• trip report - Botswana, Zambia, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique - Jul-Aug 2015

    Our family (children aged 11 and 15) did an 8-week self-drive trip through Botswana, Zambia, Tanzania, Malawi and Mozambique in July and August 2015. The Botswana part was with another family, the rest on our own. It was a trip of a life time, amazing diversity, incredible game viewing and wild campling, and ending with relaxing on the east cost beaches. The largest part of our stay was in Tanzania.

    Firstly, a big thank you to forum members for very helpful advice in preparation and along the way, particularly to Stan Weakley (route advice in Tanzania) and Tony Weaver (for balancing the generally fearful view of Mozambique so we were not put off going there).

    The trip report is organised as follows:

    1.Itinerary (annotated)
    2.Highlights and photos
    3. Route advice and roads
    4. Police and safety
    5. Borders
    6. Other practicalities

    1. Itinerary (annotated)

    • Cape Town - farm near Kimberly (overnight), Springbokpan (overnight)
    • McCarthy's Rest border, Mabuasehube (Kgalagadi) - 2 nights camping
    • Ghanzi (Thakadu bush camp) - 1 night camping
    • Maun (Audi camp) - luxury permant tent
    • 4 days, 3 nights in swamps - organised by Audi - catered
    • Maun (Audi camp)
    • Third Bridge (Moremi) - 2 nights camping
    • Savuti (Chobe) - 2 nights camping
    • Island Safari lodge (Kasane) with evening boat trip on Chobe
    • through Kazangulu border (chaotic)
    • Jungle Junction (Bovu Island, Zambezi) - 3 nights
    • Vic falls (day trip from Jungle Junction)
    • Lusaka - overnight - chalet at Eureka Campsite
    • Kapishya Springs - 2 nights
    • (through Zambia-Tanzania border at Tunduma)
    • Utengele Coffee estate - 1 night
    • Ndoma - 1 night (see route advice)
    • Arusha - 2 nights (a day needed in arusha for preparation for parks)
    • Ngorogoro Crater rim - 2 nights camping (for early entry into crater)
    • Seronera (Serengeti) - 1 night - camping
    • Lobo (Serengeti) - 2 nights camping (day trip to Mara river)
    • Lake Natron - 1 night
    • Moshi B&B - 1 night
    • Dar es Salaam - Kipepeo Beach resort - 2 nights (leave car here)
    • Chumbe Island - 1 night (a real highlight)
    • Stonetown Coffee House - 1 night
    • Bellevue (Bwejuu, on east coast of Zanzibar - 2 nights
    • Dar es Salaam - Kipepeo Beach resort - 1 night
    • Old Farm House (Kisolanza) - 1 night camping
    • (through Tanzania-Malawi border at Songwe)
    • Sangilo Sanctuary (at lake down from Livinstonia) - 3 nights
    • Mulanje (to see the tea estates on slopes of mount mulanje) - 1 night
    • (through border to Mozambique at Mwanza/Zobue))
    • Ugele Tiger Lodge - camping - 1 night
    • Casa Msika (near Chimoio) - camping - 1 night
    • Vilanculos (Baobab beach resort) - camping 2 nights and chalet 1 night
    • overnight on dhow safari (with sailaway dhow safaris) - another highlight
    • Casa Lisa (outside Maputo) - chalet - 1 night - disappointing
    • Joburg (overnight)
    • Poplar Grove (farm near coleberg)

    2. Highlights and photos

    • Kgalagadi - mating lions; wide open space
    • Okavango swamps - walking up close with Elephant
    • Moremi - third bridge - hippo very close at night
    • Savuti - Chobe - close encounter with male elephant
    • Serengeti - vast open plains. lion, wildebeest migration
    • Ngorogoro
    • Chumbe Island, Zanzibar (snorkelling, swimming, great food, superb)
    • 2 mile reef - amazing snorkelling + dhow experience

    photos here: https://goo.gl/photos/UguYqdXw2Satt5wu9

    3. Route advice and roads

    • new road from Iringa to Dodoma, very good
    • dodoma to arusha should be travelled via singidi and babati - good road (direct route is being retarred and in terrible shape as at July 2015)
    • the northern section of the T2 in Zambia from somewhere north of Mpika to Tunduma is badly potholed
    • Tanzam highway in Tanzania is very stressful to drive due to high traffic volume (trucks and crazy busses) and poor road quality in many places
    • progress on all Tanzanian roads was very slow due to 50 km limit in the seemingly endless strip villages, with traffic police everywhere and keen for a fine/bribe
    [*] most roads in Mozambique were surprisingly good; exception was a very poor section of the EN1 near Save River; (EN1 south of Vilanculos very good) [*] driving in Malawi was not stressful - roads mostly in good shape, friendly police and low traffic volumes

    Getting back onto the SA roads was still a real pleasure though.

    4. police and safety

    We did not feel unsafe on our travels and did not have any unpleasant experiences. Traffic police in Tanzania are very keen to catch tourists and it is very hard not to get caught out at all (we paid 3 'fines' of R60 each - for legitimate traffic violations - speeding in 50km zones and not seeing a red light in Arusha, and talked one cop out of what seemed a dicey stop). Mozambican police were more obviously keen to get sometime from us as tourists, but all our documents were in order, we were scrupulous with speed limit and only ended up giving away a few bottles of water. Our strategy was to be polite, to praise the country and to get the officer to laugh - once the last had happened, we knew were going to be fine, and could respond to a request for something to drink.

    5. borders

    The AA website and 4x4Community forum tips on borders were very useful.
    Carnet made our lives much easier, though is not cheap - no need for TIPs (temporary import permits), and made border crossing much less painful.
    I was able to get a COMESA yellow card in Tanzania (but not in Zambia), which saved time and costs for the rest of the borders (3rd party insurance).

    McCarthy's Rest - very straight forward, low traffic volume,, but did need birth certificates.

    Kazangulu - chaotic and intimidating. Tried without a tout, but in the end used somebody who was helpful and paid him R60.

    Tunduma was fairly straight forward, no tout needed, but time consuming

    Songwe straight forward

    Mwanza/Zobue - no problems

    Ressano Garcia - the touts on Mozambican side were very aggressive - making out to be official customers people (which was different to the other borders) and demanded the gate pass from us. We Ignored them and dealt only with the officials inside the buildings - this was a good move.

    6. Other practicalities

    Money -- drawing enough cash is still a headache in Tanzania and Malawi. travel with a visa card, and have multiple card options (2 cards were swallowed and it was often a struggle to find cash machines that had cash or honoured a master card). Also carry US$ in cash (more than you think you need, hidden away).

    It was VERY useful to have a well organised file with all documents. If nothing else, it conveyed a useful message to police - we have whatever you can think to ask for.

    GPS was indispensable, but we also needed the good maps we had. Tracks4Africa was a bit sketchy in Tanzania especially.

    Ngorogoro fees are a real pain and needs careful planning to pay huge amounts of dollars and to get the timing of entry/exit right (For serengeti you can pay by card on entry.) We had not planned it, but fortunately realised we needed an extra day in Arusha before heading to ngorogoro and seregeti and would not have been able to manage without the extra full day spent on logistics. .

    Tanzania is really expensive. We got caught out with tourism levys on the lake natron road (we thought we were escaping the double payment of fees for ngorogoro).

    It is true, you can arrive at both Ngorogoro and Serengeti and stay in public campsites without pre-booking (in fact, pre-booking is not possible, only for special campsites, and good luck trying to do this remotely)!

    Avoid night time travel like the plague! We got this mostly right - the couple of times were did not were very stressful. We made sure not to do this in Mozambique.

    Lessons - all of the hard work for preparation was necessary and very helpful. Having done that, we could have been more relaxed when venturing into each new unknown stage of the trip. The major stress turned out to be managing cash flow, not the roads, police, accommodation etc.

    Would we recommend a trip like this to others? Absolutely!
    This article was originally published in forum thread: trip report - Botswana, Zambia, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique - Jul-Aug 2015 started by Rolfe View original post