Your Virtual Safari – Day 1 – Travelling to Africa

This article is part of a series; you will find the other episodes here:

Your Virtual Safari – Day 2 – Arriving in Africa and onward travel

Your Virtual Safari – Day 3 – On the lookout for wildlife

Hi everyone and welcome to the first day of your virtual safari – bringing the African adventure to you wherever you are!

In this series, we will be taking you through a two-week virtual itinerary, showing you what you can expect from the world’s most exciting continent. Nothing can compare to experiencing it for yourself and in person, of course, but this should leave you determined to go on safari just as soon as you can.

We will be taking examples from many different destinations to show the variety of adventures available in Africa, so this is not intended to showcase a single trip – it would be tricky and ridiculously expensive to experience lions in Zimbabwe on day 3 and then gorillas in Uganda on day 4, clearly…

There may also be several examples in each article where appropriate – such as in this one, where there are different options available.

So let’s get on with it. Your virtual safari begins here!

Day 1 – Travelling to Africa

Finally the day has arrived. Your bags are packed – it’s getting real. The greatest adventure of your life awaits. Maybe you have compared the weather where you are going to where you are now:

Hmm, not particularly inviting. Let’s see how things are in Zimbabwe…

Yup, it’s gonna be a major change. But a positive one, for most people. You grab your bags and head for the airport bus stop.

The bus arrives – it’s time to board.

Lots of other passengers on their way to the airport. But probably nobody who is travelling anywhere as exciting as you.

Once checked in, a last stupidly-priced beer in the airport bar is pretty much mandatory.

The first leg of your trip might be an domestic flight to your main airport – offering a perfect opportunity to say goodbye to that cold, white stuff.

As you land, if you keep an eye out you may see the next plane you are going to take a short while later.

There are many airlines that fly to Africa, but we always use and recommend Ethiopian.

They have the best route network in Africa from their hub in Addis Ababa and can take you pretty much anywhere south of the Sahara. Service is friendly, punctuality is excellent and most flights between Europe and Addis are on very new Dreamliners.

Their timetable is well-planned so you won’t be waiting half a day for your connecting flight. On top of all that, tickets are excellent value and Ethiopian is usually the cheapest option.

For the record, if you have more money (or in my case a couple of times, frequent flyer points) then of course you can splurge on business class – more on this option at the end of the article.

Your shiny new Dreamliner awaits…

Economy class is better than many other airlines with decent legroom and a good entertainment system.

If you are on the Oslo – Addis Ababa route, you may find that there are few other passengers who board along with you. But don’t expect the plane to remain this empty – you will stop in Stockholm to pick up the rest of them before continuing.

The touchscreen monitors are bright and clear and a reasonable size.

You might find that film you missed at the cinema. Or just want to see for the fourth time.

You might find an older classic, too.

Don’t be scared by this guy in the safety video. He does look a little, well, intense but Ethiopian has now changed its standard film and the new one takes a slightly different direction to the usual boring videos…

Fun, right? Okay so now you can sit back and relax for the flight to Addis Ababa. Food will soon be served; it’s pretty average, but you do get free alcoholic beverages. Which is nice.

You’ll probably be able to get a few hours of sleep and before you know it you’ll be landing in Ethiopia.

It’s a bit of a shame that you’ll only be passing through Addis Ababa as it looks like an interesting destination in itself, but I know you’ll be returning to Africa so you can always explore on a future trip.

It’s fairly clear that this is an Ethiopian Airlines hub. In fact, you probably won’t see planes from any other airlines.

Your bags are taken off and transferred to your next flight, and you get a quick feel of the African sun before you’re bussed to the terminal.

A cold local beer at the London cafe is another obligatory part of the journey. Yes, it’s early morning but you didn’t sleep that much so it’s still night-time for you. Does that work?

Proceed through security to the gate and chances are your next plane will be waiting to take you on the last leg of your trip.

Ethiopian generally use their fleet within Africa but are gradually replacing their 777s with lovely new A350s, so you are hoping to get lucky.

Not this time, then. But no matter, this is comfortable enough and you are too fired up about the adventure ahead to be concerned with trivialities.

Just a few hours to go – so join us for Day 2 and find out all about arriving in your destination country and proceeding on to begin your safari…

Alternatives for those with too much money or frequent flyer points

It would be remiss of me not to mention that you can of course fly in luxury to Africa. I have done this a couple of times and while I would never pay cash for the experience, if you can or have accumulated (or purchased) enough airline points then you won’t be disappointed.

Here are a few videos of me living it up should you be tempted. Click on the links in the titles for the full reviews.

Lufthansa Frankfurt to Johannesburg

South African Airways Johannesburg to Munich

Etihad Airways Frankfurt to Johannesburg via Abu Dhabi (and back)