If you were following my social media and have read my Africa posts so far, you may well have got the gist of my whereabouts in Southern and Eastern Africa. But many people have asked, what was your exact route? So I’m about to tell you.
But first, a little life update…
First of all, apologies for the sporadic posting recently. In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m in the process of creating an In The Press section for The Travel Journo. That involves going through ALL my published travel and lifestyle work from my career in journalism, which is a big job. So, while you see lots of posts popping up about pieces I’ve written for various magazines and websites, do stick around as there’s lots more in the way of travel posts to come too. In fact I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently about where this blog is going and there’s SO much more I want to write about. I do find that running this alongside my freelance work a bit of a juggling act at times. But I have lots of ideas for new things in the pipeline. So stay tuned. But for now, let’s talk about a beautiful place called Africa.
Our Travelling Route Through Africa…
We spent many months trying to decide whether to start in Southern or Eastern Africa first. Eventually we decided we’d fly into Kenya and do our Zambia and Tanzania safaris as early on as possible and then head back up to Kenya again afterwards. So to be honest, our final route ended up being a bit haphazard! But hey, it all adds to the adventure.
Our journey started in Nairobi where we spent four days in Karen staying with a lovely couple who we found on Airbnb. They also had the coolest dogs who we pretty much played with every day (talk about little and large, right?)
Lusaka, Zambia > The Lower Zambezi
From Nairobi, we were due to fly to Lusaka in Zambia – our stop-off point en route to our safari in the Lower Zambezi. We’d initially booked our flights with FastJet – Africa’s low cost airline – which turned out to be a bit of a disaster. Fastjet cancelled our flight, which you may think is not such a big deal. These things happen, right? But we had to get to Lusaka that night as we were scheduled to take an early flight the next morning on a safari plane to reach the Lower Zambezi. These types of 12-seater planes only fly once or twice a day. If we waited for the next Fastjet flight the following day, we’d completely miss our safari plane. And there was no way we were going to miss any of our stay at Sausage Tree Camp and Anabezi.
After a bit of a panic, we managed to dash between terminals and purchase a (more expensive) ticket with Kenya Airways. Once we’d landed in Lusaka (having downed a glass of wine on the plane to calm the nerves!), we took a cab ride to a hotel airport before getting up early for that safari flight. It was worth the slight bit of stress and damage to our bank accounts for the phenomenal safari experience that was about to come. Lesson learned – always leave an extra day between flights in Africa. Even if it means spending a day in a not-so-exciting destination en route. After an incredible four days, we took our return safari flight from the Jeki airstrip, back to Lusaka and then stayed a night in a hotel on the edge of the city, conveniently close enough to a railway line to allow us to get very little sleep… The next morning – going against many people’s advice – we took a rather hairy bus ride from Lusaka to Livingstone. This was the moment I realised I was really travelling. And that luxury coaches in Africa don’t mean luxury coaches. And that you generally need to add three hours onto their estimated journey time. We arrived into Livingstone very late at night, and checked into a guest house where the electricity was a bit hit and miss. But we loved Livingstone. There were interesting places to eat, and Victoria Falls were very impressive, even though we visited during the dry season. Devil’s Pool was also incredible. Read about it here.
Lusaka > Livingstone> Lusaka
After a few days exploring Livingstone, we took another – not so hairy but equally long – bus journey back to Lusaka. We enjoyed a delicious meal and evening at Latitude 15 Hotel in Lusaka before the next part of our trip – Tanzania.
Lusaka > Dar es Salaam > Arusha
We bid farewell to Zambia (a beautiful, enthralling country), and took a late night flight to Arusha via Dar es Salaam. It’s very difficult (read virtually impossible) to fly from Lusaka to Arusha direct. So we endured a very long night, with four hours spent outside Dar es Salaam, taking it in turns to sleep. That was after a very long VISA process on entering Dar airport. After a very long night (there’s nowhere to sit inside Dar es Salaam airport until your check-in desk opens and you’re in departures) we boarded our flight and arrived into Kilimanjaro airport the following morning. We jumped in a cab and checked into a hotel in Arusha – a chaotic, overwhelming but completely fascinating city. Read my piece on Arusha’s Central Market in pictures. More on this city soon.
Arusha > Tarangire National Park > Ngorongoro
From Arusha, we travelled to Nimali – a luxury safari camp on the edge of the Tarangire National Park where we spent a couple of days soaking up the incredible wildlife and visiting a local Maasai village. From here, we took a full-day safari in the Ngorongoro Crater, one of the most mind-boggling natural wonders I’ve ever experienced. From here, we headed to Gibb’s Farm, a sanctuary found close to Karatu on the edge of Ngorongoro.
Ngorongoro Crater > Arusha>Nairobi
From Gibb’s Farm, we travelled back to Arusha and spent a night there before taking a six hour bus journey back to Nairobi in Kenya. It was long, hot and very stop and start (the traffic in Nairobi is hell). But we were excited to be in the big city again.
After finding an apartment not far from the Kilimani area, we were able to explore central Nairobi, eating the traditional Nyama Choma in local restaurants and just taking in the buzz of the city. We also stopped by the Nairobi Railway Museum which is quite hidden, but worth hunting down if you were a fan of Out of Africa. You can climb on the actual train that Meryl Streep stood on in one of the first scenes of the film.
Our next stop was Naivasha, a town in the Nakuru part of Kenya. It sits on the stunning Lake Naivasha and brings you up close to nature, which we were ready for after the hectic city.
The easiest and safest way to get to Naivasha is to get a private driver. And as it took less than two hours, you can see why people living in Nairobi often come here for weekend camping trips.
The scenery on the way as you edge around the mountains is spectacular. It’s just a shame that soon after arriving in Naivasha the sunshine quickly turned to cloud! We stayed in a camp site for a night and did a cycling safari around Hell’s Gate National Park (one of the best things you will EVER do). Naivasha is also flower growing territory. So many of the freshly cut flowers we buy in the UK are grown in this region.
We spent a couple of peaceful days staying in a house overlooking lush green landscapes and acres-upon-acres of greenhouses. It was an opportunity to enjoy some down time and fit in some travel planning for the next stage of the trip. On our last day in Naivasha en route to Nairobi, we climbed Mt Longonot, a volcanic crater which – in a similar way to the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania – looks like something from Jurassic Park. It was a gruelling but absolutely incredible climb and once again, the views are out of this world! This was definitely one of my favourite parts of the trip.
Naivasha > Nairobi
I never thought I’d say this, but for some reason, checking into the brand new Tune Hotel in the middle of hectic Nairobi felt like a treat. It’s a budget hotel but after camping and hiking, it felt like a real luxury to have wifi, a coffee shop and a HAIRDRYER, all within reach.
Located in the Westlands area, staying here gave us the perfect base to explore more of the city. It’s also close to loads of great places to eat, including Brew Bistro. It’s located on the 11th floor of the Fortis Tower (there’s also one on Ngong Road) and its happy hour, craft beer and ‘burgers with a view’ made us into two very happy travellers.
Nairobi > Malindi
After some good times in Nairobi, we were so excited about hitting the Kenya coast for sun, sea and sand. It was back to Nairobi airport (our favourite place) where we boarded a flight to Malindi, an intriguing town that’s surprisingly, steeped in both Swahili and (wait for it) Italian culture.
Malindi > Watamu > Kilifi > Msambweni
From Malindi, we made our way down Kenya’s coast to Watamu, Kilifi and Msambweni. I have to say, this is home to some of the most beautiful scenery you’ll ever see in Eastern Africa. Watamu is quite touristy compared to the other places (in a good way) but on the whole, this region has really suffered from a plummet in visitor numbers. Let me tell you though, those who are avoiding it are missing out. It’s absolutely stunning.
Msambweni > Mombasa
Mombasa is an intriguing city. I found it completely overwhelming at first (that ferry, never again.) But the city itself is very interesting and Iwish we’d had longer there. I dragged BC through the busy streets in search of khanga fabrics and we explored the old town which I highly recommend. We also ate some of the best biryani I’ve ever tasted.
Mombasa > Zanzibar
It was time to head to the Spice Isle. So we flew from Mombasa airport to Stone Town.
More stories on this place soon, but Stone Town was a place that slowly grew on me. We arrived in the pouring rain and stayed in quite a damp and dreary inn for our first night so I didn’t like it at first. But after 24 hours I loved it!
We spent several days in Stone Town and then explored the coast, hitting up the dreamy Zawadi Hotel near Bwejuu before spending a few nights in Paje and Jambiani.
Stone Town > Dar es Salaam > Johannesburg
After another day or two in Stone Town, we took a small plane back to Dar es Salaam before flying to Johannesburg. It was a very weird feeling leaving East Africa behind. It sounds so cliché but we definitely left our heart in this part of the world. But there were exciting things to come in South Africa.
Jo’burg > Port Elizabeth
After one night in a guest house at Jo’burg airport, we took a short flight to Port Elizabeth, the gateway to South Africa’s Garden Route. The scenery was immediately different. The turquoise Indian Ocean was behind us and we were now presented with long beaches that reminded us of Australia and crashing Atlantic waves.
The Garden Route
After picking up a hire car in Port Elizabeth, we drove South Africa’s famous Garden Route, stopping in Plettenberg (and Robberg Nature Reserve), Knysna, Wilderness and other quaint places in between. Think long wild beaches, river kayaking, hidden waterfalls and breathtaking mountain passes. The scenery here is as amazing as everyone says.
Garden Route > Oudtshoorn
We hadn’t planned to do this but after someone’s recommendation, we decided to take a detour from the Garden Route and head inland into Oudtshoorn, a town in South Africa’s Klein Karoo. Oudtshoorn is technically the Garden Route but it’s very different to the coastal towns. Think desert-like landscape, huge trucks and ostrich farms with vast spaces in between. Oh and while you’re there, it’s the perfect opportunity to drive the Swartberg Mountain Pass – not for the faint-hearted but worth it for the vertiginous views.
Oudtshoorn > Hermanus
After a fantastic couple of days in Oudtshoorn, we headed to Hermanus for a night. It wasn’t whale watching season but we did fit in some coastal walks and a visit to a gorgeous farmers market.
Oh and these little guys, known as the rock hyrax (or dassies) are hilarious to watch.
Hermanus > Betty’s Bay
From Hermanus, it was time to hit the Cape Winelands! But not before stopping to see the penguins at Stony Point in Betty’s Bay.
Stony Point > Cape Winelands
Where do I start? The Cape Winelands are a serious bucket list destination. I mean who wouldn’t want to visit a region that’s graced with eye-boggling mountain scenery, colourful fynbos and chic wineries. If you haven’t already, check out my pieces on Babylonstoren – there’s much more in the way of winelands inspiration coming soon.
You may also have seen my Instagram video of the Taal Museum, the Afrikaans Language Monument, which as the name suggests, offers a really interesting look at the languages that have affected the Afrikaans language in South Africa.
We also enjoyed some amazing restaurants in Franshhoek, stopped by the Nelson Mandela monument at the Groot Drakenstein Prison and took in lots of Cape Dutch architecture and contemporary art in both Franschooek and Stellenbosch. We also took an impromptu trip to visit a township in Paarl which I’ll tell you about in a later post.
The Afrikaans Language Monument, or ‘Taalmuseum’ was built in 1975 by architect Jan van Wijk and its curving components represent the various languages that influenced the Afrikaans Language in South Africa. The views from this mountain range over Paarl are magnificent and it’s a great way to get a deeper understanding of South Africa’s history, while also taking a break from all that wine! . . . . . #afrikaansmonument #taalmuseum #paarl #paarlmountain #culturevulture #exploretheglobe #explore #visitpaarl #visitsouthafrica #capewinelands #travelpics #igers_travel #traveladdict #traveltips #instavid #votd
Cape Winelands > Cape Town
Again, I could talk about Cape Town for days. This is a diverse, intriguing, melting pot of energy and cultures and one of the coolest cities in the world. I have many tales to tell from Cape Town and will make it my mission to come back here one day. We spent my birthday, Christmas and New Year here. So our memories of Cape Town will always be special.
Cape Town > Johannesburg
We were sad to leave Cape Town behind but we were very intrigued – if a little nervous – about Johannesburg. However Jo’burg, or ‘Jozi’ as the locals know it, fascinated us in so many ways. We took eye-opening walking tours, a fascinating tour through Soweto and a sobering visit to Constitution Hill and the Apartheid Museum. We also stayed in a gorgeous guest house where we could get our final few days of swimming and sunshine before we returned to freezing London.
Johannesburg > London
And that’s it. In a nutshell! Our travels through Eastern and Southern Africa were exciting, scary (at times), eye-opening, mesmerising, sobering, overwhelming, heart-breaking, fascinating, joyful, amazing, funny, weird, incredible and all the superlatives you can ever possibly think of.
It sounds cheesy but this was a life-changing trip that I think about pretty much every day and I wish I could do all over again. But at the same time I don’t. Because for all the planning you can do, it’s the spontaneous things, chance meetings and sometimes the things that go wrong that make a travel experience so memorable.
If you have any questions about our trip through Africa and want any tips or advice with planning your own East Africa and Southern Africa adventure, drop me a line. And if you’ve ever done anything similar, please feel free to leave a comment below.