Places you can’t get out of your head

One’s destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things
– Henry Miller

This month’s travel linkup is all about places you travel to that you can’t get out of your head.

It’s an easy one for me. It’s a continent. It’s a dusty, dirty place. A place filled with animals wild and free. A place of incredibly happy people. A place of fresh air and starry skies. A place that holds on tight to my heart and won’t let go. Can you guess where it is?

Africa.

I first travelled Africa back in 2011. Starting in Kenya, with an elephant orphanage that I still remember dearly, a giraffe sanctuary where the tall animals lick your face and then the incredible Lake Nakuru National Park – where I had my first taste of animals wild and free, lions eating a zebra on the side of the dirt path, camping under the stars, birds galore, baboons being tricky and even a leopard on a tree.

Elephant Cuddle, Nairobi Elephant Orphanage, Kenya

Sometimes we all just need a little elephant cuddle, Nairobi Elephant Orphanage, Kenya

Milk time!, Nairobi Elephant Orphanage, Kenya

Milk time!, Nairobi Elephant Orphanage, Kenya

Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

Baboons in Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

Baboons in Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

Leopard, Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

Leopard, Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

Pelicans flying, Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

Pelicans flying, Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

That was Kenya.

Then it was onto Uganda. Another diverse place with a vast array of wildlife and beautiful scenery. Hearing chimpanzees in the trees (they’re noisy things!) and spotting them crawling across the forest floor was awesome.

Chimpanzee, Kibale National Park, Uganda

Chimpanzee, Kibale National Park, Uganda

Hippopotamus, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda

Hippopotamus, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda

Child on Roadside, Kampala, Uganda

Child on Roadside, Kampala, Uganda

Elephants in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda

Elephants in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda

Bungy jumping and white water rafting would leave me fearing for my life, but create memorable experiences.

Bungee Jumping

Bungee Jumping, Jinja, Uganda. Definitely outside of my comfort zone.

Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience.
– Paulo Coelho

That was Uganda.

On that first trip the final stop was Rwanda. Home of the mountain gorillas. This would be the moment that would never leave me. The best experience I’ve had while travelling. It may have only been an hour, it may have been a decent hike and I may have had altitude sickness, but it was an hour of pure peace, wonder and awesomeness.

Gorilla sleeping

Gorilla sleeping

The baby gorilla would play and roll around, while the teenager ones laze about and eat, the adults would be grooming and then the big daddy silverback would keep an eye on everything (including us).

Baby Gorilla tumbling around

Baby Gorilla tumbling around

Baby Gorilla

Baby Gorilla

Gorilla sleeping

Gorilla sleeping

Gorillas grooming

Gorillas grooming in Rwanda

Silverback Gorilla

Silverback Gorilla

Silverback Gorilla

Silverback Gorilla, Rwanda, 2011

That was Rwanda.

A few years on, as I leave London I couldn’t help myself but return to Africa again. This time I started with some volunteering in Namibia at a wildlife sanctuary.

Umbelle, Leopard

Umbelle, Leopard

Me with Bobby, the big baby baboon

Me with Bobby, the big baby baboon

Baby Baboons

Baby Baboons, Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary

Wild Dogs being fed

Wild Dogs being fed

Then I flew to Zimbabwe to check out Victoria Falls and start my overland tour. The falls were pretty amazing despite it not being the best time of year for maximum water. I also spent a morning walking some lions as part of a breeding program.

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Lion at Lion Encounter

That was Zimbabwe.

Onwards to Botswana, taking a mokoro (wooden canoe) down a river, past hippos to a bush camp for a few days. Chobe National Park meant sleeping next to a river filled with crocs and hippos, and having a snake slide past my tent at night.

Hippos, Chobe National Park

Hippos, Chobe National Park

Mokoro at sunset

Mokoro at sunset

Mokoro poler

Mokoro poler

Red Build Hornbill Bird, Chobe National Park

Red Build Hornbill Bird, Chobe National Park

That was Botswana.

Then I travelled through Namibia top to bottom. This was a country of diversity in landscapes, animals, towns and people.

Giraffe drinking

One of two ways a giraffe drinks, either spread the legs or bend them

Lion drinking in Etosha National Park

Lion drinking in Etosha National Park

Waterhole in Etosha National Park

Waterhole in Etosha National Park

Stunning Oryx

Stunning Oryx

Jumping as you do in Etosha National Park

Jumping as you do in Etosha National Park

Fur Seal head

Fur seal at Cape Cross, Namibia

I’ll never forget sleeping out under the stars in Spitzkoppe.

Spitzkoppe

Sunset over Spitzkoppe

Sunset over Spitzkoppe

And spending my birthday in Dead Vlei and Dune 45.

Dune 45, Namibia

Dune 45, Namibia

Dead Vlei, Namibia

Dead Vlei, Namibia

That was Namibia.

Last stop was South Africa. From canyons, to the incredible Table Mountain and the wine of Stellenbosch. South Africa was a country that made me realise more about security – seeing all the systems outside houses for protection. The Cape Flats made me realise the extent of varying wealth in a large population. It’s a beautiful and interesting country.

Boulders Beach Penguins

Boulders Beach Penguins

View down from Cape Point

View down from Cape Point

Kirsten and I doing a chocolate and wine tasting at Spiers

Kirsten and I doing a chocolate and wine tasting at Spiers

Penguin soaking up sun

Penguin soaking up sun

me at the top of Table Mountain

me at the top of Table Mountain

That was South Africa.

I still can’t get Africa out of my head, even today. I want to return to do some of Central and Western Africa sometime, in particular Tanzania and more of Kenya. One day I’ll return to the gorillas too. It’s a place in the world that I just can’t get out of my head.

Music is something I must do, business is something I need to do, and Africa is something I have to do. That’s the way it breaks down in my life.

– Gro Harlem Brundtland

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