Staff Report: Namibian Highlights -- Etosha National Park

Namibia - Etosha National Park by Alysa Pakkidis

My heart was racing and I could barely take a breath as I snapped away at the two lions a mere 15 feet in front of our jeep. I felt like a sitting duck as my fellow travelers, our guide, Jeremiah, and I all sat mesmerized and terrified at the two beasts about to mate right there in the road. We were lucky to see them, everyone said, but somehow between heartbeats, I wasn’t feeling that way. The day had started early as we headed out on safari at Etosha National Park, divided into two open-air jeeps for better wildlife visibility and photography opportunities. (This, we noticed throughout the day, was a luxury that GeoEx had arranged for us. As we passed packed tour buses and more than a few crammed jeeps making their way through the park, everyone jealously eyed our comfort and space.) Etosha National Park is teeming with wildlife and a landscape that could not provide a more striking backdrop, ranging from dense bush to open plains, creating wonderful...

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Staff Report: Namibian Highlights -- Sossusvlei

Namibia - Sossusvlei by Alysa Pakkidis

There I was in Sossusvlei, Namibia, staring at “Big Mama” while eating my picnic lunch with the rest of the Namibia Misfits. That’s what our group of eight travelers called ourselves, but only because we hailed from all over and our age range was so wildly varied. Our collective goal in visiting Namibia was the same, however – to see the red dunes! They were a highlight of my Namibia trip with GeoEx this past June. Our red dunes adventure started early in the morning after a restful sleep at the Kuala Adventure Camp. The Namibia Misfits and our incredibly knowledgeable guide, Jeremiah, headed out in our safari-style jeep to explore, photograph, and climb these giant beauties. As the sun rose above the horizon, I had a feeling that it was going to be an unforgettable day. I was not disappointed. Though I had seen many pictures of the red dunes, I still was not prepared for their beauty. They were infinitely more striking and majestic in person...

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Staff Report: Namibian Highlights -- Deadvlei

Namibia - Deadvlei by Alysa Pakkidis

It was as if I were looking at a painting. The contrast of the 900-year-old dead tree skeletons on the white clay pan against the red dunes and blue sky was definitely tricking my eyes. But the place was real all right, and even though I was looking right at it, it was still hard to believe. After a short hike over a few dunes in Namib-Nauklaft Park, the Namibia Misfits (an endearing name the small group of eight I was traveling with had given ourselves), our guide, Jeremiah, and I were standing upon a mystical landscape known as Deadvlei, or “dead marsh.” Equal parts eerie, ancient, and awe-inspiring, Deadvlei is one of those places that you just have to see in person to experience its true beauty. I sat in the middle of the clay pan, leaned up against one of the dead tree trunks, and just breathed in the scenery. It was easy to let other thoughts go and simply be present in the moment of being there. Being at Deadvlei was like seeing a glimpse of what...

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Alchemy of the Word and the World

My earliest world-wanderings were undertaken through others’ words. On the magic carpet of my mother’s voice, I was transported to Narnia by C. S. Lewis, the Sahara and beyond by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, and Great Places by Dr. Seuss. In high school and college I journeyed to Greece with John Fowles, Venice with Thomas Mann, France with Marcel Proust, Vietnam with Graham Greene, India with E. M. Forster, and Africa with Joseph Conrad. When I managed to actually travel abroad myself, on a summer program in Paris between my junior and senior years in college, I underlined the addresses Ernest Hemingway mentioned in A Moveable Feast and reverently retraced his steps, piling up saucers at the Closerie des Lilas, gazing in awe at his apartment at 74 rue de Cardinal Lemoine...

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A Quest in Cambodia: Bracelets and Belief at the Killing Fields

On a gray Sunday afternoon in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, I arrive at the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center – a site better known as the Killing Fields. And almost as soon as I begin to wander its oddly tranquil paths, past the Memorial Stupa housing 5,000 human skulls from those killed by the Khmer Rouge, I can see that I was meant to come here; that I was meant to see the bracelets. I see three mass graves during my time at Choeung Ek (although 86 out of 129 have been uncovered so far) – one is home to 450 victims, while another is filled with the bodies of Khmer Rouge soldiers, those whom Pol Pot accused of having a “Cambodian body, but Vietnamese head.” Today the graves are protected...

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Don George, Editor

Don George is Editor in Chief of Wanderlust: Literary Journeys for the Discerning Traveler. He has been Travel Editor for Salon.com and the San Francisco Examiner and Chronicle, as well as Global Travel Editor for Lonely Planet Publications. Don has published eight books, including Travel Writing, A Moveable Feast, The Kindness of Strangers, and Tales from Nowhere. E-mail him at [email protected]

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