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Trip Report South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Botswana

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After our first trip to Africa, we could not wait to go back! Our planning started while on the plane home and always with assistance from this forum! With that being said, I finally wanted to take time to write a trip report.

I always book our international plane flights in September for travel in June/July so that we can use our miles. After booking the flights, I do a lot of research by asking questions, getting price quotes, and reading anything I can about the places we want to visit.

Preparation-Fortunately, our safari clothes/Merrell's had been carefully put away and were ready for use again. This time around we didn't need any shots--thank goodness because the after effects of the meningitis shot were horrible! We always have fun doing a practice pack and we always take way too much!! We are not good at being frugal packers and end up paying for luggage on the internal flights. Needless to say, I won't be giving any packing tips. ASZ (my fiancé) had to get a new camera before this trip because his best friend of 46 years told him our pictures from Kenya and Tanzania were not crisp. We went to the Dr's to get our prescriptions for malaria and Cipro in case of food poisoning (which was needed this trip). My Dr. couldn't believe we were going back so soon--he's never been to Africa, he likes Italy, France and Spain. A trip to Wal-Mart is always in order for toiletries, flashlights, etc... We order new $1.00 bills and currency from each country that we are visiting so we don't have to use the ATM's. We give our itinerary and copies of our passports/visas to my parents. I go to ASZ's office to show his secretary how to use Skype (for the 20th time) and give her the telephone numbers to the hotels/lodges. I also program the numbers into Skype. Our doggie goes to our very own "dog whisperer" who is the most important person because without him we wouldn't have peace of mind and Mr Burnside takes us to the airport.

Airline Mistake-Sometime in March, 2012 I receive an email that we have a schedule change--no big deal it always happens. This email reminds me to book our seats. I casually call up on a Friday night after dinner with friends to book seats. This call leads to a three day (only a slight exaggeration) conversation with the airline getting things sorted out!!! Because of the airline mistake, we had to switch carriers on part of the outbound. We were put on Lufthansa Business Class because the first class was not available for miles rewards. We booked through one of Lufthansa's partners originally Continental, now United.

Day of trip-I just happened to check to see if any first class seats for the Lufthansa flight were available and six of the eight seats were still available so what do I do--of course call the airline. Long story short, they felt if they switched our seats that the third leg of the journey would cancel and we wouldn't have any seats. Okay so I left it alone. FINALLY, we get to the airport and were able to check our bags all the way through-thank you!!
Flight MIA-LHR-FRA-JNB (ridiculous connections)
Our Miami/London flight on Virgin Atlantic was non-eventful. Dinner salmon roulette, chicken with truffle mushroom stuffing, broccoli, and new potatoes. Dessert lemon tart or warm bread pudding accompanied by the cheese course. ASZ loves their sleep suits and the lounge in London which they wouldn't let us use because we were on Lufthansa for the connecting flight. We were able to use the Revivals Lounge downstairs. They were suppose to send someone to give ASZ a haircut, but that never happened due to some excuse about not having the proper chairs--ASZ not happy, but they really didn't care.

Off we go to our next connecting flight LHR-FRA. Good news we both have a seat from London to Frankfurt; bad news I no longer have a seat from Frankfurt to JNB. It seems when United was looking into changing the class of service that they were able to change the seats, but because the representative told me it couldn't be done they stopped the change. They couldn't recover the seat so here we were in a quandary. We went back and forth from United and Lufthansa customer service desks for a couple of hours and each blamed the other. Neither company had very good customer service. The gentleman at Lufthansa was down right rude and condescending. He suggested I fly half way around the world without ASZ to meet him in JNB. By this point, I thought I was going to faint because we didn't purchase trip insurance (it could have been jet lag too). Finally, totally exhausted we just got on the flight and dealt with it in FRA. The Lufthansa representatives in FRA were quite nice and put me on the flight immediately. Dinner on flight prawns & asparagus, fish with chocolate sauce (fish was not good) and saffron rice. Dessert fruit flan.

Day 1 Johannesburg
We collected all of our luggage (thank goodness for luggage carts) and headed to the Gautrain. We purchased two round trip Gautrain tickets. We took the Gautrain to the Sandton station. We stayed at the Radisson right across the street from the Gautrain. I had emailed the hotel and they were quite helpful with my questions. I was even able to arrange for the hotel to assist with the luggage from the Gautrain to the hotel. When we arrived at the hotel about 10 am, we were able to check right in to the room, took a shower and began our tour of Johannesburg. I chose Firelight Tours. The Soweto & Apartheid Tour was an excellent overview of Joburg. Our tour was conducted by the owner Peter. I arranged for a little more than a half day tour from 11am-6pm. I would definitely use Firelight Tours again. After the tour, we ate dinner and went to bed.

Day 2 Joburg to Botswana
We got up early and had breakfast at the hotel. We took the Gautrain at 8:30am back to JNB. Before getting on the flight, we stored several pieces of luggage on the bottom level of the international terminal. On the website for JNB airport it states that the luggage storage takes Visa or MasterCard--they don't, they only take cash!! We flew on Air Botswana to Kasane. Flight on time and uneventful. We didn't eat the snack, but the juice was flavorful. Wild Horizons met us at Kasane and transferred us to the Kasane Immigration office. We were collected by a representative for Ichobezi River Lodge and taken by speed boat to the Namibia Immigration office. In order to get to the Nambia Immigration office you have to traverse up this dirt road on land. Fortunately I had read a trip report about this little diversion that you take because we weren't told of this second immigration requirement. There were locals and tourists on the trail and it was nice to stretch our legs and get a little exercise. I don't think we needed Visas for Botswana or Namibia. Both immigration processes were extremely efficient and quick. We took some pictures in front of the immigration office and the walked back to the boat. The speed boat took us to the Ichingo Chobe River Lodge (a recommendation from a Fodorite). On our arrival to the lodge we were met and given lunch. I didn't write down what it was, but it was delicious and very fresh. While eating lunch our luggage was taken to the tent. After lunch we freshened up and finally went on our first boat game drive. Each group has a dedicated guide and boat. The boat is equipped with your favorite beverages. Our guide was Felix. Right outside the lodge is this beautiful tree that contained numerous birds. We are not really bird people, but they were absolutely mesmerizing. Our sunset game drive on the Chobe River was a relaxing and fruitful outing. We saw baboons, kudu, elephants and crocodile. One of the crocodiles we saw was enormous. This was our first game viewing in two years and it was out of the ordinary because one views the animals from the water. This experience was very special. After the game drive we freshened up and went to dinner. We had dinner with the owners Ralph and his wife and a family from South Africa. Ralph is very interesting to talk to--if I remember correctly he used to be a scientist and his wife was a professor at a college. The conversation was very relaxed and the two children were so well behaved. Dinner was delicious spring roll, fillet of beef, with potatoes and cauliflower. Dessert was carrot cake. I have to say looking back, the hassle in London was just a blip and added to the experience of traveling to one of our favorite places-Africa. To end the evening we had a glass of sherry in our tent among the sounds of Africa.

Day 3 Ichingo Chobe River Lodge to Ichobezi Safari Boat
We woke up and had breakfast. I had yogurt, cereal, poached eggs, bacon, and a grilled tomato. ASZ had an egg white omelette with ham and cheese.
Morning game drive with Felix. First we stopped at the tree to take more pictures of the birds,on the way we saw the family from South Africa in their boats (they were going to go fishing and had a contest to see who could catch a tiger fish) then we went to the little hut where Felix signed in at Chobe National Park. The animals we saw were kudu, mongoose, baboons, warthogs, crocodile, and some type of lizard. The highlight was watching the elephants cross from Chobe through the water to the island. It was an amazing experience to be in the boat watching the elephants swim. It was something that you see on National Geographic. We went back to the lodge to collect our luggage and Felix took us to the houseboat. On the way to the houseboat we saw African Buffalo--very close!!

Houseboat--oops found that I had left my converter at the lodge. Lally, the houseboat manager and come to find out our guide, called Ralph back at the lodge and had it brought to us (extremely thoughtful)!! Lunch was delicious chicken mushroom pie, cous cous, salad and lemon poppy seed cake. We were two of six people on the boat. Our houseboat mates were from Australia, but were not traveling together. One couple had been traveling in Africa for quite some time and would be taking the Blue Train after the houseboat. Our other ship mates were a mother and daughter. ASZ had a good time telling stories to all (ASZ is a very funny and great story teller). On our sunset game drive we saw baboons, crocodile, .... and a beautiful sunset. Dinner poached pear and pork chops--I know there were sides, but I got tired and didn't write anything else down. Another perfect day.

More to be continued....

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