Below is the general info we think is useful; have a glance through and if you can’t find an answer to a question you may have, drop us a line and we will gladly answer with as much detail as you require about your safari to the Kruger Park.
What to pack | Safari vocabulary | Currency | Malaria |Health and hospitals | Language |Drinking the water | The food at the Kruger Park rest camps | Cell phone coverage | Internet | Tips & Gratuities | Time zone | Laundry | Security | Travel insurance | Electricity | Getting to the Kruger Park | Staying in touch with family and friends | Kids and age restrictions
WHAT TO PACK
The amount of luggage that fits onto a safari vehicle is limited. Don’t use a wheeled suitcase, rather invest in a smallish duffel bag/back-pack that can be placed into small compartments. Carry everything that's valuable in a daypack.
Important stuff you don’t want to forget
• Sunblock – don’t underestimate the power of the African sunshine, even in the later afternoon. The last thing you want on your safari is a bad sunburn. Choose a sunscreen with a high SPF of between 30 and 50.
• Wide brimmed hat – choose a hat that has a wide brim to shade your eyes and the back of your neck (this is an area most people forget, and where they get sunburnt). Get one with a tie that fastens under the chin
• Sunglasses – not just for Africa’s scorching sun, but also good for keeping dust and small flying insects out of your eyes.
• Small lightweight flashlight or headlight – in the rest camps you may have to walk in the dark… and it’s always good to see whose toes you’re stepping on in the bush!
• Insect repellent – particularly important as part of Malaria prevention.
• Medication – prescription and chronic medications and malaria prophylactics when recommended (see the point on malaria below)
• Personal toiletries in small travel size.
• If you use contact lenses, bring extra spare ones as well as a pair of glasses.
Don’t forget these important safari items
• Binoculars – you don't want to wait to share binoculars, because by the time it's your turn the action is often over. Take your own binoculars, even night vision binoculars if you can!
• Camera – you’ll want to take loads of photos! It's size (not too big) and a good zoom lens that count when choosing what camera to take on safari.
• Camera memory cards – enough memory for a gazillion photos! Don't forget to pack the charger.
• Day backpack – a small bag for when you are out in the safari vehicle is a real must.
• Recharge devices – the correct plug adaptors if your devices use anything other than British plugs, and all of your chargers, batteries and device power cables.
• Swimwear – the rest camps have invitingly cool swimming pools.
Useful items you want to bring along
• Wet wipes – handy for everything, from a quick hand wash (buy the anti-bacterial kind) to a face cleanse on the fly on a dusty track
• A few large Ziploc bags – a great way to dust- or waterproof items and keep snacks fresh and safe from creatures.
• A small medical kit – every camp or lodge will have a basic first aid kit on hand, and our safari vehicles do too. But it's handy to bring your own small supply of pain killers, anti-diarrhoea medication, band aids, a multi-purpose ointment for minor scratches, bites and burns, antihistamine (for bug bites/stings and allergic reactions), hand gel, etc. And if you suffer from dry eyes, bring along some soothing eye drops.
• Lip balm – being outdoors in often hot and dry places, lip balm is great for preventing and soothing chapped lips.
• Sarong or kikoi – always useful when travelling. Used as a scarf, extra layer for warmth, to keep the sun off your skin, a picnic blanket or light towel and more.
Clothes you’ll want to pack
Most of the safari is spent in your safari vehicle exploring the African bush and viewing amazing animals, so clothing is not a big issue and you don’t need to pack a lot of it! And in the rest camps it is totally casual, so no need for evening wear or anything even remotely formal.
• Pack casual clothing in neutral tones in light fabrics, preferably cotton. Make sure your clothing is loose fitting and comfortable, and you don't mind getting it dirty.
• No bright colours or white as they are highly visible to wild animals. Black and dark coloured garments will have you baking in the sun. Tans, beiges and khakis are best.
• We recommend shorts/skirts and light shirts during the day with sandals.
• At night, you'll want to wear a lightweight long sleeved shirt and trousers to cover yourself up and avoid those mosquitoes.
• Ladies – game drives can be VERY bumpy and good sports bras would not go amiss.
• Unless you are doing a walking safari, there is no need to pack heavy duty hiking boots, just worn in, comfortable and sensible footwear – sandals are best for the hot weather and also good for around the rest camp or pool.
• A lightweight fleece jacket or windbreaker – it can be chilly on early morning game drives and in the evenings but hot at midday, so the secret is to wear several layers that you can take off or put on as needed.
What to leave behind
• Work, stress, concepts of time, pre-conceptions about anything, laptop, cares and worries… and allow Africa to captivate your senses with new vibrancy.
When planning your safari (and when you’re on it) you may encounter unfamiliar words. Let’s start with the most exciting word of all…
SAFARI: "The word safari comes from the Arabic word, safara, meaning travel. But Africa has transformed the meaning into ‘to travel in the shadows of extraordinary animals.’
GAME: When Africans talk of “game” in the context of a safari we are talking about wild animals in general.
GAME DRIVE: A drive in an open safari vehicle with a guide searching for wild animals, so you can observe the animals acting naturally in their natural habitat.
BUSHVELD / BUSH: The word ‘bushveld’ originates from the Afrikaans word ‘bosveld’, which is composed of the words ‘bos’ meaning ‘bush’, and ‘veld’ meaning ‘field’. Bushveld is pronounced “bushfelt”. It has become a generic term to refer to the wild, open and unpopulated spaces of Sub-Saharan Africa, though nowadays it is more specifically used when referring to game reserves. The word ‘bush’ is a shortened version with the same meaning, and is also a common term in other countries such as Australia.
BIG FIVE:The Big Five are Africa’s biggest animals (and the ones that are the most sought out by travellers): elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion, and leopard.
SMALL FIVE: The Small Five are a play on the Big Five, and a tribute to the smaller wildlife that should receive appreciation too: elephant shrew, rhino beetle, buffalo weaver, ant lion, and leopard tortoise.
SUNDOWNER – A drink taken during sunset while on a game drive. It’s a wonderful safari traditions, your guide will find the best place to stop as you toast the beautiful African sunset!
BRAAI: In its broadest sense the word braai means barbeque, but it goes way beyond that – braais are a South African institution! Braai (pronounced br-eye) is an abbreviation of braaivleis, Afrikaans for “meat grill”. The word braai has a bunch of meanings: it can refer to: (a) the act of grilling: “I’m going to braai the meat now” (b) the fire: “I’m going to go and get the braai going” (c) the grill used over the fire: “put the meat on the braai” and (d) the social occasion: “you’re invited to a braai”. What can you braai? Anything – from beef to a banana! Sometimes braais require a whole new state of mind because South Africans have one simple rule when it comes to a braai - if it can be eaten it can be cooked on the braai!
SPOOR: The footprints made by animals and which are used to track animals in the bush.
The Kruger Park accepts credit cards (Visa, MasterCard, Diners and American Express) and traveller’s cheques. However, it is a good idea to carry some cash with you to pay for incidentals, curios, gratuities, etc. The South African currency is the South African Rand. Rest camps also have ATM machines which you can withdraw cash.
Although South Africa has 11 official languages, English is widely spoken and almost everyone in the Kruger Park speaks it. Your guide is an English speaking South African.
The Kruger Park is in a malaria area – but don’t let the risk of malaria stop you from enjoying your safari!
Firstly, most types of mosquitoes do not carry the malaria parasite and if you are bitten it does not mean that you will contract malaria. Malaria is transmitted exclusively through the bite of the female Anopheles mosquito and she operates between dusk and dawn.
Secondly, the risk of malaria can be reduced by preventing mosquito bites. In the evenings, cover exposed skin with light clothing (long-sleeved shirt and trousers).Use a good insect repellent liberally on all other exposed skin – especially your ankles… they are a critical area!
Malaria prophylactic drugs can be taken that will further decrease the chances of contracting malaria. We highly recommend that you ask your doctor’s advice about anti-Malaria prophylactics (i.e. oral tablets) before leaving your country. And if you do take them… be sure to finish the course once you leave the malaria area. (And of course, if you experience any unexplained fever within 12 to 35 days after entering a malaria area, inform your doctor you were in a malaria area and get tested.)
The good news about South Africa is that it is a very healthy part of Africa and the only vaccination you MIGHT need is Yellow Fever (and that only if you have arrived here after travelling through a Yellow Fever area). The only other medical consideration that you will need to address is anti-malaria prophylaxis. Please see under “Malaria”.
South Africa has many private hospitals, excellent specialists and state of the art equipment and facilities, including emergency rescue and air ambulance. Government facilities are overcrowded and should be avoided. (Medical Insurance while travelling is an absolute must.)
The towns outside the Kruger Park all have pharmacies (drugstores) with everything one requires from Aspirin to Zambuk.
DRINKING THE WATER
It is entirely safe to drink the tap water in the Kruger Park, but bottled water is available in the restaurants and shops if you prefer. If you are ever in doubt, stick to bottled water. Our safari vehicles carry drinking water at all times. Bottled water is supplied at all the main camps and lodges
THE FOOD AT THE KRUGER PARK REST CAMPS
It is safe to eat ALL of the foods offered by the restaurants in the rest camps as they take great care to ensure that food is prepared in a healthy manner. They have qualified chefs who bake fresh breads, and produce soups, salads, entrees, breakfasts, buffets, quiches, pasta dishes, gourmet sandwiches, light lunches burgers, cold platters, wraps and delicious desserts and amazing coffees… delicious food by any standards. (And don’t forget you eat them out on an open deck looking out over truly spectacular views!)
CELL PHONE COVERAGE
Although there is mobile coverage in the park, signal varies from camp to camp and differs slightly for service providers, with the best signal being in the main rest camps. It's usually far cheaper to buy a SIM-card in South Africa, and use that during your vacation. Pop an SMS to one of your friends or family, and they'll all know your temporary number.
More importantly, your phone will not try to connect to the Internet via your home-network! And that will save you big bucks on roaming charges.
The use of cellular phones in public areas and on game drives is not permitted. You are in the African bush – it’s time to switch off your phone, sit back, relax and listen to the sounds of the bush.
Internet connectivity is limited to GPRS or EDGE at most camps, but there is 3G/HSDPA at the base stations in the bigger camps.
TIPS & GRATUITIES
Although tipping is optional and totally up to your personal discretion, it is a safari tradition. But it’s tough to know how much to tip. It is customary to tip 10 to 15% of the bill at restaurants. Typically, safari guides receive between US $20-100 per day from the group, depending upon the level of satisfaction and your safari budget.
South Africa is + 2 GMT. This means the local time is 2 hours ahead of London, seven hours ahead of New York and ten hours ahead of Los Angeles. South Africa does not observe daylight saving time so the difference changes by one hour in European and North American summer.
All the rest camps have laundry facilities… which means you only need to pack a few outfits.
Crime has been a much reported evil of certain areas in South Africa, particularly the big cities. While you are in any of our big cities en route to the Kruger park, adhere to the basic principles of navigating any large city anywhere in the world: do not carry valuables in plain sight, keep cameras hidden and do not walk alone at night.
The Kruger Park has to be one of the safest safari destinations in the world. We meet you at one of the four small airports that provide flights to the Kruger Park from Johannesburg and Cape Town… then pass through the gates of the Kruger Park where the only dangerous animals you will encounter are lions, leopards, buffalo… and those you see from the safety of your safari vehicle! You stay in rest camps situated deep inside the Kruger Park, far away from the rest of the world’s crime, fighting and violence. (Although, of course, it is important to keep your passport and other valuables with you and not leave them in the safari vehicle while in the rest camps.)
In South Africa, the major roads are good and the traffic volumes will generally be less than you are used to. If you self-drive from Johannesburg to Nelspruit, Phalaborwa or Hoedspruit, adhere to usual driving safety – plan in advance what route you will follow (we will advise you on routes and travelling times), make sure the doors are locked and that no bags or purses left on passenger seats, don’t pick up any hitch hikers or stop near informal settlements (shanty towns).
Our culture is gracious and hospitable. You will be in good hands.
It is a condition of our safaris that our guests protect their safari investment with travel insurance.
All travellers should be fully insured with full medical, emergency evacuation and repatriation cover for the period of time you are away, as well as trip cancellation and curtailment insurance (essential in the event you have to cancel or curtail your safari due to unforeseen circumstances), and insurance to cover damaged or lost baggage. Please see your travel professional or research the internet for providers of this type of insurance
South African power is 220-240 volts, 50Hz mostly delivered through a three-pin socket. There is a smaller two-pin as well. The two different sockets are unique to southern Africa and an adapter will be needed. Please make sure your electronic equipment switches automatically from 110 to 220 electricity (most do - it will say on the plug or in the manual). If they do not switch automatically a converter will be needed.
GETTING TO THE KRUGER PARK
We recommend that, if possible, your flights are booked after your itinerary is planned, which gives you a good deal more flexibility.
The Kruger Park is a one-hour flight from Johannesburg. There are four airports you can fly to depending upon your safari itinerary: Nelspruit airport and Skukuza airports in the south and Phalaborwa and Hoedspruit airports in the north central region.
Should you require local flights, we will specify exactly which flights you need and direct you to the airline's website, where you can book them direct. You may also be able to secure a better rate by booking directly on the internet. SA Airlink and SA Express are the two airlines offering flights to these airports.
Alternatively, you can hire a car and drive from Johannesburg. It is an easy five hour drive from Johannesburg on good major roads to the Southern regions and 7-8 hours to the Central Northern regions.
STAYING IN TOUCH WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS
The rest camps all have telephones and can be easily reached. In an emergency we suggest client's friends and family contact our office so we may assist.
KIDS AND AGE RESTRICTIONS
We don’t have any age restrictions… we do families! The only restriction is a Kruger Park one – children under the age of six are not allowed on open safari vehicles for safety reasons. But that’s Ok by us as we can offer your family a wonderful safari in our closed Land Rover safari vehicle – perfect for the family with young kids (we can even offer a car seat for a very young child).
Many safari companies also restrict guests at the other end of the age spectrum – but we don’t as we believe you are as young as you feel in your heart!