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3 weeks in December...where to go???

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  • Added on: May 12th, 2011
Apart from Egypt and Morocco, Africa is untouched territory for me so I thought I'd make this my next destination but I can't figure out where to go exactly.

I only have 3 weeks over the xmas holidays. I will be traveling solo so I'm not keen on renting a car as my main mode of transportation (don't mind for a few days though) because it takes the fun out of traveling if I'm driving alone. So where can I go that I won't require a car for the whole trip? I'm also not keen on taking tours but don't mind (probably prefer it) for safaris.

There's so many countries I want to visit: South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Madagascar, Kenya and Tanzania to mention a few. I might have an opportunity to travel to Botswana through work in a couple of years so I don't include that in the list this time around. I was thinking South Africa because I'm getting some decent flight prices but from what I've read that I really need a car to make it a worthwhile trip (Kruger, Drakensberg, Mozambique, etc.)

As for my interests, obviously see wildlife up close is a top priority and getting a sense of the culture and history, etc. I'm not fond on lounging on the beach or partying while I"m traveling so having said that I'm up for pretty much except for the beach/party scene.

PLEASE HELP!!

uspn

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  • Added on: May 20th, 2011
Since you haven't really been in "This is Africa"-Africa yet, I'd say South Africa would be a gentle first experience for you, with possible adventures into Lesotho and/or Swaziland.

Starting in Cape Town or Joburg, you'll be fine transport-wise by going on the Baz Bus, http://www.bazbus.com/ . It's a good deal, and more importantly, it's a safe deal, never dropping you off somewhere scary and/or dangerous. Also, you'll have plenty of opportunity for meeting people in the same situation as yourself, which is usually a good thing.

Using the Bas Buz, you can easily stop off for a couple of days in several smaller towns and in the Drakensberg and the Kruger Park area. I think they do a good deal if you buy a multi-day safari thing in connection with a Joburg - Durban return ticket, for instance. Look into skipping the Kruger Park and try for the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi park instead. It's near St Lucia on the Indian Ocean coast, which also is well worth visiting, if you're into scenery and animals.

The Baz Bus won't take you to Lesotho, which is the absolutely best and most "African" experience to be had "in" South Africa. You can, however, stop in Pietermaritzburg or Howick north of Durban and get on a shuttle bus up to near the Sani Pass quite easily, and from there you can arrange a 3- or 4-day visit into Lesotho which you will never forget. The contrast between modern South Africa and the timeless old mountain villages of Lesotho is remarkable.

Happy trails!

Bjørn
http://bjornfree.com/

LoveTravelling

Holds PhD in Packing
 
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  • Added on: May 20th, 2011
Hi Bjorn,

Thanks for the response. When I posted on LP site one poster was persistent in saying that I needed a car to go to all the places I wanted so I started looking at tours and found this one that I really liked: http://www.kumuka.com/Southern-Highligh ... #itinerary but I've been reading up more on Southern Africa and from what I've read Dec/Jan is one of the worst times to go for wildlife sighting because it's the rainy season.

But perhaps I can go back to my original plan of Cape Town to Joburg. Are you sure Baz Buz goes to Drakensberg? Or does it drop me off at a near by town and then I should rent a car?

uspn

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  • Added on: May 21st, 2011
I think the question is whether you DO want to go all the places you think you want to go to, in just three weeks. If you're happy with the itinerary and the way the tour is conducted, you might as well go for that option. When similar tours have fit my dates I've done the same myself. However, looking back, I find that I enjoy Southern Africa much more when I can set the pace myself. Some of the places have been so alien to me that it took a bit of time for me to "connect" to them.

That said, I'll comment on your questions:

December/January is during the wet season, but it's not necessarily the worst time for a safari. I don't think there's a worst time or a safari. You'll always see lots of animals, and which animals you actually see is mainly decided by luck. True, in the middle of the dry season, you can just drive up to a water hole and wait for animals to arrive. In the wet season they'll be more dispersed throughout the bush, but they're still there. Seeing them in lush surroundings will maybe fit the image inside your head better. Don't worry about the season. The animals are there.

And yes, I'm confident the Baz Bus will get you to Drakensberg. The most majestic option is the one I mentioned. They'll drop you off at a hostel in Pietermaritzburg, from where a daily shuttle will take you up to a hostel very close to the Lesotho border, from where really good and decently priced tours can be arranged. You can also rent a car and drive it yourself in an area where there's little crime, but your driving skills may be put to the test on the mountain roads. I'd spend most of my time on my feet, as the hiking options there are amazing.

The other option is to be dropped off at the hostels around the Amphitheatre in the northern Drakensberg. Again, great hostel, great tours readily available, and there's a daily pick-up to take you out of there when you choose.

For Botswana and Mozambique, though, I agree that getting on a tour is a good idea. However, you should know what you're in for. Especially the strike into Mozambique looks very rushed to me. The distances to be covered are vast, on roads making the journey less than comfortable. (The Chinese constructors may have changed the situation lately, but when I was there a couple of years back, just a day in the bus there completely drained me of energy.) Also, every place they seem to stop deserves a 2-3 day stop at least. This frustrates me, but not necessarily you.

To maybe help you decide what to do, here's my gallery from about a month (November/December) of traveling through the Drakensberg (north and south) and the same bits of Mozambique as those on "your" tour:
http://www.pvv.org/~bct/leso/
http://www.pvv.org/~bct/moza/

I'm sure you'll enjoy it, whatever you choose!

Bjørn
http://bjornfree.com/

Andromeda

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  • Added on: May 22nd, 2011
I did Cape Town to Jo'burg with the Baz Bus over two weeks plus a week of safari around Kruger (not with them, was with my family at a nicer place) two years ago and it was one of my favoritest places I've ever been. :D

Do a Google search on Coast 2 Coast which is a great guide to the country and what all there is to do in the various towns along the route, and be sure to pick up a paper copy when you get there. Great resource... to get up to Lesotho I did a daytrip up the Sani Pass with one of the hostels in the Drakensberg, most are happy to arrange even multiple day trips up there.

LoveTravelling

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  • Added on: May 22nd, 2011
Thank you to both of you, much appreciated!

Bjorn, if you don't mind I might need to pick your brain about some specific once I've figured out what I'm doing...unless you can recommend a website or book that gives details.

halfnine

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  • Added on: May 23rd, 2011
I am just going to say that while the Baz Bus is fine as I've used it get around South Africa it is probably much better by private car. I've had a few friends do it by car and their options/experiences were certainly envious to someone like myself limited by the Baz Bus. And in that regard, if reasonable, I'd wait and do South Africa for another time when you can do it with another person or two and go by car instead. I would make a similar comment about Namibia. Although Namibia is only more viable by car if you are confident with being offroad, doing minor maintenance, etc. I've had friends travel Namibia by car and again same comments in that regard as South Africa. The other countries in Southern and Eastern Africa are a bit less car friendly and in some instances not even possible by rental car and therefore make for better travel by public and/or tour transport.

LoveTravelling

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  • Added on: May 26th, 2011
Halfnine, to be honest I was thinking the same thing.

From what I've read, Southern Africa is the best place to travel in independently (my preference) but since public transportation isn't all that connected and developed and I don't want to drive by myself I was thinking of going somewhere else but not sure where.

One of the "contenders" is Tanzania and Kenya: Http://www.kumuka.com/African-Drums.aspx

I also read that Dec/Jan is excellent for visiting Kenya and Tanzania whereas South Africa would be way to hot, wet and humid and also because of the heavy rains and mist it's not a good time to see Vic Falls. Is Tanzania and Kenya better to travel independently as well?

I'm also going to look at some tours for Rwanda or Uganda because supposedly it's a good time of year for gorilla treks.

Still exploring my options.

LoveTravelling

Holds PhD in Packing
 
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  • Added on: June 3rd, 2011
Ok I think I've decided on doing this tour: http://www.kumuka.com/Southern-Highligh ... #itinerary

I calculated the distance from each place and basically 7 out of the 21 days will be driving...but I'm ok with that given how much ground is being covered...still will have 2 weeks plus 2 days in Johannesburg.

I'm still a little concerned about it being the rainy season which means potential washed out roads, really hot and humid...and how much wildlife I can see hidden in all that green.

I will definitely come back and do SA and Namibia when I have a travel buddy and Kenya and Tanzania during African summer.

Andromeda

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  • Added on: June 7th, 2011
Looks like a fun trip! I wouldn't worry too much about the seeing wildlife part because your main sites for that (Chobe, Kruger, and Okavango) all have more than you can shake a stick at so you definitely will see a lot of animals (the hardest to see are always the cats but they are elusive even in dry season- I'm sure you'll see lions, it's just leopards are much more difficult).

Kumuka is a good company- I went with Africa Travel Company but often came across their trucks at the same campsites, and heard good things from them- but if possible I'd contact the company and ask who the guide is/ what their experience is/ what sort of reviews the guides get. The reason for this is regardless of the company you go with the guide truly makes or breaks your overland trip, so if they're not upfront with that information I would seriously reconsider signing up.



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