South and East Africa

Old Dec 30th, 2019, 07:17 AM
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South and East Africa

We have somewhat unlimited time (only limited by money). We've traveled extensively, but in Africa, we have been to only Morocco and Egypt previously. We'd definitely like to include a safari, Capetown and maybe one of the beautiful beach islands in the Indian Ocean. Other than that, we have no idea what we should include -- are there cities we should see/natural sights, etc.

I know this is a really broad question, and I did buy a guidebook yesterday, but I'm sort of at a loss, even for where to go on safari - South Africa vs. Botswana vs. Tanzania for example.

If you've been, and have any advice at all, we'd much appreciate it. Recommendations of safari companies/lodges would also be great -- don't have to be the highest of the high end or best of the best but we'd like very comfortable with good food and great views.

This is probably the only trip we'll ever make to this part of the world, so we don't mind it being long.
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Old Dec 30th, 2019, 08:35 AM
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Capetown is quite a distance from East Africa (about 6 hours Nairobi-Capetown, for example). Unless you included southern Africa destinations too to make it worth the trek down there.

I'm partial to Kenya myself. I think you can get a lot of bang for the buck there and with a good safari planner see all the Big 5 and whatever else tickles your fancy. You also can get very comfortable, nice accommodations without spending a fortune (as long as you don't need a soaker tub and plunge pool with fluffy robes and air conditioning). There are also plenty of nice beaches along the Kenyan and Tanzanian coast you could include (I've never done so but know plenty who have).

I guess the question I'd want you to answer is what you're interested in seeing on safari (so we push you to the right parks/regions) and whether you'd want to transit from East Africa (or even another southern Africa country like Zambia, Zimbabwe or Botswana which are far more expensive than E. Africa for the most part) to South Africa just to include Capetown.
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Old Dec 30th, 2019, 08:52 AM
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As you can imagine, this is something of a "how long is a piece of string?" discussion. Opinions will abound, all over the map. I'll give you my opinions, just to get the discussion going.

South Africa and Mauritius, or possibly just South Africa on its own, depending on... timing.

Timing is a big factor, and here's where a lot of opinions might conflict. More than many travel destinations, South Africa (and to a lesser but still significant extent, east Africa) can offer quite different experiences depending on the time of year. Specifically, one of the main safari areas, in the north of the country around incredible Kruger National Park, is in a subtropical climate area, with hot and wet summers and cool(er) and dry winters. While some visitors prefer the "green" (summer) season, I prefer the late winter -early spring period. At this time of year (August to mid-September) the game viewing is made easier because of the absence of foliage in the bush, and because it's dry, the animals come to the water, also making viewing easier. It's not humid and mosquitoes are not an issue (thus malaria prophylaxis can be optional or unnecessary.) Daytime temperatures get into the 70s and low 80s F., but the mornings and evenings are chilly enough to make a light jacket or sweater necessary. It's usually sunny. However, Cape Town and the Western Cape are prone to cloudy and wet days in the winter, with a climate generally like that of parts of California - somewhere between the Bay Area and Salinas Valley, if you take my meaning.

In the summer, it's the reverse. The north is very warm and very humid, but it's also a time when infant animals make their big appearance, and prices in the safari lodges can be cheaper. (Most accommodation is air conditioned, so you needn't worry about hot nights, but be sure to use the supplied mosquito netting.) The Cape, on the other hand, is warm and sunny, with beaches crowded with beach goers and the gardens full of flowers.

If it was me - and it's NOT; this is your trip - I'd do something like this. Go in mid to late August, rent a car and start with some safari days in the north - one of the private reserves near Kruger NP would be ideal. A couple of nights in one of the lodges in, say, the Sabi Sand reserve (on the south side of Kruger; unfenced from the national park so the wildlife comes and goes) and maybe a few days self-driving in Kruger. (Kruger and other national parks allow private cars, but they're not allowed off the roads, while the private reserves allow off-road game viewing, which is an incredible experience.)

Include a few days along the "Panorama Route" - the incredible northern Drakensberg mountains - before returning the vehicle to wherever you got it. Map of this part of the trip (which could begin and end in either Joburg or Nelspruit, as shown) - .

Then fly to Port Elizabeth along the Indian Ocean coast, get a new car, and spend the next week or more driving to Cape Town and beyond. I'd include Addo Elephant National Park and various towns along the Garden Route - the glorious coast to the east of Cape Town. I'd swing inland from the coast to the Winelands area, including the famous towns of Franschhoek (stunning scenery, incredible wine and food) and Stellenbosch, a lovely old university town.

But instead of heading into Cape Town, I'd detour north to the Atlantic coast. From late August to September, the coastal area from the Namaqualand area south to West Coast National Park (around 90 minutes north of Cape Town) is covered in one of the world's most incredible displays of wildflowers. Here's this map -

By then, the weather should have improved enough so that Cape Town will be warm and reasonably sunny. Visit Robben Island, the Kirstenbosch gardens (incredible) - the fab Bo-Kaap Malay district, ride the gondola up Table Mountain or hike up Lion's Head, see the penguins at Simons Town, eat fabulous food... just take in the Mother City.

I'm going to throw in just a couple of pictures, some mine, some not, to illustrate the incredible variety on hand in this amazing country.

Panorama Route (Three Rondavels and Blyde River Canyon)

Leopard, Sabi Sand game reserve

Addo Elephant National Park

Garden Route

Sunrise over the Indian Ocean (Plettenberg Bay)

Spring in the Winelands

West coast wildflowers (not my picture)

Paternoster (west coast)

Bo-Kaap, Cape Town

Island break - All I'm going to suggest here is that you look at a remarkable trip report filed by one of Flyertalk's most intrepid travelers.

But like I said up top, there are so many choices one could make - South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique... summer, winter... yikes. Happy planning.
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Old Dec 31st, 2019, 04:34 AM
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Kenya or Tanzania during the great migration, would be my first choice. And a few days of relaxation in either Zanzibar or on the Kenyan coast (Diani Beach is fabulous).
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Old Dec 31st, 2019, 06:19 AM
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I really think it would help to narrow down what you want to get out of your trip to the African continent. Do you want safari, beach, city sightseeing, wine regions, waterfalls, hiking, biking? Otherwise we're just spitballing ideas and perhaps confusing and overwhelming you more! Kenya and Tanzania don't really offer the same sort of cosmopolitan experience that South Africa does, but I don't go to Africa to spend time in cities or on the beaches; I want the safari.
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Old Dec 31st, 2019, 08:43 AM
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We just returned from two months in South Africa and were blown away by the diversity of the country, the scenery, the wildlife and the food. We also though it was great value for money, especially in the mid range accommodations we used. A link to my trip report

We had done upmarket Safari camps in Tanzania and Kenya and whilst we loved those experiences (especially the walking and bush camping safaris), I think we preferred the self drive options in the national Parks that South Africa does so well (they are also a much cheaper option by far). Nothing quite matches driving out on your own and finding your own game at your own pace.

The food in South Africa was exceptionally good, very varied cuisines and very inexpensive. I don’t immediately think of Kenya or Tanzania for good food ( but perhaps I go to the wrong places.

The beaches in SA are amongst the best I have seen anywhere in the world but, even though we were there at the beginn8ngbof the summer, the water seemed cold.

When we return, which we surely will, I think I would combine SA with Zimbabwe, Namibia or Mozambique.

Favourite places in SA included the less visited KwazuluNatal province, the Drakensberg mountains and the Karoo semi-desert. Least favourite places were the cities which in our case were Durban and Cape Town. Nothing inherently wrong with them, they just didn’t live up to expectations.

Have fun trying to narrow it down. It took me ages just to decide on where to go in South Africa!
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Old Jan 3rd, 2020, 03:41 PM
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Hi and Happy New Year!
I think everyone here cares enough about travel and specifically traveling to Africa which is great. I think you need to give some thought to your budget, time of year that you can travel and your desired style of travel. Your budget is another key component.
Personally, unless you have a specific interest in an African beach destination, then I would save this for another time in another trip. Africa has some much to offer and I'd focus on nature, animals and a cultural exposure experience. If you have the budget and inclination to end at the beach, that's great, but let's look at the overall itinerary first. The Indian Ocean is incredible but adding the cost of these logistics and accommodation are only if you feel the priority and have the budget.
I am partial to ending on safari, dependent on availability for your itinerary. I think it's hard to start your trip on safari with 5:30am wake up calls and a more rigorous daily routine. I'd recommend a "softer start" such as Vic Falls or Cape Town as an example, where you can acclimate to the time difference and get your feet settled. Safari also is the climax for most people for their trip so, unless you have to, I would save it for last.
The Pan Route is great but that's a much better extension when the weather is warm enough to really enjoy the outdoors, the beaches etc. So beautiful but if you extend your trip and drive from Cape Town to the Garden Route, I'd recommend 1 or 2 stops and explore from there. You don't need to drive all the way to Port Elizabeth. I'd save yourself a lot of driving and recommend returning the car at George Airport and flying back to JNB or CPT or wherever your next spot on the itinerary takes you. Please keep in mind that Flights from one place to another aren't as flexible as they are here in the USA so internal flights play a more active part in putting the trip together than in other parts of the world.
Happy to be of help! Send more questions or you can contact me.
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Old Jan 4th, 2020, 01:18 AM
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Let me disagree. A few days at the beach are a perfect way to end a tiring safari. And depending from where you go, it doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg.

While Cape Town is a pretty city, it is not what I would call a city typical for the black continent. Apart from the townships, Cape Town is very cosmopolitan, very western.
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Old Jan 4th, 2020, 11:02 AM
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Bear in mind that there are people (me one of them) who live pretty close to a beach and see it as a waste of money and valuable safari time to spend it on a beach (hey, I can do that at home!) Safari time, particularly midday siestas and sundowners, are my "unwinding". I don't need anything more than that!
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Old Jan 4th, 2020, 01:30 PM
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Here's what TS writes: "and maybe one of the beautiful beach islands in the Indian Ocean".
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Old Jan 5th, 2020, 12:26 AM
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Having been to the Seychelles, I can only say it was not the beautiful beach paradise I expected but only visited Mahé do would research on other islands eg Praslin etc.
It’s hard to determine what the right/best time of year is for swimming/beach activities as it seems to be either windy, seaweedy or rainy & cloudy and that also depends on which side of the islands. And when it rains, it rains heavily and all day and it could be for days.
Have not been to Mauritius but from experiences of those I know who have been, it would not appeal to me as a beach destination. East Africa however could be an option, have been to Malindi and the beaches there are beautiful as are others in Kenya. there’s Zanzibar as well or the beaches in South Africa north of Durban with warm waters (but not always swimmable due to sharks).
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Old Jan 5th, 2020, 04:34 AM
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Gardyloo: What spectacular photos!

For my taste, southern Africa is the charm for safari. We just returned from Zimbabwe and highly recommend, perhaps together with CT (yes, far away but well worth the trip) and environs. We were in four camps in Zimbabwe and loved them all for various reasons related to game viewing. Somalisa Acacia, Linkwasha, Little Ruckomechi, and the most luxe and fabulous of all: Pamushana which is a Singita property with all that implies.

Then there is Sabi Sands......please let me return to Londolozi once in my llife!! Cats upon cats...great food; we loved Pioneer Lodge--three cabins so you might have the place to yourself. Not one downside there and the food is excellent.

If not Zim, and if you have the big bucks. you might want to check out a combo of Delta and Kalahari in Botswana. My sister told me she adored Jack's Camp (meerkats!!!!!) so look up that one; from there you can access the Delta; I've been to a number of camps there.....Vumbura Plains is a favorite of mine. The legendary Mombo is a name whispered in a hush by some safari goers........again, you need the big bucks. Zarafa is also uber luxe, but we had less than good game sightings. Tiny camp, owned by the Jouberts (look them up if you do not know)

Or look at a combo of Sabi Sands and Tswalu, plus CapeTown and other places in SA....Gardyloo's photos are enough to convince me to explore more of that fascinating country and I dare you to find better food at a favorable price/value ratio.

For beaches, look at Mozambique. Over all, get yourself a good travel planner based in Africa (my preference). Read the ATR website.

Want to really tread new ground? I've heard that Chad is interesting. Mozambique is coming back as far as game....lodges will not be up to SA standards. Moving north and west, I loved Mali but not sure of the situation there at this time, so in general I might stick to southern Africa. Coastal waters are generally cold far south but again, do check out some of the islands in Mozambique. Sort of agree that you can do beaches elsewhere but then, I've not been to those islands. Take care to look at seasons, bug situation, access, etc etc. They all look great in photos but pore over a few reviews.... Same goes for Pemba in Tanzania. I would not consider Kenyan beaches right now....... As an aside, read Lionel Shriver's novel that discusses Pemba in Tanzania. Great, if somewhat depressing read..highly recommend.

I am rambling, forgive me..........that's a big topic you introduced..I'd love to go to all those places and I do lntroduce the idea of West Africa in combo with the south if you can get some decent flight plan.....

Again, the poeple of Zimbabwe need tourist dollars and the country is fascinating and gorgeous with reportedly the best guides in Africa. Look into it. I have a great safari planner. Just ask.

Last edited by ekscrunchy; Jan 5th, 2020 at 04:45 AM.
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Old Jan 5th, 2020, 11:39 AM
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We had 10 days in the public camps in Kruger and it was great. Don't dismiss them or Kruger just because people here can afford the expensive private camps. We went in the "wrong month" (February) which is also a good month for Cape Town and traveled from south to north (as far as Punda Maria) and saw all of the "big five" including rhino. Bear in mind that there are other charismatic animals that aren't part of the big five (which was targeted to hunters), including for eg giraffe, hippos, zebra, wild dogs. We were all concerned about how it would be so hot and rainy and full of mosquitos and maybe we were lucky but it was not anywhere near as bad as some of the "experts" had prognosticated. The lodgings are A/C and when you're driving the wind is enough to keep you from sweltering (really wasn't that hot, anyways..certainly nothing like Borneo!). I took Malarone and have taken it before but very few of us had more than a bite or two, mostly from around Punda Maria in the north. Some of the group continued on to Vic Falls (where they couldn't see much because there was too much water) and then to Chobe, before ending in Cape Town. I just flew to Cape Town and spent time there (several nights in central Cape Town and more time on the west coast and near Cape Point.
You won't get the migration scene if that's what you want, though .

Last edited by mlgb; Jan 5th, 2020 at 11:42 AM.
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