I recently returned from spending 2.5 weeks solo tripping through Southern Africa. I wrote about why I’m being intentional about seeing more of Africa here. While I hoped for a good trip, this trip was EVERYTHING and is easily one of my best trips (if not my favourite and I typically don’t pick)!! I’ll be sharing about it over a few posts as I have so much to unpack. I saw, felt, and learned so much in one trip that I really want to pass on the excitement.
My expressions ranged from straight up gawking in amazement, to exhaustion (from biking and hiking), to fear, to joy, sadness, to surprise, to heartbreak, to laughter, and hope. While I always try to be thankful for the opportunity to see the world, this trip challenged me not only to be better informed, but also to be clear on where I stand on what is right and fair. I’ve also never YOLO’d like I did on this trip.
I started in Cape Town and ended in Mauritius, crazy, I know!! Is Mauritius considered Southern Africa? Let’s just assume that it is, okay ? I’ve gotten some questions about my locations and how I figured all of it out, so this post is a summary of my itinerary with added tips on how you could tweak my itinerary slightly. There’s so much to share about each of the destinations I visited that I’ll do that in separate posts.
This trip was not planned as well in advance as I like to plan my big trips. Plans for Kenya and Tanzania fell through so this was plan B. Sheryl Sandberg would be proud of this Plan B. I wanted to keep the trip within Africa, wanted to visit more than one country and go on Safari. I wanted city life, I wanted to see beautiful sites as much as I wanted to see locals. Relaxation time on a beach was a must at the end of the trip. Potential destinations were South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, Madagascar, Mauritius, and Mozambique.
South Africa won because of the diversity of experiences within the country. Victoria falls was a given but Zimbabwe won over visa (Zambia denied me the e-visa), I didn’t have enough time to get a visa to Botswana. I didn’t want to cut corners on Namibia so I’ll go back separately for it. Now to the battle between the ‘M’ countries: Madagascar was highest on my list but the flights from Johannesburg were ridiculous. Mozambique was a close second but with my desired destination requiring a lot of road travel, I’d end up really having two days to enjoy.
Cape Town (4 Days) – I flew into Cape Town via Dubai and spent 3.5 days here. I definitely didn’t get to do everything I wanted to do here. Cape town is easily the most beautiful city that I’ve visited on the continent as far as natural beauty, wow! It was also the first city where I noticed contrasts in different part of town. I stayed at the BIG backpackers located in Green point. This was easily one of the best hostels I stayed in. Tip: I’d definitely add one or two days to see and do everything else on my ‘want’ list.
Johannesburg(4 Days): I flew into Johannesburg after my time in Zimbabwe. I visited Constitution Hill, Apartheid Museum, saw up and coming Maboneng district, and Melrose Arch. I caught up with old friends and made new ones here. After Cape Town and Zimbabwe, Johannesburg was my chance to catch my breath so I wasn’t up at 8am trying to do everything. I stayed at an amazing Airbnb (3 Nights) in Sandton and at a hotel for the last night. Tip: with one more day I’d definitely spend a day in Soweto township but I’m hopeful that I’ll have the opportunity to fix this in the future, by God’s Grace.
Greater Kruger/Kruger National Park (3 Days, 2 Nights): I spent 2 nights in the Greater Kruger area while on safari. Since I planned the whole trip late, booking the safari five weeks to my arrival was quite the hassle as many people book as far as a year in advance. I will do a post on EVERYTHING I know about planning a Safari in South Africa from the perspective of a procrastinator. Let’s just say I learned a whole lot in a short amount of time. Nevertheless, I had an amazing experience on Safari. I spent two nights at Baobab Ridge in the Klaseri Private Nature Reserve. Tip: Book in advance (duh!!) and leave time to stop at Blyde River Canyon.
Zimbabwe (24 hours) – I was literally here for 24 hours but it was so worth it. The initial plan was for 48-72 hours but with crazy flight prices, and without a Zambian or Botswana visa, I cut it down to doing the ‘must-dos’ and heading out. I stayed at a simple Airbnb here. Tip: I’d definitely support making this 48-72 hours so you can see Devils pool on the Zambia side of the falls, and spend at least one day at Chobe National Park (for game viewing) in Botswana which is only about an hour from Victoria Falls.
Mauritius (4 sun-shine filled days)
The four days I spent relaxing on this small island nation in the Indian Ocean were the perfect end to an adventurous trip. I stayed at Merville Beach resort in Grand Baie for two nights (3 star so more affordable) and the Westin Turtle Bay resort in Balaclava for the last two nights (points for free 5-star lodging!). Tip: Rent a car to get around, or stay in Grand Baie for access to more options for restaurants and nightlife. Airbnb options are cheaper than resorts. Go to Ile Aux Cerfs!
Emirates: For the flight in and out of Europe. Standard great service as expected plus I randomly scored an upgrade on one leg of the return as they overbooked my flight.
Mango – I flew this low-cost airline from Cape Town to Johannesburg for £40, and this included one free checked bag. The aircraft was a little worn and painted orange like a Fanta bottle, but £40 had me saying Amen! Flights are even cheaper when booked further in advance. Other low-cost airlines include Safair, and Kulula. I used cheapflights.co.za to search for local airfare
Fastjet: Flew this regional airline from Victoria Falls to Johannesburg as it was the cheapest option (for a late booking). It was a tiny airplane with one air hostess and no free refreshments. I had no issues except for the fact that luggage was an additional $32. For some reason I did not realize this when I booked and had to pay double at the airport.
South African Airways: I flew SAA from Johannesburg to Victoria falls and from Johannesburg to Mauritius. Great services, full tasty meal served, nicest aircraft I flew on. Most expensive flights though. I would have entertained cheaper alternatives (aside from Air Zimbabwe which apparently is a mess and Mugabe can request the use of the aircraft at anytime), but there were none.
Uber (in South Africa), my feet, taxis, and public transportation. I’d suggest renting a car in South Africa and Mauritius if you can.
Modifications To My Itinerary:
A great Itinerary: Oneika’s itinerary has several similarities to mine, but her trip was EPIC all by itself. She summarized her itinerary here.
Not a Beach Person: Skip Mauritius, and add on a day in Cape Town, one or two more nights on Safari, or two nights in Zambia/Zimbabwe/Botswana
Been to Mauritius but want some beach time: Consider Mozambique or Madagascar
Been to South Africa: How about Namibia and Swaziland?
That’s it for this first post about my trip. Is this region on your radar? What would you like to know about Cape Town, Jo’burg, Zimbabwe, Safaris, or Mauritius? Let me know in the comments section and I’ll try to incorporate specific requests into those posts as they fit.
Next post, next Saturday!