No matter how many trips one has taken or how long one has lived abroad, there is still something slightly surreal about stepping off an airplane in a country that feels completely different from the place one had departed earlier that same day. Sometimes it’s a foreign language, unfamiliar food, or a difference in culture that strikes one viscerally. At other times it’s something as simple as the weather. There was no surer sign than watching the frigid wind whisk away plumes of the passersby’s hot breath to confirm for D that he had left Rwanda’s placid clime far behind.
Posts tagged ‘travel advice’
Flanking the busy road to Jinja, Mabira is a swath of dense rainforest that is not to be missed if one is a nature enthusiast. Hundreds of different bird species call this pristine corner of Uganda home, and Mabira is also one of the only places on Earth to see Old World mangabey monkeys.
Victoria Falls was an afterthought – a last-minute addition to our itinerary on the way back from Namibia to Rwanda. We had to fly through Zambia anyway, so we figured we should tack on a visit to one of the world’s most famous waterfalls since we were going to be in the neighborhood anyway.
So long as we were making our way north – first along the Namibian coast, and then through desert and scrubland – it was pretty easy to stay in the moment. But Etosha was the turning point, both literally and figuratively. There is no more green space further north until one crosses the border into Angola, so after three nights in Etosha, we turned back towards Windhoek, acutely aware that our Namibian travels were drawing to a close.
A month after returning home, we are still debating how much (or how little) we enjoyed our visit to Etosha. Namibia’s premier game park, Etosha is mind-numbingly vast and hosts an impressive array of wildlife. We had some incredible sightings – lions, a leopard, and dozens of new, colorful birds D was thrilled to photograph. Yet, we also spent a lot of time in the car just driving past monotonous terrain without seeing much of anything. It was the only place on our two-week itinerary where we spent three nights, and by the time we left we wished we had stayed only two even though the visit was clearly worthwhile.
Following the shoreline north from Swakopmund, one enters the Skeleton Coast, which is rumored to be both desolate and wondrous. We cannot attest to either as we chose an inland route north, traversing Damaraland on the way to Etosha, Namibia’s premier game park. In addition to its indigenous tribes, which speak one of southern Africa’s clicking tongues, Damaraland is famous for its desert-adapted elephants, and it is in search of these that we made our way to the Doro!Nawas conservancy.
Ancient deserts, incredible birds and wildlife, the peace and quiet of a sparsely populated landscape – there were many reasons why Namibia seemed an attractive travel destination. Stumbling across the stunning images of Deadvlei as we researched possible routes for our trip sealed the deal.
The Kalahari Desert derives its name from an indigenous word that is variously translated as either “the great thirst” or “a waterless place.” Its arid name notwithstanding, the Kalahari is not considered a “true” desert in the same way that the Namib is. In fact, the Kalahari is home to quite a wide array of birds and animals, and its red sands support entire ecosystems of trees, grass, and shrubs.