A Solo Safari Through Southern Africa

Botswana - Zimbabwe - Zambia

Sep 01 2014

Epic client Liz is just back from her first trip to Africa. Liz’s solo safari included horseback riding through the Okavango Delta in Botswana, white water rafting down the Zambezi and a heli flight over Victoria Falls. Thank you Liz for sharing your fantastic journey!

I have recently returned home to Australia from the most incredible and extraordinary adventure in Africa. Words are barely sufficient to describe the emotions that I feel about the amazing experience I have been lucky enough to enjoy.

Lots of initial researching and internet googling started me on my quest, but it wasn’t until I hand-balled it to Epic Private Journeys that it really came together. An initial phone conversation with Brad Horn had me laughing and thoroughly hooked instantly. As a chronic planner and list maker myself it was hard to hand over the reins to someone else, but I was so glad that I did.  Lindy endured all my hundreds of questions/queries/concerns and last minute changes of plans very patiently. I was made to feel completely at ease in all my dealings with them, I found the staff to be very friendly and professional and extremely knowledgeable. Many of Lindy’s suggestions and recommendations ultimately were the most memorable moments of my journey.

My final trip looked very exciting and the leather bound presentation of my personal itinerary, complete with full descriptions and colour photos of each days’ activities, was beautifully presented and so very helpful throughout the whole trip. Now it is a great keepsake for me to reminisce over.

I must add at this point that I travelled completely by myself. All initial anxiety that I felt about doing this type of trip solo was quickly replaced with excitement. At no stage in any part of this adventure did I feel unsafe, concerned, nervous or out of my depth. In fact I think that travelling solo was what made this adventure such a life changing experience for me.

The main focus of my adventure was horse riding in The Okavango Delta in Botswana. African Horseback Safaris at Camp Macatoo ensured that I had the most amazing time of my life. Over the course of a week I saw the most incredible sights and met the most wonderful people. I rode 4-6 hours every day through stunning ever-changing landscape on horses that were magnificent to ride. The riding lead guides, Bongwe and Sekongo were terrific men with stunning smiles and wonderful personalities. They were so very knowledgeable and passionate about their guiding. I was able to fully relax and just enjoy the whole experience.  And what an experience it was!!!! Riding amongst both individual creatures like elephant, giraffe, wart hog, hyena, impala, springbok, kudu as well as large herds of zebra, wildebeest, elephant and a range of antelope species on the move was so exciting. Galloping for kilometers amongst a herd of about 25 giraffe was exhilarating and would have to be up there in the long list of highlights. Swimming the horses from island to island to find surprise lunch destinations was pure joy. There was nothing like the fast and furious water canters through the flooded grass meadows or sharing our life stories around the evening camp fires until very late…….I could go on and on.

Macatoo’s camp manager was Katie. She was so welcoming and made every person feel like family. I forgot that I wasn’t the first ever person to experience what Katie and the staff had planned for us. Everyone went out of their way to ensure that I had a truly unforgettable time. This was glamping at its best. The facilities were immaculate, let alone luxurious. My tented accommodation was stunning and the bed the most comfortable I have ever slept in. The attention to detail and lots of small, but so special, surprises was unimaginable. Regardless of whether we dined out under the stars in the middle of the bush or back at camp, the styling of the environment was exquisite… candelabras, linen table cloths, creatively folded napkins, glassware and even table decorations set the mood. The food was absolutely delicious and beautifully presented which astounded me given the remoteness of this camp. I have never eaten so well. The service could not be faulted. All camp staff were so friendly and approachable. I enjoyed many hours of in depth discussions about the differences in our cultures, our respective bucket lists and simply laughing and joking together. After over 300kms of riding, the only pain I endured was sore muscles from laughing and smiling so much and sheer heartache at the thought of having to leave camp.

The second phase of my adventure took me from Botswana to Zimbabwe. This is where Lindy’s careful planning and scheduling just fell into place. I was based in the Vic Falls town ship for the next 5 days. All my transfers and activities were provided by Wilderness Safaris and Wild Horizons.  The timing was crucial as I had planned activities back to back with only limited turnaround time. Not once was my scheduled pick up/drop off late and the whole itinerary ran like clock-work. The drivers were so friendly and easy to talk to and they explained everything so there was no confusion….especially appreciative during the many border crossings and customs/immigration check points.

I stayed at the Vic Falls Safari Lodge and the Safari Club was pure luxury. My suite was so extravagant and the staff were so dedicated and efficient. Everyone looked so happy to be able to ensure that I was having a great time and went out of their way to make me feel welcome. It felt like a wonderful home away from home -not that I was there very much. Over the next few days I jammed in so much activity….. I did the Flight of the Angels in a helicopter over Victoria Falls, gaining a stunning aerial perspective of this magnificent waterfall. I went on an elephant-back safari in the Chobe National park. I walked miles along the paths and viewing outlooks at The Victoria Falls and felt humbled by the very magnitude and power of them. A dinner boat cruise on the Zambezi River provided stunning views of the most intense sunset I have ever seen, as well as viewing wildlife like hippos, elephant and crocodile up close and personal.  A trip to the local curio market was certainly an experience. Make sure to allow heaps of time to do this one as the vendors are all up for quite a chat about their wares. I expected to be hassled but found the vendors to be polite and respectful if not very enthusiastic about their items on sale and the wonderful haggling deals they promised. I barely made the baggage weight limit on my return flights…..The hourly free shuttle service from the hotels to the popular places in town made getting around very simple.

I thoroughly recommend going to The Boma for a night out. This is also on the grounds of the Safari Lodge. It was an African themed restaurant like none other. Aside from eating mouth-watering traditional food from the buffet, guests were entertained by African dancers and drummers. These very charismatic and entertaining performers had everyone involved in drumming sessions. I laughed so much and my hands were throbbing from the drumming. The drummers relinquished their instruments and entertained the guests with magical acapella singing performances. It was such a crazy and fun night. I had to go back repeatedly.

After much consideration and an eleventh hour decision just before I left home….I  decided to brave the white water day trip on the mighty Zambezi River. I am so glad I did!!! It was a pure adrenaline rush. The team of rafting guides were very encouraging and Colgate’s pre-rafting briefing at The Lookout was not only very informative but highly entertaining. Safety was paramount. I must say that the steep walk down into the gorge for the rafting assembly point before rapid #11 was somewhat challenging. The rafting experience itself was so much fun and so very exciting. This was the ONE thing in my whole trip that I was most scared of. My concerns were completely unfounded. It is up there with the getting longer list of highlights. Colgate was our crew leader and he whipped us into shape and had us zipping through the rapids almost like professionals. He was very thorough and specific in his directions yet funny as a circus at the same time. I was one of the few on our raft who did not fly out at some stage and this was a huge relief. The climb back up the gorge was extremely daunting. Middle aged, over weight and nursing a dodgy ankle…it was never going to be easy for me.  Colgate and Lovemore, two rafting guides, encouraged and assisted me up every single step of the steep, and at times rugged, incline. I laughed so much from their banter that I reached the top without realizing it….last one to arrive for lunch but that was okay. “Don’t worry Aussie – Africa time….slowly, slowly” was their mantra. It was such an achievement for me to be able to do this and I was so appreciative of their patience and encouragement. This was almost the highlight of my stay in Vic Falls…..

My final day saw me travel to Zambia briefly to go on the Livingstone Island tour. What a way to finish my adventure! A quick speed boat journey to the Island on the very edge of the top of the falls was the beginning of my most moving experience here. Thank you Lindy for this recommendation!!!! Barefoot and clad in a full length rain coat I was amongst a small group of guests to stand on the VERY EDGE of Victoria Falls and be able to feel through my entire body the rumble of the tonnes of water cascading over the edge by my feet. The guides were very safety conscious and I trusted them implicitly. Normally not good with heights I surprised myself by being able to look over the edge to the basalt rocks way down at the river below. I could have stood there for hours. Poor Felix, the guide, did nearly get a crushed hand but he was very stoic about it. I chickened out of the swim in the Angels Pool on the very edge of the rim of the falls but instead took in the vista. It was awe inspiring. This was followed by a wonderful afternoon tea just near the edge of the falls. I cannot think about Livingstone Island without an enormous grin coming unbidden to my face.

I fell in love with the African people. Everyone I came across in my travels, at camp, in the resort, at the activities, at the markets, even just the citizens on the streets were so very friendly, so quick to smile, ready to banter with you and were so easy to get along with and had such a sense of joy about them.  Chatting to the local people about their lives and their families and their interests made this trip more than a holiday. This was an unexpected bonus that no one could have prepared me for.

It took me 56 hours door to door to get from home to Macatoo Camp in the Okavango Delta. Over my whole adventure I travelled in numerous cars, on 8 planes of varying dimensions, 1 helicopter, countless buses and safari vehicles, 4 different horses, numerous safari boats, a river cruise boat, speed boats, an inflatable raft, an last but not least, an elephant. I saw a spectacular view of Sydney harbor and even the ice shelf of Antarctica….the sights, sounds, smells and conquered challenges will forever remain with me. I went expecting a fun holiday but my expectations were so far surpassed. Africa has struck a chord with me, it has challenged me and ultimately changed me. Every spare waking moment I am reliving the whole experience and all I can think about is going back and doing it all again …but for much longer.

Thank you Epic Private Journeys (and all your safari connections) for making this 15 year dream become a reality. Every day I decided that this particular day was the best one so far ….every next day managed to get better than the last. Every activity and experience was a highlight. It is impossible to choose one defining experience as the best one. This is what I mean about it being a truly incredible and extraordinary experience.

This was supposed to be a once in a lifetime trip… Once will never be enough. I will be in touch soon to continue this extraordinary adventure.

Cheers, Liz