WELCOME TO “MZANSI”!
South Africa is widely known as “The Rainbow Nation” thanks to its diverse cultures and peoples. Her people are renowned for their amazing hospitality, friendliness and warm welcomes and you can be assured of seeing some of the widest smiles in the world during your safari.
South Africa – known locally as “Mzansi” – managed to emerge from the dark days of Apartheid with a sparkling sense of humour and a “can do” attitude which makes South Africa a wonderful destination for visitors from all over the world who inevitably fall in love with the country and her incredible citizens!
There’s first-class infrastructure and facilities in our major towns and cities and many of the high-street brands you’ll see at home and around the world. Our restaurants and night life are legendary, and the urban vibe is great! Away from our cities, we have smaller towns (we call them “dorps” or “dorpies”) that may lack the global brands but that nonetheless offer visitors an amazingly authentic South African experience.
Our landscapes are vast and our natural beauty is second to none, and South Africa boasts some of the best Big Five wildlife viewing opportunities in Africa. Our currency is the South African Rand (ZAR) and if you are coming from the US or Europe it will go a long way – value for money is the country’s unofficial middle name!
IS IT SAFE?
Crime is a global issue, and wherever you go in the world there are going to be places where criminals have a bigger foothold. Like every country, South Africa has its “no go” areas that tourists really should avoid.
We won’t intentionally send you to these places and would ask you to be aware, wherever you are, of opportunistic crime – the kind you get all over the world. Don’t leave valuables on display in a car or in your hotel room. Use safes when these are provided and when they aren’t, lock them away in your luggage or keep them with you at all times. Watch your valuables when you are out and about.
Don’t wave wads of cash around at curio markets or in the shopping malls. Don’t advertise what you have… These are the rules of travel the world over and not particular to our Rainbow Nation. We want you to be safe but more importantly, we want you to FEEL safe and secure wherever you go. Ask any questions or raise any concerns and we will be delighted to set your minds at ease.
Safety of another sort comes into question when you are on safari in our amazing wilderness areas and come into contact with wild animals. Please understand that the bush is not a petting zoo and the animals you encounter are wild and each and every one of them is a potential threat if you do not treat them with the respect they deserve. You will have qualified, experienced guides with you on game activities to help you understand the intricacies of wild Africa and to enlighten you on how amazing each species is, and how best to react around them.
Please stay to the confines of the lodges or camps you stay in and do not venture out alone. If you choose a self-drive activity in the Kruger National Park, do not get out of your vehicle other than at a clearly designation viewpoint or rest camp. We’re on hand to help you understand the rules and get you 100% bush-wise so don’t hesitate to ask for help in this regard!
CLOTHES FOR THE BUSH…
There’s an old saying that clothes maketh the man (or woman). Well, when it comes to Africa, clothes maketh the safari! It’s important that you select the right clothing to bring with you on your safari so that you are both comfortable and dressed appropriately. The main rule of thumb for safari gear is neutral colours. That generally means any shade of khaki, beige or brown!
Try and avoid bright colours and white, which although cool, can make you stand out a little too much when it’s important to blend in. Long pants are good for walking as they protect your legs. Shorts and cut-off or “cargo” pants are also excellent choices. T-shirts, vests and long-sleeved shirts are also must-brings, as are a sweater and a fleece or wind-breaker. Even in summer, early morning and late-night game drives can prove chilly, so pack for all eventualities and you should be fine.
Try and get your clothes to co-ordinate with one another to maximise the number of outfits you can put together and minimise your footwear to a good pair of hardy walking shoes, trainers and flip flops or sandals. There’s really no need for heels in the bush! And don’t forget your swimsuit and a hat – one of the absolute essentials on any safari.
WHAT SHOULD I BRING?
You’re going to need a camera! For the non-serious photographer, choose one that is going to give you zoom capabilities in the bush for those up-close-and-personal wildlife portraits and wide angles for the incredible landscapes you’re going to witness. If you’re more serious about your photography, then bring a range of lenses and a monopod or tripod, together with batteries or battery charger and lots of memory cards.
A good pair of binoculars is also desirable. For the bush, something in the region of an 8 x 40 or 10 x 50 focal range should be perfect, especially if you are a keen birder. It’s always a good idea to bring a range of plug adapters with you – handy travel kits are widely available offering these.
The voltage in South Africa is 220/230 AC 50 HZ. Most plugs are 15 amp 3-prong or 5-amp 2 prong with round pins. Bring your cellphone, tablet and laptop with you too. Cell coverage in urban areas is generally good and Wifi is widely available, but in the bush both can be non-existent!
COSMETICS AND MEDICINES…
One of the most important things to bring with you is sun-screen. The African sun is tremendously powerful, and even on cloudy or overcast days the UV levels can be high, so please ensure that you are adequately protecting your skin at all times. A waterproof high protection factor is advisable, no matter the time of year.
A good moisturiser or after-sun lotion is also a good idea to keep your skin moist as conditions in the bush are quite harsh, especially in the dry winter months. Basic amenities are provided at all our lodges (shampoo, conditioner, body-wash/soap and insect repellant, for example) but it’s always a good idea to bring your own, especially if your hair or skin need specific treatments.
It’s also a good idea to bring a small medical kit with you when you travel, with a good antiseptic cream or ointment, antihistamine cream and tablets, painkillers and a wide-spectrum antibiotic just in case. All of the lodges have trained personal either on site or a phone call away in the event of a medical emergency, and there are excellent emergency medical facilities across the country.
WHAT CAN I DO?
Most inclusive safari lodges include game activities with morning and afternoon game drives on offer. But if you’re staying in Hoedspruit, for example, there are also lots of additional game activities that can be arranged for you, including full-day drives in the legendary Kruger National Park and guided game and birding walks.
There’s a wide range of exciting activities close at hand in Hoedspruit and beyond, from exploring historic Pilgrim’s Rest to discovering the geological wonders of Bourke’s Luck Potholes and the breathtaking views along the Panorama Route, that skirts the edge of the Drakensberg escarpment. We are happy to recommend things to do and arrange day trips and activities for you.
HOW DO I GET THERE?
After touch down on South African soil your safari adventure is formally under way… So what can you expect? If you are catching an internal flight you need to clear immigration, collect your bags and make your way to the domestic departures terminal for your onward journey.
Some airlines allow bags to be checked to your final destination, so please check with your airline to see if this is possible before you leave home. If you are hiring a car you’ll need to make your way to the hire companies which are close at hand at both OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg and Cape Town International Airport.
WHAT ABOUT THE GAME VIEWING?
Your safari is taking place in the heart of Big Five country, where the wildlife is abundant and the wilderness among the best in Africa… So what can you expect from your game activities?
First of all, there’s nothing to beat the thrill of a game drive in an open safari vehicle in the middle of pristine African bush… The sights, sounds and smell of the wilderness are unbeatable, and the fauna and flora you will see on your game activities are part of an intricate and interwoven ecological web that’s both fascinating and wonderful to behold.
Your fully guided Game drives usually take place in the early morning and late afternoon, taking advantage of the best light for photography, and the best times to see wildlife active and on the move.
Mornings start at dawn with coffee and snacks, heading out when the temperatures are usually cooler in summer, and warming up in winter. Afternoon activities take place after high tea, leaving around 4pm, taking advantage of the “golden hour” of afternoon light and including an hour or so’s night drive, using a spotlight to pick up nocturnal species, returning to your lodge just before dinner.
In Big Five country you’ll have the chance to see the icons of Africa – buffalo, elephant, rhino, lion and leopard. But besides these legendary mammals you may also have the opportunity to see some of Africa’s smaller felines, like cheetah and caracal, as well as wild dog, hyaena and a host of other predators. Add to this giraffe, zebra, most of the antelope species and some amazing birdlife and you’ll understand that your game activities are never going to be boring.
Besides game drives, you also have the chance to explore the wilderness on foot with your safari guide on a guided bush walk. This is perhaps one of the best ways to experience Africa as you learn about all of the small and absolutely fascinating creatures and plants often overlooked on a drive.
Your knowledgeable and experienced guide will teach you about medicinal plants and the role they play in local culture and traditions and you’ll also learn the fine art of tracking and how to read the signs animals leave behind them.