Frequently asked safari q&A...
A trip to Africa is on a lot of bucket lists! For many of us in the United States, the continent seems majestic and mysterious yet dangerous and uncharted. Much of what we know about Africa is what we see in the media, a land of lions and giraffes, war and poverty - but this is not the whole story...The Africa we know and love is a land of beauty and wonder and we are dedicated to sharing with travelers.
We have been sharing the wonders of Africa with those eager to travel and explore the continent’s beauty, wildlife, wilderness and culture for 9 years. Many clients are planning a first trip to Africa and have a lot of questions, from where to stay, when to go, what to pack and many more... Here are just a few to get you started and hopefully ease some of the concerns you might have.
Please feel free so send us YOUR questions!
Where is the Best Place to See the Big 5?
Most safari first-timers want to tick off the Big 5 (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo). While nothing in the wild is guaranteed, there are reserves that deliver consistently good sightings of all the big players. In South Africa our top choice is a private Kruger reserve such as the Sabi Sands. Botswana is also undoubtedly one of our favorite spots - the Okavango Delta is an animal paradise! And for East Africa? Include Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania in your safari plans. Do not forget the Chobe National park n Botswana!
What weather should I expect on an African safari?
In general, the climate in southern Africa is as near perfect as you can get with dry season temperatures similar to those of the Mediterranean, but without the humidity. Daytime temperatures average 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit but can get much hotter, especially in the months of October and November, just before the rains arrive.
During the winter period, June through August, nighttime temperatures in some areas can drop to freezing or below. Early morning game drives during these winter months can start out very chilly and you should bring a warm sweater, gloves and even a hat to cover your ears. However, by mid-morning the days will heat up dramatically. The rains occur each year during November through March, with the dry season stretching from April through October.
Fall (April & May) and Spring (September & October)is our favorite season - fabulous mild weather ensure optimum comfort and safari experience.
WHAT SHOULD I WEAR/PACK for my AFRICA SAFARI?
Knowing what to wear while on safari can make a big difference to how comfortable, and therefore, how much you enjoy your time on safari. So let us guide you through our recommendations for what to wear and not to wear while on safari. Please note that all the information below holds true for safaris in southern Africa (South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia), as the main safari areas in Kenya and Tanzania are much closer to the equator, requirements for these will vary – please contact us if you are travelling to these areas and would like advise on what to pack.
Firstly, we cannot stress enough, Africa gets cold! Too many people think that Africa is always hot and that they won’t need warm clothes, this is simply not true. Temperatures can fall below freezing, and when you are travelling in an open vehicle at dawn it can be bitterly cold. If you are traveling during the southern hemisphere summer (October to March) you will need very different clothes to if you are traveling during the mid-winter season (May – August), refer to our guide below to make sure you are well prepared!
If you’re taking charter flights then check the luggage restrictions. It’s usually 23 kg per person,so pack light! Comfortable, loose fitting clothing is best and think in layers as those early morning starts can be chilly, so long and short sleeve T-shirts with long sleeve safari shirts works best. A lightweight but warm down jacket is always handy as it does get really cold in the winter months on early morning and late afternoon game drives. Other essentials include a wide-brim hat, sun screen, binoculars, sun glasses with polarized lenses and a good pair of walking shoes.
Summer (October - March)
- Lightweight (preferably cotton) clothing, ideally in muted tones
- Long sleeve shirts and trousers for early morning and late afternoon/early evening when mosquitos are most prevalent.
- Hats to protect from the sun, preferably with a wide brim to protect your nose and neck as well. One with a chin-tie is even better to stop it flying off while in the open vehicle.
- Lightweight rain gear. For the majority of areas in southern Africa, summer is the rainy season, and an afternoon downpour is very common, and longer spells of rain quite possible. However, it will be warm rain.
- Something warm (and preferably windproof) for the early mornings and evenings, especially while on the safari vehicles.
- An ideal scenario would be start with a cotton T-shirt, then a long sleeved cotton top to go on top of the T-shirt, a jersey/fleece to go on top of that and finally a windproof rain jacket. This way your can dress up or down according to your needs.
- Comfortable shoes that you do not mind getting dusty/dirty
- Given the bumpy ride, some women may find it more comfortable to wear a sports bra
- Bathing suit – there is nothing better than relaxing in the pool during the heat of the day in summer.
Winter (May - August)
- The great rule for winter is layers, layers, layers and more layers! As for the last section of what to wear in summer, take the same policy, just make the clothes thicker and warmer. A good thick, possibly thermal, vest/T-shirt, warm long sleeved shirt, fleece or jersey and a very warm winter jacket. During the morning drive start with everything on and take off as it warms up - in the afternoon start in what you feel comfortable with and add layers as the temperature drops.
- Beanie, gloves and scarf
- Thick socks
- Ideally keep to muted tones
- Comfortable shoes that you do not mind getting dusty/dirty
Will I Have Internet Access / communication with the “outside world” At the Lodges?
For most people wishing to visit the remote parts of Southern Africa, getting away from civilization so to speak, is the major attraction and reason for going. Most lodges in South Africa offer full telephone and internet services for those who do not wish to detach from the world completely. In Moremi (Botswana) and the Okavango Delta, the signal is non-existent or patchy at best. Most camps have a guest computer for sending and receiving e-mails and all camps do however have radio communications with their town/city offices in case of any emergencies. But that’s part of the magic of being on safari, you’re out in the wilds of Africa far removed from the constant buzz of email notifications. And if the mere thought of being offline makes your palms sweat, then ask a safari expert to recommend lodges where you can stay connected.
CELLPHONE CONNECTION, DATA & INTERNATIONAL CALLING PLANS?
We suggest calling your cell provider and asking them to add an international calling and data plan to your account - If you do not,you wil be com home to a huge cell/data bill. Once the plan is in place, you can make (lower cost) cell call, but you will be able to use the data by adding the WhatsApp app on you phone which allows you to make calls,txt and picture messages to other WhatsApp users using data only. Please be sure to add our whatsapp numner so that we can communicate while you are in safari.The number is +1 949 400 5262
What to Do in Cape Town?
How much time do you have? One of the world's favourite cities, Cape Town offers an incredible range of things to do. Popular activities include a trip to the top of Table Mountain, wandering around the V&A Waterfront, picnics at Kirstenbosch Gardens, and a tour of Cape Peninsula stopping at the Boulder’s Beach penguins and cliffs at Cape Point. Then there’s lunch in the Cape Winelands, the quaint harbour village of Kalk Bay, and topping up your tan on the famous white sands of Camps Bay beach or local favourite Llandudno. Possibilities are endless...!
What food is served at the safari lodges?
Top-class British and European cuisine as well as some local dishes are served in the hotels, lodges, camps and restaurants. Most foreign visitors are very impressed with the quality and quantity of food provided while on an African safari. Some of the more up-scale camps provide food, presentation and service which rival that of a five-star hotel in any top city. The tables are elegantly set under the stars, under thatch or even in a boma, and we promise you will never go hungry.
Is it Safe to Travel in South Africa?
Africa’s biggest enemy is the international media who represent all 46 African countries as a single entity and not as unique and individual countries with their own characteristics.
It would come as a surprise to many people to find out that there are in fact areas that are worse off in more developed countries than in the “dangerous” African countries. No country can claim to be 100% safe, and so as with travel to any new or unknown destination, it is advisable to take certain standard security precautions. Visitors should take the same precautions as they would normally take in any other destination worldwide. Keep an eye on your purses, wallets, passports, money and cameras when walking in a crowd. Avoid walking in the cities at night and place valuables in your hotel safe. Choosing a knowledgeable operator such as Africa Picture Safaris as your specialist Southern African tour operator is the best decision you can make.
While staying at African safari lodges and tented camps you are typically far removed from human settlement and crime in the camps is virtually nonexistent, in fact, we have never heard of it and have been traveling to the camps for years.
South Africa does have a high crime rate, but don't let that stop you visiting this incredible country. Most incidences occur outside of tourist areas but if you are visiting Cape Town or Johannesburg just take the same safety precautions that you would in any big city. And, should you want to see the street art in Woodstock or visit the Soweto Township then go with a local guide.
What Vaccines Do I Need? /Should I take any medical precautions before going to Africa?
As vaccination requirements change on occasion, we recommend that you check with your local doctor or travel clinic for the latest health precautions.Some vaccines (or boosters) you might need include tetanus, typhoid, hepatitis and meningitis. If you’re travelling to Kenya, Tanzania or Zambia they all fall within the yellow fever belt so you may need a yellow fever vaccination certificate. Don’t leave this jab until the last minute as it could make you feel fluey for a few days.
The most widespread issue is malaria,so ask your doctor about malaria prophylactics and pack insect repellent along with long pants for the evenings. Best is to visit the CDC site for updated information
You are not legally required to have any vaccinations unless you are traveling from a region where yellow fever is prevalent, in which case an inoculation will be required against the disease.
What about visas and passports
Southern Africa has become very strict with regards to passport control requirements, so compliance is essential.All persons traveling to the Southern African region require a valid passport that is normally valid for six months (better yet 9 months) beyond the intended length of stay. The passport entry requirement for any travelers entering South Africa is a minimum of two blank pages in their passport (in addition to the two endorsement pages in US passports). If however a guest should be traveling to more than one African country via South Africa, then the traveler must ensure they allow for sufficient pages for each country visited and also have the minimum of two blank visa pages for each re-entry into South Africa.
At present, holders of American passports do not require visas for South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. They do however require visas for Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Zambia; all but Kenya’s may be purchased at the point of entry for a nominal fee. It is advisable to check with the consulate of the country that you intend to visit as requirements can change without notice.
Please note taht is always the client's responsibility to check their passport expiration date. Clients are futher responsible for checking their passports eligibility for entereing a county and if any visas are required. should a visa be required, we advise applying well in advace and makig sure all required documentation is properly prepared and presented at thim of application. Please visit the various counties consulate pages as well as the USA official travel site for updated information.
Power and power adaptors?
Most Southern Africa counties use 220 power and the power sockets are of type D, M and N. However, note that most cellphone chargers, camera chargers, laptop and tablet chargers are dual voltage and a power converter would not be needed for these. You would however need a power adaptors South Africa, Namibia and Botswana. Order on EBay or on Amazon
Are credit cards accepted on safari/in Cape Town?
Yes, most locations accept VISA or MasterCard. American Express in not widely accepted.
How about tips while on safari?
Tips are up to you! 100 % at your discretion and you can pay these in US$ or the local currency. Tips are always welcome and much appreciated!
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO SEE THE GREAT MIGRATION?
The migration is always on the move with more than a million wildebeest chasing the rains around the Serenegti (Tanzania) and Masai Mara (Kenya) eco-system. The most dramatic part of their journey is crossing the Mara River. While difficult to pinpoint the time exactly (as it depends on the rains) you’ve got an excellent chance of seeing a river crossing if you travel to the Masai Mara between late August and late September. Read more about the best places to see the wildebeest migration.
When should I start planning for a trip to Africa?
We encourage our clients to plan their African safari as far in advance as possible; several months at a minimum to one and half year in advance to ensure a better selection of camp availability. This is especially important if they are planning to travel during the Southern Africa safari “high season” months of July through October.
How Long Should a Safari Be?
Since travel to Africa from the USA or Europe is long, we recommend spending at least 10 days in Africa, up to 45 days... to longer! Why not move here, right? Spend a minimum of three nights at any one loation,that gives you two full days of game viewing with most lodges offering two safari activities per day. Click her for sample itineraries - remember, these are not group tours, but a recommended, sample itineraries that we can tailor to your requirements!
How Much Does it Cost to Go on Safari?
An African safari doesn’t comes in many forms, depending on the light of your stay, countries visited and the level of accommodation. Most of the African safaris planned for our clients are 100% customized to their individual interests, timeframe and budget. The rates for the destinations cover a wide range and typically vary significantly from the “high season” (generally July through mid-November) to the “low season” (generally November through June). It's like most things in life, you get what you pay for. Note that the price not only includes accommodation but also twice-daily game drives, a ridiculous amount of tasty food, sundowner stops out in the African bush and the tracking skills of your highly trained guide. Lower end cost are around $350 pppd up to $1,000 pppd. Weather it is a chalet or tented camp, you can always be assured of comfort and service on all levels.
decide where to go / what countRy to visit in Africa?
First of all, let’s define the regions. In terms of wildlife safaris, Southern Africa includes South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia while East Africa is essentially Kenya and Tanzania. Meanwhile, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda and The Democratic Republic of the Congo, all destinations popular for gorilla tracking safaris, are generally considered Central Africa. Malawi and Zambia are also sometimes classified as Central Africa.
In terms of landscapes and attractions, the regions are quite different. East Africa boasts Mount Kilimanjaro, the Serengeti Plains/Maasai Mara ecosystem and the Ngorongoro Crater. Southern Africa includes Botswana’s Okavango Delta wetland, the Skeleton Coast and Namib Desert of Namibia, the miles of coastline with diverse habitats and the Kruger National Park of South Africa, the semi-arid Kalahari Desert of Botswana and northern South Africa and the lower Zambezi River basin including Victoria Falls along the borders of Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The wildlife species found in the two areas are essentially the same; most of the predators and plains game can be seen in both regions and only some birds and a few mammals and reptiles are distinct between the regions. East Africa offers herds of zebras and wildebeests in the hundreds of thousands. The annual migration between the Maasai Mara in the north and Tanzania’s Serengeti in the south is a spectacle unequaled anywhere on earth today. However, Botswana and Zimbabwe are home to 80% of Southern Africa’s 300,000 elephants and huge herds are a common sight along their northern borders.
The major differences between East Africa and Southern Africa for safaris are the density of tourists, the safari accommodations and the safari vehicles. we focus on exclusive lodges cropping, particularly in Tanzania and these lodges offer a far more exclusive experience than the large safari lodges which may have typified Kenya.
Conversely, Southern Africa is known for its luxury tented safari camps and huge tracts of wilderness areas with very low tourist densities, making for a private safari experience. The safari vehicles used here are modified, open-air Land Rovers which also add to the intimacy of the experience.
The most common safari vehicle in East Africa is the mini-van with its pop-up roof, whereby passengers stand up to take pictures while peering out of the roof or sit in the enclosed vans.
For the most part, Southern Africa is dominated by huge land concessions, with luxury safari camp for the sole use of the individual camp and its guests. With an average camp size of only 10-16 guests and only one or two vehicles for the entire concession, one can drive all day and not encounter anything but wilderness and wildlife.
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