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Trip Report RETURN TO BOTSWANA, PLUS JOHANNESBURG, 2017

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Since the preview here does not work for me, I am not going to chance a long report with a million typos and errors. But I do want to thank everyone who helped me plan this trip here on Fodors, including Craig Beal and the folks at Safari Beyond, who are just marvelous in answering questions both here and on Trip Advisor. I certainly would have turned to Craig had I not had two previous life-changing safari trips planned by my Travel Guru and Planner Extraordinaire, Liesl Matthews, of SouthernDestinations.com, in the Mother City of CapeTown.

By now I've not only used Liesl for planned three times, but have referred her to quite a number of friends, and a few Fodor-ites. Each person reporting back to me was more than thrilled by her genuince warmth and professionalism. I cannot speak more highly of anyone in the travel business than I can about Liesl!

https://www.southerndestinations.com/



And so once again, I turned to Liesl for this past trip, which was a celebration both of a major birthday for me, and a return to health of my partner. We had originally scheduled the trip for spring of 2016 but medical issues intervened and we were able to push the same trip forward to this past month, May, 2017. Thank you to Liesl for allowing us to do this without penalty, and no thanks to TravelGuard which would NOT allow us to use the purchased insurance to cover this trip, since the departure date was a couple of days more than a year from the original trip.



I am going to sketch quickly the trip and would be more than happy, thrilled exactly, to answer any and all questions about this, or any of my two previous visits to southern Africa.

This was the plan for a trip lasting 2 weeks, in May, just before the high season kicks in:

JOHANNESBURG..three nights at The Saxon

BOTSWANA:
ZARAFA CAMP..three nights

VUMBURA PLAINS..three nights

MOMBO TRAILS (temporary camp while MOMBO is being renovated)..three nights

JOHANNESBURG...day room at INTERCONTINENTAL hotel at OR TAMBO airport



I bought my business class tickets from KLM and we flew Delta metal to Amsterdam, leaving JFK about 4pm on a Monday in mid-May. I originally wanted to book the non-stop on SAA but the price was almost double what we paid on KLM, hence the easy transfer in Amsterdam. Delta was great.

We arrived AMS at 6am morning on the Tuesday, spent some time in the lovely business class lounge (the airport is so nice that the lounge was really not necessary in any case).

Our flight departed for Johannesburg about 10am and it was a breeze. Does anyone else collect the cute little KLM blue and white houses??? I am still relatively new to business class on my own dime. When I traveled for work I could go that way on press junkets but it's only in the past couple of years that various minor joint ailments have set in that I have been willing to reliquish the extra money to insure less anxiety and more comfort on international trips. I am very fortunate to be able to do this.

Before I go on, I will say a word about packing. In short, if you have to think about it, do not take it!
If spending time in CapeTown one might need something fairly decent to wear. I vastly overpacked on previous safari trips, and did it again this time. YOU NEED NEXT TO NOTHING IF STAYING AT UPSCALE SAFARI CAMPS IN SOUTH AFRICA OR BOTSWANA! (Caps intended). And I mean next to nothing: Two t-shirts, 2 pairs of pants,, shorts depending on season, pajamas if you wear them, lounge wear, perhaps, for the time between game drives. You do not need any "safari" specific clothing and, as I wrote in my last report on an SA trip, to Londolozi and Tswalu, most experienced safari gtravelers just wore jeans, closed shoes, and t-shirts, with baseball caps or other hates to shade the face. I love my Tilley hat but you can buy a decent copy in Costco for under $20.

Laundry is done each morning at these type of camps, andn that includes undergarments in SA and Botswana.


https://www.tilley.com/us_en/men/clothing.html?gclid=CNua8teJttQCFU1LDQod0uQC-w


We arrived early evening in Johannesburg, a city which has fascinated me since my last visit a few years ago. We were met by a driver arranged by Southern Destinations, whisked through immigration very quickly, and shepherded to our large car to be driven to what would be our home for three nights, The Saxon Hotel in the suburbs of Saxonwold.


http://www.saxon.co.za/#SaxonEighteen05

I've stayed before at other Johannesburg properties, The Winston and TenBompas, and TheSaxon was at another level entirely. Simply put, one of the best hotel experiences of my life, and I have been fortunate enough to stay at some pretty fine hotels. Standards in South Africa are extraordinarily high, I believe, and The Saxon did not disappoint, except in one important way:

We planned three nights there, with two full days, to rest after the long flights. As a swimmer, the best relaxation for me is to swim laps and I was attracted by the photos of the gvorgeous pools at The Saxon. Unfortunately, these pools, while ideal for lap swimming, were not heated and thus were impossible for me to use during our stay. If I am lucky enough to return, I will be sure to investigate about heating in hotel swimming pools; the Four Seasons does have heating in their pools so perhaps that would be gthe place for me to stay.

Because? Because I was fascinated by Johannesburg! Multi-level, multi cultural, rich and poor, this is a place that needs time to peel back the layers and explore.

More soon...

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