It has been two years since I set foot on the great continent of Africa, there is not a day that goes by that I do not reminisce about its beauty, the people, and culture of this incredible place. I had been dreaming of going on safari for ten years and I was finally able to make it a reality.
I can close my eyes and still remember the muted landscape with its tones of golden brown which looked so desolate yet majestic as the wheels of our plane touched down in Zambia like it was yesterday. Sometimes when I am wide awake laying in bed as the early hours of dawn approach I reminisce about the vast landscape, how the light fell across the plains and the incredible haunting sounds of the animals that would lull me to sleep at night.
We stayed at Sussi Chuma, an intimate lodge situated on the mighty Zambezi river in Southern Zambia. Tip: Opt for smaller lodges. At times we felt we had the whole place to ourselves, and it truly added to our overall experience.
The lodge’s white thatched buildings rise out of the sun bleached earth and are connected by a series of raised boardwalks.
The rooms are intimate oases perched high within the tree tops. Inside, the bed takes center stage, gauzy white mosquito netting elegantly drips down from the thatched ceiling and puddles on the floor. The view looking outside while laying in bed makes you never want to get up, a canopy of trees frames the river perfectly as it snakes downstream.
The main reason we chose to come to Zambia was to see one of the seven natural wonders of the world, Victoria Falls. Before we even saw the falls, we heard it. A thunderous roar grew louder and louder as we approached its banks. The sheer power of the falls is mesmerizing, at the top the Zambezi river churns violently then suddenly falls into a deep smoky abyss that seems as though it could reach the very core of the earth. The spray from its ferocious force hung in the air and like a veil hid almost all of the mighty falls from view. Double rainbows danced along the mist as we stared on in awe. Tip: At the top of the falls, locals sell beautiful handmade baskets and jewelry, so don’t forget to bring your wallet!
We then started descending into the white cloud. What looks like mist from above was actually a tumultuous rain storm below. We got soaked even with rain gear on!!!!!!!! Tip: Make sure to bring a waterproof housing for your camera if you want photos, and don’t bring anything that can’t get wet! Tip: Leave time to explore the Zimbabwe side of the falls, you can get a visa that allows you to go for the day.
We went from the lush region of Zambia to the deserts of Namibia, DO NOT miss the opportunity to explore Namibia’s amazing desert region, it will not disappoint!
We stayed at the Kulalah Desert Lodge. The masterful design of gnarly dead trees, sun baked clay, and grasses combined together to make the lodge seems as if it was emerging from the desolate landscape. Bright red sand dunes rose out of the flat scrub brush dotted land; it felt as though we were on a different planet.
Tip: YOU MUST book your stay here over a new moon, it is some of the best star gazing in the world. Waking up on the roof of your kulahla (they put mattresses up there by request), I felt as though I could reach out and touch the southern cross.
We began our first morning with a hot air balloon ride. Tip: This is a splurge but well worth it; do not pass this opportunity up! When we first arrived to go hot air ballooning, the massive balloon lay flat as a pancake and lifeless on the ground. Suddenly the whirl of fans broke the pre-dawn silence and the balloon began to whirl and squirm to life.
Waves of air pulsated through the thin material making it dance along the damp grass. The balloon slowly began to take shape just as the first rays of sun began spilling over the mountains. Once upright, we climbed into the massive gray wicker basket. Then with a defining wish from the burner and the grace of a ballerina we leapt into the air and were off!
We slowly ascended; quiet washed over us as we got a birds eye view of the landscape below. The land below seemed to twist and move into abstract forms as we made our way closer to the towering red sand dunes. Kudu and springbok frolicked below us in the early morning light.
Once we began to descend back to earth we were greeted by the most incredible display, soft white tablecloths moved gently in the breeze in front of a creamy white salt pan that stood in stark contrast to the flanking massive red sand dunes. White china, sterling silver flatware, and crystal champagne flutes decorated every table like light delicate ornaments on a christmas tree. The most exotic food covered the buffet table with colors that could rival a rainbow. We filled ourselves until we could barely move as we gazed out on the incredible desert landscape.
The WHOLE reason I chose to come to Namibia was to shoot the Deadvlei, a stark white clay pan dotted with windswept barren dead trees shooting out of the clay. We left the camp well before sunrise; the cloak of night still shrouded the land as we entered the park. As the sky lit with an inky blue, the sand dunes started to emerge from the darkness. Tip: To get desert shots, always arrive to your location approximately one hour before sunrise as the best light is just after sunrise.
As we arrived to the pan after a 30 minute hike through red sand, the sun began to turn the dunes a fiery red. We had the place to ourselves; a herd of Springbok galloped across the salty pan, their hooves breaking the silence of the landscape. The dead trees became silhouetted ghosts against the blood red sand. As the light hit the pan, everything seemed to come alive; it was magical. Tip: If you love hiking, check out Big Daddy and Dune 45 for great views of the park.
All over the world, deserts are truly breathtaking places and Namibia’s Namib-Naukluft National Park was no different. I didn’t want to leave, but we had other places in Africa to explore. Stay tuned for a future post on exploring South Africa.