Couple Cycling From China To Cape Town Shares Impressions of Chobe ‘Detour’

fran and philip johnson

Fran and Philip Johnson in Cape Town

Ever considered road-tripping from China to Cape Town — on a bicycle? Well, Fran and Philip Johnson did just that.

The British/South African couple were bitten by the travel bug while they were both living in Perth, Australia. They decided that after seven years of schooling, work and a wedding, it was time to set off and do something daring. The journey, which started in June 2014, took them just under a year to complete. During the trip they covered 11,000 miles and 17 countries, and faced freezing cold, extreme heat, illness and exhaustion.

Close to the end of their trip Fran and Philip stayed on the Chobe River, a unique location meandering between the shores of Namibia and Botswana. They met up with Fran’s parents there to enjoy some rest, relaxation and some family time before heading off on the last leg of their trip.

Fran and Philip share their “detouring” experiences, and why they think that Chobe is a hidden African gem.

1. You’re an adventurous couple cycling from China to Cape Town! Wow! Tell us what inspired this journey?

I suppose a long-standing desire to attempt something big together before we properly settled down into a more normal life. We’re both keen cyclists and while we’ve got our health and fitness, we couldn’t think of a better way to see the world.

2. What have been the highlights of your trip so far?

Tough question. There have been many highlights, though overall, we will probably remember the people we met along the way and the pleasures of having no set routine for a year.

In terms of places, Istanbul was a fascinating city to visit, where we ended up staying for 10 days, and the ride through Sudan and Ethiopia will probably be remembered as the crux of our African leg.

chobe princess

Chobe Princess (Courtesy of Ichobezi)

3. You’ve just spent a few days on the Chobe River with Chobe Princess (formerly Ichobezi). What made you choose the Ichingo Chobe River Lodge and the Chobe Princess houseboat as your getaway spot to meet up with Fran’s parents?

It had been recommended from two sources to Fran’s parents as a must-go destination, and fortuitously worked perfectly for our route and for Fran’s parents flying in from Durban. We are so pleased it happened where it did, as we would have otherwise – and criminally – missed what turned out to be a hidden gem, and a highlight of southern Africa.

4. Tell us about your favourite activities whilst in the Chobe area.

The Tiger fishing was new to both of us and was a perfect way to spend a morning on the river. What’s more, it came with some 4kg success (for one of us).

Game viewing during the sunset boat cruises was also a highlight and something we had never before experienced.

ichingo lodge

Ichingo Lodge (Courtesy of Ichobezi)

5. What was the highlight of your stay at Ichingo Chobe River Lodge and onboard the Chobe Princess?

It would be hard to look past our flawless host (Ernest) and the lodge, who made our few days so enjoyable. Overall though our highlight was probably the serenity of being on the water, be it in the morning fishing boat or the evening sundowners on the houseboat. It’s a pretty unique environment to be part of.

6. What tips and suggestions would you like to give to a first time visitor to the Chobe River?

However long you have decided to stay for, add on a day or two.

7. Where are you off cycling to next?

Once (if) we make it to Cape Town, all our cycling trips will likely be limited to a couple of hours…at least until we can save some pennies for our next trip.

Keep up with Fran and Philip’s adventures on their blog

Contact the Ichingo Chobe River Lodge and the Chobe Princess Houseboat by clicking here, or e-mailing

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