- The Bald Guy
First Time To Africa? Here's A Complete Two Week Itinerary From S$3,500.
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.
Do a village walk, buy some local crafts and support the local village on the island.
A huge baobab tree on Impalila Island.
The woman behind is laying out her "self made handicrafts" hoping we will get something.
In the evening, sail along the Chobe River for some game sightings (book this in the afternoon you arrive obviously). An evening boating safari should cost you around $50 USD.
The great thing about going on Safari in Botswana as opposed to the "more famous" Serengeti or Kruger National park is the diversity of how you get to view game. In those two other "famous parks", you'll be doing the typical game drive 95% of the time.
Here, in Botswana, you get to view game in the swamps (Mokoro tour), game along the river (boating safari's), game by foot (walking safari's), and of course, the typical game drive (by 4WD).
Day 5: Chobe, Botswana
Today, you'll finally experience the stereotypical "African Safari"; game viewing via 4WD. This is going to be a whole day event.
Book yourself two game drives today ($50 - $100 USD each depending on how long and what you want included in your game drive); one in the morning, and the other, in the evening.
Never book an afternoon game drive. Under the hot afternoon sun, most animals are seeking shade and you won't get your money's worth. Morning and evening game drives are your best bet to spot "the hunt" (though that is very rare. We've been at least 6 different kinds of safari's but the closest we've gotten to spotting any "action" was seeing a pride of lions feasting over a carcass)
Instead, spend your afternoon relaxing in your camp/lodge, have a swim or read a book. Game viewing is a tiring affair, so relax at every opportunity you have.
Your game viewing experience will be largely determined by your driver.
Some drivers keep to the main paths and aren't very spontaneous. Most drivers however, with an extra tip, will veer off the standard routes and communicate more actively on their radio to find out from other drivers where the major sightings are. This way, your Safari becomes a lot more fun.
If you're wondering what lunch looks like while on Safari, here's a rough idea.
For more specific details about Safari's in Africa, checkout these two posts; everything you need to know about how to plan a Safari is in there.
Planning to go on an African Safari?... Wait!... Don't Book Without Reading This First...(Part I)
Planning to go on an African Safari?... Wait!... Don't Book Without Reading This First...(Part II)
Day 6 Botswana to Zimbabwe (The Victoria Falls)
The next stop on this itinerary is the mighty Victoria Falls; arguably Africa's most famous tourist attraction.
You'll depart from Kasane, Botswana(after breakfast) and cross the border overland to Zimbabwe.
I know I earlier mentioned overland transfers can be tricky, but not in this part of Africa. Both Botswana and Zimbabwe are touristy enough that a seamless jeep transfer from hotel to hotel can be arranged; all for just $50 USD.
You should arrive in Zimbabwe just in time for lunch. Once you've settled in to your hotel, it's time to book your activities for this leg of your trip. "The Girl" and I recommend Victoria Falls Backpackers for their acceptable priced/comfort private rooms and wide range of tours and services.
You might want to arrange for the Victoria Falls Steam Train Experience, The Devils Pool (if the season is right), A Zambezi Sunset Cruise, The Zip-line, Bungee-jumping, Elephant Back Safari's and more! Each of these activities last just half a day. So depending on the size of your bank account, you should be able to squeeze everything in.
The Victoria Falls Steam Train Experience (above).
Dinner costs $180 USD, but there are cheaper options if you don't fancy a dinner onboard a steam train. Do the Sunset Bridge Run or Zambezi Lager Express for an almost similar experience, at 3-4 times lesser (you get just drinks and snacks though).
Have Lunch or just drinks at "The Lookout Cafe" for a great view of the bridge
On your first day though, I'd suggest taking it easy with just the following 3 activities;
1. Visit the Victoria falls itself during the afternoon. (This should take around 2-3 hours and costs $30 USD for entrance fees alone. You'll want to carry extra $$ to buy yourself drinks and for a a taxi back)
2. Head over to the Look Out Cafe (above) and from there, watch people to the bungee jump, zip line, and water-rafting. This should give you an idea of what you'd like to do tomorrow. The view/ambience at the lookout cafe is amazing too.
3. At 5pm, it's time for your Steam Train Experience (on Tuesdays and Fridays only)
Day 7 Botswana to Zimbabwe (The Victoria Falls)
So far, all the high-lights of this itinerary has been of a "pretty chillax" sort. This morning, it's time to try something more exciting.
Choose between "high wire activities" like Zip-Lining $70 USD) or water rafting ($110 USD). The Girl chose the Zipline and thought it was pretty good. The Gorge Swing ($95 USD) is more of an exhilarating experience though.
These are all half day activities, so you'll be back in time for lunch. Don't have your lunch though, you'll be having "High-Tea" at the famous Victoria Falls Hotel instead.
The Victoria Falls Hotel; the most expensive in the area
If you aren't already staying at the Victoria Falls Hotel, head over for a magical high tea experience ($30 USD).
The "famed cake tower" didn't taste that great, but it's a really nice way to unwind and spend the afternoon (especially after an exhilarating morning).
High tea with a view
The "famed cake tower". Didn't taste great, but it's more for the "high-tea" experience. $30 USD, well spent.
Spend the rest of your day taking a stroll around the town and maybe pickup a few souvenirs. Before you know it, it'll be time for dinner.
Tonight, after such a light high tea, you'll want to experience a traditional African BBQ Dinner and enjoy beers over a campfire with the rest of the guests in your hotel.
Day 8 Botswana to Zimbabwe (The Victoria Falls)
Neither "The Girl" or I dared to try bungee jumping. Regardless, if you're a thrill seeker, taking a leap off the Victoria Falls bridge would be a fitting end to sum up a wonderful 3 days in the Victoria Falls.
If bungee Jumping is a little too much for you, take a "Historic Bridge Tour", it's more for old folk and families, but hey, by the end of it, you'll have learnt a lot more about the Victoria Falls and the famous bridge.
By now, you'd have experienced the typical 4WD safari, a boating safari and a walking safari.
This evening, it's time to end off your last night in Zimbabwe with some luxury; a Sunset Dinner Cruise along the Zambezi River (animal spotting is part of this).
When we were there, "The Girl" and I paid $68 USD each for this Sunset Cruise, and if I were entirely honest, we were pretty skeptical before our cruise commenced.
$68 USD doesn't usually get you anything of worth as far as tours in Africa are concerned. We just signed up because we couldn't think of anything else to do. It turned out this was one of the best $68 we'd ever spent.
I was expecting some over crowded boat filled with rowdy backpackers and perhaps a simple buffet spread for dinner.
Surprisingly, there were just 3 couples on board. It was actually private, and somewhat romantic. When the boat actually moved off, I immediately turned to "The Girl" and said, "you mean its just the few of us?".
Shortly, the captain announced there would be free flow of wine and any beverages. That was nice considering I was expecting just one complimentary welcome drink and iced water for the rest of the cruise.
Then the appetizer came....
Next came the soup, bread and cheese....
Finally the mains....
And we were like "You mean all these cost just $68 USD?"
A sunset cruise, animal spotting, fine dining along the river? $68 USD?
Day 9. Devils Pool, Zambia
The Devil's pool for me (The Bald Guy) was the highlight of this trip.
The Victoria Falls are best viewed from Zimbabwe, but best experienced in Zambia.
We crossed over to Zambia (visa free for Singaporeans) from Zimbabwe in just under 15mins by car. Walking takes you around 30mins inclusive of customs.
Most people (the rich ones) hope stay at the Royal Livingstone Hotel when holidaying in Zambia (it's the equivalent of Zimbabwe's Victoria Falls Hotel). The Girl and I certainly couldn't afford that.
I would recommend taking up a private room at Jollyboy's Backpackers. Again, the equivalent of Victoria Falls Backpackers we stayed at in Zimbabwe.
Since I have a post specifically on the Devil's Pool and everything you need to know about it, I won't go into details here.
Check this out!
Visiting The Devil's Pool? I Suggest You Read This First
When you pay of the Devil's Pool, the cost of the "park fee" is already included. While you've seen the falls from the Zimbabwe side, today, you get to view it from the Zambian side. So spend half your day checking out the National Park since you've already "paid for it".
Additionally, regardless of which time slot you choose for the Devil's Pool, head over to the Royal Livingstone Hotel for lunch or dinner. The ambience is even better than that of the Victoria Falls Hotel.
Day 10: Zambia - Johannesburg
I can't seem to find my photos for Johannesburg so here's one lifted off the internet.
Image Credit: BBC.com
The only flight leaving from Livingstone to Johannesburg departs at 1pm. There isn't much in Zambia's Livingstone town, but it's worth a walk and breakfast before making your way to the airport.
You should reach Johannesburg at 3pm. By now, it's too late to do anything major, so just head to your hotel and perhaps spend the evening cafe hoping and experiencing the nightlife of South Africa's biggest city.
I stayed at ShoeStrings Airport Lodge. It's right beside the airport, hence airport transfers are complimentary. The downside? Well, there's nothing around the area, so you'll have to take a taxi out and back if your heading out to checkout the Johannesburg nightlife.
Day 11: Johannesburg to Mozambique
The city of Maputo, capital of Mozambique
I didn't think much of Johannesburg to be honest. But since the next flight to Maputo, Mozambique is at 7pm, you might as well spend the day sightseeing.
There are free city tours you can go for. Alternatively, just do a bit of your own exploring. Johannesburg isn't a safe city in general, but in the day, it's alright.
You'll arrive in Maputo at 9pm and head straight for your hotel. Shops close relatively early here so other than having a good dinner (I recommend the famous Peri Peri Chicken), there isn't much you be doing.
I recommend staying at Malagueta Inn (above).
The rooms are nothing to shout about but the overall ambience is great, location is fantastic (right above Peri Peri Chicken), the owner is really friendly and he helped us organize our driver (plus told him exactly what we should see or do) during our stay in Maputo.
Day 12 & 13: Inhaca & Portuguese Island, Mozambique
I know, you must be wondering why Mozambique is even on this itinerary.
By this leg of the trip, you'll have experienced, the African wetlands, Safari game drives, and the Victoria falls.
There's one more thing left for you though; the African coast.
Mozambique is famous for its long coastlines, white sand beaches, blue sea (except when the weather's bad), and is in fact, probably one of Africa's "more popular" (as popular as African can get) honeymoon destinations.