Optional Activities and other Southern Africa questions

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Optional Activities and other Southern Africa questions

Postby smyry52 » Fri Mar 02, 2012 9:23 pm

I'm signed up for this tour: http://www.gadventures.com/trips/cape-t ... DATJ/2012/ in June. I know that this is at least a slightly new tour (with the part in Zimbabwe), but there are tons of tours that go from Cape Town to Livingston, so that's the part I'm really looking for info on.

If you've done a trip in this area and have done optionals, please let me know which are must do's, which are good, and which you could probably have done without.

I'm pretty set on doing the Sossusvlei Desert walk, Robben Island. Vic Falls Bungee, and at a flight over either the Okavango or over Vic Falls (has anyone done both? One better)

I'm sure i'll do some extra game drives and/or the cruise in Chobe. But outside that, I'm not 100% sure. Some of the stuff in Zimbabwe (Lion walk) sounds great, but you never know until you hear from someone who has done it.

A few other questions. I'm planning on adding 2 days to the trip. Should I do 2 in Cape Town or 1 in Cape Town and 1 in Jburg? Seems like there's lots more to do in Cape Town and it's before the month of camping.

Also, for anyone who has done the Okavango Delta...what is it like? I've seen videos that seem to be just tons of dugout canoes, making it look very touristy. Is this the case or was that just one small sample? Did you see any animals while in the Delta or is that more for at Etosha and Chobe?

Thanks for any input.
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Re: Optional Activities and other Southern Africa questions

Postby kateyb » Fri Mar 02, 2012 11:18 pm

i spent four extra days in Cape Town and I could have easily spent more. Went to Table Mountain, Shark Cage diving, Cape of Good Hope, Township tour and spent some time on the waterfront...
Spent another few days at Victoria Falls. Did the helicopter tour over the falls, lion encounter, elephant back safari and crossed over to Zimbabwe to see the falls there. I would have loved to have seen the Devils Pool and whitewater rafting, but it was closed as it was the rainy season. all the excursions that I did were amazing.

Okavango delta was one of my favorite experiences. On the walking safari we saw lots of giraffes, zebras and elephants, but they were quite far. Still pretty cool. Close to our camp we walked to were there are hippos and we watched them for awhile. At night you can hear them as well as lions outside of your tent.

We did the flight over the delta as well which was really cool too. It was really neat to see all the animals in the delta region from up high.

At Swakopmund we did the dune boarding and toboggan which was a lot of fun and I would recommend it. we also did a township tour.

The trip was amazing and it will be hard to top! Enjoy!
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Re: Optional Activities and other Southern Africa questions

Postby bushkid » Sat Mar 03, 2012 5:15 am

Hi Smyry,

As an ex-G-Adventures guide, I'll share some of my ideas and thoughts, but I'll try keep it as concise as possible. You're welcome to ask any more questions if you need more info. I was an "original" trip (DAFD) guide, not overland, so some of input might not be relevant.

It's an absolutely brilliant routing, definitely one of the best I know (and I've been guiding for 12 years), and you'll not be sorry in any way.

Firstly, I'd add extra days in Cape Town, rather than Johannesburg. Even though the weather in Cape Town is unpredictable in June, there's much more to do. Johannesburg is a standard grimy city, with little of real interest.

Fortunately, you have enough time in Livingstone to enjoy many of the activities available, and I'd certainly recommend a helicopter flight over the falls. If you do the flip, it's pointless going in on foot as well. The longer ride usually takes you into the gorges as well, a really beaut experience. The falls will still be running quite full, so you won't need to go to the Zimbabwean side to appreciate them.

There are lots of activities to do at Vic Falls. Check out the "Safpar" (Safari Par Excellence) website for current prices (don't rely on G-Adventures info, it's sometimes outdated).

One of the activities at VF that is fraught with ethical issues is "lion encounter". If you consider yourself a responsible visitor (and environmentally aware), I suggest you consider this activity very carefully (and look at the following thread : viewtopic.php?f=2&t=13408&p=57636&hilit=petting+cats#p57636). Do it if you feel comfortable. I try not to support organisations which use "tamed" wild animals. They deserve to remain wild (but that's my personal opinion).

The Chobe boat cruise can be considered an absolute highlight of any visitors experience, and far outweighs land-based game viewing in the Chobe area.

The flight over the Okavango is absolutely awesome, and it would be great if you can both VF and Okavango.

I've had mixed experiences regarding the polers during the Okavango camping experience, and I'd rather not share my views in case I skew your expectations. It can be wonderful or it can be mediocre, but whatever it is, it's become a tourist trap (and I still can't comprehend why the overland companies continue to expose their guests to this exploitation). Sorry ... it's probably the only serious wild-card on that trip. If you have problems, please don't hesitate to take it up with your tour leader immediately.

That said, the Okavango remains one of my fav places on this Earth, and hopefully the flood would have arrived by then (or hopefully not ... :lol: ... this year's flood seems to be arriving early and it could be absolutely unbelievable or downright scary ...)! At least it's dry season, so you shouldn't have any rain.

Sossusvlei and Swakop are amazing, and you'll love them. Try and kick in as much activity as you can. Dune boarding, quading, sky-diving, scenic flights over the desert, "living desert tours", kayaking, birding trips, paragliding, ballooning, the whole works. You'll love the Sossusvlei walk.

OK! That's me for now. Ask if you need more info. I'm leaving for Botswana and the Vic Falls in 3 days, so I'll have more updated info in about a month.
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Re: Optional Activities and other Southern Africa questions

Postby ExplorerWannaBe » Sat Mar 03, 2012 11:35 am

I've done both the Vic Falls helicopter and the Okavango Delta small plane. Very different experiences, both worthwhile, both a little pricey. If you can only do just one, I'd probably go with the Vic Falls helicopter. I enjoyed the lion encounter and consider some of the allegations laid against them to be somewhat specious but really can't prove anything one way or another so carefully consider what bushkid directed you to and make the decision for yourself. bushkid certainly has much more experience in Africa and with the various tour companies than I do. The Rhino Walk was very enjoyable, I think better than the Elephant Ride or Lion Encounter, but he has a minimum 2-person rule so talk it up and try to get some others to go with you. :D

I enjoyed our mkoro ride through the Okavango -- seeing hippos leaping out of the water was just amazing -- but some of the polers seemed inexperienced and the village visit seemed to be a little contrived. I suspect the overland companies still use the mkoro cruises because 1) visitors expect them and/or 2) visitors enjoy them even when not expected.

We saw plenty of zebra and giraffe and other animals in the Delta but I guess I was already spoiled and jaded by the safaris in Tanzania and Zambia on my way there. It was great to see the hippos in the river but otherwise we had better views of elephants, zebra and the like on other safaris.
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Re: Optional Activities and other Southern Africa questions

Postby collywobbles » Sat Mar 03, 2012 12:02 pm

:: hi smyry52

I also did the capetown livingstone trip as did pretty much everything katyb did on her trip . I also did the lion walk in livingstone which to me was one of the highlights of my trip it was pure awesome up close to the lions i have posted some photos on flicker www.flicker.com/photos/collywobbles if you would like to have a look i also did the helicopter ride over the falls which was brill ran out of time to do the micro flight over the falls. a few on my trip did the bungee jump at the falls and some others did the white water rafting they said it was scary :mrgreen: :mrgreen: the delta was also pretty good too i also did an extra game drive in the morning in chobe did not see too many animals but it was quiet good i also did dune buggy and sandboarding in Swakopmund all inall it was a fab trip enjoy it 8)
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Re: Optional Activities and other Southern Africa questions

Postby tletter » Sat Mar 03, 2012 6:03 pm

smyry52 wrote:a flight over either the Okavango or over Vic Falls (has anyone done both? One better)

We done both but if you can only do one, I'd recommend a micro-light flight over Victoria Falls. You can along walk to the lip of the falls at Livingstone Island.

smyry52 wrote:Lion walk

This sounds very touristy and unnatural for the lion.

smyry52 wrote:Should I do 2 in Cape Town or 1 in Cape Town and 1 in Jburg?

Can't go wrong with 2 days in Cape Town.

smyry52 wrote:Also, for anyone who has done the Okavango Delta...what is it like? I've seen videos that seem to be just tons of dugout canoes, making it look very touristy. Is this the case or was that just one small sample?

For us the trip in the morkoro through the reeds was great fun. The camping was simply camping. We went in July and saw a fewer animals than we expected.

smyry52 wrote:Did you see any animals while in the Delta

Saw much more wildlife in Chobe, especially on the river cruise.
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Re: Optional Activities and other Southern Africa questions

Postby smyry52 » Sun Mar 04, 2012 6:38 pm

Thanks for the responses. Some follow ups for anyone that might check back.

kateyb wrote:i spent four extra days in Cape Town and I could have easily spent more. Went to Table Mountain, Shark Cage diving, Cape of Good Hope, Township tour and spent some time on the waterfront...

At Swakopmund we did the dune boarding and toboggan which was a lot of fun and I would recommend it. we also did a township tour. !


Do you remember what company you used for the Shark Cage? Theirs tons of them and I've seen lots of mixed reviews online. Its close to $200, was it worth that?

Also, for the township tours, did you feel like doing one in Cape Town and 1 in Namibia was worth it, or are they pretty similar? I'm for sure going to do 1, but trying to decide if it's worth doing one in Cape Town as well.

bushkid wrote:
One of the activities at VF that is fraught with ethical issues is "lion encounter". If you consider yourself a responsible visitor (and environmentally aware), I suggest you consider this activity very carefully (and look at the following thread : viewtopic.php?f=2&t=13408&p=57636&hilit=petting+cats#p57636). Do it if you feel comfortable. I try not to support organisations which use "tamed" wild animals. They deserve to remain wild (but that's my personal opinion).


Thanks. I figured this was the case with the lion encounter. Sad to hear. As a former guide, do you have any suggestions for things that might not be as popular that are worth doing? Especially anything that would let me interact a bit more with typical locals? I normally try and go to a sporting event in each area of the world I travel, but it being winter and the camping, that might be harder to find where I'm at.

ExplorerWannaBe wrote:The Rhino Walk was very enjoyable

My trip says it includes a "guided rhino walk in Matobo National Park" is that what you are referring to? Thanks for the thoughts on Vic Falls flight vs Delta. I'm going to try and budget for both, but I want to have an idea of which might be better just in case in a month I still look like i'll be short the money to do both.


collywobbles wrote:http://www.flicker.com/photos/collywobbles


Amazing photos. What kind of camera did you use? I don't have an SLR so I'm pretty sure I wont get many good wildlife photos, but some of those watering hole photos look pretty close. Great camera or are you actually that close?


tletter wrote:
smyry52 wrote:Also, for anyone who has done the Okavango Delta...what is it like? I've seen videos that seem to be just tons of dugout canoes, making it look very touristy. Is this the case or was that just one small sample?

For us the trip in the morkoro through the reeds was great fun. The camping was simply camping. We went in July and saw a fewer animals than we expected.
/


When you say you saw fewer animals than expected, do you mean throughout the trip or in the Okavango? I'm hoping between Etosha, Okavango, Chobe, Matoba, and Kruger that i'll have my fair share of animals even if I only see and handful at each place.

Thanks again for all the advice. I'm planning on skipping the sandboarding in Namibia since I've done it in Peru and volcano boarding in Nicaragua. Anything that makes it extremely unique? I'd rather hike/wander around the desert a bit more I think if I had the option.
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Re: Optional Activities and other Southern Africa questions

Postby tletter » Sun Mar 04, 2012 9:52 pm

smyry52 wrote:Do you remember what company you used for the Shark Cage? Theirs tons of them and I've seen lots of mixed reviews online. Its close to $200, was it worth that?

We've been a couple of time with African Shark Eco-Charters in Simon's Town. We found them very good and worth the price. We've a couple of videos of our experience if you're interested in seeing what their trips are like.

smyry52 wrote:When you say you saw fewer animals than expected, do you mean throughout the trip or in the Okavango? I'm hoping between Etosha, Okavango, Chobe, Matoba, and Kruger that i'll have my fair share of animals even if I only see and handful at each place.

In the Okavango.
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Re: Optional Activities and other Southern Africa questions

Postby kateyb » Mon Mar 05, 2012 4:43 am

I think the shark cage tour company was Shark Watch...it was the company that our hostel uses.

I liked the township tour in Namibia better. It didn't seem as "touristy"
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Re: Optional Activities and other Southern Africa questions

Postby collywobbles » Tue Mar 06, 2012 3:08 pm

hi smry52 :D

I used a nikon d40x with a 70-300 zoom lens which was very handy when we were on the overland truck driving through the game parks as you know you cant leave the trucks the watering where we camped at etosha was fantastic namatoni i think its called it is quiet large and is fenced with wall and wire but you can get some great shots of the animals when they come to drink there is a seating aera and there are floodlights so you can spend the whole night there . it is very well setup i could have stayed all night but had to get some sleep the animals are quiet close it was the best watering hole experience you will love it :D
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Re: Optional Activities and other Southern Africa questions

Postby ExplorerWannaBe » Tue Mar 06, 2012 5:37 pm

smyry52 wrote:
ExplorerWannaBe wrote:The Rhino Walk was very enjoyable

My trip says it includes a "guided rhino walk in Matobo National Park" is that what you are referring to? Thanks for the thoughts on Vic Falls flight vs Delta. I'm going to try and budget for both, but I want to have an idea of which might be better just in case in a month I still look like i'll be short the money to do both.


That sounds right. Basically a couple of us met with the one of the top rhino guides in the area (business?). We drove to an area in the nearby national park then hiked in to where some of his guides had reported the alpha male to be -- he said it was actually safer to walk near the alpha male than the younger rhinos because he was so sure of himself.

It was a fantastic time observing "He Who Doesn't Listen" (because he doesn't have to -- according to the guide) and hearing stories of how he had stood off a herd of elephants or charged a truck run by a newcomer guide who didn't listen to the oldtimers and got too close. If memory serves me, it was about US $85 plus tip but it's really a different experience and you know there's no question about animals in captivity.
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Re: Optional Activities and other Southern Africa questions

Postby mojowp » Thu Mar 08, 2012 8:38 am

smyry52 wrote:I'm pretty set on doing the Sossusvlei Desert walk, Robben Island. Vic Falls Bungee, and at a flight over either the Okavango or over Vic Falls (has anyone done both? One better).


We did the Sossusvlei Desert walk and loved it. We weren't there long enough, but it was something to see!

We also did the Okavango flight and it was amazing! Well worth it.

Didn't do the bungee but we did the ultra light flight over the falls and are happier for that choice. It lasted longer and was more thrilling.


smyry52 wrote:I'm sure i'll do some extra game drives and/or the cruise in Chobe. But outside that, I'm not 100% sure. Some of the stuff in Zimbabwe (Lion walk) sounds great, but you never know until you hear from someone who has done it.


Chobe game drives were my least favourite activities. After being out on large game reserves, Chobe seemed like a fake set up Disney park. We would not pay for extra drives there, but the Chobe river sunset cruise (not the party boat at the end...although that was a blast, but not for seeing animals) is really a must!


smyry52 wrote:A few other questions. I'm planning on adding 2 days to the trip. Should I do 2 in Cape Town or 1 in Cape Town and 1 in Jburg? Seems like there's lots more to do in Cape Town and it's before the month of camping.

We arrived a week before the tour in Cape Town and did the Shark cage dive, but not in False Bay. We did it in Simon's Town. The penguins are there and the shark diving. Rob at Eco Charters is the leading Shark dive guy in South Africa and he was the one who lead the film teams for Air Jaws and Earth (National Geographic). We booked from Canada as space is very limited. I think he takes out only groups of 8. A must to do! Seal Island and cage dive. Even if you don't dive, you will see sharks!

Table mountain is wonderful, but go early as there is a risk in high winds or wet weather that they close it. This activity is totally weather dependent.

In Cape Town, We also went to Mama Africa's restaurant, which also has a band if you stay late enough. Check out the Web site.

The Cape Town Waterfront was enjoyable and there is a walk that you can do that covers a lot of area.

Just one suggestion while in Cape Town. Don't be stupid and careless with your camera and money. Don't use ATMs just on the street with very few people around at night. Don't stop to be helpful to a lost person or someone who stops you at night to ask you the time. Don't get drunk and decide to walk back to your hotel...You know...stuff like that. There are also official taxis in Cape Town and unofficial ones, which are just people who decide to make a few dollars for a night. There are no guarantees in the unofficial ones that they won't rob you or drop you off at the wrong place and ask for more money to take you to the right one


smyry52 wrote:Also, for anyone who has done the Okavango Delta...what is it like? I've seen videos that seem to be just tons of dugout canoes, making it look very touristy. Is this the case or was that just one small sample? Did you see any animals while in the Delta or is that more for at Etosha and Chobe?.

The Okavango Delta is totally not touristy so don't worry about that. We saw plenty of animals and we even walked right beside, Wildebeest, zeebra, and springbok herds. We did see many more animals concentrated in one spot in Etosha! It was rediculous!

Check out the photo book that we made of the trip for an idea of what you can see on the trip.
http://www.blurb.com/books/1614458

I hope this helps
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