South Pasadena, California
I'm going to be heading to Africa the second half of April and I'm trying to decide on where to travel for a week before I have to start work. I'd like to stop through Botswana and Zimbabwe to see Victoria Falls and go on a safari, however, I'm reading that most of the good parks in this area (Okavango/Chobe) are flooded from the rainy season and the game is spread out or not easily visible. I'm going to be working in Tanzania, so I'd like to explore outside of Tanzania/Kenya...
Has anyone been in Botswana/Zimbabwe in April? How's the game viewing? Any suggestions for parks to visit in April in the area, or in other parts of Africa? Thanks!
I have often travelled in that part of the world at Easter, and I can highly recommend it.
Yes, it's the end of the rainy season, but that doesn't really affect game viewing. The vegetation is denser, and the wildlife more dispersed, but it's still absolutely spectacular.
If you plan to visit the Okavango Delta, you'll need to fly in to most of the camps anyway (usually from Maun Airport), so the fact that it's been raining won't affect that. The Swamps are fabulous and utterly unique, but just be warned that the prices reflect this. As you are probably aware, Botswana has adopted a 'low numbers, high income' policy on tourism, so the cost of park entry is high, and there are few budget camps.
Chobe National Park is terrific, and is particularly famed for the large numbers of animals - especially elephant - who come down to water on the river. It is more accessible than the Okavango (easily driveable from the airports at Victoria Falls, Livingstone or Kasane) and has a range of camps, as well as some interesting house boat options. Chobe is all about the river - and the memory that most visitors will treasure is that of the late afternoon sundowner 'booze cruises', as you leisurely drift past the landscape and wildlife, getting mellower by the moment.
One option you may not have considered is the Caprivi Strip in Namibia, whose finger extends to separate Botswana from Angola and Zambia. Katima Mulilo, just inside the border is an interesting base, which offers a similar experience to Chobe, and can often be more affordable.
Lastly, don't discount the Victoria Falls National Park, which extends between the Botswana border and the falls themselves. We have always seen fabulous wildlife here (watching wild dogs hunting was the experience of a lifetime) and the bird life is particularly good. There are several excellent lodges in this area to choose from.
The Falls themselves are gorgeous - and should be at their majestic, thunderous best after recent rain. However, Victoria Falls town itself is scruffy and reflects Zimbabwe's sad decline into economic turmoil, so I would suggest that if your budget allows, you try to stay at one of the lodges outside town (which will usually provide a shuttle service into town so that you can experience activities such as whitewater rafting, bungee jumping and the Flight of Angels). Alternatively, you could stay in Livingstone on the Zambian side, which is more upmarket (and usually more expensive).
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I've split my answer as it was getting too long.
From Victoria Falls there are several other really interesting things you could do in Zim.
One option is to head southwards towards Hwange National Park. It used to be one of my absolute favourite parks, but a combination of drought, neglect and poaching have taken their toll, and I would seek input from someone who's been there more recently to get an idea of its current state.
Another option - very popular with tourists from within the region - is to head on to Lake Kariba, which offers outstanding fishing (its ferocious tiger fish are the stuff of fables, and of course, get bigger with every telling), houseboats and the extremely quirky and endearingly tatty overnight ferry from Mibizi to Kariba Dam. Further downstream, there is the wonderful option of Mana Pools National Park, where most visitors kayak (under supervision) between tented camps - something that is still lurking very high on my list.
There are also wonderful parks in Zambia, including Kafue National Park and South Luangwa National Park. However - like Botswana - Zambian tourism is aimed at the dollar denominated high end tourist, and these parks can also be a little difficult to get to if you have limited time.
One last option that you might not have considered is Malawi. It's a wonderfully friendly country, that offers a refreshingly different tourist experience to the rest of the region. Most of the tourist activity is focused on exquisite Lake Malawi, with companies such as KayakAfrica offering some terrific packages on small islands, from which you can canoe and snorkel in fresh water that is both crocodile- and bilharzia-free. If you are feeling active, I would highly recommend hiking Mulanje Massif or exploring the alpine Nyika National Park (Malawi). There is also a game park at the southern end of the lake, but compared to the other gane viewing destinations I've mentioned (and the very special reserves you'll experience in Tanzania), I would suggest that if you have limited time, you give this a miss in favour of Malawi's more unique attractions.
In terms of getting around, if you are going to be based in Tanzania (presumably Dar), then it's worth you taking a look at the Fastjet budget airline -related to Easyjet in Europe) which uses Dar as its hub, and operates affordable direct services into Vic Falls, Lusaka and Harare.
Hope that's enough to get the creative juices flowing, and please feel free to ask for further information or clarification.
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Okavango Delta is surely the typical highlight for Botswana, however I found the Central Kalahari Game Reserve way cooler: gigantic park, where you can go days without seeing a soul. The Nxai Pan South camp was an amazing combination of unusual landscape and incredible game viewing.
In Zimbabwe head for the Hwange National Park
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