Did you know that Lesotho has the highest mountain peak in southern Africa, the highest road in Africa, the highest pub in Africa (personal research there) and the highest single-drop waterfall in Africa? Its known as the ‘Kingdom in the Sky’, for obvious reasons.
The facts are:
Highest peak: Thabana Ntlenyana – 3 482 metres. You can climb right to the top and what a view.
Highest road: Tlaeeng Pass in northern Lesotho (part of the Roof of Africa route) – 3 275 metres. You can drive this one, still a great view.
Highest pub: Located on the Sani Pass – 2 874 metres.
The name ‘Skeleton Coast’ refers to Namibia’s northern coastline between the Kunene and Swakkops Rivers. The Atlantic Benguela current gives rise to dense fog for many months of the year because of its coldness, and when you add in the fact that there are frequent storm-force winds, many ships are driven onto the rocks or run aground here. The result is the largest ship graveyard in the world.
Crew members that survived the ship wreck then found themselves in a harsh desert environment with no fresh water. It was their sun-bleached skeletons and the remains of their ships that gave the coastline its name of Skeleton Coast, especially when the frequent whale and seal bones found along the coast when the whaling industry was active were added in.
Much of the Skeleton Coast is protected by the Skeleton Coast National Park, established in 1971. The south of the park is open to visitors, but most of the wrecks that can still be seen are found in the North. These are therefore best scene from the air, either flying in/out of the park or on an organised air safari.
We’re often asked about our scariest moment on safari. Scary is not really the right word. Exhilarating, breath-taking and humbling suit better. But sometimes….
I was on a drive in a private Rhino reserve in Swaziland, with the Head Ranger as we looked out for the animals. Coming round a corner in a fairly well run-in Land Rover we came face to face with a large and rather angry-looking Black Rhino. After a minute or so of sitting watching each other, with a fair amount of head tossing and foot-stamping going on (the rhino, not me) it decided to charge.
The first impact on the Land Rover was impressive. We were out of gear and without brakes and jolted backwards a fair jump. The Rhino decided that the bumper was rather hard and came around the side of the vehicle to look for a softer spot. I was delighted when it chose my side. A short run and ram, its horn came through the side panel of the door and appeared a few centimetres from my leg. The vehicle was lifted off its left-hand tyres and we waved around a bit. It withdrew its horn and retreated a short distance, possibly preparing for a new charge, but we were in reverse and off round the corner. Fortunately it didn’t follow.
A colleague was at the reserve later and informed me that the door, complete with hole, is now mounted over the lodge fireplace. Fortunately, my leg is not pinned to it. It made me realise the strength of the rhino and its speed.
I was talking recently with one of the owners of a lodge we use in South Africa. For the purposed of this story the lodge will remain nameless. It is a romantic property – small, intimate, luxurious, in short the perfect venue for a honeymoon and one which we send clients to frequently. They love it, with a heated verandah bath overlooking the plains and private meals served under the stars. A fantastic place to start married life and forget the stresses of the wedding day. Not so for one couple who were staying there.
On the last day of their visit they decided to go on a walking safari, an exciting way of looking for animals and plants away from the noise of the vehicle. Accompanied by an armed guide/guard they ventured off into the park and all was going well until they stumbled upon a rhino in a patch of thin shrub woodland.
The guide told them to freeze – rhinos do not see well but can detect movement. But the rhino had caught the smell of them and did a short dummy charge. At this the couple did what they had been told at the briefing before the walk, they ran towards the nearest tree that would take their weight and began to climb. The woman got their first and was just getting off the ground when her new husband arrived and used her as a ladder to get to the upper branches.
The rhino departed and the guide was left with another dangerous animal – a very angry bride. She left the lodge that afternoon alone.