Saturday, April 30, 2016

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Friday, April 29, 2016

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Friday Travel Tip - SOUTHERN AFRICA TIPS - CRIME

Crime in Southern Africa can vary from needing an armored vehicle to get around, to almost none at all.  The problem is that unless you're local you can stumble into the bad areas without even knowing it.  This can turn a pleasant drive, or walk into a nightmare that can even be life threatening.  Having said that, it's more than worth the risk, and if you plan well, there is very little risk at all.

The most dangerous areas that most tourists are likely to visit are in the big cities. If you're going to be visiting any large city, the key is to know where you're going, and how you're going to get there. If you're driving or walking, make sure that you have detailed directions, and stay on highways and main roads as much as possible.  Avoid travel at night, but if you are out at night make certain that you're aware of your routes to get around.  Never travel with strangers and always make sure you're in a legal taxi. Making sure to keep your doors locked at all times, and parking in well lit secure parking areas is also a good idea.

If you're outside of the cities, sticking to main routes is still a good idea, so is traveling as much as possible during the day.  In the countryside there's slightly less crime, however there's the added danger of wild animals, so stopping for a meal at the side of the road at night can be a little risky.

Small towns can also have their pockets of problems, but that really depends on what country you're in and what the economy is like in that town.  Unfortunately poverty is running rampant in many Southern Africa cities and towns, and this can lead to crime. Lost tourists are a prize to desperate people.


Having said all of this, most people in Southern Africa are very friendly, from just about every economic level.  You will likely run into some people trying to scam, or maybe even rob you, the trick is just extract yourself from that situation as quickly as possible, and head back to your hotel or a safe place ASAP.

Later

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Friday, April 22, 2016

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Friday Travel Tip - SOUTHERN AFRICA TIPS - WHERE TO STAY ON SAFARI

Booking a place to sleep in Southern Africa can be a bit of a challenge.  Most importantly you have to understand the lingo.  In most cities it's fairly standard, you'll have hotels, motels, apartments, pretty much the same thing you'll find in most cities, the difference comes when you're traveling to the rural areas of Southern Africa.  These small towns and resorts have a slightly different lingo and understanding it before you go will help with expectations when you arrive. Many resorts offer all or some of the following accommodations, Lodges, Safari Tents, or Campsites.

Lodges are the cream de la cream of high society in the Safari living life.  When you book a lodge you're getting the best accommodations available at that particular resort.  The quality can vary depending on the price and location of your resort, however there are a few standards.  Chances are you'll have running water, it may not be drinkable, but showers and sinks are likely.  You'll also have electricity as well as lights and possibly even air conditioning. While the word lodge implies that you'll have real walls, some resorts offer extremely fancy tents and call them lodges.  These tents will be fancy enough that you won't really notice that they're canvas, so don't worry.

Safari tents are the next level down.  In some of the fancier resorts, these tents are really fancy, and almost, if not better than some cheaper lodges.  The fancier tents will often have running water and electricity some might even have built in fans.  Often the showers in safari tents are found outdoors, but in the fancier places it will still be attached to the tent and it will be private.  Some will have bathrooms with flushable toilets, but there may be privacy issues as not all of them have doors on the bathrooms. You'll get all of this if you're in a high end safari tent, keep in mind that much like the lodges, there are different levels of comfort in safari tents.  There are some safari tents that are simply a large military style tent on a cement slab with a pair of cots. These tents may have electricity, but no running water, so bathrooms are shared in a separate building. If you're booking a safari tent make sure to ask questions about it before you arrive.

The final, and simplest form of accommodation at these resorts is a campsite.  In this case you will be renting a piece of dirt, and that's about it.  Many campsites offer showers and bathrooms in separate buildings some even offer shared kitchens.  In this case you will likely have to bring your own tent, some resorts do offer tent rentals, but many do not.  Since these are the cheapest properties in these resorts, you'll find that location may not be the best.  Many are located around or even in the parking areas for the resorts.  You may find yourself surrounded by camper-vans and cars while you sleep.  The main advantage to these sites is the price and you’ll always know what to expect.

Later

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Friday, April 15, 2016

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Friday Travel Tip - SOUTHERN AFRICAN TRAVEL TIPS - DAY TRIPS IN CHOBE NATIONAL PARK

Chobe is a big park, with over Eleven-Thousand square kilometres to explore.  When visiting a park this big there are two ways to visit, you either dedicate a week and sign up with a tour operator that will set you up with campsites all over the park and drive you around, or you take a few one day adventures into the park for quicker visits.  While some parks require you to take these multi-day adventures to see the best the park has to offer, Chobe has some great adventures available just outside of the town of Kasane for one-day excursions.

The two common one-day (or half day) tours available from Kasane are boat and driving tours.  The boat tours must be done with a tour operator, however the driving tour may be driven on your own.  If you choose to drive on your own you may be given a specific route to follow if the parks are full of tourists that day. If not, then you're free to explore the roads on your own, however you must have a 4x4 vehicle.  This is because the roads are very sandy, and can be very treacherous.  Bringing a GPS is also a good idea as the maps provided aren't that great.

The local tour operators all seem to offer similar tours, the only difference is the times the tours run and the length of the tours. Similar to self-driving, tour operators will also be assigned a particular route, the preferred route is close to the water, however in either case you'll see lots of animals.  The water tours are pretty much all the same as far as where they go; the big difference is style and size of boat.

The great thing about Chobe is no matter which tour you take; you're very likely to see animals.  If you're looking to see elephants, than this is the tour for you, as Chobe has one of the largest elephant herds in the world. There are also zebras, giraffes, buffalos, and many other local animals, particularly near the water’s edge.  You may catch a glimpse of a lion, but it's not guaranteed.

Later

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Friday, April 8, 2016

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Friday Travel Tips - Southern Africa Travel Tips - Driving Around

Driving yourself on vacation can be one of the most liberating ways of seeing any country.  Your schedule frees up, and you have the opportunity to stop and smell the roses wherever you like.  Southern Africa is certainly a smell the roses kind of place.  Just driving down any highway or main road you're bound to come across wildlife, it could be a monkey bugging tourists at a truck stop, or an elephant crossing the street stopping traffic in both directions. Having the freedom to stop when you see these majestic animals is a great advantage.  However if you choose to drive your own car in Southern Africa there are a few things you should know.

Big cities can be dangerous, car jacking in the big cities is a real and common problem.  If you are driving in the big cities stick to highways as much as possible, and make sure you know exactly where you're going.  You don't want to be stuck in a bad neighborhood as it can lead to real problems. With that you should also make sure your doors are always locked, and never pull over to help other, it's a common scam and can get you into a lot of trouble.

Outside of the cities there are a few problems that come up with driving in Southern Africa.  The first problem comes with road conditions.  Depending on the country you're visiting, sometimes the roads aren't in the best of shape.  For the most part South African roads are OK, as well as the roads in Botswana.  However some countries (and even some areas of South Africa and Botswana) don't have the budget to maintain roads. Because of this 4x4 trucks may be the way to go if you're traveling in certain areas.

Speaking of 4x4s, when it comes to Safaris, 4x4s are often a necessity.  Unless it's marked as a safe drive for two wheel drive cars, assume a 4x4 is needed.  In many cases the park rangers will not let you into the park unless you have a 4x4, however if you happen to sneak your way in, you're in for a lot of potential trouble.  Having said that, even if a road is marked as two wheel drive friendly, the chances of it being a completely smooth ride are slim, and you'll want to drive with caution.

Later

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Friday, April 1, 2016

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Friday Travel Tip - SOUTHERN AFRICAN TRAVEL TIPS - VICTORIA FALLS

Victoria Falls is considered to be one of the natural wonders of the world, and for good reason.  The falls is not the highest or longest falls in the world, however it is the biggest.  It was named after Queen Victoria and "discovered" by the very famous explorer Dr David Livingston. The falls sits on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia with the main viewing area in Zimbabwe. There are several places you can explore the falls on the Zambia side as well, including the terrifying Devils Pools that allow you the opportunity to sit right at the edge of the falls.

There are two seasons for Victoria Falls, wet and dry.  During the wet season the falls are at their full might and dumping millions of gallons of water by the minute.  While the water is at full blast, viewability is low due to the mist coming off the water.  The dry season has a much better view with only small portions blocked by mist, however during this period there are large areas of the falls with little to no water running down.  Both have their advantages and disadvantages, however the falls are epic enough that you'll have a good time either way.  Just make sure to bring a change of clothes if you come on the wet season. As an added note, there are monkeys on the trail at certain portions, and they can at times be aggressive.  Make sure that you don't feed them, and keep hold of your belongings.

The area around Victoria Falls is also a haven for thrill seekers with bungee jumping, giant swings, and some of the worlds most difficult white water rafting.  If you're looking for something a little calmer, a visit to the border bridge between Zimbabwe and Zambia is a fun adventure.  You will need to go to the boarder offices and show your passport, however just tell them that you want to walk the bridge and they don't require that you buy a visa. You will also be inundated with people trying to sell you local art and old currency, they'll talk to you for a while, and then go for the hard sell.  You can say no, and make sure to remind them before you start the conversation that you have no interest in buying anything. The center of the bridge is the real highlight, at this point you can watch the daring folks that want to bungee jump, and you can stand in the small marked area in the middle known as Zim-Zam.  The town of Livingston near the falls offers a few restaurants and tourist shops, but not much else.

Later