Hotel Review: The Disappointing Protea Johannesburg Balalaika Sandton

Category: HotelsTrip Reports Comments: No comments

This is part 15 of my series exploring my March 2017 trip to South Africa and Namibia, which started here.

I had initially planned to use my Protea Prokard one free night voucher to stay at the Protea Fire and Ice Melrose Arch and then use a Prokard Bogo voucher at the African Pride Melrose Arch, but when PointBreaks opened up rooms at the Holiday Inn in Rosebank, I changed things up. In retrospect, I should have kept the one night at the Fire and Ice, but instead changed to the Protea Balalaika Sandton.  I ended up staying in ten different hotels on this trip, and the Protea Balalaika Sandton was the only one I had a bad experience at.

Sandton, Johannesburg

Sandton is an upscale area of Johannesburg, with lots of office buildings and hotels, as well as some high-end shopping centers...

Read More

Trip Report:  SA Express Walvis Bay to Johannesburg

Category: Trip Reports Comments: No comments

SA Express Flt 1702  WVB to JNB
Boeing 737-300, Economy
Sched. Dep. 2:45pm   Sched. Arr.4:55pm
Actual Dep. 3:00pm   Actual Arr. 5:18pm

This is part 14 of my series exploring my March 2017 trip to South Africa and Namibia, which started here.

So this was a very strange flight.

Swakopmund doesn’t have its own airport with commercial service, but the Walvis Bay International Airport is not very far, about a 40 minute drive away.  I had pre-booked a transfer, which came just on time, and the owner, a German Namibian woman provided me with some interesting commentary as we drove down.  The drive is actually quite pretty, as there are picturesque sand dunes on the left and the ocean is on the right.

Dunes en route from Swakopmund to WVB

Walvis Bay is Namibia’s largest airport outside o...

Read More

Swakopmund and the Strand Hotel

Category: HotelsTrip Reports Comments: No comments

This is part 13 of my series exploring my March 2017 trip to South Africa and Namibia, which started here.

Swakopmund is one of the weirdest places I’ve ever been, as it is a complete anachronism.  Nestled on the Atlantic Ocean, due west of Windhoek, it is probably the second-most visited “city” in Namibia. (Walvis Bay, 40 miles to the south, is a larger city, but less touristed.)  Swakopmund was the main port for German South West Africa, and still retains a very strong German influence – both in terms of architecture and people.  Although English is the official language of Namibia, you’re far more likely to hear German, and the city remains a tourist/seaside destination for Germans.  I’ve never been to a North Sea beachtown in Germany, but I imagine it feels like Swakopmund...

Read More

Safari in Etosha National Park and Damaraland, Namibia

Category: Trip Reports Comments: No comments

This is part 12 of my series exploring my March 2017 trip to South Africa and Namibia, which started here.

You could easily spend several weeks in Namibia, with a range of terrains, suitable for safari, watersports, adventure sports, and a range of exploration.  I didn’t have a long time, though, as I was really just squeezing in my stay between Cape Town and Johannesburg legs.  I had no real flexibility on dates, so there was only one choice for my excursion, which worked out well – the Etosha Express 3-day tour run by Chameleon Safaris...

Read More

The Hilton Windhoek Review and a Super-Brief Exploration of Windhoek

Category: HotelsTrip Reports Comments: No comments

This is part 11 of my series exploring my March 2017 trip to South Africa and Namibia, which started here.

Windhoek has a pretty solid range of hotel options, including two Proteas.  The Hilton Windhoek, though, had very good reviews, and seemed pretty well-located.  I had originally booked it for 30,000 Hilton Honors points, because, well how many decent Hilton properties can you get for a non-outrageous amount of points.  I checked back a month or so later, and due to the ridiculous nontransparent pricing system for Hilton properties, it had dropped down to 20,000 points, so I rebooked it.

Hilton Windhoek

The hotel stands out quite a bit in the city, as a very tall modern structure...

Read More

Air Namibia Cape Town to Windhoek:  Shenanigans, or the 2 Hour Flight That Became an All-Day Journey

Category: AirlinesTrip Reports Comments: No comments

This is part 10 of my series exploring my March 2017 trip to South Africa and Namibia, which started here.

Air Namibia Flt. 704  Cape Town to Windhoek (via Walvis Bay)

Sched. Dep. 11:30am    Actual Dep. 1:09pm
Sched. Arr.  1:20pm   Actual Arr. 4:30pm
A319, Coach

In the aftermath of Unitedgate, where everyone became an expert on the ins and outs of the airline industry, consumer protection law, the history of regulation in America, and police brutality, and became attuned to bumping of one guy as the great moral crisis of our time, someone told me I didn’t have any knowledge about the airline industry, as my blog is just about business class flights.  Now none of my last five blog posts had anything to do with flights at all, but this one will be – but don’t worry – it was in coach.  The only other thing I’ll say about what’s going on with United?  It reminds me of a famous saying: “Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one.”  Now onto Air Namibia….

I had two nonstop options to get from Cape Town to Windhoek: Air Namibia and SA Airlink. They both fly two flights a day.  Air Namibia has an 11:30am flight, and an evening flight; SA Airlink has a 6:30am flight and a 2:55pm flight.  Neither airline is known as phenomenal, but they’re not fly-by-night operations. (Air Namibia’s IATA code is SW, going back to the country’s days as South West Africa).  Air Namibia is a pretty small airline, fully owned by the Namibian government, with a fleet of only 10 planes – 4 A319s, 4 ERJ-135s, and 2 A330-200s.  The A332s are used for its one long-haul flight, to Frankfurt, whereas the A319s and Embraers fly out of Windhoek’s Hosea Kutako International (WDH), Windhoek’s smaller domestic Eros Airport, and Walvis Bay.

I decided to go with the Air Namibia midday flight as it would allow me a few hours in the late afternoon to explore Windhoek, and paid a bit more than the 2:55pm Airlink flight. Alas, that was for naught.

Read More

Protea Hotels of Cape Town:  Protea Cape Castle, Protea Victoria Junction, and African Pride 15 on Orange

Category: HotelsTrip Reports Comments: No comments

This is part 9 of my series exploring my March 2017 trip to South Africa and Namibia, which started here.

As explained in my intro post for this trip, my five nights in Cape Town were all spent at Protea-family properties – the South African chain that became a Marriott brand a few years ago.  Four of my nights were booked using Prokard Explorer BOGO certificates, and the fifth was my annual Marriott Rewards free night from my Marriott Rewards Premier Visa card.  In all, I was very happy with the choices I made, as the hotels ranged from good to outstanding, the locations worked, and the value was excellent – even taking into account that I didn’t even use all of the certificates in my Prokard Explorer account...

Read More

Exploring Cape Town: Part 3:  Table Mountain hike, Company’s Garden, Bo-Kaap

Category: Trip Reports Comments: No comments

This is part 8 of my series exploring my March 2017 trip to South Africa and Namibia, which started here.

My last day in Cape Town was an ambitious one, but I was pretty successful.  In the morning, I did Table Mountain, and then in the afternoon I did a loop of the northern part of the center city. I started out at around 9:30, and Ubered from the Protea Victoria Junction to the African Pride 15 on Orange.  I had planned to just drop my bags, but to my surprise they said my room was ready. I didn’t dilly-dally too long, though, before taking another Uber to Table Mountain.

Table Mountain is a massive flat-topped mountain that looms over the entire city of Cape Town, just south of central Cape Town...

Read More

Exploring Cape Town: Part 2: District 6 Museum, Castle of Good Hope, Greenmarket Square and Cape Town Pride

Category: Trip Reports Comments: No comments

This is part 7 of my series exploring my March 2017 trip to South Africa and Namibia, which started here.

After the disaster of my Cape of Good Hope day and early bedtime, I was committed to make the most of my two days left in Cape Town – which I think I did.  By total coincidence, the weekend ended up being scheduled as Cape Town Pride, which is much smaller than other prides I’ve to in cities like Vienna or Sydney Mardi Gras, Although the whole week was Pride week, the only real big events were on Saturday – which worked out great for me, as it allowed me to explore the other aspects of the city without feeling I was missing out.

District Six Museum


I got an early start and took an Uber to the District Six Museum...

Read More

You’re Allowed One Disastrous Day: Or My Daytrip to the Cape of Good Hope; Or Don’t Rent with Thrifty in South Africa

Category: Trip Reports Comments: No comments

This is part 6 of my series exploring my March 2017 trip to South Africa and Namibia, which started here.

My theory on long trips is that you’re allowed one disastrous day without it ruining the vacation. My second day in Cape Town was that day.

My plan was to rent a car for the day and drive down to the Cape of Good Hope, the southwestern most tip of Africa, about 50 miles south of the central city.  There are a number of landmarks to stop at on both sides of the Cape peninsula, so I had myself a nice little loop planned for the whole day.  I had originally planned to rent from Hertz in the city, but I realized Thrifty was closer to my hotel and only a few dollars more. Big mistake.

The pickup experience took quite a while as it didn’t seem anyone was just picking up a reservation wi...

Read More