed roads for much of the time, and take the opportunity to return to a few of the special places we visited 18 months ago and to catch up with some lovely people along the way.

Our first destination is the Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve. As we drive we can see big storm clouds gathering up in the mountains but the rain holds off and, at the moment, it seems to be fairly localised. The dirt track out to Vwaza Marsh is still in fairly good condition and we arrive by mid-afternoon. After checking in at the gate we make our way to the lake shore area where we can camp or stay in a bungalow. Camping prices are set by the national parks authority and the bungalows are operated by the local community so it is actually cheaper for us to stay in a bungalow with an ensuite than to set up camp … easy choice. The bungalows are a little run down but certainly adequate for our use and the one we stay in does keep out the rain.

We are soon relaxing on the verandah and looking out over Lake Kazuni. The water level is much higher than on our last visit and the water is quite deep in front of us so the hippos are a further away around the lake shore but we can still hear the occasional snorting and see them moving around. The water is very calm and as the sunset approaches the colours in the sky and the reflections in the lake are wonderful.

On our last visit we drove around the lake edge and through the park but apart from hundreds of hippos it wasn’t until we returned to camp that we saw many animals and then we saw lots of different buck heading down to the water to drink, watched the hippos cavorting in the water and venturing out to feed and best of all had large herds of elephants walking right through the camp. On this visit we see fewer animals but the lake is the star giving us an endless array of beautiful scenes. We start each day with another serene view.

Early Morning Light, Lake Kazuni, Vwaza Marsh, Malawi

Then watch a solitary elephants approach the water for a drink.

Elephant along the Lake Shore

Impala venture down to the water but then scatter in the bush. These buck climbed a rock behind a tree, it looks as though they climbed into the tree.

Several ducks sail serenely past happy with the high waters and calm conditions.

A troop of baboons descend from a sausage tree and one checks recent elephant dung to see if it contains any of the seeds it likes and then they scamper past our camp to search for food elsewhere.

In the afternoon a rain squall blankets the lake but it soon clears and we enjoy another delightful sunset to end our short but enjoyable stay here..

Evening Light, Lake Kazuni, Malawi

The next place we are keen to revisit is Nyika Plateau National Park, high in the mountains which make up the western border between Malawi and Zambia. Our last visit was in winter and it was very cold. This time the weather will still be cool but not freezing and the higher rainfall will make driving around inside the park more difficult.

The park is much greener now and still very beautiful. At this altitude most of the hills are covered in a short grass with trees only growing in valleys between the slopes where they are protected from the worst of the winter cold. There are also some old pine forests near the main Chelinda Camp.

We had hoped to go for a drive during the afternoon when we arrive but the rain sets in. Luckily it stops before evening and we are able to sit by a fire and enjoy watching the buck and zebra on a nearby hill.

Next day we set out to explore the park. Some of the roads are closed and other are muddy so we confine our travels to the easier routes. First we take a drive around one of the northern loops and back through the pine forest as that is where there have been sightings of leopards. There has even been an unconfirmed lion sighting recently. No luck with the cats unfortunately but the drive through the pine forest is always enchanting.

After lunch we drive out toward the Chosi Viewpoint. The views are wonderful but the grey clouds threaten more rain.

With heavy rain threatening we limit the distance we are prepared to drive but we still get some nice sightings of Eland, Roan Antelope, Impala, Mountain Reed Buck and Zebra.

After the rain we visit one of the lakes and then enjoy sunset beside the dam next to the main camp area.

We saw Bush Buck around the camp on our last visit but they have been more elusive this time. We finally manage to see some in the morning just before we are leaving.

Bush Buck, Nyika Plateau, Malawi

From Nyika we drive back to the highway and a short distance south to Mzuzu, the regional capital. We are returning to Macondo Camp there which is run by Luca and Cecilia, an Italian couple. They have a small camping area plus some safari tents in a lovely garden in the hills on the edge of town and a fantastic restaurant. We stayed and ate here on our last visit and have been looking forward to a return visit. Their hospitality is terrific and their pizza and pasta are fabulous. I’m sure the rest of the food on the menu is great too but we can’t seem to get past the pizza and pasta section. That is apart for the home-made liqueurs, Limoncello is my favourite.

While we are here we reassess our onward plans. We wanted to re-visit the fabulous Kachere Kastle on the shore of Lake Malawi not far south of Mzuzu and so we contacted Russell and Kate, the owners, to let them know when we thought we would arrive. Unfortunately they are closed for the wet season as they get virtually no visitors and they are in fact going back to England for some of the time. We also try to contact Croc Valley, the camp outside South Luangwa National Park in Zambia. We stayed there on our last visit and planned to stay again. We have had no replies to a couple of emails and we have also had reports of roads in the park being muddy or impassable so we reluctantly conclude we should skip a visit this time. Instead we extend our stay at Macondo to 3 nights and stock up our supplies for the long drive from here through central Malawi, across Zambia, and into the north east of Botswana.

As it turned out we could have saved ourselves considerable distance and time by entering Zambia from the north but the side trip into Malawi has been very enjoyable and worthwhile.

Swahili Coast Holiday

Sunrise at Peponi Beach Resort, Tanzania

We need a holiday! Ethiopia was full on and packed with sights and experiences so now we want to kick back and relax. We had a taste of luxury and relaxation at the place we stayed at in Malindi for three nights before we visited Lamu, and two nights afterward, but we need more. A day spent in Mombasa where we do battle with traffic and bureaucracy and a late drive south makes our arrival at our holiday spot in Diani Beach on the southern coast of Kenya even more welcome.

We booked our two week break here online and sometimes the pictures and description promise more than they deliver but not this time. We are in a two bedroom chalet in its own grounds and we even have our own swimming pool.

Diani Beach Bliss

A couple of staff look after the pool and grounds of this property and some others and help us with whatever we need. This includes arranging for a local fisherman to visit to provide us with our choice of fresh seafood and going down the street to buy us charcoal for our barbecues at local prices rather than the Mzungu (‘white man’) prices. The weather is hot and humid and there is no air conditioning but unless the power in the town is out (which happens several times), the fans keep the air flowing. Paul has fun getting stuck into some work on his photos and I finally start writing about our time in Ethiopia. And of course we can jump into the pool, and do so, many times each day starting from a pre-breakfast dip. As the day continues the pool heats up so by mid afternoon it initially feels very warm but after lazing in it for a while we feel refreshed.

We’re only a ten minute walk from the beach and we have high expectations of walking in the mornings and evenings most days but unfortunately we fall short of that and spend less time on the beach and more time in the pool than we planned. I guess that’s what a holiday is about. We go out for delicious meals a couple of times but mainly we are happy to be able to cook for ourselves in a real kitchen especially with fresh fish, prawns, octopus or calamari from the fisherman, access to real supermarkets for meat and groceries and a good range of fresh fruit and vegetables from the local stalls. We even manage to find some reasonably priced wine and some good croissants … not easy in East Africa.

When Paul was growing up in Kenya his family often holidayed in this area over the Christmas period. At that time (it was after all a very, very long time ago) the road was a single lane dirt road, there were a few holiday houses along the coast but there was no power or running water and the indigenous forests extended to the beach in most places. Now there are hotels and shopping centres, restaurants and resorts, and lots and lots of people. Its still very nice, and as I said the access to the supermarkets and electricity to run the fan and the pool pump has been very welcome, but we would also like a bit of time at a more laid-back location. After our fortnight holiday is complete we cross the border into Tanzania just 80km south then continue another 100km passing through the sea-side town of Tanga to Peponi Beach Resort. We camped here on our way north through Tanzania more than six months ago and it should be perfect for another week’s holiday before we hit the travel trail again. This coast is much quieter than the Kenyan coast and much closer to the holiday experience that Paul remembers from his childhood. 

The reef comes right into the shore and the tides are big so our view varies from exposed reef for more than 100 metres to water lapping the sand just below our camp. At high tide we can swim in the warm sea water and at other times we can have a dip in the resort pool. Unless it is a very high tide some sand remains at all times and villagers use the beach as their highway. Palm trees line the edge of the beach and a short walk in one direction takes us to a small fishing village where there is always plenty of activity when the boats bring their catches in or when groups wade through the water dragging nets along the channels in the reef. In the other direction a mangrove forest extends into the ocean.

Our camp site on the edge of the beach is perfect! We have a boma (shelter), plenty of shade, a nice pool, power to keep the fridges running so we have cold drinks and food, and a wonderfully peaceful atmosphere. It is so perfect that, at the end of the week, we decide we can stretch our food to stay an extra couple of days. Then, as we are trying to plan where we will be for Christmas, we decide we couldn’t find a nicer place than this so we extend even further and end up staying for two and a half weeks. As a bonus the resort is doing a big spread on Christmas Day so we book in to that and we won’t even have to think about what food we will need to buy to celebrate the day. We do however need to buy more food for the rest of the time so we drive back to Tanga and visit the excellent local market and quite good local supermarket and enjoy a very pleasant lunch at the Tanga Yacht Club. Our second week passes equally easily and we enjoy more idyllic days.

Our Christmas Day is relaxed and easy, tropical fruit and yoghurt with our breakfast, prawns and a crisp white wine for a light lunch then after a few dips in the pool we head up to the restaurant for our evening meal. It is a real feast and we sit at at long table with the other guests. Next to us are Geoff and Sally who own a property a short distance away as well as the new South Africa owners who took on the Peponi property three months ago.

Christmas Feast at Peponi Beach Resort, Tanzania

Finally holiday season is over and we need to travel on. We have less than two weeks left on our Tanzanian Temporary Import permit for the car and we don’t want to spend hours trying to extend it so we will need to pick up the pace. At least we are starting our journey south feeling well rested and refreshed.