My travel buddy Dean and I had been discussing where in the world to go for our next trip. I usually do my big yearly trip in May, but he did not have much time this year due to schedules, and only had 7-10 days at spring break. Our typical places tend to be out of the way destinations... last year we did the 5-stans, Almaty to Ashgabat overland. In 2010 we did West Africa Accra to Timbuktu to Abidjan overland.
One option we looked at was doing Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Malta. Another option was the Horn of Africa.. visiting Eritrea, Yemen, Djibouti and Somaliland and possibly a transit via Saudi Arabia. If including Yemen, I also wanted to go visit the island of Socotra, an island offshore Somalia that has evolved unique plant species. Flights to Eritrea are limited, only two per week, and Socotra only three per week. No matter how I played with the schedules I couldn't make Eritrea fit in with my friend's spring break dates. Combined with Eritrean visas being reportedly difficult to obtain meant Eritrea was out. I was a bit unsure about Yemen.. but we planned to only be spending one day in Sana'a before heading off to Socotra, which has not had any problems.
We used USAir miles to make the bookings, using the double miles promo from last year. Sharing miles twice between accounts we had enough miles for the trip for about $450 apiece. The plan would be fly into Sana'a, Yemen and out of Djibouti on the award ticket, then buying additional flights Sanaa-Addis-Jijiga (Ethiopia) and Berbera (Somaliland)-Djibouti. My friend booked his award ticket first.. the agent must not have known where Sana'a was as he was only charged 70k miles for an African roundtrip.
I was debating visiting elsewhere after my friend had to go home, first started looking at Khartoum or Juba (South Sudan). I then settled on spending an extra week, flying from Djibouti to Entebbe, Uganda then traveling overland via Rwanda to Burundi. When I booked my open-jaw ticket to Sanaa I ended up paying 80k USAir miles, then used 12.5k United miles for the Djibouti-Entebbe flight.
For Socotra, I contacted a tour company there (Socotra Eco Tours) and they were pretty responsive via emails. They were able to arrange our flights from Sanaa to Socotra and our visa. I wired them the money ahead of time for the flights+visa. They quoted us a tour price of $75/pp per day for the tour once on Socotra.
While in Uganda I wanted to do two things, trek gorillas and go white water rafting on the Nile. I also contacted tour companies ahead of time for these two activities. Gorilla permits are pretty expensive, $500 in Uganda and even more expensive $750 in Rwanda. There is also transportation fee for getting to the parks. I contacted Engagi Safaris and was quoted $500+$150 for the transfer from the town of Kabale to Bwindi park. I wired them the money to obtain the permit and transfer.
I also booked several hotels ahead of time... the Arabia Felix hotel in Sana'a, and the Sheraton hotels in Djibouti and Kampala. I have SPG Gold status and was able to use cash+points rate for those hotels. Through the Arabia Felix hotel I also arranged a tour of nearby Sana'a towns of Dar al Hajar, Thila, Shibam and Hadaba for 115 EUR for car+driver+guide. They were able to arrange the necessary travel permits to travel outside Sana'a.
AUS-IAD United economy, 80k USAir award
IAD-IST Turkish economy, 80k USAir award
IST-SAH Turkish economy, 80k USAir award
SAH-SCT Felix Airways economy, $365
SCT-SAH Felix Airways economy, ----
SAH-ADD Yemenia economy, $210
ADD-JIJ Ethiopian economy, $174
@@@ Jijiga-Harar-Jijiga-Hargiesa-Las Geel-Berbera overland
BBO-JIB Jubba airways economy, $122
JIB-ADD Ethiopian economy, 12.5k United award
ADD-EBB Ethiopian economy, 12.5k United award
@@@ Entebbe-Kampala-Jinja-Kampala-Kabale-Kigali-Bujumbura overland
BJM-ADD Ethiopian economy, 80k USAir award
ADD-IAD Ethiopian economy, 80k USAir award
DCA-IAH United economy, 80k USAir award
IAH-AUS United economy, 80k USAir award