African Safari & African Safari Vacation FAQ
Frequently Asked Questions - Page 1
Make an informed decision
on which Africa Safari is best for you. Browse the detailed
African safari information on camps and packages. Create a unique
Africa safari tailored to you and your friends. Below are commonly
asked questions about African safaris with informative answers to
make planning your African safari easy. We suggest looking over
our African safari books page
that details the best field guides and photographic books for anyone
wanting to read up before they go
Links to Frequently Asked
Questions (click for
African safari pricing
How much does it cost?
African safari destinations
Southern Africa vs. East Africa, which safari region is better?
Your Health and Safety
Is travel to Southern Africa Safe?
What about Zimbabwe?
What are the medical health precautions
More on Malaria
What are the entry requirements (passports and visas)?
Is Southern Africa an expensive or difficult destination
to travel to?
How much money should I bring?
A note on VAT and purchases of gifts in
Are there requirements for self driving?
Staying at the African Safari Camps
What is a "typical" day on an African safari?
Are the wild animals dangerous?
What types of food are served on an African safari?
Is there electricity in the camps?
Is communication with the "outside world" possible
while on an African safari?
What laundry facilities are available on African
African Safari Considerations
How do we get from camp to camp on an African safari?
Can we bring children on an African safari?
What animals will we see on an African safari?
What weather should I expect on an African safari
African Safari Planning
What time of year is the best time to go on an African safari?
What pre-African safari reading do you recommend?
What clothing should I pack and how much luggage can I bring?
What Luggage should I use?
SUGGESTED LUGGAGE LIST
Luggage safety and security
Reserving your African Safari
How do I book my African safari and how early should I make reservations?
Which forms of payment may I use to pay?
What trip insurance should I obtain, if any?
AFRICAN SAFARI PRICING
much does it cost to go on an African safari?
Most of the African safaris and African holidays
we organize for our clients are 100 percent customized to their individual
interests, timeframe and budget. The
rates for the destinations we offer 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). To check pricing for the over 250 properties detailed on our website, check our Rack Rates pages.
We also publish rates for our set
African safaris; those safaris which have already been planned and
scheduled by us or one of our ground operators in Africa and which
depart on a set date, visiting specific locations. These safaris
are found on our Safaris page.
We encourage you to contact us for a quotation; we are here to assist
you in planning an amazing African holiday. We really are passionate
about what we do and we welcome all enquires.
AFRICAN SAFARI DESTINATIONS
Africa vs. East Africa, which safari region is better?
First, 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
the Congo (formerly Zaire), all destinations popular for Gorilla tracking
safaris, are generally considered Central Africa. Malawi and
Zambia are also sometimes classified as Central Africa.
Historically and up until the 1980’s,
East Africa was the preferred destination for safari-goers and wildlife
enthusiasts. Kenya and Tanzania
offered superb wildlife viewing with a well-developed safari infrastructure
of operators with both permanent camps and mobile safari circuits. In
contrast, the countries in Southern Africa, while full of wildlife and
beautiful wilderness areas, were either politically unstable or mostly
undeveloped for safari tourism.
During the 1990’s things began
to shift. South Africa’s
apartheid came to an end and its monetary unit, the Rand, historically
very strong, began to depreciate, making South Africa a very attractive
travel destination. Intrepid safari guides in South Africa took advantage
of the increase in tourism to open up Botswana and Zimbabwe to hunters
and photographers. With the increase in tourist capital, the safari
industry in Southern Africa grew and permanent camps and mobile safaris
opened in its pristine wildlife areas.
In terms of landscapes and attractions,
the regions are quite different. East Africa boasts Mount Kilimanjaro,
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. The major differentiation is in the numbers of certain species
and the general experience a visitor will have when viewing them.
East Africa offers herds of zebras and
wildebeests in the hundreds of thousands. The annual migration between
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 weather also varies between the regions.
In East Africa, October marks the beginning of the “short rains” while
April brings “long
rains.” Many of the safari camps close during the long rains due
to difficult driving conditions. In Southern Africa, while each country
varies, the rains generally fall between November and March with the
rest of the year being mostly rain-free. Most of the camps stay open
year-round. The rainy or “green” safari season in Southern
Africa offers benefits such as herbivores having their babies, lush green
landscapes and dramatic
skies, all of which combine to create superb photographic opportunities.
Temperatures are similar between the regions with May through August
being the cooler months.
The major differences between East Africa
and Southern Africa for safaris are the density of tourists, the safari
accommodations and the safari vehicles. East Africa, in
general, has earned a reputation for a high density of tourists staying
in hotel-styled lodges. 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.
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
That said, there are a growing number of luxury lodges cropping up in East Africa, particularly in Tanzania and these lodges offer a far more exclusive experience than the large safari lodges which may have typified Kenya and Tanzania.
For the most part, Southern Africa is dominated by huge land concessions,
which are owned or leased by luxury safari camp operators, and these
concessions are 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.
HEALTH AND SAFETY
travel to Southern Africa safe?
(This is the question we are asked most often by prospective
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. This
is actually due to lack of education on the part of the media.
come as a surprise to
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
Choosing a knowledgeable operator
such as Eyes on Africa as your specialist Southern African tour operator
move you could 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 non
(we have never heard of it and have been traveling to the camps for
years). We advise that valuables be locked away or kept under the supervision
or lodge manager, or better yet, left at home if you are at all concerned.
We are extremely knowledgeable about the continent
(having been born and lived there) and can therefore minimize any
possible risks for our guests. Most of your travel time in Southern Africa
likely to be spent away from the large cities where crime
is most prevalent.
You will be visiting areas and regions that are remote and where
crime is almost non existent. Even if your African holiday involves
spending time in the
cities, having a company like ours able to choose the appropriate
lodging, locations and simple security advice, you will find the cities
are as safe as travel almost anywhere.
Finally, we simply do not recommend destinations that are not completely
safe. This is why you will find that we do not recommend every country
in Africa. We have lived in Africa, we know its cultures, and
we know what is safe and what is not. In the same way we only recommend
finest African safari camps, we also only recommend certain cities
while away from
What about Zimbabwe?
Zimbabwe has recently been in
the news and has received a large amount of negative press surrounding
to permit "re-distribution" of privately owned farms to the "war
process has been accomplished with its share of crime and violence,
especially by those who were removed from their life-long farms.
discussion on Zimbabwe, please see Zim History).
However, this violence has only occurred in and around the cities and
and then mostly in the central and southern portions of Zimbabwe.
the northern National Parks and reserves in Zimbabwe have not been
affected and these amazing wildlife areas offer the best bargain
in all of Africa in our opinion. The wildlife is outstanding - on
a par even with Botswana, and these areas are remote from the heavily
populated cities and surrounds where the crime is centered. These northern
- Mana Pools, Matusadona, and Hwange offer great camps, superb guides,
and amazing game viewing all at bargain prices. Many people
take all of the bad press and decide to leave well enough alone rather
take a perceived risk.
We realize that there is now a travel advisory from the US State department
and agree that this warning is possibly accurate for the farming areas
and the cities. However, the northern parks are still havens of peace
and tranquility, offering a superb Zimbabwe safari experience. The
support by guests traveling to Zimbabwe will only help to keep the
conservation efforts in this country going and to keep the poachers
out. The bottom
line is, Zimbabwe's northern parks and reserves are completely safe
and offer fantastic African safari deals.
We recommend that our guests fly
into Victoria Falls from Johannesburg. After enjoying all the varied
and superb experiences
Victoria Falls has
to offer – we FLY our guests from camp to camp, all of which are
within totally safe National Park areas far removed from any urban hotspots.
Our guests do not venture into the cities or farming areas at all, so
are completely safe. Wilderness Safaris has continued to operate successfully
in Zimbabwe since the advent of the land re-distribution crisis. We absolutely
will not operate any itinerary if we have the remotest concern of potential
danger to our guests. (Note: Eyes
On Africa abides by these same practices and uses Wilderness Safaris
as our primary ground
operator in Zimbabwe)
What are the medical
health precautions and issues?
As vaccination requirements change on occasion, we recommend that you
check with your local doctor or health department for the latest health
precautions. The most important health consideration in Southern Africa
is Malaria and it is strongly recommended that prophylactics (i.e., oral
tablets) be taken as a preventative precaution. You are not legally
vaccinations unless you are traveling from a region where yellow fever
is prevalent, in which case an inoculation will be required against the
Certainly you need not rush off and get every possible inoculation
and take every pill under the sun just to travel to Africa. Do not
go overboard with the information put out by the disease control centers.
and again to Africa and to the bush and have only ever taken Malaria
tablets. A course of anti-Malaria tablets is advisable and many doctors
Hepatitis A vaccine. We recommend that you visit with a local travel health
specialist for complete details and safety.
Many parts of Africa do have problems with their water and foods; however,
the food and water in Southern Africa
is much safer than the rest of Africa, especially in the African safari camps
and hotels you will be traveling to. Please do not over-react to
the detriment of you own enjoyment. We have never experienced any
problems with the food or water in any of the camps or hotels we have traveled
As long as we're discussing water, one thing you must be careful of, especially
during the hotter summer months and in the desert areas, is dehydration. Plenty
of fresh bottled water is always available at all of the camps throughout
the day and should be consumed regularly and in quantity. We have
seen many guests, even experienced African travelers, who forget to drink
become dehydrated. A case of dehydration will usually put you out
of action for up to a day and is no fun. All the camps stock re-hydrating
tablets which help to set you right again, but we wanted to
mention it as this is the most common
ailment we have observed among guests on African safaris. Drink lots of
on Malaria: The most serious risk while traveling
in Southern Africa on safari is malaria. We will not "talk
down" this risk as we both know people, albeit all individuals
who live and spend time in the Africa bush, who have contracted
malaria. This is NOT something to take lightly and it can
be a lethal and at the very least, a long and uncomfortable disease.
Malaria is an infectious disease caused by the parasite called Plasmodia. There
are four identified species of this parasite causing human malaria, namely, Plasmodium
vivax, P. falciparum, P. ovale and P. malariae. It is transmitted by the female
Anopheles Mosquito. It is a disease that can be treated in just 48 hours, yet
it can cause fatal complications if the diagnosis and treatment are delayed.
It is re-emerging as the # 1 Infectious Killer and it is the Number 1 Priority
Tropical Disease of the World Health Organization. The CDC estimates that 300-500
million cases of malaria occur each year worldwide and 1.5 million to 3 million
people die of malaria every year (85% of these occur in Africa), accounting for
about 4-5% of all fatalities in the world.
Humans get malaria from the bite of a female malaria-infected Anopheles mosquito.
When a mosquito bites an infected person, it ingests microscopic malaria parasites
found in the person’s blood. The malaria parasite must grow in the mosquito
for a week or more before infection can be passed to another person. If, after
a week, the mosquito then bites another person, the parasites go from the mosquito’s
mouth into the person’s blood. The parasites then travel to the person’s
liver, enter the liver’s cells, grow and multiply. During this time when
the parasites are in the liver, the person has not yet felt sick. The parasites
leave the liver and enter red blood cells; this may take as little as 8 days
or as many as several months. Once inside the red blood cells, the parasites
grow and multiply. The red blood cells burst, freeing the parasites to attack
other red blood cells. Toxins from the parasite are also released into the blood,
making the person feel sick. If a mosquito bites this person while the parasites
are in his or her blood, it will ingest the tiny parasites. After a week or more,
the mosquito can infect another person. The safari camps in Southern Africa are
not located in densely populated areas and this greatly reduces the risk of being
infected by malaria.
Anopheles mosquitoes start biting by late evening and the peak of biting activity
is at midnight and early hours of morning. Protect yourself against the bites
in the evenings and early mornings by applying mosquito repellant, wearing garments
that cover the body as much as possible, and at bedtime, by using mosquito nets
All of the camps provide mosquito repellant in the tents and in the lounges and
on game drives. Most also provide mosquito "coils", an incense-like
slow-burning substance that produces a smoky repellent that can be lit inside
the tent before heading for dinner so that the tent is cleared by bed time. Finally,
the majority of the camps also provide a mosquito netting over the beds to keep
the "mossies" out while you sleep. Wearing lightweight long pants instead
of shorts and covering the ankles especially is also very helpful during dinner
and in the evening hours. Use the bug spray after sundown on game drives as well.
Remember that the best precaution against malaria is to reduce the likelihood
of being bitten. The next best precaution is to begin and complete a full regimen
of anti-malarial medication for your African safari. The medication usually
before you leave and is completed after returning home. Check on the internet
or with your physician for further information.
For more information, please also visit
the following links:
CDC Information on Prescription Drugs for Malaria: http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/contentMalariaDrugsPublic.aspx.
CDC Health Information for Visitors to Southern
Please also read our section on Luggage Safety and Security.
What are the entry requirements?
All people traveling to the Southern African region require a valid
passport that is normally valid for 6 months beyond the intended length
of stay. 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, but all but Kenya ma 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.
South Africa... IMPORTANT: Southern Africa passport control has become very strict with regards to passport control requirements. There have been instances of visitors being deported due to non-compliance. Passports MUST be valid for at least six months after your return home date. We recommend a validity of nine months to prevent any problems in this regard. 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.
Africa an expensive or difficult destination to travel to?
is surprisingly easy and less expensive than you might think. There
are direct flights from both
New York and Atlanta
to Johannesburg and
Cape Town with a flying time of about 11 hours. This might seem
lengthy, but if you consider that it is a night flight where you can
sleep and also watch plenty of movies, the time passes faster than you
may have thought. The great advantage is that there are no connecting
flights and therefore less stress.
If you were to compare the cost of
a trip to Hawaii, staying in decent hotels, compared to the same time
on a continent that offers a unique and once in a lifetime experience,
new experience, the minimal increase in cost is worth every penny. The
even bigger drawing card of the region, particularly South Africa, is
that the US Dollar is so strong (around 7-10 South Africa Rand's to the
$US over the past several years for example) and the value of the local
currencies is so low that it is extremely inexpensive once you are there.
eat like a king at a very nice restaurant for the price of a simple meal
back home. Most other world wide regions are relatively cheap to get
there, so in theory there is a balancing effect when you consider it
might be slightly more expensive to fly to Africa, but once there, it
is extremely cost effective. An even bigger bonus of the African safari
industry is that it is all inclusive in most parts (i.e., meals, drinks,
drives and guides) are included, so there is no additional need to
pay for anything once you
odd curio. To check current and historical exchange rates, visit our Currency
How much money should I bring?
As further answer to the previous question, guests often want to know how much
cash to bring. First, most of the African safaris camps we sell take Master Card
and Visa credit cards for purchases of curios and even accept them for guests
to the camp staff and guides. A note on gratuities at the African
camps: Gratuities are not expected, but a reasonable tip would
be US $10 per guest, per day for your driver/guide and perhaps $5 per day for
the overall camp staff. Believe me that this amount will seem like nothing after
you experience the fine service in the camps we offer! Again, these can be paid
for with credit card so cash is unnecessary.
If you are visiting Johannesburg, a highlight is one of the flea markets that
offer beautiful African wood carvings, batiks and other VERY inexpensive but
nice arts and crafts. For the flea markets, you will typically want some cash.
These artisans are found in Victoria Falls as well and their artwork is typically
of nice quality and they make excellent mementoes of your trip or as gifts for
your friends and family. The shops and restaurants in Joburg and Cape Town as
well as the hotels
in Vic Falls all take credit cards.
When we travel for say three weeks to Africa and include two weeks on safari,
we typically take around $300 in cash. This is only our guideline for ourselves;
however, we feel that traveling with more cash than this is unnecessary.
A note on the Johannesburg
The flea markets in Joburg are an excellent place to shop and superb
values on gifts, authentic African art and curios and even clothing and
furniture may be found there. Locals and tourists alike frequent
these markets and we highly recommend them to anyone visiting Johannesburg. The
best market (in our experienced opinion) is the Rosebank Flea Market. This
market is the biggest and best and we hit it at least once or twice every
visit and NEVER walk away empty handed.
Note that the Rosebank market only operates
on SUNDAYS and so you will want to plan your stay with this in mind
if you want to take advantage of the bargains to be found. There
are other markets which operate daily and vendors line the streets
daily selling a variety of carvings and other goods, but the selection
is nowhere near what can be found at Rosebank.
Something else to keep in mind: Many
of the curios found in the safari camp shops and in malls and other
stores can also be found at the flea market and usually at a considerable
discount at the markets. REMEMBER TO BARGAIN WITH THE VENDORS! Their
first price will usually be FAR higher than what they will accept. This
is especially important when buying high-ticket items (over $100).
A note on VAT and purchases of
gifts in South
Africa: Be sure to keep your receipts for items of clothing,
curios, artwork, CD's, books, etc. South Africa charges a VAT (value added
tax) on all goods and this tax is refundable to tourists when they leave the
country (residents are not so lucky). Organize all of the receipts and
you can get a refund of the VAT at the airport before you fly home. This is a
somewhat easy process but can take some time as the airport gets busy and the
queues can be long - get to the airport EARLY! In spite of the relative
pain involved in the VAT refund process, the VAT percentage is substantial (14%)
and can amount to several hundred dollars easily depending on how crazy you go
in the malls!
advised that the receipts must be shown along with the items purchased.
NOT store all of your purchases into your suitcase and check the luggage
until you have had your VAT receipts stamped by the official at the airport. They
have recently become more strict regarding showing the products with the receipts
- they will most certainly make you show the items for which you have receipts!
- You must have your goods checked by VAT refunds BEFORE you pass through customs
into the departure area!! Goods
are shown in the area before you check in at Johannesburg
International Airport. Your receipts are approved and stamped
as they are checked against your purchased items. Only then
should you proceed to check-in. After checking in your suitcases,
receiving your boarding pass and clearing customs, immediately get
in the VAT refund line to have your receipts added up and approved
for payment. You
will either get cash - or, if the amount exceeds a certain limit,
a check will be mailed to you.
REMINDER: Get all receipts approved BEFORE check-in. After
check-in, head to VAT refund desk to get your money.
Finally, the VAT may only be reclaimed for goods, this does NOT
include hotel accommodations or food of any kind. Many visitors skip this VAT
refund process but it is well worth it if you have taken advantage of the fantastic
exchange rate in South Africa.
Are there requirements for self driving?
The traffic departments of both South Africa and Namibia are now enforcing a law (which was passed in 1998) which requires that travelers applying to rent a motor vehicle be in possession of a valid "International Drivers Permit/License". Should travelers not be in possession of an International License, they will not be permitted to hire a vehicle in South Africa nor Namibia.
Anyone using motor vehicles, other than hired ones, (i.e. making use of a company or friend's vehicle etc.), they will STILL need to be in possession of such license. Anyone driving without a valid driver's license (either domestic or International) will incur penalties should they be stopped by the police. Licenses will NOT be issued to foreign visitors upon arrival to South Africa nor Namibia. Travelers must be advised to carry their Foreign Drivers License as well as their International license.
on Africa was selected most knowledgeable
Regional Expert for Southern Africa / Safaris by
National Geographic Traveler Magazine,
20th Anniversary Special Issue.