Southern African Countries

Sep 16 - Oct 14, 2004


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The highlights of this trip were the natural wonders of the Southern African Countries.
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TM, ®, Copyright © 1999 Ulysses-Travel all rights reserved.

Itinerary

  1. South Africa:
    • Johannesburg (Hostel Brown Sugar in Yeoville $20, Translux to Maputo $33, 8 hours)
  2. Swaziland:
    • Mbabane (bus from Maputo via Manzini $6, 3.5 hrs)
  3. Mozambique:
    • Maputo (Pensao Alegre $13, Hostel Fatima $8, Mimmo's Restaurant +,
    • Tete (Bus Tricamo from Maputo to Tete $26, 36 hours)
    • Bus to Blantyre (Tete to border $2.5 3hrs, taxi border to border $2.5, bus border to Blantyre 2hrs $2)
  4. Malawi:
    • Blantyre: St Michael's Church
    • Bus Blantyre-Liwonde ($2 4hrs)
    • Liwonde Park (Alendo Lodging $6.5 +)
    • Lilongwe (Bus Blantyre-Lilongwe $5, 4.5hrs, Golden Peacock Guesthouse $15 with bath next to a Korean restaurant)
    • Bus to Zambia (Lilongwe-border 1.5 hrs $2, border-Chipata $1, 45')
  5. Zambia:
    • Chipata to Mfwe (daily pick-up trucks on very bad dirt road, about 4hrs $12)
    • South Luangwa Park (Flatdogs Camp $10 chalet, 1km from the gate of the park, $25 game drive, $20 park fee)
    • Chipata to Lusaka ($15 4hrs)
    • Lusaka
    • Livingstone (Kutaway Lodge $13)
    • Victoria Falls ($2 shared taxi for 11 kms, $10 ticket)
    • To Botswana (minibus to Kazungula $3 1.5hrs, ferry over the Zambesi, point where four countries meet, minibus to Kasane 30' $0.50, hitchhike to Nata, then to Maun)
  6. Botswana:
    • Maun: mokoro trip in the Okavango Delta (Audi Camp, $80 mokoro trip, Hotel Cresta Riley $30 chalet)
    • Kalahari desert (on the way to Namibia)
    • Trans-Kalahari highway to Namibia: bus Maun to Ghanzi (260kms, 4hrs) and Ghanzi to Mamuno (200 kms, 4hrs), then walk to Buiteros (Namibia) and hitchhike to Gobabis (100 kms)
  7. Namibia:
    • Windhoek (bus Gogabis-Windhoek $8 2.5hrs)
    • Etosha National Park (4hr from Windhoek, $8 admission fee)
    • Swakopmund (Municipal chalets $20, Restaurant Napolitana +)
    • Namib desert around Swakopmund
    • Overnight bUs to Cape Town ($80 18 hrs)
  8. Lesotho:
      Maseru (bus from Blomfontein $7 2hrs)
  9. South Africa:
    • Cape Town (Carnival Court $18, Restaurant Royale +)
    • Overnight bus Cape Town to Blomfontein ($52 12hrs)
    • Blomfontein (Arni guesthouse $18 +)
    • Pretoria (Bus Blonfontein-Pretoria $30 8hrs, Kia Ora guesthouse $26)

Notes

Trip difficulty: difficult to strenuous
Length: 24 days
Season: Sep-Feb
  • Best time to visit Zambia is April-November
  • Best time to visit Namibia is May-November
  • Best time to visit Mozambique is April-October
  • Best time to visit South Africa is May-September
  • This part of the world is blessed with relatively easy and safe border crossings. Visas for most westerners are not required or can be obtained at the border. Border posts are friendly.
    • South Africa: no visa required
    • Namibia: no visa required
    • Swaziland: no visa required
    • Lesotho: no visa required
    • Botswana: no visa required
    • Malawi: no visa required
    • Mozambique: $25 at the border
    • Zambia: $25 at the border
    • Zimbabwe: $30 at the border
  • General tips:
    • The main skill required in Africa is improvisation. You "will" be stranded. Second skill: tolerance to utter lack of comfort.
    • Get used to their hours: wake up with the sun and go to sleep with the sun.
    • Carry mosquito repellent always with you: it's the only way to make sure you don't catch malaria. Malaria is ubiquitous in many countries (Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique) but in the dry season mosquitoes are rare.
    • Use weekends to travel long distance and avoid cities. Most stores are closed, which means that security is very low.
    • Minibuses are the fastest way to move around, but they only leave when they are full (and their definition of "full" is different from your definition). On weekends, minibuses may not run because it is much harder to fill the car. Minibuses are dangerous: accidents are frequent and deadly. Buses are slightly more comfortable (you can move your arms if you want to take pictures).
    • Try not to arrive at your destination after dark. Besides being considerably more dangerous, there may be no lighting and it may be impossible to get information.
    • Vegetarian food is virtually unknown.
  • Johannesburg is a rather expensive and very dangerous city: go through it as quickly as possible (if you have to stay, use Pretoria as a base: most gueshouses charge $24 to the airport or you can take a minibus to Kempton Park)
  • Airfare to Madagascar from Johannesburg: $800
  • Maputo doesn't have a real bus station. Most buses leave from a parking lot outside the city.
  • In Mozambique and Malawi make sure your hotel is not near a mosque. Muslims seem to have more money than anyone else and are building huge mosques in the center of towns, with annexed minaret that broadcasts the call to prayer at ungodly hours.
  • Malawi is one of the worst countries for transportation. Minibuses only leave when it is absolutely impossible to squeeze any more goods or people into the car, so you may have to wait a long time before they leave. Buses leave on time, but they are very run-down and can be slower than a bicycle. Either way, it takes forever to cover even short distances.
  • Change as little money as possible in Malawi because it is de facto impossible to change back to dollars/euros.
  • To visit Liwonde Park, you can either organize your own transportation, such as a pick-up truck (make sure to get to the park very early in the morning) or use the boat that runs every day ($45 and you must overnight). To see hippos, the best way is to stay at the Hippo Lodge because they graze around there in the evening.
  • Zambia is still very primitive, but relatively safe. Accomodation is basic, but rooms are clean and often with mosquito nets.
  • To cross into Zimbabwe for the Victoria Falls, you have to get a visa ($30) and then pay the entrance fee ($20). Not worth it, unless you're a waterfall buff.
  • The Livingstone tourist office organizes game drives to Muso park (to see mainly rhinos) for $30.
  • In Botswana, the Okavango Delta, the largest inland delta in the world, can be seen best with a day trip to the north, but also in a half-day mokoro trip (an SUV takes you to the end of the road, a bushman takes you into the maze of the delta with his canoe)
  • When negotiating the price of a safari, don't forget the tips to the driver and the scout: they expect 15-20%.
  • Botswana and Namibia are another continent. Suddenly, credit cards are accepted and banks have ATMs. They are much more expensive than Zambia. But, surprisingly, public transportation is very limited. You either rent a car or you hitchhike. The locals who don't have a car assemble at intersections to flag down vehicles. If you don't rent a car, you will be doing the same.
  • Renting a car is not advisable. Every company has the same kind of contract, that puts the entire liability on the driver (even if you buy insurance). The driver is also asked to sign a deposit of $1-2,000 which will be refunded at the company's discretion.
  • Most border crossings are crowded with souvenir sellers, money changers and taxi drivers. The notable exception is the border between Botswana and Namibia: literally nobody. You are on your own. The closest transportation is in Gobabis (100kms west) and only once or twice a day.
  • Whites in Namibia and South Africa are very friendly to white tourists, but know virtually nothing of the life of black people (e.g., public transportation). If you are a tourist and you are not white, these are strange places to be.
  • Namibia is a sort of California run by Germans. Swakopmund is surreal: a modern clean town on the ocean at the end of the Trans-Kalahari highway surrounded by the Namib desert. (And stores have "German" hours, i.e. are mostly closed when you want to visit them).
  • The cheapest way to see Etosha in Namibia (one of Africa's most famous parks) is to rent a car (provided you are willing to take the risk). You can drive your own car (just don't get out of the vehicle) and it is relatively easy to see the animals (at least in the dry season, when they gather around the few ponds with water). A book at the tourist office gives you tips (which animals have been spotted where). Best is to cross the park west to east, Outjo to Namutoni (or viceversa).
  • Cape Town is a very American city, a hybrid of San Francisco (the waterfront) and New York (the financial center) and New Orleans (Long Street).
  • The tourist centers in Namibia and South Africa rank among the best in the world, even though they mainly want to put you on organized tours
  • It is difficult to spend less than $20 for a single room in South Africa
  • Exchange rates:
    • South Africa: $1 = 6.5 rand
    • Namibia: $1 = same as South Africa
    • Swaziland: $1 = same as South Africa
    • Lesotho: $1 = same as South Africa
    • Botswana: $1 = 5.8 pula
    • Malawi: $1 = 116 kwacha
    • Mozambique: $1 = 23000
    • Zambia: $1 = 4900 kwacha
    • Zimbabwe: $1 = millions
  • Crime levels:
    • South Africa: Johannesburg 9 (most dangerous city in the world)
    • South Africa: Cape Town, Pretoria 6
    • Mozambique: Maputo 5
    • Swaziland: Mbababe 4
    • Zimbabwe: Harare 8
    • Zimbabwe: outside Harare 6
    • Malawi: Lilongwe, Blantyre 5
    • Zambia: Lusaka 7
    • Zambia: Livingstone 3
    • Botswana: 0
    • Namibia: Windhoek 4
    • Namibia: outside Windhoek 0

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  • TM, ®, Copyright © 1999 Ulysses-Travel all rights reserved.