African Eclipse Safari 2001
wife Colleen and I went to see the
21 June 2001 total solar eclipse in tropical
I also saw the
1991 total solar eclipse in Hawaii;
each trip was worth every penny!
The first rule of travelling to see eclipses:
counting on there being no clouds for a particular five minute period
a year from now, only go when it's somewhere sunny that you want to go
(The next great eclipse:
29 March 2006, Africa and Turkey.)
I took literally hundreds of pictures of
some more of which I'll make available somehow after I edit them down a bit.
I even have a picture of a
dangerous animal that I killed in the Okavango swamp.
Various tour operators had booked up everything in
tropical Africa, so we went with the Sky and
Telescope tour. It was quite a bit posher than I usually
One cool thing: I've travelled enough in the Third World that I was
all caught up on my shots: I didn't need to get any! Still needed to
take malaria pills though.
Another cool thing:
my best safari story.
For some strange reason, the actress
Charlize Theron was following us around; we crossed paths with her at
Singita, Vic Falls, and on the return flight to the US.
This picture was taken while she was waiting for her luggage at JFK.
Also, there's an article on her trip in the November 2001 issue of
InStyle Magazine, showing her lounging around Singita the day after
we left. She may have stayed in the same room we did.
- June 15-16: Fly to Jo'burg and then Skukuza, in northeastern South Africa.
(Jo'burg being short for Johannesburg.) Stay overnight at
modern hotel in Jo'burg in between.
- June 17-18: Our first game-watching camp:
Singita Private Game Preserve, near Skukuza. (It was every bit as nice as it was
advertized to be.)
2006 update: I knew that Singita was extremely nice, posh, and expensive. But I was still
surprised when, while leafing through a travel magazine in my
dentist's waiting room recently, I discovered that it was voted the very best
hotel in the whole world by their readers! Second place was the
Four Seasons in Bali. Here's the web page where Singita is rated
number 1 hotel in the world:
- June 19-20: Fly to Jo'burg and then
Lusaka, Zambia. (That was the original plan; we actually took a
charter straight from Skukuza to Lusaka.)
- June 21: ECLIPSE DAY!! Somewhere in
the wilds of Zambia. Rumor has it we'll visit a crocodile farm
(We ended up going to the croc farm first, much to the irritation of
people nervous to set up eclipse equipment.
Saw the eclipse from a different
farm, located at 28 degrees 25 minutes East, 15 degrees 15 minutes South.
(Lusaka is at 28 degrees 17 minutes East, 15 degrees 25 minutes South,
14.5 miles away.)
From the locations in
table, I think we were just northwest of "Kasisi" on
this eclipse path map.)
2007 update: Google Maps is so cool. We watched the
eclipse from the southeast corner of the plowed field in
this satellite photo.
- June 22-23:
Victoria Falls Hotel, Zimbabwe. Again,
mighty posh. Plus the "largest
sheet of falling water" in the world, as the Zambezi River plunges
into the gorge. (I was surprised to discover that Victoria Falls is
nowhere near Lake Victoria.)
2007 update: Google Maps is so cool. They have a
high-resolution photo of
Victoria Falls, but the hotel is in the low-resolution part (at
the west end of the first big switchback in the Zambezi River below the
(2010 update: Google Maps now has high-res of the hotel too.)
You can clearly see the railroad bridge over
the gorge that people bungie-jump from, and, if you zoom in,
people on the trail that runs along the cliff facing the falls (most under
umbrellas due to the mist).
2007 update number 3: It seems that Zimbabwe issued
a really cool postage stamp
commemorating the eclipse:
- June 24: Fly back to Jo'burg (again).
hotel though. (This turned out to be a part of a Las Vegas-style
casino complex, complete with fake indoor sky, etc. Ate at a very
good Italian restaurant in the casino, out on the indoor "street".)
- June 25-26: Fly to Maun, in the
Okavango Delta of Botswana, and then
to our second game camp: the redundantly-named
It's a wierd
inland delta: the river vanishes into the desert, rather than
flowing into an ocean! (Interestingly, the tourist literature never
calls it what the locals call it: the Okavango swamp. I guess
that's to avoid an image problem...)
- June 27-28: Fly to our third game camp, still in the Okavango
Sandibe Safari Lodge. (Also wonderful. Except for the tsetse flies.)
- June 29: Back to Maun, Jo'burg, and then the US. Whew. (Bonus
country: we stopped in the middle of the night to refuel in the Cape
Verde Islands. Doesn't really count; I vaguely recall a third-world
transit passenger lounge.)