Namibia and Botswana Trip Exceeds Expectations


Juniors Max Irvine and Brennan Murphy watch a sunset in a mokoro canoe. Photo credit: Trish Anderson

Juniors Max Irvine and Brennan Murphy watch a sunset in a mokoro canoe.
Photo: Trish Anderson

The rosy African sun peaks above the lush landscape of the Okavango River Delta in eastern Botswana. Nine Pace students and four Pace faculty members awake on an island in the middle of the delta to a swarm of mosquitos, dust and chatter from the local African guides. The mokoro canoes glisten in the faint sunlight as the guides begin to gather their supplies for the sunrise cruise. Drowsily, the students clamber into their canoes as the guides use their handcrafted poles to drive the mokoros away from the discreet island through the forest of papyrus stalks.

The Namibia and Botswana trip ended The Year of Water for the Isdell Center for Global Leadership. The student travelers left from the Hartsfield Jackson airport on July 17 and flew to Washington, D.C. before crossing the Atlantic with chaperones Jonathan Day, Trish Anderson, Kevin Ballard and Jan Ballard. The 18-hour flight from D.C to Johannesburg was filled with movies, games and sleep.

After passing out in a South African hotel, the next morning the Pace Academy group flew to Windheok, the capital of Namibia, to prepare for their long journey. The group got to explore the city before spending the night at a local hostel. The next morning, the group met their guides, Milner and Alfeus, and set off through the Namibian countryside. The same day, the bus broke down in between the Namibian and Botswana border, so while the students resorted to playing games for four hours, the guides tried to fix the bus. Salvation came at midnight when an open safari bus picked up the group and drove four hours in freezing cold temperatures. “My favorite part of the trip was the midnight drive,” said junior Julia Ross. “Everyone had to get in their sleeping bags and huddle together for warmth because it was so cold outside.”

The trip’s first destination was the Okavango River Delta, which is the only inland river delta in existence. The group traveled through the delta for three days in mokoros, or two-person canoes, driven by local polers. The  journey around the delta culminated in a scenic airplane ride over the whole region. “It was incredible to first experience the delta inside the canoes, and then be able to see the whole area from a plane,” said junior Ross Cefalu.

After completing the delta portion of the trip, the group traveled back to Namibia and spent three days in Etosha National Park, a world-renowned eco-tourism destination where elephants, giraffes, zebras, hyenas and lions are common sights. These days were packed with numerous game drives where the group took thousands of pictures of everything they saw. “I must have taken a thousand pictures myself,” said senior Jake Jenkins. “These photos will help me remember this amazing trip for the rest of my life.”

The trip ended with a visit to Swakopmund, a Namibian tourist town which is heavily influenced by German culture. The group took ATV rides, went sand surfing, and haggled at the local market. After a long 20-day journey, the group flew home with a new appreciation for the cultures they spent time with. “The trip was an incredible experience where we got to see first hand the impacts of water in a largely impoverished area of the world,” said Mr. Day. “We had a great group, and I am so happy I was able to travel to such an amazing place.”