FAQs - Frequently Asked Questions
FAQs - Get Answers to Some Commonly Asked Questions
Through information on South Africa, travelling to as well as geograhical, historical, you will get a much better idea of what to expect from your stay here, and ultimately, it will make your vaction so much better. Preparation is always encouraged. This way you reduce the "surprise" element on your trip and get the most out of your vacation.
If your main aim is to go on a wildlife safari in South Africa then our winter months from May to August and even into October are the best. This is the dry season for most of the game park areas so you will have weeks of lovely sun shine and comfortable temperatures during the day. Being the dry season you can see further into the bush as the grass is dead and most of the trees lose their leaves, the animals are also more concentrated as they have to come to water holes to drink. The winter months are also the better months for safaris to the Okavango and Chobe in Botswana.
South Africa has one of the best all round climates in the world making it an all year round destination. Sunny and pleasant, with summer temperatures ranging between 18 - 35oC and winters between 12 - 22oC. Cape Town and the reserves in the Cape are better in the summer months, October to April. Safaris in the north and north eastern area of South Africa are better to visit between May and October. December and January are our local holiday months so the coastal areas will be busy.
There is no definite answer, it may depend on what you are looking for. However, if the goal is merely to experience Africa then your options are many. Each area and each game reserve has their own unique experience so it is advisable to visit 2 or 3 different reserves while on safari. The Kruger Park area is great but a very different game experience when compared to Chobe in Botswana, the Kalahari or Etosha in Namibia. Victoria Falls from Zambia or Zimbabwe is a stunning 3 or 4 day add on to any safari. Then there is the migration in the Masai Mara in Kenya and Tanzania.
An African Wildlife Safari today is a far cry from the safaris of the past and quite simply you can expect any accommodation you desire – from rustic camping safaris to luxury safari tents to 6-star luxury lodges. Walking Safaris, elephant back safaris, honeymoon safaris the selection goes on and on. When enquiring it is best to state what your expectations are regarding accommodation and type of safari and we will assist you in meeting your needs. The costs of the accommodations vary a great deal too.
The standard of food is generally very high – even in the remotest lodges. Most lodges will have qualified chefs on hand. Part of the safari experience today is the cuisine and a great emphasis is placed on food, you will be impressed what can be served in the middle of the bush – and there will be more than sufficient. The lodges can all cater for any dietary requirements but will need prior notice so they can arrange this.
On safari, most people wear shorts and a T-shirt during the day and put on long sleeved shirts and long pants in the evening for warmth as well as protection from mosquitoes. Should you be particularly sensitive to the sun a loose cotton shirt is essential during the day. Khaki, brown, olive and beige colours are best for and safaris and game walks. White is not a suitable colour for these activities, as it increases your visibility to wildlife you want to get a closer look at and it will get dirty very quickly. Fleece or sweater and a windbreaker for game drives, because it is highly possible that you may go out on a hot day, but be faced with a chill evening on your return. Remember that layering your clothing will keep you warmer than relying on one thick item.
Clothing to Pack for Safaris:
- Khaki cotton pants
- Khaki shorts
- Long sleeved shirts/ blouses (for sun protection as well as warmth)
- Light sweater or sweatshirt
- Lightweight, waterproof windbreaker
- Swimming costume
- Sturdy walking or hiking boots
- Sandals for around the lodge
- Short-sleeved shirts or T-shirts
- Hat with a brim (baseball caps might cover your nose but not your ears and neck)
- Gloves (if you really feel the cold)
- Down vest or jacket (if you really feel the cold), especially during the winter months as the game drives do get cold due to the wind chill factor
For overland Safari travel, the best type of luggage to bring is a soft bag, or backpack with an internal frame. As packing space in Safari vehicles is limited, only one bag is allowed, but you should also have a daypack for all of your personal items/camera/binoculars. Hard suitcases are usually scuffed or damaged in transit and are inappropriate for a game safari.
For safari's in South Africa these hard suitcases are not a problem as transfers to the lodges is normally in comfortable vehicles.
Light aircraft: Important note - If part of your itinerary includes light aircraft flight s(mainly in Botswana or Namibia), there are serious weight restrictions. You are usually restricted to 10 or 12kg (22 or 26 lbs), per person, in a soft bag. Storage space in a light aircraft is at a premium, and the pilot may refuse to take on bulky or excessive luggage. The most common aircraft types used for charter work are Cessna 206 or 210, and Cessna 208 Caravans. A reasonable amount of hand luggage and camera equipment is generally allowed. Remember that the charter pilot has the final say in terms of taking the luggage and you will be responsible for costs should your luggage need to be forwarded for you, or should an extra aircraft be required for transportation.
Travel Documents / Money
Always have a photocopy of your passport, and any visas. Also, have a list of traveller’s cheque numbers. These copies should be packed separately from the originals. It is never a good idea to carry large amounts of cash, and most urban centres (hotels, shops) do accept credit cards (Visa and Mastercard are most common), and traveler’s cheques. You might need cash for purchases local markets – keep this in a travel wallet, or a zip pocket.
Never leave cameras and hand luggage unattended, whether in a vehicle, or even in a hotel foyer. Never pack valuables (this includes medication), in your check-in luggage.
When travelling independently on your African safari, stay informed in terms of the local news. Ask at your hotel about any unsafe areas, and codes of dress and behaviour. Don't openly carry valuables. If you must carry your passport and money, keep them in a buttoned-down pocket.
Your guide will always do a safety talk with you, whether your game viewing is to be done from a vehicle, or on foot. Wildlife is potentially dangerous, but as long as you adhere to what you guide tells you, there is very little to worry about. At viewpoints, hides and camps, wildlife is more familiar with people and less intimidated by your presence. Never tease or corner wild animals - this may cause an unpredictable response and a potentially dangerous reaction. Never feed any animals, as this can cause them to lose their fear of humans.
Although Africa is known to be home to a number of potentially dangerous species, especially snakes, scorpions, spiders, and insects, very few visitors are adversely affected. Snakes tend to be shy, and generally stay away from built-up areas. Lodges and camps generally have insect (especially mosquito) proofing in their rooms. If you go on a walk, it is always a good idea to comfortable, enclosed walking shoes, socks, and long trousers – just as a precaution.
The worst bug is the "safari bug" once this has bitten you will want to go on more and more safari's ...
The essential thing to remember is to travel light! Always cater for the 'things' you will take back with you.
As with many places around the world Africa has its places of concern and these should be avoided. Planning your trip through a reputable travel company will prevent any misunderstandings and allow you to enjoy what will certainly be your most memorable holidays. Safety is a Worldwide problem not just a South African concern.
You will probably go through your African Safari without encountering anything that can be construed as a dangerous situation. You will, in all likelihood, get up close and personal with some of Africa’ most dangerous animals albeit it from the safety of a safari vehicle. Listening to your guide will ensure that these encounters stay memorable for the right reasons. When in the wilderness areas it is advisable to listen to the safety talks and not think that you can do your own thing. Although animals can be approached in the safari vehicles they are wild and will react to a threat – a person walking in their territory is considered a threat.
Travel to South Africa poses no medical threat. At most properties, and in most areas, the water is safe to drink, and is less chemically treated that you might imagine. In those rare cases where a property itself is concerned about water, bottled water is always provided. Indeed, bottled water is readily available at properties, and on safari.
Malaria is a prevalent disease in much of Africa, but lodges all take precautions – with a combination of mosquito nets, and sprays. Be sure to continue the prophylactic regime when you return home, as it is generally required up to 4 weeks after travel as well. Please see Malaria information for more details.
Yellow Fever is caused by a virus carried by a species of mosquito, and has been known to occur in certain East African countries. There have been no recent outbreaks, but as yellow fever is contagious, many countries require travelers to get a yellow fever inoculation. Travelers should be inoculated at least 10 days prior to travel (a certificate is issued). The inoculation certificate is not generally required when entering the country in question (e.g. Zambia, Kenya or Tanzania), but is required for your return to your country of residence or to South Africa. Please consult your Travel Clinic, or doctor, prior to travel.
Bilharzia (Schistosomiasis) is a waterborne parasite carried by snails, and occurs in stagnant water of lakes, dams and slow flowing rivers. However, lodges, and guides, will always caution you as to where it is safe to swim. In Africa, many lakes and rivers are home to Hippopotamus and Crocodiles anyway – so swimming is not generally recommended!
If you travel extensively in remote areas, you might also want to consult your Travel Clinic about Hepatitis A and B, and tetanus inoculations.
When on Safari, always ensure that you drink sufficient quantities of water. Day time temperatures can be extreme, even in winter, and you don't want to suffer from dehydration.
Complications from sunburn should also not be ignored – always wear a hat with a brim, and ensure that you carry a good supply of sun protection cream (the higher the screen factor the better).
A medical first aid kit is usually available at lodges and in safari vehicles to treat minor inflictions but a basic medical kit with painkillers, antiseptic cream, anti-histamine and plasters is advisable. Prescription medicines must be brought with on safari and it is important to note that a description of the medicine should be obtained from your practitioner in case of emergency while on safari. The description will allow for medical personal in South Africa to find a replacement prescription if necessary.
Although malaria is prevalent in Africa the chance of you as a visitor contracting the disease is very small. Malaria is rife in highly populated areas and these areas are generally not on the tourist route. It is essential to take prophylactics which must be administered by your GP’s before departing on your safari. Covering up in the evenings and using repellent on the areas that cannot be covered will assist in preventing mosquitoes biting, this works very well. All the lodges in the Malaria areas do have insect screens on the windows and it is also a good idea to sleep with the fan on during the summer a mosquitoes do not like the disturbed air. There are game reserves like Pilanesberg and Madikwe in South Africa where a safari can be enjoyed in a malaria-free environment.
What is Malaria?
Malaria is a potentially fatal illness of tropical and subtropical regions. The disease is caused by a parasite, which is transmitted to human beings bitten by infected Mosquitoes.
Which areas harbour Malaria
Within South Africa’s borders the disease is encountered mainly in Northern and Eastern Mpumalanga (Kruger National Park area), Northern Kwazulu Natal and the border areas of the Limpopo and Northwest provinces. Malaria transmission is at it’s highest during the warmer and wetter months of November through to April. From May through to October the risks of acquiring Malaria are reduced to almost zero.
How to avoid Malaria
Prevention of Malaria relies on adopting personal protection measures designed to reduce the chances of attracting a mosquito bite, and the use of appropriate anti-malarial medication are important, and neither should be neglected at the expense of the other.
Personal protection measures
Personal protection measures against Mosquito bites include the use of an appropriate insect repellent containing Di-ethyl Toluamide (Deet), the wearing of clothing to conceal as much of the body as practical, sleeping under Mosquito nets, and the spraying of sleeping quarters with a suitable Pyrethroid containing insecticide. Some places spray their rooms and surrounding dams where Mosquitoes breed with an eco-friendly Pyrethroid on a weekly basis.
Anti-Malaria tablets (Prophylaxis) There are a number of different types of Anti-Malaria tablets available. Choosing one depends both upon the particular area being visited, and your own medical history. Within South Africa’s borders the recommended tablets are Mefloquine (Mefliam) or Doxycycline as being the most effective. Both these drugs require a prescription. Mefloquine is taken in adult dosage of one tablet per week. This should be commenced at least one week before entering the Malaria area and continued for four weeks after leaving the area.
Meflocuine is best taken at night after a meal, and with liquids. Doxycycline is taken in an adult dosage of 100mg per day, starting a day or two before entering a malarious area. Like Meflocuine it should be taken for four weeks after return. The drug should be taken after a meal, and washed down with plenty of liquid. It should be avoided in pregnancy and children. A combination of Chloroquine and Proguanil can be used as, prophylaxis and is available without a doctor’s prescription. This combination is more difficult to use than the simpler Mefloquine and Doxycycline regimes, and is believed to offer less protection.
No method of Malaria protection is 100% effective and there is still a small chance of contracting Malaria despite the taking of Anti-Malaria medication and the adoption of personal protection methods. This does not mean that Anti-Malaria and personal protection measures should be neglected, simply that any traveler developing possible symptoms of Malaria should seek medical advice despite having taken the prescribed precautions.
Symptoms of Malaria may include a generalized body ache, tiredness, headache, sore throat, diarrhea, and fever. It is worth emphasizing that these symptoms may not be dramatic, and can easily be mistaken for an attack of influenza or similar non-life-threatening illness. Deterioration can then be sudden and dramatic, with a rapid increase in the number of parasites in your bloodstream. A high swinging fever may develop, with marked shivering and dramatic perspiration. If you develop any Influenza-like illness or fever within seven day of entering, or six months of departing a Malarious area, seek immediate medical attention. Blood tests should be taken to check for possible Malaria infection. It may be sensible to have a second blood test taken if a first test is negative for Malaria, to be certain of excluding the disease.
Most lodges in South Africa will have facilities plug in your chargers to charge batteries for cameras and video recorders but it is advisable to bring spare batteries as backup. Many establishments have the necessary adaptors to fit all international plugs but it is advisable to bring your own adaptors just in case. Electricity in SA is 220V. Some establishments will have photographic equipment for sale such as batteries, film and memory cards but these may be relatively pricey so it is best to come prepared.
Tap water is safe to drink in South Africa but bottled mineral water is available for purchase.
South Africa is a great family destination. There are activities for children of all ages and plenty of adventure for the whole family. During the summer months, the beaches are wonderful for children of all ages and numerous adventure activities like boat rides and cruises, horse riding, surfing, hiking and many others are offered. Sun City is a very popular family destination.
Almost all safari lodges allow children and offer "junior ranger" programs to entertain children and give the parents time to enjoy their safari. Most lodges do not allow children under 5 years old on the game drive due to safety reasons, but it is wise to check with the tour operator for requirements regarding children on safari.
Health insurance is definitely advisable. The health services in South Africa are of a high standard but a private system for which you would require medical insurance is in operation. Insurance is also recommended to cover loss of baggage and flight delays.
In South Africa it is recommended to exchange currency into local Rands as most establishments will not accept foreign currency or will give you a very bad rate of exchange. Credit cards are widely accepted.
Most other countries in Africa will take payment in US$ but it is always advisable to exchange an amount into the local currency in small denominations in case of emergency or to by drinks and curios.
In most countries it is easy to exchange money into local currency and the airport is probably the best as not all banks have forex departments.
All major credit cards, including Visa, American Express, Diners Club and MasterCard, are accepted at most hotels, shops and restaurants. Proof of identity may be requested in some instances and it is useful to carry a passport or some form of photo identification at all times.
You will be required to declare all foreign currency in any form when entering/exiting South Africa and therefore we advise that you only change money as required. The international airports have banks where money can be changed, this is the best option as they offer good exchange rates. Facilities are usually available at reputable hotels and lodges but the exchange rate is not very good. The unit of currency is the Rand, which is divided into 100 cents.
Tipping is not expected but appreciated. It is customary to tip 10 to 15% of the bill at restaurants and 10% of the fare to taxi drivers. It is also the custom to tip local guides, rangers and drivers. Some lodges have "tip tins" so all the tips can be evenly distributed between the staff or they have envelopes in the rooms. Hairdressers and theatre ushers are not usually tipped for their services.
South Africans drive on the left hand side of the road so vehicles are right hand drive. Drivers must have a valid driver's license, with photo, or an international driver's permit. Seatbelts are mandatory. Driving in South Africa is easy to adapt to, with sign posting in English and rental cars easily available in all major cities. There are a number of toll roads in South Africa that are clearly indicated well before reaching the toll stations, where payment in cash must be made at an attended booth. Overtaking on the inside is not illegal in South Africa and is a common practice. When changing lanes be aware of cars on the inside. In general, speed limits are 120 km/h (75 miles) on freeways and 60 km/h (37 miles) in towns and cities. Fuel cannot be purchased with a credit card in South Africa so you will need cash.
Super great! Saw several healthy, wild, and free animals. Elephants, lions, rhinos, zebras... even a baby elephant! The guides are really friendly :)