Ever since I was a kid I’d been desperate to visit southern Africa, to see all those incredible animals you watch on TV growing up: lions, elephants, rhino, leopards etc. And since becoming a diver ten years ago my desperation only grew as I learned about all the awe-inspiring creatures waiting there for me under the water: dolphins, mantas and a whole host of beautiful sharks! With a three-week trip planned, I was worried that I might not be able to fit it all in, that I might have to pick and choose: and how do you choose between a giraffe and a tiger shark?! Had I planned the whole trip on my own I’m sure I would have missed out on something: logistics are hard in such a big land mass, especially coming in as a stranger and having to figure it all out as you go along, inevitably you lose some time. So I was over the moon when I discovered a one of a kind trip with Nomad Africa Adventure Tours that does it ALL: land-based safari combined with epic diving…. my dream come true!
It’s a gross understatement to say I was slightly excited the morning we all gathered in Johannesburg to begin our trip and that excitement didn’t wane for a second in the coming days: if anything, it intensified! Myself and 17 other guests all started as strangers but very quickly became a group of friends as we shared spectacular moments together. I find this kind of a trip tends to draw together like-minded people: adventurous, nature-loving and generally good-hearted…and it makes for many a pleasant evening to be able to share stories together sitting around the campfire with lions roaring in the background! The Nomad crew, too, were exceptional and did a great job of looking after us: driving us in our big truck from one insane location to the next, cooking up a storm in their pull out kitchen and sharing their years of knowledge about the creatures and landscapes we were privy to. They were everything you’d hope for: professional, experienced and genuinely passionate but fun-loving at the same time.
Picking highlights from my trip is near on impossible! Day after day, dive after dive my mind was blown and my senses overloaded. I guess I can divide my experiences and memories into three broad sections – landscapes, terrestrial wildlife and marine wildlife – and I’ll try to select just a few of the many special moments to share here…
On the very first day as we headed off towards our premier safari location in Kruger National Park, I was blown away by the majesty of the Blyde River Canyon as we drove through the escarpment. Raw and rugged, it’s no wonder one of the viewing points is named God’s Window. We enjoyed a great stretch of the legs at Bourke’s Luck Potholes, a spectacular work of nature formed by millennia of flowing water. These are the kind of sights that make you appreciate the works of art that are our natural landscapes.
We were so fortunate to see all of South Africa’s Big Five during our many game drives as well as several other unexpected delights: a bush baby bouncing his way down a tree at night to name but one! I think the memories that will stick with me longest, though, were the peaceful evenings spent by the watering hole as the sun went down: cider in hand, relaxing in my camping chair, watching the hippos wallow by the waterside and the giraffe precariously position themselves for a cool drink, and chatting to the other guests about our day’s adventures.
And then the diving! For me, this was the highlight of my trip. Who knew that you could be hanging with hippos one day and diving with tiger sharks the next?! Nomad have teamed up with expert dive companies across southern Africa who really know their stuff and deliver on every dive. I adored the dolphins, whale sharks and mantas we were treated to in Mozambique but, for me, the climax was diving with the apex predators of the ocean in Protea Banks and Aliwal Shoal. In a single dive we could witness multiple big shark species: Raggies, Tigers, Bulls, Hammerheads, Guitars, Oceanics….!! Being in amongst that kind of action is indescribable, there are no words. It’s something every diver who truly loves the ocean needs to experience.
As clichéd as it may sound this really was the trip of a lifetime: I didn’t believe it was possible to experience so much in so compact a time frame. Nomad Africa Adventure Tours: thank you. No other company offers such diversity above and below water, this really is a trip not to be missed.