I know you’re busy so I’ll cut to the chase. If you want to go to Africa, you should!
Here’s what you should know…
Where to go
Don’t underestimate the size and diversity of the African continent. Get out a world map and choose which countries you are interested in. Most tourists head to the south for a 5-star safari or the east for a budget friendly trip.
South Africa is comfortable and familiar. Here you can find luxurious safari lodges, western food and lots of white people. You can get really close to the animals in reserves, as they are accustomed to safari vehicles. Sabi Sabi game reserve on the outskirts of Kruger NP was our favourite stop in the south. Temperatures similar to Australia and thus so is the vegetation. Guides were extremely informative, accommodation was beautiful and Boma buffet meals were plentiful. Cape Town is a beautiful city in South Africa with epic views from Table mountain. Also home to interesting history from the apartheid era.
Botswana is the hottest country we visited sitting on around 33 degrees Celsius in August 2016. Home to the Okavango delta- a UNESCO World Heritage listed swampland. The river splits into several fingers; an amazing sight from a heli or dug-out canoe. The animals can be harder to find as they are not reliant on a central water source. Chobe NP in Botswana offers the unique experience of cruising down river on sunset and watching herds of elephant come to drink.
Kenya is where you’ll find the wild Africa. Acacia trees stand alone on vast horizons in the Maasai Mara. The safari options here are plentiful. From Nairobi you can feed Giraffes at the Giraffe Centre and see baby orphan elephants at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. Otherwise Nairobi is best just for a layover before heading out on safari. Rich in culture and beauty, Kenya was how I imagined Africa to be. A highlight was bike riding through Hell’s Gate Gorge – the location which inspired the Lion King.
Tanzania is home to Mt. Kilimanjaro and her smaller sister, Mt. Meru. Also a great safari and beach location. We went from safari in Ngorongoro crater, to hiking Mt. Meru, to lying on the beach in tropical Zanzibar. The main beaches of Zanzibar are in the north, with quieter locations on the east coast at Bwejuu and Paje. Drop us a line if you want details on how to hike from Arusha.
Uganda contrasts Kenya and Tanzania with lush, green jungle and stunning lakes. The overland trucks stay at some great hostels in Jinja (Nile River Explorers) and on Lake Bunyonyi (Overland Resort). A few days at each would give you time to kayak, white water raft, horse ride or just chill by the water. We did the “not to be missed” gorilla trek from Bunyonyi, but for us, we could’ve missed it. With 6 others we had an hour with the animals that are surprisingly well camouflaged in the jungle. The experience was rather hectic with everyone competing for the best Insta shot. The 2 hour hike to reach the gorillas was the highlight for us, through beautiful mountains, and past rural villages. We could have done without the hacking away at the foliage to give us an optimal Kodak moment of the extremely endangered primates. Gorilla trekking is also very costly.
What to do
• Safari in Kenya & Tanzania – easy, beautiful landscapes and reasonably priced.
• Hike from Arusha – Mt. Meru 4 days or Kilimanjaro for the more serious hiker.
• Ngorongoro crater safari – for a unique and beautiful safari landscape.
• Masaai Mara – to see the arid savanna you imagine and meet the renowned nomad cattle herders.
• Volunteering at Melon Mission Nakuru – to understand how people really live in Kenya.
• Uganda – for the Nutella chapatti, beautiful people, and lakeside jungle camping.
• Sabi Sabi private game reserve in South Africa – for a 5-star experience.
• Zanzibar off the coast of Tanzania – to sunbake on a tropical island.
How to get around
Africa is not well set-up for travel with a backpack. Local transport in the form of Matatu’s (Kenya) and Dala dala’s (Tanzania) is a fantastic cultural experience but not the most comfortable, reliable or safe mode to travel. We saw public buses travelling across borders with tourists although most travelers from the west are on overland trucks. We also opted for an overland, budget, truck tour. Some reputable companies include Acacia and G Adventures. Most companies travel similar routes and you end up seeing all the companies staying at the same camp grounds. Main differences include; cost, whether you have to cook (which can take up a lot of your free time), if sleeping mats are provided and the quality of your tour leaders. Unfortunately, not many Africans are leading tours. I’d recommend reading reviews on company Facebook pages and Tripadvisor, and contacting the company for details before booking.
How much will it cost?
As always, it’s cheaper to book accommodation and tours once you are in country. But you will need a lot of time and patience to do this. Food is cheap and supermarkets are widely available in the main cities of Kenya and Tanzania. Uganda was a bit more rural.
• 20 day budget tour = $9000 2 pax
• Flights JoBurg – Melbourne, return = $2500 per person
• Joburg to Nairobi internal flight = $1000 2 pax
• Mt. Meru 4 day hike = $2300 2 pax
• Visas East Africa + Uganda purchased in Australia = $490 2 pax
• Average meal cost = $5 each
Swahili words to know
It’s extremely handy to know a few Swahili words to give the impression you know what you’re doing in Kenya and Tanzania. This can avoid the “mzungu price” first quoted when shopping. You are most likely pronouncing the country “Tanzania” wrong. The residents pronounce it “T-A-N-Z-A-N-Y-A” with the “ia” making a “ya” sound.
Mzungu – white person.
Hakuna Matata – No worries.
Karibu – Welcome.
Habari gani – How are you?
Mzuri – Fine.
Asante – thankyou.
Jambo – hello.
TIA – This is Africa!
So what are you waiting for? Now you’ve got the info and the lingo get out of your comfort zone and go exploring! Africa is a wild destination for all nomads! Throw us a comment if you want to know more or add your own info.