SA TRIP - OCT. 16, 2007

Old Nov 7th, 2007, 03:46 AM
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SA TRIP - OCT. 16, 2007

Returned on November 1st from our trip to South Africa. We went with SmarTours. Flew SAA to Dakar, Senegal to Jo’Burg and then changed planes for our flight to Capetown. We stayed at the Protea President in Bantry Bay.
DAY 3-Our first morning was an introductory tour of the city. It should have included Table Mountain but because of the high winds the cable cars were not running. We meandered through the Company Gardens, Malay Quarter, CBD, Maiden’s Cove, etc.
DH and I opted to be dropped off at the Long street market and walked to Loop Street an Zorina’s restaurant. Found Monica and ordered what Selwyn eats, samosas and beef curry. Really hit the spot. We continued on to the synagogue, Jewish Museum and Holocaust Center. We were quite impressed by the exhibits we saw as we did not realize just how strong the Jewish influence had been in SA.
When we left we were told it was not safe to walk so we took a taxi to the waterfront. It was a lively, fun place and we wandered all around. Took the shuttle to SeaPoint which is right outside the wharf and it dropped us off one block from our hotel.
Day 4 was a full day excursion to the Cape Peninsula. The wind was even stronger than the day before as we attempted to walk up to the lighthouse. Went to Boulders Bay to see the Penguins and then had lunch in a seafood restaurant. Our tour guide, Ron McGregor, made some phone calls and found out that the cable car was running so we drove straight to Table Mountain and spent more than an hour on top.
Day 5-we chose an option to the wine country. We went to the Boschenal winery and then walked around Stellenbosch. DH and I toured some old houses. I had made reservations at the Africa Café before leaving the States and then invited 5 other people to join us for dinner. Had a great time even though there is no longer 'entertainment’. The dinner is $35 per person and they do take credit cards.
Day 6-flew to Durban and had a city tour before heading out to Hluhluwe game preserve.
Day 7-started with a game drive in open safari vehicles. Later we visited Damazulu village and saw many traditional customs and had a Zulu lunch. The late afternoon found us on the St. Lucia estuary watching birds, hippos, crocodiles, etc.
Day 8-continued on to the kingdom of Swaziland making stops along the way. Our tour guide gave us a running commentary. It was like taking courses in history, geography, anthropology.
Day 9-Drove thru the Transvaal to Kruger. Instead our doing our first game drive through Kruger in a large motor bus some of us opted for open safari vehicles. We were lucky enough to see the ‘big five’. We found out to our delight that our accommodations were changed and we stayed at the Kruger Safari Lodge. We each had our own “chalet”. Ours was 2 levels with a living room, dining room, kitchen, 3 bedrooms, 3 full bathrooms and patios. We had a room to sleep in and another for our luggage. Shuttle buses circled the area to take people to the main building. Most of the chalets were situated around the golf course. Impalas roam free and at night we were cautioned not to walk around because of hippos.
Day 10-our morning game drive was in the pouring rain and wind. Our driver/tracker managed to get us ponchos in mid morning to cut down on the chill. During the afternoon when the rain finally subsided we did see many animals.
Day 11-our drive to Jo’Burg was made in mist and fog. Managed to see some of the Blyde River Canyon. Lunch stop was Pilgrim’s Rest which is an old gold mining community. DH and I trudged off to the cemetery to see the “robber’s tombstone’ which is the only stone facing a different direction. Our destination that afternoon was Sandton and the Balalaika Hotel.
Day 12-although it wasn’t scheduled we were taken on a tour of Jo’Burg. It was sad and frightening to see what could happen to a city. Then we were off to Soweto. Stopped at Nelson Mandela’s home and also the students memorial. Our afternoon optional was to Pretoria. Visited the Voortreker monuments and learned the history of the area. Walked and drove around the city center and admired the beautiful Jacarunda trees. That evening we had a private farewell dinner because our tour was over and some people were going home, although more than 20 of us had opted for the extension to Victoria Falls. We were advised not to take check-in luggage to Zimbabwe. We checked more than 20 pieces of luggage at the Jo’Burg airport for the 3 days we would be in Zimbabwe.
Day 13-flew to Zimbabwe. After checking in at the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge and unpacking we went for a Sundowner cruise on the Zambezi river.
Day 14-went to see the Falls. It was sunny and warm as we wandered around the trails to observe the Falls from different view points. Checked out the Craft market and then back to the hotel . In the afternoon we took a shuttle back to Victoria Falls to see the town. Depressing to see empty shelves in the supermarket and other stores. Had dinner at the Boma. Food was plentiful and good. Everyone enjoyed the show. Had no problem using credit cards at the hotel.
Day 15-was really special. We opted for the trip to Chobe National Park in Botawana. Went by bus to the Masasa Lodge and then transferred to boats for a cruise on the Chobe river. After lunch at the Lodge we boarded open safari vehicles for our game drive. Elephants to the right of us, elephants to the left of us and elephants all around us. We saw it all, including a pride of lions right along the roadway.
Day 16-slept in and then took a flight to Jo’Burg. Picked up our luggage which only cost us $18 for 2 pieces. In order to make our airport stay more pleasant Smartours give vouchers for the Premier Lounge and we hung out there for the afternoon, munching and using the free Internet.
Day 17-arrived back in the USA. We were the lucky ones as we live only 20 minutes from JFK. We were home in no time at all.

eezam is offline  
Old Nov 7th, 2007, 05:07 AM
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Welcome back. Sounds like a great trip. Thanks for posting.
Marija is offline  
Old Nov 7th, 2007, 12:04 PM
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Eezam,
A very nice report, sounds like you had a great trip.
What did you think of SmarTours, where they responsive and quick in replying/organizing your safari? Were you pleased with them overall and did the booking provess go smoothly? Would you recommend them, since they do offer very econimical trips?
Thanks for posting back.
bushperson is offline  
Old Nov 7th, 2007, 02:54 PM
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Not many SmarTours reports. You saw a cross section of South Africa and even a bit of Zimbabwe.

Everything seemed to go smoothly with an effort made to give you a good experience. Would you go with SmarTours again?
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Old Nov 12th, 2007, 03:43 AM
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This was our second SmarTours trip. We went with them to Vietnam, Angkor Wat and Bangkok last year and was so pleased that we booked our South Africa tour as soon as we returned. I would not hesitate to go with them again.
eezam is offline  
Old Nov 12th, 2007, 04:49 AM
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Thanks for your report, sounds like a good trip!
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Old Nov 12th, 2007, 10:23 AM
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Very good trip report-informative & helpful.

Thanks
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Old Dec 13th, 2007, 10:16 AM
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This is our first attempt at using picasa and posting pictures. Hope it works!
http://picasaweb.google.com/twozams
eezam is offline  
Old Dec 16th, 2007, 07:12 AM
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It works!

Seems like I saw the picture of you near the ocean before. Maybe everyone takes that shot.

Some wonderful ele herds. I played find the lion. Big crocs abound. That stretching kudu shot shows the evolutionary basis for the gerenuk.

I like how Picasa lets you see the whole album.
atravelynn is offline  
Old Dec 16th, 2007, 07:20 AM
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Very nice report! Thanks!
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Old Feb 15th, 2008, 11:04 PM
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I have just booked the same Smartours package for October of this year. Your post and photos have been a great sneak preview of some of the sights I can't wait to see. Those photos are stunning. I'm even more excited about the trip than I was before! (If that's even possible lol) A few questions though...what kind of weather can I expect? All I see is sun, but I've been told to be ready for wind and rain too. How big is the tour group? This will be the first time that I will be traveling alone on a tour so I'm hoping to make some friends. And finally, safety. How safe did you feel when you separated from the group taking taxis and roaming around the city? Thanks in advance!
chimaera73 is offline  
Old Feb 27th, 2008, 06:44 AM
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Thanks for the report. It brought back memories of my November 2006 trip to SA with Smartours and Ron as the tour guide- isn't he the best!! Our group of 39 stayed at the Kruger gate Protea which was super- wooden walkways to our rooms from the large open lobby area, monkies on the handrails and various animals outside our rooms, and a watering hole viewing area. All the hotels were first class and the weather was great-the only rainy day was in Stellenbosch. I took another Smartours trip last Aug. to Scandinavia- again just super.
jkr2006 is offline  
Old Apr 16th, 2008, 11:03 AM
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Did you like all the hotels on the South Africa tour? I have read that one of the hotels is pretty bad. Which one is bad and how did you find the rest of the hotels?
Thanks!
Diane
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Old Apr 17th, 2008, 04:39 PM
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Diane- I was happy with all the hotels used by Smartours on the SA trip. Most were in the Protea chain. The exception was in Hshluhsluwe (sic?) and that hotel was one of my favorites. They use top-notch hotels.
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Old May 5th, 2008, 03:18 AM
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I went on the same trip over the Christmas/New Year holidays of 2006/2007. I enjoyed your photos. Have a photo of myself at the same sign at the Cape. I was wondering who your guide was. Mine was Allenby Harrison. He was wonderful. I have traveled with Smart Tours/Friendly Planet five times and will travel with them again.
braidsL is offline  
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