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Africa... Ideas? advice??

Discussion in 'Travel' started by jeepsrjason, Oct 29, 2012.

  1. jeepsrjason
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    jeepsrjason Loaded Pockets

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    Howdy

    The wife and I are planning a trip to Africa in July. We are shooting for 3 weeks to a month of time spent there. We are definitely going to cape town and we want to do a safari. After that we're not entirely sure where to go or what to do. I know there are loads of options but maybe you guys can give me some ideas and advice.

    Should we do a self guided/rent a jeep safari or do a guided safari group? Which one and/or company??

    After those two is there anything that I just have to do? We will not be hiking up Mt Kilimanjaro. We are thinking more along the lines of going to Egypt or Morocco... maybe the Seychelles. ;)

    Also we we may scrap Egypt, or what ev, in favor of volunteering at an orphanage but we want do help out as much as we can so if anyone knows of a better way to volunteer then please let me know.

    Also if there's anyway I can go in the middle of the Congo and play Tarzan with some Gorillas for super cheap and guarantee we wont get murdered... let me know! :cool:

    Thanks for any help/advice!!!
     
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  2. blacmud8

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    First I'd get some perspective on how huge Africa is.

    Flying from Cape Town to Cairo will take you around 8 hours in the air. To get to the middle of the Congo is no mean feat - it's about a million square miles, doesn't have much infrastructure and the further east you go the more you're getting into what is effectively a warzone. Interestingly, too, your trip might just perpetuate that fact: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/oct/19/congo-rebels-gorilla-tour-insurgency

    Personally I would pick a country and a region that offers as much as you want to do as possible, learn about the local people, cultures and languages, geography and wildlife, and go and meet people, camp out, use the local busses, stay in a guest house, LEARN some of the local languages, avoid the western tourist routes. That way you'll actually learn something and take something from your experience, and to me is far preferable to a whistle stop visit of tourist attractions, the whole thing dripping with neo-colonial 'Africa is a playground' sentiment. Be a responsible tourist. Realise how hard it is to get around in many rural parts of many countries in Africa. Respect it, respect the people. This is my advice.

    And take malaria tablets.
     
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  3. deeker

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    My sister, brother-in-law and their kids are in Africa for 2+ years to build a mission hospital. They have been there for 3 months so far. They have come to terms with the saying "That's Africa for you..." Nothing goes as planned, or as quickly as we expect things to go in Western culture, regardless of country we are in.

    Here is their take on it thus far:
    Problems with power outages, food supply, clean drinking water - all in a West African town of 40, 000 people - are regular occurrences. Infrastructure is poor at best. There are no road signs in town. People direct you by landmarks, historical events or placemarks ("where the old tree used to be..."), corruption is rampant - even expected. Lizards, insects, snakes, bugs and other 'nasties' are everywhere. Climate can be exhausting; high heat with high humidity, torrential rains, blistering sun, dust storms, etc.

    All that being said, it is still a wild and beautiful country. The people can be fabulously giving despite having so little. How they survive in some very difficult regions is amazing. The scenery is spectacular outside of the towns and cities.

    Enjoy your trip, wherever it takes you. Don't be surprised if it does not go according to schedule!
     
  4. Kilted1

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    If you're going to Africa, you're going to want to see lions and elephants and the like, but get a guide if you're going into the bush. I agree with avoiding the typical tourist traps but you want someone with you who knows what is safe and what is not as well as where to find what you want to see. Many people tend to think of Africa as a country they can visit and see the sights in a week but it is a vast continent, the second largest and you couldn't begin to see it in a year. I applaud you for planning a multi-week trip.

    I would see if you can find a travel agent who specializes in Africa. Or maybe a few different ones to do some comparison shopping.
     
  5. Pilgrimm

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    I would honestly take it day by day and go from there. Each day will bring new experiences and new beginnings that were not though of the day before.

    Before I went to India I had a list of things to do, places to go, and the minute I arrived everything had immediately changed. I made it to the majority of places I had in mind, though woke up everyday with a new experience with no plan in mind. The only thing that was set in stone was that I was flying into and out of Delhi, past that, I was a cloud floating along.

    Id look into some tourist friendly places to stay and go for the first 2-4 days, get acquainted with your surroundings, and go see some sights. You will most likely meet a ton of people and they will tell you where to go, where not to go and you can kind of base your ideas from there. There will most likely be a ton of agencies that can book buses, flights and getting you from point A to B, worst comes to worst just ask a fellow traveller which agency they used.

    When I was India I volunteered at a couple places yet none lasted for more than a day or two, and the second day consisted of a couple hours before heading out of the city. By then I was ready to move on or tired of the city itself, lol.

    I would honestly take a Lonely Planet or a Rough Guide book with you, it may seem like a waste of space yet it will come in handy in so many different ways. I found a lot of the places recommended you can or will meet a ton of travellers which is always a great thing, swapping stories, having a beer or sharing/getting info from one another.

    There is no sure fire way to prepare for a trip like that. Try and get as much info as you possibly can, take notes, go on Lonelyplanet.com and go into the Africa forums and start reading up or make a thread. I was on LP forums for 8+ months in advance and it helped a lot, yet once you get into said place, youre overwhelmed, so any and all info you can get will help.

    I just got back from India 5 weeks ago to the day and was there for 5 1/2 weeks and still I am overcome with emotion. Be prepared to be holding a basket of emotions 24/7. It will be a great experience.
     
  6. boyo17

    boyo17 EDC Junkie!!!!!

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    One of the few places I'd like to go back to is Cape Town,,, The air on top of Table Mountain was like champagne,,,,,, I still dream about it. Take the cable-car ,,, i climbed up and it nearly killed me

    Don't go to the Congo. Egypt is heaving with humanity and locals trying to get your money and not pleasant. The only place you can be away from the beggars and alone is in your hotel room.

    Don't go to the Congo

    Only go to the Congo if you want to be frightened

    Did I say not to go to the Congo?
     
  7. jeepsrjason
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    Howdy,

    First off... THANKS for all the replies!! Second, sorry about the lack of a response! I've been in the field for a bit AND I kind of maybe forgot I posted this! :oops: Third... I truly appreciate some folks concern buuut I was trying to be a bit sarcastic and funny, especially with the Congo bit. Anyway my wife and I are well traveled. We have lived in Italy, Korea, England, Australia and I've been to a lovely place named Afghanistan. :eek: So far Africa and South America (and Antarctica) are the only continents we haven't been to yet.

    OK. So what I WAS looking for is if anyone has done a safari and any advice they may have. My brother in law did a safari, just him and his wife, in a rented jeep with no guide and had a great time. However my wife is definitely not like her brother, or his wife, so a guided tour is probably up our ally. Anyway has anyone had a good experience with a particular guide? Also, was there some place or something you guys saw that you would recommend everyone see?

    We have been to a few travel agencies, gotten the books but very little good advice. THANKS AGAIN!!!

    J
     
  8. grayman

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    When I think safari, I think of hunting. I'm guessing you are referring to more of the sight seeing/photo safari adventures being offered? Either way, I've never been on one, but unless you are going armed, I wouldn't consider the unguided safari. Though I've never been, I've got plenty of co-workers that have and the stories warrant caution.

    On a side note, there is a famous restaurant associated with safari in Nairobi called the Carnivore I've seen numerous times on television. I've always wanted to go to it.
     
  9. Dizos

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    I do a bit of work in Africa so can give you my perspective. I've worked in Rwanda, Malawi and Tanzania (including Zanzibar). I will be heading to the middle of the Congo as you described in the next month or two, but can't report on that yet. I map forests so on all of those trips I've spent time "in the bush". I can give you my safari and gorilla experience as data points for you research.

    My safari experience was evaluating a project at Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania. Absolutely beautiful place. We stayed at an ecotourist lodge (don't remember the name, and never found out what it cost) which was very clean and comfortable. While driving across the crater(s) the sheer numbers and variety of megafauna hanging out was mind blowing. We had giant elephants cross in front of us, were charged by a rhino, had to drive around lions lounging on the dirt track. Literally thousands of animals standing around. What I didn't like was all the other safari vehicles crowding around. It made the experience feel more zoo-like than wilderness. That said, I don't think you could manage to have a bad time doing it. Word of mouth is that Serengeti is much much larger scale and easier to get away from the crowding phenomena. I don't think you could have a bad time at either place. The Masaai lifestyle is also fascinating, though the tourism dynamic makes it a bit awkward to interact with them (you need to pay them to take their picture etc.). I also evaluated a project in the Northeast of Tanzania around Same. This is where I want to take my wife. It is not touristy (though there are therefore less comfortable facilities) but I really liked the ecological transitions from drylands in the lowlands and rain shadow side of the mountains to the lush rainforests on the mountains and on the wet side. There is also a reserve near there, but I did not visit it. It would not be nearly as overwhelming in numbers and varieties of animals but it would also be far less crowded and you may be able to hook up with a great local guide to give you a very personalized tour.

    My gorilla experience was in Rwanda. They have the best gorilla ecotourism system in the world, it has been a tremendous conservation success. It is not cheap. When I went it was $500 a person and you only end up spending about an hour with the gorillas. However, it was one of the best experiences of my life (except I lost a ti key chain with a bunch of ti gadgets there...). They get you right in with a gorilla group that has been acclimatized to human presence. They just do their thing while you sit there. Somber silver back and his harem. The baby gorillas roll around and play. They check you out while you are checking them out. Absolutely amazing. You purchase the tickets in Kigali and then travel to Volcanoes National Park for the tour. Nyungwe National Park is in the Southwest of the country and is where I did my work. I absolutely loved the park. No gorillas but they do have chimps and a bunch of other primate species. Also tons of amazing birds and reptiles (stunningly beautiful vipers and chameleons). The park has a great trail system but is very rugged with steep hills. I stayed at a lodge run by the Rwandan forest service and WCS, it was rustic but perfectly suitable. I think the guest rooms are probably nicer than the staff quarters I used. Rwanda itself is a very interesting country - you won't see litter all over like other African countries since they have a mandatory community service to clean stuff up. The nation is very proud and is economically growing faster than most African countries. The legacy of the genocide is still very visible and a visit to the genocide museum is an eye opener. However, they are implicated in supporting the rebel military problems across the border in DRC so I would check on safety issues before committing since all of the recent conflict is very close to Volcanoes National Park.
     
  10. batteur
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    If you still want to go to Morocco: there are numerous world heritage sites, like the old part of Fes, or Essaouira, etc. Nature-wise the northeast is more green, in the north there’s mountains with mediterranean sea, in from northeast to southwest there’s mountains (Atlas etc.), in the west there’s the Atlantic, in the southeast there’s the hamada version of the Sahara with some ergs. At Erg Chebbi you can ride camels and stay a night in a beduin camp, campfire and sunrise included. But all that takes time and money.
    Like there, it would help if you speak french in many parts of Africa.
     
  11. VinnyP
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    From South Africa Namibia is very close, very beautiful and very good for a Safari. Egypt is a long way away and all the bad things people have told you but it's still worth visiting. Kenya has settled down again and is the most popular place for a Safari, if your goal is to see the most wildlife then that's the best bet but popular means busy. Almost everywhere in Africa without a guide you probably won't get in most of the national parks and you wouldn't see much if you do. Spend a lot of time researching and find a company whose guides have a good reputation and if at all possible push the boat out and get a private tour just for your party. If you want to kick back and relax then Zanzibar is great, Madagascar is unique and worth a trip and the Seychelles/Mauritius are resort islands if that is your thing but you could just as easily be in the Carribean.
     
  12. batteur
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    If you have time and money and want to travel like a wealthy retired couple, take the luxury train. ;)
     
  13. jag-engr
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    I have no experience with the Eastern hemisphere, but, based on my travel experiences in the Western hemisphere, I'd agree with blacmud8 - if you're going to South Africa, go to South Africa. Don't try to fit in other trips. You'll just get a tourist view of everything and not really learn much about the country.

    I always try to do a few guided events when I first get to a place. Then, once I get a feel for things, I strike out on my own.

    If you have local contacts where you're going, you will have a much better time, eat better food, and spend less money.
     
  14. JPHing

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    If you going through South Africa, my cousin owns a game farm in Cradock (NE of Cape Town +/- 800 miles) if you like to hunt

    Also Kruger National park way north is the place to go if you like a good game drive
     
  15. Chiro75

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    I've been to Egypt and Morocco and I loved them both. Granted, I was on a school trip in 1987 when I was in Egypt. Morocco was in 2006 with a group of chiropractic students. Morocco is surprisingly European and I loved it. The people are friendly and warm (a little too friendly and warm in the souk, where you can't get left alone!) and the country is beautiful.

    The Lonely Planet forums are very lively and an excellent source of information for out of the way places.
     
  16. Matt130
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    Don't go to Equatorial Guinea, trust me on that one.
     
  17. jeepsrjason
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    Ok, an update. First off thanks for everyone's advice and tips!!! I've been living on Lonely Planet forums and in the book I got. Second, my wife and I are no longer going to Africa. We're going to S. America!!! We had budgeted about $15k for the trip and the more we thought about it the more it didn't make sense to spend that much money for such a short amount of time. Our real motivation for the trip was to spend some time, just her and I, backpacking! So now we're spending 7-8 weeks in S. America! We've bought our backpacks and we have tentatively chosen Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. We have even found some places to volunteer! So excited!!! We leave the 15th of June.
    Thanks again.
    Jason
     
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  18. coolerking

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    I've been to Kenya, North Africa, for work then stayed on and also as an extra holiday, spent quite a bit of time there, well a matter of months. And whilst its good to book in advance, it's always 3 or 4 times more expensive than booking it whilst you're there. Just make sure that the place you book it with are...reliable. It was quite hard to hire a car and drive round off your own back whilst we were there but I used public transport, hanging on for dear life with my bag flapping in the wind as you do stupid speeds down silly roads. It was fun though.
     
  19. MedusaOblongata

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    Might want to start a new thread asking about South America to get more information.
    Have fun!
     
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  20. CatherineM
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    In South America you have to watch out for pickpockets. I used my rain cover on my backpack at all times to keep little fingers out of the pockets. I also have an alarm padlock designed for bags. Put it down and it can disappear fast. Someone moves it and the alarm goes off.


    Sent by Owl Post
     
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