South Africa tour recommendations from people who've been on them?
Replies: 19 - Last Post: May 15, 2012 6:52 AM Last Post By: pompeygreg
May 6, 2012 5:58 PM
South Africa tour recommendations from people who've been on them?Hi, my wife and I are looking for a tour of South Africa, something that takes in Namibia, Zambia for example, starting in Cape Town. We've been looking at providers like STA, Intrepid and World Expeditions, all of which look great, but we'd like to hear from people who have been on these what they thought, what the best ones are, if such a thing exists, in general?
Thanks for your consideration.
May 7, 2012 3:39 AM
1Are you looking at the overland 'truck tour'type trip...or something more upmarket?
Of the truck tour companies I'd recommend Dragoman..not the cheapest,but the quality is excellent.Most of these companies follow similar routes and do similar things though...the differences are in things like how many people in a group,the food,the guides etc.
May 7, 2012 3:41 AM
May 7, 2012 5:14 AM
May 7, 2012 5:47 PM
May 8, 2012 9:08 PM
5Africa Nomad and Gap Adventures (whose Africa tours I believe are run by Africa Nomad) have tours that fit your route.
I was on Gap Adventures' camping trip tour that started in Cape Town and ended in Zambia (though I ended mine in Windhoek). I am not a camper but really enjoyed the experience. You only need to bring a sleeping and the rest will be taken care of. All the campsites we visited was they felt like a resort. Most have a bar and many have a swimming pool.
Gap Adventures offers 3 different classes for this route so you can choose a more pamper class.
If time permits, consider do part of your trip with a tour and part of it independent. You will get best of both world.
May 9, 2012 6:21 AM
6I did a tour with Nomad Tours in Cape Town last year. I took the accommodated option Cape Town to Vic.Falls and could not fault it. Accommodation exceeded my expectations, food good and guide, driver and cook were just exceptional.
I am doing another tour with them again in September this year.
You can view them on line www.nomadtours.co.za. Their web site is very comprehensive.and it has links to all the accommodation that you will be staying in.
May 13, 2012 7:56 PM
May 13, 2012 9:22 PM
8Africa Nomad does seem to attract younger travelers. Gap Adventures's customers are older. You can always ask for a quick demographic stats for the trip date that interests you before signing up.
Traveling on one's own offers many advantages. Personally, I'd love to be back at Sossusvlei on my own one day. That said, Namibia is a big country--bigger than Texas and France. So be prepared for a lot of driving on empty road if you drive.
May 14, 2012 12:58 AM
9Well there are countless overlander companies, it seems to be the perfect way to make money if you have an old truck and two black guys who can pose as driver and guide. Groups I´ve seen were often a wild mix from teenagers to 70-year-olds which may or may not cause extra tension, and disappointment on both sides.
When you sit at the camp waterhole at midnight, and three girls right behind you chat up their guide, drink booze, smoke and eat chips out of a noisy plastic bag, you know the overlander truck is here. When you´re in your car watching wildlife at the waterhole, all is peaceful and quiet until you hear a big diesel engine, a truck pulls up, often enough doesn´t turn the engine off, the guide explains the mating behaviour of elephants and their length, hight and width over the onboard microphone which can be heard all over, loud laughter and party atmosphere on board. Everyone else in the private cars around is just waiting for the truck to leave which luckily doesn´t take that long no matter what fabulous things are to be seen because they are on a tight schedule.
Of course every group is different but unless you get the last two seats you never know who else will be there besides you or if they combine two groups if booking was slow. Maybe it helps if you don´t go for the cheapest offers but again who knows if they offer it for students at huge discounts or knock out leftover seats cheaply at the end. Good luck!
May 14, 2012 4:16 AM
May 14, 2012 10:42 AM
My name is Jess and I work for Nomad Tours, I'm not here to punt a product, I'd just like to give you a more informed idea of how overlanding works in Southern Africa.
Your first decision should be whether you'd like to go it alone and do a self-drive option or whether you'd like to join a tour. How much time do you have to get from Cape Town, through Namibia, Botswana and Zambia / Zimbabwe? There are definitely pro's and con's to both options, the ones that would be most important - in my humble opinion - would be: Are you comfortable sharing your space and holiday time with other people who may be from anywhere in the world, all ages and have their own opinions? Or do you see meeting these people and exploring with them as part of the experience and journey? Do you want to deal with vehicle permits, border crossings, potential engine / tyre issues, navigation, shopping? Or is that part of the experience? Would you like to have guides with you all of the time telling you about the things that you are seeing along the way? Or is finding out this information for yourself part of the experience? Is budget an issue? I'm asking you these questions because travellers always have different needs, some like to sit back and hand over the reigns so that they can enjoy the scenery, others like to get completely involved and do it themselves as it feels more authentic - you need to choose what's most important for you!
If you choose to do a tour, there are lots of options! There are global operators such as Gap, Kumuka, Intrepid (they have their main bases out of Africa and operate tours all over the world) and then there are the smaller local specialists who operate out of South Africa - Nomad is extremely proud to be one of these, along with companies like Sunways and Drifters. I can guarantee you that these are not fly by night operators and have developed the industry together for at least 15 years. Some operators do focus on the youth market, the local operators that I've mentioned here cater for all ages and don't focus on any specific age group. Overlanding isn't what it was 10 years ago, these companies have reputations that they need to manage and they have heavy competition which means that the standard of these tours have improved dramatically! Overlanding has had a bad reputation in the past but that has changed (I'm talking about the companies mentioned above) and the majority of people that travel on these tours are looking for a good experience with qualified guides, the opportunity to travel with other like-minded people and good value!
I was an independent traveller for 8 years and I don't believe that anything could beat the experiences that I had, but it was pretty easy going through the Caribbean, Europe and Australia, and I was young! Now that I'm a little older (your age) I do like the creature comforts of having other people do stuff for me... especially if I can get it cheaper than if I have to do it all myself?
Either way you do it, you're going to have a spectacular time in Africa, the destinations that you have chosen are perfect for a first time visit and all are extremely tourist friendly. Enjoy the journey of planning your trip and we look forward to welcoming you and your wife to beautiful Southern Africa!
May 15, 2012 4:27 AM
12I have been to Africa twice - both were very inexpensive (camping and preparing our own meals) and I experienced varying degrees of success with each one. The month I spent in south Africa was with Drifters. Aside from the driver of our truck driving us into the side of a low bridge because he was busy playing with his GPS, the trip was pretty well organized. Take my advice, you are on your own if you are injured in Africa - at least if you travel with Drifters! Almost 5 years later and I still suffer occasionally from whiplash and the leg that went through the window has never been the same, although, I have definitely recovered full mobility in it. I have since traveled with GAP in another country and found them to be superior.
What I really wanted to comment on were the opinions expressed that indicate that cheap trips are full of drunken, sex-crazed youngsters! On the contrary....both overlanding tours I did were full of wonderful young people. Yes, they were young, but they have remained friends to me all these years later. There was absolutely no problem with our ages and believe me, I am closer to the second half of my life than the first half. What none of us had time for were the "mature" travelers who were looking for a cheap trip, but came loaded with their sense of entitlement and expected that the younger travelers would "wait" on them as a sign of respect??? Not sure what it was, but I honestly have to say that the older travelers were the ones that caused the most trouble. Sundowning seniors who never should have been on a tour of this sort - making ignorant demands of the residents and whining middle-agers who felt that pitching a tent was something that should be done for them. Where were the porters? Language barriers are an adventure, not something to attack and belittle the locals. We're having meat again? Where are the croissants?? I have ALWAYS preferred traveling with younger people and I am almost 60. I pull my weight and make a point of trying to get along with everyone and leave my judgements at home.
May 15, 2012 4:47 AM
I'm glad to hear you had a good experience.
However your two trips does not make other people's opinions void.
I've met hundreds of group 'truck' tours in various parts of Asia,South america and Africa (though i have only done one myself ).
Most of the people were fine,but there were a fair amount of the young,drunk and dumb type described above by travelbert.They ruin the trip for everyone else....I've talked to loads of 'real'beackpackers who have been left very disappointed by their trips for this reason.Unfortunately many of the tour leaders encourage this type of behaviour,setting up drinking games etc.I've nothing against that in principle...I wouldn't pay thousands of dollars to do it on safari though.
No doubt there are also older people with higher expectations..more of a pain for the tour leaders i guess,rather than for the other travellers..
May 15, 2012 4:51 AM
14BTW that is one of the reasons why I suggested Dragoman....they are more expensive,but they encourage considerate behaviour..and they understand that on an African trip most tourists give priority to seeing wildlife and interacting with the local culture.
Not hanging out with a bunch of kids on a campsite...
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