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.


Khumaga Camp, Botswana


Sunset over the Okavango, Savuti Camp, Botswana


Sunset over the Okavango, Chobe Safari Lodge, Botswana


Sunset over the Halali Waterhole, Etosha National Park, Namibia


Sunset over the Halali Waterhole, Etosha National Park, Namibia




Solitaire, Namibia


Solitaire, Namibia


Solitaire, Namibia


Quiver Tree Forest, Namibia


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Bushlore Review

Probably the biggest decision we had to make for our self-drive safari was which company to rent our truck from. The truck would be our transportation and accommodation for 25 days so we definitely wanted something reliable. We ended up going with Bushlore based on their price point and a few reviews we were able to find. Hopefully our review will help anyone trying to make a similar decision in the future!

The truck itself was a Toyota Hilux (like seemingly every other truck we saw out there). We think it was relatively new – only 27000 km (about 16000 miles) on the odometer when we picked it up. The tires were new as well.

We didn’t have any complaints at all about the truck over the course of the trip. It performed quite well and didn’t have any issues that required maintenance.


Camping Setup
The bed of the truck was setup with all the supplies and a tent on top. This performed as advertised, with some complaints. Bushlore forgot to fill up the 40 gallon water tank so we had to figure that out on our own. Also, one morning the rope-strap combination that held down the tent travel cover just came apart. We were able to improvise a solution to get it back together using a tent pole, rope and duct tape.



Bushlore provided a service that helped us pre-book our camp sites along the way. This was the part of their services that we were least impressed with. Twice along the way we showed up at a camp where they had pre-booked us and we were told they had no record of the booking. Luckily we were able to still stay, but it was frustrating to have to deal with this after having paid Bushlore to handle this for us.

We also noticed that maybe it wasn’t even necessary to have booked as much ahead of the time as Bushlore had us do. The national parks were definitely full, but other locations had plenty of empty space. So we’d recommend only booking a limited number of sites.

Final Review
It seemed like in general the issues with Bushlore stemmed from the fact that there are a large company, and we didn’t have the personal touch that we might have liked. The truck was really nice, but the service aspect was lacking, which we would have liked since we were so nervous. We’d probably say that if it’s your first time on safari, maybe look for a smaller company to give you a little more attention. But if you have experience, their equipment will definitely do a good job for you.

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Cradle of Humankind

Our last stop on our self-drive safari was the Cradle of Humankind. This region just outside of Johannesburg is a UNESCO World Heritage site where many important discoveries of ancient hominid fossils have been found. The Cradle-designated area is rather large, so we chose to visit the two main tourist attractions to be found there: the Maropeng Visitors Centre and the Sterkfontein Caves.


This nice (and relatively new) museum is set up to explain the history of life on Earth and the history of human life as well.

Heading up to the main building

Heading up to the main building

Once you enter the main building, you are taken down into the basement and you do this cheesy but fun boat ride that takes you though the different elements necessary for life.

We then went through the different exhibits in the large space. There ranged from discussions about DNA,to extinct animals, to the different types of hominids that paleoanthropologists have identified (many of which have been found in the Cradle) to what it means to be human. We enjoyed all of the interactive displays as well.

Sterkfontein Caves

The site where many of the most famous fossils have been found is the Sterkfontein Caves, a set of limestone caves in the region. Our ancestors did not live in the caves; instead, they may have fallen into the caves where there bones were very well-preserved. We took the 45 minute tour through the cave itself.

Most of the route through the cave has been developed for tourism, but there were a few tricky spots where we had to walk through while mostly ducking. That’s why we had to wear hard hats!

After our experiences with the cave in Belize, this cave did seem a little tame. Also, we wished that we could have seen the actual excavation areas – they didn’t point out any of these on the areas we walked through. But caves are always fun to explore, so we were glad to say that we saw this one as well.

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!




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.



Why did the springbok cross the road?


The impalas needed to cross the road as well!




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!



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


Always watch out for the donkeys!


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


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.


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


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!


Don’t forget to watch out for giraffes!


And zebra of course!


It did get a little hilly in Namibia.


The blind hills were the hardest!


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


There were some windy roads!

IMG_0081_edt  IMG_0092_edt


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!




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!




South Africa Self-Drive Safari Stops

The majority of our safari was focused on Botswana and Namibia, but we did pick up and drop off our truck in Johannesburg, so we stayed in South Africa for a few nights at the beginning and end of the trip

Safari Night 1: Waterberg Wildnerness Reserve, between Mookgopong and Polokwane

Getting There
We had just picked up our truck and were still adjusting to driving a large 4×4 truck on the left side of the road, so we were happy that this reserve was only a few hours away.

It was a little-nerve-wracking getting to the site though, because they were doing road construction and we had to take this pretty wild side path. Luckily one of the managers showed us the way or we might never have found it!


This was a very nice site. Nice trees isolating us from the other sites (although we were the only ones there this night). A nice stone table and fire pit with provided firewood that made an excellent fire.

The camp managers were also super nice and helpful. We had forgotten to buy matches at the store, so they gave us a full box plus some firelighters (excellent stuff that we are curious why it isn’t more popular in the USA). Also, we realized here that Bushlore forgot to fill our 40L water tank in the truck, and they were kind enough to give us a hose to hook up to the water outlet and fill it (and to help us tighten the connection).


This was only the beginning of the fire!

Since it was our first night on the road, we didn’t have any expectations for how rustic things would be. We were pleasantly surprised at how fancy this one was, with a nice building with fancy fixtures and good hot water.

They have different 4×4 driving trails throughout the reserve, and one of the managers was nice enough to recommend a route for us. This gave us a very pretty view over the property for sunset.


Safari Night 23: Red Sands Desert Lodge, near Kuruman

Getting There
If you’ll recall, night 22 was in Keetmanshoop, Namibia. This is quite a long distance away from Kuruman, so this was our longest driving day of the trip. By this point Eric had gotten a little more comfortable with the manual transmission, so he was able to do a few hours of highway driving.

We did also have a border crossing, but luckily again we seemed to be the only ones crossing at the time. Getting into South Africa was especially interesting. All the customs agent asked was about how big the states in the US were. The police officer ran our fingerprints, and told us that we were rejected… but we could clearly see the “No Match” on the machine and his partner was grinning and messing with his cell phone in the background – and the officer eventually admitted he was joking. The person that was supposed to inspect the car inside just wrote down our license plate and asked if she could ride to Johannesburg with us. Everyone there just seemed to be looking for some sort of entertainment!

Not as nice as it should have been… When we arrived at Red Sands, they had no record of the booking that Bushlore had made for us there. We called Bushlore and they said we should just pay for it (again) and sort it out back in Joburg. But, there were no actual sites available. There was no other campground nearby, so we weren’t sure what to do. But then a manager stepped in and identified an area with a table that we could us as a site for the night. The site itself didn’t have much beyond the table, but it certainly beat sleeping on the side of the road.


We were allowed to use the big ablutions block near the actual campsites. Since the camp was full this meant that the ablutions was somewhat crowded. We didn’t take showers, but heard others complaining of limited hot water.

They had a nice reception area with free wifi… but only a 50 MB data limit. We burned through this in about 30 minutes :(. There was a nice restaurant as well where the we doing  braai (bbq) buffet, but we had enough food left that we decided to cook anyway. We did visit the bar to relax after the stress of driving and site mixups. Here we had the Castle Milk Stout for the first time, which was a nice change of pace from all the standard lagers we had been drinking.

Safari Night 24: Magalies Sleepy River, Magaliesburg

Getting There
For our last night we decided to go off the beaten path of what others do for their safaris. Instead of making the long drive from Kuruman back to return the truck, we decided to stay in this area just an hour outside of town. So we just looked up the campground on the Internet and found our way to it.

When we arrived, they seemed somewhat surprised to see us. It seems like they are mostly a summer operation and don’t really actually open in the winter. But, they were happy to take our money for the site.

There was only one other person in the entire camprgound (a long-term caravaner), so we definitely had our pick of sites. The setting is very pretty, with lots of nice trees and hills surrounding.


A nice big building with good hot water

Looked like there would have been a lot more going on in the summer – pool, hiking, etc. They did have a beer fridge that we purchased a couple of beers from since our box of wine had run out the previous night.

This was right next door to the Cradle of Humankind area, which was another reason we chose to stop here.

Final Thoughts
It’s hard to really have much of an opinion on our South African safari stops since we didn’t spend much time at any of them. But one common theme was definitely the friendliness and helpfulness of all the employees that we interacted with!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


A large building with only lukewarm water


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


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.


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.


Nice, hot water with good water pressure for showers.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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


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


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


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.


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.


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


Not much to speak of that we used.


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!



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



Chobe Chicken (Helmeted Guinea Fowl)













Honey Badger





































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.