Cairo to Cape Town – Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe & Botswana


Monday 5th October

Up early to head to Dar airport. Got there in plenty of time only to find we couldn’t check in as we were too early. So we sat reading for a while until check in was about to open.

We then headed off to the check in desks and got to the front of the queue thinking we would get checked in quickly and have extra time to chill out in the Tanzanite Lounge with free food, drinks and wifi. But, alas in typical TIA (this is Africa) fashion we slapped our passports on the top asked to check in for the flight to Lilongwe, Malawi only to be asked if we had a visa. We then explained that no we don’t have a visa as we can pick one up on arrival. This was greeted with baffled looks and about 6 check in staff all looking at the screen and muttering to each other. Then one of them said we needed a visa in advance as the rules changed on the 1st October. We then explained that we knew that but all that meant was that we now had to pay to get in where as before it was free. No one seemed to be listening and the queue behind us was elongating. So we showed them the Malawi High Commission in London’s website which showed we could pay on arrival for our visa. They still could not check us in as their system was saying we must have a visa in advance.

So we got cast to one side whilst they worked out what to do with us and went back through the queue to see who they could check in. Well turns out about 4 people, everyone else was in the same situation as us. Eventually some relations manager turned up said he would refer to a manual and be back in one minute. He was, to our surprise, only one minute and then said we could check in. Christ knows what he did but we finally, after an hour almost, got checked in.

We headed for the Tanzanite Lounge only to then find out our flight wasn’t listed amongst the ones shown on he departure screen, this lead some more confusion before we got bored with worrying and hit the free food and drink.

About half an hour before departure we headed up and found out the gate number and hopped on our short flight to Lilongwe.

We weren’t sure if we would even get in through passport control but had plan a, b and c at the ready. As it was when we arrived plan a worked fine, we got given a form to fill out, handed it to a man to check, then handed our passport and $75 to another man who stuck the visa in our passport, then we queued up for fingerprints and stamping of visa. Once through our bags were waiting and the queue for the bureau de change was non-existent so a much more efficient arrival to Malawi than Tanzania were making out. We also at some point had health screening and flashed our yellow fever certificate for the first time on the trip so far and got scanned again for Ebola. This is now commonplace at all African borders and so far I am Ebola free so that’s a bonus!

We met with our driver who turned out to be our real drivers’ friend and he took us 15 minutes down the road to a petrol station where we swapped cars and got into our actual drivers’ car. He was dressed in a black suit with white shirt, fancy shoes and a bluetooth earpiece…felt like I was in some kind of Jason Statham movie being transported between people! There was a decent reason though, our actual driver had a friend whose brother had died in Ghana over the weekend and he needed to get paperwork done so he could fly out straight away to Accra. So once we all rendez vous’d in the petrol station we swapped cars….

Then we set about the 2 hour drive to Senga Bay on Lake Malawi. The scenery had reverted back to typical African…dry, scrubby bushland, mud brick house with thatched roofs, loads of goats and people walking and riding bicycles but a distinct lack of cars and traffic. Quite pleasant actually.

We arrived at the Cool Runnings campsite which was a little slice of tranquil heaven in Africa. Lovely staff, green grass and trees, nice but basic room, good food, cold drinks and just a step away from the beach with perfect views of the beach and lake from the sunbeds! Gutted not to be staying longer really but we would no doubt get bored of lazing in the sun after a couple of days anyway!

We unpacked, chilled out and Nicole headed off to lunch whilst I set about finishing Game of Thrones book 2. We then had a stroll on the beach down to the water before heading back to try out one of the sunbeds.

The evening saw us dining on a veggie curry before I finished Game of Thrones and then went to bed.

Tuesday 6th October

Was awake at 5.30am due to birds chirping away, decided I was not getting out of bed until 7am so dozed for an hour and a half.

At 7ish we got up and headed to the restaurant for brekkie. The rest of the day consisted of sunbathing and reading, popping up to the restaurant for lunch then chilling in the afternoon and having a totally lazy day in the sun.

Wednesday 7th October

Up early again, had breakfast and then packed as we were being picked up at 10.30ish and driven back to Lilongwe to stay at a campsite/lodge there for the night.

We got there after lunch, the campsite is run by an English couple but when we arrived it was full of young English people drinking and smoking. We headed to the pool after lunch for a couple of hours sun and then rested before dinner, shower and bed.

Nothing exciting to report really!

Thursday 8th October

We were collected late morning and headed back to the airport for our flights to Zambia.

Check in was relatively smooth considering they had no power so had to check us in manually and hand write our boarding passes. We had free time to use the airports free wifi before jumping on the plane for the short flight to Lusaka. The plane was a tiny bi-prop job with 30 seats…ridiculous!

Still it got us to Lusaka where we had to queue for a UNIvisa which covers both Zambia and Zimbabwe, this was taking an age for the people in front. We had less than an hour to get the visa, collect our baggage, recheck in for the domestic flight and get to the gate. We ended up having to ask the people in front of us if we could queue jump as at this point we had 20 minutes until our flight.

Luckily they agreed and eventually we were at the desk getting the visa. We sent a man on ahead to grab our bags and check them in along with us whilst we stood waiting for the visa.

As soon as the visa sticker was in place we ran through the airport hearing our names on the tannoy to get to the gate. So sweaty and anxious we arrived at the gate only to be told to sit down and wait for boarding! Jesus all that rushing! They like to push you through security and get you at the gate hours before the flight. Unnecessary!

Finally we boarded the plane which had 20 seats…this was getting ridiculous! It was like a toy plane bumping around in the sky! The Zambian afternoon haze added to the turbulence!

Still a short hop later we arrived in Livingstone and grabbed our bags and met the guys from our backpackers lodge.

We checked into our traditional African hut…aka the hobbit house and set about sorting our stuff before getting a lift into town for dinner at the Zambezi Cafe, we had a Braai platter of chicken wings, rice, chips, crocodile bits, crocodile ribs and nyama choma (marinated t-bone steak).

After dinner we headed back to bed ready for our action packed week in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana.

Friday 9th October

Up early as roasting in the hobbit house, we had breakfast at the campsite/lodge which was literally a peanut butter sandwich and an orange juice. There was a power cut so no toast or eggs available

Then we headed out for a walk mid-morning into Livingstone. First port of call was a phone shop so Nicole could get a sim card, then the supermarket so we could replenish our stocks, then we headed to Zambezi Cafe again for lunch and wifi. We stayed there for most of the day before heading back early afternoon as we were being collected at 3.30pm for our sunset cruise. The sun sets at 5.30pm here!

The guys at Zinga’s dropped us off at a bar alongside the Zambezi where we boarded our ‘party’ boat with a group of young volunteers of American, Australian and British descent. They were calling it a booze cruise whereas we were there for a sunset cruise! I suppose the drink all you like bar lead it to be a good place for a booze cruise!

So Nicole and I took some seats and watched on in amusement as these 20 somethings drunk themselves into a stupor and chatted amongst themselves. I have to say a fair few of them came over to chat to us and find out what we were doing, seemed like a nice bunch of youths!

We sailed our way along the Zambezi spotting hippos, elephants, buffalo, eagles, crocodiles and other wildlife before turning the boat around to watch the beautiful sunset with Zambia or one side of the boat and Zimbabwe on the other.

We tucked into a bbq on board as well which was actually pretty nice as boat food goes.

After witnessing the amazing sunset we headed back to the shore, jumped in a taxi back to the lodge. Luckily we were in a taxi with a couple of Zambian girls as the other taxis contained the drunk youths….some of whom had put the drivers radio on full beam, sat in the driver’s seat dancing and one of them hanging out the roof! Seems they enjoyed themselves after a tiring week digging trenches, nursing and teaching English, good for them!

Saturday 10th October

Up at 5.30am for 6.15 lift to our activities for the day…elephant riding, walking with lions, walking with cheetahs and a village tour of Mukuni village where Livingstone sat under a tree waiting to speak to the village chief. First activity of the day was an elephant safari. We jumped on our elephant, mine was a male called Sundela, he took me on a wander through bush and scrubland for 40 minutes or so before stopping for his reward…food. We were then given a bag of pellets and allowed to feed our elephants before they gave us a cute salute and we headed off for the next activity…

We managed to jump in with another group and briefly watch the cheetahs sprint after a toy, pretty incredible.

Then we were off on our lion walk…we were given a stick and told if the lion turns around whilst we are petting it to put the stick in its mouth to chew on! Ok…..we were also given loads of instructions…half of which I didn’t pay attention to as I was too busy thinking about walking with lions! They look much bigger close up. Don’t approach from the front, talk to them when you approach, squat down when petting, don’t make any sudden movements, if they roll over or go to get up we had to get up and take steps back…so much to think about when you brain just screams ‘LION….’

So Diana and Terry came bounding out of their cage and headed towards us, managed to snap a pic before they barged me out-of-the-way!

We then took it in turns to interact with the lions, stroking them, scratching their heads and having pics taken. Whenever it was my turn the guide kept saying ‘get nearer his head’, ‘get closer to his mouth’! Encouraging stuff…..at one point Nicole and I were squatting with Terry and I was handed a bottle of water and told to give Terry a drink! Bloody mental so today has seen me hand feed (well water) a lion!

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Then after the interaction we went for a walk in the bush with Diana and Terry and had the opportunity to walk alongside them for a short while.

Amazing, they are so much bigger than they appear in a zoo or in the wild. Not a normal days activity that’s for sure!

Then after we said goodbye to the lions we headed to the cheetah enclosure and met Lillian and Susan who we would be interacting and walking with. The handlers spent some time telling us about cheetahs before letting us pick one. Nicole picked Susan as she was smaller so I had Lillian who was huge. We were then shown how to stroke and handle the cheetahs, which Lillian loved as she was purring away! We got time to have cheetah cuddles before dragging them off for a walk in the bush.

To be honest Nicole had to drag Susan who was being lazy but Lillian practically dragged me around for a walk. I was so excited as cheetahs are my favourite animals and I never considered I would get to see one that close on a safari, let alone stroke one, cuddle her and go for a walk. I loved it and Lillian it was the best activity I have done on the whole trip so far, closely followed by the lions and elephants! It was a shame when the walk ended and we had to say goodbye, I tried to steal her but to no avail.

After our animal encounters we headed off to Mukuni village for a tour around, this is the village that Livingstone arrived at after finding the falls. The villagers saw him with his white skin and thought he was a ghost, so they made him wait under a tree until the chief came out to see him.

We then headed back and got dropped off at the Protea Hotel (posh hotel) for lunch. Surprised they let me in as my feet were black from rolling around in the dirt with cheetahs!

The afternoon consisted of chilling at the Protea before heading back for showers and bed.

Sunday 11th October

Today we got up and headed off to the Zambian side of Victoria Falls, you can walk around designated footpaths which would normally take in the full sight of the falls. Unfortunately for us its the end of the dry season so there isn’t much water, so where there would have been a noisy torrent of water splashing us there was a small waterfall trickling over the edge.

Further down you could see the water spraying off the falls over the Zimbabwean side, Zambia has a quarter of the falls and Zimbabwe has the other three-quarters. We grabbed a drink and waited for our lift across to the Zimbabwean border where we had to follow the normal border formalities before entering the Zimbabwe side, we grabbed a guide who took us around to some key spots where we had a good view of the falls and the magic rainbow that is produced every day.

The noise even at dry season was phenomenal and I can only imagine the noise and magnificence of the falls at their peak after the rainy season. May have to head back at some point to experience that!

We then went back over the border and headed back to town for shopping and dinner at a luxury lodge with giraffes in the car park and zebra in the garden!

Monday 12th October

Today was a chill day, we headed to an airstrip in the morning so that Nicole could do a helicopter flight over the falls then we headed to town and sat in Zambezi Cafe using the wifi and chilling with some food and drinks.

That was pretty much us for the day!

Tuesday 13th October

Early start this morning for our safari into Chobe in Botswana. We drove an hour to a small port where we jumped on a little boat with other tourists and headed over to the border for the lame formalities, we got stamped into Botswana and then had to walk through a sheep dip type thing for foot and mouth….delightful in flip flops!

Then we jumped in a minibus and headed to a hotel where we were provided with a quick breakfast before we got on a boat and taken on a guided tour down the Chobe river with Botswana on one side and Namibia on the other. Even with such a small distance you could see the difference between Botswana and Namibia, Namibia was much more sandy and arid with lots of dead trees along the water edge where elephants have killed the trees.

We spent 3 hours trundling up the river watching hippos, crocodiles and elephants in the water and elephants and buffalo on the land. It was very peaceful and amazing to be lucky enough to watch some elephants cross the river and play in the water.

After the river safari we headed back to the hotel as lunch was also provided before heading out on a game drive in the Chobe National Park. I must admit it wasn’t the best game drive we have had, it was scorchingly hot, the national park is very sandy and there just wasn’t the variety of animals we were used to. We did see some giraffe, more elephants and kudu which we hadn’t seen before so that was a bonus but other than that not much else to report. It was just too hot and the wrong time of day I think still a nice chilled day where we managed to see another new animal and watch the swimming elephants.

We headed back to the boat, did the border crossing formalities again and then headed back to Livingstone where Nicole and I were joined by Alicia (who was staying for a few nights at Zinga’s) and we went to Olga’s pizza place for a piece of pizza and salad.
Then shower and bed.

Wednesday 14th October

We checked out of Zinga’s and headed down the road to the Protea for a day of lounging, luxury and air con! We chilled out in the room under the air con watching films, napped and then wandered down to an indian restaurant for lunch. Amazing food, so good we took away the leftovers and had them later that evening for dinner.
Used the luxurious shower with hot water no less and free toiletries! Such a novelty!
During the evening I actually managed to facetime and skype some people for a good catch up back home then head to bed as we were heading to Mozambique the next morning.

Thursday 15th October

A travel day, we headed to the airport late morning for our flight to Maputo via Johannesburg. Check in went smoothly just took a long time and no one kicked off about our lack of Mozambique visa, which was handy. Flew British Airways to Jo’burg which was shockingly turbulent and I was somewhat disappointed not to be given preferential treatment as I appeared to be the only British person on the flight! I did, however, help one of the stewardesses who was struggling to get the hoards of French passengers to understand the sandwich choice of beef or cheese. I provided her with the words boeuf ou fromage…which apparently served her well and made her job a lot easier.

We arrived at Jo’burg airport in shock as for the previous 3 months we had been surrounded by Africa…and this was positively western…shops in the airport, toilet roll in the toilets, people speaking english, decent food options! We had some kind of sensory overload!

We didn’t have long to make the most of the shiny lighted shops as our flight was leaving to Maputo, flying some random Mozambique airline in a tiny plane that looked like it was based on a model flown by the Luftwaffe!

Still it got us there and once in Maputo we had to mess around trying to get a visa…first queued at the desk with a form, then directed into a room where a woman, with a huge pile of KFC napkins on the desk, wrote the words tourist, tofo and vilanculos on the top and sent us back to the desk. We queued up again only to be told to go to another desk. The guy on this desk then told us to fill out another form before he decided what ridiculous figure to charge us. Nicole got away with a cheaper rate as they said there was no Mozambique embassy in New Zealand whereas I have an embassy in London so I have to pay loads more! Even though I explained I hadn’t been anywhere near London since July I had to cough up $100!

Eventually we got our visa and went back to the desk to get stamped. We then found the driver from Fatima’s backpackers (thanks for the recommendation Marcell!) and headed to our bed for the night.

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