Alan and Jonna's Southern Africa trip

In 2016 our friends Beth and Flash asked if we would be interested in joining a group of friends they were organizing for a motorcycle trip in southern Africa. We jumped at the chance and reserved our spots on the 21 day 'Victoria Falls to Cape Town' tour with Renedian Adventures. In late August, 2017, we flew (via London and Johannesburg) to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe where we started the tour. For the next three weeks we rode BMW F700GS motorcycles around 3,000 miles (with about 1,000 of those on dirt roads) through Botswana, Namibia and South Africa before eventually ending the trip in Cape Town. Along the way we visited Victoria Falls, Chobe National Park, the Okavango Delta, Namib-Naukluft National Park, Fish River Canyon, the Cango Caves, Cape Point National Park and Robben Island National Park.

Here are some of our favorite photos from the trip (each photo is a thumbnail linked to a higher quality picture.):

1) Our first excursion of the vacation happened while we were still enroute. Our multi-hop flight schedule included an 8 hour layover in London so rather than sit in the airport we stored our luggage and hopped the tube to Kew Gardens. We spent a few hours wandering around the expansive grounds, visiting the Victorian era greenhouses, climbing the tree canopy walkway and enjoying lunch under a flower covered pergola. It was a great way to spend our day long layover.

2) Our vacation started with our arrival into Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. We immediately checked into our hotel, the stunning Victoria Falls Hotel. After a quick bite of afternoon tea on the hotel's patio we headed over to Victoria Falls National Park to hike the southern rim of the Zambezi River canyon directly across from the awesome Victoria Falls. The falls are a mile wide and fall over 300 feet down into the narrow canyon. Mist rises up out of the canyon forming a narrow band of rainforest along the southern rim and the late afternoon sunlight created bright bands of rainbows shooting up into the sky. It isn't difficult to see why this is considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

3) Back at the hotel the warthogs freely wandered through the grounds in the evening giving us an up close view of African wildlife.

4) Our first full day of the trip was spent visiting some of the sites managed by Greenline Africa Trust. Renedian Adventures donates some of the money they earn from their tours to this regional non-profit group. We visited three different Greenline Africa Trust sites and the first was the home of a grandmother. Since AIDS related deaths have devastated an entire generation in Zimbabwe Greenline is providing food and agricultural training to grandmothers who are raising orphaned grandchildren. In the family we visited the grandmother had lost three children and, along with her two remaining sons, was raising seven grandchildren. Greenline was providing basic food staples but was also teaching the family how to use drip irrigation techniques to grow organic vegetables. Greenline then created a marketplace in Victoria Falls where tourist hotels could buy this produce to provide local organic vegetables for their kitchens.

5) We next visited the Greenline Trust Africa headquarters to see the gardens they use for teaching drip irrigation to locals. Finally, we visited a community school house where around 30 elementary kids attended school. Even though it was a school holiday the children came to the school anyway to recite some of their lessons, sing songs and dance for us. We had mixed feelings - we were happy that Greenline is doing such important work and we were thankful that the children came to see us but we still felt a little uncomfortable having the locals "perform" for us rich, white visitors when the shadow of the imperial past still hangs so heavy over this continent.

6) Our final stop for the day was a tea break on the canyon rim overlooking the Zambezi river just a few miles east of the mighty Victoria Falls. Here the parched, dry desert has been gouged open by the flow of the river creating a striking constrast between the dry land above and the rushing white water below.

7) The second day of the trip included crossing the border into Botswana (by foot!) and getting checked into our hotel in Kasane. That evening we boarded a pontoon boat and headed down the Chobe River into Chobe National Park for a three hour game cruise around Sedudu island in the Serondela portion of the park. One of the first things we saw were the elephants. Chobe National Park has the largest concentration of elephants in Africa. The many islands in the river are generally safe from predators so large numbers of elephants spend each day feeding in the relative safety of these islands.

8) The one predator that is definitely a risk in this area is the Nile Crocodile. We saw quite a few lounging around on the banks of the river soaking up the evening sun. Photos don't show scale well but I'd guess this one was around 12 feet long.

9) Another animal that could swim out to safety of the islands was the Cape Buffalo. We saw scattered herds of these mammoth bovines including this trio who were keeping a wary eye on the nearby crocodile.

10) Our Chobe River cruise ended with a spectacular sunset showing all the vivid colors for which African sunsets are famous.

11) On the third day we mounted our rented BMW F700GS motorcycles and started our ride. The first day we rode from Kasane to Nata and along the way we saw herds of elephants, lone giraffes and flocks of ostriches. We also got our first taste of the many different types of desert that exist in southern Africa. This photo is from an area called the Elephant Sands in central Botswana.

12) On the fourth day we rode from Nata to Maun. In Maun we temporarily traded the bikes for a small airplane to take a flight into the Okavango Delta for a night camping in the bush. From the low flying plane's windows we could see elephants, giraffes and hippos.

13) Two safari trucks picked us up at the remote dirt air strip and we immediately went on a three hour game drive in the Khwai River area directly adjacent to the Moremi Game Reserve. Within minutes we were seeing animals, including this herd of impala.

14) Different species of animals in Africa often travel together. Alongside the impala was a herd of zebra. Zebra have large, movable ears and sharp eyesight so the impala appear to hang out near them to take advantage of the zebra's superior ability to detect predators.

15) The highlight of our game drive was arriving at this river crossing just as the sun was setting and then having a herd of eight bachelor bull elephants come down to the Khwai River to drink. This moment perfectly captured the sights and sounds of the African bush.

16) While we were on our game drive a team of three guides were busy setting up our tent camp in the Khwai Development Trust Maghoto Khwai Community Campground . At camp we enjoyed a delicious freshly cooked dinner, an evening sitting around a campfire under a crystal clear sky (where the Milky Way was so bright you could practically read by it!) and then we fell asleep in our tent to the sounds of hyenas, hippos and lions.

17) Our fifth day started with a sunrise game drive. We spent most of the drive unsuccessfully trying to see a big cat but we did see a small herd of African wild dogs as well as this hippo that we found on a rare trip out of the river.

18) After getting breakfast back at camp we then made the three hour drive back to Maun in the safari trucks. On the way we saw lots more animals including a herd of giraffes who were hanging out in the relative cool of the acacia trees' shade.

19) Our sixth day was a ride through the Kalahari desert from Maun to Ghanzi. We arrived early in the afternoon which gave us a chance to walk around this small Botswanan town. Ghanzi is really just a crossroads with a few buildings so we got a little insight into what life is like in the rural areas.

20) Our next day, the seventh, was our last in Botswana. From Ghanzi we headed west to the border with Namibia at Mamuno. We had lunch on a curb at the border while waiting for all the paperwork to be completed to bring our bikes into Namibia. Then we rode halfway across Namibia to end the day in the capital of Windhoek.

Go forward to the second '17 Southern Africa Trip Photo Page.

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Alan Fleming