Africa Travel tagged posts

Two and a Half Days in Johannesburg – Apartheid Museum, Neighbourgoods Market, Soweto Township Tour

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This is part 17 of my series exploring my March 2017 trip to South Africa and Namibia, which started here.

I really had no idea what to expect of Johannesburg. Lots of folks had suggested it was skippable, or the kind of city you can breeze through in a day.  I ended up having three nights and two full days there, but I actually wish I’d had a day or two more — especially since one of my days was a Sunday.   Overall, the city is completely different from Cape Town.  Whereas Cape Town feels like a touristy version of San Francisco, Johannesburg is more like L.A., with an urban core, extremely spread out, and not walkable at all.  It also was far more racially integrated than Cape Town.

My hotel stays, as covered in other posts, were split between Sandton and Rosebank, two of the mor...

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Hotel Review: Holiday Inn Johannesburg-Rosebank – a lovely Pointbreaks stay

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This is part 16 of my series exploring my March 2017 trip to South Africa and Namibia, which started here.

A few weeks before my trip, IHG Rewards Club issued its list of “Pointbreaks” properties for spring 2017. For those who aren’t familiar, properties on the list have a limited number of rooms available for only 5,000 IHG points – which can basically be bought for about $35 – making this a pretty good value. Most of the properties on the lists are generally not very popular, though, with isolated locations, or of low quality...

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Trip Report:  SA Express Walvis Bay to Johannesburg

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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...

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Swakopmund and the Strand Hotel

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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...

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Safari in Etosha National Park and Damaraland, Namibia

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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...

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

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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...

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

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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.

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South Africa & Namibia Preview #1: Booking Award Travel to South Africa

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In a few weeks I’ll be traveling to South Africa and Namibia, which will be my first trip to the mainland of Africa.  (Back in 2014, I went to the Seychelles with layovers in Ethiopia.)  At this point, South Africa, China, India, and Japan are pretty much the only major global destinations I haven’t been, and South Africa seemed like the best to travel to alone – particularly in light of the favorable exchange rate.

I booked this trip back in August.  I had miles I could use on any number of programs, but getting to South Africa on miles basically comes down to the following options:

(1) Nonstop to Africa:   Two carriers fly to South Africa from the US – Delta from Atlanta and South African from JFK and Washington-Dulles.  The South African flight to and from Dulles, though, stops in either Dakar, Senegal or Accra, Ghana both ways.  Ethiopian also flies from Dulles (via Dublin on the return), Newark (via Lome), LAX (via Dublin), and Toronto (via Dublin on the return), but Addis Ababa isn’t really on the way, as you can see from the map below. (Delta also flies to Lagos, Accra, and Dakar, but it doesn’t have a partner to carry you onward to South Africa.)   Of these options,  the Delta flights had no business availability (they rarely do at reasonable rates), and the Ethiopian travel times were long.  South African had availability on the day before I wanted to return to JFK – but since United left JFK, getting back to DC is would be annoying – and then on the day after I wanted to return to Dulles via Dakar.  From reading reports online, it seems the Dulles flight is pretty unpleasant.  Its operated using SAA’s A340 with older-style lie flat seats in business class, and the one hour stop in Dakar is halfway through the flight in the middle of the night.  No thanks.

Mileage Options for flying directly from the US to Southern Africa

(2) Connecting in Europe:  Most award programs allow r...

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Trip Report: Leaving Paradise: Ethiopian Business Class Mahe to Addis Ababa to Paris

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Ethiopian Flt. 878 SEZ to ADD
Boeing 737-800, Business Class, Dep. 4:12pm Arr. 6:30pm

Ethiopian Flt. 704, ADD to CDG
Boeing 767-300, Business Class, Dep. 11:55pm Arr. 5:15am (+1)

After a great five days, it was time to leave the Seychelles. We arrived at Mahe’s airport about two hours before departure, and checked-in at the outdoor check-in area. There were a few shops outside and I did some souvenir shopping. I figured I would leave the lounge early and spend the rest of my Seychelles Rupees at duty free in the terminal.

Outdoor check-in at SEZ

Outdoor check-in at SEZ

There was no wait for security or immigration, and soon we were in the small but modern air-conditioned terminal. At check-in, we had received passes for the Salon Vallee de Mai, Air Seychelles’ business class lounge. The space was newly renovated and pretty empty, with plentiful seating. The only real negative was that the bathrooms in the lounge were not air-conditioned, which was just uncomfortable. They did have pretty graphic designations, though.

Well, then.... Bathroom doors at the SEZ lounge

Well, then…. Bathroom doors at the SEZ lounge

SEZ Business Class Lounge

SEZ Business Clas...

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Trip Report: Exploring the Seychelles Part 2: Hiking to Anse Major and a Sainte Anne Marine Park Excursion

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As promised, this is the second of two posts covering our experiences of the Seychelles outside the Hilton Northolme.  To read about eating in the Seychelles and the capital of Victoria, check out this post.

Hiking to Anse Major

I like doing at least one physical activity on my vacations, be it mountain biking in the foothills of the Andes in Mendoza, kayaking in Panama’s Gatun Lake, or hiking through Cinque Terre in Italy.  I knew there were a ton of beautiful hikes throughout Mahe, and somehow convinced my typically hike-averse boyfriend to join me on one. There were a number of options, some which went higher than others and provided wonderful views, but we decided to combine our hike with a beach day, and head to Anse Major, a beautiful beach that can only be accessed via boat or hike.

The directions for finding the trailhead were not particularly helpful – basically drive south from Beau Vallon and follow the road until you can’t go any farther by car. After a few “is this it?” false alarms, we pulled our car into a nook at what seemed to be a huge hotel under construction and began the hike.

Looked like a spot

Looked like a spot

The hike had been labeled as “easy,” but I actually think moderate would have been a better description. Although the path was fairly well-marked, there were a decent number of climbs up and down using small rocks as steps. There was also a lot of uphill and downhill, making neither direction particularly easy. But one thing that was not underrated were the views, which were simply breathtaking the entire time as you stay along the water, going through what seem to be several different climates (jungle, arid, wooded forest). It was a hot day, and we were glad we had our Hilton hats.

Hiking to Anse Major

Hiking to A...

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