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1 Month in Africa - How to Begin Planning an Itinerary

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Apr 28th, 2004, 02:21 PM
  #1
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1 Month in Africa - How to Begin Planning an Itinerary

All,

I am planning a one month sabbatical for this November and plan to go to Africa. I have to admit, I'm a complete neophyte on this part of the world. My goal is to explore culture as well as experience a safari.

I will be travelling with a female friend. Would like input on the safety of travelling alone as a pair of women.

With such an open "palette" I'm looking for any help on ideas for assembling an itinerary.

Thanks.
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Apr 28th, 2004, 02:28 PM
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Allyson

Firstly I think it would help greatly if you would provide even a rough budget. There's such a vast range of budgets for Africa trips and it does impact on the advice. One country might be best for budget travellers but another for luxury ones etc.

Secondly, you mention culture and safari.

What I would do is borrow a range of guide books from your library (don't buy yet) and look through and see whether there is a particular cultural experience that draws you most strongly... the Masai, the Zulu, the San bushmen, the Himba. Also what kind of safari experience are you looking for? Guided drives or self drive? (Budget will play into this too).

Safety for regular destinations should not be an issue - may vary if you're intending to REALLY get off the beaten track or go to one of the less visited countries.

Once you've narrowed down a region (ie East Africa or Southern, those are the main two for majority of visitors) and given an approx budget we can start inputting more to help you.

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Apr 28th, 2004, 02:31 PM
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PS I clicked on your name to see your other postings and get a feel for what you enjoy - to better give advice.
Will your Africa trip follow directly from the Europe one?
How marvellous!
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Apr 28th, 2004, 02:39 PM
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In addition to what Kavey already has asked you, does Egypt fit into your idea of "Africa" and "culture"?
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Apr 28th, 2004, 02:44 PM
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Oooh and Morocco is fascinating too - though not so hot on the animal safari side but... absolutly wonderful to visit.

I almost don't think of the very North of Africa as Africa because the region has a lot more in common, in some ways, with the middle east region.
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Apr 28th, 2004, 03:30 PM
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One thing that might help you focus your planning research is to look at temperatures and rainfall in various countries in November. Unless you are a hardy I'll-travel-anywhere-despite-the rain, bugs and 100 degree temps- type of traveller, there are countries you might want to save for a different time of year!
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Apr 29th, 2004, 04:41 AM
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Taking the good advice already given, provide us with an idea of the countries you are considering visiting - whether for culture, safari, or other.

With that information we could better advise what is doable, pros & cons, air connections, lodgings, guides or self-drive, etc.

Boy do I wish I had a month.........
 
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Apr 29th, 2004, 07:23 AM
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Allyson, this is opinionated advice, but I believe it'll save you a whole bunch of research time.

I'll assume for the moment that when you say "Africa" you really mean Sub Saharan Africa. (As Kavey implied, while Egypt, Morocco, etc., are fabulous destinations, from cultural and other points of view, they more logically belong with Middle Eastern countries.)

Even if one cuts out North Africa, one still is left with numerous countries south of the Sahara. Many of them offer safaris.

But then one runs into the factor that Tashak has mentioned, weather. Combine that with the fact that some countries are better suited to first time visitors than others are, and the choices narrow considerably.

My own opinion is that there are two regions that are best suited to first time visitors, Kenya and Tanzania on the one hand and the Republic of South Africa on the other hand.

I've never been to Kenya, but my parents have, I know people who've lived there, and I've read a lot about it here at Fodors. Kenya is a great place to go on safari, and it also offers excellent beaches. Something to consider is that November is part of its second, minor rainy season. According to the Lonely Planet website, travel is still feasible during the major and minor rainy seasons.

South Africa offers safari opportunities, beaches, and urban centres like Cape Town and Durban. Cape Town, at the south western tip of the continent, has a mediterranean climate with a wine producing hinterland. In many respects South Africa is the Sub Saharan country that offers the most variety, in the sense that one can go on safari and have pleasant urban experiences as well. When I discuss South Africa, I do so from personal experience, because I was born and grew up in Swaziland, and have lived in South Africa as well.

November would be a good time to visit South Africa from the point of view that you'd be just ahead of the South African summer school vacation (which take place in December - January, and which they call holidays). So you'd get to the popular vacation destinations ahead of the crowds.

The disadvantage of November is that it's early summer in South Africa, it's part of the October - May malaria season in the lowveld areas where most of the game reserves are, and would necessitate anti-malarial medication. (However, this would be an issue in most Sub Saharan destinations anyway.) It also would be pretty hot in the game reserves by then.

On the other hand, November-December is the lambing or calving season for many species, and the young animals really are adorable.

November should be a good time to visit the Garden Route and Cape Town (more about them later).

If you want to spend a month in South Africa, I suggest you fly into Johannesburg, and immediately fly or drive to the province of Mpumalanga where the Kruger National Park and nearby private games reserves are situated. Nelspruit has an airport, or alternatively it's a 3.5 hour drive from Johannesburg. It's a convenient jumping off point for visiting the Mpumalanga game reserves.

From Mpumalanga you could drive southwards through the separate country of Swaziland to the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal. You could drive through on a single day, without overnighting in Swaziland, or else you could spend a night or two in Swaziland, as you wished.

In KwaZulu-Natal, there are more game reserves, the most famous of which are Hluhluwe and Umfolozi. In the western part of KwaZulu-Natal is the beautiful Drakensberg range. The port city of Durban offers an interesting mix of Zulu, English and East Indian cultural influences, as well as nice beaches.

The Mpumalanga game reserves, Swaziland, and KwaZulu-Natal very easily could fill up two weeks.

From Durban you could fly to Port Elizabeth, and then set out for a drive to Cape Town along the southern coast, which is known as the Garden Route. Theoretically this can be done in a day, and my family members who are based in the Cape often do it in a day, but a first time visitor would be well advised to give it a week or so.

Cape Town plus the nearby winelands deserve a week. Aside from having stupendous scenery, Cape Town also offers an interesting cultural mix of black African, Dutch, Malay and British influences.

Here is a post by Selwyn Davidowitz that provides the most comprehensive tips on Cape Town and the Garden Route that I've seen here at Fodors. Selwyn's suggested itinerary starts out in Cape Town and works eastwards towards Port Elizabeth. I'm suggesting you do it in reverse, because it would be more logical for you to hop down to Port Elizabeth from Durban. That, in turn, grows out of the fact that it would be more sensible to visit the hotter, lowveld areas of Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal earlier in the summer, and the more temperate Garden Route and South Western Cape regions later in the trip. Anyway, here's Selwyn's post:

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=34477003

If I'm not mistaken, Selwyn's excellent post in that thread excluded the Swartberg Mountains and Meiringspoort, so to make up for that "deficiency," read another of Selwyn's posts:

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=34393564

From Cape Town you may be able to get a direct flight out of South Africa, or you may need to fly back to Johannesburg to connect with an outward bound flight from there.

That would pretty much use up your month.

You asked about safety. Generally speaking, I believe you would be safe driving through the game reserves, Swaziland, Garden Route, Cape winelands, etc., provided you took common sense precautions. If you're climbing off a plane and going into a strange city, you're better off to be met by someone and driven to your hotel. Within the cities themselves, some locations are safer and more pleasant to stay in than others. These are matters that I'm sure folks here will be happy to address once your plans have been nailed down more specifically, and we know which cities you'll be visiting. In some cities, it's better to go sight seeing with a guide, not only from a safety point of view but also because they're big cities and a guide would give you interesting background information and help you to make better use of your time.

I apologize if this advice sounds opinionated. The culture of this forum is to recommend that people read more and then return with specific questions. My own opinion is that, as a first time visitor to Africa who wants to experience local culture as well as a safari, Kenya or South Africa would be your best bets.
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Apr 29th, 2004, 02:31 PM
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I still wouldn't discount Egypt and many itineraries to East Africa (Kenya/Tanzania) combine with and Egypt itinerary. Likewise there are itineraries that include East Africa with Vic Falls, and South Africa.

While East Africa experiences their "short" rainy season, we've traveled then, and rarely does it rain all day, mostly late afternoon/overnight and then maybe for 1/2-hr. But the rain certainly settles the dust and doesn't cause humidity. And November is a kind of shoulder season (after the migration, before Christmas - lower prices).

Many options are open, but it's your trip and unless we have an idea of what you are considering - I don't think any of us can do more then indicate what we think is good or might work.
 
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Apr 29th, 2004, 03:28 PM
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Thank you to all for the input. More information from me.

This trip directly follows a month in Italy. I have a two month sabbatical from work and plan on splitting the time on a place I already love (Italy) and an area that I've always dreamed of visiting. The South Africa itinerary supplied by Carol sounds like a perfect beginning for what I had in mind.

Egypt/Morocco are also on the short list for future trips, but I think this one is focused on a South Africa or Kenya type experience.

With this, any additional advice, beyond the extensive suggestions above - wow! - that anyone cares to share?
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Apr 29th, 2004, 05:52 PM
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Italy then Africa? Talk to Rocco!
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Apr 29th, 2004, 06:33 PM
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Now if only there was a direct flight from Rome to Lusaka, I would be able to shave off something like three days from the transfer between Italy and Zambia!

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