In July of 2008, we went on our first African Safari and it was the most incredible journey, thus far, of our lives. We landed in Johannesburg, South Africa and had a relaxing (one night) stay at the Intercontinental Hotel across from the airport. Great rooms, service and food. A friend picked us up and showed us all around the city, which was lucky for us b/c it's not the safest of cities, unfortunately. Driving over the Mandela Bridge was moving, literally and figuratively.
We then flew to Botswana for a 7 day safari. The safari operator we used was Andbeyond (www.andbeyond.com, formerly CC Africa) and we could not have been more pleased with their service on every level. We flew in a little prop plane, after landing on a jet, to the Okavango Delta. Amazing! The animals we saw, the conversations we had, just fantastic. Our 3 night stay at the Sandibe Lodge blew our minds. Again, the friendly and professional people coupled with the safari drives to see the wildlife, and the meals, all made for an incredible stay. Then, we flew north for 3 more nights in Chobe National Park. This place has the highest concentration of elephants on earth, along with all the other expected animals and a crocodile and hippo filled river cutting through it all. Our accommodations were in Chobe Under Canvas, which were all high end tents (complete with beds and toilets) and we were very well taken care of by the staff.
After this, we were driven to the border crossing to leave Botswana and head to Zambia. The crossing was done at a spot called Kazangula (sp?), and it was a bit overwhelming. We did have a guide with us, who put us in a small skiff to speed across the Zambezi river (about 3 minutes) to the Zambia side. Once there, it was a huge gathering of people and goods, waiting to cross one way or the other. It was like a small city, with very unsafe looking ferries slowly moving back and forth across the river. After shooting a few pix and paying a visa fee, our driver took us to the Zambezi Sun Hotel. It was a beautiful space with direct access to Victoria Falls, which are mind blowing! We also walked on the bridge crossing to Zimbabwe, and while the views were fantastic, the other things we saw were not. The poor Zimbabweans are forced to come over to Zambia for the essentials, crossing back carrying what they can on their heads and backs. Add to this a troop of babboons who learned to steal food right out of people's hands, and it makes for an other worldly sight. On a happier note, the hotel staff, all locals of course, were friendly and fun. They actually have a person in charge of keeping the monkeys away from guests, using a sling shot...high tech! And, the sunset views from the sister property, the Royal Livingstone, are not to be missed.
On the way home, we stopped in Paris to visit friends. We stayed at a sweet little hotel called Hotel Abbatial, on St. Germain. It was not too touristy, but well located (close to Notre Dame) in a cool area. Again, clean (albeit small, typical European) rooms in a safe place. We would definitely stay here again.
This trip, all in all, was unreal. Next time, Kenya and Tanzania!