Friday, July 23, 2010

Gap Adventures Dunes, Deltas & Falls Discoverer

I have been asked about our trips to Southern Africa so I have revised this report on the trip we did in July 2008 that I had originally posted on GAP Adventures forum.The Wateringhole ,Gap Adventures forum
Trip Report-DAFD Original July 1st 2008.
This is my report on the Cape Town to Windhoek segment of the DAFD tour.I got off in Windhoek and my wife carried on for the full tour through Botswana to Victoria Falls.

My wife and I have travelled on many tours,with many companies, and on comfort or overland styles.But this tour ranks as the best we have ever experienced.An amazing and thoroughly enjoyable time.
It could be a difficult tour, with long drive times, and because of limited accommodation options, there are a few nights where this becomes an issue.And I know GAP have worked hard to address these issues, and improve/refine this tour, and make this now one of the great tours in their African portfolio.
It also takes a very special person as a tour guide to make every moment on this trip interesting,the long drive days pass by so quickly in good conversation, and for the whole tour to be a marvellous learning opportunity..
And it really helps if fellow travellers realise this is adventure travelling and that not everything is going to be as you want or expect.Surprises abound in this type of travel.We were blessed with companions who all showed a positive spirit .

Saasfeld Lodge and our transport awaits!

Saasfeld Lodge,Kloof Street, Cape Town, the start hotel, was adequate.New owners could do quick tidy up with a little paint here and there.Showers are tricky.But overall, it’s positioning more than made up for it’s shortcomings.It's just a short walk down to town, the cafe's , markets and historical buildings.
Guesthouses (Sir Lamberts Bay Guest House)in Lambert’s Bay made us feel warm and comfy.Really homely.
The Felix Unite Tented chalets at Gariep,on the Orange River were in such a picturesque setting.Loved that place.
Klein Aus Guest Farm dormitory lodge on the 4th night was an experience.And some people will find this an issue.But there is not much alternative accom. In the area, and so we approached this with a ‘go with the flow’ attitude.Even though it was cold and wet, and electricity had shorted out, our group showed a very positive’ Hey, it’s only 1 night.Let’s enjoy it”attitude.
And from there it was all uphill with great lodges, at Nubib Nature Camp, then Namib Desert Lodge.
Dunedin Star ,Swakopmund,clean and reasonable,and well positioned.Great service from helpful staff.
Igowati Lodge,Khorixas,Damaraland was a great nights accom, with many animals and birds wandering the place.
Etosha was tenting at Okaukuejo.Which was great as we were able to position our group close to the main watering hole viewing area.And the temperatures at night had warmed by then.
And where else could you have a honey badger snuffle silently up to you when drowsing off to sleep and give me a big smoochie through the tent canvas!?
Auas Hotel in Windhoek was excellent for positioning , cleanliness, and service.Right near a major shopping mall.

                                                                                          Our Okaukuejo,Etosha campsite.
Our 28 seater small bus had total of 18 , plus guide, guide assistant and driver.Which meant it was not too crowded.
With it’s truck chassis, it handled the unsealed roads very well.Not as gutsy, or grunty looking as an overland truck, but a very good comfortable choice for this type of travel.And at Etosha, very suitable for the game drives, as all the game was well in view from the various tracks.We felt no compelling reason to opt for going with the optional game drive safaris.And saw plenty of game, and including 3 lions from our bus.For that time of year, when game is concentrating around the main watering holes,there is not quite the need to take the optional game safaris.Quite different perhaps during wet season where game has to be searched for.Optional game safaris may be the best option then.

Our guide Gerhard Schwanepol, was an exceptional person.Always enthusiastic, an excellent conversationalist,a great sense of humour, and extremely well organised.Gutz was right up there as a leader.Enthusing us all with being great adventure people.Who’d have thought anyone could get 18 tourists to lie on the ground at Dead Vlei, spelling out GAP for a photo shoot?
Gerda, our assistant guide was a wonderful , cheerful and enthusiastic person.
Joseph our driver, worked hard on those long drive days.

              Our Gutsy guide!

The water hole at Okaukeujo,Etosha
Driving up the C35 into Damaraland, we were greeted by a lone cow elephant,browsing a mopani tree by the side of the road.
"Welcome to my territory" she seemed to say."And here is my family"as the rest of the herd crossed the road right in front of us.A 14 strong herd I was to meet up with 8 days later on my EHRA volunteer project I would be joining.This was the main desert elephant herd headed by huge matriarch Mama Africa.
At Etosha, there was an endless stream of game coming into the watering hole at Okaukuejo.Springbok,oryx,impala,kudu,zebra,elephants etc.And at one time there were 6 black rhino in view .
Our game drive in the bus found us observing 2 lionesses over an oryx kill and a male at a nearby water hole.
Heading into the dry season now will see more animals concentrate around the main holes.

For some travellers, this tour with long drive days may be trying.But for myself ,with an interest in Biology, I found that there was never a boring moment.In fact I relished the opportunity to observe the ever changing environment as we travelled up from Cape Town and into true desert areas.Southern Africa has very unique plant life, and it was a joy to observe many plant species we may grow at home as houseplants,flourishing in their natural state.As you travel through various vegetation zones, you will observe how various specie become dominant, then others take over.
Take an interest in how various plants have adapted to survive in these arid areas.From the geometrically beautiful forms of various Aloes, to the spiky candelabra Euphorbias,and the occasional protea, or fields of stonecrops/crassulas.
And for the tours going through Namarqualand in Late Aug/early Sept, you should be enjoying the veld come alive in brilliant colour as wildflowers will be at their best.We were lucky to see only some sparse early showings.

Overall, this trip exceeded our expectations.On the 10th day my wife and I looked at each other and virtually said at the same time-“We’ll have to cancel our North American tour next year , because after this,America is going to be too tame for us!”
The big fear we have now, is how can any future tour ever be as good!?

And for anyone reading this and thinking about an African trip with Gap Adventures,I can fully recommend them.And hey!You can help us adopt a baby elephant here-
How? Because if you do want to enquire or book your trip with Gap Adventures, click on the Gap Adventures or Discovery Tours advert you see on the right of this page.Any tour booked online which originates through those adverts means this site earns a commission on sales from Gap Adventures.And all that money we earn ,less any tax, we will be donating back to wildlife conservation.
So help us help Africa's wildlife! Doesn't cost you anything extra, but your booking can save an elephant orphan!
And that will put a smile on everybody's face then!


Kristine said...

This one is high on my list! If only I can get 3 consecutive weeks off from work.

Jim said...

Hi Kristine and thanks.
And if you do decide to go ahead, initiate your enquiry through the Gap Adventure link above right, complete yoyr booking online, and you and I can then go adopt another baby elephant.We have adopted 2 already!I was getting around to blogging on that.
Just a small way that each of us can help in conservation matters.
Hey and thanks for reading.!
Need any questions answered, just contact me!