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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

African Adventure 2014 - Final Thoughts

Africa was an amazingly beautiful place. Our trip there was both everything and nothing like we expected. The big cities, such as Cape Town and Johannesburg, were surprisingly westernized. In Cape Town, we were continually amazed at both the beauty of the area and how "normal" life seemed. Out in the bush and more rural areas, Africa was every bit as wild as we expected. Kari, imagining a scene more like the Serengeti, and Ben, knowing it was more densely scrub like, had very different ideas of what our safari experience was going to be like. In the end, the bush was a different world than either of our imaginations.

Even though there were some similarities to America and the Western World, there were also many differences. First off, the general pace of life is much slower. The biggest and easiest example occurred when ordering food. A meal at a restaurant, not a fast food joint, was minimum an hour commitment, no matter what was ordered. A simple order of two burgers and fries would take well over an hour from the time we were seated to the time we had paid the bill and were leaving. It was incredible! Another difference with meal time was the requirement to ask for the bill, despite the waiter knowing we were done ordering anything. Without explicitly asking for the bill, it may never arrive until closing time.

Language was another big change. Though English, that is British English, was at least one of the official languages everywhere we went, every country and village had a different complement of languages. For instance, South Africa has 11 official languages with English and Afrikaans being some of the most widely spoken. Outside of the major cities, many different languages, such as Zulu and Swazi, were spoken, with each village having a different dialect or, often times, a completely different language. Most people we met on our travels knew 4-6 different languages. Thankfully, rudimentary English was one of them. It was challenging enough to communicate with other tourists from around the world.

Speaking of culture, mostly unknowingly, we were exposed to lots of different cultures. Like many big cities, there were street performers, dancing and playing drums, in Cape Town. Several of the lodges had dancers come in for performances in the evening. We also tried to talk with everyone we had contact with, our drivers and guides especially, to learn more about them and their culture. One of the most memorable experiences was the drive from Nelspruit to Chapungu, swinging through the Marula Market on the way. Our driver, Jason, shared a lot about his culture and the happenings in the region as we drove through several towns and cities. On the drive, we got more of a taste of how people live in this part of the world. Our drive also seemed to occur during the end of the school day, as many kids in their uniforms were walking home from school as we passed. Another memorable cultural experience was our walk in the Namibian village. We were able to have a more personal experience of their daily lives as they showed us around. The most surprising thing was the ubiquitousness of satellite dishes attached to mud-walled dwellings. We kept thinking we have a more permanently constructed structure and we do not have a satellite dish. Wild! While Ben was only vaguely interested in the cultural aspect, Kari was super excited to see this and hoped we could see more.

Onto the specifics of each location and our trip:
Cape Town
  • Primi Royal is a very nice bed and breakfast with 10 total rooms a couple blocks from the beach in Camps Bay. We would be interested in staying here again or looking for something closer to the V & A Waterfront.
  • Camps Bay is a beautiful beach near Cape Town, consisting of primarily restaurants and relaxing by the beach.
  • Hussar Grill is an awesome steak restaurant, that we highly recommend.
  • The Codfather is for the seafood lover, very fancy, that we recommend but is not essential for us when we return.
  • We would like to go shark diving in winter, take a ferry to Robben Island, learn to surf in Muizenberg, and climb Table Mountain.
  • It was our absolute, favorite accommodation on this trip, possibly ever.
  • It has awesome rooms/tents, great food, great service, incredible staff, and loads of personal attention.
  • Four nights was a good amount of time.
  • It has 8 tents for a maximum of 16 total people, so it is a very intimate setting.
  • The rangers and trackers are great but the enjoyment of game drives is a bit group dependent.
  • The jeeps work together to find the animals.
  • We would absolutely love to go back.
  • It is a beautiful location and set up.
  • It is more geared towards large tour groups with hundreds of rooms/guests.
  • Meals were predominately buffet style; food was not impressive.
  • It was a cool opportunity to go to a Namibian village.
  • There are loads of monkey pests.
  • There was a lack of personal attention.
  • It was a cool experience, but we are not interested in returning.
  • It is a very fancy accommodation; beautiful and luxurious.
  • It has decent personal attention despite its large size.
  • The showers were too small for Ben.
  • It has great views and proximity to Victoria Falls.
  • It offered unique activities.
    • Elephant-backed safari was a little depressing; not likely to do again.
    • Lion encounter was very educational and interesting. We really enjoyed the experience.
  • The food was super expensive.
  • There were lots of aggressive peddlers on the streets; can be intimidating.
  • The Falls were beautiful and a fun experience.
  • Once was likely enough and we are unlikely to return.
  • African Rock Hotel
    • It is very beautiful, but it is not really close to anything; a bit isolated.
    • More than what we need for a night waiting to catch a plane in the morning.
  • Though we will most likely avoid Johannesburg, there are a couple hotels by the airport that we could walk to instead of needing a transfer.
  • Never again will we take the multi-layover flight from the US to Africa.
  • Non-stop from here on out through either ATL, JFK, or IAD.
Travel Agent
  • We booked our trip with Ramona at Go2Africa. She was super helpful and put together a fabulous trip!
When we return to Africa, we would love to go back to South Africa, particularly Cape Town and Thornybush. Outside of that, we would be interested in seeing other parts of the country, including Port Elizabeth and the Garden Route. We are also interested in seeing Durban and the Zulu people, as well as other parts of Africa like Kenya and Tanzania. Ben is now open to renting a car for portions of the trip, though transfers were incredibly simple. South Africa was an absolutely beautiful place, that we cannot wait to return to!

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful.....need to decide if i should go to http://www.exploreeastafrica.com or http://www.sudafricasafaris.com