Out of Africa...final comments and travel tips
Trip Start Jun 25, 2006
127Trip End Aug 01, 2007
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I have really enjoyed the last three months that we've spent in Africa. My preconceived notions and expectations of my African experience could not have been more wrong. In fact, I'm regretful that we didn't plan on spending more time here. There is a LOT that we have left to experience in this friendly, culturally rich, and fascinating part of the planet. I'm kicking myself because it took me so long to get here in the first place! Anyway, leave it to say I we will definitely be back to see more.
We depart for Asia tomorrow morning. Our first stop is the island nation of Sri Lanka. Look out for our next post in about a week. What follows below is our list of tips for coming here and some final comments about our experiences in Africa.
I feel so sad to leave Africa!! I didn't think that I would love it so much here, but I am certain we will be back. There is still a lot of South Africa to explore, as well as Mozambique and not to mention the entire western half of the continent. The hassle factor has been almost zero since we arrived in South Africa that it is going to be a huge culture shock once we encounter the street vendors and beggars in Sri Lanka. It feel like we have been on a break from traveling for the last month, and that all the strange adventures are about to start up again. I am most nervous about the spicy food (not a big fan), and fear that I will turn into a piece of rice. The good news is that I have really managed to put on some extra pounds with all the Christmas sweets and tasty snacks that should ensure that I don't starve to death!
K & T's Travel Tips for Eastern and Southern Africa
The further south you go on the continent, the easier the travel becomes. We would not recommend Malawi and Zambia as places to go for your first independent visit to Africa, as they are a bit more challenging logistically. But they are still are great places to see if you have a bit more travel experience, time, and patience! (or if you are on an overland tour)
Zimbabwe was one of our favorites in the region. Matopos National Park in particular was nothing short of incredible. The economic situation there is a bit tenuous, but we found it to be one of the most rewarding visits of our trip so far.
Generally speaking, we felt safer in this region than we do in New York. The people we encountered throughout Africa were universally friendly and helpful. Waves and smiles from children and adults were common and we were never treated in a hostile manner. Still though you should used take the usual security precautions you would have anywhere.
We were seldom accosted by beggars. Merchants were very rarely aggressive and always very low pressure and friendly
English is spoken by nearly everyone in the region and nearly everything is written in English, and either Afrikaans or local dialects. In our time here, we have yet to encounter anyone who did not speak English.
Both eastern and southern Africa were surprisingly expensive considering the low income level of most of the population. We found the price levels to be pretty consistent throughout the region, but still when compared to traveling in the USA or Europe, it is quite affordable.
Some of the most expensive accommodations on Earth are in African safari lodges. On the other hand, many of these swanky establishments are located very close to some of the best equipped campgrounds we have ever seen, all with modern facilities and many of which also have bars, restaurants, and affordable private rooms as well.
South Africa and Namibia in particular have lots of small guesthouses, B and B's, and hostels(referred to as "Backpackers") which offer great accommodation for a low to midrange price. Conveniently, most of these places have websites and are bookable online.
We highly recommend doing an overland tour to anyone wants to do a journey through Africa or to other "difficult destinations". If you don't mind sleeping in a tent some of the time, and are willing to sacrifice a bit of independence in exchange for having a very affordably-priced trip with no worries about security, logistics, route planning, etc., then an overland tour is definitely for you. Dragoman, the company we toured with, was wonderful and we wouldn't hesitate to recommend them.
Especially if you are in a small group or family, renting a fully equipped vehicle that comes with a tent and camping gear is an easy, safe and relatively affordable way to see southern Africa. We think most people (including children) would love the sights, remarkable wildlife, dazzling landscapes, and ease of travel by driving themselves through Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa. The roads are mostly asphalt or very well maintained gravel, signs are all in English, and there are plenty of modern gas stations.
A few final comments on our time eastern and southern Africa:
This region of the world is far from being "basket case". We felt that these nations (Eastern & Southern Africa) were doing amazingly well, in spite of their histories of chronically poor leadership. We were continually surprised with the level of economic development, how well most systems worked, and the ease of travel within the region. Virtually NONE of the multitude of fears about safety, health, crime, or logistics that we had prior to arriving in the region ended up being realized.
Although malnutrition, disease and a huge number of other problems face parts of the continent(sub-Saharan and western Africa), we never saw any scenes like the ones you see in those TV ads appealing for donations. Not to say that misery doesn't exist here, there are a lot of extremely poor people living in very tough circumstances, but in the relatively prosperous regions we traveled through there is certainly at all like the media might lead you to believe.
In a way it is good that much of the world still holds the incorrect perception that all of Africa is dangerous, unstable and poverty ridden. That keeps the masses of tourists away that could spoil the genuine hospitality, pristine landscapes, amazing wildlife, and incredible beauty of the region. We are already planning our next visit here. To quote the song "Africa" by Toto, "hurry boy it's waiting there for you!"