Frequently Asked Questions

 

South African Climate and Weather


SUMMER: September to April

 

  • Most of South Africa falls under a summer rainfall region (except for the Western Cape with its Mediterreanean climate and the Garden Route's year-round climate).

  • It can get hot to very hot in the north and east, mild to warm on the interior plateau.

  • Thunderstorms are common, though cool, overcast weather can also be expected.

  • Summers in the Western Cape are usually dry, hot and windy.

 

WINTER: May to August 

 

  • Winters on the Highveld (interior plateau) can be cold to very cold overnight and in the early morning while days are usually cool to mild, though occasional cold fronts can make it cold all day. Minimal chances of rain.

  • The eastern coastal regions and Lowveld (savannah) has cool to mild nights and warm to hot days. Minimal chances of rain.

  • The Western Cape has cool and wet winters in general.

  • Please remember that sunset/night drives during the winter months can be very cold. Be sure to take sufficient warm clothing with you on the drive.

Best Months to Visit

 

Southern Africa is an all year round ecological and wildlife destination.

BEST BIRDING MONTHS are during the summer from November to March and early April when the birds are in breeding mode and the Palearctic and Intra-African Migrants are present. Species with breeding season plumage such as Weavers, Widowbirds and Bishops are in full breeding regalia. This goes for all regions except the Western Cape, which is a winter rainfall area and for which the best birding months are during the spring from late July to the middle of October.

 

BEST MAMMAL VIEWING MONTHS Mammal viewing peaks in the dry season, from June to mid-November. During these months water is scarce and thus the animals are more concentrated around water holes and rivers. Furthermore, the depleted foliage allows for better viewing and photographic opportunities. During the summer, when there is abundant water, the animals are generally more dispersed. Each season however has its own appeal, such as the mass birth of impala lambs during early summer, and game viewing can be very good throughout the year.

 

BEST BOTANICAL MONTHS are December to May when the vegetation is lush and green, and also when most plants are in flower. An exception is Namaqualand in the Western and Northern Cape Provinces of South Africa. This area becomes a floral masterpiece in spring (mid-August to mid-September), when the desert-like terrain is transformed into a carpet of flowers and birds are actively courting and displaying. The Western Cape is better for botany in late Winter and Spring (mid-July to mid-October). Note that the flowers are dependent on the rains and the timing and quantity is variable.

What to Bring

 

Please keep luggage to a minimum for your own comfort and ease of transport, especially if we are using light aircraft transfers or vehicle transfers to remote birding camps. Generally you will need to restrict your luggage to 12kg (packed in a soft bag / small suitcase), plus a reasonable amount of camera / birding equipment per person. Please try to limit hand luggage to one item per person. Excess luggage can be stored at most lodges and hotels.

  • Binoculars are essential, camera (preferably with a zoom lens) and accessories. A spotting scope is also a good idea.

  • Sandals and good comfortable walking shoes (full hiking boots are not necessary unless you have requested hiking / trekking activities or have been advised otherwise by us) if you plan on doing a game/bush walk while on safari.

  • ​Cool comfortable clothing for the summer months. Khaki, green, brown, blue, beige or other dull coloured casual clothes are recommended for birding tours when birding on foot. Long-sleeved shirts and trousers will help protect you against the sun and insect bites. A warm jacket for night drives and, if visiting in summer, make sure it's water-proof. At least 1 jacket or fleece regardless of the time of year.

  • Anti-malaria prophylactics (consult your medical practitioner or local health centre). The region is considered low risk to malaria-free. 

  • Wide brimmed hat, sunglasses and sunscreen. 

  • Swimwear.

  • Insect repellent.

  • Small head torch / torch / flashlight. 

  • Personal toiletries, sunscreen, insect repellent (also available at shops on tour), and basic medicines such as anti-diarrhoea tablets. 

  • Prescription medications (if any). 

  • Visa or MasterCard credit card and/or travelers cheques - American Express and  Diners Club are sometimes not accepted.

Which Field Guides?

  • SASOL ILLUSTRATED BIRDS OF SOUTHERN AFRICA. Sinclair, I., Hockey, P.A.R. & Tarboton, W.R. 2002, 3rd Edition, Struik Publishers, Cape Town.

  • This is the recommended field guide for identification purposes. This book is excellent and is recommended for intermediate to advanced birders.

 

  • ROBERT’S BIRD GUIDE TO SOUTHERN AFRICA. Chittenden, H. 2007, John Voelcker Bird Book Fund.

  • This comprehensive field guide covers over 950 Southern African bird species and is linked to the legendary Robert’s Birds of Southern Africa, the definitive reference book on our birds since 1940, currently in VII edition.

 

Precautions to Take

 

  • MEDICAL: Southern Africa has minimal health-risks for the traveller. For more information on inoculations etc consult your medical practitioner or health centre or contact The Medical Advisory Services for Travellers Abroad (MASTA). Their web address is www.masta-travel-health.com

  • THE SUN: One must be careful not to underestimate the effects of the African sun. Plenty of sun cream (preferably factor 50), a good sun hat and gradual adjustment are recommended. Avoid excessive exposure between 10h00 and 16h00.

 

  • MALARIA: Some regions of South Africa fall under intermediate to low risk malarial areas. The north-east, including the Kruger National Park is considered intermediate risk, with anti-malarial drugs recommended from October to May. The far northern KwaZulu-Natal Province is now considered low risk, with only non-drug preventative measures required. The highest risk period is the summer season (October to May) and the lower risk period is late winter (June to September). The Drakensberg, Highveld (interior plateau), soutehrn Zululand and KZN Midlands are free of malaria all year round. The following websites offer excellent information and advice on malaria prophylaxis, malaria in general and required inoculations:

www.travelclinic.co.za

www.malaria.org.za

  • We recommend bringing insect repellent.
     

  • Long-sleeved shirts and long pants, socks and shoes when outdoors at night.

  • Take the malaria tablets recommended for the region you are travelling to, and keep taking them until the course is complete. If you suffer from side effects, try taking your pills at night, after dinner as this usually minimizes the effect of the symptoms.

  • If you come down with flu-like symptoms within four to six weeks after your visit, seek your doctor's advice immediately.

  • INNOCULATIONS: Travelers entering South Africa and other countries within Africa may be required to have specific inoculations.

  • For all advice on inoculations, please contact your relevant travel medical doctor in your own country.

What Not to be Concerned About

  • All accommodation in the parks in malaria areas has mosquito netting in front of the windows and doors and mosquitoes are almost never found within the rooms.

  • The camps are well lit, but a torch/flashlight may be needed when returning to your bungalow from our dining area or a night drive.

  • All camps in the national parks and game reserves, with the exception of the bush camps, have a shop where basic toiletries can be purchased. These shops also sell snacks, beverages as well as souvenirs.

  • Most camps, with the exception of some bush camps, have swimming pools. 

  • All camps in the national parks are fenced to keep animals from entering. There have however been a few incidents where dangerous animals have managed to get into a camp.

  • The majority of private lodge are not fenced in - please be alert when walking around at night.

Tour Guides/Leaders

  • Our guides are all registered and qualified as Tourist/Field Guides and have a good knowledge of the areas we operate in.

  • Our guides are very familiar with the routes traveled while on safari. Please accept that they are well experienced in their field and will know which routes are best to travel and where the best areas are for seeing various animals and bird species.

  • Although our guides have are very knowledgeable, they are only human and do not always know the answers to everything. They will always do their best to ensure all guests have an enjoyable safari. On the occasion they cannot provide an answer, please be fair to them. The guides are also not personal servants, so please treat them with respect.

  • Guides know best when dangerous encounters occur. Please adhere to their rules and guidance for your own safety.

Tipping/Gratuities

  • Tipping in South Africa is not compulsory, but is customary. 

  • Restaurants waiters are generally tipped 10% of the bill.

  • Our guides and chauffeurs receive a salary and are not dependent on tips from guests, but please feel free to tip your guide / chauffeur if you have had an enjoyable experience while on safari and feel like he/she has made your safari memorable.

  • As a guideline we recommend guides/chauffeurs are tipped around US$3 per person per day.

  • You should never feel pressured to tip.

  • Please email us if you have any comments or suggestions you would like to make. We are always keen to improve.

What to Expect

  • Groups are generally averaged at 4-6 individuals per safari but may be 12 at times.

  • It is important to remember that people may come from different cultural and religious backgrounds and for this reason guests need to be as flexible as possible while on safari. Making friends with your fellow travelers will certainly help your overall experience of your safari.

  • The first and last day of your safari can in particular be long, as you will need to get to and from the particular park. While in the parks extensive game drives are conducted, particularly in the early mornings and late afternoons/early evenings. Depending on the group dynamics and everyone agreeing, there may be the option of doing game drives throughout the day. Your guide will however be able to give you the best advice on the day and will make the final decision.

  • Breakfasts and dinners are prepared out in the open. We feel that this is a much better way of experiencing the African bush than sitting in a restaurant. Please note that there may be times when guides will take you to a restaurant. This may be because of unforeseen circumstances such as rainy weather or late arrivals at camp.

  • For your own safety we prefer that guides do not drive into the night, and therefore ask your co-operation to ensure that time is not wasted unnecessarily.

  • South African roads are generally in a good condition and there should be no / very few delays.

  • Please note that animals do not have a preference for one or the other. Your guide will drive you where he/she feels that you will have most success at seeing a variety of animals.

  • While in the private reserves, open 4x4 vehicles are used as this may be necessary for some of the roads in the area.

Participation and Meals

  • Our guests are not expected to participate with general chores, but guides work long hours and will appreciate any help offered.

  • Guides or camp staff will prepare all breakfasts and dinners, and guests are never expected to do this. On our standard safaris, we generally have a full time chef on-site who will take care of culinary matters. On our budget safaris guests will need to assist with meals.

  • Should you have any specific dietary requirements, please inform us upon making your reservation.

Communication

  • An enjoyable tour depends on open and honest communication between yourself, the guides and your fellow passengers. Many problems have their root in lack of communication. Most parks have good cell phone coverage and you should not have any difficulty making phone calls from the camps where you will be staying.

  • Please refrain from using cell phones while out on game drives in consideration of fellow passengers and the wildlife. In an emergency please feel free to contact our office directly.

Accommodation

  • Note that some safaris are only available as fully-inclusive safaris.

  • Facilities vary from park to park, and sometimes from camp to camp, and the information below should be seen as a guideline only. Camp specific information is available on request.

  • Classic Safaris make use of en-suite accommodation units (either brick-and-mortar, steel and glass, luxury canvas tent, or timber cabins, or a combination thereof). These are all comfortable, and will provide air-conditioning, twin or queen beds, bathrooms, towels and soap at the very least. Most units contain tea and coffee stations, and small fridges where drinks and snacks can be kept cool. Families may be booked into family units, which generally consist of separate bedrooms, a small lounge area, and sometimes a small kitchen. Please note that the booking of such accommodation depends on availability.

  • Budget Safaris may not have accommodation units (either brick-and-mortar, steel and glass, luxury canvas tent, or timber cabins, or a combination thereof) with en-suite facilities. These may not offer air-conditioning and fridges, but will generally include twin or queen beds, towels and soap, while ablutions may be shared.

  • We have little to no control over the allocated accommodation upon checking into a camp. We will however always endeavor to accommodate guests' preferences and have all guests staying in the same standard of accommodation.

  • Should there be anything within your accommodation which is not in working order then please notify your guide who will request that  staff attend to the necessary repairs.

Photography

  • Please feel free to take as many photos as you like while on safari, unless advised differently by your guide for a certain reason pertaining to your safety.

  • Guides will always try and position vehicles in a way which allows for guests to take the best photos under the circumstances.

  • Please ask the guide to stop if you would like to take photos at any time. The guides will also stop at panoramic viewpoints along the route, to ensure you get the best scenic photos. Please stock up on memory chips (film) and spare camera batteries before departure, as these may be difficult to find en-route. 4GB memory cards or more are recommended, especially if you are interested in photography!

  • All lodges/camps have electrical points to charge batteries and other equipment.

Medical

  • Please inform guides of any medical conditions before the safari departs, preferably when making your reservation.

  • All necessary personal medication should be supplied by the client. Basic medication can be bought en-route in all areas as well as at some of the camps in parks. Please confirm with your guide should you need anything.

  • Insect repellent is advised. This can also be purchased at some of the camps’ shops or in the towns en-route.

  • The Kruger National Park and some of the northern KwaZulu-Natal parks are in a malaria region and your doctor should be consulted for the necessary prophylaxis before you visit.