#1 3-30-2017 4:27 AM

jake0020
Jake
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Backpacking southern Africa

I have decided the next part of the world i want to do an extended trip to is southern africa, incorporating: South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi & Mozambique.

If i have money remaining then i would head up into Tanzania & Rwanda.

Weather/ Best time to go is the issue, i hope to start my trip in november Flying into south africa, which seems to be summer time, i have read November - February is good.
  Whereas for most of the other countries it says April to september.

I want to see the wildlife at a good time, and take part in adventurous activities, but do not want to wait until April time to start my trip as that would be another year away, does anyone have a better route to go with the weather for november- April  i am planning on 5-6 months of travel.

Thank you
-Jake

 

#2 3-30-2017 6:39 AM

shavy
Belinda
Belgium
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Re: Backpacking southern Africa

Hi Jake,

We've done South Africa in November 2010. November was overall hot  except in Lesotho- there is cold and rain during our visit

We start our trip from JB, we rented a car at the airport which was reserve in advance and drove to Kruger National Park, we stay two nights in the park. The temperature in November inside the park goes upto 40+ degrees, we've seen the big five during our stay

From Kruger park we drove to Swaziland, visited the villages we only have one night in Swaziland

The next day we drove back to SA

We didn't drive to Lesotho, as it wasn't recommended to go up there with regular car, we book a tour and went in group

The other places you mentioned we didn't done it, we only had 3 weeks in SA, we even took some domestic flights to see more of SA.............. if you have 5-6 month to spend in Africa that would be awesome

 

#3 3-30-2017 6:45 AM

cynthiasmiller
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Re: Backpacking southern Africa

I was in Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa last December.  The weather was actually really good in all the places I visited except for Botswana.  It rained A LOT, like every day.  Namibia and South Africa were hot, but bearable.

I didn't think visiting in December was that bad at all, I had a fantastic time actually.  For animal viewing, it could have been better, but I saw all the major African animals except for leopards, which are hard to see anyway.  December is also baby season, so you can see a lot of babies in that time.  I just finished a blog about my travels in December, check it out to see what I was able to see in that time.

I do have a comment about backpacking in Southern Africa, it can be a bit difficult getting around.  The Intercape can get you from city to city, but getting to the parks and the remote parts of Namibia can be difficult unless you rent a car or join an overland safari.

Have fun!

 

#4 3-30-2017 7:27 AM

ulis
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Re: Backpacking southern Africa

Started in November in Johannesburg, Capetown and Swakopmund where not hot, everywhere else it was hot but not raining, went then Livingston,  Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swasiland, Lesotho by tour from Amphitheatre hostel, Drakensberge and in April Madagascar

 

#5 3-30-2017 7:34 AM

ulis
Uli
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Re: Backpacking southern Africa

Botswana I went only by tour from Livingston to Chobe National Park, the same tours and activities were much cheaper from Livingston then from Victoria. For Southafrican and Namibian National Parks a rental car might be the cheaper option but finding the animals will be more easy with a tour (in general i don't like tours, but this involves knowledge I don't have)

 

#6 3-30-2017 7:47 AM

harbinger
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Re: Backpacking southern Africa

I have lived and worked in Southern Africa for most of the last 30 years, and my initial response would be that there is no bad time to visit the region.  However - depending on your interests - some times are better than others.
Let's start with timing.  If you're coming from the UK, chances are that you will get the most competitive fare to South Africa, so it makes sense to start there.  It's also the most accessible of the countries for tourists, so it allows you to get your head around travelling in the region before you venture into areas that are a little less geared up for the tourist.
Given your proposed travel dates, you should bear in mind that the long summer school holidays start in early December and extend through to mid January.  Over that period, tourists tend to move out from the urban centres towards the coast (primarily the Western Cape and the KwaZulu/Natal coast in South Africa, Swakopmund/Walvis Bay in Namibia and particularly the southern part of the coast in Mozambique), as well as game reserves such as Kruger.  This means that popular destination are booked well in advance (people tend to book for Kruger camps for the next year as soon as they return from their previous summer holiday) and that prices rise to reflect the premium on accommodation.  By contrast, this is a really good time to visit Johannesburg, for example, which is particularly nice over the Christmas period.

Last edited by harbinger (3-31-2017 12:07 AM)

 

#7 3-30-2017 7:55 AM

harbinger
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Re: Backpacking southern Africa

Weatherwise, the inland area of Southern Africa (pretty well the bit of South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique away from the coast) has hot, rainy summers (mostly as hugely impressive thunderstorms) and cooler, dry winters.  By contrast, the Cape coast has a Mediterranean climate, with hot dry summers and cool, wet winters.
From a game spotting point of view, the ideal time is the southern hemisphere winter, when the weather is cooler, animals congregate around the limited number of permanent water points, and the vegetation is sparser (giving greater visibility).  The malaria risk is also lower in winter, although most of the major game reserves across the region - with the exception of those in the Eastern Cape, Waterberg and parts of KwaZulu/Natal - have some degree of malaria risk year round, so you would be wise to take prophylaxis.
However, compared to other areas of the world, the game spotting even in the 'less favourable' summer is still spectacular, so I wouldn't make this a major deciding factor.  Your tolerance to heat might be a bigger issue, as the best game spotting areas tend to experience high heat and humidity during summer.

 

#8 3-30-2017 8:13 AM

harbinger
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Re: Backpacking southern Africa

Perhaps your biggest issue is how you intend to travel as a backpacker.  As a general rule of thumb, public transport systems are not well developed or reliable throughout the region in which you intend to travel, and what exists is either geared at self driving (with basic bus and minibus taxis) or flying (expensive).
From a security point of view, hitchhiking is dangerous and ill advised, but only you know your tolerance to risk.
You will not be able to access the game reserves without transport.  So, your options are either to rent a car and self drive (surprisingly affordable and easy to do in South Africa and Swaziland - more expensive but still possible in Namibia and probably prohibitive in Botswana and Zambia) or to go on an organised tour.  Self drive is how many locals go on holiday, and the advantage is that you can go at your own pace, and also take advantage of the very affordable self catering options (either visit a supermarket before you go into the reserve, or shop in the more expensive camp shops in the park, which offer a more limited stock - basic catering equipment and bedding is almost always provided).  You can pick up game viewing guide books very cheaply, which will be enough to allow you to identify most of the animals you encounter, and perhaps consider splashing out on a couple of guided drives (usually offered by the camps) to get your eye in.
Roads in Southern Africa are generally in reasonable condition, and the whole region drives on 'your' side of the road.  Things change once you get into the Francophone colonies of Rwanda, Burundi and DRC.
If you don't want to self drive, then there are some 'hop on, hop off minibus' services in South Africa.  The Bazbus is probably the best known, and comes highly recommended: http://www.bazbus.com.  Buying/hiring a motor cycle might also be an option (as your profile suggests that this is something you have experience of.
Don't overlook regional flights in South Africa, which can be surprisingly affordable between the cities - Kulula and Mango are the main players, and are a refreshing change to the European low cost carriers in that they still offer a 'free' 20kg baggage allowance included the fare.  Inter-regional fares are usually higher, but use sites such as kayak.com or skyscanner to look for good deals.  Fastjet (related to EasyJet) also offers really good fares in the Great Lakes/East African region, and is based out of Dar es Salaam (but charges for baggage).

Last edited by harbinger (3-31-2017 12:10 AM)

 

#9 3-30-2017 8:38 AM

harbinger
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Re: Backpacking southern Africa

From a cost point of view, South Africa is definitely the most affordable of the destinations you're considering.  This is primarily because of the relative ease of transport and the many self catering options available, as well as the extensive network of hostels.
Lesotho and Swaziland are relatively 'cheap' for locals, but not necessarily as cheap for travellers, except if you are willing to travel on local combi taxis and stay in basic local accommodation. Again, only you know your tolerance to 'basic', but as a rule of thumb, Africa does not offer the same value for backpacker travel as , for example, South East Asia.
Namibia has become more expensive over the years - as it has rightly been recognised as one of the world's great underappreciated travel destinations.  The distances are huge, public transport is limited and affordable accommodation in tourist areas is limited, so it can be a surprisingly expensive destination.  If you do decide to hire a car (and this is one country where I would say it's pretty well non-negotiable), make sure than you find a deal that offers unlimited mileage (200km/day is paltry in such a vast country) and don't believe the conventional wisdom that 4 wheel drive is a necessity.  Most of Namibia is accessible in a vehicle with high clearance (ie. not a low slung suburban sedan), but unless you're planning to venture well off the beaten track, you really shouldn't need 4WD.
Botswana is a hellish expensive destination for people in the region, largely because they have decided to design their tourism business around the principle of, "low volume, high rate". The national park fees are very high compared to the neighbouring countries (more on a par with East/Central Africa) and if you don't have your own transport, you are limited to organised tours.  The Okavango is the jewel - and utterly unique and special - but there are very few mid range (let alone budget) options.  That being said, it is a destination that is unlike any other, so perhaps research the few camps that cater to a more backpacker trade, such as Oddballs (which should also be able to organise transfers from Maun).
Mozambique is fairly affordable, but slow going if you're on public transport.  If you speak even a little Portuguese or Spanish, life will become instantly easier smile Be aware that the towns just north of the South African border (Ponta d'Oura and Ponta Malangane) are effectively South African enclaves, and although they have lovely settings and can offer some wonderful adventure experiences - such as the fabulous Dolphin Encounters - they aren't really Mozambique.
Zim is the wild card.  I used to travel there several times a year, but have given it a wide berth since the politics got difficult around the Millenium.  It was an amazing travel destination offering so much in terms of wildlife and landscapes, but the cash squeeze on the country when Mugabe was challenged by the war veterans - and the resultant political turmoil - has reduced the country to abject poverty.  Thus, the stellar national parks are horribly underresourced, and the infrastructure has gone to hell in a hand basket.  Again, it depends on your tolerance to risk, but I would suggest that if it's on your itinerary, you should explore other places first and take the opportunity to interrogate like minded travellers en route to get up to date information on Zim.
Zambia is dollar denominated, and has a similar approach to tourism as Botswana has championed, so the premier tourist destinations (Kafue, South Luangwa) are breathtakingly expensive unless you have your own transport and equipment (and even then, not cheap).  However, it is a peaceful country, and somewhere that has reasonably affordable transport infrastructure f you're prepared to travel 'local'.

Last edited by harbinger (3-31-2017 12:14 AM)

 

#10 3-30-2017 8:51 AM

harbinger
Cathy
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Re: Backpacking southern Africa

Malawi is a lovely destination, with beautiful landscapes and astonishingly friendly people, as well as reasonable public transport (slow and basic, but fine if you have time).  The lake is the big drawcard, but the wildlife sector is one that has drawn increasing focus in recent years- although it isn't particularly cheap compared to countries such as South Africa.  There are some really nice canoeing options on the lake that are well worth doing (Google Kayak Africa, just as an example).
Once you get into East and Central Africa (Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda), you're looking at dollar denominated tourism, which is hard on a mid range traveller, let alone a backpacker.  The cost comes from prohibitive park entrance fees and the fact that you need to hire a guide (unlike most of Southern Africa, whether you can self guide), as well as the transport aspect (again, you can't take public transport into a game reserve). That being said, there are some wonderful places to visit provided that you are willing to use public transport, which is affordable but slow and not overly comfortable. I would highly recommend Uganda as a more affordable alternative to Tanzania in terms of game reserves, and don't miss out on Zanzibar, which is a magical place, especially if you need down time on a beach.  This is where EasyJet may be a very reasonable option (or take the ferry or hydrofoil from Dar es Salaam).
Burundi is currently a 'no go' zone due to its toxic politics, and the fact that it has discontinued its visa on arrival.

 

#11 3-30-2017 9:03 AM

harbinger
Cathy
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Re: Backpacking southern Africa

Lastly, adventurous activities.  Well, where do you want to begin, as the region is full of them?!!!
As an example, in recent years, we have taken our kids snorkelling in open water with reef sharks off Aliwal Shoal (KwaZulu Natal), spent three days snorkelling with dolphins in Ponta D'Oura (Mozambique) and frolicked in the water with penguins at Boulders Beach (Western Cape).  All very affordably by European standards.
We've gorilla trekked in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda (more affordable than Rwanda, but still horribly expensive), gone chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda and been to a couple of dozen game reserves in South Africa and Namibia.
We've done a fabulous desert safari in the dunes that literally abut the town of Swakopmund in Namibia, and have visited the ghost diamond mining town of Kolmanskop, further down the coast.  And the only reason we didn't go kayaking with seals and other marine mammals in Walvis Bay is that we all contracted gyppo guts sad
We've gone on ziplines through the Magaliesberg north of Johannesburg and white water rafted on the Vaal River and (some years ago), downstream of Vic Falls.  And we've done amazing and affordable road trips along some of the most iconic routes in the region - the Roof of Africa in Lesotho, the Transkalahari Highway across Botswana and the hugely underrated Route 62 in the Western Cape) which would equal most of the great road trips elsewhere in the world.
Many of the adventure activities I've done in recent years have been heavily discounted Groupon deals.  However, Groupon sadly closed down its South African operations late last year.  Happily, there are other sites such as Daddy's Deals which are worth keeping an eye on for activities, accommodation and meals.  Similarly, sites such as Bushbreaks are great for last minute deals on game lodges, but are probably beyond a backpacker budget (unless you really feel like treating yourself to experience how the Other Half travel).  You may also find good travel deals on sites such as www.getaway.co.za/travel-packages and www.amazingholidays.co.za - I recall a couple of very affordable safari deals up into Botswana and Malawi in recent months. 
One other basic tip: there's a whole lot of coastline to be explored, so buy your own snorkel (available at any outdoors store such as Mr Price Sport in South Africa) and you'll save yourself a fortune.

Last edited by harbinger (3-31-2017 12:29 AM)

 

#12 3-30-2017 9:16 AM

harbinger
Cathy
Brussels, Belgium
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Re: Backpacking southern Africa

I know that this is a lot of information, but you're researching a complex region, with so many options.  So have a think about what's been suggested, and feel free to come back with any other queries you might have once you have a clearer vision of what you'd like to do.

Last edited by harbinger (3-30-2017 10:18 PM)

 

#13 6-8-2017 1:42 AM

aliah4
Alia
Lucknow, India
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Re: Backpacking southern Africa

I have been to South Africa, Zambia and Namibia

We went to Kruger National Park, hire a safari or a car which will help you move freely. Other national park you should visit is Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve where you will find White rhinoceroses. The scenario is amazing.When you hire a tour guide it will become easy for you to understand and spot animals.

Etosha National Park  is one of its kind in Namibia.  Lions, elephants, black rhinos and giraffes are common in sight. Other national park is Skeleton Coast National Park, it has quite a history. You will be amazed with it.

South Luangwa National Park in Zambia  known for its abundant wildlife. The river is often crowded with hippos. It is home to hundreds of bird species.  You will witness herds of elephants and rare Thornicroft’s giraffes.

Hope this will help you with your plan.

 
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