Hello Travellers Point people...I'm new to this forum so hello fellow travellers! I've been travelling for about ten years generally taking about 6 months every few years to do a large trip, as it is my preference to travel overland (whenever possible) and slowly at that. But every new trip, no matter the experience, is a new adventure, and while most of the adventure unfolds as you go, I do like to be prepared with some things. So my hope is that any travellers who have done a similar trip to my next, or even part of it, may shed some light on the grey areas.
I'm leaving in just a couple of months for Southern/Eastern Africa (specifically South Africa, Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe (hopefully), Tanzania, and Kenya, over a six month period. I will be beginning in South Africa (Cape Town) in early May (a wedding in April prohibits me from leaving a bit earlier).
My biggest questions at the start here are:
How is the weather TRULY in the Cape and Drakensbergs (for hiking) through May and mid June?
Nearly half the countries involved in my trip require a visa in advance as opposed to obtaining at the border....I prefer to get those said visas while traveling (Mozambique's in South Africa, Kenya from Tanzania, etc) and wondered how easy or difficult people found this?
What percentage of activities (such as hiking Kilamanjaro, Safari's, etc) are quoted in USD if purchased in Africa? I'm a US citizen but have lived 6 years in New Zealand and our dollar has plummetted!!!
Are there ways of hiking (especially in South Africa) routes that require 2 people minimum like the Otter Trail as a solo hiker (ex meeting people or joining a group if not allowed to hike solo?)?
Would you recommend a solo female traveller bringing a tent for flexibility? I'm not much of a camper as a traveller usually stay in guest houses or hostels.
And of course any little insights about off the beaten track places or experiences would be wonderful.
I realize this is a very broad forum for a very broad area, so I hoped I could open the floor for discussions and anyone with certain areas of expertise I could perhaps pick your brain about things as they come up.
And of course, as a seasoned traveller in other areas, I will hope to answer any questions that others like me have about places I have been to, so please don't hesitate to ask!
Thanks and really love this website...super cool!
We have kind of the same plan so I would be happy to get in touch to share tips and itineraries.
I just arrived in Cape Town and I have 5 months to go up to Tanzania.
Let's connect! Where are you now?
Erin, if you hold a U.S. passport, check this U.S. State Department Web site for information on entrance and exit requirements of the countries you plan to visit: http://travel.state.gov//content/travel/en.html.
Visa requirements change, so it's always good to keep updated. You'll also need to get a certificate of yellow fever vaccination as part of the entry requirement. South Africa also demands that you also have at least two open pages in your passport.
Your best bet is to join an "adventure" tour that will take you from South Africa to Kenya and other places. There are several companies that do this, including one based in Cape Town that I used for three trips (Cape Town to Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe; Kenya to Uganda; and Kenya to Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The costs are relatively inexpensive, since you pay in South African rand, which has depreciated substantially against the U.S. dollar and the euro. Take some U.S. dollars with you to exchange into local currency. Also, you'll pay some visa fees in dollars. I've also traveled independently in Africa, including Rwanda, Ethiopia, Swaziland, Lesotho and South Africa.
It's not advisable to pitch your own tent while traveling solo in Africa for security and other reasons. If you want to go the camping route, join an adventure tour with camping; otherwise join an "accommodated" tour that uses hotels, lodges, etc. These tours offer a good introduction to travel in Africa. Then, if you want, you can do it on your own. That was my initial strategy; and it has worked for me. Be aware that some "adventure" tour companies focus on partying. If you like that, fine. For me, I prefer going the "accommodated" route, with a good mix of people of all ages interested more in nature and culture, as well as having a good time.
May and June will be cooler and wetter in Cape Town. For information on the Drakensburg mountains, check this useful Web site: http://www.mountain-forecast.com/subranges/drakensberg/locations. I'm using mountain-forecast.com in planning an upcoming trip to the Himalayas.
[ Edit: Edited on 10-Feb-2016, at 07:28 by berner256 ]
Thank you, Berner, for such a detailed response, I'll check websites out for sure. The US Visa website always advises to get visas before you leave which doesn't work for countries like Mozambique where you have limited time to actually get into the country after getting the Visa, but I've been told it's relatively straightforward to get a Mozambique visa from South Africa (I did this for Brazil while in Argentina and it was pretty easy).
I do have a yellow fever vaccination...not sure if it's current I'll have to check...but don't they only need yellow fever vaccine proof if you've come from a country where yellow fever is prominent? I'll have to double check that and update if so...thanks for the reminder!
I'm not much into organized tours so will travel solo for most...but for certain activities like safaris or multi day hiking trips (say Blyde River Canyon, Kruger NP, Serengeti, etc...) I will like to join a group or go with a company or guide with people like minded and interesting (I'm like you, no partying please!) so if you have any particular suggestions for a group like this I'd be very appreciative. Yeah, I thought the tent idea wasn't really all that wise for ME personally so I'll just stick staying in hostels, guesthouses, etc.
Website on Drakensbergs is awesome...thank you!!!! My hope is that when I get to Cape Town in early May they are having a couple weeks of Indian summer hahaha. . No, don't mind cool, just hoping it's not TOOOOO wet!
Thanks again this has been awesome....and Eric I've PMed you but definitely keep me up to date with your trip and fun trinkets or tidbits along the way!
I try to travel independently most of the time (in more than 40 years of travel, I've only been on nine or 10 tours, excluding day tours). But in the case of Africa and other places, such as Papua New Guinea and Bhutan, it's really more convenient and frequently less expensive to join a tour than to travel on your own. Sometimes, you can discover and learn a lot more while on tour, especially when going to places that you otherwise would likely miss on your own. There's no shame in joining a tour.
There are many "adventure" tour companies. One of the larger ones that I've used in the past is Nomad, based in Cape Town. They have trips all over East Africa and southern Africa. I regard the tours as basic transportation, with accommodations and entry into national parks thrown in. Park entry fees can be expensive in countries like Kenya. Many tour companies allow you to join part of a tour. So, if you're only interested in the Okavango Delta, then you can buy that segment only. There are lots of options. Check it out.
If you're determined to travel on your own most of the way, use the tour-company itineraries as a guide. The routes are well-traveled. Want to do something different, such as taking a train or two? Go for it. I traveled from Mombasa to Nairobi by train. So my recommendation is to mix and match. That way, you'll get most of what you want out of Africa.
Yellow fever vaccinations are valid for 10 years. In some African countries, you have to show the certificate. In others, you don't. Remember to take your malaria pills. I've traveled with people who contracted the disease. So I roll down my sleeves, particularly at dawn and dusk or in shaded areas during daytime. I've used atovaquone/proguanil (generic Malarone) for as long as three months at a time without ill effects. Also take along some antihistamine ointment, or steroidal cream, to counteract itching and swelling. You will be bitten. Guaranteed.
If you're traveling in areas with tsetse flies, avoid wearing blue and black. You'll notice the fly traps are blue and black. I usually wear khaki, brown and green.
Africa is one of my favorite places. You'll like it, too. Happy trails!
Erin, you might want to check this Facebook page on the ins and outs of travel in Africa. I've experienced many of the things he's experienced: https://www.facebook.com/Once-Upon-a-Saga-320287321444752/
I was introduced to the page by a friend of mine who traveled with me in Africa. That friend is traveling to Madagascar in April; and to Sierra Leone this fall. He's also considering Gabon; Sao Tome and Principe; Equatorial Guinea and Democratic Republic of the Congo.
I'm considering a month-long trip on the Congo River in August; and perhaps other places on the continent later in the year. I've traveled in West Africa the last two years.
[ Edit: Edited on 10-Feb-2016, at 14:51 by berner256 ]