This was a trip we felt we should do, but didn't really have any expectations and some little trepidation. Boy, were we wrong. Southern Africa is a big secret lying in plain sight of those looking for something different but comfortably not too much so. Unless you want it to be so. It has something for everyone, from adventurers to those like us who should be retired by now and want more comfort over challenge.
Our agent and our travel company quickly understood our desires and teased us into fantastic tours we did not know we were prepared for. Our travel company organized and corralled the many subcontractors to execute the trip seamlessly. And I have to make special mention of our agent, who "got" us perfectly and matched us with our desires, and whom we finally met and shared good times and fine South African wine. We got everything from the camp to the glamp.
We've brought home memories and images we've only ever seen in brochures and magazines, and it really is an eye opener to what that media leaves out -- Africa is, like most other places, approachable and greats you with open arms when approached carefully and with warm enjoyment and tolerance for things not always going exactly to plan. Not unimportantly, the exchange rate is good, too.
My wife keeps telling me we are going back again; that she gets goose bumps just looking through our pictures. Whatever Lola wants....
Finally, I want to mention Zicasso. This is the second trip we've done with its assistance, and we have an upcoming one planned and booked. I wish they offered more tailored and particular assistance, but their whole-of-tour assistance is what it is. I think it is an interesting business model, and works for me when I'm charting new waters. It worked fantastically for us in South America and in planning a Paris trip. But planning my own trip with the occasional and particular help from a tour operator is also enjoyable, and their obvious knowledge of the field would be handy to access without turning over, and paying for, the whole show to them. There are so many choices and unknowns in planning one's own trip that it would be welcome to talk to a trusted source.
The highlight, and first stop, of the trip was our tour to Gomodi Plains, in the Okavango Delta of Botswana, not a place for which I had any premonition. From landing on a small strip of dirt on a strip that had to be first cleared of all kinds of "exotic" creatures, to wonderfully camp-like dinners served under open skies, and the awesome staff who immediately felt like family, it was a total joy. Maybe it was first-timer's luck, but within 24 hours of arrival we had already seen lions in courtship, sibling lions in pursuit of bringing down the alpha male (and heard their roars in our tent in the morning), a cheetah with five cubs and a fresh kill, and a leopard with two cubs, along with giraffes, various deer-like creatures, wart-hogs, zebra and, of course, elephants, baboons, and multiple lovely birds of many types.
It overshadowed but did not diminish the rest of the trip, which was less adventurous but more relaxing in fantastic boutique hotels and resorts. It was a fitting trip to sumptuously celebrate our respective 70th birthdays, both coming a month apart.
Let's start with what we would do the same. Living, as we do, on a small island in the middle of the Western Pacific, our first hub to the rest of the world is almost 2,000 miles away, so we tend to go around the world rather than half-way and return. I've been looking for a sub-equatorial stopover in the European time zone. Cape Town in particular, and our lodging in Johannesberg too, give us that layover, as we have learned. We look forward to that convenience.
As to the rest, we'd do it again, but have learned that there are other similar, and perhaps even more enjoyable, adventures awaiting us in, for instance, Namibia and Mozambique. We're open to that.
I would be open, but not relish the thought of, returning to Zimbabwe. We went there for only one day, given our time limitations, to see Victoria falls. We had a scheduled tour that would give us 2 hours at the Falls and some time for the curio shops in town. The Falls was a worthwhile visit, but almost lost when we got held up for no apparent good reason other than incompetence and maladministration of the wretched border crossing into the country. There were about 50 of us from various buses and other modes of transportation left standing only partly shaded for three hours for them to do their simply paperwork and extract the fees that we had not experienced elsewhere. We were left with only about 45 minutes to see the Falls before dark and park closure. I live on an island dependent on tourism and even someone with no knowledge of the industry would understand that that is no way to generate tourist revenue. Their publicity videos are splendid, but you have to crawl through hell to get to it; and the experience gave me no confidence that other such obstacles would not be daily events. That said, the Victoria Falls lodge was repeatable.
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