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Namib Lodge Safari + Cape Escape NLC
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This was my first trip with Explore and I was not disappointed. Namibia was so unlike anywhere else I'd seen. The desert landscapes of the Namib Naukluft NP will live long in my memory, as will the huge, fishy-breathed Cape fur seals at their colony at Cape Cross, and of course the wildlife in Etosha NP: giraffes, impala, wildebeest, oryx, springbok, lots of different birds, jackals, warthogs, two elephants in the far distance and one handsome male lion with his prey.
Swakopmund was interesting to see, with its colonial architecture and the boat trip from Walvis Bay was well worth it - great oysters and sherry on board too. All the accommodation was good, apart from the lodge at Khorixa, where my room-mate and I found two frogs in the toilet ! One night at Waterburg Plateau wasn't enough: this was a beautiul area of dense forest and red earth and it was a shame not to have more time there. Our guide and driver in Namibia, Blessed and Joe, were wonderful. The Cape Escape trip was also enjoyable, even though the high winds in Cape Town prevented us from walking up Table Mountain and we had to go up there via cable car on the penultimate day of the trip. I recommend the open-top hop-on-and-off bus tours of Cape Town, a great way of seeing the town and the beautiful beach areas like Camps Bay and the Twelve Apostles. Also well worth seeing are the gorgeous botanical gardens, which you can get to on the open-top bus.
Stellenbosch was a lovely town and our guesthouse there was set in a beautiful vineyard area and they served the most delicious bobotie (minced beef type of dish). I loved the unusual quiver trees and other desert plants at Worcester botanical gardens and it was also well worth seeing the Kango caves and ostrich farm at Oudsthoorn. Botlierskop game reserve is only small but I really enjoyed it and we got so close to the orphaned lion, elephants, rhinos and other animals: much closer than we had been in Namibia, where we'd been a bit unlucky when it came to viewing the bigger animals.
There was a good walk at Storms River and a chance to stop at the southernmost point in Africa, Cape Aghulas. Probably my favourite part of the trip was the tour of the spectacular Cape Peninsula, including a lovely walk down to the Cape of Good Hope. All in all, this was an excellent chance to see parts of two very different African countries. It certainly left me wanting to see more wildlife up in Kenya and Tanzania some time. I've now booked my second trip with Explore, a combination of two tours to northern India...can't wait. (NLC -21st March 2010)