Because most people who read my blog tend to have the impression that i'm a budget traveller (which i'm not), let's all try to agree on one thing first; the "Parameters" of which I consider to be "Luxury Travel".
1. 95% of my meals and tea-breaks were in Restaurants (And I mean "REAL" restaurants by Typical Singaporean Standards) and I had never really had to look at the prices on the menu before I bought anything.
2. NO couchsurfing, NO sleeping under bridges, and any other silly thing you can think off. All the accomodation I stayed in had at least a CLEAN attached bathroom, CLEAN sheets, and "room service".
3. I hired guides when I needed to, paid to go on day tours when necessary, and "didn't save" on activities.
Qatar Airways,Multi-City, SIN-Johannesburg Return, SGD 1,053
Overland Transport: $307
Coach to Lesotho 800 ZAR (SGD 83)
Luxury Bus to Swaziland 1150 ZAR (SGD 120)
Personal Mercedes Benz from Maseru - Semonkong - Maseru (Lesotho) 1000 LSL (SGD 104)
There is no direct bus from Lesotho to Swaziland.
To get to Lesotho, I took the local bus from Johannesburg (South Africa) to Bloemfontein, and paid for a minibus to Maseru. (Returned the same way)
For Swaziland, I bought a return ticket with Transmagnific, departing and returning from/to Johannesburg. It is a luxury bus which provides Wifi, light snacks, drinks, newspapers & magazines. Yes, it also picks you straight from Johannesburg Airport. No hassle here.
Picture from Semonkong Lodge themselves
Semonkong Lodge is the probably the most high end accommodation in Lesotho. Nestled high up in the mountains, its the perfect place to arrange all the tours and activities you need in Lesotho. Because I was here for 4 days, I was able to try most of the activities (except the abseiling which was too scary for me).
Pictures from Semonkong Lodge themselves
They cater to all kinds of travellers, rich or poor. Rooms can cost as low as 19 SGD a night for a dorm, to 60 SGD a night for a honeymoon standard of room.
The Bar and Restaurant in Semonkong Lodge. I met alot of travellers here. Who says travelling alone has to be boring?
The horses came right to my door step every day!
In Swaziland, I stayed at Sondzela Backpackers and Sundowner Backpackers. Sondzela is right inside the game reserve. It was really cool to have animals wandering up to me as I lazed by the pool with a book in hand.
Sondzela Backpackers. It costs 12 SGD a night. See the glass window on the left side of the roof? That's exactly where my room was.
The perfect place to read a book or have a swim. From the pool I had a beautiful view of the game reserve.
Sundowner Backpackers cost 13 SGD a night. They had a very good restaurant. The best steak sandwhich I ever had in my life was right here. And it cost just 3 SGD!
The quality of accommodation in Lesotho and Swaziland were a lot better than I thought they would be. Even the typical pampered Singaporean should find these more than liveable. The only gripe I had with African accommodation is on the number of charging points. I had to charge my handphone in the restaurant because there weren't enough charging points! But at this kind of pricing, whats not to like?
Local Tours & Attractions $255
The other name for Lesotho is "The Kingdom In The Sky". With a minimum altitude of 1400m, it has the highest lowest point of any country in the world. Naturally, this makes trekking an instant highlight.
Of course, you could pay 4o SGD for a Horse Riding Tour in the mountains. It was a whole lot more fun than I thought it would be. (Though I must admit being on a horse at the edge of the cliff isn't exactly what I signed up for)
The scenery you can expect is more than just mountainous. If I ever had a "Zen" moment, this was it. Sometimes, sitting in solitude in the middle of the grass with mountains surrounding you is what travelling is about. Not about shopping and taking selfies at "Iconic" touristy locations to prove you've been there.
Besides strenuous activities like trekking and horse riding, you can also relax by the river and do "fly fishing" for 15 SGD. When you've caught all the fish you can eat, hand it over to the Chef and that will be your evening's dinner.
One of the staff at Semonkong Lodge demonstrating Fly Fishing (Pic from their website)
Perhaps by now, you might be wondering, why on earth did this Bald Guy choose Lesotho as his travel destination? Why not South Africa like everyone else? The answer to that? The Maletsunyane Falls. (Below)
This is arguably the Number 1 attraction in Lesotho; to see (or Abseil down) this magnificent waterfall. Singaporeans can keep their "Eiffel Tower" selfies to themselves. For what must have been at least 30mins, I just sat on a rock and had my packed lunch, trying to take in the view in front of me.
Swaziland marks my first ever "Game Reserve Experience." To be honest, I spent most of my time in the Swazi's "Big Game Parks". In Singapore, whenever people talk about Game Reserves, they always talk about the ones in Kenya and Tanzania. Granted, those are probably a better standard of "Park" than what you can get in Swaziland, but for my "first taste" of Game Parks, this was good enough.
Entering the Wildlife Sanctuary
This was the closest I could get to any animal before they would start running off.
Witnessing a rare moment. WWE Safari Style!
I paid around 35 SGD for a 2 1/2 hour Sunset Game Drive. Just so you have a gauge, if you've a friend who took a Safari Tour in Kenya, they would probably have paid at least 100-200 USD a day for it. (of course at that price point, it would be full board) Oh yes, besides the Game Drives, I also rented a bicycle and rode around the Park.
I'm glad I chose Lesotho and Swaziland for this particular trip. Rather than just limit myself to South Africa the way Singaporeans would, I got to immerse myself both the mountainous Africa as well as the bush landscape of the Swazi grasslands.
To be honest, a huge part of the "Swazi Experience" isn't the game park (you have Tanzania & Kenya for that), but rather, in its cultural aspect. 10 SGD will get you a tour to visit authentic Swazi Villages where you get to interact with the locals, watch them dance, and hear about their way of life.
He said i'm the first Singaporean he's ever met!
The problem with Singaporeans is the way they like to rush to the main "instagram worthy" locations to snap a photo. Other than paid tours and the typical attractions, I walked myself to a couple of towns, just to see how locals live their life.
Semonkong, being the most touristy place in Lesotho, does get it's fair share of visitors. But that didn't stop everyone from starring at me wherever I walked. In general though, African's are really friendly people. In Lesotho and Swaziland, I didn't get the "danger vibes" that i felt in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Typical shops in Semonkong Town
Heading to the local bar for a beer. It's Tiger Time!
Pity I don't have hair, or i'd certainly try out the local barber!
Food, Drink & "Happy Spending" $235
Now, at home in Singapore, I'm not usually a restaurant/cafe type of person (more of a coffeeshop guy). When I travel, I always make it a point to feast on the local food. In Africa however, the local food didn't really agree with me. Fortunately, I discovered a number of restaurants (full of expats & tourists) that served food suitable for my Singaporean taste buds.
What I enjoyed:
Full English Breakfast of toast, sausages, grilled mushrooms, bacon, two eggs and a coffee to wash it down. Total damage? 6 SGD (Swaziland)
African Style BBQ. Choose from pork, beef, or mutton, add some local spices in, pass it to the village barbecuer. 2 SGD for a plate (Lesotho)
The "Largest BBQ Pit" i've ever seen. More like BBQ factory than a pit.
Singaporeans like to consider themselves foodies (to me, that means spending unnecessarily on food they can't afford). One important thing to a Singaporean besides the food, is the ambience. I decided I wanted to have dinner while watching the much vaunted Swazi sunset.
Perfect ambience spotted. Mandelas Farmhouse Restaurant & Pub. It also doubles up as a tourist information center, bed & breakfast and it's also your best chance of getting wifi in town.
While I don't consider myself a great beer drinker in Singapore, it's the drink of choice for sunset watching! Beer $1.50 - $2 SGD per bottle.
Probably the best ever BBQ Ribs. Cost? 10 SGD! Dinner in a restaurant can cost as little as 6 SGD if your happy with a chicken chop, to 20 SGD, if you decided you need an elephant steak. Alright, 'm kidding, they dont have elephant steak; can't remember how much the most expensive meal costs. Nothing a Singaporean can't afford though. If you can afford Tony Roma's, this is small change.
What I didn't enjoy:
Nothing against the restaurant. I just bought a bottle of water and a small snack there. The picture is posted because of its representative of a typical local eatery in Lesotho.
Traditional African Food is not my thing. AND it's not that cheap either. My meal below cost 2 SGD, if you consider that their average monthly income is 100 SGD, its crazy! (yeah, so I decided to pay more for real restaurant food)
This dish shown here is NOT from the "African Fast Food" above it's just a random meal I had in the town of Semonkong. Lesotho. The white thing tastes like Kueh Tupat but without the Satay sause. And the mutton still had the "sheep" smell. Yuck,. Now you know why I had 95% of my meals in restaurants.
So here's my cost breakdown for my 11 day "Luxury African Experience."
$1,360 was spent on airfare and overland transportation, yes, "luxury coach". If you want an idea, think of the "bus to Genting Highlands", but smaller.
For food, save for a couple of meals which I tried the "local food" and a couple of others where I had packed lunch because I was trekking, EVERY SINGLE MEAL was in restaurants. By that I mean breakfast, lunch and dinner and "happy spending". Meals cost me $235
Accommodation was great. As good as most i've had in Europe. I obviously took the cheapest room in the most expensive accommodation, which were dorms but of good enough quality and with attached bathrooms (a typical Singaporean accommodation requirement) i must add. ($141)
I did pay for a decent amount of tours and activities. I did the sunrise drive, sunset drive, even by bicycle, went round the mountains not just on foot, but by horse, and 4x4 as well. I fished, did traditional tours, and all for a cost of $255.
In total i spent just $1,991 excluding magnets for "The Girl", and this was in no way a budget trip. If you topped up another $500, you would have a holiday fit for a king! I could probably have done it under 1.5k if ate sandwiches and took public transport all the way. Now, where would a Singaporean go for 2K?
Oh, my bad. That was a dumb question. For $2,000, Singaporeans only know Australia, Korea and Japan.
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