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5 months in Africa - advice please?

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Hi, myself and a friend have an opportunity this year for a number of months (budget dictating timeline) so we are planning a trip to Africa.

We both really love to travel, have approx €10,000 budget and would like the budget to stretch as far as possible while still seeing as much of Africa as possible – scrimp on the luxuries but have the experiences. We are two female lawyers in our thirties, and whilst we don’t need to luxury experience, we would rather avoid the really basic accommodation or “participated camping” experience where you are with a group cooking meals, putting up tents etc. This is fine for a couple of days but really not our thing so would rather avoid where possible! We travelled around South East Asia and South America a number of years ago and found basic hotels there great – something similar would be ideal if it exists in Africa.

I do appreciate that Africa is a continent rather than a country so I am asking a very broad question when I ask where to go!

We would like to do a good safari – I see this as being by far our biggest cost and have posted a question on this separately. We are looking at Tanzania/Kenya for safari but hope to fit in a number of safaris as we travel. Otherwise, we would like to see Victoria Falls, Cape Town, possibly climb Kilimanjaro, but our itinerary is very open. Our favorite travel experiences so far have probably been where we had an opportunity to get under the skin of a country and really experience it. Our interests are very wide (other than adventure sports!!) so really any experience that anyone enjoyed would probably appeal to us.

Essentially, what I really want to know is:
• Is our budget realistic for this timeframe?;
• What are the unmissable countries/experiences in Africa;
• Where could we travel in Africa ourselves/ where would we need a guide or to be part of a tour;
• Are there local operators or driver &/or guide that we could book cheaper tours through rather than using the very expensive American/European tour companies. This is what we did in China and was a third of the cost of Intrepid/Trailfinders etc.

We think a mix of tours and solo travel could work well in Africa (South Africa and Namibia seem so far to be the easiest).

Any tips very much appreciated – Fodorites have made a huge difference to previous trips with excellent advice!

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    You two sound like fun!

    Internal flights on the continent are very expensive, so plan carefully to minimize flights or look into air passes (similar to train passes) from the airline you are using. It might save you a lot. I am a S Africa gal, so I can only help with there. Renting a car is easy, driving on the left not so bad and you can drive most places without a 4x4. We prefer an SUV for the height and comfort. The National Parks in SA are just amazing and so much better maintained than you might expect. They are also very affordable. Most accomodations, with a kitchen and all utensils, usually cost less than €100/night. You can get a pass, and although it's pricey for international visitors, definitely a good value. Don't miss Kruger and Hluhluwe - spectacular! You get to drive around the parks with lions and elephants! It's an unbelievable experience. We usually go shopping our first day - PickNPay is our choice - and buy a cooler, food, drinks... There are many locally run safari camps that are WAY less expensive than the internationally marketed ones. We have made an effort to visit community run camps - Tembe Elephant Park may be my favorite - and some are under €130/night/person including all food and Safari activities. Mix self catering with full service to get a great, affordable trip.

    Cape Town is a lovely city with lots to do and can be pretty inexpensive. St Lucia in iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a UNESCO site) is my new favorite town with too much to do. Snorkel, scuba, horse rides with zebra, kayak with hippos. For some adventure, you might want to do the Garden Route - they have bungee and a zip line near Port Elizabeth. In the NW part of SA there is great indigenous rock art - I can't remember the name of the park (Mapungubwe)?

    Have fun planning. If you want to, I have done a couple of trip reports of my less expensive trip. Just click on my name to find them. I am planning a less expensive trip to Botswana next year - visiting sall lodges in Tuli Circle (across the river from Mapungubwe) and driving to Khama Rhino Reserve and then we will see what we can afford after that, ending in the capitol of Gaborone for their 50th anniversary of independence. Botswana is very expensive and I don't "participate camp" either. Victoria Falls depends on water levels - dry is dull, full and there is so much spray you can't see anything. You can also drive into Mozambique - we met a European couple who did it and loved it. Driving into Xambia and Zimbabwe look more difficult than I am willing to try, and northern Botswana, the Okavango Delta, is more of a fly-in type of trip. But if you go to Vic Falls, go to nearby Chobe NP in Bots. Spectacular elephants, and affordable. See if you can do a mokoro (canoe) trip.

    Please share your plans. Sounds fun!

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    Thanks so much for the advice - really helpful! We started out looking at 2 months but there is so much to do when we add up the time we would like in each place, we are now at 5 months!!

    Christabir - great tips from you, neither of us have been to Africa before, so great to pick up ideas.

    Protrav - thanks for the recommendation. I will contact Happy World Safaris for a quote.

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    I have posted in your previous post but I thought you were looking for any accommodation.
    For that budget for 5months would be rather tricky to be really honest for hotel accommodation(5months)…
    As earlier suggested,try renting a good house or home stay,that way save up for weekend travel to luxurious hotels.
    Also if you will be in Eastern Africa,you could try the volunteer programme for KWS,Kenya.would be good to pass time,and good exposure

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