Best time to visit:
from March to November
Recommended Antitific, Prophylaxis Antimalarial (chloroquine-resistant)
In a word:
Getting lost in search of the big five in Kruger NP, South Africa; Reach the islets of Magaruque and Bazaruto, Mozambique by boat; Admire the sunrise and the start of morning activities on Lake Malawi; Experience a night safari in South Lwangwa National Park, Zambia; Dreaming in front of Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
In this great adventure we rented a 4 × 4 truck in Johannesburg, South Africa and slowly we began the crossing north to the mighty Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe crossing boundless landscapes, savannahs, rivers, still virgin islands and some of the most beautiful parks in all of Africa. There will be unexpected twists and turns, while we were heading towards Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, we learn of a revolt that has broken out in the city due to the increase in the prices of bread and water and we are forced to fall back to another location, this is just one of the many adventures that we will face in an adventurous journey in pure South East Africa. We will sleep almost every night in tents, we will cook using our camping kitchen.
Our suggested itinerary (30 days)
Johannesburg, Pretoria, Kruger NP (game drive in the national park). South Africa
Praia do Tofo (relaxation by the sea), Vilankulo (boat trips to the Magaruque and Bazaruto islands), Caia, Ihla de Mozambique (visit to the UNESCO heritage village), Nampula. Mozambique
Liwonde NP (game drive), Monkey Bay (game drive), Lilongwe. Malawi
South Luangwa NP (day and night game drive), Chipata, Lusaka, Livingstone (visit to Victoria Falls Zambia side). Zambia
Johannesburg, Jo'burg (for the locals), welcomes us after a long flight from Europe ... we will spend the first night here just to organize the last things for our truck, make a good supply of food as we will spend many days in the heart of nothing and to mentally charge us!
When we try to go downtown, just to visit this great city: "How far is Johannesburg from here?" - I ask the receptionist of our hotel.
- "Jo'burg? But it's 5pm! It will be dark in a while!
You can't go to the city at night! It's too dangerous! "
Now I begin to understand all the cartels that threatened an armed intervention in case of violation of the law! Electrified wires, armed guards everywhere ...
What a stress to live here!
Speaking with local boys, I discovered that despite the end of apartheid, the situation between whites and blacks has not been resolved at all!
Old whites complain that others don't want to work, “they are violent parasites”, textual words; blacks accuse them of being arrogant, racist and of treating them, despite everything, like slaves!
The good thing is that at least the younger generations are growing up with an excellent vision of equality and integration!
In the end, I don't have time to get an idea of the city that we leave on board of two vans for Pretoria.
Loaded the equipped truck that will accompany us throughout the journey: tents, mattresses, food, backpacks, we leave for the Kruger National Park.
We arrive late in the evening, we are exhausted, hungry ... setting up the tents without light, tents used for the first time, it is really complicated and puts a strain on our nerves but we do not lose heart and in a short time we not only set up a good camp but we can also prepare, thanks to Anna, a dish of saffron rice that we devour wildly!
It is 9.00 pm when I collapse on my sleeping bag ... We haven't slept for two days!
At 4.45 am someone is already wandering among the tents!
Shortly after we are all aboard the truck completely immersed in the atmosphere of our first safari together.
Hours and hours in patient silence, in the jungle, with our old truck trying to see the slightest movement of the animals in their natural habitat ...
We are delighted to observe all the wonderful animals of the jungle, from elephants to gazelles, crocodiles, buffaloes, giraffes, impalas, wildebeest, zebras ... it seems to live in a documentary and every unexpected encounter fills our heart as well as the eyes.
In the evening we return to our camp and, in a short time, we divide the tasks: who prepares the field, who cooks, who thinks about the next day's journey… team work!
In Africa you have to be patient.
If you are not patient: you become!
Patience to stay tens of hours in an uncomfortable van waiting, looking, scrutinizing, hoping to catch a glimpse of some animal during the safari.
Patience to put up with the border bureaucracy; patience to bargain for a decent exchange between South African rand and Mozambique metical.
Leaving South Africa with its beautiful Kruger Park, we also leave the “western” world behind, the remains of those old Boers now called “Afrikaners” vanish immediately in the red dust of the Mozambican earth.
Crossed the border: change the language, we leave English from the Dutch pronunciation and a warmer Portuguese welcomes us.
We are in Africa: and this time really!
In recent days, internal unrest has broken out in Maputo due to the increase in the price of bread and water. We wisely decide to avoid the capital and for this reason we leave the only paved road to immerse ourselves in a path forgotten by God ... Large holes, dust, sand, jungle landscape frames our path ...
For hundreds of km we meet nothing but a few small children who have come out from who knows where and a few lonely goats ...
Sometimes I am enchanted by fleetingly observing their huts and through them I try to imagine how their daily life could unfold ... it is difficult not to feel tenderness and compassion for these people who, being born here, find themselves living a life of hardship and daily struggle for survival ...
I am not exaggerating and the clear example is provided by the girl who quarrels with friends to grab our empty plastic bottle ...
So how can we not feel lucky in the face of so much misery? How not to feel "small" when you get stuck in city traffic or when you break a stupid ornament at home and get angry? Here everything returns to acquire its true value.
Fannie, our Afrikaner driver, goes straight ... let's go up the black continent!
You give a pen ... They give you a smile accompanied by a shy "obrigado” and you immediately feel richer and happier!
The thing that struck me most about this first taste of Africa is the "waka waka", the eternal journey of these men, women and children who emerge from everywhere and walk ... they go on ... who knows where ... they continue in single file, in groups, solitary ... some improvise a dance on the side of the road with red sand, an elderly lady animatedly discusses with a circle of women with large and pronounced asses. Children with heavy flasks or large bags on their heads; little girls with artistic hair and a thousand colored braids ... Where they go: no one knows ... Where they come from: you can't see ... We only know that they go ...
After 14 hours on the road we stopped at Praia do Tofo, a very romantic place that overlooks the Indian Ocean.
Anti-malarial prophylaxis proceeds. The "lariam" so far has not had great side effects in me, fortunately ...
Here is one of those places that I will not easily forget!
We were stocking up on some food supplies on the border between South Africa and Mozambique when Fannie catches a guy renting out his wonderful oceanfront villa for a night.
It was hard to get there but it was really worth it.
Waking up with this spectacle of nature thrilled me!
The immense ocean that surrounds you, the fishermen returning from their fishing trip ...
I will never forget the barefoot jog wearing only the swimsuit, on the white beach ...
I would love to be able to capture as much as possible of these images, these sensations, these flavors ...
How surprising is this Mozambique ... And who would have ever expected it?
Day of travel and transfer along the dusty roads of Mozambique to the coastal city of Vilankulo which welcomed us with its sounds, its music, its flavors, its people ...
We are cooked and, given a bit of life, we decide to have dinner at a local restaurant. Two local boys cheer up our dinner by improvising songs with their guitar, songs that praise the goodness and courtesy of the "people of Vilankulo".
What a beautiful evening ... I was in a remote village in Mozambique ...
We are lucky enough to stay in some huts with a roof built from intertwining palm leaves overlooking the Indian Ocean.
Here, too, electricity is a useless luxury.
Illuminated by our dim torches we proceed to the various operations. Without light everything is more difficult but it serves to consolidate our body spirit.
We do our best in organizing primary things: wire for drying clothes, various mosquito nets, backpack for the navigation of tomorrow, etc.
At dawn I was already back on the beach with my trusty camera to admire the fishermen returning from their fishing trip, the children playing with the crabs on the shoreline or with the small fish jumping off the nets, the women loading large baskets full of fish on the head and off to the “Mercado Municipal”…
Taking advantage of the low tide we walk 200 meters before getting on our boat. We set sail!
It is incredible how low tide manages to bring out real oases in the ocean.
The navigation is slow but allows us to admire the various colors and the many shades of the sea but also huge schools of fish, large jellyfish and large starfish.
Magaruque is an island far from everything, it has a small beach and large palm trees on the ocean. Every now and then some crab that came out of a hole in the sand crossed it with its clumsy gait and then disappeared into another hole not far away ...
With my feet and hands bleeding and scarred by corals, we dive for a long snorkeling but exhausted from the fight against the current and a little disappointed by the scarcity of fauna, I abandon myself and fall asleep under a palm tree, as in the most classic of images of Relax!
In the meantime, our Mozambican friends have already prepared a delicious lunch based on rice, giant crabs and excellent grilled barracuda ...
While with the sail reupholstered to the best, we return to Vilankulo, sitting towards the infinity of the ocean, with my legs dangling and feet in the water, I was traveling with my heart.
Dawn is always one of the most unforgettable moments of a day ... wherever you are, seeing that orange disc emerge from infinity gives you joy, hope and life!
In two hours we reach the Bazaruto island.
Navigation, as always, is romantic, it envelops you, surrounds you, cradles you ... I love sitting with my legs off the boat and in the loneliest point of the bow: I want to enjoy the conquest of every single wave ...
The scene is dominated by an immense white sand dune ...
Touched the ground we are literally magnetized by the climb of the dune.
At the top: the spectacle that this island gives us repays us for all the effort and above all for the swallowed sand ...
Low tide had created a natural palette of a thousand colors that with the reflection of the sun, the incessant coming and going of the clouds made the show even more exciting ...
Bathing in the natural pool among the corals, I take this opportunity, since there is no one, to even do it naked, in total freedom!
Grilled squid lunch fighting with the hawk that, like a shark, peered at us from above in the sky, hoping for a moment of distraction to steal our food
Today we leave Vilankulo and its sea, we head north.
Three full days of walking await us and the unknown places where we will sleep makes everything even more exciting.
We grind hundreds of miles and cross a large part of this nation.
I have seen men, women and children appear out of nowhere and walk with the most disparate thing in perfect balance on their heads and then suddenly disappear again; children sitting in the shade of a giant baobab tree while an adult explained something to them; men sell gasoline bottles on the street; straw and mud huts; women doing laundry in a small pool of water near a half-dried river; elderly women with cross-shaped tattoos on their foreheads, cheeks and chins; people of all ages travel miles and miles just to bring some water; children take care of little brothers and sisters much younger than them….
Our equipped truck suddenly brakes. A cloud of sand hits us, then thins out and we go down.
We are tired, dirty and sweaty.
We want to set up the tents and the camp kitchen as soon as possible so that we can relax with a shower.
We are staying in a field that is too close to the imposing Zambezi River.
In no time at all, our battle for survival against mosquitoes begins.
We set everything with great collaboration from everyone. We are now experts.
The night in the tent was tough: the worst.
The fight continues against the suffocating heat and the hundreds of mosquitoes of the Zambezi…
Night falls early in this corner of the world and it happens that at 17.00, after eleven hours of travel, you are still on the road and you are still missing many! Too many!
Driving here at night is tough as well as very dangerous.
The rare animals graze undisturbed on the still hot asphalt; few vehicles have headlights and the many police checkpoints are used to stop those without light.
Fannie, our Boer driver, knows this well and therefore tries in vain to convince us to stop in the first useful place, but we want to get to our destination at all costs, according to our information there should be a very delightful seaside resort, and after all these hard days we really need a little break!
In the late evening, after 15 hours of very heavy truck, we reach Ihla Moçambique.
The place is totally different from what we expected.
The Lonely Planet this time failed. We, who were expecting a tourist-equipped place in which to rest our tired bones, wash clothes that are now too dirty and above all take a relaxing shower, find ourselves having to camp on a deserted beach where even finding a sealed bottle of water becomes a difficult task. But we do not lose heart and in a short time our field is ready and the risottos in sachets, brought from Italy, are already boiling in the pot!
A wonderful and romantic starry sky observes us while, after a general spread of amuchina all over the body, we collapse exhausted in our sleeping bag ...
Wake up as usual at five, but by now we have been totally enveloped by African life that moves and develops perfectly to the rhythm of the sun ...
We cross the three km of bridge on foot that divide the city from the island that we have renamed: "the island of children"!
Never seen so many children in my life!
Even now, as I jot down my thoughts sitting outside a restaurant, endless lines of curious children pass me by. Many ask me to be photographed and when they see themselves in the little screen of my camera they jump for joy, applaud, call their friends to gather, they pose again for another shot ...
The islet is all a mixture of huts and schools.
We entered one of them…. A boy explained the respiratory system to a group of children sitting on the ground, without desks or chairs ...
"The idea of our candy bag wasn't so good!" you must have thought poor Stefy while she was attacked by dozens and dozens of kids ...
Ibrahim, a deaf-dumb child, very awake and very intelligent, becomes our body guard. After offering him a plate of rice and a Fanta, he follows us all afternoon and woe betide any child who gets too close to us ...
We are filthy and smelly; at the first beach we dive to wash!
We haven't had water for two whole days and with this moonlight ...
While we are soaking a circle of kids forms, watching us amused.
After a while we all find ourselves dancing with them to the rhythm of their songs!
It's time for dinner! The lobsters bought this morning from a fisherman await us, paid for two euros each, which the owner of a restaurant will cook for us in her restaurant, specifying however that we would have to pay 100 metikals (2 euros) for the "labor". Two euros in all !!!
The return to our tents was quite eventful with a bitter surprise.
Our tents have been blown away!
With enormous patience and without breaking down we slowly rebuild the whole field!
While I was dismantling the tent, in the quiet of the Mozambican dawn, I considered that we haven't washed properly for three days, the shower is now an old memory as well as a luxury, the beard and hair are long, the clothes are dirty and not I've been looking in the mirror for a week, supplies are starting to run out, it's hard to even find some water, the tactical shorts are already wide for me but we are happy!
Happy with the experience we are living, happy to sip the little water we have left in the bottle even if it is always boiling, happy with the knowledge that this journey is changing us and then we will try not to waste superfluously what we had previously taken for granted.
Nampula is the third largest city in Mozambique. We secure 300 liters of fuel for our truck and struggle enough to find a store for food supplies.
Shoprite is what we need.
Upon exiting the supermarket, with two trolleys overflowing with food, I understand the reason for all that security armed with big guns at the exit of every single shop.
As if we were escorting two half-valuables, we were almost attacked by the crowd waiting outside. Rudy and Fannie who had remained guarding our vehicle seeing us in the distance immediately tell us that they had just witnessed a theft of the car parked next to us ...
Without getting lost in chatter we both empty the trolleys on the seats and skid away.
We will put them in order away from too curious eyes.
We arrive in Cuamba in the late evening, we are on the border between Mozambique and Malawi, and here it is difficult to find a decent place for the night.
Before asking for asylum at a school we try the "San Miguel Pension" ... they only have three doubles but with a little sacrifice we settle in three by joining the beds and sleeping vertically!
Here, too, the shower is an optional, but the sink is even so!
We wash where and how it happens!
We leave Mozambique after having crossed its last villages, its last huts, breathed its red earth, we feel it in our nostrils and it colors our T-shirts ... we listen to the last sentences in Portuguese at customs ... a short stretch of no man's land and the asphalt begins, the signs are all in English ... Big bar: Stop.
A flag waving proudly. We are in Malawi.
We reach Liwonde National Park and its hippos but the most important thing for us is that there is finally a shower!
After a week we really needed it!
We take the opportunity to wash ourselves and to wash all our dirty laundry, practically the whole backpack! At one point I found myself in boxers and flip flops washing everything I had ... even the things I was wearing at that time!
The night is quite busy and agitated due to a couple of hippos who entered our camp chased by two rangers but passed unscathed!
Funny awakening with the two warthogs grazing a few meters from us!
Elephants, crocodiles, hippos, sea eagles and cormorants presented us with their daily life along the Shire River!
"They have very basic things" - the bitter comment of Silvio and Sabrina who work in the hospital in Italy after the fact-finding tour of the Mua hospital ...
I have only seen many newborn babies, many women / girls / mothers ...
“You are born here and then what do you do?” - I thought sadly to myself ...
Lake Malawi is all for them.
They quench their thirst with its water, wash their clothes, pots and their own bodies!
I have followed their actions from afar. I watched them as, immediately after waking up, they went to its shore with a glass to drink, then brush their teeth, face and whole body.
With the sand they degreased the dirty pots, all while hundreds of screaming children ran, splashed in the water or played with the little fish that had fallen from some net.
They are kids my age but they already look old.
A boy asked me about my age, he looked like he was forty; when he asked me to guess what about him I tried to be nice by saying: 30… he was 23!
There is misery, poverty, there is no hope for the future ... At a certain moment the desire to take pictures also passed. I turned off the camera and continued to photograph with my eyes and heart!
We spend the last evening in Malawi right in its capital. After a full day of travel we really needed a break in a camping ... tonight we will sleep in a tent but at least we will be able to enjoy a cold drink during our dinner prepared with our field kitchen!
So we have time to study tomorrow's stage well, which will lead us to a new nation: Zambia!
Malawi is just over our shoulders.
His flag waving greeted the disappointment painted on our faces.
Yet it happened!
Bribes that move the world.
The careful customs guards of the Malawi-Zambia border noticed an irregularity on our visa, duly paid: some had a visa for 14 days, others for seven ... yet we had all bought the visa together upon entering Malawi ... How come some had a different validity? The thing smells like cheating! Stupid and naive we who had not checked!
We discuss, explain, try to make our good faith understood but after an hour of negotiations the policeman shamelessly asks for 50 euros to turn a blind eye ...
Our tired truck trudges along the dusty dirt roads of Zambia, every now and then the engine sobs until it decides to abandon us.
We are in the middle of nowhere, in an unspecified place in Zambia, along an uninhabited and sandy road ...
The red dust rises to the sky and fills the air ...
It colors our khaki T-shirts and shirts and soak our nostrils ...
Suddenly, dozens of children with torn clothes come out of nowhere, curious ...
It doesn't happen every day that ten white people stop with a big and strange truck in front of their huts!
Fannie swears while untangling between one part of the engine and the other ...
Stefy and I take the opportunity, after having made some friends with the children, to visit their huts ...
A hut of mud and straw inside which there is a blanket lying on the bare ground, two pairs of flip-flops, some pots and some clothes attached to the wall ... a child is asleep ... the landlady asks us for a photo with her four children ...
He smiles showing the upper incisors that she does not have... she is 25 years old, she looks 40 ...
There are some children with beautiful facial features. I look at them, I observe them and inside me I feel sad thinking about their difficult future ...
At 16-17 they will already have a couple of children with another poor Christ from their village, they will build a small hut of straw and mud and begin to survive alone ...
Fannie is stained with grease and oil.
The thermometer of my watch shows 42.2 ° ...
I see mirages of frozen Coke cans everywhere ...
Our truck just doesn't want to depart.
A truck carrying corn stops; pulls us for $ 50 ...
40 km on the trailer of a truck sitting on sacks of grain…
I still had in my eyes, in my heart and in my mind the time spent with those people in their little world.
I thought of the woman to whom I had given a soap and whose first action had been to bite into it believing that it was eating or the joy of the child in discovering that the toy car I had given him was actually a pencil sharpener!
South Luangwa National Park is truly picturesque!
A tall giraffe walks next to us ... just five minutes to set up the tents we are already in the jeep for the night safari with Wilson and Said!
We are exhausted from the long day but as soon as the sun sets we immerse ourselves 100% in the life of the savannah ...
What an emotion!
Wilson points the spot light on an immense plain ... slowly various antelopes and impalas appear as in a show ... who grazes, who rests, who watches us curiously ... suddenly a spotted hyena appears cautiously ... head down, looks around and heads for the impalas ... the herd thins out in seconds ...
We drive around with our jeep for hours, we meet crocodiles, elephants, hippos, monkeys until along a small road, hidden between two bushes, I see a spot different from all the others ...
Said and Wilson go on indifferent ... I make the jeep stop ...
We go back a bit and a wonderful specimen of leopard appears before our amazed eyes!
A few hours later at dinner we do nothing but tell us our feelings!
"Beware tonight!” - the Dutch Eef who works in the Park tells us: “hippos and elephants usually walk near our tents, don't go out”!
Instead I decide to sleep in the open with Stefy and Anna.
The sky is super starry, there is a cool breeze that caresses your face, the soundtrack is taken care of by the hippos swimming a few meters from us ...
The night everything changes! It is as if the animal kingdom takes possession of its kingdom again. Some braver impalas venture too close to the river to drink, hoping not to end up in the mouth of the crocodile on duty ...
I stay chatting until 2.30 am when I hear noises not far from my shoulders ... I click and point the flashlight. I only notice four eyes watching me ... I can't understand what animal it is ... Moments of thrill until the ranger arrives and we discover that they were two frightened impalas who came to take refuge there to escape a leopard sighted not far away ...
However, he advises us to change places because of a cobra that occasionally emerged right there ...
Everyone in the pool! Struggling with mosquitoes we collapse for an hour, just long enough to admire a wonderful sunrise!
We leave very early for the safari in South Luangwa National Park!
This is without doubt the best nature park visited so far.
Thanks to the skill of our friend Said, we are able to meet all the most well-known animals but even to photograph them from a few meters away!
Hyenas devouring a buffalo carcass, warthogs, baboons, zebras, giraffes, hippos, elephants and even 5 lionesses!
In the afternoon we return to Chipata, not far from the border with Malawi.
There is a small pool and while we relax to soak ... we notice a lot of military and bodyguards ... shortly after the president of the republic: chubby, classic black trousers and white shirt, greets us as he passes, he is going to the funeral distant relative in the town that hosts us today!
Capitals, a bit like borders, always fascinate me.
Maybe every time I think about it, I see myself as an elementary school child sitting on the bed in my room with my father who asks me about all the capitals of the world ...
That's why every time I set foot in a capital I almost have the feeling of knowing it for a lifetime!
Lusaka has been disappointing!
Urban traffic, smog, high rises, western shops, "musungu" everywhere! Shopping at Spar among Western products, well-dressed people ... where has my Africa gone?
Livingstone is a small town on the border with Zimbabwe and 60 km from Botswana.
A bit too westernized for my tastes ...
We go to the discovery of the Victoria Falls!
Unfortunately, the water flow is minimal, considering the time of year: we are in the dry season! In addition, from Zambia you can only have a limited view, which is why a little disappointed, despite the somewhat excessive costs, I decide, with Stefy, to cross the border and enter Zimbabwe, the last stage of this unforgettable adventure in Africa!
The Zambian exit stamp appears on my passport ...
We cross the barrier right where a bridge begins!
“Sorry how about to go to Zimbabwe? Straight ahead?" - I ask a guy with a big suitcase on his head!
“Yes, my brother!”
After the bridge a nice border policeman praises his Zimbabwe! The friendliness and cheerfulness of the people puts us in a good mood!
A colorful flag flutters on a large billboard that reads: "Welcome to Zimbabwe"
We are thirsty and we begin to see coca cola mirages everywhere!
We dive into the first room we find and we drain two cans each!
The center of Victoria Falls is full of little shops selling souvenirs and you come across many vans carrying white tourists, we are no longer used to it ...
As I walked I thought that if it wasn't for the falls, that place would have been yet another village of God-forgotten huts!
Victoria Falls from the Zimbabwe side are more powerful than the other side ...
It is always a great thrill to admire the strength and power of nature in all its facets!
Stefy and I sit on a rock and literally abandon ourselves to observe this infinite flow of water which, coming from who knows where, after crossing and seeing who knows what, ends its run with this huge leap into the void!
It is time to go home, it will be difficult to return to the classic daily habits after this immense adventure!
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