Just got back from my two week safari through South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Botswana with Acacia. My parents and I took the Southern Africa Magic tour and we all absolutely loved it! Simply a magical experience and I would not hesitate to use Acacia again. The value of the trip for the money was quite a steal compared to most of the other companies out there. Really makes Africa an affordable destination!
One of the best parts about this tour was being able to see all the major highlights of Southern Africa! Absolutely every stop had something of value to offer. Be aware that there are some very long driving days, but it was worth it to see more of the country and get to hidden gems that I'm sure the bigger and fancier companies do not cover. Our bus was quite spacious and comfortable with large windows and great air conditioning, so the long drives weren't an issue. Was also a good way to bond with the rest of the group. Some of the hidden gems were the game walk in Matobo with Andy where we came about 20 feet from white rhinos and the village walk in Gweta where we were able to talk to the local people and see how they lived. Even the rest and lunch stops were an excellent way to experience local culture. For example, on the road to Polokwane we stopped at a beautiful farm to table restaurant where I discovered the most unbelievable skincare products. Absolutely every game drive was spectacular! We got so close to virtually every kind of animal and it was magical every time. All the local tour operators and guides were extremely impressive. Some other highlights were the whitewater rafting and lion walk in Victoria Falls, our experiences in Chobe National Park, and the horseback riding in Maun. I loved this tour because I felt like it gave us an authentic experience of Africa while still seeing all the tourist highlights. My parents and another woman's mother are all in their 60s and were able to participate in absolutely every activity, so don't hesitate to do this tour if you're a bit older or traveling with your parents!
One of the main reasons why I was so impressed with this tour was our guide, Simon. I've traveled all around the world on tours and he is definitely one of the best guides I've ever had. He kept everything perfectly organized and had the tour planned down to the minute. Simon was also extremely friendly, helpful, and incredibly knowledgeable about African history. I can't say enough about how comfortable we felt with him guiding our trip; he was completely willing to go out of his way in any respect to make sure we had a good tour. I'm vegan and he made sure that there was a suitable food option at absolutely every stop for me. Additionally, Simon had an issue with getting his passport renewed during the trip, and he told us that he might have to leave the tour early. Instead, he traveled all the way to the capital and back with two nights of no sleep to sort out his passport and rejoin our tour! I was so impressed with his dedication to his job, and the issue had absolutely no impact on our tour. In Simon's absence he left us with Sam, another guide, who I was equally impressed with.
I was actually pleasantly surprised with how nice all the lodges were on this trip; was definitely going into it expecting more rustic accommodations. We stayed at small lodges or hotels that were very authentic to Africa. Don't expect anything luxurious, but if you have no issue with standard low-priced chain hotels in the US you should be totally fine. Typically the rooms were basic, with twin beds and small/medium sized bathrooms. There was wifi at virtually every lodge. I was very impressed at how clean and well-kept all the lodges were. Staff was generally friendly and helpful.
I'm vegan, and was extremely worried about the food on this tour. But really had nothing to complain about! Simon did a fantastic job of making sure there was always a vegan meal available for me. Meals on the road were more difficult, but there were always stops for chips and snacks. If you're a picky eater, bring two boxes of your favorite snack bars and you'll be fine. Some of the lodges had downright unbelievable food like Nsele, where Olaf's wife cooked an amazing brai for us. At other lodges the food was not so great, but was never inedible. We got to order off the menu at a number of the lodge restaurants, and there were always safe options like pizza and pasta that were quite tasty.
Overall, if you go into this trip with an open mind and no expectations, I guarantee you will have a wonderful time. Go with the flow! This trip is NOT for high-maintenance people. Don't try to dress fashionably or wear makeup every day. Just relax and have fun. Don't always expect to be on time or for everything to be a picture-perfect vacation. Some things that you'll see are not beautiful, but will teach you a lot about culture and history. The activities, especially involving animals, that Africa has to offer are simply magical and will create the trip of a lifetime! The people are also some of the friendliest you'll ever meet, so don't hesitate to smile, ask questions, and make new friends. I feel like African people can find joy in anything and truly value everything they have in life; tourists especially from the United States can learn a lot from these cultures. Just go to Africa; you will love it and want to return again and again!