It's been a good year. Scratch that. It's been a great year.
Lots of good things, good adventures, good opportunities, old and new friends.
I'm really grateful for all my readers and visitors here for helping make the site work. So, I just blocked out 10 hours for calls from the 27th to the 31st of this month.
I'll give you a link in a moment, so you can book a Skype call with me. Before I do, please read these instructions and make sure they're suitable to you:
On Shane Dowling's Blog
I'd been in Cape Town for two weeks beforehand, just remotely working and doing some sightseeing around the area. So I had plenty of time for prep for the trip and was pretty relaxed arriving at Ashanti Logde(where the trip starts). The trip was booked through African Budget Safari's which seemed to the cheapest option around. The dates I had originally planned to travel with(and booked) were unavailable and ABS happily changed my dates and gave me a heavy discount(about 25%). On top of that I declined the free activities in Cape Town, so I was given free upgrade at Ashanti to my own room. So I can definitely recommend African Budget Safari's as an agent and also chance your arm and see what discounts you can get.
We met up with others on the trip and waited for the trip leaders. The group was mostly mid-to-late twenties with two outliers in the forties/fifties. Still an excellent result as I was worried the group would have a much older average age. As I traveled I noticed the more expensive tour groups had a lot of older people traveling and it sounded like an awful time for younger folk traveling with them. I would highly recommend finding out a rough average age of the people going on the trip beforehand, our group was wonderful so living in each other's pockets really wasn't a problem. However, if you get a bad group, there's not a lot you can do for 6-8 weeks.
The group was 16 in total, about 8 of which were going the whole 42 days(and then some) to Kenya, so there wasn't a lot of swapping around of the group. The trip is split into 3 main sub-trips(but there's shorter trips within this also), so I was glad the group remained consistent.
Eventually trip crew arrives, three guys from Zimbabwe. A chef, a driver and the trip leader. It's usually those three guys, but we had a trainee driver with us on this trip(to get his head around the route to Zimbabwe). They all seemed lovely. We made out local payments and a run through the next few days was done.
- Cash - One of the things I was sweating about was having access to local money. How it was relayed to me was that I would need to have all of my spending money at the start of the trip. This seemed dubious as I really didn't want to have a ton of cash with me while traveling. The trip leader alleviated these fears by explaining that there was tons of ATMs on the way and you can take out as much Rand as you wanted as South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and most campsites in Botswana would all accept it. I'd recommend getting a ton of Rand and don't bother with Namibian dollars at all(it's a straight one-to-one currency rate so there's no disadvantage and the Rand is more widely accepted). That seems a lot less complicated. Make sure you have enough USD for Visa's and certain activities, most take USD but some(like the Serengeti) require it, try get this USD in Cape Town as they'll provide reliable bills. You can get USD out in Zimbabwe but the quality of the bills can be really poor and all countries(other than Zimbabwe), won't accept dirty bills. Most people on the trip seemed to struggle to get money converted in Cape Town, that they were residents or that they were leaving the country in less than 24 hours. It's tough to find cash, especially on a Sunday the day before we were leaving. However, I was recommended a currency exchange place at the V & A Waterfront, that would convert money. Make sure if you get Rand out of the bank to take a receipt to prove the cash you're bringing is legit. I didn't and had to keep the Rand I'd just taken out and get more USD on my credit card. Again, wasn't an issue as everywhere takes Rand, but just to bear this in mind.