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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

South Africa Itinerary

So I have 11 days to see Africa this winter. Here is the step by step process I go through to create my itinerary:

1) Pick a country

This was easy. The only two continents I hadn't been to were South America and Africa and for some reason Africa beckoned to me as a place unlike anywhere I'd ever been.

2) Where in the country do you want to go?

You can determine this one of two ways. Search for popular cities OR search for popular sights to see. Between the two you will get the best idea of where you want to go.

I began by googling "cities in Africa." Naturally, Kenya and South Africa were the two that popped up the most seeing as they are probably the most touristy. The reason being that they tend to have some of the best places to spot wildlife and a booming safari business has grown thanks to this.

I then googled "best things to see in Africa." One of the top things that came back was Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. It was beautiful. It was breathtaking. And above all it had a bungee jump. Nothing suckers me like a good bungee jump. So that had to be added to the list.

Another place was Capetown in South Africa. I realized that South Africa has hiking, wine, sharks, and safaris - pretty much everything I was looking for. Kenya would have to wait.

So I'd know determined that I would go from Capetown to Victoria Falls and somehow manage it in 11 days.

3) International flights

This is around the point that I started looking up international flights. I had to go Dec 23rd to Jan 3rd to maximize my winter holiday from work. Since I only had 11 days I decided I would be flying in to one city and flying out of another. In otherwords I was going to have to shell out a fair amount of money for my flight because it was so specific. Luckily, I was doing this six months in advance. So I determined I would fly Los Angeles to Capetown and then Johannesburg to Los Angeles. Leaving on Dec 23rd I wouldn't get into Capetown until the afternoon of Dec 25th. It also meant I would be spending Jan 3rd getting home. So now I am down to 9 days.

4) Order the Importance of your sightseeing

To determine your itinerary, the best thing to do is to list items in order of their importance to you and how long it will take to do them. For me, the list was:

Safari: At least 3 days / 2 nights
Diving with Great White Sharks: 1/2 a day
Victoria Falls: 1 day/1 night
Wine Tasting: 1 day or more

The Safari was my top priority and would take the most time so it would determine everything else. And I would definitely be partying with Great Whites.

5) Plot Them to determine the order

Starting in Capetown, diving with Great Whites would be first because you do this at Shark Alley in Gansbaai. Next would be wine tasting in Stellenbosch because it is close to Capetown. Then it's a toss up between Victoria Falls or the Safari since you go through Johannesburg to get to both. So I decided to get Victoria Falls out of the way and then end with the Safari. Granted it is usually dangerous to put what you most want to do at the end of the trip because you never know if something will go wrong. But I had to be flexible due to the time constraints.

This is also the point where you will want to plan your flights within the country. While trains and cars are cheaper I had little time so I would be flying as much as possible.

6) Put everything in order with timing!

Dec 23-25: Depart and arrive in Capetown
Dec 26: Diving with Great White Sharks
Dec 27: Wine tasting in Stellenbosch
Dec 28-29: Travel to Zimbabwe and see Victoria Falls
Dec 30-2: Safari (3 days / 2 nights) and depart for Johannesburg
Jan 3: Headed home

As you can see I easily filled the trip just with the top things I wanted to do.

7) Fill in the blanks

Obviously, these activities won't take up 100% of my time, but my suggestion is to always plan out your top priorities and then leave the rest of the trip unplanned. For example, on Dec 26th, diving with Great White sharks only occupies about 4 hours in the early early morning giving me the rest of the day to explore the surrounding area and see the Cape Peninsula. It doesn't hurt to research things near your main priorities so that you are aware of them but don't actually book anything. This allows you time to actually take in the place you are visiting.

So that's how I planned my Africa trip. As it gets closer to December I will give updates on what I'm doing to prepare!

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