My Travel Blog

Welcome to Africa!

Dubai is a place I’ve always wanted to see, but figured I would never get there. The architecture was amazing.  With unlimited funds available it’s a place where architects build their dreams. Our first stop was the Burj Khalifa. At 828 meters (2,715 ft.) it is the tallest building in the world.  They only let the public up to the 148th floor of its 160 floors. It’s pretty amazing being surrounded by 60 story buildings that look like Lego toys. Our friends Danna and Jeffery live there, and Danna was so kind to take time out of her busy schedule to show us around. We saw the amazing shopping mall attached to the Burj Kahlifa, the man-made palm island, and some art galleries. Danna is an expert on Middle East artists.

The Burj Kahlifa.

Looking down from the 148th floor.

Standing in front of the aquarium inside the mall attached to the Burj Kahlifa.

Noor Bahjat’s family escaped from Syria. She is a 24 year old up and coming artist.

The view from our hotel room.

From Dubai it was an eight-hour flight to Johannesburg, a night at the airport hotel, then a two-hour flight to Botswana, and a forty-five minute flight in a Cessna Caravan to our first safari camp. Xigera (pronounced kid-gera.) is located in Botswana’s Okavango delta.  We landed on a narrow strip of compacted soil. The first thing I noticed was elephant poop on the runway.  I’ve landed at a lot of airports, but that was a first.  Six of us jumped into a jeep and headed for camp. Our driver stopped just outside the airport to wait for the other two jeeps carrying the rest of our group.  While we were waiting he asked if anyone had something special they wanted to see.  Lisa being the shy and reserved type was the first to speak up.  She wanted to see zebras, so that she could take pictures and paint them. The other jeeps arrived, and we continued on.  Fifty feet from where we had been waiting was a sharp bend in the dirt road. We drove around the curve, and there were the zebras.  I’d swear our travel agent, Jane Lee Winter from Town and Country Travel in Thousand Oaks, called the set director and said, “Cue the zebras.”

A Cessna Caravan that we would travel between safari camps in.

Elephant poop on the runway.

Our first zebra sighting.

When people travel to Africa they talk about it being a trip of a lifetime.  That’s too cliché. Africa literally takes your breath away.  It is a full frontal assault on all your senses plusyour psyche.  You either love this massive continent and its people or you hate it. We’re already making plans to return, so that should tell you something.  Lisa and I had so many wonderful experiences that there won’t be enough space in the following blogs to write about every one. I’ll do my best to chronicle the highlights.

We stayed in our own cabin/tent in all four of the safari camps we visited.  They were very private and very nice. We never lacked for creature comforts. We had everything from indoor and outdoor showers, sitting rooms, and in some instanceseven our own private pool. It was all first class. We would meet in the dinning room every morning at 6:00 for a continental breakfast.  By 6:30 we were in the jeeps and headed out on safari. Around 8:00 the jeeps would meet up in the bush, and stop for coffee and cookies. We would arrive back in camp around 11:00, and by 11:30 brunch was being served. Most of the afternoon was free, but around 3:30 we would meet back in the dinning room for a snack (just incase we were hungry) before going out on safari. Halfway through the afternoon safari the jeeps would meet up once again for a sundowner drink and hors d’oeuvres. We normally got back to camp around 6:00 where more drinks and hors d’oeuvres were served with dinner being served at around 7:00. The food was amazing, and I can’t believe how much we ate. I could have sworn I heard someone in our group say, “Oh look, there’s a hippo in the camp.  Oh no, it’s just Tom.”

Lisa woke up around 5:20 our first morning. I was still fast asleep. Apparently sheheard something outside our tent, and got up to see what was making all the noise.  The next thing I knew she could barely breath.  She was trying to tell me to get up, but the words weren’t coming out of her mouth. Finally I heard, “Tom, Tom get up.  You’re not going to believe it.  There’s an elephant right outside our tent.  I was too slow to see the elephant, but I did hear him ripping a tree apart by our neighbor’s tent. And that was just our first morning in Africa.

An elephant that visited our camp.

Another visitor.

I should take a step back, and tell you about another memorable experience.  Xigera sits next to one of the many channels in the Okavango delta.  There was a footbridge that crossed the channel next to the dinning room. We had just finished our first dinner and Jane’s husband Larry pointed at the bridge and said, “Look, there’s a leopard.” Fortunately I had my camera though the light was not very good. Please excuse the quality of this one photo.  The rest will be much better.

Imagine bumping into this kitty cat on the way to your tent.

This was the morning paper that we would check to see who visited the camp.

The view from our tent. These are Red Lechwe and two Warthogs. 

-Tom Miller
Author of “The Wave”  and “When Stones Speak”– 
Chuck Palmer Adventure novels


About the Author:

Tom Miller graduated from the University of Southern California with a Bachelor of Science in Geology. He is a consummate adventurer with over 1,000 dives as a recreational scuba diver, and an avid sailor who has traveled 65,000 miles throughout the Pacific including the Hawaiian Islands. Miller has also cruised the canals of Europe on his canal barge and given numerous lectures on cruising the canals of Europe, as well as sailing in the South Pacific. Piloting is also an interest of Miller's, and He has completed over 1,000 hours flying everything from small Cessnas to Lear jets.