Africa 2014, January & February
We flew Ottawa to Zurich on Swiss and booked a 1 night package at the Hilton Airport that included an early check in, breakfast and late check out – a good deal, which really helped to breakup the long trip to Capetown. They have a free shuttle to the airport and from there trains into town are frequent and a good value especially with a day pass.
After another long night trying to sleep on the plane we arrived in Capetown to a beautiful day and a lovely B&B, Underberg Guest House
http://www.underbergguesthouse.co.za/ with some time left to explore the area and enjoy a nice meal in a nearby Portuguese Resto. The prices are so reasonable here especially after Zurich and food quality very high, wine and beer too.
We used Chris Hannival for all of our transfers and tours and he was great. firstname.lastname@example.org
Took a wine tour for the day to nearby Stellenbosch, Franshoek and Paarl. These areas are surrounded by mountains and the scenery is amazing. we visited Nelson Mandelas winery of choice Rust En Vrede, Ernie Els wine estate and some others including a chocolate factory, beer brewery and olive oil estate with a nice lunch at a wine estate. We were glad we were not driving !
Supper was down at the Victoria and Alfred waterfront promenade for some ostrich and springbok steaks at City Grill www.citygrill.co.za- a real gourmand day !
Next day is the Cape Peninsula day tour & Table Mountain. Lucky us, the wind subsided so our time by the seashore was more enjoyable. A boat ride out to see a colony of seals on a little island, a flock of penguins by Simonstown, a hike up to Cape Point, a stop at the Cape of Good Hope and a trip up the cable car to Table Mountain all made for a full and very enjoyable day. On the way we passed some lovely white sand beaches, the Constantia wine area and parkland where we saw baboons, zebra, eland and wild ostrich.
Capetown and area really is a wonderful place and we wish we had more time. The people are nice, the scenery beautiful, a great food and wine scene, world class accommodation and reasonable prices. They are still working there way through their new found democracy and have some problems for sure but there is such potential and for a tourist it's a pretty good place.
Tour of Namibia, 12 days, Nomad Tours - Namibian Experience
The transport is in specially fitted out trucks, about the size of a Sears furniture delivery truck but with 24 seats, lockers, freezer and kitchen equipment.
We are group of 12 plus a driver, cook and German translator for the Germans on board.
It's a good group and international mix and we all get along right away.
As we drive north through South Africa the landscape becomes drier and the temperate higher. We pass vast farmlands, vineyards and the fruit growing region of Ceres. On the second day reaching the Namibia border it is 44 C ! Right away things change in this poorer country, the roads are rougher and so with the heat and hard truck ride it is a real "shake & bake" experience!
We stay at small lodges/hotels and they are pretty good with a couple of exceptions. Our cook prepares our meals and we pitch in to help set up, clean etc. The landscape is desert and always very hot this time of year but we see much wildlife, ie springbok, oryx, zebra, wart hog, ostrich, steenbok etc. Most days there's a nature walk and at Sossusvlei we got up at 4:30 to climb one of the very high sand dunes before the heat of the day. We learn about the San Bushmen who are now very marginalized but once roamed the country as excellent hunters using only simple bows with poison arrows, able to stalk game within only 10 metres with almost no cover in the desert. There are the Himba people who live in a very primitive way wearing almost no clothes, covering themselves with mud and animal fat, the women never wash with water but use herbs and smoke !
The heat is oppressive , our truck is not air conditioned and you must drink at least 2 litres of water daily but once stopped at the lodge the beer sure tastes good and the Namibian beer is excellent and cheap and so is the food and wine. At Swakopmund we discover a new favourite steak - Oryx, in a local restaurant, they even serve it on pizza, so far all the food is excellent except for the caterpillar that Joanne tried....one was enough....LOL...
On day 8 our truck breaks down, broken clutch, in the middle of nowhere. Namibia is so vast with mostly dirt roads, only 2 million population, so traffic is not frequent but thankfully for cell phones, within 30 minutes the company has arranged transportation to the next town and accommodation while our truck is repaired. This takes almost a day but we make up the time. In Africa you have to expect the unexpected !
We spent 2 days at Etosha Park, the most popular place in Namibia. It is a dry area but does get some rain at this time. Most of the elephants moved north, some game animals and the big cats too but we were lucky to spot 5 rhinos and 4 old bull elephants (one of which was so angry that he charged the truck, pretty scary experience) as well as numerous giraffe, wildebeest, hartebeest etc. The lightning storms were spectacular out on the plains and we did get soaked one evening at a waterhole.
Sadly our trip ended and at Windhoek our group enjoyed a last meal together at Joe's Beerhouse, a real institution here serving some great game dishes. We made some good friends and perhaps will meet up with some again.
Excellent boutique hotel: Windhoek Namibia
Villa Vista Guesthouse http://www.villavista.com.na/home.html
We flew from Namibia to the Seychelles,that's like going from the oven to the sauna ! Its very beautiful but so hot and humid and 4 days of rain did not help. Very expensive too as most things must be imported to these remote islands between Africa and India. Its an independent country, part of the African continent geographically with no native people, only the 3 founding peoples of Africa, Asia & Europe. Most people are varying shades of brown , from light to dark almost black. Our host, Germaine (Gerry) is Chinese/Scottish/French and his wife Chainant is Thai. Our house Sun Glow Holiday Villa,http://www.flipkey.com/beau-vallon-villa-rentals/p317015/ is right beside theirs up a hill from a main beach, Beau Vallon, and they are wonderful to us, giving us three big meals, BBQ, Kreole and Thai, a fully stocked fridge, driving us around etc. etc. Its a big house with lemon, pomelo, coconut trees, lemon grass, ginger and hot peppers growing on the property. When the weather improves we enjoy the nearby beach which is clean, long, with good clear water and fine sandy bottom.
The Seychellois people are very nice, friendly and honest, no one bothers us. The language is Creole, a kind of phonetic French, with English and French also used. They have their own kreole cuisine, (Fruit Bat anybody ?), and music resembling somewhat Acadian & Louisiana Bayou. We do not see any real poverty, the people have a reasonable quality of life but we learn there is much corruption, the government is really a mock democracy and open to bribes from outside powers such as Abu Dhabi, China and the shady rich in exchange for land, resources, passports etc. Such is paradise !
We rent a car and drive around the island, even with the cloudy wet weather it is very beautiful, a real tropical jungle . The roads are narrow, twisting up the mountains and with the left driving it is a white knuckle affair ! There are many little cove beaches along the coast framed by the granite rocks, the picture postcard signature of the Seychelles.
Zanzibar .Jambo !
A day of flying, waiting in airports & we are in Stonetown, Zanzibar .Emerson Spice Hotel, http://www.emersonspice.com/ An exotic place with Arabic and slave trade origins, once rich but now a dilapidated grandeur. Our hotel is a renovated merchants house right in the middle of the old town, you can't even drive to it as the streets are so narrow. It's amazing. With a guide we do a walking tour and marvel at the old ornate wooden doors with families living in the mysterious darkness behind. The market area is a sight but the fish market is too much for our sensitive noses and as for the meat market - well our guide suggests that we take a pass or risk becoming vegetarian !
We cross the island stopping at a spice farm, Zanzibar being part of the ancient spice trade routes, where we see/ smell /taste fresh growing spices and fruits, some we have never even heard of before. It's a poor island, the people don't have much and so we are generous with our tips and purchase of the spices. Another hour driving past very modest homes/shacks we arrive at our luxurious resort the Hideaway of Nungwi Resort, Zanzibar
http://www.hideawaynungwi.com/ , feeling somewhat guilty.
But some wine and beer soon eases our burden of guilt and we settle in to the gorgeous beach and sumptuous buffet ! Still our affluence compared to the locals outside the gates is a poignant reminder of the reality of third world conditions. Unemployment is 45% so you see a lot of people just hanging around.
We flew to Victoria Falls, (via Johannesburg overnight at a great hotel Maslow Hotel http://www.suninternational.com/maslow/Pages/default.aspx ) and had some good views of the falls from both the Zambia & Zimbabwe side. The spray wasn't too strong to block the view.
We crossed 4 countries in one day on our way to the Zambezi Queen boat http://www.zambeziqueen.com/ which sails on the Chobe River on the Namibian side. At each border, (Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia) we had to get stamped in , get any required visas, get stamped out etc etc ! Our passports almost got filled up ! The Namibian border post was just a little shack up a sandy beach from the River and the official was pretty grumpy and usually drunk, actually our boat crew brought him a breakfast the last day to help "facilitate " the formalities.
The river boat has about 12 cabins, a nice lounge, dining area and outside decks and it sails on the Chobe River only a short distance but every day we were out on the tenders going up and down back and forth from the Namibian to the Botswana side to view game such as elephants , hippos, baboons, impala, kudu, Cape buffalo and many birds. We did some fishing and caught some tiger fish and a 5 lb. bream -a cooler full of wine and beer- lots of fun. The moon was full, the skies clear and so the evenings on the deck were very beautiful indeed. Our time ended too soon and we transferred back through all the borders again to Livingstone airport and flew to
Nelspruit SouthAfrica and Utopia Guest House, http://www.utopiainafrica.co.za/ then drive to Kruger Park where we had 2 nights at Elephant Plains http://www.elephantplains.co.za/ in the Sabi Sand concessions which are privately owned but part of the greater Kruger system now.
> This is a pretty cool lodge overlooking a water hole and meadow where from our deck we could look out at impala, zebra, kudu, wildebeest etc. Our guide and tracker were very good and in the 2 days we saw the " big 5" and a family of wild dogs , hyenas, plus many other animals and birds. A highlight was a leopard that had just killed an impala and carried it up a tree. We watched it over 2 days as it slowly ate it with the hyenas hanging around trying to get some. Our guide carried an elephant rifle which was reassuring when some elephants and then a rhino threatened to charge our open jeep.
A wonderful drive along the Panorama Route with its grand scenery of canyons, waterfalls and beautiful vistas brought us to Johannesburg for a night before flying off to Tanzania for 8 days of safari game viewing.
For our safari we used Access2Tanzania www.access2tanzania.com
The highlights of Tanzania were Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti, 2 of Africa's best areas for game and spectacular scenery. We saw the big 5 again, Cape buffalo, leopard, lion, rhinoceros , elephant, plus cheetahs and so many more birds and animals. There are so many elephants and giraffes you almost get bored with them ! On the Serengeti we witnessed the awesome migration of the wildebeest with so many animals it raised a dust cloud over the plains covering the horizon. At this time is the calving season ,we even saw a birth and were amazed to see that the calf was up and walking alongside its mother in 15 minutes !
We traveled between camps in a specially fitted Toyota Landcruiser with a pop top roof for game viewing, there were hundreds of other jeeps all the same from various companies. The roads mostly awful and bone jarring, what they call African massage ! The lodges were pretty cool ranging from large country hotel style to big canvas tents with indoor washrooms and bucket showers. The evenings around a campfire watching the sunset over the acacia trees and vast plains, swapping stories with other guests about the days game viewing were pretty special. Our lodges were: Feb 21 Mount Meru Game lodge
Feb 22 Tarangire Safari Lodge
Feb 23 & 24 Ngorogoro Sopa Lodge
Feb 25 & 26 Masek Tented Camp
Feb 27 & 28 Lemala Ewanjan Camp
Our safari ended and we flew out from a small but busy Serengeti airstrip in a 15 seat Cessna
to Dar Es Salaam where we said goodbye to Africa for our next destinations, Dubai then Italy.
We arrived in Dubai at night & quickly cleared customs in the beautiful new airport then transferred to our apartment in the marina district, 42 floors up - what a view from our balcony ! Marina Apartment 233884
http://www.holidaylettings.co.uk/rentals/dubai-marina/233884 Overlooking the marina promenade with shops and restos, fancy yachts and on the other side one of the man made "Palm islands" .
The whole city is full of tall buildings, the Burj Khalifa the world's tallest, the most opulent and huge malls you can imagine, one with a ski hill inside, another with an aquarium and skating rink.
20 years ago the place was little more than a small town but now it's huge and very impressive.
We took the metro all over, cheap, super clean and efficient, has a separate car for women only, (it's a Muslim country.) The supermarket was amazing with big bins of spices, nuts, olives, figs from all over and even a separate room for pork products with a sign saying for non Muslims only, but no alcohol, only in some restaurants and the airport duty free shop. We went up the Burj Khalifa to the viewing deck on the 124th floor and there are still many floors higher - amazing views.
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Africa 2014, January & February