A vacation across the African continent is a experience most Singaporeans will never embark on. Those who do, usually end up visiting just South Africa. And why is that?
It can't be the cost. A vacation in Swiss Alps or the chasing of the Northern Lights in Scandinavia surely costs more than a visit to most African countries.
Safety? Based on a typical Singaporeans perception, that could probably be a factor; still debatable though (Europe seems to be a hotbed of crime these days).
Lack of "attractions" in Africa? Well, I don't know what you'd call The Kilimanjaro, The Victoria Falls, Safari's in the Serengeti, The Garden Route, The Sahara.......and well, the list goes on.
Why then isn't this magnificent continent getting its fair share of tourists?
Viewing The Kilimanjaro from Amboseli National Park, Kenya.
I thought about it, and it finally dawned upon me.
The lack of an itinerary.
An itinerary is a must have for most Singaporeans. How else would we know where to go, what to see and how to get from point to point. We'd be lost, kidnapped, scammed, maybe something worse. Oh no, if there isn't an itinerary, it's better not to go.
So here, I present to you; a complete two week itinerary for the nervous, first time visitor to Africa.
A rough visual of the route you'll take
Airfare + Budget + Leave Required + Essentials
Overland border crossings in Africa can be a tricky affair. Officials could be corrupt, and border scams are commonplace. So for first time travellers to Africa, I'd suggest paying more to fly. Here's the tickets you'll need.
Singapore - Johannesburg (return)
Johannesburg - Maun, Maun - Kasane (multi city)
Livingstone - Johannesburg (one way)
Johannesburg - Maputo (return)
Singapore Airlines arrives in Johannesburg before 7am.
The next earliest flight to Maun, Botswana (your first stop), is around 10:20am.
There is a much cheaper option, Ethiopian Airlines.
But choosing this option means you'll have to waste 1 extra day in Johannesburg (which is pretty bad), as the timings clash with your connecting flight.
For a COMFORTABLE (non budget) two week trip in Africa, you'll need to set aside around at least S$5,000. The cost of this itinerary is based closely on what "The Girl" and actually did, comprising of generally mid range private accommodation.
You could still follow this itinerary even if your on a budget; simply swap the SIA flight for Ethiopian, and instead of mid range accommodation, settle for hostels or campsites. That will bring the cost down significantly to roughly between S$3500 - S$4000.
Don't forget these, else you'll be forced to get your jab in Africa. Trust me, you don't want that.
Next, let your boss know you'll be taking TEN Days leave. You'll fly on a Friday night (or 1-2am Sat), and arrive back in Singapore on a Sunday afternoon. Once you include the weekends, you'll have almost 15 Full days in Africa.
For this particular itinerary at least, you'll need a Yellow Fever Vaccination (around $160-$200 SGD, depending on where you get your jab. The easiest way is The Travel Clinic, at TTSH) And Singaporeans, you won't need Visas; our passport is powerful enough.
Day 1: Maun, Botswana
Our backpackers even had a pool! Beer + Pizza, a great way to unwind after a long flight.
Welcome to Maun, Botswana, gateway to Africa's most famous wetlands, the Okavango Delta.
I'm guessing you'll be pretty tired after such a long flight, so head straight to your hotel/hostel/camp to relax and make your day tour arrangements for the next few days.
The bar and chill out area of Old Bridge Backpackers.
"The GirL' and I suggest booking yourselves a private tent at "Old Bridge Backpackers" for just $30 USD per room, per night (3 nights in total). I guess we would consider this a 2 -3 star accommodation, acceptable even by typical Singaporean standards.
Pretty decent right? Just $30 USD, for the room. That's $15 USD each!
The tent even comes with an en-suite open air attached bathroom for you to have a rain shower under the stars!
Evening boat ride in the Okavango
To sum up your first day in Maun; besides lazying about having beers at your camp, you could visit a nearby local village, charter a boat for an evening spin for around $30 USD (try to fill it up to 4 people. That's just $15 per couple) and spend the rest of your night watching a traditional African dance (be prepared to give tips after), and mingle with the other guests over a campfire.
This is Africa, where no one is in a rush, ever.
Day 2: The Okavango Delta, Botswana
Botswana is part of this itinerary because of its boating safaris in the delta. As opposed to the typical driving safari, game viewing is done while riding on a swamp buggy/speedboat.
In the Okavango, "the journey is the destination".
The Chiefs Island Tour is a full day tour ($235 USD) and on this tour, you'll get to explore the inner delta's of the Okavango. Ever tried a "walking safari"? Yes, that's part of the tour and you'll get to walk among the wild animals. Not the safest thing to do, but it makes a pretty cool experience.
Walking Safari. The zebra's ran off as soon as I got within 50m of them.
Day 3: The Okavango Delta, Botswana
The two guys on the Mokoro (above) are doing a 2 day 1 night camping tour. One Mokoro for their stuff and one for them. We did just the one day Mokoro experience
Now, here's the true highlight of the Okavango; a Mokoro tour ($78 USD)
Game viewing via Mokoro was one of the most amazing experiences we've ("The Girl & I) ever had (and that's saying a lot). Twice, we had crocodiles swim right beside our Mokoro. Inches away from a crocodile, can you believe that!
The Mokoro's are used by the locals as a form of transport.
For us tourists, it's a great way to experience the local way of life, as well as view game "undetected" (without a noisy engine at least), animal sighting in its purest form.
On an improputu village tour after our Mokoro tour
It's a full day tour and an absolute must during your stay in the Okavango. You could add in a village walk for a small tip if you wish it.
Your Mokoro guide doesn't make a lot, tip him say $5 USD and he'll show you round his village. They have a "convenience store" (more like a mud hut) where you can buy warm coke (because there is no fridge or electricity).
It's really interesting to see how they actually live. Catching a Premier League soccer match for them is a 2 hour trip to the main city!
Rather than describe in detail how a Mokoro day tour is like, i'll just let the pictures (above) do most of the talking.
It was in this particular "waterway" where crocodiles swam right beside our Mokoro. We encountered elephants (blocking our way), birds, and hippos (soaking in the water) as well.
Game viewing in this manner is a totally different experience from game viewing in a 4WD truck. After your Mokoro adventure, it's time to head back for another night of "campfire dinner" and a round of beers.
Have an early night though, because tomorrow, you're moving off to another part of Botswana, the Chobe, National Park.
Day 4: Maun to Kasane, Botswana (Chobe National Park)
A typical home on Impalila Island, Namibia.
On this leg of the trip, you'll get a real taste of the sterotypical African Safari.
The Chobe National Park has one of the greatest concentration of game in all of Africa. The Mokoro experience in the Okavango Delta was just meant to whet your appetite. Here, is where your true Safari experience begins.
First, you'll have to catch a 1hr flight ($108 USD) from Maun to Kasane (also in Botswana). Have your accommodation arranged in advance to secure your free airport transfer. We recommend "The Old House", a mid range 2-3 star standard of guesthouse. It's clean, looks great, has a tour desk, and really reasonably priced.
Passport checks again. We are crossing to Impalila Island, Namibia.
By the time your back at your hotel/camp, it'll probably be 12pm in the afternoon. I know, your anxious to hop on a jeep and start your Safari experience. Our recommendation? Don't. Not yet at least.
Instead, spend your afternoon visiting Impalila Island, Namibia (10 minute boat ride across the Chobe River). The whole tour which lasts around 2 hours costs less than $20 USD per person.