Inside Student-Led Treks: Tuck Africa Club Leads Tour of Namibia
By George Agyeman-Badu T’23
We’ve all seen countless photos and videos of lions, but none of them prepared me for the intense 10-second eye contact I made a wild stoic lion, a mere 10 ft away from me on my first time on a safari. I gathered from background chatter that a lion is able to charge a target in a split second, a fact that led me to slowly break eye contact, grab my photo and lean as far away as possible from my side of the windowless truck closest to this predator.
To my relief, Edwin, our tour guide and truck driver explained that the wild animals at the Erindi Old Traders Game Lodge have been sensitized to the specific make, color, and sound of the trucks we were in. That means the wild animals see the trucks—including the people in them—as a single harmless entity and have no reason to charge at trucks. This experience is one of several lifetime experiences I enjoyed on a Namibia trek I wasn’t meant to be on.
The trek, organized by Linda Horner, T’20 and Tuck Africa Club co-chair, was scheduled for 2020 before the pandemic staved it off. What ensued, two years later, was a multi-generational Tuck trek that saw me, a T’23 and current Tuck Africa Club co-chair, as the coordinator of a group of another T’23, a T’22, and several T’20s and their partners or relatives.
Situated in southern Africa with a population of 2.5 million and a size twice that of California, Namibia is known to be the second least densely populated country. It is also known for its deserts, high sand dunes, pristine wildlife experience, and beautiful landscape. Here’s a quick synopsis of our time in this beautiful country:
The trek was organized through Destination Partners, a travel management company. The basic structure was to travel through Namibia in a circular fashion from Windoek to Mariental, Soussusvlei, Swakopmund, Erindi, and back to Windoek. We had one main tour guide, Johan, who drove us to all towns, where several tour guides and drivers took over.
We spent the first couple days at a country club in Windhoek, the capital city of Namibia with a population of about half a million. Here, some of us settled into the country as we waited for all 17 attendees to arrive
Day 3 saw us start our journey to the Bagatelle Kalahari Game Ranch at Mariental. There, we went on a game drive through the Kalahari desert, home to rare species such as the oryx (Namibia’s national animal), rhino, cheetah, springbok, and other wildlife. The game drive ended with champagne and snacks served over a gorgeous sundowner in the desert.
Early the next morning, we went on a morning Bushman walk, visiting the traditional indigenous hunter-gatherer Bushman village where the Bushmen (also San people), gave several fascinating exhibitions showcasing their engineering and resourcefulness. After the walk, we drove off for Sossusvlei, making a lunch stop to enjoy a performance by the Maltahohe School Choir, a choir of young orphan children formed to grow and develop their skills.
The Sossusvlei area is considered the heart of the Namib desert and is home to the 2nd tallest dune in the world (Big Daddy), which we hiked (2621 ft elevation). The way up was challenging and tiring, but the thrill of posing with the Tuck flag at the peak and fun of running down the dunes made up for it.
The next day (day 6), we made our way to Swakopmund, stopping to see Welsitschia, one of the oldest plants on earth, and the Moonlandscape, an area with a terrain that mirrors that of the moon so much so that Johan wonders aloud if the moon landing on Apollo 11 was staged there.
The following day was adrenaline fueled with dune drives through Sandwich Habor and quad bike rides through the dunes. We enjoyed another beautiful sundowner over oysters and wine and concluded the day with a surprise open air desert dinner featuring fire spinners. The night ended, in a typical Tuck fashion, with a late-night party in the Namib desert.
We spent the next couple days at the Erindi Old Traders Lodge (OTL), stopping on our way there for a wine making and tasting session at the Erongo Mountain Winery, whose Ondjaba whiskey won the 2022 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. OTL boasts an impressive 270 square mile area that serves as home to many wild, possibly endangered, free roaming wildlife, including the wild lion I made the intense eye contact with. The lodge is heavily protected to deter poachers and offers morning, afternoon, and evening game drives, all of which we enjoyed both days of our stay.
On the last day we made our way back to Windhoek for a formal tour of the area before we boarded our return flights. 5,000 feet above sea level, Windhoek is clad with Germanic style buildings that immortalize the short but violent German colonial rule from 1884 to 1915. The city is the typical starting point for many tourists visiting the country. Many visitors are often surprised by the extreme cleanliness and peacefulness of the area, pronouncing it as an “un-African” city, a remark considered by many residents as a somewhat back-handed compliment.
A lot of the experiences I had on this trip were first-time experiences. Growing up in a lower middle-class family in Accra, Ghana, visiting other countries was the least of our priorities. My Tuck career has seen me travel outside of Ghana and the U.S. for the first time—a noteworthy achievement because one of the four pillars that formed the reasons I wanted to attend not just any business school, but Tuck specifically, was to expand my perspectives and life experiences. These experiences leave me energized and motivated to seek new experiences and challenges. For now, I can cross off making eye contact with a wild lion.
George Agyeman-Badu is a T’23 and current co-chair of the Tuck Africa Club with Annette Jatto and Prosper Mangwiro as fellow cochairs. He is a proud Ghanaian and loves to share his culture and explore other cultures. He interned at BofA Securities in the healthcare investment banking group and will be joining the group full-time in the summer of 2023.
The Tuck Africa Club is a student-run and student-led club with three main goals: 1) increase the presence of Africa on the Tuck campus by educating the Tuck community on the diverse heritage, cultures, and investment opportunities on the continent; 2) create a safe and warm space for students with a strong affinity to Africa to commune with themselves and/or with other affinity groups; and lastly, 3) engage with prospective students from Africa.