I booked the 12 days Victoria falls to Joburg with 3 of my friends when we spotted the 2-for-1 tour special deal come up back in November. On the Go Tours happens to have a 2-for-1 tour sale a few times a year for a week or two (Mid- January, end of March/beginning of April & end of October/ beginning of November).
We booked through Flight Centre but found it difficult to communicate with our travel agent in regards to more information about our tour that our tour guide could answer. In order for us to fully book our trip, we had to go back and forth in terms of emailing to find out information such as the end destination in which we would finish in Johannesburg to book accommodations and timing of arrival to plan further travels.
Airport transfer from VGA to the first accommodation is provided with the tour cost. We stayed at Shearwater Explorer Village. It is here that you can get your bearings and meet your tour group before starting the tour. On the Go Tours is represented by ATC (African Tour Company) who locally run the tours. The Trip notes come in very handy. Our guide Will went over the excursions list and updated us with prices and what was and wasn’t included in the tour price. This timeframe in Vic Falls seemed to also be the only time you can freely explore markets for souvenirs that we found on our trip during the tour.
This is a budget tour where there are shared duties that rotate such as helping prep meals, washing dishes and sweeping the bus. There are also ice-purchasing responsibilities that rotate. Accommodations during the tour are tents (shared by 2 people) that are the responsibility of said pair and designated for the entire duration of the tour. It is a decent paced tour where you stay at each destination for at most 2 nights thus the tents must be put up and taken down almost everyday and packed back into the truck. All the accommodations are on camping sites with majority of them having wifi (not in Delta), swimming pools, shower and toilet facilities. A few even have volleyball courts (3 of them!) There is also a chance to upgrade into lodges (for a small price) if you want a break from setting up and sleeping in a tent.
The truck is large and can hold up to 30 people. The main seating area requires climbing a few steps (with help of a step ladder) to get on and off the truck. There is an 8 person seating area in the front sitting sideways with a table to play games. There is also a second area with a table (4 seater) and the rest are 2 seaters. The truck also has a communal cooler that people are able to keep their drinks cold. The truck does not have A/C but many windows and no wifi or toilets. The truck features 2 locked safety boxes and large luggage storage below amongst other compartments. During the evenings at each campsite, a charging station is created in the truck to recharge phones and cameras.
On this tour, we had Frans as our driver, Clive as our cook and Will da Beast as our guide. All the staff was very friendly and treated everyone with respect and courtesy never being impatient with any of the guests. They all had a fun humour about them too. Frans drove us safely to all our destinations on time and avoided as many potholes to make our ride smooth. Clive provided us with meals (Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner) however, some meals could have more thought put into them for the price we paid. Breakfast was always yogurt, cereal and burnt toast (majority of the time), options for fruit were scarce and lunch/packed lunches could have been better (rice, spam with peas and cheese and DIY sandwiches are lacklustre). Will was a fountain of knowledge answering all questions thrown his way and made the whole experience that much better.
I wish we had more days where our stops weren’t in malls but I completely understand that those stops were also time for the staff to go grocery shopping for us and for our safety sake. There were a few days (long drive days and early arrivals) where I wish we had options to leave the campsite to explore the local areas.
I found the only time we had to do souvenir shopping at markets was only at the beginning in Vic falls. I wish we had more opportunities to interact with locals or stop at locations that give back to the community for our pitstops. I would definitely recommend this tour to my friends. I hopefully will return to Africa one day.
6AM wake up call. Breakfast was a big improvement with hard boiled & fried eggs, bacon, bread, boar sausage. It was the final tear down – bittersweet. The rain had past but the fog hadn’t fully lifted making it eerie but beautiful as we drove. Another round of gin rummy and a few hours later, we made it to our last pitstop at the mall for lunch. (lunch is not included)
Will realized after he purchased a new phone that he had left his pouch with his sim card and passport back at Kruger which was 3-4 back the opposite direction.
Another hour or two and we finally made it to Benoni (roughly 20 minutes drive to airport) to Mufasa Backpackers where we all disembarked from the truck one last time. Earlier in the week Will asked for all our plans and arranged rides for all of us to get to our next destination. It cost 600ZAR to get from Benoni to Rosebank by taxi. Before we all parted ways, we presented Will, Frans and Clive with envelopes containing our collective tips for them.
TIPPING – On the Go Tours
Tipping is all dependent on what you feel comfortable paying. Our guide mentioned to us that it is roughly $5USD/day per staff for the length of the tour. In the end, depending on how long of duration your tour is, it can add up. In the end, we thought it fair for $150USD collectively split amongst the 3 staff. Tipping is a very Westernize custom but USD goes a long way especially in Africa. We (as in Canadians – Torontonians precisely) pay at least 13% back home. Tipping also customarily shows the person you are tipping if their skills were up to par or if they need improvement.
It is not highly recommended to take public transit or walking around especially for foreigners. There is high crime rate in Joburg. Uber is a good alternative to taxis especially for the price.
We booked with Hyde Park Villa (28B – 3rd Road, Sandton) for 2731ZAR for 2 villa rooms with 2 single beds in each room for a night. The bathrooms are just as large as the rooms with a full tub and walk in shower. Rosebank & Sandton are a gated community and this hotel is gated and felt very safe and secure. This hotel is located near a St David’s College. They have an honours bar where you take what you want but write down your room number and pay later.
We got the villa rooms 12 & 14 close to the breakfast room and closest to the pool in the inner courtyard. Room 12 has more natural lighting coming into the room but nonetheless the rooms are nice and cozy and their bathrooms are beautiful and spacious including a open shower and a giant tub with 2 sinks. The only issue we had in room 14 was that the AC/heater unit was giving off a funky smell. The courtyard was very cozy and inviting but unfortunately we didn’t have time to use the pool. The stairs to the units above our room made you feel like you were somewhere in Europe. There is free wifi on the premises via Alwayson provider which allows a complimentary 500MB per day. It is a decent speed.
We got in and settled by 445PM and with lack of time, we opted to goto to Rosebank Mall (15A Cradock Ave, Rosebank, Johannesburg, 2196, South Africa). We wanted to Uber to the mall as it is the cheaper option for transportation but we couldn’t get the app to work so luckily Jackie was kind enough to book one for us (Uber updated so you have the option to pay in cash).
Our room key comes with a gate opener that allows us to go in and out without needing to buzz security. Ellet was our driver who was originally from Polokwane and was such a sweet man.
We arrived at the mall and tried to check out the rooftop market but only then realized it is only opened on Sundays so we tried to check out the Arts and Crafts Market on the outside of the mall but they were in the midst of closing at 530PM and we tried to see if they would stay open but majority of the vendors had left. We walked through the mall to search for souvenirs but nothing so we went grocery shopping at Pick n Pay for last minute purchases of snacks and coffee beans. After research, There was high rating for Bean There Coffee, Monate Coffee but I also purchased Terbodore Coffee and E Cafe all for my father.
Unfortunately the mall was closing by the time we finished grocery shopping (everyone told us the mall stays open late into the evening – not true). Luckily there was complimentary wifi and I was able to download Uber and Ubereats. There weren’t any restaurants at the mall so we opted to go back to the hotel and order Ubereats since the mall was closing and our access to free wifi was coming to an end. We had the hardest time trying to make an order on Ubereats. We had made a few selections and had our order ready for 2-4 restaurants but we couldn’t get the app to complete any orders. Luckily Sarah had Skype credits and we ordered pizza from Andiccio 24. I got the Pumpkin Banting (cauliflower crust) with bacon. By the time the pizza’s came and we all showered, it was already 1130PM. Our hotel also gave us complimentary wine but it was just too strong and sweet. We repacked and went to bed in an actual bed.
We got to sleep in until 8AM as complimentary breakfast services finish at 9AM. Not the hottest of mornings like we had days previous so taking a dip in the pool wasn’t an option. Breakfast was great. Cute little eating area with buffet set up of yogurts, pancakes, fruits, bread, smoke salmon and juices/coffees .Jackie is the owner of the bed and breakfast and such a sweet lady. She is very involved including making custom omelettes for us for breakfast. Once seated, Jackie would come over and ask if you wanted any hot food customized. We all got mushroom and cheese omelettes with a side of bacon.
The actual property of Hyde Park Villa feels like being in a private European park that makes you feel secluded and relaxed. Jackie had booked an airport shuttle for us for 550ZAR prior to coming and we had asked her to adjust the time for pickup to 10AM as opposed to the original 11AM as our flight was 210PM. We only were successful in downloading Uber late the night before (it would’ve been 225ZAR) so it was too late to cancel the airport shuttle. We wandered the property until our taxi came for us. We played with Jackie’s dog Mishka who is also a delight and so sweet with it’s spot on the lawn near the swimming pool.
Once we got to O R Tambo, the line for Ethiopian Airlines was enormous and somehow was 3 lines funnelling into 1. We spent an hour at the Made in SA store outside the gates to get souvenirs. We really wished we picked up souvenirs before in Zimbabwe and Botswana but the only opportunity in the trip to do so was realistically in Vic Falls, Zimbabwe at the very beginning before we started our tour.
We made it through security and spent more time in Duty Free and the Out of Africa store (has a much bigger selection than the store outside) still pricier than markets outside of the airport but last minute buys, not bad. Our flight home was long but with Emergency seats, you can’t complain too much. We went from Joburg to Dublin (we didn’t get off but cabin crew changed and plane re-fueled) then Dublin to Toronto. Halfway through the flight, our personal media units (the ones that you unfold from the armrest) stopped standing up on its own and kept falling down. It felt like we were on the plane forever consuming 7 meals and periodically sleeping. One thing I don’t understand when being on planes is the sheer laziness of people who goto the washroom barefoot or in their socks – disgusting.