This was our first trip to Africa, and because of it, we expect to do even more. Although we had decided on following the well-worn path of many first-time travelers to South Africa, we also wanted to deepen our understanding of the country-it's people, history and culture-while not compromising on a certain comfort that a two-week vacation can deliver.
Working with this Africa safari travel company made this possible. They worked with us to arrange a travel schedule allowing us to juggle train, plane and transfer concerns seamlessly and with only minimal time spent waiting for connections. Their choice of hotels and lodges were spot on, and their advice and patience in helping us work through our pre-trip anxieties was comforting. The trip was the best we've ever been on.
The only minor hitch on the trip was that of miscommunication regarding our transfer from the Safari Lodge to the airport. We had been given a time for a private transfer to the airport, but discovered through a printed itinerary given us by the lodge, that the time was changed for slightly later in the day. When we raised the question as to whether this would give us enough time to get to the airport, the lodge assured us there was no problem in the changed time (and they proved ultimately correct). But there was also no private transfer that our travel company had provided with our voucher in our given itinerary, and the others accompanying us on the Lodge ride to the airport took extra agonizing minutes until they finally showed up late . This was indeed a very minor concern, but we felt it would have been better had someone communicated this altered plan to our attention earlier. (It's also the case, that in Africa, plans often change, and you have to get used to it). And, as stated earlier, in its entirety, this was the most enjoyable trip we've been on.
There were really four trips in one, each of them enjoyable and memorable. The first was our slow and luxurious acquaintance with South Africa on the Rovos Rail from Pretoria to Cape Town. Although we first thought we'd end our trip with the train ride (reversing our way from Cape Town to Pretoria), it proved a scheduling nightmare, and so our safari travel company advised reversing our plans. This proved in retrospect to be a wise decision. We ended our trip with a memory-filled Safari at the terrific Lion Sands Lodge bordering Kruger. The third part of the trip was a visit to Livingstone and Victoria Falls where we stayed at a lovely hotel on the Zambezi River. Completing the four trips-in-one was our stay in Cape Town at one of the finest and friendliest hotels we've ever come across. Our agency provided us with a Cape Town guide who proved knowledgable, prompt and open and able to suggest revisions we felt appropriate along the way.
Two thoughts come to mind as to what we might do differently. First, we might have abbreviated our stay in Cape Town. Allowing six nights (five days) might have been one day too much. Although Cape Town is one of the world's most beautiful cities, it doesn't necessarily require all the time we spent there. Yes, the view from Table Mountain is breathtaking, and a day's trip to the Cape of Good Hope is a beautiful ride, but we felt that a visit to the wineries (if you have been to Napa or Tuscany, etc) was although enjoyable, not necessary. We also would have asked our travel agency for more pre-trip suggestions as to how we could better experience the cultural and historical life of the city. We found on our own the Township tour, visited Robben Island, and the National Museum-all of which provided an important perspective on the life of the city and country, but we would have liked even more suggestions on not only the beauty of the city but its rich, varied, troubled and hopeful present and future.
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