An African Adventure

Discussion in 'Trip Reports and Trip Photos' started by coyote25, Oct 5, 2017.

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  1. coyote25

    coyote25 Established Member

    Aug 14, 2004
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    #1 coyote25, Oct 5, 2017
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2017
    IMG_0918.GIF
    I'm now less than 50 days out from the start of my 60 day Africa adventure.

    This is a trip that I started planning 18 months ago. I booked my outbound F award flights way back on Christmas Eve 2016 and got QF to release my J seat back from South Africa on 1 Feb 2017 using my WP benefit as QF wasn't releasing an J awards in January 2018 (thanks AFF members for advising of this benefit!)

    This trip will achieve a number of bucket list items starting with my first real 'First Class' international flight booked following AFF advise I selected an Emirates A380 service from Melbourne to Dubai, and B777 Dubai to Nairobi.

    Countries to be visited are:
    1. United Arab Emirates (10 hour transit)
    2. Kenya,
    3. Uganda,
    4. Tanzania,
    5. Malawi,
    6. Zambia,
    7. Botswana,
    8. Zimbabwe,
    9. Namibia and
    10. South Africa
     
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  2. coyote25

    coyote25 Established Member

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    #2 coyote25, Oct 5, 2017
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2017
    The booking experience
    I was very keen to book an F class experience so I had been waiting for the release of Emirate seats for flights between 21-23 November 2017 to book immediately.

    Emirates seats are normally released on the QF system 330 days out but I noticed they would do a week at a time. On the 24 December the rate F award seats where released into the wild for the predator frequent flyer hunters to attack :). The rarest beast, the direct A380 option from Melbourne, was already gone in 15 seconds, you have to be fast on the draw!

    The QF Online booking system also kept crashing at the final payment stage for my option 2 stopover A380 flight so it was time to ring QANTAS and deal with an actual customer service representative, oh no :)

    As a WP the call was answered by a CSR within 2 minutes I can recall 15 waits as a SG, must better service standards as WP.

    The QF CSR helpfully looked for direct A380 options to Dubai but confirmed they had been taken already so in the end it was EK405 which routes via Singapore for a 1 hour 45 minute stopover. So 7 hours 45 mins MEL to SIN and then 7 hours 25 minutes SIN-DXB. I guess I can live with two shower experiences and a quick Lounge visit in SIN, life is so unfair sometimes

    There were no problems finding an F award seat to Dubai to Nairobi on EK721 B777 for the 5 hour 10 minute flight.

    This booking was 168k points and $639.58. The QF OP helpfully let me know this included a chauffeur drive to the airport at Melbourne and a Dubai Connect hotel stay while in transit in Dubai. No chauffeur at the Nairobi end :(

    There was no booking charge for doing this over the phone.

    I than went to QF online to select seats which sees you redirected to the Emirates website. After some research I selected 2K on the A380 EK405 and 1A on the B777-300 EK721. I couldn't help myself on the 1A seat I wanted that number.

    Summary: the QF Online booking system let me down but the phone service was excellent and it was great dealing with an enthusiast customer service officer.

    The redirect to Emirates website for seat selection worked well.
     
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  3. lovetravellingoz

    lovetravellingoz Senior Member

    Jul 13, 2006
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    For my African Trip we too flew into Nairobi and out of South Africa via Jo-berg.

    We greatly enjoyed driving a 4WD overland between Nairobi and Victoria Falls.
     
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  4. LadyC

    LadyC Established Member

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    Sounds like an amazing holiday you have planned! Looking forward to the next instalment.
     
  5. craven morehead

    craven morehead Established Member

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    Can't wait for this TR to start in earnest !
     
  6. Dr Bob

    Dr Bob Member

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    Will be a great trip. Must try & do it to.
     
  7. Jacques Vert

    Jacques Vert Established Member

    Jun 24, 2008
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    Onboard and strapped in.
     
  8. coyote25

    coyote25 Established Member

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    The booking experience Step 2
    On Christmas Eve 2016 I gave myself a massive present, international first class travel, but I still needed to find a way home.

    The African tour I had selected starts on 25 Nov 2017, 2 days after I arrive, and finishes in Cape Town on 20 Jan 2018 (more on how I selected the tour later).

    This meant I needed to leave South Africa on or after 20 January. I had my sights on 21 January so I could get back to the AusOpen in Melbourne. I was closely watching QF release award seats and they were barely releasing any Y seats yet alone PE or J seats in January :( but that is to be expected.

    On the appointed day that 21 Jan was available for booking I found 1 Y seat only had been released but this WP knew I could ring up and request a seat be released, so once again it was time to call QANTAS.

    The call was answered after only 20 seconds and I quickly requested a J seat be released. After a wait of about 5 minutes my request was granted!! Thanks AFF for making me aware of such an option.

    The QF CSR made several amusing comments during the call talking about his love of different African countries. James was able to book all three segments together; a J seat on Comair CPT-JNB, the just released QF64 JNB-SYD flight and a later SYD-MEL J flight. I was surprised the Comair award seats were already loaded.

    The QF CSR (James) then asked for my seat preferences and I grabbed 5B a single J window seat on the B747. All allocated seats have so far held as well.

    I was informed no phone charge for booking. Added bonus is the booking fee was charged in AUD which isn't an option if booking online (would have been in ZAR).

    Cost was 122K QFF points and $639.57. While the award 'fines' are a pain I had a J award flight with a great seat locked in during a peak travel period so very happy.

    Summary
    The phone booking process was very simple and quick especially considering I needed a seat to be released. Turns out it was worth pushing to get to WP just before my anniversary year ended :)
     
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  9. Major

    Major Established Member

    Jan 21, 2011
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    What a great looking trip :)
     
  10. coyote25

    coyote25 Established Member

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    Selecting the destination
    In thinking about where to go in Africa I used my very limited knowledge of the continent. I'd been to both South Africa and Egypt on the African continent, although most people consider Egypt in the Middle East it's part of the north most part of the African continent.

    I had booked a trip part in 2014 with G Adventures as part of their YOLO series (You Only Live Once) but after cancelling this trip due to work considerations and now being over 40 (the recommended age restriction for YOLO tours is usually under 35 but can be as high as 40) I had to figure out a replacement. I also have to say I didn't think I'd ever get to do this trip.

    At one point I considered a cruise option up the west coast of Africa but that didn't let me hit all the must dos I wanted. The minimum requirements were:
    • Gorillas in Uganda / Rwanda
    • Cradle of Life (Serengeti)
    • Victoria Falls
    • Seeing the big five (elephant, lion, leopard, buffalo and rhino)
    Everything else was a bonus. In the end I selected The Great Africa Epediation from On The Go Tours. Given this is mostly going to be a camping style trip I had to be sure about the company. To the end I try them out so I went with this company for a Best of Sri Lanka trip back in 2016. This positive trip plus online reviews for both On The Go Tours and their Africa partner (Africa Travel Company) meant I'd given them a go.

    Online booking is fine for simple bookings but I wanted to see if I could upgrade some of the accomandation at different points. I didn't think 50+ days of camping after first class Emirates experience would line up well for some reason. I have to say that dealing with their representative Cherlyn Antao over the past year has made everything go well.

    Summary
    Researching to find good options for Africa is more difficult than most parts of the world. On The Go Tours are a very easy company to travel with for questions and to make modifications to their published trips. So far so good.
     
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  11. coyote25

    coyote25 Established Member

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    Visa Preparation
    Organising a tourist visa is the real pain in traveling not researching places to visit, or working out how to get there or reading up on a country’s history, that is all fun. Working out visas makes you feel that some countries don't really want you to visit and I’m not talking about them raising revenue, that’s understandable, I mean the methods of apply and obtaining an entry visa and obtaining accurate information.

    First up is Kenya.

    Kenya
    Contradictory information everywhere including different Kenyan Government website. I believe this is because they attempted to phase out visa on arrivals in 2015 and then backtracked but didn’t update all Gov websites.

    You have the option of getting a visa online or trying at the border. Some Kenyan Government websites say you must get online. The online service has the East Africa Tourist Visa option (Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda) as coming soon, but has had this ‘coming soon’ status for nearly 12 months. Single visit online cost $51 USD. Payment is Visa or MasterCard noting that the card type must allow additional bank verification in this case a text from my bank with a code I could then input into the Kenyan website.

    You will need an image of your passport information page, your trip plan and a recent passport style photo to be uploaded. This actually takes a while to apply with lots of questions about your trip and previous world travels.

    Important Note: You can only apply within 3 months of LEAVING Kenya, so if you are leaving Kenya in December 2017 you can apply from October 2017 but not earlier.
     
  12. drron

    drron Enthusiast

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    Uganda was confusing for us.We decided on getting a visa on arrival.A couple of months out Uganda Immigration said this was going to finish.But then another department said it would continue for another 6 months.We took the chance.
    The there was the cost.On the Ugandan immigration pages it was costed at-$US 50,100 or 150 on different pages.So when we got there we got charged $US50 each but the couple in front had to pay$US100 each.
     
  13. coyote25

    coyote25 Established Member

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    And that's exactly what I'm concerned about. As it's a border crossing into Uganda for me I'm thinking I might apply for eVisa but I wouldn't be surprised if I get charged again. Thanks for sharing your Uganda experience @drron
     
  14. coyote25

    coyote25 Established Member

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    Visa Preparation - Uganda
    More than most countries Uganda has conflicting information on the internet about whether you can obtain a tourist visa on arrival or not. Luckily enough I saw the above message from @drron that it appears that you can do this on arrival. In my case I'll be doing a land crossing somewhere between Eldoret (Kenya) and Kampala (Uganda). The cost of the visa should be $50 USD for single visa tourist visa.

    The main reason I didn't go with the eVisa application is due to the following question:
    • Point of entry or where you want to have your visa personalised? <You can selected Canberra for Australia>
    This then brings out the following message "You should go to the selected point to have your visa sticker printed and have your fingerprints captured" so going to Canberra to get the sticker and fingerprinted was not a preference.

    If you do apply online you need to supply including the last five countries visited, digital copy of passport details page, recent passport photo (less than six month), and digital copy of yellow fever vaccination certificate.

    Let's hope that visa upon arrival if fine. From the Requirements for Entry into Uganda | Uganda National Web Portal website they do say this: "Uganda visas may be obtained at Uganda missions abroad or on arrival at the country’s ports of entry."
     
  15. Quickstatus

    Quickstatus Senior Member

    Oct 13, 2013
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    Ill be following your thread earnestly.
    I too am dreaming of an African adventure (We are calling it the great pivot from the USA)
     
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  16. drron

    drron Enthusiast

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    I personally wouldn't do an e-visa.There were people who had done this but were told to go and fill out the Immigration form and then go to the normal Immigration lines.One woman had apparently not received the confirmation email and although she had a screen shot of the success of her application she had to line up behind us to get the visa on arrival.
    Ugandan Immigration is a shambles.
    No reports of people being denied a VOA except some cases where they are forced to get a dearer visa clas.That and the variable fee we witnessed are probably due to the officer you get.In our case the lady told both us and the couple in front that her church was in Australia.They did not take the conversation further but mrsdrron asked which church.She said Hillsong and mrsdrron said yes that is very popular-so if there is a casual remark about churches in Australia remember to take that further.
     
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  17. coyote25

    coyote25 Established Member

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    Visa Preparation - Tanzania
    Looks like I can receive a visa on arrival. Single entry valid for 3 months is $50 USD.


    Visa Preparation - Malawi
    A little confusing but looks like I can obtain a 7 day transit visa for $50 USD. Definitely need to look into this one further. Appreciate if anyone has visited Malawi what was your experience?
     
  18. coyote25

    coyote25 Established Member

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    okay I'm now 28 hours out from this
    emirates-first-class.jpg

    and a few days traveling like this:
    2017-10-14 18.01.06.jpg

    A bit of a difference. After 18 months of planning I'm pumped to be going on this trip.
     
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  19. coyote25

    coyote25 Established Member

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    D935F50F-5A86-4D2D-B17F-FF82046903D4.jpeg The trip begins :)

    The driver arrived around 15 minutes early but told me there was no rush. Today’s car was a
    Chrysler, very clean. The drive to the airport was very uneventful but a great way to travel hassle free before a big trip.

    I had a short 15 minutes wait until checkin opened 3 hours 20 minutes before the scheduled departure.

    My bag was check though to Nairobi (NBO) and I was given vouchers for my hotel while in transit in Dubai which will be the Roda Al Bustan Hotel.
     
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  20. drron

    drron Enthusiast

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    I hope you don't mind a few of us coming along for a ride.
     
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