South Africa & Botswana questions

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Mar 18th, 2005, 10:23 AM
  #1
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South Africa & Botswana questions

I posted earlier about a class trip (with a master's degree program) to South Africa and Botswana. We're making progress in our planning and have the following itinerary. Would appreciate your comments. The focus is not tourism - but rather learning about the countries - their government, economy, culture, problems/challenges.

Day 1 - Arrive in Johannesburg
Day 2 - Pretoria
Day 3 - Johannesburg
Day 4 - Drive to Durban
Day 5 - Drive to Gabarone
Day 6 - Gabarone
Day 7 - Chobe
Day 8 - Chobe - afternoon flight to Cape Town
Day 9 - Cape Town
Day 10 - Cape Town - evening flight to Johannesburg
Day 11 - fly home

Questions - We're debating the back to back drives from Johannesburg to Durban and then the very next day from Durban to Gabarone. Seems like excessive driving for the short time. We're considering flying at least a portion of that - although we also want to get out into the countryside and see some of rural Africa. Suggestions?

Also, what about hotels in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Gabarone. Suggestions?
And any ideas on good sightseeing opportunities. We're going to the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg and probably to Robben Island off Cape Town. Other possibilities?

I've purused some of the postings here, so have some ideas already, but anything anyone could add would be very much appreciated.

We'll be working with the U.S. embassies in both countries because they'll be hosting us and helping with the itinerary for meeting officials, but would love to have your insights!

Thanks,
Karen

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Mar 18th, 2005, 10:40 AM
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Forgot to mention - the trip is in May.
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Mar 18th, 2005, 11:36 AM
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sandi
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Sorry to say but with that itinerary, you're not going to have time to do anything but drive, and drive some more. Besides you're jumping all over the place.

And where you've listed a flight from Chobe to CPT, how? There is a small airport at Kasane... that's it. On a small charter flight? How many people? This can be very expensive. And how are you getting from Gabarone to Chobe?

If one of the focus items is "problems/challenges" you've already go one - "you can't get there from here" at least not without alot of driving, vehicles going from one country to another, border procedures.

Of course, it makes no sense to drive to Durban, barely get there, then attempt a drive to Gabarone. Have you taken out a map of these Southern African countries to see where your "stops" are located? What highways available? Time needed to get anywhere with these distances.

If you're already working with the embassies, I would suggest you obtain from them an in-country travel agent who can organize your flights - where, what, when, how much; vehicles - where, what, when, how much - and don't forget about accommodations!!!

If anyone else has some ideas, I'd be most interested.
 
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Mar 19th, 2005, 06:24 AM
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Sandi
My reaction on reading the itinerary was exactly the same as yours? Can't be done and if it can it's going to mean spending EVERY waking hour in the car!
Would second Sandi's advice to look at a map and first of all rethink the order of your destinations. Why go South from Jo'burg to Durban and then all the way back North (and then some) to Gaberone.
Secondly, can you explain why you have chosen these particular destinations and what you hope to do at each one (assuming you have time, which I doubt, given travel time)?
I appreciate that your focus is not tourism but learning about government, economy, culture and problems/ challenges but at this rate all you'll be learning about is road maintenance, petrol costs and driving regulations!
Best of luck,
Kavey
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Mar 19th, 2005, 07:49 AM
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If the purpose of your trip is not tourism, but to learn about the countries, I would recommend that you sacrifice your trip to Chobe, and add a day in the Pretoria/Johannesburg area, and an extra day in Durban or Cape Town. I agree with the other posters -- your trip is impossible, unless your interest is seeing the inside of buses, cars and planes. So cut out the fun trip to Chobe and spend more time learning than driving.
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Mar 21st, 2005, 02:43 PM
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Our group met today and one of the changes is we're going to fly from Jburg to Durban and then drive back and then on to Gabarone. (I missed the discussion part because I was late. Got there just in time to hear what they've decided.) Things still aren't quite nailed down - and I agree that we're trying to do an awful lot. I'll let you know when we get feedback from the embassy on our itinerary! In the meantime, hotel suggestions? We haven't booked anything yet. And as for Chobe, I am not willing to sacrifice it for another day in one of the cities! One of the reasons I chose this particular trip over others that were an option was because I wanted at least a sample of a safari! And although the trip isn't about tourism primarily, I'd feel like if we didn't see a game area, we'd be missing a major part of what Africa is all about... Thanks for all your thoughts! I'll be adding more as we firm up our plans. It should be interesting! (There are 11 of us going on the trip, by the way, so it's not a huge number.)
Karen
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Mar 22nd, 2005, 04:32 AM
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If you want safari you don't have to go all the way to Chobe.

Consider Hluhluwe-Imfolozi park in South Africa which is not far from Durban.
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Mar 22nd, 2005, 04:47 AM
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Karen
Have your group actually researched drive times between these cities? It strikes me that assumptions are being made based on road systems and average speeds that don't exist in SA.
Even on the main routes in SA (N1, N2) we weren't able to travel as fast as on some motorways/ autoroutes in other countries.
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Mar 22nd, 2005, 05:05 AM
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Karen - With 11 people, you're going to have to be renting vans, at minimum 3, and even that will be uncomfortable. I say, 3, as you need sufficient room for your luggage, which vans don't have much of. Again, I believe you should get a travel agent from South Africa to coordinate vehicle rental, insurance, routing, flights, accommodations... you need someone who knows what is happening on the ground there.
 
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Mar 22nd, 2005, 06:02 AM
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This is, as the others have said, an unwise itinerary, and it's a shame to spend all the money that airfare takes, and then waste your time in Africa. I suggest you make a list of your priorities and how you plan to implement them (e.g. learning about government -- does that mean visiting the Union Buildings in Pretoria, or does it mean meeting with government officials and talking to them? Culture -- are you hoping to visit the homes of rural people? Who is arranging that? How long will each of these activities take?)

Then when these questions are answered, you can determine how much time you need to spend at each place, and that will guide you in figuring out how much travel time to allot.

You can certainly have incredible game viewing and safari experiences in Umfolozi-Hluhluwe park near Durban, or in Kruger Park, so don't discount those possibilities.

I love driving in southern Africa -- you see the country in a way that's impossible by any other means of transport -- but I would never attempt the plan you've got in mind. If you're going to spend the money to get to Africa, take time to experience Africa, not just drive madly from place to place.

A suggestion for some cultural understanding -- visit the South African Breweries museum in Johannesburg. It really showcases South African urban life in a way you wouldn't expect.
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Apr 26th, 2005, 09:35 AM
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We have updated our itinerary and decided to cut Durban - you all were right about everything being too rushed! Here's the new plan...
Day 1 - Arrive Jo-burg
Day 2 - Pretoria/Jo-burg
Day 3 - Pretoria/Joburg (details not finalized)
Day 4 - Drive to Gabarone
Day 5 - Gabarone
Day 6 - Mid-day flight to Kasane
Day 7 - Chobe (Kasane)
Day 8 - Drive to Vic Falls, Zambia
Day 9 - Morning flight to Cape Town
Day 10 - Cape Town
Day 11 - Late morning flight to Johannesburg and then home

Still busy, but not QUITE so crazy. We leave in less than 2 weeks, and I think I'm nearly ready. Thanks so much for all the tips/advice I've picked up from the board. I've got my safari clothes, bought an extra duffle (Baggallini) for souvenirs, have my camera with 10x optical zoom ready to go, will be sure to take sunscreen and Deet repellent, have a pair of binoculars... and am anticipating the time of my life! And I promise to share details with you upon my return in the form of a trip report. You all are the best!
Karen
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Apr 26th, 2005, 12:22 PM
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Busy but MUCH better - you still have a lot of travelling BUT at least you'll have time to stop and smell the roses (or the lion poo, fill in as appropriate) and see what you have come to see!

Congrats on finalising!
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Apr 26th, 2005, 02:14 PM
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Karen,

Upfront apologies but I am going to be much more blatant than most in this thread.

Your finalised itinerary can only be labelled as totally crazy. You are NEVER going to see the real South Africa or even enjoy a safari with your proposed itinerary. By the time you go on safari all in front of you will be a blur due to the crazy pace of your last (lets not even talk of the first one) itinerary. Worst of all is that you are leaving Cape Town right to the end and you are going to fly in only too virtually fly back to where you came from. Trust me you are simply wasting your time and money doing this. The whole tour plan is totally nuts and if I were you I would save some money and rather stay at home and go out and buy yourself something special.

There is a wealth of travel experience on this board and everyone is telling you exactly what I am saying excepting for the fact that they are being polite. The result of this is that you are semingly not listening. It is for this reason that I am coming out so blatantly in this mail.

In my opinion Kavey's advice about going to Hluhluwe instead of Chobe is superb. Celia concurs. Thit Cho virtually suggests it to. These folk as well as Sandi are heavyweights on this travel board with tons of fantastic African travel experience. In response to their suggestion you cancel Durban. I just dont get it!

For heavens sake if you ask for advice and so many of those who are well respected on this board concur then listen or otherwise dont ask!

Sorry for the harshness of this mail but all I am trying to do is help you really enjoy South Africa when you visit us.

Very proudly part of the wonderful nation of South Africa





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Apr 26th, 2005, 03:30 PM
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Maybe I wasn't clear, but this is NOT a tourist trip, it is NOT my money, and I do NOT have the authority to control the itinerary. We are not going for enjoyment (although I hope we do enjoy it!). This is a BUSINESS trip. I am part of a government-funded master's degree program. The primary purpose is not to sight-see. We are primarily to meet with government officials and discuss issues - HIV/AIDS, poverty, trade relations, economics, democracy, the military, the energy and environment. Where possible, the embassies in each country are going to try to give us a glimpse of the culture as they plan our itinerary. I did not have control over this itinerary. I had the opportunity to make suggestions and I did! And I sought your help on the board to guide me in making those suggestions. Don't tell me I didn't listen to you - I most certainly did - and took the suggestions back to the group! But I'm just a student and I'm one of eleven. I do not appreciate your accusing me of coming up with a totally crazy itinerary and not listening and telling me to just stay home and buy something nice. I've never seen you be rude like that to anyone before, and I certainly have done absolutely nothing to deserve it. There are other issues in play here - as in, the embassy in Gabarone wanted more time with us to enable us to see an AIDS testing clinic and a police training center - the GROUP decided the best way to accommodate them was to cut Durban because they still wanted to see Vic Falls, which meant that keeping Chobe in the itinerary made sense. You didn't have all those details, but nonetheless, assuming the worst of me was a bit unfair. My most recent post was intended in the best possible spirit - to update you on what had been decided, to thank everyone for their input, and to say I'd post a report when I returned. I did not need a tongue-lashing.
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Apr 26th, 2005, 05:22 PM
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Sorry, even after your explanation, I still agree with Selwyn! Especially if the purpose is to learn more about the culture and issues in an area of the world!!
It's downright silly, and I hope people are not getting academic credit for a trip like this. Despite the forced march to Chobe and the oh-so-brief visit to beautiful Capetown, it doesn't look very enjoyable either.
You have nine days, maximum, in country. You are still spending most of them on drives and flights. Why not pick two areas only-- Joburg/Pretoria with a side trip to Kruger or another drivable SA game park, then Gaborone. Skip Durban and Capetown. You'll be in the capitals, where you can meet lots of officials and the people who gather around officials. Perhaps you can find a way to meet with some grassroots organizations fighting AIDS, poverty or environmental issues. If you can find a way to stay at Mokolodi Nature Reserve, which is just outside Gaborone, you could experience some wildlife (they do excellent things like walks that allow you to track rhino on foot). And as an educational institution you might get to meet and visit some local kids. You could learn alot about both the conflicts between-- and potential benefits of wildlife conservation & people.

Sorry if I am too blunt, but this superficial run around 2 countries, even with the veneer of education is just as bad as the typical "if its Tuesday this must be Belgium" tour. Do yourself a favor and avoid all that driving and flights.
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Apr 26th, 2005, 05:48 PM
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And by the way, apologies if you thought we meant any of this personally! I, and I think everyone here, was talking about the itinerary as crazy-- not you. I appreciate that you are trying to do your best with lots of people who all have different interests and motives.

I do completely understand the difficulties of working with a group...especially a group that is travelling a long way, and wants to have some fun in Southern Africa, as well as seeing the big sights. Group decision-making on stuff like this is horrible.

But we were all being honest...and frankly, educational trips with these kinds of goals should be held to HIGHER not lower standards than regular vacation trips. And in truth, the craziness is caused by wanting to do things like go to Chobe and Vic Falls-- which are purely touristic, not cultural or educational. I don't know what you will miss by skipping Durban...but I do think that TIME is the only thing that will allow you to experience a place, and the more you spend with each other, on roads or in planes, the less you are spending with real people in the places you are visiting.

If you want to try to steer the group, and not be steered by the kind of lowest common denominator thinking that comes out of most group planning, why don't you tell them how BLUNT a group of regular Africa travellers were about this itinerary. The only way we can help you is by being extremely candid.
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Apr 26th, 2005, 05:49 PM
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Your advice makes sense - as does all the previous advice. But apparently I still am not making myself clear - the decision was not mine to make. I was seeking advice so I could provide one student's INPUT to the group. I am not the leader. I was merely reporting back what the GROUP had decided. And remember, too, that the embassies are making many of the decisions about what we will be doing. Comments such as "you're not listening" and "do yourself a favor"... are not helpful... or kind. I appreciate the opinions offered on this board and the time people put into expressing them. I do not appreciate being lambasted for something beyond my control.
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Apr 26th, 2005, 05:51 PM
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Thanks, tashak. I appreciate your most recent comment. And, in fact, I do plan to do exactly as you suggest and raise these issues with the group tomorrow. But I doubt I'll find a receptive audience. Pretty much EVERYONE wants to go to Victoria Falls - this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip for most of us and I doubt they'll be willing to sacrifice it!
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Apr 26th, 2005, 05:53 PM
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And I hope you'll all still be interested in a trip report - even if it is a "if this is Tuesday it must be Gabarone" one.
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Apr 26th, 2005, 09:53 PM
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Karen,

As much as I understand all that you have said I want to make it abundantly clear that all I am trying to do is ensure that you dont waste 11 days in Africa. NOTHING ELSE. I do realise that you have no final say on this journey in that your team will make this decision however you still remain part of the travel group and obviously have input into it. With that said nothing will change my mind that as a group you are ALL wasting your time trying to do miles to much while flying and travelling in all directions in 11 days in your present itinerary.

I am the first to admit that I was as blunt as could be in my mail after all may I remind you of my opening line viz. "Upfront apologies but I am going to be much more blatant than most in this thread". I dont want to repeat my reasons for being so blunt however I do want you to understand that all of us on this board are trying to do nothing else other than ensure that you are armed with all the right information so as to enjoy your African journey to this great continent. In the case of your mails, as well as all the rsponses that you had, it just seemed to me as if what all that the "experts" were trying to tell you was being ignored and I believed that a wake up call mail was needed hence my absolute bluntness. I hope that this is undersandable to you.

This travel board is a very special board unlike any other that I have ever experienced on the net. On it we can be polite, rude (at most times we try not to be), thoughtful, friendly, informative and innovative however overall we are all simply trying to help one another and let me tell you over the years I think we have been quite successful at doing so. Due to the fact that all we are trying to do is help, I took this concept one step further by trying to tell you in a rather desperate way as to how I, and think many others on this board, view your journey. As much as I still think that your journey is a crazy one I hope that you can prove me as well as others on this board wrong. With that said I am a scientist by training and believe very strongly in statistics where I feel the chances of the above happening are 10-90. Lets hope that for your sake that you can beat these odds.

If my apologies at the begining of my first mail did not find a hearing then let me do so once again however do understand that all that was written, no matter how harsh, was honestly being done for your own "Africa travel" good

Tashak's mail is right on the button in my opinion and I feel as a group you would be very wise to try and change the touristy experiences on your journey relative to the advice we have all been giving you. I say this because with the amount of flying and travelling that your group will be doing in 11 days and with all your fully understandable reasons to want to see Vic Falls as an example, by the time that you arrive at the "valley that thunders" you wont even realise that you are expereincing a magnificent event and for that matter that you are getting wet due to the wonderful spray of Zambezi water.

In a nutshell try and influence your group to make the relevant Fodors chatboard advised changes be they polite or blunt.

Hope this helps in making your Africa journey a wonderful one.

Very proudly part of the wonderful nation of South Africa
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