A trip to Africa has always been on the bucket list for Kathryn and me. With one of Kathryn’s “zero” birthdays approaching this month, we decided to start planning a trip last fall. We were inspired by several friends who had returned from trips in 2016 or were planning ones in 2017.
Our first step was to research different locations and the best times to travel. Kathryn is a big fan of waterfalls so Victoria Falls was a required stop on our trip. With that as a center point we decided to visit Botswana west of the falls and Zimbabwe east of the falls. We made a deposit on a trip with Overseas Adventure Travel that allowed a full refund within three weeks.
With the OAT trip as a fallback, we contacted friends and family to see who might be interested in joining us on the trip. We also started researching alternative tours that might provide better value or more interesting destinations. Within two weeks we had identified a custom tour agent in London and confirmed that our friend Pat was interested in joining us. By Christmas 2016 we had made a deposit on a custom 14-day trip with Simon Mills at Native Escapes. www.nativeescapes.com Simon was able to put a very high-end experience together for about the same price as OAT. He also was able to keep the single supplement for our friend down to only 5% over the double rate.
We finished our trip planning by booking flights using our Delta SkyMiles and an overnight stay at The Four Seasons Hotel in Johannesburg after our 24-hour journey from LAX to South Africa. My niece Nora was working at the Four Seasons in Atlanta at the time and hooked us up with a killer deal. Thank you Nora!
After that we didn’t worry about anything until we had to pay for the balance of the trip in March and get our vaccinations up to date in May. A word about the vaccination process. Most regular doctors don’t offer travel medicine services so you need to go to a specialist. Kathryn and I went to Passport Health which has offices nationwide. It cost $95 for us combined but the vaccination costs were really high so we ended up going to Costco and saved about 50%. Costco also offers online consultations for $40 pp.
On the evening of May 31st we boarded our flight to Johannesburg via London and arrived early in the morning of June 2. We were met at the gate by a rep from the hotel who sped us through customs. After meeting our friend Pat in the baggage area we were soon onboard a private minibus to the hotel.
Our entire experience at The Four Seasons Hotel was beyond amazing. Our rooms were ready when we checked in around 10 am. Since we had eaten breakfast on the plane, we grabbed a quick cup of coffee and toured the property. First stop was the spa where we booked massages for each of us later in the day. Pat was nice enough to pay for our treatments. Thank you Pat!
That night we had a great meal at the hotel restaurant and a quick game of Blisters before heading back to our rooms for bed. Tomorrow we would be flying north to Botswana.