July 02, 2011

OAT Ultimate (South) Africa - Overview

Overseas Adventure Travel Ultimate (southern) Africa is one of my favorite trips for many reasons.
Once we arrived in Johannesburg, we were shuttled to a comfortable airport-area hotel. The optional tour of Soweto included visits to neighborhoods (some quite posh, others very poor), Regina Mundi church and Hector Pieterson museum.  I left with a much greater understanding of Apartheid history. 

We stayed at four very different camps in Botswana (Chobe NP, Okavango Delta), Zambia (Kafue NP) and Zimbabwe (Hwange NP).  I loved flying on the small planes between camps. We flew very low and could see herds of elephants and pods of hippos.

We saw 38 different types of mammals including a leopard which completed my "Big Five" list.
We saw over 115 species of bird and the occasional snake, spider or reptile.
We ended our tour in a very nice lodge in Victoria Falls with a view of a watering hole and a hotel shuttle bus away from Afternoon Tea at the historic Victoria Falls Hotel. 
Victoria Falls itself has been on my bucket list for a long time and did not disappoint.  We toured both by helicopter and along the scenic paths through Victoria Falls NP.
Coincidentally, all 13 of us in our group were women.  All were experienced travellers with a great sense of humor.  We took good care of each other with our oft repeated motto "It takes a village ..." 
Our fearless leader was Wallace Gwatidzo who kept us safe, informed and entertained.  He was determined to impress us with the wonders and hospitality of southern Africa, especially his native Zimbabwe.  Every child we met wants to be a doctor or a bush pilot or a guide.  Wallace and all of our safari guides were enthusiastic ambassadors for their countries and natural treasures. 

Final Note: Normally I complain bitterly about OAT air arrangements (once OAT wanted to route me from Houston to Panama City via Miami with a 5 hour layover instead of sending me on any number of 4-hour non-stop flights) but the arrangements on this trip were as perfect as could be. A non-stop overnight flight on BA to London Heathrow; a day room at the lovely Sofitel in Terminal 5 where I could take a shower, nap, and leave my luggage safely; and another non-stop overnight flight to Johannesburg.  On our return there were delayed flights, missed connections and lost luggage - but this was no fault of the itinerary or OAT.

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