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Archive for the ‘Africa’ Category

Clients and friends write from The Victoria Falls Hotel in Zimbabwe with news of their adventure in southern Africa.

“You really outdid yourself this time.  Everything has gone so perfectly it is unbelievable and all of the planning you did has made for such a wonderful trip.  I’m so impressed with Thompson’s Africa (tour operator) and how they have handled everything also.  Cape Town was unbelievable in its beauty, with wonderful places to eat and all of the events you planned were just perfect.  KLM flights were great, all on time and service unreal (business class).  Hotels have been great.  We are really in a gorgeous place here in Victoria Falls.  We have free wireless in the hotel so getting caught up a little this evening as we had a little time to rest before starting on a vigorous schedule again tomorrow.  Kruger Park was unreal.  We saw unbelievable sights to include two huge lions right beside the road, leopards mating, herds of elephants with babies, more giraffes than we could count, hyenas, hippos, kudus and so many kinds of different deer we couldn’t count–zebras, warthogs, birds, etc.  On night safari, a big white rhino was in the road and we had to wait for him to decide to move–awesome!!!!!!! At Cape Peninsula we saw elands, ostriches, and was so beautiful.  Robben Island was so inspiring with what Nelson Mandela went through there.  Winelands tour was super–visited a cheetah recovery farm there also as well as seeing zebra, etc. And they met us here and gave us our details for the time here and at Chobe Park –things have gone extremely well with every hotel and event–we can’t thank you enough.”
 
The next day:  “We had another wonderful day.  The Flight over the Falls (Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe) was unbelievable.  The 15 minutes is quite adequate.  We flew over the falls with a wonderful view; over the bungee jumping bridge that separates Zambia and Zimbabwe and then over the bush just nearby and saw three herds of elephants.  Just got back from the Walk with the Lions.  3 young lions, 2 females age 14 months and a male 11 months old.  You pet them as much as you wish with the assistance of the guards and an armed park ranger as well.  On the way there and back we saw several elephants, zebras, kudus and more waterbucks.  Off to the Boma dinner this evening.  The Victoria Falls Hotel is just gorgeous and of course if very elegant with high tea.  We received one day high tea complementary with our stay (A Virtuoso exclusive amenity).  Did it yesterday and was great.  These pictures were taken at Kruger Park. Jack has taken about 1,000 photos since we have been gone, so I will just send 4 for now of the animals that we saw.  He’s also keeping a journal so he will be happy to write a summary when we return. More later and thanks again for arranging such a wonderful trip.” 
Last day at Victoria Falls:

 “Good Evening! Another wonderful day.  Again, I don’t know how you put this program together.  Everything continues to go the smoothest of any trip ever.  The Boma dinner was fantastic last evening with wonderful Zimbabwean food, music. Jack and I both ate the Mopani Worm and have a certificate to prove it!  We all got our own drums and beat them.  I danced when they wanted audience to come do an African dance. 

Today the walk to the falls was awesome with a great guide.  The total Falls is about 2 kilometers or 1.2 miles with most of it on the Zimbabwean side of the Zambezi River–the other being in Zambia.  We went to the statute of Livingstone and saw the Island from where the falls were first written about in England. This is the best time of the year for viewing as the water is lower and the mist is plenty but not enough to keep you from viewing close up. We came back to the hotel, rested a bit and then walked back down to the Bridge that goes over the river below the Falls and you can walk through immigration border to the Center of the Bridge where there is bungee jumping–huge drop of 110 meters.  You cross over into the Zambian side but do not have to buy a new visa for return if you just go briefly into the country.
The sunset cruise is a must–unreal.  Above the falls.  At one point saw 8 hippos swimming and raising their heads out of the water.  A huge elephant grazing on an Island and later walking through the water back to the Zambian shore.  Two more later on as well as several other hippos–WOW!!!!  What a day.  Attaching a picture of the lion cub -14 months old that we walked with and petted over and over, the mopani worm, two pictures of the Falls and one of the elephants we saw this evening.  Off to Camp Chobe in Botswana tomorrow.” 
News from Johannesburg after visiting Chobe National Park:  “The trip just continues to go unbelievably well.  Thompsons has been unbelievable.  Always on time and very organized.  We are on our last night in Johannesburg this evening.  Soweto was unreal with the shacks that people live in and no schools, electricity, etc with over 2 million living there. nearly 30% unemployment in the country. The southern part certainly is so much more prosperous in the Winelands area as well as the beauty of Capetown and environs. 
Chobe Park was unbelievable as well as the Chobe Game Lodge.  They could not have been better and unbelievable at the sights we saw.  There are 45,000 elephants in Botswana and I swear we saw 36,000 and learned so much about them as well as seeing kudus, impalas, Sable, baboons, giraffes, leopards, two female lions, buffalo, strange birds, and masses of baboons.  The Lodge was unbelievable with food, service, etc.  The trip to the village in Nimibia was also well worth the trip and so happy we did this. 
We also saw, petted, walked with and scratched lions for about an hour.  There were 3 and this one is a female alebout 14 months old.  A little scary but you have a ranger there with a weapon in case anything goes wrong. An elephant from the sunset cruise on a Zambian Island. Hippos–saw 8 in one group; elephants from some of the families we saw there. Saw as many as 32 in one family–baby ones and all sizes; a beautiful sable, and finally elephants and baboons together going for evening water in the Chobe River which separates the two countries.”
Last night in South Africa: “It’s quite unbelievable that we’re coming to the end of this fabulous trip.  The past two days have been windy and dusting in Jo’Burg.  Today the wind has stopped and the sky is brilliant blue.  The perfect day for our city tour.  We fly out at mid-night, ending what has been an absolutely perfect adventure.  To be honest, I expected that of all our adventures, this had the highest probability for mishap.  However, everything has been perfect.  Thompson and/or their subs have served us extremely well.  Everything has work perfectly and with absolute punctuality.  I delighted with the Melrose complex in Jo’burg.  The hotel, in particular (Melrose Arch), well, dramatic to say the least.” 
TIPS from the travelers: 
“Southern Africa Visas:  A US citizen may freely enter South Africa, Botswana, and Namibia without a visa (or they are issued upon arrival at the airport).  Zimbabwe requires a visa and if you plan to purchase on entry at the airport expect some confusion and minor delay.  No computers here. All entry work is done by hand and requires two to three agents.  CAUTION 1:  Our plans were to fly into Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, stay several days, then to cross into Botswana/Namibia, and return to Victoria Falls Airport solely to depart the area.   This requires a “dual entry” visa ($45) vs a regular visa ($30).  If you neglect to purchase “dual entry” at the airport you’ll have to purchase another visa to enter at the border post, which is even more complicated.  Having the exact amount is a big time saver. CAUTION 2:  If you opt to visit the bridge connecting Zimbabwe to Zambia make it very clear to the agent that you are not exiting Zimbabwe or entering Zambia — simply visiting the bridge.  You’ll be issued a special pass to clear the border without using one of your visa exits. 
 
Safari and Bad Backs:  We took two game drives in each of two locations in southern Africa.  In Kruger National Park, SA, our 3-hr twilight drive was 100% on paved roads.  Our 8-hr drive was ~95% on paved roads with the remainder on hard-packed dirt surfaces.  Kruger is definitely bad back friendly.  Hard surface roads don’t exist in Chobe National Park, Botswana.  While the Chobe Game Lodge is a marvelous place to stay, use caution about game drives.   If you opt to take part expect to be seriously jostled and pummeled.  However, Chobe drive do tend to be shorter, usually ~3 hrs.”
By Will Williams and Jack Buchanan.

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