We returned home yesterday from a fantastic trip to southern Africa. In a nutshell, it was essentially perfect. I thought I would give you our brief de-brief for whatever help it may be in your planning for future trips.
- All the flights and transfers were fine and occurred without problem. We were met as planned on each arrival and escorted to our next destination in a professional and friendly manner. TransAfrica and its partners were flawless.
- Namibia was absolutely beautiful. We encourage people to go there; it is an unappreciated jewel. The people are very open, friendly and welcoming. The country is doing well culturally and economically. The Kulala lodge was formally informal, very comfortable and the food the best of any we had all trip. The rooms are simple and more than adequate for sleeping, washing, etc. The lodge has their own chef who is very creative and excellent with a sophisticated and well-prepared menu. We took a sunrise hot air balloon ride which we very highly recommend. Climbing the dunes is very strenuous; we didn’t make it because of a simultaneous sandstorm. 4 full days is plenty of time and more isn’t necessarily recommended unless simple absolute desert relaxation is the goal. Visitors should definitely take a star atlas with them; the southern sky is astounding and breathtaking.
- Cape Town is a very sophisticated, picturesque, historic city. We loved it. Tour to Cape of Good Hope and seacoast was very scenic and a must. V&A Wharf area is fun but not too much different from a very large Navy Pier attraction. The Robben Island tour was disappointing; it has become just another attraction and the power of having former political prisoners is lost because most have died due to old age. The tour seemed rushed, superficial and tired compared to how I remember it from 20 yr ago. The Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg/Soweto has been suggested as a better experience, but Robben Island must not be missed. Our ‘philanthropy tour’ was very valuable and informative, and helped to demystify and humanize the townships. The Taj hotel was very nice, but is basically a high-end business hotel.
- Kirkman’s Kamp was a delight. We absolutely loved our Guide, Matt Poole. He clearly loves his work and is very smart and personable. The lodge, like Kulala, was simple, excellent and very well-run. The staff was great; each visitor has a butler assigned to them. The food is superb, just a notch below Kulala. We saw all manner of animals, including the Big 5; tracking by Matt and our ‘tracker’ was really interesting and fun. Off road viewing (as opposed to in Kruger Park or Serengeti) is fascinating and allows people to get right up close to the animals (5 feet from Lions and Leopards!) Was our favorite game lodge.
- Mala Mala game reserve and camp is 5 star quality, polished but without the personal passion of Kirkman’s. Very well run and high-end consistent with their history. Lacked the ‘edge’ of Kirkman’s. Lots of game animals, all photogenic. Good food but more like excellent cafeteria quality vs chef-prepared like Kirkman’s or Kulala.
- Victoria Falls is a must, but at the end of the day, is just a huge, very scenic and powerful waterfall. 2 days is sufficient. The Victoria Falls River Lodge was of a lower quality than the others, but very good nonetheless. Our trip was impaired by an regional insect infestation by harmless but very nuisance some stink-bugs. They were everywhere and forced us to fully repack upon leaving, and unpack our clothes outdoors at home to be sure not to bring bugs home into our house. The rooms are large and comfy aside from the bugs but are really not that comfortable. 2 days is plenty of time. We asked to visit a typical village outside of the resort and were very happy we did; they took us to a Zimbabwean village where the chief was our host and a very engaging, warm man. I recommend all visitors specifically ask for this activity, since it was not voluntarily offered by the lodge.
Thanks for everything Russ. The trip “exceeded expectations” and we couldn’t be happier with the experience.
Warmest regards, Rick