Today we fly back to South Africa, Cape Town via Joburg. It was a long way down and the whole day was expected to be spent on flying. Our transfer picked us up at the lobby after our check out and our vehicle pass through the bridge over to Zambia. Gone through the customs and travel into Livingstone town which we missed on the first day while heading to Botswana. Small town with repainted old style building, pretty but nothing much. It was at most a 30 mins drive to the airport.
Soon we were back at the small airport; with a line already waiting for check in. While waiting, went over to one of the little shops selling stamps and got myself a souvenir, with some Zambia currency. There were 2 flights during that morning but only one gate. We found ourselves a seat and waited till when it was time to board. It was then the earlier flight started to board. We had a bad feeling that our flight was going to be delayed and so subsequently missing the connecting flight. We flew off 1 hour late.
Upon reaching Joburg, there was a long queue at the immigrations. As we exit the arrival, we rushed towards the BA counter to ask for a another flight and a free pair of tix for Cape Town, as it was their flight that was late and we missed the connecting because of that. It was another hour before the flight but as we boarded the plane, there was a technical issue that held the plane back for another hour. I wanted to call the airport transfer at Cape Town to postpone to a later time but as I searched my reservations emails, there were no mobile number stated and the internet chose to fail on me too. By the time we arrived at Cape Town, we were 3hrs later than planned and I also received an email from the guide that mentioned that he had waited for 2hrs but we did not turn up. Still I didn’t have his mobile so I returned the email and took a cab straight to our hotel. The biting cold was back after avoiding it for the 5 days while we were in Botswana and Zimbabwe.
Reached the Cape Heritage hotel without drama. Welcomed the nice and warm atmosphere within the hotel, with really friendly staff to help us check in. We absolutely loved the deco, modernity within history. The room we had was really beautiful with a nice tub and huge toilet! A great place to rest albeit the many unfortunate events that took place earlier. Had to worry whether the guide was still gonna come pick us for the guided tour the next day but was tired from all the hassle. Went to bed after the bath.
Night was cold and the wind kept shaking the window panes. As we slept, we hoped for better weather the next day but knew that the forecast was showing otherwise.
Our next destination was up north to visit Chobe National Park in Botswana and the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. There were typically 2 ways to get there, which was either to fly to Zimbabwe Victoria Falls airport or fly to Zambia like what we did. Before the trip we found that flying to Victoria falls directly should be faster but it was a long weekend that week for the Africa (Woman’s Day) which falls on the same day as our Singapore National day and thus there was a price hike for the British Airway flight. So I opted for flight to Zambia Livingstone instead and that gave me some hundreds of dollars savings. The flip side was that Zambia is a definite Yellow fever zone and thus we gotta get ourselves a jab (which you could opt out if not going into Zambia) before the trip, which was not cheap either. And the customs did insist on the documentation for the jab, a yellow little book that we had to carry throughout the trip. Our jabs were administered in Tan Tock Seng Hospital, traveller’s clinic some 2 weeks before the trip along with the other jabs for Hep B, Tetanus and Rabies. There weren’t mosquitoes in the safari in SA due to the weather but still the jabs were precautions.
It was really great to just walk to the airport for our flights. But for the BA flight, it was pretty confusing. The airport has 2 terminals which were splitted into domestic flights and international. We had to go over to the domestic terminal to check in since the counter was there and then walk over to the international terminal boarding gate, which was a good 10mins of walking. There was a luggage wrapping service which we utilized, having heard of the many luggage security issues and it costed about 10 bucks per luggage and of course tips for the wrapping guy.
With just under 2 hours flight time, we arrived at an air strip in the huge open brown land and a tiny little airport welcomed us to Zambia.
Airport was really small. There was only one luggage conveyor belt. Once you go through the doors to the hall, you immediately reach 2 customs counters and immediately after, the conveyor belt. Luggage had to be loaded manually on the outside and only then the conveyor belt started moving. We cleared the customs quickly but had to wait for the luggage. As the luggage kept coming in, porters came to remove the unclaimed ones to the sides, their owners still waiting stuck at the customs. It was starting to get crowded, but was manageable since there were just passengers from our plane. Soon, we were on the move and met the guide at the entrance of the airport.
Our destination was the Mowana Lodge in Botswana and it seemed we were the only people going from Zambia. The vehicle with a tow cart for the luggage was for us only. Nothing much to see in Zambia as the surrounding was just leafless trees and sand. About more than an hour’s drive, we reached the border crossing, separated by a river. Chopped our passport and took a small ferry across to Botswana.
It was a short 15mins across the river and soon we were at Botswana customs. The guide brought us onto a safari vehicle, drove us to the customs and we were on our way to the lodge. Botswana was really interesting. Wild animals were everywhere. We saw elephants near the crossing and baboons close to the line of heavy vehicles waiting to make the crossing to Zambia. The assimilation of the wild and humans.
Drove for a while till we reached the town of Kasane and another 10mins or so, we reached the lodge, with a huge Baobab tree right by its entrance.
By the time we reached the hotel and check-in, it was also time to move off for the game drive in Chobe National park. We had to rush to complete the registration concurrently sipping on our welcome drinks, went over to the activities counter to sign in and rushed up onto the jeep that already had a Joburg family waiting for us to move off. The weather here was different and thus no cold wear was necessary. Left the luggage behind and we were on our way to Chobe.
It took about 20mins to reach Chobe National Park. Just like Kruger NP, this was a public park where people could drive on the main tracks into the park to view wildlife but not allowed to exit their vehicle. However, there were stipulated opening hours and thus night drive was not allowed. As usual, the main targets were still the cats.
The animals were looking almost the same as what we previously saw. The surrounding was different from Kruger, there was much more open spaces and also a river in the park itself. It was a different kind of safari experience altogether.
Moving around the park, everyone was really wanting to see some cats because there wasn’t much enthusiasm when we saw other wildlife, at least compared to our first encounters. There were some interesting sights though.
Similarly, the game drive also planned a sundown rest stop. At the rest stop, passengers could get off to go to the restroom and have a beer. Though it was still within the park, the rest stop was made for this purpose and relatively safe from the wild animals or at least when we were there. No cats so far.
Saw the usual herbivore herds of impalas, kudus, giraffes and others like warthogs and baboons. Went back to the lodge, disappointed and hungry. Better luck tomorrow maybe?
Had a short rest in the room before heading out for dinner at the restaurant which was included. Buffet spread with lotsa types of meat. There were also exotic flavours such as kudu meat and a dish with cooked bugs, which I did not try! Food was ok Also met a local lady who joined us for dinner and a little conversation before we left for the room. Watched TV, surfed net and slept.
Escape Plan to South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe in August 2013:
Total duration 17D16N Singapore is 6hrs ahead of South Africa Flight time is 12hrs direct flight on SQ (converted Krisflyer points for free tix!) from Singapore to Johannesburg Night flight on 2nd Aug, arrive on 3rd Aug Saturday, early in the morning.
This was not the initial plan that we have as we wanted to do a partial garden route. The weather was bad on our final leg in Cape Town and thus we changed the Garden Route planned on Day 14-Day16 to the those stated above in order to try spend more time in Cape Town.
Budget nature: Budget Buster
The total costs spent is about SGD5.5k per pax (inclusive of main flight taxes, meals, souvenirs, books (lots of them), toys and macadamia nuts and wasted no-shows on hotels). The amount looks alot but considering the itinerary and the duration and comparing with some of the quotations I have inquired, it is of good value in my opinion.
Complexity: DIY for the seasoned traveller
I guess there’s going to be alot more planning to do if you are to arrange everything yourself. I was really concerned with the crime in SA and thus had prearranged all tours and transfer back at home. But it is really nothing much to worry about if you maintain the usual street smartness required and not visit places that you really shouldn’t go and you should be fine. I have seen many DIY tourists whilst travelling similar route and they seemed fine on their own.