Namibia is the second least densely populated country in the world. I’m always looking for hidden gems, but I don’t believe you can get more “hidden” than that! Located in southern Africa, just above South Africa on the Atlantic Coast, Namibia was a delightful spot for my first visit to Africa.
You know you’ve found your happy place when you land halfway around the world at 8:30 in the morning, and by 3 o’clock that afternoon, you are swapping recipes with the lodge’s chef over tea! Yes, really!
I’m Southern. Translation: I’ve never met a stranger. New people are just friends you haven’t met yet. Southerners will talk to anybody, anywhere, and in under ten minutes, you’re BFFs!
I read a beautiful quote that comes from early 1900s novelist Edith Wharton. “One of the great things about traveling in Africa is that you find out how many good, kind people there are.” You know, I’m positive she was talking about Namibia—it was true then and true today.
Namibian Pie – A Unique Recipe for Friendship in Africa
On my first day in Namibia, I was devouring the best Lemon Pie E.V.E.R. while sitting on the patio at Bagatelle Kalahari Game Ranch in Namibia, Africa. I oohhh’d and aahhh’d so much, my sweet server, Maria, headed off to tell the chef. Soon, Chef Theopolina joined me, and we talked about pies. As much as I love lemon, I told him it was tied in my heart with Key Lime for my favorite (I told you—Southern girl here!)
Then I mentioned that I made another more unusual and delectable pie! Since I wasn’t sure they would have the ingredients, I asked if they had grapefruit in Africa. I mean, I’d only been there seven hours, so it was a legitimate question from my standpoint. After all, I hadn’t noticed a grocery store on the corner! Chef Theopolina assured me they indeed had grapefruit, and I confided that I make a grapefruit pie that is over-the-moon delicious.
I offered to share the recipe with him, thinking that when I returned home, I’d dig it out and send him a copy. He said, “Oh, yes! I would love to have your recipe. Can you send it to me TONIGHT?” Surprised, I thought for a minute and figured, with any luck, I would find it attached to an email from sharing it with a friend. Naturally, I said, “I think so—I’ll sure try!”
It took a while, but I located the recipe three hours and a white rhinoceros hunt later! I quickly emailed the chef, and he went to work in the Bagatelle kitchen, whipping up a pie.
Pie for Afternoon Tea in Namibia
The next day, tea time rolled around, and I prodded my travel companions to “Come to tea, the chef promised something special!” Several accompanied me to afternoon tea, and amid many exclamations about this tasty treat, I announced that this was my recipe!
What a delightful way of welcoming me to a foreign land! Any doubts I had about being in a new place, nearly eight thousand miles from home, instantly vanished! Friends are easy to make and easy to find if you just open up and talk to people!
At Bagatelle Kalahari Game Ranch, you will find professionally planned excursions. Or you may decide to just relax by the swimming pool and enjoy some free time in the afternoon, while sipping a cooling beverage. But don’t be surprised when an ostrich or springbok wanders along!
Sunset in Namibia means one thing—Sundowner! Don’t be fooled—this is code for the traditional “social gatherings.” Before you know it, you’ll be totally spoiled by a sundown or two spent in the sand dunes, complete with snacks and drinks served from the safari truck tailgate! Jonathan is not only a fantastic rhino tracker, he mixes a mean drink, too! Take my word for it!
Then, after sundown, dinner! You’ll learn that Namibian dishes pair game meat with fresh local vegetables to create the perfect hearty meal. I warn you, though; you will eat relatives of some of the animals you’ve been photographing. You just have to separate the photo ops from the dinner plate mentally. After all, I’ve known some very pretty cows over the years, but I’m still not turning down a rib eye!
At Bagatelle, Chef Elias and Chef Josef delight in creative dishes. Prawn and Avocado Cocktail and Broccoli Soup dressed with Danish Blue Cheese were the starters at dinner. Then we moved on to Grilled Oryx Kebabs in a red wine jus with Basmati Rice, Butternut Puree, and asparagus. Finally, there was an Upside-Down Apple Crumble with Cream for those who weren’t stuffed (me!). Seriously, who could say no to that?
Bagatelle Kalahari Game Ranch
Lodge guests are encouraged to walk through the ranch’s extensive gardens and enjoy the nature surrounding Bagatelle Lodge. You will pinch yourself to be sure you aren’t dreaming when you realize you are in the midst of the beautiful African wilderness.
Breathtaking scenes of animals in the tall grasses look like you have walked out of your door into a National Geographic photograph. Indeed, wild animals freely roam the ranch right outside your cabin. And at the edge of the lodge property is a 12-hectare enclosure where three cheetahs roam—talk about up-close and personal! No, these gorgeous cheetahs weren’t captured and fenced in for people to gawk at—the cubs were orphans and rescued. Now, they can live safely and serve as a unique educational tool as well as providing an unforgettable experience for Bagatelle visitors.
Local Bushmen of the Kalahari led us into the desert to their village. As we walked, we learned some words in their unique “clicking” language. They struggle to live their historically nomadic life in an area constantly divided and fenced. Seeing a culture eliminated in the name of progress is heartbreaking. Meeting those Koi-San tribal members and putting faces on the culture makes it much more meaningful. Their ancient traditions and survival skills are essential to their heritage and should be preserved. In fact, these bushmen are acknowledged to be the first human inhabitants on Earth.
Touring with Batis Birding
Sean and Dayne Braine are the sons of respected naturalist, scientist, and birding enthusiast Steve Braine. Natives of Walvis Bay, Namibia, they are talented photographers and tour guides for The Naturalist Collection and Batis Birding Safaris. This Namibian-owned company offers tours to secluded corners of Namibia, as well as other countries in Africa. They specialize in nature and bird-watching excursions. Additionally, as locals, they have the connections for stays in lodges and preserves that most visitors might otherwise miss.
Sean was the fearless leader on our tour and happily shared his photography advice. Plus, I swear the man can spot a lizard under a rock 30 yards across the sand while flying down a dirt road! If there was a living creature we missed, well…it just wasn’t worth seeing!
History lessons were woven into the everyday conversation as we traveled from one end of Namibia to the other. There is a deserted diamond mining town (spooky!) and hidden watering holes for incredible animal shots (with cameras, of course!)
Namibia is a fantastic country, filled with amazing places. For instance, Sossusvlei has mountainous red sand dunes that are the tallest in the world. At more than 1,000 feet high, those clay, sand, and salt dunes curve almost to the sky. An early morning helicopter flight afforded stunning views of those dunes as they peeked through the early morning fog. This part of the Namib Desert is part of the Namib Sand Sea UNESCO’s World Heritage Site.
Then, there is the Atlantic Ocean (just like bordering my South Carolina home, only facing the wrong side!) The towns of Lüderitz and Swakopmund touch the Atlantic, and the German influences are easy to see in both cities. With their access to the sea, it was no surprise that local restaurants had a variety of seafood on their menus!
Never Put Off Traveling
People who know me always ask, “Where are you headed next?” And it is true; I travel as much as I possibly can. Recently, I read an article summarizing how most people travel and it points out that I’m clearly not “most people.” When surveyed by travel researcher Passport Photo Online, the number one regret (70.25%) was “Not taking enough vacation time.” I get it. I’ve been guilty too.
Looking back, I could have traveled more when it was less expensive and when I was younger and healthier! However, now I realize I should have bought fewer antiques, spent less on clothes, and saved monthly for travel. Interestingly, most Americans take only two weeks of vacation a year, while folks in other countries routinely vacation four (or more) weeks. We’re just doing it wrong in the United States! Somehow, we get so busy making a living, we forget to actually live!
Fortunately for me, I knew someone with an amazing tour company, Focused Escapes. Lori puts together small groups and takes them to fabulous places around the globe. I am so glad that I jumped at the chance to go to Namibia with Lori. It is a trip I’ll never forget, and I’m still in touch with the friends I made there. I look forward to a return trip one day soon!
Preparing to Travel
Surprising me were the number four and five regrets, “Not learning about the destination’s history” (62.87%) and “Not learning basic phrases of the local language” (61.97%.) Really? I can’t imagine not learning about the history of a place—before AND during my visit. But I do love history, and I find that understanding the past helps you understand the present.
Learning to say “Dankie” and “Waar is die damestoilet?” is my idea of being prepared! (Thank you, and, Where is the ladies’ restroom?) And, learning to speak the native language, even if just a few words, is the best way to show you are a traveler, not just a tourist. Frequently, I say, “Google is your friend.” So, before leaving home, download the free Google Translate app on your phone and learn to use it. The app can even speak the words, allowing you to learn how to say some key phrases before boarding that plane! Plus, you can also download specific languages onto your device, allowing you to translate without an internet connection. How handy is that?
A shocking 66.89% regret “Not trying local cuisine.” SERIOUSLY??? Where are you people eating? Turkish Hardee’s? African KFC? As a confirmed foodie, I’m planning my next meal while eating the current one! I realize that’s a Southern thing too, but word is spreading! Half the fun of traveling is eating new things. Okay, 75%. But really, the best part of other cultures has to be the local community’s unique flavor and typical dishes.
My last dig has to go to “Overplanning or rushing through activities” (58.85%). Okay, guilty as charged. My late husband used to say, “You think there are 30 hours in a day.” Silly man. I know there are only 28! But honestly, who wants to spend money and time to get somewhere and then miss things? I am just a do-it-all kind of gal. However, I’m not guilty of rushing through activities; that’s part of my time-management problem!
You Can Do This At Home
Since I know you’re drooling, I’ll share my recipe for that delicious Grapefruit Pie. Yes, you really can do this at home! Enjoy!!
1 ¼ cups graham cracker crumbs
¼ cup sugar
6 Tbsp melted butter
Or, just flat-out cheat and use a prepared pie crust that you simply roll out!
14 oz. sweetened condensed milk
5 large egg yolks
1 cup fresh grapefruit juice (from 2 large grapefruits)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a mixing bowl, add butter to the dry ingredients. Stir until it looks like wet sand.
3. Press the crumb into an 8-inch pie plate.
4. Place in the oven and bake 12 minutes. Set aside to cool while you make the filling.
1. In mixing bowl, add in the sweetened condensed milk and food color if you choose to use it. Since the condensed milk is thick, it will help quickly mix the food coloring in.
2. Next, add yolks and grapefruit juice. Stir by hand until combined. Do not whisk, or bubbles will form.
3. Pour into the crust; then place in preheated oven; bake 30 minutes or until the center is set.
4. Cool; place in the fridge for at least 3 hours to finish setting up.
5. Finally, pipe the top with whipped cream. Cut and serve.
Filmmaker, John Hemingway, said, “If I have ever seen magic, it has been in Africa.” Aaahhh…these words have my heart! Hemingway is also an author and conservationist. Among his many films are Battle for the Elephants and Warlord of Ivory, which both focus on the illegal ivory trade.
I’ve seen the magic of Africa in Namibia–and it is calling me to return.
Ready to plan your next trip?
For your next vacation, try one of these locations!! You could travel to LaGrange, visit Funky Floyd, or cruise off to Alaska! Of course, there are Chocolate Tastings in Tofino, on beautiful Vancouver Island!