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Frequently Asked Questions
When planning a safari to Africa, there are many questions that spring to mind. These can vary from; what to wear on safari ? Is it safe ? How do I book a safari ? What must I bring ? What medical or health precautions should I take ? and many more.
The list of Questions & Answers below are some of the more common ones, have a glance through and if you can’t find an answer drop us a line and we will gladly answer the questions you may have about planning your tour or safari to Africa!
Are there luggage limits?
The check in luggage limits on the regional commercial flights is 20 kg pp (44 lbs per person) plus you are allowed 1 carry on bag. (South African Airways, British Airways, Nationwide Airlines, Kulula etc) Unless otherwise specified, if your African safari itinerary involves any light aircraft transfers in Botswana, Namibia or South Africa, there is a limit of 15 - 20 kg (44 lbs) per person. This 20 kg includes camera bag and equipment. Please ensure the bag is a soft carry-all (instead of a rigid suitcase). In Zambia the luggage limit for most light aircraft transfers is 12 kg.
Do you offer a luggage storage facility?
Yes, we do have a luggage storage service that we offer for Africa safari participants at the OR Tambo International Airport (Johannesburg). It entails our representative meeting you off your flight in Johannesburg International, relieving you of excess baggage and storing it until your return to Johannesburg International, where the representative will meet you off your flight once again and hand the luggage back. The cost of this service is: R 415.00. (Approx U$ 55 .00) for a maximum of 7 pieces per party, and there is no time limit.
Regarding luggage security: since airlines are experiencing high volumes of valuable items going missing out of passengers checked-in luggage, we request that the following items should not be included in your checked-in baggage: fragile items, money, jewellery, precious metals, negotiable documents, cameras, pocket computers, mobile phones and chronic medication. The airlines assume no special liability on such items. Please note this is industry practice and passengers will be advised to claim through their personal insurance if anything goes missing on their African holiday.
What health precautions do I need to take?
There are a few basic health matters that require care and attention if you plan to participate in an African adventure travel. Here are a few guidelines for you to address with your general practitioner. Please also check with your health department prior to departure for any changes in health regulations. Your African tour operator will also be able to inform you.
As most southern and eastern Africa safari destinations do have occurrences of malaria, a lot of the camps are quite remote and the chances of contracting malaria are low. However, it is definitely worth taking preventative steps. Both chloroquine resistant and normal strains of malaria are prevalent in Africa. Malaria is transmitted by a very small percentage of female Anopheles mosquitoes. They are generally active in the early evening and throughout the night, usually when one is sleeping or sitting around campfires. Expert opinion differs regarding the best approach to malaria prophylactics. It is important to bear in mind that malaria may be contracted despite taking tablets, especially in areas where chloroquine resistance has been reported.
Please remember that the best insurance against contracting malaria is to try to prevent being bitten, so use mosquito repellents liberally. Wear long-sleeved shirts and trousers/slacks in the evenings. You should spray your room prior going to dinner with an insecticide like Doom which will kill any mosquitoes that may have flown into your room. Mosquito coils are also effective. We do suggest you contact your own doctor prior to leaving for your African holiday, to advise him/her of where you will be travelling and let him/her prescribe the best suited prophylactic. If you become ill on your return, while still on prophylactics or even once you have stopped, make sure that your doctor does everything necessary to establish that your illness is not malaria. Malaria is not a serious problem if people are sensible and take basic precautions. If caught early on the disease can be effectively dealt with.
It is very important that you drink plenty of water especially if you travel to Africa during the warmer months. Dehydration is possibly the single biggest cause of ill health on an Africa safari. It is generally recommended that guests drink at least 2 to 3 litres of water per day to limit the effects of dehydration. This excludes tea, coffee and alcoholic beverages, which act as diuretics and actually contribute to dehydration. If water is not fit for human consumption then the lodge or hotel will advise guests and supply drinking water, but bottled mineral water is readily available at most places anyway.
Billharzia is a disease, which is common in most large bodies of water in the southern half of Africa. In the unlikely event of billharzia being contracted, it is easily diagnosed by a simple blood test and easily and effectively treated with biltracide. We recommend a test is taken after any African holiday, where you may have swam or drank water from rivers or lakes.
Tsetse flies are large day time feeding flies occurring in certain low lying and hot safaris areas such the Zambezi Valley in Zimbabwe or the Okavango Delta in Botswana. They prefer shady conditions and are attracted to movement, carbon dioxide and lactic acid secretions. We advise that you wear light coloured lightweight clothing on your Africa safari. Avoid deep blue and black (as tsetse are attracted to these colours) to lessen the chance of being bitten by these flies.
e) Yellow Fever
All travellers entering Mozambique from any of the 43 countries where yellow fever has been diagnosed must present a valid certification of vaccination against the disease. The decision has been taken jointly by the Ministry of Interior and Health. Any passenger who cannot present such a certificate at his or her point of entry will be vaccinated at the cost of about 54 US dollars before entering the country. Yellow fever has been reported from 43 countries, mostly in Africa and Latin America. The list includes three SADC countries, namely Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania. Consult your Africa tour operator if you are not certain whether or not the country you will be entering from is in fact on the list.
What about wild animals whilst on safari?
Most private camps in Southern Africa are unfenced, so listen to your camp staff and guides. Don’t push any safety issues – you will not be in any theme parks where the animals are tame. Don’t ever go strolling away from the camp or from your guide.
Most private camps in Southern Africa are unfenced and dangerous animals can and do wander through the camps. Many of the animals and reptiles you will see are potentially dangerous. Attacks by wild animals are rare. However, no African tour operator can guarantee that such incidents will not occur. Neither African Travel Gateway, or any camps or operators, their staff members, associates, agents, nor their suppliers can be held liable for any injuries caused during an incident involving the behaviour of wild animals.
Please make sure that you listen to and abide by the safety talks given by your guides or camp staff prior to your Africa safari. Don’t go wandering off on your own without a guide – even to your rooms; a guide must escort you to your room. After retiring to your rooms at night, don’t leave your rooms. If you are sensible, you should be safe.
Is self driving safe in Africa?
For South Africa and Namibia self driving is a viable and economical way of seeing the area. For other parts of Africa self driving is something to be done only be experienced African travellers, and preferably in more than one vehicle.
When self driving in South Africa and Namibia, please bear in mind that the standards of driving are not as high as that of the average road user in places like Europe, Britain and North America. The roads are generally good and well marked, but one must drive defensively, always anticipating the worst from your fellow road users. It is advisable to carry cash (of the local currency) with you as there are toll gates on certain national roads where you will need to pay a fee. DO NOT try to bribe or accept any bribe attempts from a traffic official in the event you are stopped for a speeding fine or anything of the sort.
What about crime in South Africa?
Crime has been a much reported evil of certain areas in Southern Africa, particularly the big cities. We have had no problems of this nature happen to any of our Africa safari clients. The hotels we suggest are in good areas and you are invariably out of the rough city centres. However we do urge guests to exercise the same common sense they would whilst in any other big city of the world, and not to openly display cash and valuables whilst out on the street. If you will be self driving for part of you African holiday, don’t pick up any hitch hikers or stop near informal settlements (shanty towns), unless you are with a guide who will have good local knowledge.
Do we need travel insurance?
African Travel Gateway, its agents, operators, suppliers and its associates cannot be held responsible or liable for loss, damage, or theft of personal luggage and belongings, nor can they be held liable for personal injury, accident or illness. Please ensure that you have yourself and your belongings adequately insured before you depart for your Africa safari. Insurance is compulsory for all our trips. If you do not possess a policy, we can issue insurance at competitive rates. It is, however, better to purchase your policy locally as this will cover you for repatriation back to your home country. Please contact your broker or your travel agent for details. We cannot be held liable for any losses or damages incurred during your African holiday.
a) Health Insurance
It is very important to have full medical, emergency evacuation and repatriation cover for the period of time you are away.
b) Cancellation and Curtailment
You might have to cancel or curtail your Africa safari due to unforeseen circumstances. If you cancel a trip close to departure date for any reason you could lose all that the safari was going to cost you. Should you have to leave the safari early, we cannot refund you the portion of the Africa safari you do not complete. Dependant on the reason for cancellation and curtailment, insurance may cover you for this eventuality. In such an event we do try our utmost to get the various suppliers to waiver cancellation fees, but this is something that we cannot guarantee, as each African tour operator will have different views on the issue.
c) Baggage & Money Insurance
It is advisable to take out insurance to cover you for damaged or lost baggage or cash, especially if you are carrying a large amount of cash or expensive and valuable camera equipment. You should always carry such equipment as “carry-on” luggage. Do not put anything of value in your checked baggage! On some Africa safaris, you may travel in canoes, motorized boats or mekoros (dugout canoes). It is rare that these overturn, but it is possible. So have insurance and also bring waterproof bags for your cameras.
What about tipping (gratuities) ?
Tipping (gratuities) is not compulsory at all, however, if you want to tip because you have received good service, we have enclosed a brief guideline to assist you. We usually recommend that there are three categories of staff members to tip whilst at Africa safari camps: your safari guide, the camp staff (and in Botswana - the mokoro paddlers).
We recommend about U$ 5 - 8 .00 per guest per day if the guide has done a good job. If you have a specialist guide who accompanies you all the way, this could increase to more than US$10 per guest per day.
2. The General Camp Staff
Here we recommend about US$ 5 – 8 .00 per guest per day. This should be placed in the communal tipping box to be distributed equally amongst all the staff at a later stage.
3. Mokoro Paddlers (Travel related to Okavango Delta – Botswana)
Mokoro paddlers are great capitalists. The camps could have included a tip for them in your Africa safari cost, but found that they get better results if they are being rewarded directly from the guests for their hard work. So tips are not included in the tour costs. The paddlers therefore have the added incentive to put in that extra effort to ensure that your stay with them is a memorable one. We recommend that each paddler receive US$ 3 – 6.00 per guest per day.
Transfer guides that drive you between hotels and airports can be tipped about US$ 2 – 5 .00.
However once again, tips are only to be paid at your discretion if you as the client feel the service provider deserves something extra. It is not compulsory.
Are there any specific requirements for passports ?
It is the responsibility of the client to ensure that their passports are valid for travel to Africa, for at least 6 months after the date of termination of services, provided by African Travel Gateway. The passport must also have at least 3 - 4 blank pages in it. This is critical as you will not be allowed into South Africa without meeting these requirements.
If your African holiday itinerary has you entering Zimbabwe or Zambia twice i.e.: arriving and then routing through Zimbabwe / Zambia again to catch your flight, then make sure you purchase a multiple entry visa on arrival, it is a lot cheaper in the long run than purchasing two single entry visas.
It is also the responsibility of the client to ensure that they are in possession of valid visas for all countries being visited during their African holiday, and that all necessary health certificates for these destinations are in order. African Travel Gateway CC does not arrange visas, but will dispense verbal information received from a country’s consulate regarding visa and / or health requirements. This is a courtesy but not a service. African Travel Gateway CC will not be held responsible for any misinformation, errors and omissions with regard to this information.
What sort of camera equipment should I bring on safari ?
The choice of the correct camera equipment and film will determine the quality of your photographs on your African holiday. For good photography of birds and animals, a good SLR camera and telephoto lens is necessary. The minimum recommended size is 200 mm and a zoom lens can be extremely useful on safari. Consideration should be given before travelling with any lens bigger than 400 mm as most interesting shots are taken using hand held equipment. Colour reversal film (slides) will give far greater quality than prints. The guides have found that they are getting the best results using Fuji film.
Fuji has brought out a good high-speed film which gives good colour with very little grain (less so than any of their competitors). This is especially useful when using a big lens in low light situations. The guides’ personal preference is the slower film (either 50 or 100 ASA) as this gives almost perfect quality for normal light. However you may consider going to 200 ASA for a larger lens in low lighting conditions. The only disadvantage with the low ASA film is that you need a tripod for the early morning and evening shots. IMPORTANT: BRING LOTS OF FILM, AS IT IS OFTEN NOT AVAILABLE ON THE SAFARIS. BRING SPARE CAMERA BATTERIES TOO.
What type of electricity can I expect in Africa ?
In South Africa current is 220/240 volts at 50 cycles per second. Please note that some game lodges do not have electricity and run on generators. You will not find plug sockets in the rooms/tents at lodges.
In Namibia, appliances all run on 220/240 volts. Outlets are round 3-pin, 15 amp type. Points for electric shavers (electric current 250VAC) are available at major hotels and most state-owned rest camps and resorts. It is advisable to bring battery operated or conventional razors if visiting remote areas during the course of your African holiday.
In Botswana most safari camps are situated in remote areas and have to generate our own electricity. They do so in a number of ways. Generally each camp has a generator, which runs for about 6 hours per day (3 hours in the morning and 3 in the afternoon when guests are out on activities). These generators then charge batteries located at each tented room which provide good 12v lights all night (if used sensibly). There are generally no 220v or 110v power points in camp. If you need to have your video battery re-charged we can do so while you are out on an activity - please therefore bring a spare for use while the other is being charged. These systems are simple but perfectly functional. If you are expecting to use a hairdryer in your room, please think again. You are on the wrong Africa safari!!
In Zimbabwe they use 220/240 Volts. Outlets are of the 3 pin, 13 amp type. Not all the lodges have electricity and they rely on generators in a similar fashion to the Botswana safari camps. You will invariably not find plug sockets in these rooms/tents.
Should I bring cash, credit cards or travellers cheques ?
Most places, even the safari camps in Southern Africa, accept credit cards (Visa, MasterCard and Amex); however it is a good idea to carry some cash with you to pay for curios, bar accounts, gratuities etc… In South Africa it is advisable to change your money into Rands as it is the accepted currency countrywide. When travelling in Botswana, Zambia, Mozambique, Swaziland, Kenya, Tanzania, Zanzibar and even Namibia, it will be easier to carry some cash in USD, but in small denominations. The reason being when paying for something with USD, you will receive change in the local currency, which you can then use whilst you are still there, but won’t be able to change back to USD once you have left the country after your African holiday has ended.
If your itinerary includes Zimbabwe please take note, that most places no longer accept credit cards. You should take forex cash with you in small denominations (USD is best). Please do NOT change forex into local Zimbabwe currency, as you will get the official bank rate of exchange, which bears no relation to the reality of the cost of goods in Zimbabwe, and you will then find everything that you pay in Zimbabwe VERY expensive! Travellers cheques in Zimbabwe are not advisable, but if you have to take them you will be required produce the original bank letter that you are given at time of purchasing your travellers cheques, or the Zimbabwe banks will NOT exchange travellers cheques. Travellers cheques are generally not accepted at restaurants so again forex cash in small denominations is the best solution.
Will I get my laundry done ?
Laundry can be done at most camps and hotels. Some camps and certainly hotels charge a fee for this facility, but others do provide this service for free. In Botswana at certain camps the camp staff will not wash underwear owing to local traditions prevailing in the country.
Do I need to bring a flash light ?
It is essential that you bring a small flashlight (torch) as you may encounter WILD ANIMALS in camp at night. You should also bring a spare globe (bulb) as well as batteries as they are often unobtainable in these remote areas of Southern Africa. Most safari camps supply a flashlight, but it is good to have your own as a backup as this is one of the best forms of safety.
What are the driving conditions whilst on safari ?
The roads are rough and bumpy and occasionally you will travel “off road” where it is possible that one may hit a pothole or a trees branch. So if you have back problems its best to advise your consultant so that we can suggest an area that will ensure smoother safaris be it on road or boat.
What if my luggage goes missing ?
Luggage that goes missing on scheduled flights is beyond the control of African Travel Gateway, and often the airline concerned too. Usually it is the airport (and not the airline) that controls what happens to passengers’ luggage from when it is checked in until it is put on board the aircraft. We would like to suggest that you take the following precautionary action: Please pack a small bag with your essentials that can be carried with you as hand luggage, and pack a second bag containing non-essentials that can be loaded in the aircraft hold. If the second bag was not to arrive, you will still have your essential items on hand to see you through the first couple of days while we try and recover your baggage.
What are good game viewing ethics whilst on safari ?
- Observe the animals silently and with a minimum of disturbance to their natural activities. Loud talking on game drives can frighten the animals away. Don’t stand up when the vehicle is close to dangerous animals.
- Never attempt to attract an animal’s attention. Don’t imitate animal sounds, clap your hands, pound the vehicle or throw objects.
- Please respect your driver or guide’s judgement about our proximity to lions, cheetahs and leopards. Don’t insist that he take the vehicle closer so you can get a better photograph. A vehicle driven too close can hinder a hunt, or cause animals to abandon a hard-earned meal.
- Litter tossed on the ground can choke or poison animals and birds and is unsightly.
- Never attempt to feed or approach any wild animal on foot. This is especially important near lodges or in campsites where animals may have become accustomed to human visitors. Refrain from smoking on game drives. The dry African bush ignites very easily, and a flash fire can kill animals.
- Never walk on your own. Always have a guide with you.
Refrain from smoking on game drives. The dry African bush ignites very easily, and a flash fire can kill animals.
Can I bring my mobile phone on safari ?
Please note that the whilst certain camps in Southern Africa do have telephones, quite a few especially in Botswana which are very remote do not have telephones. An increasing number of guests have been bringing satellite phones along with them on safari. As most people come on safari to get away from the outside world, we feel that we must set some limitations to the use of these phones in our camps and on safari. Therefore, the following restrictions will apply to the use of satellite phones:
a) Phones are not to be used in any of the common areas: dining room, bar/lounge area, or on the vehicle or on game drives at any time.
b) Phones may not be used for any incoming calls when the ringing may disturb other guests. They may be used in the privacy of your room. Otherwise, the phones are to be switched off at all times.
How do I solve problems whilst on the road ?
African Travel Gateway strives for a very high quality of service from pre to post safari. Should you run into any problems whilst on tour, your first course of action is to take the issue to your camp / hotel / lodge manager who will help you sort it out. If, for some reason, you have no success, please contact the African Travel Gateway offices or after hours number and we will ensure that your problem is dealt with swiftly. It is in our interest to ensure you have a hassle free and enjoyable stay in Southern Africa!
Is there a suggested packing list ?
(REMEMBER THE MAXIMUM 20 KGS - IN SOFT BAGs FOR LIGHT AIRCRAFT TRANSFERS IF APPLICABLE - INCLUDING CAMERA EQUIPMENT & HAND BAGS)
1. Good quality sunglasses - preferably polarised. Tinted fashion glasses are not good in strong light
2. Bush hat
3. Golf-shirts, T-shirts and long-sleeved cotton shirts
5. Long trousers/slacks
6. Track suit
7. Underwear and socks
8. Good walking shoes that are already worn in (running/tennis shoes are fine)
10. Swimming costume
11. Warm winter jersey
12. Warm Anorak or Parka (important for the cold winter mornings ie. June-August)
13. Camera equipment and plenty of film (If available, it is expensive in Botswana)
14. If you wear contact lenses, we recommend that you bring along a pair of glasses in case you get irritation from the dust
15. BINOCULARS - ESSENTIAL (and Newman’s bird book if you are a keen birder)
16. Personal toiletries
17. Malaria tablets
18. Moisturising cream & suntan lotion
19. Anti-histamine cream
20. Insect repellent eg Tabard, Rid, Jungle Juice, etc
21. Basic medical kit (aspirins, elastoplast (Band-Aids), Imodium, antiseptic cream etc)
22. Tissues/“Wet Ones”
23. Visas, tickets, passports, money etc
24. A flashlight (torch) with spare batteries and a spare globe (bulb) as these are unobtainable in most rural areas in Southern & East Africa
25. Light rain gear
26. Scarf and gloves for the winter months (May to September)
Has the European Union helped currency exchange ?
The Euro, Europe’s answer to their currency dilemma, was introduced for several reasons. Countries in Europe wanted to simplify trading with each other and needed a common currency to make that concept a reality. The Euro has helped travelers save money when they vacation in countries that are part of the European Union. The Euro can be used throughout the union, but it is still important to know when and how to exchange money before departing on a holiday. Some travelers wait until they reach their destination before they exchange dollars into Euros and that decision could have a negative impact on your budget. The currency market is constantly fluctuating, so it is a good idea to do some research and get acquainted with currency exchange values before the trip.
How can the currency exchange impact my budget ?
Most people who plan a trip out of the country wait until they arrive at their destination before they exchange money. One example is a traveler who lands at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris and decides to exchange $1000 into Euros. The traveler has known about the trip for months, but waits to exchange currency at the last minute not realizing that the market has moved five hundred points in the last few days and that move means an extra $50 in currency exchange expense. With proper planning that hidden expense may have been avoided. Other travelers who wait until they reach their destination may find that the currency in that country has experienced a surge or shock and the value has suddenly changed. This situation can happen in emerging countries like Hungary, Russia and Argentina. A sudden change could cost the traveler hundreds of dollars, as well as a tremendous amount of stress. With some knowledge most travelers can avoid a poor exchange rate and keep their exchange expenses in line.
When is the best time to exchange currency for a trip?
Most out of the country vacations are planned well in advanced, and with an understanding of the currency exchange market, an averaging cost system can be used to exchange money. The best approach is to exchange a little money on several different occasions, so if there are fluctuations in the market all the exchanges can be average to offset a poor exchange rate. The averaging system is especially important when the trip is for an extended period of time and there is more money involved. Trying to exchange money using inflated bank rates only exacerbates the problem. Banks charge a surcharge for the exchange plus there could be other hidden fees. Using a credit card could also result in additional expenses. Credit cards exchange money using their own exchange rate, which usually includes a profit for them. They also charge a surcharge on purchases that are made outside of the country. Once you understand how the currency exchange market works, it makes sense to average exchanges before you leave on the trip. Averaging reduces stress and saves money, especially when there is a lot of movement in the currency market.
Do I need a special driver’s license to drive in South Africa ?
Avis Rent a Car will accept your driver’s license. However, the potential problem is if you are stopped by a traffic officer and asked for your licence as they may or may not require an international driver’s license. They are not very consistent in this regard. It is advisable before you leave home for Southern Africa, to go to your local AA office and have an international driver’s license issued, then at least all of your bases are covered.
More useful information on foreign exchange
Some countries only allow visitors to carry a certain amount of cash, so it’s a good idea to research what the limits are before leaving home. If a random inspection takes place at the customs checkpoint and officials find excess cash they could confiscate it. It’s also a good idea to carry cash in a secure area of your body which is out of sight. Wallets and purses should only have a small amount of cash in them. Hotel safes and other security measures should be used to ensure you protect yourself from unwanted encounters with pickpockets and petty thieves.
The experts at ForexTraders.com specialize in currency exchange systems and can assist you with information regarding different currency markets before you travel. They can also help you with online forex trading, forex broker reviews, trading analysis and implementation. If you need additional information or have questions regarding foreign currency exchange, please visit our website.
Are Park Fees included ?
Park fees are generally included in the cost of your package, but this is specified in the included and excluded section of your confirmation.
What should I pack when travelling Africa?
As no formal clothes are needed, we recommend that you keep your luggage to the basics for your African holiday. Whilst on Africa safari bright and contrasting colours (black & white) are NOT advised. Try and ensure your clothes are of a neutral colour such khaki, beige or green. Please note that ARMY CAMOUFLAGE UNIFORMS OR ARMY HATS ARE FORBIDDEN in certain African countries. Dark colours are not a good idea especially if you are going to be out in the sun, as they absorb the heat. Tsetse flies love colours like blue or black. A suggested clothing list is attached for your African travel information.
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As of 01 Oct 2014 there are important new laws pertaining to minors travelling to and from South Africa, with or without their parents / guardians