A Mid-Semester Break Spent Exploring Southern Africa
At the halfway point in the semester we are given a week off of school, which means a week free to travel. A group of us decided this was an excellent time to experience as much of Southern Africa as possible in a nine day period. We hired our favorite cab driver, Bethel, to drive us in his minivan to our locations of choice. The first stop was Swakopmond, which is an adorable beach town in Namibia. The town had a beautiful path leading several miles along the beach, restaurants and cafes with real coffee, and tons of shops perfect for buying gifts and souvenirs. Swakopmond is also famous for its sand dunes, which are a quick drive from the town center. We decided the best way to experience the dunes was to ride ATVs and sand board. It turns out that sandboarding involves laying on a thin sheet of plywood and being shoved face first down an incredibly steep sand dune.
After experiencing Swakopmond, we continued the trek along the Caprivi Strip and into Zambia to see Victoria Falls. The campsite we stayed at on the Caprivi Strip was on the mouth of the Okovango River. A family of four hippos resided just across the river from our campsite and we could hear them roaring all night. The campsite also had a cage in the river so that we could swim without getting eaten by hippos and crocodiles!
After a series of misadventures, including a long border crossing, getting lost, and a flat tire, we arrived in Livingstone, Zambia. After spending a night in the Jolly Boys Backpackers Hostel, we ventured out to Angel’s Pool at Victoria Falls. The typical toursist destination is Devil’s Pool, but it was closed because the falls had too much water. Angel’s Pool is similar to Devil’s Pool, just rather than swimming out to it we only had to hold hands and wade through the river. Following our guide, we went swimming a few short meters from the edge of the falls. I would highly recommend this activity to anyone visiting the Falls, although it may not always be open. If there had been much more water it would be very easy to get swept right off the edge.
Some of the other CIEE students I was travelling with also bungee jumped off the bridge over the river separating Zambia and Zimbabwe. Just from watching them, I would not recommend if you are afraid of heights. We also went to the Victoria Falls Park, where you can walk along a path right next to the Falls. We were warned to bring rain coats, but buying an actual poncho would have been more effective. I expected a gentle mist from the falls, but they are so large that the “mist” is actually a torrential downpour. At times it felt as if we were standing underneath the falls, even though we were several hundred feet away. However, when the mist cleared the view was astounding. Victoria Falls is even more incredible than I could have ever imagined.
On our way back to Gaborone, we spent a couple nights in Maun to experience the Okavango Delta. One afternoon we did a horseback safari through the delta, which felt like a great way to see and experience it. The horses trekked through long grass, crossed the delta several times, and went through a nice wooded path. As a beginner horse rider, I almost got thrown from the horse. But we all survived our various adventures, only losing two car tires on the way. By far the best mid-semester break I have ever had!