SO MANY FACTORS IN THIS ONE SENTENCE
You are asking ………… Will I be safe? Where will I see the most wild animals? What experience am I looking for? Bucket list ……. I want to safari but where do I begin?
When Chris and I put pen to paper regarding a vacation / adventure / tour – we start with a conversation about budget. It is no use googling for hours about Kruger National Park, Serengetti, Masai Mara, Hwange, the Gorillas etc without an idea of budget!!!
You already know your desire to visit wild Africa. Next question – which goes hand in hand with the previous question – who will you travel with?
If you are on your own – how tough are you, are you timid (I am timid although my husband and I have been to scary places and done some pretty odd and dangerous things – but I would never consider doing them on my own), you will also be aware that hotels are usually more expensive – “Single Supplement” and so on.
Are you going to ask a Travel Agent to put a package together or do you like to research and make your own travel arrangements – from flights to accommodation to car hire ?
I live in South Africa and it annoys me that everyone thinks travelling here from overseas is cheap – because of the favourable Rand exchange rate. I am a realist and know that it is all relative – we all need to put bread on the table, buy work clothes, have transportation, put a roof overhead, have family to support etc !! Am I right or am I right 🙂 Yes, of course, there are the folk who are very comfortable and it does not really matter what the cost is.
…………….. MEDICAL, VACCINATIONS, STYLE OF TRAVEL (BUDGET), TIME AVAILABLE, SEASON / TIME OF YEAR & ILLNESSES ……………….
. Before I go any further – MEDICAL COVER IS ESSENTIAL.
I know, when you have it you won’t need it – old murphy at work 24/7 hey!
Upon booking air tickets, when paying by Credit Card we automatically receive some insurance and until I was hospitalized with a Kidney Stone (yes, eina!!) that cover was sufficient.
We also have some backup from home from our personal Hospital Plan Cover. If you also do, be sure to carry a written acknowledgment from your Medical Insurers at all times that they are aware you are travelling to xyz . That document also explains t’s & c’s, provides emergency contacts, procedure should medical attention be required etc.
The reason I mention the Kidney Stone, of course looking for attention – yea, is that it was a PRE-EXISTING condition and no insurance wiould be paid out if the condition occurred again within a 12 month period should I require hospitalization in a foreign country. Therefore, we added a “Top Up” onto the Credit Card Insurance that came with the flight (not the airline – the Bank has Underwriters who do this insurance).
PS : You DO NOT WANT TO GO TO A GOVERNMENT HOSPITAL IN AFRICA!
Don’t say you were not warned.
– destination decided, then contact your Home Affairs/Embassy (or google) for your requirements
a) Compulsory & b) Recommended
. STYLE OF TRAVEL … So .. Back to the budget
1) Guided Tours & Safaris.
2) Self-Drive Safaris
3) Luxuary Busses / Coach Tours (we have even seen some of these which have sleeping quarters – the side of the coach pulls out and there are bunk-like beds – what was amazing is that the foreign tourists must all have been way over 60. The conditions, to us, were and are claustrophobic and intolerable )
4) Overlanders – mainly for the younger folk
5) Train Journeys (eg Rovos Rail to Victoria Falls / Blue Train to Cape Town)
6) And then there are the out of the box interesting and brave adventurers who will Walk, Run, Cycle, or Motorbike.
Once a year there are particular races for the above – if you are interested, the club you belong to will possibly have this information at hand. (We encountered a Cycle Race in Tuli Game Reserve in Botswana one year. Guards and security vehicles monitor this race as Tuli is a wild park – though not an abundance of Predators….. they are still living in the area)
Some National Parks do not allow self drive so if you like to be in charge of your own whims and fancies – these destinations will be eliminated .
eg Okavongo Delta in Botswana – you will probably fly to OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa. Catch a connecting flight to Maun, Botswana, board a light aircraft which will fly you to your Island where everything is laid on.
There would be many other options of course – Fly to Maun and hire a Britz Camper (for example) and drive into Moremi from there (must be 4 x 4 by the way) ……….
Younger Folk have smaller budgets and are more flexible (and more able) to go with the flow – fly by the seat of their pants and fearless.
The older one gets, the more caution one takes and if not being familiar with Africa – it is advisable to get a professional to guide and book for you.
. TIME AVAILABLE
a) Are you taking a Gap year?
b) Do you only have Annual Leave?
c) What about children – how much time they have off between terms?
d) Do you have a business or profession to return to (nudge nudge – every day away is unpaid leave isn’t it) ?
e) Health Issues to take into account (We have an elderly Uncle living with Glaucoma requiring Eye Specialist attention every 3 months)
f) Do you have a loved one (parent?) at home who you care for and need to return home to ?
g) Perhaps you have pets and can only be away as long as your pet sitter is available (this has been the category we have fitted into mostly for the past 13 years – we miss them desperately when we leave them)
h) or ………….. will you travel as long as it takes until you have satisfied your curiosity and ticked all the bucket lists (which usually means self drive together with a mixture of camping / home on wheels and Air B n B to stretch finances and allow flexibility)
. TIME OF YEAR / SEASON
To be quite honest – I believe Winter is the best ( if possible) time to visit the National Parks to view wildlife. Africa is Hot Hot in summer.
If you would choose to visit Kruger National Park as your destination – summer is hot (In January & February 2019 we experienced 42 degrees celcius ) and in good years a lot of rain – so everything is lush. This has a beauty of its own but finding the wildlife is a challenge and more luck involved than in winter – although no guarantees at any time (it is not a Zoo) .
(As you might have gathered – we do not really appreciate the heat and even avoid visiting Europe/UK/USA during their summertime)
However, this year the summer gave us a different kind of Safari. This holiday was good for us. We talked more. Swam (nearly every Camp has a lovely swimming pool. 🙂 You would laugh if you had seen us swimming – as I am lilly white with a very sun sensitive skin I was plastered all over with SPF 50 and swam holding an umbrella …… on top of that was a towel which stopped any sun shining through. Chris laughed at me for the first 15 minutes and suddenly became my best friend 😊 stuck to my side hiding under my ridiculed umbrella.
PS : MY UMBRELLA GOES EVERYWHERE – ONE REASON IS TO PEE BEHIND IN DESPERATE SITUATIONS —————- True story!
On this vacation every afternoon was read n rest time. The days were longer enabling beautiful and comfortable early morning and sunset drives.
. MALARIA, TICK-BITE FEVER & BILHARZIA
Should you become ill – please Remember to INFORM your DOCTOR of your recent AFRICAN Safari
MALARIA : Speak to your family Health Specialist
I grew up in Zimbabwe on a farm, in a Malaria affected area, so it was necessary to take Deltaprim & Maloprim tablets during the summer months. Chris lived in a different area, Bulawayo, in Zimbabwe and precautions were not necessary. Later on as adults Chris and I RV’d for 6 months through SA, Namibia, Botswana & Zimbabwe (Caprivi Strip, Okavongo Delta, Zambezi River, Victoria Falls, Mana Pools – well known Malaria areas).
Because we would be in very remote areas for long periods of time we did not want to risk the chance of this potentially fatal parasite infection so we took anti Malarial prophylaxis. We were so ill and for me it triggered depression . SO YOU ASK THE QUESTION ….. Would we take them again? MY ANSWER ….. no, we would request our Doctor to rather prescribe medicine to TREAT the Malaria should we present symptoms.
The prescribed medicines made us really ill, so now (living in Kruger National Park) we do not take prophylaxis. We wear light clothes in the evening/early morning and use anti malarial bath soap plus smother ourselves with repelant lotion on exposed skin to deter the bites.
Should we experience flu like symptoms and/or stomach issues we will immediately visit a Doctor for blood tests & treatment…… immediately !
TICK BITE FEVER – No Prophylaxis needed – be aware of symptoms. This is not life threatening but very uncomfortable and easily treated.
BILHARZIA – Also no Prophylaxis available or needed. This is a water borne parasite (rivers, shores, still water). I suggest googling the symptoms. My personal experience is that Doctors seldom think of diagnosing Bilharzia (even in Africa!?) One major symptom is extreme tiredness.
The first time my Mom thought my sickness was due to the parasite (both Dad & Mom have personal experience) – the Doctor initially recommended Antidepressants.
The second time I knew very well what was ailing me (having toured remote areas, drunk dirty water etc) but the Doctor disagreed and prescribed tablets to treat Low Blood Pressure whereupon I had to insist on a blood test – he was shocked with the result. You must treat it and treatment is easy & effective.
SO THAT IS A WRAP ON THE BASICS……………..
Shortly I will be letting you know what NOT TO DO on Safari