Here are details of my next big three month Safari to Africa in November 2019
During the dark, damp and dreary days of an Irish winter and early spring, I decided to plan my next trip to the sun with Oasis Overland. The trip will be a safari from Nairobi to Johannesburg commencing 25 November 2019 and concluding on 23 February 2020. 93 Days with Oasis Overland, the company I used last year during my Silk Road trip.
Unlike my previous trips, I won’t be going a few weeks early to allow myself to acclimatise. Instead, I’ll arrive the day before the trip is destined to commence. I arrive at the airport at 4am and by the time I clear immigration, have a cup of real Kenyan coffee and travel to the Karen Camp, it should be 6 or 7 in the morning. If past experience is anything to go by, I’ll be wired and knackered at that stage; not a pleasant state of being at all. I’ll want to crash out for several hours.
The expedition includes a night at the camp on the 24th but I’ll book an extra night so I won’t have to leave a few hours after I arrive from Dublin, blinking in the bright African sun while every mosquito in a hundred kilometre radius makes a beeline for my white Irish skin. And then there’s the spiders. Don’t mention the spiders.
Turkish Airlines have very reasonable fare prices and these are my departure details:
- Dep Dublin 11:15am TK1976 (Turkish Airlines)
- 2h 55m layover
- Dep Istanbul 9:30pm TK607
- Arr Nairobi 4:10am (Local) (6h 40m)
- Airport pick up and one night pre-trip accommodation at Karen Camp
Here is the day-by-day itinerary as lifted from oasis website. I hope I’m not breaking any copyright rules here.
The first month or so will be in East Africa
Days 1-2: 25-26 Nov
After our pre departure meeting – our trip departs Nairobi, Kenya and heads north into one of Africa’s greatest natural features, the East African Rift Valley. Stretching from the Dead Sea in Jordan down to Mozambique in Southern Africa, our first view is from the top of a steep escarpment.
Overland trips through East Africa will allow you to experience some of the most dramatic scenery in the world, and the Rift Valley is a definite highlight. The valley floor seems to sweep on forever and is dotted with volcanic peaks, shimmering lakes and countless springs. Our journey takes us into the heart of the Rift Valley to Lake Naivasha.
We camp near the lake shore where Hippos sometimes feed at night! Here you can walk to Elsamere, the house of Joy Adamson – of Elsa the Lion and Born Free fame, and enjoy a film of her life – and cream teas! You can also hire mountain bikes and cycle or walk through Hells Gateway National Park – the only game reserve in Kenya in which you are permitted to do so.
Or for a less active but equally enjoyable game viewing experience – visit the Crater Lake Game Sanctuary. Both offer excellent scenery & opportunities to spot hyrax, abundant bird & plant life along with several types of gazelle, impala and eland.
Days 3-4: 27-28 Nov
Next we travel to Lake Nakuru National Park – home to a wide variety of wildlife including Black Rhino, Hippo, Lion, Leopard, Hyena and Giraffe. However, Nakuru is a soda lake and most famous for its pink inhabitants, a flock of almost a million Pink Flamingos which feed noisily along the shoreline.
Days 5-7: 29 Nov – 1 Dec
We then continue west and travel to Uganda. A mountainous drive with spectacular scenery through the Nandi Hills brings us to our next stop at Eldoret. From here we cross the Kenya – Uganda border, and continue to camp near Jinja – Uganda’s adventure playground. Here, on the edge of Lake Victoria, the Nile begins its 6700km journey to the sea.
We spend the next few days downstream from the source of the Nile. This is a spectacular area and a superb place to go whitewater rafting or kayaking. You can also organise quad biking, horse riding or a visit to a local education project. A short drive takes us from here to the capital Kampala.
Days 8-10: 2-4 Dec
Kampala has had a turbulent past, but these days it is a friendly and safe city. We have a free day to spend in local cafes and nightspots – where you can get to know the local people.
The following day we have a long drive as we head west through swamps, patches of forest and fertile green countryside. As we travel through Uganda, we’ll pass through a number of small towns and villages; Mpigi, where you will see roadside stalls manufacturing and selling traditional musical instruments; Kyazanga, where we can buy fresh rotisserie and roasted meat and vegetables, as well as roasted plantain bananas. We will also be able to make a photo stop where our route crosses the Equator.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park are home to several families of Highland Mountain Gorillas. Getting up close to these amazing creatures is a truly a once in a lifetime experience and one of the highlights of the trip. You have the opportunity to trek to see the Gorillas in Uganda (bookable as an Add on). It is estimated that only around 700 of these gentle giants remain.
This mountainous area on the borders of Rwanda, Uganda and Zaire (now renamed Democratic Republic of Congo) is their only natural habitat and they are periodically threatened by poachers and political instability in the area. One permit allows you to spend about 50 to 60 minutes with one of the gorilla families. Trekking to find them in groups of 8 people can take anywhere from half an hour to 5 hours. The organisations and well-trained guides that continually monitor and protect the families are conscientious and responsible.
We will base ourselves in the village of Kabale which will give you the opportunity to trek the Mountain Gorillas and visit the beautiful Lake Bunyonyi, where you will have the opportunity to visit a school for orphans or a pygmy village.
(Due to the popularity of Trekking to the Mountain Gorillas and the limited availability of obtaining Trekking Permits, we may do the Gorilla trek in Rwanda in Volcanos National Park, which may come at an additional cost – you will be advised in advance).
Days 11-13: 4-7 Dec
Passing over the mountain ranges we cross the border into Rwanda. The small, friendly town of Musanze is home to Musanze caves and several hiking trails, take a village tour throughout the area where you can see firsthand production of local Banana beer. There will also be an opportunity to visit the genocide memorial in Kigali, which is a moving and humbling experience.
Days 14-19: 8-13 Dec
Entering Tanzania we follow the Southern shores of Lake Victoria. This part of Tanzania is quite remote and far from the general tourist route. Our first point of call, Bihiramulo, is a small friendly town with great street food and bars. We generally spend the night at an ex- German First World War Fort. From here we travel east along the lake to the bustling, lively, fishing ports of either Mwanza or Musoma.
We then re-enter Kenya, travelling via Kisii. The group will then go on an afternoon and a morning game drive in one of the most famous National Parks in Africa, the Maasai Mara. Here you will have the opportunity to look out for all its incredible wildlife before we make our way back to Nairobi.
Day 20: 14 Dec
Get up close to Africa’s tallest mammal when we visit the Langata Giraffe Centre in Nairobi. Free time to visit the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage, where Oasis sponsor Kamboyo, an orphaned elephant.
Days 21-24: 15-18 Dec
We depart Nairobi early morning and immediately find ourselves in hot savannah grasslands with acacia trees providing the only shade. Various game, usually zebra and giraffe can be seen as we head south and cross into Tanzania where we camp on the outskirts of Arusha town.
Here you have the option to use a local African safari travel company to guide us through the Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti National Park. You’ll head down into the spectacular Ngorongoro Crater, where once on the crater floor you will have the opportunity to view the abundant wildlife including Elephant, Lion, Cheetah, White Rhino, Buffalo, Hippo, Antelope, Crocodile and Pink Flamingos.
From here you go into the Serengeti for a day where vast herds of wildebeest roam the plains. For those who wish – there is an option to visit a local Maasai Village and learn about their culture and way of life.
Days 25-31: 19-25 Dec
After leaving Arusha we pass a number of small towns and villages along the way and, if we are lucky, we may see the towering peak of Kilimanjaro. We will stop off at Marangu where you have the opportunity to climb to Kilimanjaro base camp, or take a walk through the lush surroundings passing through coffee plantations, rivers, waterfalls, caves and visiting a local blacksmith.
A days drive brings us to Dar Es Salaam where our truck is based in a campsite on a beautiful Indian Ocean beach. From here you will take the ferry out to Zanzibar Island for four nights and venture into the narrow bustling streets of Stone Town and its famous spice markets, old slave forts and dungeons.
There is also time to relax on Zanzibar’s famous white beaches, scuba dive or snorkel and swim with dolphins- before returning to Dar Es Salaam.
Days 32-34: 26-28 Dec
After meeting the Zanzibar ferry we begin the journey through the interesting and mountainous hinterland of Tanzania. In the afternoon, after negotiating some appalling roads, we pass through the peaceful Mikumi National Park. African safari travel is synonymous with wildlife, and in this national park we usually see Elephant, Giraffe, Zebra and Antelope from the roadside. Passing through lush mountainous landscape and plantations – we enter Malawi which is dominated by its huge fresh water lake.
Days 35-38: 29 Dec ‘19 – 1 Jan 2020
Camping in Malawi sums up the spirit of an Africa overland trip with Oasis. We spend 4 to 5 days at friendly laid back campsites where most people choose to relax on the sandy beaches or try their hand at scuba diving, snorkelling or windsurfing as we follow the lakeshore south. If you are more inclined to just relax – then there is no better place than on the shores of Lake Malawi.
This really is a warm friendly country – making it easy to wander off and meet up with your local hosts in one of the many villages or schools nearby. You can view firsthand the talent of the local artisans and purchase some exquisite pieces of furniture and carvings out of ebony and mahogany.
Days 39-41: 2-4 Jan
From here we continue on to the capital Lilongwe in the south of the country where you can check out the local markets.
Our African Overland trip leaves Lilongwe to cross into Mozambique and head for Zimbabwe. We follow the infamous Tete Corridor which was well known in the days of Mozambique’s long running civil war as the Gun Run. Thankfully these days things are a lot different!
We enter Zimbabwe and travel via the capital, Harare. Arriving into Zimbabwe’s cosmopolitan city, you can enjoy many of the sights in and around the city centre, there are many markets throughout the city from craft markets to the hectic local Mbare market, stroll through the botanical gardens, or enjoy the nightlife in one of the many bars throughout the city.
Days 42-46: 5-9 Jan
Leaving Harare we make our way to the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe, where we visit Chimanimani, and where you have the opportunity to take a hike through the mountain wilderness area, or hiking to the nearby bridal veil falls, or simply enjoying the stunning surroundings from this sleepy village whilst strolling through the village market. Great Zimbabwe Ruins which was once the greatest medieval city in Sub Saharan Africa and where the name Zimbabwe is derived, literally meaning house of stone is where we stop next to view this ancient city.
Days 47-49: 10-12 Jan
We drive across Mashonaland to Gweru, here we visit a privately run horse and game ranch where you can go game viewing on horseback. Its our destination for the next few days. Next we enter Matabeleland and the town of Bulawayo.
Days 50-51: 13-14 Jan
You have the option of leaving the truck for a day to venture into Matobo National Park with a local safari company. You will have a unique chance to get out on foot to try and spot the elusive Black Rhino – amongst hordes of other game.
There is also the opportunity to visit Cecil Rhodes’ grave and Ancient Rock Paintings.
We will then follow a journey that is steeped in history and say goodbye to our truck for the night as we board the overnight train from Bulawayo to the mighty Victoria Falls. Expect basic conditions, but the views and experience of looking out the window and watching the world go by more than makes up for it. If you look carefully you might even spot some kudu or elephant! When you get there the mighty Victoria Falls await.
Days 52-53: 15-16 Jan
For some, Mosi oa Tunya – The Smoke That Thunders, is the highlight of their African safari. From the main road, in the bush 20kms away, a cloud of mist and spray can be seen against the blue sky. As you get closer, a low rumble like thunder can be heard. When you arrive it is a surprise to discover the enormity of Victoria Falls.
One mile wide and hurling over 5 million cubic metres of water a minute into the Zambezi Gorge this sight is breathtaking at any time of year. The Gorge is the setting for one of the most adrenaline fuelled grade 5 white water rafting in the world. There is something here for everyone to end off this Kenya to Zimbabwe safari.
Why not take a day trip over the Victoria Falls bridge to view the falls from Zambia, take the Flight of Angels – a great way to get a birds eye view of the falls in a microlight or helicopter, enjoy a civilised afternoon tea at the Victoria Falls Hotel, join a Sunset Boat Cruise or a more sedate Canoe trip.
For those who want to make the most of the adrenaline activities, get your fix with the Gorge Swing, Abseil or ‘enjoy’ one of the highest commercial Bungee Jumps in the world.
Days 54-57: 17-20 Jan
Our overland trip continues from Zimbabwe into Botswana, spending the night on the outskirts of the Chobe National Park – famous for its hordes of Elephants, as well as an abundance of other wildlife. You will have a chance to spend the afternoon on the Chobe River – a less intrusive way to view game and wildlife – as well as the Namibian frontier across the river.
We then head south into the Kalahari Basin – known for its dry, desolate and expansive freedom. You will have an opportunity to leave the truck to venture into the Okavango Delta. Local poler guides will navigate the extensive waterways using canoes similar to their traditional Mokoro’s (dug out canoes).This is a great experience – and the best way to have a chance of seeing the elusive wildlife of this unique desert oasis. You will have a number of opportunities to go on game walks with rangers – giving you the chance to see elephant, crocodile and hippo up close and personal.
The Okavango Delta is one of the world’s largest inland waterways and its calming serenity will leave those who experience it feeling supremely relaxed. There is also the opportunity to experience the heights of African adventure travel too: see the delta from the air during an hour-long flight.
Days 58-61: 21-14 Jan
Travelling west we enter Namibia and continue toward Etosha National Park – recognised as one of the worlds greatest wildlife viewing areas. The semi desert is quite a contrast to the more fertile terrain we have been used to. The night sky ablaze with shooting stars and the warm glow of our campfire makes for unforgettable camping experiences.
Besides game drives we can also game watch by night at one of the floodlit water holes where we may well spot Rhino, Elephant and Giraffe among a host of other wildlife.
Days 62-67: 25-29 Jan
We then travel to the stunning Spitzkoppe Rock formations. Known as the Matterhorn of Namibia – the Spitzkoppe is part of the Erongo Mountain range and was formed over 100 million years ago after the collapse of a gigantic volcano. The scenery is striking from every angle – even more stunning as the granite massifs turn red at sunset. Next stop is the world famous Cape Cross Seal Colony, where the sight of thousands of these mammals, as well as their accompanying pungent odour is remembered by all! The Cool Atlantic Ocean and the prominent Benguela current provide a perfect location for feeding and breeding for the Cape Fur Seal.
For the next three days, our Africa overland trip will be based in Swakopmund – Namibia’s adventure gateway. You can choose between a variety of activities and excursions here: spend a day deep sea fishing for shark and other game fish or head out to the desert and try quad biking and dune sledding. You can also go horse riding or get a birds eye view of the dramatic coastline – either by Sky diving from 10,000 feet or take a flight over the towering sand dunes in the area. In Swakopmund itself you can walk along miles of deserted beaches, visit the museum or relax in a cafe.
Days 68-72: 31 Jan – 3 Feb
A one day drive takes us to the Namib-Naukluft Park, a vast expanse of desert which contains some of the highest sand dunes in the world.
At Sossusvlei we stop and explore this spectacular area and red dunes.
Continuing south we enter the semi-desert, and wide-open countryside of cattle ranching until we arrive at one of Africas most sensational natural features, Fish River Canyon. We stop here for a couple of hours to take in the awesome scenery.
Days 73-75: 5-7 Feb
A couple of hours drive away we enter South Africa and cross the Orange River – a rich source of diamonds. We travel south through the Cederburg Wilderness Area, an area of rugged valleys and peaks before getting to the vibrant and cosmopolitan city of Cape Town.
Our accommodation here will be in a backpackers hostel.
Days 76-77: 8-9 Feb
There is plenty to do in and around Cape Town, from climbing up Table Mountain to abseiling down it, diving with sharks (either in ocean cages – or at the Two Oceans Aquarium), a tour to Robben Island or head out on the town to one of the many hot spots that Cape Town has to offer.
Days 78-80: 10-12 Feb
We depart from Cape Town taking a leisurely drive along the coastal road to the quaint coastal town of Betty’s Bay in the Overberg and visit Stony Point Nature Reserve, home to a unique colony of African (Jackass) penguins. The Penguin Colony is one of only three mainland-based colonies in South Africa and for this reason it is treasured.
From here we will head for the most southern tip of Africa at Cape Agulhas – which is the dividing line between the warm Indian Ocean and the cooler Atlantic Ocean. The seas around Cape Agulhas are very treacherous and have caused numerous shipwrecks. To help reduce fatalities the Cape Agulhas Lighthouse was built in 1848 and is the 2nd oldest working lighthouse in South Africa. From August to December Southern Right and Humpback Whales may be spotted along the coast – as they feed in the nutrient rich waters off the southern coast.
From Cape Agulhas we pass through the Outeniqua Mountains to the Little Karoo – we will visit an Ostrich farm to learn more about the worlds largest bird. The Ostrich has been around for 8 million years and a feather was actually discovered in King Tutankhamun’s tomb in Egypt. 97% of the world’s population of Ostriches lives in the Karoo.
We will also explore Cango Calcite Caves recognised as one of the world’s finest network of Calcite caves. The bizarre formations of Stalagmites and Stalactites represent over a million years of slow formation.
Days 81-84: 13-16 Feb
We spend two days winding our way along South Africa’s famous Garden Route where there is a wealth of things to see and do.
We travel through the popular resort of Knysna, located on a tranquil lagoon that is protected from the sea by two enormous cliffs known as ‘the heads’.
Optional excursions in this region include mountain biking, black water tubing, and the mother of all bungee jumps at Bloakrans Bridge – the highest jump in the world at 216 metres.
From the Garden Route we continue along the coast and in the summer months (October to March) there will be an opportunity to stop at one of the beaches we pass before we head inland to Addo Elephant National Park which has recently been extended to include part of the coast and is now home to the BIG 7 – lion, rhino, elephant, leopard, buffalo, whale and shark!
On our game drive we hope to spot some of the many elephant that the park is famous for, which are the most southerly population in Africa.
Days 85-87: 17-19 Feb
We then drive to the beautiful, rugged and remote Wild Coast to the quaint little seaside village of Cintsa. Situated on the banks of the Cintsa River and estuary – Cintsa offers a haven in a tranquil setting, surrounded by lush indigenous forest and thicket, and an amazing bird life. You will have a free day to enjoy the unspoiled stretches of white sandy beaches, take a canoe ride up the river, many hikes in the area, horse riding and so much more.
An overnight stop on route to Lesotho, we break up the journey for the evening in Aliwal North situated on the banks of the Orange River. Famous for their hot mineral springs, you can enjoy a dip in their heated pools after the days drive.
Days 88-90: 20-22 Feb
Heading north making our way out of South Africa into the mountain kingdom of Lesotho, often referred to as ‘the kingdom in the sky’. This little country is completely surrounded by South Africa and is covered by mountains from 1000m to 3000m high. The scenery here is tremendous and the mountain air crisp and fresh. Here we will see Lesotho’s horsemen dressed in their blankets and gumboots trotting around the hillsides.
We spend a couple of nights at Malealea Lodge, Lesotho’s most famous countryside retreat tucked up high in the mountains. Here there are isolated waterfalls, cool rock pools ideal for swimming, and peaceful hikes in the surrounding hills. This is also a great place to try pony trekking – one of the best ways to enjoy the scenery is atop a sure footed Lesotho pony.
We drive through the lowlands of Lesotho and visit Thabo Bosiu or Mt. Moorosi with a local guide (time & weather permitting). This mountain stronghold was the home of Chief Moshoeshoe, the founder of the Basotho nation. We continue through Lesotho’s tiny capital Maseru, and re-enter South Africa.
Days 91-93: 23-25 Feb
Royal Natal National Park on the edge of the Drakensberg Mountains has an impressive natural Amphitheatre of massive rock walls. The Tugela River plunges spectacularly over the edge of the Amphitheatre wall, dropping around 800m through a series of five falls. There are over 130km of walking trails around the park-many of which are easy, half day strolls, through beautiful countryside of grassland dotted with patches of yellowwood forest and proteas set against the stunning backdrop of the Amphitheatre.
Heading north we pass through small towns and villages, through Afrikaaner heartland, making our way to South Africa’s largest city, Johannesburg. Built as a result of the gold rush, the city has grown into one of the wealthiest cities in the world. We will be staying at a laid back backpackers in the suburb of Johannesburg, where you can relax by the pool.
A few days in Jo’burg, in a fancy hotel, with a big soft feather bed, crisp white bedsheets, a deep bath, huge fluffy towels, endless coffee…
And then, back home to dear old Dublin via Istanbul.