Flashback Friday: African Sunsets

Flashback Friday is a picture series where we “flashback” to some of our favorite memories- from either our prior travel or from home. We hope you’ll enjoy some of our remembrances!

One of the many things we miss from our time in Africa was the amazing sunsets. Every single night of our self drive safari would serve up an absolutely gorgeous, colorful sky.

So, we decided to dish up some of that sunset porn just for you on a new photo post.

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Khumaga Camp, Botswana

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Sunset over the Okavango, Savuti Camp, Botswana

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Sunset over the Okavango, Chobe Safari Lodge, Botswana

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Sunset over the Halali Waterhole, Etosha National Park, Namibia

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Sunset over the Halali Waterhole, Etosha National Park, Namibia

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Namibia

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Solitaire, Namibia

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Solitaire, Namibia

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Solitaire, Namibia

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Quiver Tree Forest, Namibia

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Budget: Self-Drive Safari

We wanted to give you an idea (and figure it out for ourselves) of how much our self-drive safari cost. We knew that it would take us above our $100/day budget, but we figured that it would be worth it.

Total Cost of 25 day self-drive safari: $5,599.36

Throughout the safari, we used South African Rand, Botswana Pula, Namibian Dollars and US Dollars. We used the current exchange rates.

We divided this cost down into the following categories:

 

Transportation: $3785.89

 

The transportation includes the cost of our Bushlore Truck Rental ($3001.00), gas ($685.99), various road fees, and a ferry.

 

Accommodation: $860.25

We were actually quite shocked at the expense of our accommodation. We used our truck company to help us pre-book many of our campsites because we knew it would be high season for safari. We decided that it was a good choice for some of the parks in Botswana, but was probably a bit unnecessary for Namibia. We also found that the parks in Botswana were outrageously expensive, even though we were just camping. For example, there were park fees of about $28 per day. In addition to the park fees, we paid for camping. The camp grounds within the national parks are all private and they are amazingly expensive. You pay per person and they cost $50 per person, per night.

 

Activities (This includes all park and entrance fees): $448.73

These are the park fees mentioned above. They were much more expensive in Botswana than they were in Namibia.

 

Alcohol: $55.97

We purchased 2 boxes of wine for our camping and also purchased a couple of beers here and there in the lodges.

 

Food: $261.35

This mostly consisted of groceries for camping. However, we did end up breaking down and buying a few meals along the way.

 

Miscellaneous: $42.51

We purchased maps for all of the major parks. Again, the Botswana prices were much more expensive than Namibia. We also had to pay for the bathroom in a couple of places.

 

Souvenirs: $17.53

Our safari was 25 days, so this cost averages $223.97 per day. That definitely blows our budget. However, the good news is that because it was at the beginning of our trip, we did pay our deposits for the truck and accommodation prior to leaving. Therefore we feel as if we didn’t actually pay it now… Or at least that is what we are going to tell ourselves.

Roads of the Self-Drive Safari

We talked a lot about the roads of our safari, so we wanted to give you an idea of those as well. Here is a photo essay of the roads we drove while on safari.

Roads of South Africa

There were many big regular highways in South Africa, but our first campsite took us off of them!

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Why did the Kudu cross the road?

Roads of Botswana

There were of course long stretches of tar highways here too. The hardest part was watching for the many many cows and donkeys that constantly decided to cross the road in front of you. There were warthogs leaping out on the road every now and then as well. As we made our way into the parks, the roads became deep sand.

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Why did the springbok cross the road?

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The impalas needed to cross the road as well!

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Here is the road where we got stuck. It was purely accident that we got this picture. We just took it, continued driving and picked the wrong road. It is hard to see how deep the sand was down there… but it was bad!

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We had to drive INTO the river about 15 feet to actually get ONTO this ferry.

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Always watch out for the donkeys!

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This was called third bridge. Not much of a bridge… as you can see.

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Luckily, 4th bridge was a little more bridge like.

Roads of Namibia

After Botswana, Namibia felt like a breeze. No more deep sand, but lots and lots of gravel.

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And why did the elephants cross the road? No… I still don’t have an answer…

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We had to drive into the sun sometimes. This evening was particularly difficult cause there was a lot of dust in the air… we could hardly see!

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Don’t forget to watch out for giraffes!

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And zebra of course!

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It did get a little hilly in Namibia.

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The blind hills were the hardest!

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IMG_0736 The Skeleton Coast felt like we were on another world.

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There were some windy roads!

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IMG_9592_edt We enjoyed the southern African version of waysides or picnic areas. We would see a sign for a table under a tree… and then you’d always see the table under the tree!

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Watch out for the above sign. They meant you were about to cross a river… most likely a dry one. But it was good for a big dip!

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Namibia

The second country that we visited on our self-drive safari was Nambia. We had heard a lot of great things about the wildlife and natural beauty to be found in the country!

Safari Night 11 – Camp Kwando, On The Kwando River near Kongola

Getting There

Our exit from Botswana and into Namibia was almost shockingly easy. The border at Ngoma was very sleepy – we were the only ones crossing at the time so we didn’t have to wait in any lines. We gave one of the final guards some water, so I guess that was a bribe?

Most of the roads we drove on were paved, so no stress there.

Campsite

Camp Kwando felt almost like a resort. We were the only ones camping in the main public campground so we got to pick the best spot. The site itself was covered with nice grass and had a lot of trees.

Ablutions

There was a small rondavel near the site we picked that had a (flush) toilet and sink. There was a communal ablutions with showers a short walk away. The furnishings were pretty fancy and the water was hot.

Amenities

This camp was clearly catering to a fancy crowd. It had a very nice open-air reception, bar and restaurant that overlooked the river. We spent time here reading and admiring the views.

Safari Night 12 – Ngepi Camp, On The Okavango River near Divundu

Getting There

We had an easy day of driving down the Trans-Caprivi highway. We could tell this camp was going to have a different spirit based on some of the humorous signs that marked the way into camp.

Campsite

We had a nice site with our own private area for looking out over the river. There was grass in the site, but we had to park our car on dirt and thus set up our tent there. During dinner, we really enjoyed watching a family of elephants across the river.

Ablutions

Definitely fit in with the funky vibe. All facilities were outdoors and with no coverings. We didn’t take a shower since they didn’t look very nice. We heard that other bathrooms in the campground had different themes, but we didn’t investigate.

Amenities

This definitely had a hostel vibe to it. There was a communal hang-out area with a fireplace and a bar. We stayed up later normal at night by this fire, conversing with some of the other guests and the staff running the place, who were all males who were in their 20s. The bar became quite the scene later in the evening when a group of American college students on an overland tour decided to order a ton of drinks and behave pretty crazily.

There was also a few nice patios out over the water where we spent a lot of time reading, relaxing and looking for hippos.

Safari Night 13 – n’Kwazi Lodge, On The Okavango River near Rundu

Getting There

Another easy day of driving on the Trans-Caprivi

Campsite

Most of the campground was pretty unattractive, mostly a big grassy area, but we did get our own walled-off area to ourselves.

Ablutions

A large building with only lukewarm water

Amenities

There was a nice lodge with comfortable chairs, good shade, and most importantly… free, fast wi-fi!

Activities

We attended a nice dance performance put on by a group of local villagers.

Safari Night 14, 15, 16 – Halali Camp, Etosha National Park

Getting There

We took a Google-recommended shortcut and had our first experience with Namibian gravel roads. It wasn’t that bad actually! And we stopped at a monument for a giant baobab tree.

Campsite

The site was pretty unattractive. There were just large patches of dirt which were split off into different camps. Not much privacy from the neighbors! We did enjoy the provided table and light though.

Ablutions

Nice, hot water with good water pressure for showers.

Amenities

There was a restaurant which we decided to eat at twice – once for lunch and once for a buffet dinner (we decided to splurge). There was also a small convenience store. There was also a swimming pool, but we never took the plunge.

Activities

By far the coolest thing to do here was to walk to the waterhole they had set up for viewing. Compared to the Botswana parks, this felt very different! The park had made an artificial pool, then set up a large tiered viewing area with benches and shade where we could watch the animals come drink. And it was floodlit, so it was open 24 hours! We spent a lot of time just relaxing and watching animals here.

Also, one morning we took a trail up the small hill behind camp, which afforded great views of the area.

Probably the most popular activity, and for good reason, was to do a game drive – you are in the middle of the National Park after all. We did multiple and were amazed by how many different animals we saw – and how much easier it was to see them here than in Botswana. The roads were much nicer as well.

Safari Night 17 – Abu-Huab Camp, near Twyfelfontein

Getting There

We had heard about cheetah farms in the area and were interesting in investigating, since we hadn’t yet seen a cheetah and it sounded pretty neat. One of the original ones we were considering would be a significant detour, so we weren’t sure what to do. So when we saw a small camp right off the road that offered cheetah feedings, we decided to do just that. We got a chance to feed two cheetahs, which was pretty fun.

The last stretch of driving to the camp switched to a dirt road that went into some hills. It got a little twisty, but not the worst road we’ve ever been on. Got pretty scenic too.

We got a little lucky finding the camp: we had a map that showed its location as being on a road that didn’t exist, but luckily we spotted the camp just off the road on the way to Twyfelfontein.

Campsite

On the bank of the Abu Huab river – but with no water! We found that in Namibia they had a lot of rivers listed on maps that only rarely flow. We were able to pick a nice spot with a big tree and river access. When it was windy in the afternoon we even read books down in the river.

Ablutions

In a random building somewhat far from the sites. The hot water was heated by a wood-fired burner, so we decided not to test the temperature for showers.

Amenities

There was a small bar, pool table and even a sitting area that looked like it could have served as a restaurant. It all seemed pretty dead though, so we didn’t test any of these out.

Activities

See Tywfelfontein post

Safari Night 18 – Alte Brucke Campground, Swakopmund

Getting There

See Skeleton Coast post for the drive to Swakopmund

Within Swakopmund, we had an interesting adventure. Eric had written down some basic directions from Google Maps, and we had a map of the town from the 1999 Lonely Planet. However, as we were driving into town, we realized that the street names had almost all changed since 1999! We spent some panicky moments trying to orient ourselves (exacerbated by the fact that we hadn’t really driven in an urban environment since day 1). Eventually, we found a road that had the same name as on the 1999 map, and we made our way to the campground.

Campsite

This was a new setup for us: each site had its own patch of grass with a its own structure attached.

Ablutions

Inside this structure was our own private ablutions area! We definitely enjoyed the showers that we took here.

Amenities

There was wi-fi in the sites… but we had to pay almost $5 US dollars to use it. The signal would go in and out too, which was frustrating.

Activities

The campground was within walking distance of the central parts of Swakopmund. We enjoyed walking out on the jetty, and walking through town spotting the historic German buildings.

Safari Night 19 – Solitaire Guest Farm Desert Ranch, Solitaire

Getting There

The first section of the road went by some pretty dunes. It was pretty windy though, so there was lots of blowing sand.

As we got away from the coast, we went back into some mountainous terrain and crossed two passes (not quite as hard as Colorado passes). We also passed a sign for the Tropic of Capricorn.

Campsite

This seemed like a higher-end facility and had mostly lodge rooms. There were only three campsites, and all were pretty fancy. They were large sites with a fence around each.

Ablutions

Again, we got our own ablutions block! This one even had enough space inside that we decided to cook and eat dinner in it to get out of the wind.

Amenities

There was a bar, two swimming pools and free wi-fi.

Activities

The was a small hill within walking distance of the camp that made for an excellent place to view the sunset.

Safari Night 20,21 – Sesriem Campground, Namib Nakluft National Park

Getting There

This was only about an hour’s drive from Solitaire, so probably our easiest driving day of the entire trip.

Campsite

Each site was surrounded by a low stone wall and had a large tree in it.

Ablutions

Not the prettiest inside or out, but nice hot water.

Amenities

There was a bar with a large indoor seating area that we used one afternoon, and also a convenience store.

Activities

See Sossusvlei post

Safari Night 22 – Quivertree Forest Reserve, Outside Keetmanshoop

Getting There

The safari was basically over at this point, and this was the first of three long days of driving to get back to Johannesburg.

Campsite

This was a large campground with a lot of sites to choose from. We didn’t know if it was just a low season or if this place had seen better days. Scarred from the previous windy nights, we spent a while trying to find a site that seemed to have good wind protection. There wasn’t a lot of privacy between the small sites, but it didn’t matter since it was so empty.

Ablutions

There were a lot of little ablutions scattered around. There was nice hot water so we enjoyed our showers.

Amenities

Not much to speak of that we used.

Activities

We spent some time exploring the Quivertree Forest that the camp is set right next too. We definitely enjoyed exploring these very strange looking trees – they felt like something out of Dr. Seuss! We also had fun spotting all of the rock hyraxes that lived in the forest.

Also, the manager of the camp had a (free!) viewing of him feeding cheetahs in the afternoon.

 

 

Animals of the Self-Drive Safari

So, you might have been wondering what animals we actually saw while on safari. We thought we’d answer that question with a little photo essay. Keep in mind that we did not (unfortunately) have a great camera. Only our little point-and-shoot. We did try to edit some of the photos to see the animals better. Hopefully you’ll get the idea anyway!

So, here they are… in alphabetical order!

Baboons

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Cheetah (Unfortunately, we did not see these in the wild…)

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Chobe Chicken (Helmeted Guinea Fowl)

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Elephant

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Giraffe

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Hippo

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Honey Badger

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Hyrax

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Impala

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Jackal

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Kudu

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Lion

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Mongoose

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Monkey

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Oryx

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Ostrich

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Rhino

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Sable

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Springbok

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Warthog

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Wildebeest

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Zebra

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There were some other animals that we saw that we simply didn’t get a great picture of. These were the hyena, African buffalo, a roan antelope, and several other kinds of antelope. There were also a few notable things that we didn’t see that we really would have liked to… a leopard and an eland.

Sossusvlei

One of the biggest reasons we wanted to include Nambia on our self-drive safari itinerary was to visit the surreal landscape of the dunes of Sossusvlei in the Namib Desert. We were able to spend two days exploring the area.

Unfortunately, a lot of our visit was dominated by the wind, which we described here.

Deadvlei

This pan with dead trees surrounded by massive red dunes was what we had seen pictures of and were looking forward to the most. It was a bit of a chore to get there – an hour drive on a paved road, 5 km on a sandy 4×4 track (Botswana experience came in handy here!), and then a 1 km hike through some blowing sand.

But once we crested a dune and saw the vlei, we were pretty happy to be here!

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Down in the vlei, the wind was mostly blocked by the dunes, so we spent a long time soaking in the surreal scenery around us.

Sesriem Canyon

The campground for the area is located near the Sesriem Canyon, which is a pretty cool attraction in its own right. We spent an afternoon walking upstream and downstream through the dry canyon bed.

Scenic Lookout

This was marked on the map, but not with a sign! We wouldn’t have found it if we hadn’t seen someone else here. We were able to walk out and get a nice view of the red dunes.

 

Elim Dune

Another spot that was on the map but a little hard to find. We climbed this dune, found right inside the park, on our first evening. We didn’t make it all the way to the top, because it got a little windy (and Della discovered that Keen’s are not the best for dune hiking)

 

Dune 45

One of the most popular activities in the park is to wake up very early and drive to this dune, hiking up in time to catch the sunrise over the red dunes. We planned to do this the morning after our first night in the park. But, when the aforementioned wind was still blowing when the alarm rang, we opted not to go. We thought about doing the climb the next morning before we left, but since the wind was also blowing hard that morning, we decided to skip this dune. We were pretty bummed about this!

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See the blowing sand? We decided to pass on that in our face

Hidden Vlei

The guidebook and a sign said this was only 2 km from the main Sossusvlei parking lot. But it was so windy that we couldn’t find the markers we were supposed to follow!

Hidden Vlei was somewhere out there... we think

Hidden Vlei was somewhere out there… we think