I love this time of year when Spring transitions into Summer and we dig out our Hat and Sunblock, ready for warmer temperatures and longer days. Even indulging in a new Hat Online and other essentials ahead of a safari or much-anticipated holiday during one of the best times to travel within South Africa.
A land of plenty where endless landscapes, beaches, mountain peaks and abundant game reserves await discovery, you’d be forgiven for ignoring the practical side of your such as South Africa travel arrangements as excitement runs away with you. To ensure a balance is kept and your trip is neither compromised nor lacking, here are a few useful pointers to bear in mind while planning – and packing.
1. Make your time there count
For many, a visit to South Africa is a trip of a lifetime and will most likely involve a long-haul flight. When looking to visit, a stay of 7 to 10 days would be the minimum with the recommendation to focus on no more than two to three regions during that time. Trying to do too much in a limited period of time will dilute your experience.
2. Take time at each Destination
Try to avoid one-night stays unless it’s for the purpose of transit, as too often they have you arriving late and leaving early, allowing no time to explore the destination. A minimum stay of two nights interspersed with three nights lingers is ideal. Given that budget is something everybody works with, you may combine comfortable, more affordable stays with a few treat nights to ensure the balance. Often these treat nights are best enjoyed on safari and left for the trip’s end.
3. Getting around South Africa
Getting around South Africa is reasonably easy with internal flights servicing all major routes and air transfers into the more remote destinations available, with many opting to self-drive for at least a portion of the trip. If you are self-driving, know that distances are great and you must allow plenty of time to get from one point to the next. Always arrive well before dark. There’s a great chance that you will want to deviate from the prescribed route to make your own discoveries, which does take time. As a precaution, refuel and take a break when the opportunity arises and you would do well to always have water and some snacks in the car.
4. True African Safaris
There is nothing more humbling and surreal than a true African Safari and your choice of reserve and lodge matters greatly. It is recommended that you communicate your expectations with your tour operator so that they can match your dream with the right property. Be sure to be clear on your focus be it luxury, big 5, walking, game drives, remote private concessions or national park.
5. Bush Etiquette
While on safari it is very important to adhere to bush etiquette. Listen to your guide, be quiet near the animals, don’t stand up in the vehicles, take photographs with flash or obstruct the other guests and always confirm that you can get off the vehicle before doing so. These are wild animals you’re out there to view, a great privilege to be respectful and mindful of. The same consideration applies to all guided tours.
6. Culinary Delights
Food and wine are an important part of any holiday to Southern Africa and you will be spoilt with some of the finest meals in upmarket restaurants, hotels, lodges, side street cafes and farmer’s markets. Generally, the standard is high and the service friendly and efficient. There is great pride in the offerings, specifically in the Cape, where countless award-winning wine estates produce beautiful wine. Make sure you check out the local craft beer and artisan gin scene too.
7. Gratuities Guideline
Tips and gratuities form an integral part of the payment system in Southern Africa and at most restaurants, a 10-15% gratuity on the bill is suggested. Guides and Trackers should also be tipped and it is common to play to leave something for general staff at the accommodation establishments you stay at.
8. Packing with a Purpose
Mostly South Africa is a casual country, with a tendency to dress smarter by night. Always have good walking shoes, a sun hat, sunblock for Summer and a very good waterproof jacket, gloves and scarf for winter. Layers always work well, especially on safari when mornings can be chilly and the days often warm up. Generally a varied wardrobe and in the bush, neutral-coloured clothing. Pack a bathing suit just in case and bear in mind that winters In the Cape can be very wet. The luxury trains require jackets and ties for men, and for ladies to dress for dinner.
9. Ethical Guidelines
Ethically speaking, the temptation may be there to interact with wildlife, either at a lion park or by riding elephants, but we strongly recommend against visiting any tourist attraction that exploits animals for profit. You would do well to ask the questions to ensure that the facility is legitimate and as a general guideline, if they breed or allow engagement, it probably isn’t. Important to bear in mind that not all attractions deserve support.
10. Shop till you Drop
You’ll want to shop. Whether it’s for precious diamonds that like your memories will last forever, or for curios and crafts. Don’t make the mistake of hesitating to make that purchase, believing that you will find something better along the way. As the trip traverses different parts of South Africa, so the offerings will change. If you see something unique that you love and the price and moment are right, you should probably have it. Also, support individuals and not mass imports.
Most of all, enjoy the natural beauty, get a taste of the urban edge and indulge in the food and wine. Meet South Africans, listen to their stories and learn a little about our history and the diverse cultural mix that makes this region so special. Above all, thank you for choosing South Africa as your travel destination!
** This post is made possible by Superbalist – who understands the needs of travellers. This one in particular.
** All images sourced. Connect with me for help with your travel arrangements.