If you are thinking about visiting Africa and don't know where to start... let me give you just a few pointers to consider and start off with.
The first question we get is: IS IT SAFE?? for the most part yes, but commonsense helps a lot too. Surely you notice that we are still here able to write this page, but we are also able to help advise you along these lines too.
Now, In planning your trip, considerations are:
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO SEE OR DO & WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS.
Are you the kind of person who can handle not having a proper sit-down toilet and shower, or are you happy to rough it a while & use squat toilets... or ... dare i say....NO toilets & showers?!! YOUR NEEDS & THE KIND of adventure you crave, is up to you!! Just be honest with yourself and sure of what you are signing up for in the beginning.!! Yes, there is plenty of adventure in Africa too. White water rafting, bungee jumping, horse riding safaris, quad bikes etc etc, so much to choose, it's not only wildlife.!!
The main thing i would impress upon you, is to do some homework first. If you are going into a game park where you know there is going to be wildlife. DO NOT expect to have a nightclub, dancing and loud music at the lodge. If you are looking for nightclubs, then find a different venue, cause the wildlife is not fond of loud music, loud talking, yelling and shouting.!!
There is so much i could write, but i always find it easier to chat when it is relavant to you at the moment, so, if you have any particular or specific questions, please feel free to write to us via our email: email@example.com and we will be happy to answer your questions soon as we can. We are not tour agents, we just give honest answers from our experiences; so this is currently a free service.
For the most part, you will notice I tend to keep talking about Southern and Eastern Africa, i realise there is MUCH MORE to Africa than just these countries. I suppose i concentrate on those places because MOST people who talk to us, are generally first timers, who are a little concerned about travelling Africa and what to expect. So, we tend to talk about the things we know due to experiences we have had. Aside from the 16 trips to Africa we have made over the last 14 years, We have just finished our own 15 month expedition from Kenya to South Africa which you may of seen in our blog and photo gallery. Our information, photos & history with Africa goes back to 1999, so there is much to view if you feel so inclined.
Feel free to email us, or ring us on 04100 27 977
BUDGET. price often dictates everything, whether you go 'in style' in top-end lodges or camping, or backpack your way around,- even the places you want to go to come into the budget. ie: to visit the Gorillas in Uganda can cost you u.s.$750 for the trek. You may trek for a short time, or a long time looking for them in the jungle, but once you find them, you may only spend ONE hour with the gorillas, then have to turn back. I understand Rwands may be cheaper.
STYLE OF TRIP, ie: Top of range private safari tours, safari trucks, guided tour or self-drive. This is often dictated by budget.
TIME is also a factor. If you have 2 weeks or 2 months, What can you do for the time you have. Spend quality time in one place, or, do you want to move around and see as much as you can in the time you have.
WHERE & WHEN TO GO. Aside from the obvious, like weather conditions and rain seasons, think about things like, when is the migration happening or other highlight you may want to see. The wilderbeest migration in Kenya runs mainly August- Sept,- IF your want to see Gorillas, then you have mainly 2 choices, Uganda or Rwanda. April /May was good time to see Victoria Falls. These are good starting points to consider. Think about what you want to see the most, then work from there.
As a small guide, let me give you some example of the above.
*Note that 'South Africa & Southern Africa are two different things,... South Africa is a country is on it's own, Southern Africa brings in South Africa, Losotho, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe & Swaziland.
Southern Africa is very diverse country with many different aspects and sites to see. It is not just all about the animals. There are canyons, rock paintings, Petrefied forest, the mighty Victoria Falls, Sosussvlei red sand dunes, spectacular Game Parks, remarkable scenery which changes frequently, the Skeleton Coast, and much much more. Some easy, some challenging.
I say this because if you are on a tight budget, then you can see a whole lot more for the money you have in southern Africa.
Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda & Rwanda known as EASTERN AFRICA on the other hand, have amazing Game parks, & no less, lots of interesting places to visit too, but, the difference is, East Africa is by far, more expensive to tour than it's southern counterparts.
Safari trucks which can carry up to 20 people, are about the cheapest alternative to get you the most for your money. (Unless of course you are happy to back pack your way around the country).... These days, we tend to find only very small groups on these trucks now. Safari trucks are useful cause you can choose from the different routes they take, being from one or two weeks, to 6 +month trips, the cost is down because you are erecting your own 2 man tents yourself everyday, ... it can be a bit rough and ready, but... you are with like-minded people who are out to make the most out of their opportunities. Our first trip to Africa was on a safari truck which was a good way to take a entire month and see the 3 countries we wanted. Back then, we helped with the shopping and the cooking, which was really a good way to feel & see the real heartbeat of Africa. I see now days, most trucks have cooks on board for you, and the trucks are set up so much better these days. The other plus, was that they took care of everything,... they knew where to go, took care of things like passport & border controls , and you really didnt have to think about anything... you paid up-front then you could just enjoy the ride.
Next choice, would be a guided tour. In this instance, you could organise to be part of a small group, say 4- 10 people, or you could organise a personal guided tour. This just means that you have the guide and the vehicle totally to yourself. (This is a option we would recommend for first timers if you lack confidence to drive yourself).
Some people like the idea of luxury camping or lodges. Naturally, this is much more expensive and gives you ALL the little luxuries that you desire.... in a range of options. These are no 2 man tent. You are pampered. These are generally large luxury tents complete with wooden floors, king size beds, and full ensuite. Naturally, there is a sliding scale of how pampered you want to be, so the fees can range from around $300- to $1000- + +dollars a day. It's a lovely way to enjoy the safari if you want to simply spoil yourself. The only down side with this, is in all honesty, you dont really get to learn anything about the people and feel the heartbeat of the country. BUT....for some people,...lets face it....that is not what they are looking for.
ACCOMODATION can be very expensive in those lodges, but there are usually campsites and cheaper style lodges just outside the parks. When i say campsites, i mean you can camp yourself, OR use one of their large tents with beds (and often with ensuits) already set up. WE have found these to be a economical and comfortable way of getting around at times. u.s. $60- is a 'average' price for some of these tents with ensuite.
Self Drive./Hire car This is an exciting & exhilirating way of touring Africa and really getting to know the country you are in. (after our first safari truck safari, it gave us the confidence to tackle Africa on our own. First we had a driver, which is still an option, but now we drive ourself). In saying that,.... I would say without hesitation that travelling Southern Africa would be quite realistic for the majority of people. Choosing your abilities and the places you want to go to, are all in the homework and lead up to the adventure. Eastern Africa, in my opinion, takes a bit of building up to.... the driving there is outright dangerous, most of the roads are appauling, and you have to have a cast iron nerve to get through some times. It is not for the faint-hearted.
It is possible to hire just a basic car, (you might have all your own camping gear or only be using hotels), most people hire a 4 wheel drive, , it can come with tents, or roof top tents, plus all the camping gear you would require for the duration. Prices vary between companies, but southern is once again cheaper than Eastern Africa. SOME companies will allow you to travel between south and east Africa, some will not. Homework is necessary. Most will allow you to travel the different countries in 'southern Africa', and if you hire a car in Kenya or Tanzania, you can usually take it into Uganda as well.
for Southern Africa, particularly Namibia, we can recommend www.safaricarrentalnamibia.com
Self Drive.... TAKING YOUR OWN CAR OVERSEAS: If you are considering taking your own vehicle overseas, there are a couple of things you should be aware of. You will need a PASSAGE DE CARNET which is basically a glorified passport just for the car... this allows you to enter, and more important, EXIT from each country. Important to sign it each way. Getting a carnet seems daunting, but really it is not as scarey as it looks.
It cost us about aus$5,500- to ship our from Adelaide to Kenya, then another $1500- once we were there. Now this seems a lot, especially being one way... BUT... when you are going to be in the country for any length of time, it is far cheaper than hiring a car, which has at times cost us over $4,000- to hire a land rover in Kenya for only 38 days.
Also, you have to be aware of the size of your vehicle, using a 20' container is generally big enough, but if your car /camper is higher, then you may need to go to a 40' container, which is about 6" higher inside, but of-course double the length and at more cost. It goes without saying that using a container is much safer... less chance... of things going missing, as oppose to just roll-on -roll-off, where it is not uncommon for things to go missing.
so if you have not bought your car yet, but thinking of buying one especially for that trip... also think about what cars they have in the country you are visiting. The reason we bought a Land Rover to Africa is simply because they have a lot of them over there, so they know how to work on them and parts are easy to find. (unlike here in America where we rarely see a Land Rover at all). We personally also chose to take the older model, due to the fact that it has NO computers on it. We figured, that meant less things to go wrong, and most things can be fixed or 'jimmid-up, even if you are out in deep bush, days from anyone. Simpler the better. In saying that, we are not mechanics,... some of you's out there might be quite adapt at managing your own faults.... as long as you have the parts and dont require electrical power to do it.
On this subject, when setting up your vehicle, make it as USER- FRIENDLY AS POSSIBLE' This means put some thought into where everything is placed and how easy it is to access on a regular basis. You dont want to have to take out all your luggage just so you can get to the chairs to sit down for a coffee. Also, a program called 'Tracks for Africa' is available in Australia to download onto your GPS. I believe it works best with a Garmin GPS. This is designed more for the outback tracks rather than the cities, it HAS helped us at times. If your going way off the beaten track, consider a SAT PHONE or some kind of homing device. Make sure you have extra water tanks and long range fuel tanks or a way of carrying th extra load. Naturally SOLAR PANELS are going to keep you far more self reliant out in the bush.We used fold up panels that packed away easily and were less weight to lugg around.
IF YOU HAVE MORE QUESTIONS ABOUT TAKING YOUR CAR, PLEASE EMAIL US AT firstname.lastname@example.orgGAME PARKS: Just a small note here about the difference in some game parks. In MOST parks, you CANNOT get out your car while in the park. Not even while you are just on safari driving around. At times, you may have a guide with you who will tell you when it is ok to get out for lunch or coffee, or sundowners, but, otherwise, you are not to get out the car. The reason for this is simple, while you are in your car, the animals generally see you as part of the car, you are not a target, even with your window down and the sides of the vehicle open, as some park vehicles have.... BUT.... once you get out the car, you are seen as a individual target. Not saying that any animal will attack you for no reason,.... but you have just placed yourself in a position that allows it. If you have accomadation inside a park, then generally you can be assured it will be well fenced, unless of course you are looking for a non-fenced park like we used in Botswana, as below.
Some parks will offer WALKING SAFARIS which are great. The guides are very much aware of which particular type of animals are around and will guide you accordingly.
There are a few game parks out there that allow you to camp with your own camping equipment inside the park with NO FENCING. All and any of the wildlife CAN walk into your camp. (i tell you this through experience). We did this in Botswana, which is one of the reasons we love it so much, but it is not for everybody. We did have a male lion walk through plus a brown Hyena for other 3 nights. When you are alone out there with no-one and nothing around you in the dark with only a tent,... it is too late to be thinking, "this was a bad idea". Prepare properly & be sensible.
Game Parks fees in Eastern Africa, park fees will set you back (currently) $80- per person/per day. Some, mainly in Uganda or Tanzania, may also charge a extra $110- fee for the vehicle as well, but that would be a once only fee for the duration. Most of the game parks in Southern Africa will cost you more like an average of u.s.$25- per person/per day. (Like eastern Africa, These fees do not pay for your camping or accomadation, they are always at a extra cost).
I do not want to put you off visiting Eastern Africa, it is an amazing place. Maasai Mara in Kenya has the pleasure of being the most reknown for it's quantity & quality of animals sightings. Yes, it IS awesome, as many of my photos will show you, but the downside is that you cannot do a self-drive in the park, generally speaking because there are no signs showing you where you are or how to get where you are suppose to be going, so it is VERY easy to accidently drive onto the 'conservation areas, who will fine you roughly 2000kshillings (roughly $20 - $30 Australian dollars) for the trouble. You definitely need a guide here in this park, which again, will cost you. The roads are also VERY much unkept, so it is rough and bumpy and if you get caught in the wet, you may find yourself in trouble easily, in fact, if you have a bad back problem, I would reconsider going to Kenya. On this particular trip to Kenya (August 2015) we did not even go on safari due to the roads impacting on my recent back problem,... and THAT was just GETTING to the park. You will find in Southern Africa, the majority of roads are well kept and graded most of the time, ~ in saying that, naturally you will find a few exceptions, so ask first.
There are other game parks and 'private parks' in East Africa which are also special, each game park has it's own niche in what makes it special or different. for instance Samburu is totally different to the Mara. In Southern Africa, Etosha, (which is in Namibia) also has a excellent range of wildlife, which has easy access and good viewing. In South Africa, Kruger is the most famous, although we find Umfolozi to be high on the list too. Sometimes it is simply the case that certain animals can only be found in certain areas and not others. In Botswana, -Central Kalarhari is awesome as is Kalagardi if you want a 'closer' experience.VISA's CHANGE OF PLANS FOR KENYAN VISA's As of 1st September 2015 it is ESSENTIAL that you OBTAIN YOUR E.VISA ON LINE BEFORE COMING TO KENYA. If you have not aquired a visa on line before arriving, they will NOT let you in the country and turn you away. (this is current at the time I write this, being 28th Sept, 2015)
I see Kenya has also changed their visa fees options. Currently visa to enter just Kenya, is u.s.$50- but i understand now, they have started a East Africa Visa which means you pay $100- which allows you to travel within Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda. Sadly, Tanzania did not want to be part of the union, so they still charge their own visa fees. If you want to visit just Kenya, or any one of the countries and not the others, then it should be possible to still get a 'single' entrance fee for $50. Be sure to check details before travelling and allow a few weeks just to be safe.
MONEY / ATM's: The days of travellers cheques are pretty much gone. Thank heavens cause it was a time consuming pain in the butt.!! In all these years, we have never had a real problem getting money out of a ATM. Once again, in saying that,.... we have had the situation where the ATM was not working due to maintainance or such, so it is advisable to think ahead,... don't wait til you are down to your last dollar before you go to the ATM, or have a backup few dollars with you. VISA is widely accepted, but i am also a great believer in CASH PASSPORT or cash cards you can get from the post office or travel agent. I like these because they are not connected to your own bank accounts, so IF someone got it, they could only take what is avaliable in it, they cannot get into your main bank accounts. You are also able to load as much or as little as you want in it by .bpay while your on the road if you want. If you are using your own visa cards, DO let your bank know where you are going. It can be rather annoying when they dont know you are in another country and they stop your visa card because it has been flagged as a suspected fraud.
We usually take a bit of U.S. dollars with us, (regardless of the country), just so when we arrive, we have money on us to pay for visas, or for the taxi or hotel if we cant get to a ATM straight away. Usually you can find ATM 's at the airport once you have passed through the passport / customs control. Not before.
SECURITY & ANNOYANCES: Many people ask us if we feel 'safe' over there. The truth is, yes, we have never felt threatened. BUT... we have learnt to be 'aware' of what is going on around you. Do NOT simply trust anyone or what they tell you, someone who seems very friendly and helpful can often be your worst nightmare. This also applies to police & security guards,- scams and bribes can be a real pain in the butt. BE RESPONSIBLE for your own security.
Be sensible, think about where you are going,... don't go there wearing your gold chain necklaces etc...leaving your cameras & things out where it can be taken. It is too easy to get paranoid, so don't, just be sensible. The other thing i would say, is dont walk around like a 'scared rabbit'. I have noticed that people who hunch down clutching their bags close to their chest or simply looking overly nervous, are actually a far bigger target than someone who walks around with a confident casual stride.
A money belt around your waist can help you feel more confident when walking through the city or towns. Bags & backpacks of any description can be cut quickly, so if you feel nervous, opt for something that can be covered or worn under your clothes.
The biggest annoyance you will have is people come and ask you for food or money, or sign & donate for a school project, (which is usually a scam), they will often get the children to go ask. Believe me when i say we have learnt that it does not help the people by giving, but if you feel you must, we suggest you go with them to buy the food, or you have little bags of sugar or food in your car so you can give them instead. It can make you feel bad to say no, but once you do give something, you will generally have a lot more come around. I can discuss this subject in more detail if you need, but be prepared for scams.
CAMERA's Think about WHERE you are going. If you want to get home and show-off pictures of the great things you have seen, do yourself a favor and get yourself or borrow a camera with the best zoom you can get. Using your i.pad or phone is not going to give you a good pic when you find a rhino in the distance. GoPro is all the rage at the moment, and yes they are good camera's... but they are no good for safari's. Simply because they are designed for wide angle which means the final photo or video of that rhino, will appear smaller and further away than the original sighting.(i know this, we have one)!!
VACCINATIONS: In most parts you are recommended to have a Hepatitis shot. There are a few shots they recommend, like Typhoid and Meningitis which your travel doctor will discuss with you, but the one i know for sure you HAVE to have IF you are going to KENYA OR EAST AFRICA you MUST have YELLOW FEVER vaccination, you may have trouble leaving the country if you do no have this. So get it, and carry the certificate/booklet, cause they will ask for it as you depart Nairobi. I suppose you have to consider where are you going in Africa, out bush, in the city, your time frame and what kind of thing you are going to do there. We never had our rabies shots until we started out 15 month expedition because we thought on that trip, we knew we would be putting ourselves in places with higher risks.
MALARIA is a issue in parts of Africa, particularly eastern and central. There are also 2 types of malaria, that is why the 'travel doctor' is better educated on these subjects. There are a few options of tablets you can take, which you need to discuss with the travel doctor because the different tabs can give different effects. For instance, Doxy can make you photo sensitive, (you will burn easier in the sun), strange dreams is aslo another effect we have had. Nothing bad, but just enough for us to say, gee i had a strange dream. Doxy has to be taken 1 , each day, while some of the others can be taken once a week. On a personal level, we now buy our doxy when we arrive in Kenya, as it is much cheaper there. The doctors will tell you to take it 2 days before arriving, so if this is the case, we would buy enough just for the first week and get the rest there. This is not a recommendation... it is simply a option we usually take because we are in Africa for such long periods of time.
BOTTLE WATER -- SUN SCREEN WITH INSECT REPELLENT and COMMON SENSE.!! WELL YEAH... THESE ARE A MUST.!!!
As i have previously offered, IF you would like to chat about ANY of the subjects here, or have other questions you would like an HONEST answer or opinion about, then feel free to contact us. We have travelled extensively and we are happy to always give you a honest opinion based on our experiences at the time, which hopefully, may help guide you through the process, be it Africa or else-where.
PHONE: 04100 27 977