1st trip to Africa

Old Nov 14th, 2022, 11:48 AM
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1st trip to Africa

We are beginning to plan a trip to Africa. What might be a good choice of countries to visit. We can be flexible on the duration of the trip, I am thinking 2-3 weeks. I have had many recommend Tanzania and South Africa (Kruger Nat'l Park). What are some of your favorites and if you have a travel company that you recommend that would be much appreciated.
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Old Nov 15th, 2022, 03:14 AM
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Dear Tidy,
My favourite countries in Africa are Swaziland, Namibia and Botswana.

Swaziland is compact; it has a great diversity of natural habitats ranging from lowland forests to high montane grasslands; there is a wonderrful network of natural parks and reserves; the local people are friendly and helpful, and English is the only language you need. I A good thing too since I know only a couple of words of Siswati. It's a ;place where you can easily make lasting friendships if you stop in the same place for a few days. The roads are (mostly) good and it is easy to drive yourself around in a 2x4 car. And the hiking opportunities are really excellent - lots of hills and mountains. My favourite is Malolotja National Park in Hhoho Province where you can quite literally walk for days in wonderful scenery amongst the animals.

Distances in Namibia are greater so you spend more time traveling from place to place. But the desert landforms and dunefields are amazing, and the coastline is pretty interesting too. Plenty of hiking opportunities, but you need to be a bit better prepared than in Swaziland because you have to plan water supplies carefully, and there are more potentially dangerous animals about. There are accommodations ranging from well appointed campsites to luxury lodges with a capital L. The country is too big to see it all in 3 weeks so you have to be selective. But it is easy to drive yourself about, and again, you can get by in English. There was a really good travel company called 'Cardboard Box Travel' which used to organise self-drive holidays in Namibia. I believe they have been bought out by another company but assume they are still operating.

I was so taken by my first visit to Botswana that I moved here permanently a few years back. Distances in Botswana are even greater again and you need at least a month to make a complete circuit, and even then you would be bypassing lots of interesting places along the way. . Government policy to concentrate on high-end, high value tourists means that most go straight to the Game Reserves and National Parks in the far N of the country and ignore the lower 3/4. A shame because there is a great deal of interest in the remainder of the country - early iron age sites, Boer War battlefields, desert wildlife, amazing displays of wildflowers in season and picturesque villages where you can stop and immerse yourself in village life for a few days.
It is just as easy to drive yourself around Botswana as it would be to drive around (say) Australia, and considerably cheaper. Again, English is the only language you need., and the local people are kind and friendly. But it is harder to organise a trip from afar than it would be in Namibia because most accommodations in the lower 3/4 don't have much of an internet presence - they are set up to deal with local and regional travel. There are companies here that will help organise self drive trips. (I do consulting work for one of them from time to time). If you don't want to drive yourself around there are some really excellent mobile safari operators; and it would be easy to find one who would take you on a fully conducted, bespoke and personal tour for a couple of weeks.

I remember my first trip to Africa in 2008. I was worried about all manner of things - what would we eat, could we drink the town water, would we find fuel where we needed it, would our belongings be safe and so on. But it all worked out really well and we had a great time. So much so that we came back to live.

Hope this helps ..... Graeme
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Old Nov 15th, 2022, 06:08 AM
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you have summed up what my feelings are about traveling to Africa. We have traveled a great deal on our own but we do want to join a group or have a guide in Africa. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your information. I am so impressed that you have moved there.
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Old Nov 16th, 2022, 09:47 PM
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We loved our trip to Tanzania 10 years ago but have not been to South Africa which also looks amazing. I can recommend The Wild Source travel company. We recently took a safari in Kenya via the Wild Source and they crafted a great trip for us.
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Old Nov 17th, 2022, 12:43 PM
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Thank you, I will look at wild source
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Old Nov 18th, 2022, 02:50 AM
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Originally Posted by tidy View Post
We are beginning to plan a trip to Africa. What might be a good choice of countries to visit. We can be flexible on the duration of the trip, I am thinking 2-3 weeks. I have had many recommend Tanzania and South Africa (Kruger Nat'l Park). What are some of your favorites and if you have a travel company that you recommend that would be much appreciated.
Have you thought of Uganda on your bucket list yet? You should it has a lot to offer in terms of Travel Activities and Organised Trip's both urban and the wild.
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Old Nov 18th, 2022, 04:47 AM
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I haven't but we have thought about Rwanda if we choose Tanzania.
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Old Nov 18th, 2022, 07:36 AM
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I have a few thoughts...

I'm also a happy Wild Source customer. I've used them for Kenya. They co-own two camps, one in Kenya and one in the Serengeti in Tanzania, with two of the top guides in all of east Africa (I stayed with one and it was epic). You can only book those camps through the Wild Source. They also have access to camps all over Africa.

If you do go with Tanzania and Rwanda, I've also booked with Access2Tanzania and Treks2Rwanda. Those are co-owned by two Americans who were in the Peace Corps in Tanzania, met and got married, and now run those two companies planning bespoke trips for folks like us, in addition to running a charity that sponsors Tanzanian children in school (I'm sponsoring one myself) so they care about the country beyond just making money sending folks there. They own their own vehicles and employ their own guides in both TZ and Rwanda, so you know exactly who you'll be with and that the vehicles are well maintained, which cannot be said of companies that contract out services to the lowest bidder.

Personally, Kenya is my favorite for safari. I enjoyed Tanzania and did the common northern route (Arusha-Tarangire-Manyara-Ngorongoro-Serengeti) but in retrospect it was a lot of driving on roads when it could be spent seeing wildlife. Once I went to Kenya and was flying between camps, I realized how much more I was maximizing my time in the wild and on animal sightings. I also think of the three countries I've been to, Kenya is the most affordable and your money goes farther. (I'd also booked a safari in Zambia that was cancelled due to COVID, and that was quite a bit more expensive) You can do fly-in safari in Tanzania on other itineraries, but I've not done that yet.

I think you ought to narrow down what you want to do. South Africa has a lot more to offer than just safari, like wine country, garden route driving, city sightseeing, etc. Kenya and Tanzania are more safari-focused. I loved Rwanda and Kigali especially, for the people and the history (that there was a genocide there not too long ago is hard to imagine). I only did gorilla trekking there (which was TREMENDOUS) so can't speak to the traditional safari. So if you're more interested in non-safari activities, maybe S. Africa is a better location. For safari, I think Kenya gets the edge, particularly if your budget allows for fly-in safari to maximize your time in the wild.

To one comment in #2 above about "English is the only language you'll need"...I've never needed more than English in any of Kenya, Tanzania or Rwanda. Never. Not once. So I would not let that sway you away from them. Absolutely everyone I've encountered speaks very good English.
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Old Nov 18th, 2022, 07:48 AM
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Originally Posted by tidy View Post
We are beginning to plan a trip to Africa. What might be a good choice of countries to visit. We can be flexible on the duration of the trip, I am thinking 2-3 weeks. I have had many recommend Tanzania and South Africa (Kruger Nat'l Park). What are some of your favorites and if you have a travel company that you recommend that would be much appreciated.
I can only convey our experience - several trips to South Africa and one that included Chobe NP in Botswana as well as Victoria Falls - for what it's worth.

We chose to self-drive in our visits to South Africa and never regretted it for a moment. In the course of several trips we traveled from Kruger NP and surrounding private reserves, out to Phinda and the KZN coast at St. Lucia, to the Panorama Route and to the incredible foothills of the Drakensberg mountains, to Addo Elephant NP and the Garden Route, to Madikwe in the northwest, and through the Karoo. We saw the incredible wildflowers along the Atlantic coast in the spring, and traveled through the Western Cape with its winelands, stunning coastline and of course the Mother City. I'd do it all over again in a heartbeat.

Of course it depends on one's priorities. While my wife traveled to Kenya and Uganda from time to time, working with a couple of charities including one that she founded, we never went on safari there, and I still am gobsmacked by images of the great wildlife migrations one can witness there. Visiting Africa is hopelessly addictive and it's a cliche to say that a lifetime is not long enough to experience all that's on offer in the continent. I think we chose South Africa for our emphasis because of the incredible diversity and awesome beauty of the place. The diversity is physical of course - alpine to tropical, desert to rain forest, crashing waves to endless fields of flowers... But the cultural, the human diversity - now that's something special. All the languages, all the ethnicities, all the stories, the food, the art... it just doesn't get better (to my mind.) And it's all accessible, without the need for some intermediary to guide you around - if you want.

So anyway, that's my input. I'm sure there are excellent tour arrangers out there and if that's your preference, best wishes. But know that it's doable on your own if you choose.
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Old Nov 18th, 2022, 12:25 PM
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Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Great information. I want it all and wish now we had traveled to Africa before now. We are 73 but already know that we will likely want to visit again.
amyb, I will look at tour operators that you mentioned.
Gardyloo, curious as to how long ago you visited South Africa.
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Old Nov 19th, 2022, 06:43 AM
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Originally Posted by tidy View Post
Gardyloo, curious as to how long ago you visited South Africa.
The last time was around 9 years ago. My late wife's health deteriorated to the point where long-distance travel was inadvisable, so subsequent trips were canceled. I was thinking about going back on my own a couple of years ago, but then Covid...

We were self-driving into our mid- to late 60s if that's of any interest.
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Old Nov 21st, 2022, 07:28 AM
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Thank you, I hope you are able to visit again.
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