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Help! First trip to Africa and overwhelmed!!

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I have been attempting to book a trip to Africa for a year now, not sure I am any closer to an itinerary. Started out with Tanzania and then gorilla treking but have now decided to try South Africa. Would like to fly into Cape Town and then rent a car to drive garden route and around the coast. Is this safe for first time travelers to Africa? We would also like to do a Safari maybe Kruger? then to see Vic Falls? We would be going in September and the time frame is 3 weeks, any suggestions, help, would be GREATLY appreciated and if anyone thinks Tanzania/Goriillas would be better?, info on that would be appreciated too? I am overwhelmed with choices...is a tour company the way to go or book it myself? Thanks to everyone in advance! Dana

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    Overwhelmed
    That is because there are so many outstanding choices and no single ideal trip. That is also why many of us who made a once in a lifetime trip to Southern or East Africa have found ourselves returning again and again, even if it means we will not get to visit other places in the world.

    Driving in South Africa safe?
    Whether 1st time travelers or not, it is very common. I have not and would not because I’ve gone alone and am not comfortable driving on the left side of the road. Others can offer their firsthand accounts of self drive.

    Sept is a good time for spectacular wildflowers along the Garden Route. Do consider incorporating this aspect into your trip.

    The following links are on self drives in South Africa but do not specifically address the wildflowers.

    Here’s Fodor’s suggestion: http://www.fodors.com/news/story_5713.html

    Christabir from this forum has done self drives
    http://www.fodors.com/community/africa-the-middle-east/trip-report-three-weeks-s-africa-waterberg-to-kwazulu-natal.cfm


    Canadian Robin (I see from past posts you have "met") from this forum did a self drive and blogged about it here
    http://bert-and-bin.smugmug.com/gallery/7172232_XrT3Y/1/461053054_KcDbR

    Some more self drive trip reports:
    http://www.fodors.com/community/africa-the-middle-east/cape-town-and-garden-route-trip-report-part-1-ct.cfm

    http://www.fodors.com/community/africa-the-middle-east/trip-report-5-fantastic-weeks-in-south-africa-victoria-falls-zimbabwe-and-mauritius.cfm

    Safari in Kruger
    Good choice, lots of places. You can self drive in Kruger.
    Here is an illustrated Kruger self drive
    http://safaritalk.net/topic/10084-my-beloved-kruger-nov-2012/

    Here is a discussion of Kruger self drives
    http://www.fodors.com/community/africa-the-middle-east/self-drive-at-kruger-national-park.cfm

    “then to see Vic Falls”
    You’d probably want to fly there. Always spectacular, but Sept is one of the lowest water months, just so you know. Two nights is all you need. Can be seen from either the Zambian side (Livingstone) or Zimbabwean (Victoria Falls) side.

    Month of Sept. As mentioned above, peak wildflower time.

    Weather
    South Africa - http://www.uyaphi.com/afriweather.htm

    Kruger – must copy and paste this link to pdf. http://www.sanparks.org/parks/kruger/conservation/scientific/weather/rainfall/2006/temps_rainfall_averages.pdf

    But the Kruger weather site leaves out rain. This site is for one of the lodges within Kruger and has precip.
    http://www.holidaycheck.com/climate-wetter_Mala+Mala-ebene_oid-id_7355.html

    The Kruger weather is from the San Parks site, a very helpful site for booking lodging direct and other info.
    http://www.sanparks.org/parks/kruger/default.php


    Here is weather in Tanzania. Sept is also an excellent time to travel there. Info is in middle of each webpage.
    http://www.safarilands.org/np_serengeti.php
    http://www.safarilands.org/np_ngorongoro.php

    Sept is one of the least rainy times to see gorillas, whether Uganda or Rwanda, so it would work well. If you are going to the gorillas, securing a gorilla permit should be your FIRST STEP. On safari, your odds of rain are a little higher in Kruger than Tanzania IMO. But with weather becoming so unpredictable, who really knows???

    For wildlife viewing in Sept, different places, check out this chart.
    http://www.africa-adventure.com/best_time_to_go

    3 weeks
    You could have a wonderful, unrushed self drive that includes Cape Town the garden route and wildflowers and many scenic stops for about 10 days +/- a day or so. Then 5 days safari +/- a day or so. Allow 2 days Vic Falls. With international air and intra-Africa travel between SA and the falls, that’s about 21 days.

    3 weeks in Tanz with gorillas would also be great. Maybe even include Zanzibar.

    Tanz and Gorillas better? No, just different. I hope you are able to do both of these itineraries you have outlined at some point in your life.

    As to which you should choose:
    If you are in decent shape for gorilla tracking now and may not return to Africa while you are still in decent shape, then do T&G. SA&VF are not as active.

    If seeing the great migration of wildes and zebra is important, then do T&G and spend some time in N. Serengeti, where the migration will be.

    If gorillas are a lifelong wish, then obviously T&G.
    If Vic Falls is a lifelong wish or you’re a waterfall fan, then obviously SA&VF.

    If having good odds of seeing the Big 5 without a lot of effort or time spent, then SA&VF, but I’d spend at least 3 of your safari nights in Sabi Sands, the private reserves next to Kruger. There are no fences or boundaries between.

    If you want the freedom of driving yourself, which also costs less, then SA&VF.

    If you have people willing and able to drive now, but you might be going to Africa solo in the future, then do SA&VF now.

    If you want a beautiful, captivating city as part of your trip, then SA&VF.

    is a tour company the way to go or book it myself?
    For Tanz and the gorillas, definitely go with an Africa specialist. It is easy and customary to get an individually designed itinerary on a private trip that does just what you want. Or you can go with a group like OAT, Natural Habitat, Wilderness (in California), International Expeditions.

    For South Africa if you self drive and use the SAN site, you can probably do it yourself. There are even agents that specialize in helping you with self drive. Or you can have a guide drive you.

    We can share more on specific agents later.

    Whatever you decide, you'll have a fantastic September!

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    For first-time visitors, I'd suggest East Africa. There, you'll see the classic safari landscapes, share experiences with local cultures like the Masai, and, in September, you could see the Migration herds in the Masai Mara. I'd recommend staying in private conservancies next to the parks and reserves to avoid the worst of the "minibus crowds". With three weeks, you could also spend a few days on the beach after your safari. As Atravelynn suggests, use a safari planner. I'd recommend either Africa Serendipity in NYC for East Africa or The Wild Source in Colorado for both East Africa and southern Africa. Personally, I wouldn't try the "self drive" option in South Africa, even though I've been there several times. I don't think you get the full safari experience there, either.

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    I didn't mean to cut out the gorillas as an add-on option. Certainly, you can travel to Rwanda or Uganda from Nairobi if you do a safari in Kenya. You have your time frame and length of stay. Now, what you need to decide is your budget. Give those three pieces of information to your safari planner and let them work up an itinerary within that framework.

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    We've driven thousands of kilometers in SA and highly recommend it. Yes, you have to drive on the left, but even if you're not familiar with it, many of the long distance roads (leaving/arriving at the larger cities) are freeways, so you can get familiar with the controls, mirrors, etc., in an environment where cross traffic is not a concern. South African drivers are incredibly courteous and the roads in general are in good repair. Yes, one needs to watch out for pedestrians all over the country, and for livestock (and occasional wildlife) in the road, and driving after dark is a bit dicey (mainly because of lighting and the same livestock/pedestrians) but otherwise it's dead easy. One good thing for (most?) North Americans is that it's very easy to rent a car with an automatic transmission in SA, so you don't have the added complexity of changing gears with your left hand.

    I think the South vs. East Africa debate is one that can't have a real winner. The areas are so different, offering such different experiences, that it really is an apples and oranges thing. No, you can't go gorilla trekking in South Africa, and you can't experience the incredible cultural diversity of Cape Town in Rwanda or Uganda. The answer is to do both, and more. atravelynn nails it - the continent is addictive, full stop. When we first went (SA, Botswana, Victoria Falls - both sides) it was a "light bulb" moment - OMG why did we wait so long? We will keep returning as long as the budget and the bodies allow.

    For your itinerary, in September I would start in the north and work south, so that you follow the good weather. Getting to Victoria Falls in a trip mainly focused on South Africa is a bit complicated, owing to air connections, but doable. You might actually think about flying to Victoria Falls (the Zimbabwe side airport, VFA) but staying just outside Chobe National Park in Botswana. The Chobe Safari Lodge is a budget-friendly (not super deluxe, but quite comfortable) property in Kasane, just outside the park boundary; they offer very affordable shuttle service to Victoria Falls airport, as well as day excursions to the falls themselves. Chobe National Park is famous for its elephants; the hotel offers land and water wildlife tours - crocs, hippos, predators, umpteen kinds of antelope, birds... it's a very easy "first intro" to safaris and wildlife sightings. http://www.chobesafarilodge.net/

    Then I'd head to the Kruger area. With 3 weeks available, I'd fly back from VFA to Joburg, then get a car and drive up to someplace in the Panoramic Route (Graskop is our favorite) for an introduction into the incredible landscapes around the Drakensberg mountains and Blyde Canyon. Then visit one of the game reserves on the fringe of Kruger NP for a few days, then drive back to Joburg and fly to Port Elizabeth, at the northern end of the Garden Route. Pick up another car at PLZ and spend a day or two at Addo Elephant Park, then head to Cape Town on the road. Finish the trip in the Western Cape; by what I assume will be mid-September, spring will be well on its way, with flowers along the roads and warm(er) weather, maybe dryer, in the city.

    You could check on the west coast wildflower situation when you're in the area. We love the Atlantic coast north of Cape Town; Paternoster is a fascinating and beautiful little town, West Coast National Park is a bird-lover's heaven, and the wildflowers all over the region are heart-stopping. Plus it's only an hour or two from Cape Town, so easily doable as a day trip, should time be a concern.

    You'll get quite a snapshot tour of the country with this route, but you'll still be missing so much of what it has to offer that by the time you're at Kruger you'll be deciding what assets you need to sell to come back, and by the time you leave Cape Town you'll be condo shopping.

    And that won't even prepare you for Kenya or Tanzania. Second big problem.

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    So now you have Kenya and Chobe thrown into the mix.

    If you decide on East Africa, a Kenya & Gorilla trip would likely cost less than a Tanz & Gorilla trip. Likely a few more people in Kenya too.

    Adding Chobe to Vic Falls is a great idea and would give you a river experience unlikely anything else you'd experience.

    If I were you, Myway, I'd pursue 2 to 3 of the options discussed above and get everything laid out and costs. At some point, one of the trips might drop out due to pricing or other reasons or one of the trips might stand out as "the one."

    Let us know how your plan is going. There is no right or wrong, just hopefully a return or two.

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    WOW, thank-you, atravelynn,shaytay and Gardyloo. I was so happy to get your responses. I have spent a large part of last year reading books, internet and forums to try and narrow this down. I have come to one definate and that is-I want to see it all and I can't!! SA looks amazingly beautiful and I believe a little tamer for my husbands taste but my dreams to go to Tanzania and the gorillas is pretty strong. So I will take the info you have given me and as you said atravelynn I will narrow it down to 2or3 and go from there! I will keep you posted on my planning atravelynn,(maybe that will help me make decisions before I turn 80!) Thanks again everyone, Im sure there will be more questions to come!

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    "-I want to see it all and I can't!! " You have profoundly hit on human nature and the basis of economics.

    Back to your task at hand, please post again when you are further along in the planning part. The marital split you describe explains the two different kinds of trips you are contemplating. A good strategy might be to get him hooked on South Africa and then expand to Tanzania and Gorillas. The safari quality offered in south Africa is not a "tame" or scaled back version. It's definitely not "Lion Country Safari."

    I have encountered people in their 80s enjoying Africa, so take your time in planning. But what does not wait are gorilla permits in Sept. Do check on the availability of permits if you are leaning toward gorillas. Most Africa agents can do that for you.

    Looking at this site, assuming it is accurate, permit #s look good for Rwanda.

    http://www.thesafaripartners.com/site-pages/rwanda-permit-availability.html

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    I am only writing to emphathize with you. Went through the same long process as this is quite expensive and we view it as a once-in-a-lifetime trip. We ultimately chose East Africa for the reasons cited by ShayTay. Because I have such a soft spot for Rwanda and the healing it has gone through, and because I want to see the gorillas, and because we are ages 60/66 (who knows if we will be in good enough shape in future) we ultimately chose a Tanzania + Rwanda trip for this September. We are using OAT's Safari Serengeti (primarily because of the cultural features - not just wildlife) plus Umubano Tours in Rwanda, for the same reason. OAT no longer offers the Rwanda add-on. It is very hard for me to forego Kenya, but alas, we are still working and time/budget are finite.

    By the way, we got our very best routing and airare from Los Angeles on Turkish Airlines.

    Best of luck to you.

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    I'm reading this thread as I plan a trip to Namibia in July for my husband and myself. This will be our first trip to Africa. I have been enchanted by the landscape of Namibia and have been doing my research online, planning a self-drive trip, interested mostly in wildlife.

    But, I'm intrigued by a 'classic safari experience' - what is that and is it best available in east Africa? Also, what would be the advantages of using a safari planner?

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    Slowtrav1,

    You may be planning two trips at once!

    "Classic safari experience" depends on your idea of classic.

    Big 5?
    Migration?
    Highest concentration of animals?
    Culture?
    Fewest other people?
    Nice lodges?
    Secluded tents?
    Very luxurious tents?
    Pup tents?
    Private guide for just your party?
    Getting out of the vehicle on foot?
    Sharing a vehicle with a small group?
    Flying between destinations to save time?
    Driving from place to place?
    Gorillas?
    Ballooning?

    It's all available, just depends on your desires, time of year you are traveling, and budget.

    But, Slowtrav1, you could have a classic experience in Southern Africa, along with Namibia. Add 3 or more nights in Sabi Sands at one of the many lodges.

    In this case classic is defined as:

    -Fairly easy sightings of Big 5 (easiest in all of Africa)
    -Other animals associated with safaris such as zebra, giraffes, antelope.
    -Animals in decent abundance.
    -Open vehicles, not minibuses
    -Lovely to over-the-top lodges (your choice) in lovely locations.
    -Fine guiding.

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    "Also, what would be the advantages of using a safari planner?"

    You're not self driving, I assume, so the SP will help arrange a good driver/guide and vehicle and book the camps/lodges. If you have internal flights, they can help with that. I have found that for lodges I have investigated that going direct cost more. Seems odd, but that's the case.

    If you are asking why not just a canned safari package, the pros of a SP are that you'll have a program just for your party, doing exactly what you want. You can also have a private trip so that there are no competing interests that mix keen birders, serious photographers, botanists, those that like to sleep in, those that want all day trips with lunch boxes, those that have favorite species they like to concentrate on, those that like to linger, those that like to see as many different species as possible in a day.

    For a first trip, if you have no special requirements like birding or serious photography, then a set itinerary might work fine. Trips through companies like OAT and Lion World are hard to beat for pricing. (no personal experience with either of those) I have done set itineraries more for Southern Africa or Gorillas/Chimps and private more for Kenya and Tanzania. You can even do a mix, all in the same trip.

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    Atravelynn, thank you for responding. I feel reassured now! Will definitely check out Sabi Sands. I have noticed that accommodation prices are per person even for doubles - this is something unique for me. I'm planning to check out different booking sources to see if prices for lodges vary.

    We are planning to self drive in Namibia and are looking forward to that part. We will end up doing a mix as we plan to take some of the game drives offered by the lodges.

    Thank you again for the tons of advice.

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    Ok all my helpers out there,this may not seem like any major decisions have been made but for me to get this far has been time consuming to say the least!!So here is what I have decided so far: will start in Vic Falls, two days here should be enough,from there head to Kruger, Sabi Sands do our "safari experience" thinking 5-7 days (any camps you recommend would be helpful) From Kruger we will rent a car and head down the east coast. We would appreciate any routes/sites/towns/ you think would be unfortunate to miss. We definately will be doing the garden route and spending 4-5 days in Cape Town to see the surrounding area. Gardyloo you made some suggestions to me about the Drakensburg mountains and Blyde Canyon so I will look further into that. Was wondering whether it would be better to head to Joburg after Kruger and fly to say? Port Elizabeth, then rent the car? Just to confirm that we have approximately 3-31/2 weeks total door to door.I feel so happy to have come this far (still going to miss Tanzania and the Gorillas :( next trip!!!) Thanks everyone!

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    Like you and many others, we also were overwhelmed with planning of trip to Africa...and I thought India was difficult!
    I also wanted to see the Gorillas and my husband wanted to see the migration in the Masai Mara, but due to the expense of it...yikes...and logistics of getting to both of these, we ended up planning similar trip to you this coming October.
    In the Kruger area we are staying at MalaMala, which is a private game park on the edge of Kruger with no fences...you might want to check it out on Tripadvisor.
    Up in the Vic Falls area, we are staying at Tongabezi, right on the Zambezi River in Zambia, which is another all inclusive lodge, which promises to give us bit of everything in that area.
    From Livingston we fly to Cape Town for 4 nights, where we will hire a car and drive the Garden Route, staying the first night in the wine area at Babylonstoren in Franschhoek.
    We then drive to Knysna for 2 nights, before flying out of George back to Johannesburg, in order to fly across to Mauritius for a week for some R & R.
    Don't know if any of this is of use to you, but I am hoping it gives us an insight into a bit of Africa. As we are in our low to mid 60's, don't know if we will ever get back to see East Africa, which is a trip in itself I believe.

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    glenn_col, thank-you so much, as you know all suggestions are greatly appreciated! I will check the places out you mentioned, can you tell me, when you say "hire a car" is that a self drive or is someone driving you? I really like the idea of a beach destination also, how long is your trip in total? Did you use a travel agent or are you booking these things yourself? Are you flying into Joburg or Vic falls area? Would love to hear about your trip when you return, please keep us posted! Thanks atravelynn, I am so looking forward to it but nervous as well, not sure if my husband will enjoy the driving part and that could put a big strain on the vacation? I'll just have to make sure everything is planned out to the hour lol! Thanks again, I'm sure there will be lots more questions!

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    myway, Our holiday in South Africa, including Mauritius, is 25 days in total.

    We arrive into Johannesburg from Australia late afternoon, stay at Protea Hotel near airport, then early next morning fly Federal Air into MalaMala airstrip, staying 4 nights.

    We then fly SAA Nelspruit to Livingston, where Tongabezi staff pick us up and transport us to their lodge - we are staying in one of their special houses for 4 nights - they have al lot of added activities included in the price.

    Then, we fly down to Cape Town (via JNB), staying at Cape Grace Hotel on waterfront for another 4 nights. (they have a special, stay 4 pay 3). We will probably hire our car during the last 2 days in Cape Town to travel to various places we want to see there. We will keep the car and self drive up to Franschhoek, stay 1 night, and then travel Route 62 to Knysna, staying at Phantom Forest Lodge.

    We decided not to drive to Port Elizabeth, as we would see most of what we wanted from Knysna, so will drop the car off at George, just 60km away, and fly to JNB, stay overnight at airport again, and catch the early flight to Mauritius.

    We had such an amazing holiday last year in India, staying at Oberio Hotels throughout, except in Varanasi (where we stayed right on the Ghat), that we decided we would stay with them in Mauritius, where they again get outstanding reviews. (We have always been able to book one of their special deals, which makes it a lot less expensive.) Booked direct with hotel.

    Africa is certainly not a cheap holiday, unless you want to camp (been there, done that when we were young), but it is a one of for us as we like to holiday in a different country every year whilst we are still working.

    You could easily book your holiday yourself (which I always do), but this time we booked the lodges above through Angela, from Journeys of Distinction (associated with MalaMala) as I was asking for some advice and they put me onto her. Angela was a lot of help suggesting different places. I booked all our SAA flights myself as I found I could get them cheaper from Aust. MalaMala booked the Fedair flight to their lodge for us.

    You have a great time in September, we will be just behind you.

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    Day One: We arrived at JFK and looked around for the orange tags that Smart Tours provides. We spent the morning searching for more Smart Tour travelers. The South African Airways plane was set to leave at 11 am so that was good since it wasn’t some early flight at some unforgiving early hour in the morning. The flight was about 14 and half hours long from JFK to Johannesburg Airport. This is the airport that you are made to fly in to connect to your flight to go to Cape Town.
    Day Two: We arrived early in the morning and were set to get to our second flight even though we have a five hour layover before boarding. Let me address why this is important for anyone flying into this airport; this airport is beautiful but extremely confusing. Be aware of the porters around who will try to get you to pay them money just to direct you to your gate. The gates do not display on the flashing board until you are past security (yes you will have to re-check your bags and go through security again). We made the ignorant mistake of taking for granted that one of the porters upon asking him for directions would tell us where to go, instead he took us in one big circle and them demanded to be paid, do not fall for this, go directly to the security gate and show them your ticket they will tell you to proceed through security. This airport is huge and very beautiful but full of people who are looking to take advantage so just be alert.
    The five hours went by quickly and then you are off to Cape Town and are greeted by a beautiful city with rising mountains in the distance and gorgeous waterfronts. The hotel we stayed was the Protea Presidential and this was a great spot and beautiful hotel. I have to say the welcoming was so nice of the hotel staff and overall the stay was very relaxing and safe. That night you go to welcoming and information orientation, but you are so tired; that I will recommend drink some coffee before going to the meeting. Our guide was Jeremy Poole, who is the most knowledgeable and best guide anyone can have on this adventure. He is very detail, takes care of you, patient in all circumstances, passionate about his love for his country and overall you feel that he is looking out to assure you the best experience while in South Africa.
    Day Three : You are up at 6:30 am and after breakfast you go on a motor coach site seeing in Cape Town, Table Mountain in the morning and then near the 12 Disciples and then off to some shopping. In the afternoon you have an optional tour to visit the township the Shanty Town area (about $50 for this tour). You get back around six in the evening; you have a choice of dinning in the hotel or going out. If you go out take a taxi do not venture on a walking tour by yourself or with others we were warned not to venture outside at night. You may want to get a taxi all available at the hotel towards Camp Bay which is full of restaurants, just bring what you are going to spend. Afterwards you will be tempted to walk around, don’t there are taxis all over take it back to the hotel.
    Day Four: Full day you are out at 8:00 am and off to see the African Penguins, The Cape of Good Hope, Simon Town and False Bay, not to mention an amazing view of the ocean. You will stop at some point at a waterfront where there are curios shops, at this fisherman wharf, bargain your price down and if you really see something you want buy it. We found that this place had some unique boxes that we found elsewhere for twice the price. Wear comfortable hiking shoes for when you visit the Cape of Good Hope, you can hike down the side and yes it a small trek and you have 45 minutes to yourself so make the most of it. There are several baboons so do not wear anything too flashy or eat outside they will come to you and you do not want that.
    Day Five: There is the optional Wine Tours (approximately $60) and would say do it is viewing all the vineyards along the way and then stopping at a vineyard and wine testing. Along the way you also get to stop at a university town which is really nice but also another view of South Africa. Afterwards you get the choice of staying to you are dropped off to the hotel or being dropped off at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront (from there you can take a taxi to your hotel about $8 (US Dollars) in Rand you are paying about $70 Rand. This is full of shops and it’s a mall with a beautiful waterfront full of restaurants and so many shops. After wards we took a taxi to the Green Market try to make it before five since they start closing the curios shops. The Green Market is bigger than any of the curios shops you have visited at this point and yes you can bargain here and get lots of souvenirs. Take a taxi back to your hotel do not try to venture on walking or taking public transit be safe and alert. At the winery they sell a Styrofoam container which is worth buying for that one bottle of wine you must have with you. Do not try to take it with you to the airport, the folks at the airport will take it from you and tell you that it’s not allowed because of its size which is again why I advise buy one container stuff it in your check in luggage and lock it up! Yes lock up your suitcase because in Johnsonburg they will try to take stuff. Also watch your wallets when you get them from putting it x-ray machines; we had one try to steal my partner’s credit card and claim to be looking for dangerous items.
    Day Six: You are off to the airport and on your way to Durban, here you get a chance to dip your feet in the Indian Ocean and see an amazing and open land that makes you realize that you have just left the city and are now on your way to the wildlife. The bus ride is long so you spent it making some stops along the way and taking snapshots at the endless view of trees along the way. You arrive at the hotel in a city whose spelling is different from how you pronounce the word. Along the way, Jeremy is giving you details about the city you just entered and the history and facts that make the journey more interesting. The hotel at this location is very safari in that it really gives the feeling that you are in the jungle, beautiful sitting and lobby area, and the rooms are big so you are not in a tight area. The beds are queen size and that’s for a double. You have dinner at around six or six thirty and it’s really a good spread, I would recommend try everything and yes the water is safe to drink in all of South Africa.
    Day Seven: Early morning and I mean before the sun is up you are drinking your coffee and running off the to the tour bus for your first safari ride. My advice is try to get in the front seat with the driver yes it’s scary because you really are out there but it is a great view of the animals up close, the other spot I would recommend is the back seats to the right or left not the middle especially if you are picture taker. This one of the better safaris to experience because you will see so many animals out in the open and have that feeling you are in the jungle. In the afternoon you are off to the Zulu village where the men are separated and made to go first and women after, followed by a dance demonstrations from the locals. Afterwards you enjoy a lunch there that is buffet and the food is very good you won’t have to feed on trail-mix.
    Day Eight: Off to Swaziland and the day is pretty much traveling on getting off for the stamps to your passport and getting back on till lunch time where you stop at small village in Swaziland where there are small curios shops of teas, and other souvenirs and one restaurant. There is a small shop that looks like a tree house, good luck bargaining. After this you continue on your way and pass the lovely landscape of this country. You can tell it has so much potential but as we were informed the royals own no matter 51% of all businesses. We stayed at the Lugogo Sun Hotel, lovely hotel, and ambiance. Do not attempt to use their internet or make a phone call they will charge you three or more times the amount for this service.
    Day Nine: You have a choice of either riding the bus to Kruger or taking a little longer and paying $60 to drive in a safari truck. I will say you are in Africa, so I will suggest take the safari ride but here are a few tips: when you choose your driver tell him you want him to slow down for pictures and yes you do want to see all the animals. I saw this because in Kruger our driver sped pretty much through and finally we did tell him that this is not what we wanted and we wanted to stop and see the animals. Speak up and don’t be afraid to say something, after we did that our ride was much better for spotting animals. In the late afternoon, you have another ride, choose another guide don’t go with the same one, some are better than others. The hotel at Kruger was beautiful and it’s about five minutes away from the Kruger National Park, even witnessed a jackal trying to run out of the park and park rangers making sure that it didn’t make it out. You have two safari rides this day so make the most of resting up when you can and also when you are in the shops at your lunch break take advantage of the restrooms and snacks that you can get there, pretty reasonably priced.
    Day Ten: This is a long day drive into Johannesburg, you will stop at the famous pot holes and of course God’s window. Make sure you are wearing shoes with good traction, forget the slippers or soft shoes, you will be doing a small hike and the floor can be slippery at times. We left at 8:00 am and arrived at the famous pot holes, what a magnificent sight and of course there are vendors there as well, you can bargain your price down. You will stop at small towns great for pictures and then finally after what seems forever you end up at Sandton Hotel in Johannesburg which is beautiful. Not at all what the internet had made it look and the service there is so nice.
    Day Eleven: Soweto Excursion: You spend the morning going to Mandela’s house and also visiting a museum from there you have a choice to go shopping (last chance in South Africa) and yes go if you have more items that you want to buy. The day can be spend checking out Johannesburg, again take a taxi do not try to venture alone always go with someone and make sure you are always in the view of other people. At seven we all went to a fare-well dinner that consisted of several items to choose from a buffet that is set up including white or red wine. Again when you pack do not forget to lock your bags, because any opportunity you allow will be taken.
    Day Twelve: Half or more of the folks on the trip will be heading back home; the others will be heading to Victoria Falls. Dress comfortably the weather in Victoria Falls is hot and humid, so don’t over dress. Take U.S. dollars to pay for everything in Victoria Falls. Do not try to pay in South African Rand at the Immigration to get your visa ($45) they (the Zimbabwean’s) will over charge you and unfortunately you can’t argue over their version of the exchange rate; so again stick to having the exact amount. This is the smallest airport and they will make you stand in a long line waiting to get that stamp in your passport. When you arrive at the hotel it is really beautiful and amazing to just take a moment and take it all in. Be aware that there are baboons and warthogs all over the grounds, so do not attempt to feed any of the animals; you will regret it. Victoria Falls doesn’t have that much at night and again you will realize that you are in the country when you venture throughout the hotel and realize that you need a car to venture to any place outside the hotel. We ate at the hotel’s restaurant and it was okay, overly priced and again pay in U.S. dollars not in South African Rand because they will over charge you. While you are there they will suggest you try the BOMA which is about $40 not including drinks, this is one of those places that really is overly priced and because of the ambiance you do it.
    Day Thirteen: Victoria Falls! Where sunscreen and bug repellant! Bring dollars with you because your guide will take you to a market of curios shops full of aggressive male shop owners. They will ask for some outrageous prices do not allow them to intimate you. To be honest I hated this part because some of the men approached the women to the point of trying to bully them into buying something. So stand strong. I brought pens with me and use that to trade not to mention if you have other items like a shirt or cap you don’t care about they will trade with you for those items.
    The Falls bring a waterproof camera or case because your camera will get wet and putting it in a plastic bag will only distort the picture so plan ahead. The Falls are amazing and so I stress make sure you have enough memory, battery and are comfortable. I would suggest go to the dollar store in your packing and buy a poncho this you can put under the poncho they give you. The poncho there is heavier and better but has been used by several tourist so this is why I suggest the second poncho.
    In the afternoon went with Wild Horizons (Smart Tours will make the reservations for you so don’t do it before) here are several reasons why:
    1) Smart Tours will get you a better discount for the price
    2) The Elephant ride that we did was great and we had others who did their own thing and regretted it.
    3) On the other tour company one of the tourist had to ride the elephant without a saddle!

    Day Fourteen: Botswana! You start at eight in the morning and travel over to Botswana where you disembark the bus for a bit and get back on after getting your passport stamped and also your feet saturated in this weird liquid. Make sure you are not wearing sandals! The liquid is some sort of anti-bacterial that everyone going in has to step into to protect the animals from Foot-Mouth Disease.
    You end up at a hotel in Botswana where you board a tour boat and take in the sights from the river. You spend about three hours looking at animals especially elephants bathing and hippos. Afterwards you are given a lunch and are given an hour before you start on your next adventure to Chobe National Park. This park is amazing just getting there which was a short twenty minute drive in the open safari coach you see baboons alongside the road. This is the park where we finally got to see a leopard! Our driver was amazing and he took us up close to the animals, where it just seemed surreal. There are so many animals at this park, way better than Kruger! Everywhere we went there was an animal, from impalas, to kudos, to elephants, dung beetles, guinea fowl, water buffalo and yes leopard! We got to see him right before he was about to make a kill but the sound of the safari truck plus the ladies screaming get the picture had the leopard run up to a tree and leave the ignorant, happy impala alive. In this safari, it was the first time I had to put on the seat belt because this guide was wonderful at getting us to the animals as soon as they informed him on the radio.

    Day Fifteen: Pack and don’t forget to lock up your bags they will have to go through Johannesburg! Also make sure you keep an eye on your money and wallet and cards you will have to go through several security guards and x-rays machines so as stated before watch the guards they are looking for unsuspecting tourist who trust that they won’t steal from you or take a credit card while supposedly looking for ‘dangerous items’. The trip back will only bring a huge smile and of course that bit of sadness that this vacation is over and you had the most amazing time ever.

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    Here is a diary of my recent trip done this April of this year 2013:

    Day One: We arrived at JFK and looked around for the orange tags that Smart Tours provides. We spent the morning searching for more Smart Tour travelers. The South African Airways plane was set to leave at 11 am so that was good since it wasn’t some early flight at some unforgiving early hour in the morning. The flight was about 14 and half hours long from JFK to Johannesburg Airport. This is the airport that you are made to fly in to connect to your flight to go to Cape Town.
    Day Two: We arrived early in the morning and were set to get to our second flight even though we have a five hour layover before boarding. Let me address why this is important for anyone flying into this airport; this airport is beautiful but extremely confusing. Be aware of the porters around who will try to get you to pay them money just to direct you to your gate. The gates do not display on the flashing board until you are past security (yes you will have to re-check your bags and go through security again). We made the ignorant mistake of taking for granted that one of the porters upon asking him for directions would tell us where to go, instead he took us in one big circle and them demanded to be paid, do not fall for this, go directly to the security gate and show them your ticket they will tell you to proceed through security. This airport is huge and very beautiful but full of people who are looking to take advantage so just be alert.
    The five hours went by quickly and then you are off to Cape Town and are greeted by a beautiful city with rising mountains in the distance and gorgeous waterfronts. The hotel we stayed was the Protea Presidential and this was a great spot and beautiful hotel. I have to say the welcoming was so nice of the hotel staff and overall the stay was very relaxing and safe. That night you go to welcoming and information orientation, but you are so tired; that I will recommend drink some coffee before going to the meeting. Our guide was Jeremy Poole, who is the most knowledgeable and best guide anyone can have on this adventure. He is very detail, takes care of you, patient in all circumstances, passionate about his love for his country and overall you feel that he is looking out to assure you the best experience while in South Africa.
    Day Three : You are up at 6:30 am and after breakfast you go on a motor coach site seeing in Cape Town, Table Mountain in the morning and then near the 12 Disciples and then off to some shopping. In the afternoon you have an optional tour to visit the township the Shanty Town area (about $50 for this tour). You get back around six in the evening; you have a choice of dinning in the hotel or going out. If you go out take a taxi do not venture on a walking tour by yourself or with others we were warned not to venture outside at night. You may want to get a taxi all available at the hotel towards Camp Bay which is full of restaurants, just bring what you are going to spend. Afterwards you will be tempted to walk around, don’t there are taxis all over take it back to the hotel.
    Day Four: Full day you are out at 8:00 am and off to see the African Penguins, The Cape of Good Hope, Simon Town and False Bay, not to mention an amazing view of the ocean. You will stop at some point at a waterfront where there are curios shops, at this fisherman wharf, bargain your price down and if you really see something you want buy it. We found that this place had some unique boxes that we found elsewhere for twice the price. Wear comfortable hiking shoes for when you visit the Cape of Good Hope, you can hike down the side and yes it a small trek and you have 45 minutes to yourself so make the most of it. There are several baboons so do not wear anything too flashy or eat outside they will come to you and you do not want that.
    Day Five: There is the optional Wine Tours (approximately $60) and would say do it is viewing all the vineyards along the way and then stopping at a vineyard and wine testing. Along the way you also get to stop at a university town which is really nice but also another view of South Africa. Afterwards you get the choice of staying to you are dropped off to the hotel or being dropped off at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront (from there you can take a taxi to your hotel about $8 (US Dollars) in Rand you are paying about $70 Rand. This is full of shops and it’s a mall with a beautiful waterfront full of restaurants and so many shops. After wards we took a taxi to the Green Market try to make it before five since they start closing the curios shops. The Green Market is bigger than any of the curios shops you have visited at this point and yes you can bargain here and get lots of souvenirs. Take a taxi back to your hotel do not try to venture on walking or taking public transit be safe and alert. At the winery they sell a Styrofoam container which is worth buying for that one bottle of wine you must have with you. Do not try to take it with you to the airport, the folks at the airport will take it from you and tell you that it’s not allowed because of its size which is again why I advise buy one container stuff it in your check in luggage and lock it up! Yes lock up your suitcase because in Johnsonburg they will try to take stuff. Also watch your wallets when you get them from putting it x-ray machines; we had one try to steal my partner’s credit card and claim to be looking for dangerous items.
    Day Six: You are off to the airport and on your way to Durban, here you get a chance to dip your feet in the Indian Ocean and see an amazing and open land that makes you realize that you have just left the city and are now on your way to the wildlife. The bus ride is long so you spent it making some stops along the way and taking snapshots at the endless view of trees along the way. You arrive at the hotel in a city whose spelling is different from how you pronounce the word. Along the way, Jeremy is giving you details about the city you just entered and the history and facts that make the journey more interesting. The hotel at this location is very safari in that it really gives the feeling that you are in the jungle, beautiful sitting and lobby area, and the rooms are big so you are not in a tight area. The beds are queen size and that’s for a double. You have dinner at around six or six thirty and it’s really a good spread, I would recommend try everything and yes the water is safe to drink in all of South Africa.
    Day Seven: Early morning and I mean before the sun is up you are drinking your coffee and running off the to the tour bus for your first safari ride. My advice is try to get in the front seat with the driver yes it’s scary because you really are out there but it is a great view of the animals up close, the other spot I would recommend is the back seats to the right or left not the middle especially if you are picture taker. This one of the better safaris to experience because you will see so many animals out in the open and have that feeling you are in the jungle. In the afternoon you are off to the Zulu village where the men are separated and made to go first and women after, followed by a dance demonstrations from the locals. Afterwards you enjoy a lunch there that is buffet and the food is very good you won’t have to feed on trail-mix.
    Day Eight: Off to Swaziland and the day is pretty much traveling on getting off for the stamps to your passport and getting back on till lunch time where you stop at small village in Swaziland where there are small curios shops of teas, and other souvenirs and one restaurant. There is a small shop that looks like a tree house, good luck bargaining. After this you continue on your way and pass the lovely landscape of this country. You can tell it has so much potential but as we were informed the royals own no matter 51% of all businesses. We stayed at the Lugogo Sun Hotel, lovely hotel, and ambiance. Do not attempt to use their internet or make a phone call they will charge you three or more times the amount for this service.
    Day Nine: You have a choice of either riding the bus to Kruger or taking a little longer and paying $60 to drive in a safari truck. I will say you are in Africa, so I will suggest take the safari ride but here are a few tips: when you choose your driver tell him you want him to slow down for pictures and yes you do want to see all the animals. I saw this because in Kruger our driver sped pretty much through and finally we did tell him that this is not what we wanted and we wanted to stop and see the animals. Speak up and don’t be afraid to say something, after we did that our ride was much better for spotting animals. In the late afternoon, you have another ride, choose another guide don’t go with the same one, some are better than others. The hotel at Kruger was beautiful and it’s about five minutes away from the Kruger National Park, even witnessed a jackal trying to run out of the park and park rangers making sure that it didn’t make it out. You have two safari rides this day so make the most of resting up when you can and also when you are in the shops at your lunch break take advantage of the restrooms and snacks that you can get there, pretty reasonably priced.
    Day Ten: This is a long day drive into Johannesburg, you will stop at the famous pot holes and of course God’s window. Make sure you are wearing shoes with good traction, forget the slippers or soft shoes, you will be doing a small hike and the floor can be slippery at times. We left at 8:00 am and arrived at the famous pot holes, what a magnificent sight and of course there are vendors there as well, you can bargain your price down. You will stop at small towns great for pictures and then finally after what seems forever you end up at Sandton Hotel in Johannesburg which is beautiful. Not at all what the internet had made it look and the service there is so nice.
    Day Eleven: Soweto Excursion: You spend the morning going to Mandela’s house and also visiting a museum from there you have a choice to go shopping (last chance in South Africa) and yes go if you have more items that you want to buy. The day can be spend checking out Johannesburg, again take a taxi do not try to venture alone always go with someone and make sure you are always in the view of other people. At seven we all went to a fare-well dinner that consisted of several items to choose from a buffet that is set up including white or red wine. Again when you pack do not forget to lock your bags, because any opportunity you allow will be taken.
    Day Twelve: Half or more of the folks on the trip will be heading back home; the others will be heading to Victoria Falls. Dress comfortably the weather in Victoria Falls is hot and humid, so don’t over dress. Take U.S. dollars to pay for everything in Victoria Falls. Do not try to pay in South African Rand at the Immigration to get your visa ($45) they (the Zimbabwean’s) will over charge you and unfortunately you can’t argue over their version of the exchange rate; so again stick to having the exact amount. This is the smallest airport and they will make you stand in a long line waiting to get that stamp in your passport. When you arrive at the hotel it is really beautiful and amazing to just take a moment and take it all in. Be aware that there are baboons and warthogs all over the grounds, so do not attempt to feed any of the animals; you will regret it. Victoria Falls doesn’t have that much at night and again you will realize that you are in the country when you venture throughout the hotel and realize that you need a car to venture to any place outside the hotel. We ate at the hotel’s restaurant and it was okay, overly priced and again pay in U.S. dollars not in South African Rand because they will over charge you. While you are there they will suggest you try the BOMA which is about $40 not including drinks, this is one of those places that really is overly priced and because of the ambiance you do it.
    Day Thirteen: Victoria Falls! Where sunscreen and bug repellant! Bring dollars with you because your guide will take you to a market of curios shops full of aggressive male shop owners. They will ask for some outrageous prices do not allow them to intimate you. To be honest I hated this part because some of the men approached the women to the point of trying to bully them into buying something. So stand strong. I brought pens with me and use that to trade not to mention if you have other items like a shirt or cap you don’t care about they will trade with you for those items.
    The Falls bring a waterproof camera or case because your camera will get wet and putting it in a plastic bag will only distort the picture so plan ahead. The Falls are amazing and so I stress make sure you have enough memory, battery and are comfortable. I would suggest go to the dollar store in your packing and buy a poncho this you can put under the poncho they give you. The poncho there is heavier and better but has been used by several tourist so this is why I suggest the second poncho.
    In the afternoon went with Wild Horizons (Smart Tours will make the reservations for you so don’t do it before) here are several reasons why:
    1) Smart Tours will get you a better discount for the price
    2) The Elephant ride that we did was great and we had others who did their own thing and regretted it.
    3) On the other tour company one of the tourist had to ride the elephant without a saddle!

    Day Fourteen: Botswana! You start at eight in the morning and travel over to Botswana where you disembark the bus for a bit and get back on after getting your passport stamped and also your feet saturated in this weird liquid. Make sure you are not wearing sandals! The liquid is some sort of anti-bacterial that everyone going in has to step into to protect the animals from Foot-Mouth Disease.
    You end up at a hotel in Botswana where you board a tour boat and take in the sights from the river. You spend about three hours looking at animals especially elephants bathing and hippos. Afterwards you are given a lunch and are given an hour before you start on your next adventure to Chobe National Park. This park is amazing just getting there which was a short twenty minute drive in the open safari coach you see baboons alongside the road. This is the park where we finally got to see a leopard! Our driver was amazing and he took us up close to the animals, where it just seemed surreal. There are so many animals at this park, way better than Kruger! Everywhere we went there was an animal, from impalas, to kudos, to elephants, dung beetles, guinea fowl, water buffalo and yes leopard! We got to see him right before he was about to make a kill but the sound of the safari truck plus the ladies screaming get the picture had the leopard run up to a tree and leave the ignorant, happy impala alive. In this safari, it was the first time I had to put on the seat belt because this guide was wonderful at getting us to the animals as soon as they informed him on the radio.

    Day Fifteen: Pack and don’t forget to lock up your bags they will have to go through Johannesburg! Also make sure you keep an eye on your money and wallet and cards you will have to go through several security guards and x-rays machines so as stated before watch the guards they are looking for unsuspecting tourist who trust that they won’t steal from you or take a credit card while supposedly looking for ‘dangerous items’. The trip back will only bring a huge smile and of course that bit of sadness that this vacation is over and you had the most amazing time ever.


    Hope that helps.

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