Photo Contest: Capture the Colour

Travel Supermarket is sponsoring a photoblogging competition called Capture the Colour, in which contestants create a blog post featuring five photos that embody, or perhaps capture, the colors of white, red, blue, green and yellow.

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Where to go on Safari – Eastern vs. Southern Africa

Oryx on the Etosha Pan
Oryx on the Etosha Pan

Oryx on the Etosha Pan

Africa Regions SafariIn doing research before my trip to Africa in 2011, I had three things I was looking for in a safari park.

  1. I wanted to see lots of animals
  2. I wanted to travel as independently as possible
  3. Price

Although animals would be a major factor in our trip, we also wanted to see some other famous sights in Africa, like Cape Town, Victoria Falls, Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar and/or Lake Malawi. We didn’t want to travel from Cape Town to Nairobi, so early on we decided to visit either southern or eastern Africa.

We ultimately choose to visit Etosha National Park in Namibia, Chobe National Park in Botswana, and South Luangwa National Park in Zambia, (along with Vic Falls, Lake Malawi and Cape Town) mainly because we could do them independantly, but just as importantly, they were a fraction of the price of the Kenyan and Tanzanian National Parks.

African Safari Park Price Comparison

*Entrance prices are per person, per day.

Park Country Entrance Fee
South Luangwa Zambia $25
Etosha Namibia $10
Chobe Botswana $14
Serengeti Tanzania $50
Gombe Tanzania $100
Kilamanjaro Tanzania $60
Amboseli Kenya $60
Lake Nakuru Kenya $60
Meru Kenya $50
Tsavo East Kenya $50
Tsavo West Kenya $50
Maasai Mara Kenya $80

The difference in price for entry fees across Africa is stunning. For my wife and I to visit Maasai Mara in Kenya, for example, we’d have to spend $160 per day just to get in the gate! In Etosha National Park, we spent a total of $160 for eight days of entry fees.

At Chobe National Park, we paid $320 each for a two-night, three-day camping safari that included all our food, four game drives, two river boat trips and all park fees. For similarly priced safaris in Kenya and Tanzania, I found the following prices.

3-Day Maasi Mara $605

5-Day Budget Camping Safari Arusha and Ngorognoro Crater $702

Maybe there are better prices to be had, and if so please let me know in the comments section. To me, the scenery of southern Africa was stunning even without iconic Kilimanjaro and we saw all the major animals, often in huge herds. I can’t really see how eastern Africa could have been better.

Zambia and Botswana are friendlier than Kenya and Tanzania

We finished our trip with three weeks on Likoma Island in Malawi (which is awesome, by the way). Malawi borders Tanzania and Zambia, and is a regional crossroads for travelers. We met dozens of people who had visited eastern Africa and some that had been to both regions.

Universally, they felt like the people in eastern Africa were not very friendly and there were hassles and cons aplenty. Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe had some of the nicest people I’d ever met. Everything in those countries was straight-forward, with no hassles and only a minimal amount of haggling needed at times. Namibia and South Africa were easy to visit also, but I have to admit that the Namibian people were not so friendly. Actually they were mostly rude.

Southern African Parks are less visited

I cannot find any data on this, but I am quite certain that the Tanzanian and Kenyan parks get more visitors. (I should note that the famous Kruger Park in South Africa can get crowded as well). We rarely shared animal sightings with other vehicles in any of the three parks we visited and we hit Etosha and Chobe during the end of peak season. We arrived in South Luangwa on Nov. 1 and our camp, the very popular Wildlife Camp, was mostly empty. We were even upgraded to a Chalet for free!

In summary, the southern African parks are cheaper, less visited and friendlier than those in Kenya and Tanzania and the wildlife is just as abundant.

Now you can’t say that I never told you anything.

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Have you been on safari in Africa? 

Have you been to Kenya and Tanzania and have something to add? 

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

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PlanetBellFacebookFollow Planet Bell on Facebook and get updates on posts and links to cool photo and travel websites

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Related Articles

1. My Favorite Island in the World – Malawi’s Likoma Island (Planet Bell)

2. Choosing Your Destinatioin – Southern vs. Eastern Africa (Timeless Africa)

My Favorite Island in the World – Malawi’s Likoma Island

Likoma Island Sunset - designed to whet your appetite for the photo gallery below. First, you must read!

Likoma Island Sunset – designed to whet your appetite for the photo gallery below. First, you must read!

Tucked away deep in the heart of southeast Africa on the cerulean Lake Malawi, exists a utopian island that few people have heard of, and even fewer visit.

Rugged, mountainous Likoma Island satisfies every tropical island fantasy. It is dotted with colossal Baobab trees, adorned with quaint villages and ringed by numerous sandy beaches that slip into Caribbean-clear water.

Despite the incredible beauty, the real star of the island is the people, who are no doubt among the nicest, most amiable in the world. On my numerous walks around the island locals would greet me by saying, “Where are you going?” This would almost always lead to a conversation. No one on Likoma is ever in a hurry.

When we’d encounter school children they’d want to hold our hands as we walked. A few times I drank a Sprite or Coke outside a general store and I’d always have a few curious, friendly locals stop by to talk a bit.

Like the rest of Malawi, the island is poor. Residents live in simple homes, with diesel-generated electricity running only a few hours per day. Most of the 8000 residents live off fishing and trade with nearby Mozambique. But, the people are rich in pride, smiles and family.

In spite of the poverty, there are no hassles and no crime on the island. In fact, our rooms at the guesthouse didn’t even have a lock on the door. No one is going to take anything.

The best way to get to Likoma Island is aboard the infamous Ilala Ferry – an antique cargo ferry that plies the waters of the lake delivering goods to distant villages and isolated islands. The Ilala is a truly unforgettable experience. You are packed on the boat with livestock, sacks of produce, crates of beer, and presumably too many people to fit in the lifeboats.

We took the Ilala from Nhkata Bay to Chizimulu Island, which is adjacent to Likoma, and from there we traveled to Likoma with a group of 40 locals on a boat that was designed to hold about 15. As we glided across the turquoise water – with the tawny cliffs of Likoma and the purple mountains of Mozambique looming in the background, the deep blue sky dotted with gleaming, bilious clouds – the brightly clad Malawians began singing.

It began with one woman belting out about 30 seconds of a song, then the entire boat repeated the verse in a booming reprise that sent chills down my spine. The locals continued the call-and-response singing for the entire hour of the journey, with different women taking turns with the lead.

It was so beautiful that my eyes grew watery and I started to cry a little. I am not an emotional person so this was a big deal. And I don’t feel pretentious by writing this, because Kristi too admitted to crying a bit. It was truly a spiritual experience.

At this time I am going to tell you a story about the little boy in the photo below.

Likoma Island Boy

I was walking by the elementary school in Chipyela town right as classes let out for the day. In a way it was bad timing; in a way it was great luck.

Twenty kids, all with huge, beaming smiles, suddenly surrounded me and escorted me down the road. I had three kids holding on to each hand/wrist as they vied to be the one touching me. I must have looked like a movie star –  like a Messiah figure – as I walked through the poor village, which belies how I felt. Because I felt like a big, goofy mazungu.

My entourage began to dwindle as kids peeled off to join parents or head home. When I reached the edge of town, which was a 45-minute hike to the other side of the island to my guesthouse, I still had one kid – the kid in the photo above.

I unlocked my hand from his, and tried to explain to him that I was going somewhere else. He had no idea what I was saying. I didn’t want to lead the kid out of town and him be lost. I tried to walk away but he ran up to me and held my hand again. I again pried his hand free and tried to explain, but to no avail.

I left the boy in the road and hurried back to a gaggle of women who were taking refuge from the tropical sun under a tree. I shyly explained my predicament. “It is no problem, he lives up the road,” said a local woman.

The boy was still in the road with a melancholic look on his face, shoulders slumped, protruding bottom lip. I hustled up to him, grabbed his hand in mine and we took off walking together. The enormous smile reemerged on his face.

We hiked for about 20 minutes and then he broke his hand free, pointed to his house and waved goodbye. I took his photo before he went away.

Likoma Island Photos

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Travel Tip: There are only two places to stay on the island – the swanky and expensive Kaya Mawa and the backpacker friendly Mango Drift, which has everything from campsites to beach huts to very nice $70/nt en-suite chalets. Needless to say, we stayed at Mango Drift in the cheap huts, but we were there so long we eventually got an upgrade to the chalets. The food was excellent, the beer (when there wasn’t a shortage from the mainland) was cold and the staff was exceedingly friendly.

Travel Tip#2: If you don’t want to endure, risk, or “experience” the Ilala Ferry, there are a few small companies that offer flights from Lilongwe.