Travel Info

How to Plan your Safari - Some Good Travel Tips Your Safari Tips on Planning

Safety

Some Safety (and other) Tips while Travelling in South Africa

In general, South Africa is a very safe country to travel in. However it is not immune to the social and economic problems affecting other areas of southern Africa. As in many tourist areas across the world, thieves, especially pickpockets, have become very creative and adept at lifting wallets and purses, picking-pockets and stealing from vehicles.

Cameras, mobile phones and portable computer equipment are particularly attractive items for the agile thief. Do not leave them in plain sight if you have to leave them in a vehicle. Even when you drive, put your bags and electronics in the boot of the vehicle, out of sight -never leave handbags or cameras on car seats.

The majority of the serious crime that occurs takes place in the major population areas and not in the rural areas where you will spend most of our time. That said you should travel in a state of "relaxed awareness." Paying attention to what is going on around you is often all that is needed to deter an incident. Be as low-key as you can be. Leave all of your expensive jewellery at home.

Throughout the trip your guide will inform you on what to do and what not to do. He/she knows where to go and, more importantly, where not to go to keep you safe.

South Africa is a safe country for tourists. Be aware and sensible.

A few SafetyTips

  • Limit the amount of money you carry on your person. Also, don't accept offers of assistance at ATMs and keep your pin numbers secure.When you eat at a restaurant, ask the waiter to bring the credit card machine to the table.
  • Other safety issues: The hot water that flows from taps in most bathrooms and kitchens is almost universally scalding hot. Be careful when bathing.
  • While it is possible to see venomous snakes anywhere they are seldom encountered. If you do see a snake, give it plenty of room to leave the area.

Documentation

You will need a passport to enter South Africa. Make sure that your passport's expiratory date is at least six months past the date that you are due to visit South Africa. In most cases a visa is not needed .to enter to South Africa? Make sure that your passport has at least four blank pages remaining blank pages for the required entry and departure stamps.

Document Security while Travelling

We suggest that you make copies of your passport photo page, all flight documents and the tour information. You should carry a set and a set should be left with someone at home who you can reach in the event that you lose your documents.
It is also a good idea to scan these documents and then email yourself with copies of the documents attached to the email.

This practice facilitates obtaining replacements from the airlines or, in the case of your passport, your country's Embassy. Every effort should be made to ensure that your passport is protected and secure at all times. Replacing a passport while on a trip is time consuming, inconvenient and is the quickest way to ruin an otherwise great holiday.

Document checklist

  • Passport
  • List of emergency numbers to call in an emergency
  • Travel insurance paperwork
  • Your travel itinerary
  • Copy of the informational pages of your passport kept in a separate place from the passport
  • Medical history
  • Copies of prescriptions (medications and eye glass)

Health Issues

Generally speaking travelling in southern Africa doesn't really raise any health issues. is a healthy activity. The food may be eaten and the water drunk without fear of disease. Even those with special diets can usually be accommodated.

Pack a Small Personal Medical Kit

Every person coming on Safari You should bring a small medical kit for your personal use. You may wish to include such things as aspirin, Rolaids, anti-diarrhoea medication (Imodium, Pepto-Bismol, or Lomotil) lip balm, sun block, Band-Aids, antiseptics, cold remedies, anti-histamines and any prescription drugs that you routinely take or would take in the event of medical emergency.

All prescription drugs should be kept in their original containers. Customs officials have been known to impede your clearance until all unidentified "pills" have been identified or the offending medications have been confiscated.

Hopefully, you will not need any of the medications in your kit, but it is always wise to be prepared especially when medical supplies in some of the more remote, rural areas that we will be traveling through, are hard to come by.

These small medical kits are just for your own use. Your guide will have a comprehensive first aid kit with him at all times and is trained to use it if necessary.

Medical and Dental Check-up Before You Leave

We highly recommend getting both a medical and a dental check-up before you travel to South Africa. Discovering that you have a previously unknown ailment while on a safari would be at best, inconvenient and could, at worst, cause you to find out how good your medical evacuation insurance is!

Take Care with your Medical and Travel Insurance

Check your medical insurance to ensure that you are covered when you travel out of the country. In most cases you will have to pay the bill and then make a claim against your provider when you get home. We recommend enrolling in a medical evacuation plan that will transport you back to your country of origin in the event you have a serious medical event.

Most companies will only pick you up from a hospital and deliver you to a hospital leaving it up to you to get yourself to a hospital in the first place - check the fine print carefully.

You should also make sure that your vaccinations are up-to-date – especially your Tetanus and Yellow Fever vaccinations. We also recommend the Hepatitis series of shots. Check with your doctor on any other vaccinations/shots you should have before you travel to Africa.

Malaria Areas

Since malaria is known to occur in some of the areas that we will be traveling through it is wise to take one of the prophylactic drugs once you get in country - again see your doctor for a prescription.

Water and food

Important to Keep Hydrated

Staying hydrated while on Safari can be a problem, especially in the warmer months. Dehydration leads to headaches and cramps. Make sure that you stay hydrated whilst on safari – even thought you might not feel thirsty, keep a bottle of water handy and take frequent drinks.
Although at most places the water is potable and the food is safe to eat, sometimes the change in diet might be enough to upset your stomach causing the infamous "traveller's diarrhoea." Allowing your body to get rid of whatever is causing the problem is often the best course of action
If the problem persists for more than 24 hours it is time to start taking medications. Usually Pepto-Bismol, Imodium D, or Lomotil and a soft diet are enough to control the problem. This is a time to be very careful with hydration.

A few sachets of Rehydrat (electrolyte mixture) would be good or else just plenty of flat Coca Cola. If the diarrhoea is accompanied by fever or severe nausea it is time to see a doctor.

Clothing

Pack Light for your Safari

South Africans are generally laid back when it comes to clothing so no need to bring your Sunday best. And where we are going, there are more animals than people, so please keep comfort in the front of your mind when you are packing.

Pack as lightly as possible. We suggest comfortable, quick drying clothing for both the long flight to and from Africa and for use during the safari.

  • Zip-off convertible pants work well - as the day heats up much of the early morning clothing can be shed
  • Short–sleeved shirts and shorts work well. There is no need to purchase special "safari" clothing.
  • Casual attire is perfectly suitable for dining.
  • Ladies may find it appropriate to bring along a light dress/skirt and blouse to change into in the evening after a long day in the field.
  • Include a floppy-hat or baseball hat to keep the dust out of your hair and the sun out of your eyes.
  • Many of the lodges have a swimming pool so bring a suit if you like to swim. Avoid brightly coloured clothing if possible.

There will be laundry service at most lodges so don't try to pack clean clothes for each day. Either do your own washing or have the clothing washed for you (for an additional fee). To prevent mix-ups have some way of marking your clothing so that its ownership is clear.

Since early morning activities often begin before the sun comes up and the afternoon game viewing session sometimes continues into the early evening, so pack a light fleece jacket should be on the trip with you. A light rain jacket and pants is also a good idea. DO NOT bring ponchos. They flap in the wind, are noisy and tend to scare both animal life and birds.

Footwear for your South African Safari

We recommend wearing light hiking boots during the day and switch to "slip-ons" in the evening. Ladies might appreciate a pair of light sandals. There is no need for heavy hiking boots.

Suggested Clothing List for Southern African Safaris

  • Brimmed hat
  • Comfortable non-synthetic shorts and long pants 2-3 pair
  • Comfortable non-synthetic short-sleeved/long sleeved shirts 2-3 each.
  • Underwear 5 sets
  • Socks 5 pair
  • Pyjamas one set (optional)
  • Swimming costume (optional)
  • Bandana handkerchiefs
  • Walking shoes
  • Flip flops or sport sandals
  • Fleece jacket
  • Gloves and a stocking cap
  • Light rain gear (jacket and pants)

Finances

How you Pay for Goods and Services in South Africa

For the most part this is an all-inclusive trip however there might be some items that are not covered as shown on the itinerary. In addition there will always be a few "consumables" that you will want to pick up while you are in South Africa and other odds and ends that you will want to bring home. (If you like exotic crafts and cloth and beadwork – you will probably be spending quite a bit on "consumables")

Money can be exchanged in airports and most banks. (Whenever you exchange money you will have to produce your passport.)

Tips are much appreciated by those who provided a service. Typically baggage handlers, staff etc are tipped if the service they provided deserves it. You may take care of your tips if you choose to or each participant can donate a sum of money to the guide and he/she can take care of the tipping throughout the trip.

Credit Cards can be used in Most Places in Southern Africa

Credit cards, particularly Master Card and VISA are accepted at some of the places where you will stay (but not all) and by most shops in the cities and towns you will visit.

ATMs are commonly available, again in towns and cities but not in the more rural areas where you will be traveling. Just like in your hometown, u under no circumstances allow a stranger to assist you with your ATM transactions. Should your card become stuck in the ATM, enter your PIN three times whereupon the machine will retain your card. You can then approach the bank to release it, or call the helpline number that can usually be found at ATMs for assistance.

Traveller's checks and pre-loaded cash cards are often not accepted. Make sure you have the phone numbers recorded, somewhere other than your wallet or purse, to call in the event that your credit cards are lost or stolen. If you do have traveller'scheques, cash them at banks that have a Buro de Change or at airports of big hotels.

It is a good idea to carry two credit cards from different banks so that your trip can continue in the event you lose one or have it stolen. Carry them in separate locations.

In order to prevent problems with using your credit card overseas let your bank know where you are going to be and the dates that you will be away. Be aware that banks charge from 1 – 3% each time you use your credit card when you are out of the country.

Luggage

Keeping Track of your Luggage while Travelling

Currently South African Airways still allows two checked bags, in addition to one carry-on and one personal item. We suggest soft-sided, sturdy roller styled luggage. Check all of the zippers. If they are suspect get them repaired or select a different suitcase. It is also a good idea to bring an empty Cordura bag with you.

There will be opportunities to purchase local crafts, clothing, artwork etc. and having a bag to carry home all of your purchases saves you from having to buy something locally. We recommend limiting yourself to the smallest suitcase you can get away with.

While traveling in-country the luggage will be carried in a secure trailer pulled behind the van. Carry-on bags should weigh no more than seventeen pounds and are subject to being weighed each time you board an aircraft.

You should have identification on all bags including your carry-ons - both inside and out. Include your home address and phone number. Leave copies of your tour itinerary, to include an in-country point-of-contact inside your suitcase.

This may allow your bags to catch-up with you if they are delayed or miss-directed. Bags, labelled with your name, also make it easier for lodge staff to place your bags in the correct room. Don't put anything in your checked baggage that you can't afford to lose. (If you have medication, carry it in your hand luggage).

Photographic equipment

Photographing People and Animals in Africa

With the exception of any photography you do within the confines of the lodges and camps where we will be staying, and at a few designated viewpoints in the national parks, all photography will be done from within the vehicles we will be traveling in. This is for your safety and for the enjoyment of seeing wild animals at close range.

As with most animals, in any national park, the African animals we will encounter are habituated to seeing vehicles and people in vehicles. As long as they do not feel threatened they often remain in full view for long periods of time. When photographing the local people always ask permission first and then, when you have taken the shot, show them the digital image in the LCD.

Cameras for Safaris

With cameras for safaris there are really only two options, either a digital Single Lens Reflex (dSLR) camera with a range of lenses, or one of the point-and-shoot cameras, with optical zooming capabilities from 10X to 36X and higher.

With either style of camera you can return home with some wonderful photographs of your trip. If your reason for going on this safari is to capture African wildlife at its best and have some truly remarkable photographs to display then your only choice is for a dSLR camera with a large fixed focal length lens, 300mm, or better or better still, a zoom, 200mm-400mm or similar and a lens multiplier to further extend the range. I would recommend either Canon or Nikon but there are other brands to consider as well.

The main differences between the two types of cameras are price, size, weight, durability, image quality and versatility. Compact point & shoot cameras are smaller, lighter and cheaper than dSLR cameras.

A small beanbag that you can drape over the windowsill and then rest your camera on will greatly improve your photographs. Bring an empty photographer's beanbag with you and then you can fill it up with beans or rice once you arrive.

If you are not a professional photographer, either bring your camera's operators manual with you or better still download a copy from the internet to your laptop if you bring one just in case you have a problem...

If you are bringing a lot of camera gear with you make sure you bring a vest that you can download some of the equipment into if you run into carry-on baggage issues i.e. your carry-on weighs too much.

Image Storage

In the past participants have shot between 500 and 1,000 pictures during an 18 day trip. Serious amateurs and semi-professional photographers will shoot 5000 to 6000 images, or more, in the same time frame. Plan your image storage and backup storage carefully. Also make sure that your camera will work with high capacity storage cards. Older cameras may not function with the newer cards.

Binoculars

Good Binoculars for Birding and Game Watching

Just as important, and in many cases more important than your camera, binoculars will enable you to enjoy not only game and birds from a distance, but some of the newer models have a close focusing capability that can be used to observe butterflies, insects and birds at very close range.

Our recommendation would be for a high quality, compact binocular in the eight-power magnification range, with an objective lens of around 32 mm and preferably of roof prism design. We particularly like 8x32s or 8x42s.

If you are a keen bird watcher, and don't mind the extra size and weight, then we would suggest a 10 power magnification binocular with an objective lens of 42mm in roof prism design. Get a good pair. You will spend hours peering through them. Cheap binoculars are a quick way to a pounding headache.

There are numerous makes and models of binoculars on the market, ranging from inexpensive, low quality brands right up to top-of-the-line brands such as Leica, Swarovski and Zeiss. Try out a range of binoculars, and get the best quality binocular you can afford - one you feel most comfortable with. If you need some help with selecting a brand please give me a call.

It will not be easy for your family to contact you while you are traveling. In the event of an emergency, the best bet would be to get hold of the South African office via the telephone number found on this website.

Staying in Touch

It will not be easy for your family to contact you while you are traveling. In the event of an emergency, the best bet would be to get hold of the South African office via the telephone number found on this website.

Cell phone service found throughout southern Africa ranges from adequate to excellent; depending on the area you will be visiting. If you need to be in contact with those at home or in the office we suggest checking with your cell phone service provider to see what you need to do to make your cell phone work in South Africa.

Some of the lodges where you will be staying will have Internet service. You may be able to connect to their wireless net or the lodge may allow you to use a "community" computer to read your email and send messages home. In some cases this service is free and in others there will be a fee.

Don't forget to find out how to login to your email provider's web based mail service. For reasons that are unclear to us some internet providers in South Africa block Facebook.

We highly recommend contacting those of your friends who frequently send you large emails, especially those with videos attached, and ask them to forgo sending you such emails until you return home. Internet access can be very slow in South Africa and it really slows down when someone sends you large messages. Landline telephone service is limited and in most places – non-existent.

Other Useful Stuff to Bring on Safari

  • Headlamp. Very useful in the early hours of the morning and again after dark. A small handheld LED flashlight is also very useful. Some of the lodges turn off their power generators after dinner – usually around 10pm.
  • Travel clothesline –very useful for drying any clothing you choose to wash yourself. Few of the places you will be staying at will have a clothesline. Lodges prefer not to see clotheslines in public view so if you choose this route please be discrete as to where you hang out your "undies."
  • Battery powered or wind-up alarm clock
  • Map. If you are interested in plotting your travels buy a South Africa road map before you leave the US. (www.maps2anywhere.com)
  • If you are going to need to charge multiple batteries (camera, computer, cell phone etc) at night having a short extension cord with multiple ports will be useful. Keep in mind that since South African is 220 volts versus the US, which is 110, you will need a small power converter and a plug adapter. If you have an older transformer or adapter check to see if it is still compatible with South African outlets. It may not be.
  • Sun Screen
  • Insect repellent and Stingeze or something similar
  • Sunglasses
  • Wet wipes and hand sanitizer
  • Small roll of Gorilla Tape for repairs
  • Washcloth. (Soap and shampoo is usually provided.)
  • Laptop computer – useful for journaling and or downloading photographs to
  • Journal, pen, Scotch tape etc...
  • Inflatable neck pillow
  • Small calculator for calculating currency conversions (Can also do on laptop)
  • Personal toiletries
  • Small daypack

Other Thoughts

You may be surprised how well stocked the stores in South Africa are. Just about anything you can buy at home you can get there – perhaps a little more expensively. Once you arrive in South Africa you will be stopping at a shopping mall to pick up any last minute items that you might need before heading for the bush.

Reduce the number of electric cords you have to carry by selecting equipment that uses the same plug-ins. Check this before you leave home.

In the lodges the staff have been trained to do things a certain way - let them do their job. Don't try to help.
When interacting with the local people keep in mind that while they speak reasonably good English it is often heavily accented making communication difficult at times. When asked a "yes" or "no" question the response will often be "yes" out of politeness particularly when the question is not understood. Please also respect their cultures and ask before taking photos.

RELAX AND ENJOY YOUR TIME IN AFRICA!

 

Get in Touch!

Telephone: (828) 216-1515 (United States)  or  +27 (0) 72 573 7717 (South Africa) | Email us: info@outdoor-africa.com 

Website: www.outdoor-africa.com

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