We had intended to spend a full month in Africa, but an unexpected trip back to the States caused us to cut Tanzania and Rwanda, shortening our time here to just two and a half weeks. But we loved every second of it. From the world-class wine and food of Stellenbosch and Cape Town, to the raw beauty of Victoria Falls, to seeing nature at its finest in Chobe and Kruger National Parks, we had some of our favorite memories yet in Africa and already can’t wait to return. Full of wine tasting, waterfall hiking, and lots of safaris, the Africa portion of the trip was heavy on experiences, and this definitely was felt in our expenses during this period. However, at a weekly run rate of $1,297, I say we got a fantastic bargain for all these adventures.
Transportation should have been astronomical for Africa. We had to get ourselves to the very bottom of the continent, drive ourselves around South Africa for two different stretches, and fly to Victoria Falls and back. Thankfully, our miles balance helped us keep transportation costs to a reasonable number. We used 47,500 United miles each to get to Africa and 8,500 British Airways Avios each to fly to Victoria Falls and back (another example about how those short-haul BA flights can be a real steal).
Our points balance also helped immensely with our accommodations in Africa. We only paid out of pocket for one night in Stellenbosch and three nights at Kruger, and instead used points for the remaining 13 nights. 40,000 Hilton points spared us from having to pay for a hotel in Cape Town (and, as always, our Gold status netted us a fantastic breakfast every morning). And Chris discovered an unbelievable deal for using our Marriott points to stay in Protea Hotels (a local chain that was acquired by Marriott but incredibly underpriced on a points category basis). We used only 37,500 points, two free night certificates, and $120 to stay for nine nights, including two nights in Johannesburg at one of the nicest hotels we’ve visited yet. Our Protea experience in South Africa really demonstrated why it pays to have a diversified points balance, and how you can earn some fantastic deals using your points internationally. More on this subject soon.
Food and Drink
We ate so well in South Africa. Thanks to the plummeting Rand, gourmet meals and reserve wines were easily within reach of our RTW budget. The wine tasting deals in Stellenbosch were unreal. The meat—both from conventional animals as well as the more exotic game found here—was some of the best we’ve ever had. The seafood in Cape Town was exceptional. And we even got to try crocodile in Zambia.
Miscellaneous spending was quite high for this part of the trip, but quite low when you consider all the value we realized from what we spent. During our initial planning phase, we pretty much ruled out doing a safari in Africa since we thought it would be prohibitively expensive. Yet we ended up being able to do three full-day safaris and saw more animals than we could have ever dreamed. We also got to view one of the world’s most beautiful waterfalls from both the Zambia and Zimbabwe sides, which also allowed us to check two new countries off our to do list.
Highlights and Lowlights from Africa
Favorite Dining Experience
Hers: Our seafood feast at Pigalle in Cape Town
His: Eating crocodile ribs at Café Zambezi surrounded by locals watching soccer and drinking Mosi beer
Favorite Sightseeing Experience
Hers: Seeing not only full-grown animals in Chobe and Kruger, but so many babies as well
His: Seeing a lion prowl right in front of our car on our second day on safari in the Kruger
Most Frustrating Travel Experience
Her: Being constantly on edge in South Africa after hearing so many warnings about its high crime rate
His: Battling the New Years crowds in Cape Town
Mary McCausland says
I don’t know what I love more- your amazing experiences or the incredible way you use points to pay for these experiences!! You guys rock! Are there tools other than searching on the point-redeeming sites? Do you get notices sent to you? Is there a bidding system? How do you find these hotel deals?
Mary, you’re the best for regularly commenting on the budget posts 🙂 love you so much. Travelisfree.com has some wonderful maps about where hotel categories are located throughout the world if you want to check it out!
Molly Fleck says
This is awesome! Adam and I are looking to take a similar trip in early 2017, so I’ll definitely have to refer back to this post. Hooray for Ultimate Rewards points!
You are? I really couldn’t recommend Needles Lodge enough if you are going to Kruger. We met so many cool couples from around the world and they have awesome safari deals. Our friends did a four night stay that included a bush walk too! Eek!