THANKS AFRICA FOR MAKING ME FEEL LIKE A FOUR YEAR OLD KID AGAIN!
This is without any doubts one of the most exciting posts I’ll ever write. The one that I was waiting to publish for a very long time!!
I’m sitting on my bed here in Sardinia, a bed filled with piles of mixed stuff (mostly wet tissues actually!) ready to be packed and, as incredible as it might sound, I still can’t believe that this is happening for real!
I just looked up at the calendar on my laptop for the millionth time. Yep, it’s still the 15th of November and on the 17th, early in the morning I will catch the first of my 4 flights to reach the destination number one on my list: Namibia.
Seriously? Am I really doing this?
When my mind finally grasp that yes, I am going to camp in the desert under a roof made of stars, seeing my beloved big cats and who knows what else… my heart starts beating so fast that I think it’s going to explode.
Almost everything is ready. I was so excited that I packed 90% of my stuff back in September, I just need to add the toiletries and I’m done.
But the real question still remains, am I emotionally “ready”?!
THE AFRICA EFFECT: MY EMOTIONS ARE ALL OVER THE PLACE!
Africa has always been THE continent I wanted to explore more than any other. My favorite book as a kid was the Atlas and I remember spending my days examining every name, mountain, lake, and country in Africa.
Being a kid, I had a fervid imagination and just by looking at the map I saw the lions and cheetahs jumping out of those pages. I pictured immense landscapes, deserted lands and fascinating people wearing “weird” dresses and still living like “savages”.
Well, excuse me, I was a kid so I had no real notion of the cultural differences yet, and I couldn’t even rely on Google at the time, as Internet didn’t even exist (damn this makes me feel old!) 😀
TV Documentaries were all I had, but now I’m finally fulfilling my crazy dream!
It took me more than 4 months of hard work to get to this point. First only the idea of actually going to Africa took me a few weeks to set in, then I started putting together an ideal itinerary of the countries I wanted to visit the most and the things I was dreaming of seeing since forever and now…
Two days apart from realizing the biggest dream of my life I have so many emotions inside that I’m acting like a real lunatic most of the times.
My family is so fed up with me talking about this trip that, for as much as they are concerned about my safety (hello mum, I’m 38 and I’ve been traveling alone since age 18), they wanted to send me to Africa months ago.
I get it, as soon as I’m gone they can finally enjoy a proper meal, without me starting the conversation with the usual: “Hey! I just discovered that in AFRICA…”
JUST SHUT UP, WILL YOU?!!!
So we are basically at square one again. Me acting like an annoying kid asking “why” a million times. That’s what Africa did to me. And it’s amazing.
I was looking for this kind of excitement since I first left for my long term trip to Asia in 2013. I wrote a blog post called “The night before the trip” where I talked about the exciting sensations, the tears of joy and the unsettling feeling of fear for the big unknown. At that time, I was 100% sure that such emotions could only occur once during your lifetime.
That was my first real adventurous trip after all and being a first, I thought that it would have always remained an unbeaten record as far as my emotions were concerned.
How wrong I was! Three years later, here I am. A supposedly experienced traveler. A girl who slept on the floor of many airports and dirty buses, a girl who reinvented her life from scratch and has so many incredible adventures already on her back…and yet, Africa drastically changed my dull idea of “first times”.
Don’t get me wrong, it is somehow true that for a good part of my trips, that first night before my Asian departure was a huge milestone and nothing after that did get even close to those feelings.
When you travel as a lifestyle, the departures slowly start to become a routine, sometimes even boring or annoying. There is nothing that gives you “the chills” like THAT first time.
I was obviously still happy to travel, but I wasn’t certainly looking forwards to catch yet another 12 hours flight to the other side of the world.
Not with Africa. I’m back. My old (younger) self is back!
I can barely sleep at night and I am constantly researching for new articles to read and pretend that I’ll be more prepared when, in fact, I know very well that no matter how much you think you are ready for a trip…
You will never be 100% prepared for it. And that’s actually the true beauty traveling!
After my emotional rant, let’s now get into the detail of my epic trip! What countries am I going to visit? What kind of trip and experiences am I super excited to have?
Below is a recap of the countries and activities I have planned (also useful as a reminder for myself, as I have so much on my plate right now!)
From Cagliari, I’ll be catching a plane to Rome where I’ll have my first layover, then I’ll head further north to Frankfurt for 5 hours before boarding a 12 hours flight that will cross the entire African continent, headed to Johannesburg.
From there I will catch my last plane to Windhoek in Namibia, arriving on November 18th. Probably exhausted, but definitely excited!
I will be flying with South African Airways, as it was the cheapest option from Europe.
Cost of the trip: 520 Euros (including the usual annoying and expensive flight to get to mainland Italy, as living in an Island means at least an extra 150 euros for the flights)
NAMIBIA – RESTING DAY.
I will probably enter my usual coma in my Hotel in Windhoek, my plan is to just regain my energies by eating and sleeping to get back in shape for my first massive adventure starting on the 20th of November!
23 DAYS OVERLAND CAMPING TRIP IN NAMIBIA / BOTSWANA / VICTORIA FALLS.
The adventure begins! I will start a trip called ” 23 day African Odyssey Safari” with Wild Dogs Safaris, and I couldn’t be happier with my choice! This is exactly how I wanted to start my African trip. With some hardcore adventure times!
I will be camping every night under the stars and I’ll also contribute to the life in the camp, together with the other travelers, helping with the cooking (good luck with that!), cleaning etc.
The highlights of this amazing trip will be: Kalahari Desert, Fish River Canyon, Luderitz and Kolmanskop, Namib Desert, Africat Foundation, Etosha National Park, Twyfelfontein, Swakopmund, Ghanzi, Okavango Pan-handle, Caprivi Strip, Chobe National Park and Victoria Falls.
One word: I simply can’t wait!!! My imagination is already running wild and nothing, and I mean NOTHING can stop that!
ZIMBABWE – VICTORIA FALLS
The adventurous tour will come to an end and after admiring the mighty Victoria falls (unfortunately I’ll just have one day in there), I’ll cross the border from Zimbabwe to Zambia (please let me in!) and I’ll be spending the night in Livingstone, where on December 13 I will catch a flight for the second leg of my trip.
ARRIVING IN KENYA
On December 13th I will depart from Livingstone with South African Airways again (they still are the cheapest option and, for the records, they are NOT sponsoring me, not even a class upgrade) :).
I will spend the night in Johannesburg, probably using their Lounge, as I have a super useful card called “The Regal Card“ -which I love already- that will allow me to enter every lounge in the world (more on this below on the useful stuff I’ll bring on this epic trip).
On the 14th of December, I’ll take my flight from Jo’burg to Nairobi where I plan to collapse for the whole afternoon, as on the 15th I’ll start my adventures in Kenya!
Cost of the Flight: 230 euros (Vs the 550 euros for the direct flight with Kenya Airways)
KENYA ADVENTURES – PHOTO TRIP
Finally! I will start my one week trip with the driver and my guide, Tufayn, the director of Glory Safaris. He is also an amazing photographer, owner of a massive 600mm lens, so it’s going to be fun to watch and learn from him!
I had the chance to meet him at the WTM in London, and we were both so excited about this trip, it0s going to be an epic one!
We will be exploring the Aberdare area, Lake Nakuru, Lake Naivasha and the famous Maasai mara reserve and back to Nairobi.
Since I want to explore different things in Africa, I think this Kenya trip will be focused mainly on photography (one of my biggest passions) and we will be trying to shoot the milky way and experiment with our cameras. I’m beyond excitement just by thinking about it!
December 21 – January 2nd:
UGANDA / RWANDA – AN UNCONVENTIONAL CULTURAL TRIP
As you can see from the dates.. I’ll be spending Christmas and greeting 2016 in Rwanda! I feel I’m the luckiest girl in the world because of this.
I met Miha on my last day at the WTM in London, from “Gorilla Highlands” and we had a very long chat about my trip, what I really wanted to experience in Uganda and Rwanda and we found so many points in common that in the end we decided to create something unique together.
If my first leg of the trip was totally focused on adventure in its pure state, and the Kenyan one is mostly about photography, for Uganda and Rwanda my main focus will be the interaction with the local communities, hopefully volunteering during Christmas as well as driving around the western -less known- part of Uganda.
And nope, I’m not going to see the Gorillas, for which Uganda is actually famous. This decision came for different reasons. As much as I would have loved to see these sweet creatures, at Christmas time finding a permit to visit the Gorilla has proven to be a mission impossible.
Not to mention that I can’t hike (long story), and the Gorillas are actually Mountain Gorillas, so you do the math 🙂 But most importantly, I’d like to experience something more than just the main highlight and see what other beautiful things Uganda and Rwanda have to offer.
Plus I will be spending NYE among these lovely people and with the local community. I couldn’t ask for a better start of the year!
January 2nd -January 8th:
TENTED CAMPS & SAFARIS IN NORTHERN TANZANIA!
After the basic camping experience, the photo trip and the journey amongst the local, it’s time to enjoy a bit of comfort in some of the most beautiful tented camps in northern Tanzania with Ang’Ata Camps & Safaris!
I will be exploring the famous Serengeti Park (I saw countless documentaries on tv about this beautiful park!) and discover the Ngorongoro area for some unforgettable game drives. I’m so looking forward to visiting Tanzania and spotting the famous the “Big 5”: Aka, the most dangerous predators in Africa: Lions, Rhinos, Elephants, Leopards, and Buffalos.
January 8th – Onwards:
THE BIG UNKNOWN!
Up till this point, my itinerary is well defined, and believe me, it wasn’t an easy task to combine the dates, the routes and to find the perfect companies/tour operators that reflected the spirit of my trip and could offer me the experiences I wanted for my first visit in Africa.
So far I still haven’t bought a return ticket, as I want to see where the path will bring me. From my past experiences, I know that on a trip of this scale anything is possible.
I’m so looking forward to the unknown part of this trip as improvising is sometimes the best way to travel!
My original plan was to join an overland trip starting in Tanzania and ending in South Africa, a place that I was very curious to visit.
Unfortunately, the company I wanted to use for this purpose couldn’t accommodate me, which was (so far) my only disappointment as I was looking forward to trying their adventurous trip and ending my glorious African experience in Cape Town.
But hey, nothing is set in stone so I might come up with some new exciting last minute idea that will mess up my plans as usual, so stay tuned!
THE BIG UNKNOWN TURNED INTO A TRIP TO THE SEYCHELLES!!!
A glorious ending to my amazing African Adventure
I have to admit it, when my plan to go all the way down from Tanzania to Cape Town overland failed, I was super bummed. I truly wanted to do that trip. Little did I know that sometimes something even better is waiting for us!
In the end, after months of not seeing my beloved sea, I decided to fulfill a lifelong dream and to go to the Seychelles (more on this deserved relaxing week in a separate post, with amazing pictures of the beaches and the lovely accommodations I stayed in).
Needless to say, this was the perfect ending to an incredible, once in a lifetime trip!
All in all, even after writing this post I still feel the same:
I DON’T BELIEVE THAT THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING BUT … IT IS AND I’M OVER THE MOON!
The idea behind this post was sharing my pre-trip emotions and organization. Then I realized that the emotions were so overwhelming that with half post still to write, I had already written an obscene amount of words.
So I decided that instead of writing a poem in here, mixing emotions and practical advice, I will be writing a second post with useful info for you, as I want to share what I’ve learned during these months of pre-trip organization.
A post where I will be talking about:
- How I chose my tour operators
- How I created my packing list for Africa (everything included)
- What kind of gear did I buy for the occasion (I have a shiny new backpack!!)
- Visas and practical advice to take into account during the planning stages
- My special packing list for clothes
- Essential items you can’t leave at home
- Safety /Insurance advice
- Services that helped me in having a much smoother experience
Basically all I needed to research for months not only on the internet but also talking to the people who already experienced a long-term trip to Africa.
Obviously this post will be related to my pre-trip experience, and as soon as I will be back I’ll back up this information with my real experience to give you an honest recap on where I did the right choices and what I might have completely overlooked.
Planning a trip to Africa is exciting but definitely not easy, especially if you have an adventurous / spontaneous spirit like me!
MY “AFRICAN” MISSION: DON’T BE SCARED OF AFRICA!
All I know is that even with my ridiculous hypochondria: “Oh my, I’m going to be eaten alive by a lion! I’ll end up being chased by an angry hippo, what if I meet a Black Mamba ( not the Uma Thurman blondie version?)” I still want to show you that traveling to Africa could be the experience of a lifetime!
Or at least this is what I hope it will happen to me, but I have good vibes already!!
I don’t know when my next blog post will be published… I won’t have much internet connection in Africa and to be completely honest with you, I feel relieved.
To really discover Africa you need to unplug, look up at the stars and breath in the beauty of nature and the absolute freedom!
This is what I really want from a trip I’ve been dreaming about since I was a little girl!