Phil's Travel Pages (Africa #1)

Elephant stroll through our camp - Moremi, Botswana.John and Wayne watch the elephants come strolling through our camp.
Photo: P.McKenzie


Even the name conjures up images of vast tracts of wild bushlands and savannas, spectacular wildlife and scenery, restless natives, jungle lore and a strange white bloke swinging through the trees wearing only a loincloth and a smile!

And it is mostly true (except the natives who weren't particularly restless and thankfully I never saw that bloke in the trees) .

Africa is a magical place, full of an essence of wonder, a touch of danger, a healthy dose of rhythm and some of the most fantastic scenery and wildlife, as well as some of the friendliest people on this planet!

It's a place I've wanted to visit for a long time, ever since Su switched me on to novelists such as Wilbur Smith, whose deep love of Africa, it's people and its wildlife comes through in most of his work.

Campfire at Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana Campfire at Moremi game reserve, Botswana
Photo: P.McKenzie

My father has a couple of very close friends who are from South Africa. One dismal cold and wet day in November 1997 he phoned me to ask if I would be interested in joining him and his friends (Howard and John) on a 2-month tour of Southern Africa, perhaps later the next year. It would take some planning beforehand.

I told him to count me in!

In September 1998 I flew out to Johannesburg, where I joined up with the others. Although, obviously, I had an inkling it was going to be something special; I didn't realise that this trip was going to be one of the most stunning, exciting and exhilarating experiences I had ever had.

Unfortunately, it's not possible to go into all the details here as it would take forever, as there were so many memorable experiences throughout the trip.

But a few of the major highlights for me were:-

Lions at Rest - Chobe Game ReserveLions resting in the shade - Chobe, Botswana
Photo: P.McKenzie

Visiting the Haartebessfontain goldmine and descending almost 2 miles beneath the earth's surface to see first-hand the workings on the mining face.

Sitting in silence by a campfire at night in the Moremi Game reserve with all the lights turned off and watching elephant walk through the campsite less than 10 yards away as they made their way to the river.

Visiting game reserves such as Chobe (including a quick trip over the border to Zimbabwe to see the Victoria Falls) before heading up to beautiful Shakawe on the Okavango delta.

The 3-week safari was a fantastic experience and the opportunity to see a huge variety of wild game including four of the "Big 5" (lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino and leopard - the only one we didn't see was leopard) in their natural habitat was the opportunity of a lifetime!

Acacia tree with weaver-bird's nest at dawn.Acacia Tree - Kimberley
Photo: P.McKenzie

My only regret was that the rest of the Bandanna Club couldn't be with me to share in these experiences.

We keep talking about a Bandanna Club safari in the future ... but with families and other commitments, it's not so easy to get away for a long period of time. Still who knows ... maybe one day.

Following the end of the Safari, we returned to Johannesburg (where Howard, John, my dad and I then hired a car) and drove down to Capetown. We stopped off in Kimberley to visit some of Howard's family and saw the diamond mining operations there first-hand.

Kimberley at dusk (Neville's ranch)Kimberley sunset
Photo: P.McKenzie

Howard's cousin, Neville, even gave us the use of his game-hut and we spent a couple of days there before continuing south.

Kimberley has spectacular sunsets and the nights around the campfire with cold beers and an African-style BBQ were great.

As the sun disappeared behind the horizon, we sat around a crackling campfire, in comfortable silence watching the stars, the lights of Kimberley in the distance and listened to the sounds of the African twilight, each of us lost in our own thoughts and world. Later that evening, we were also treated to a spectacular display of fork lightning along the southwest desert horizon.

Africa is a land of contrasts and changes, that bursts with life and a unique character all of it's own ... a special place that leaves a lasting impression on anyone who visits her.

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