Africa is so amazingly diverse, if you can imagine it - we have it somewhere. (As well as a lot off stuff that people find hard to imagine!) Be it a lazy, tropical Island breakaway or a hard core, adrenaline filled adventure - I will do my best to help you get the most out of your holiday. Seeing that this blog is a brand new project - it will take a while to grow. If you have a particular destination in mind that has not been featured yet, just send me a mail and I will assist in any way possible. Postings on this blog are based on personal experience. I plan to rate places and venues visited on a 'must go' or 'avoid' basis. I will also give a Lemon Award to the very worst festering pits that I have had the misfortune of stumbling across... If you have a comment, or your own input - lets have it! Complaints and compliments received from readers will be forwarded to the relevant venue for comment and/or follow up action. Please bear in mind that opinions expressed in this blog are my personal views only and I do not presume to know everybodys tastes... Any other advice dispensed is based on personal experience, and may not be factually correct. I therefore will not be held responsible if you do something silly after reading my advice on the matter. My main purpose here is to help you to think and plan in the right directions. I trust that you will have as much fun visiting this blog as I plan to have while writing the posts.

Thursday 26 April 2007

Cape Point Nature Reserve

After reading my article titled ‘Here be monsters…’ my sister (who is a passionate Cape Townian) contacted me and took me to task for my shameless slandering of the Cape Point Nature Reserve because of the baboon issue. What can I say? It is a problem and people should be made aware of it…

She is also right though. The Cape Point is one of the most awesome nature scenes to be found out there. So I have decided to write for three reasons: Firstly to tell you how great it is, secondly to tell you what had happened between me and the clan Papio Ursinus (despicable beasts, no matter how you look at it…) and thirdly to tell you how to visit the reserve and have a baboon free experience!

Natural Splendour

Described by Sir Francis Drake as ' the fairest cape we saw in the whole circumference of the earth.'

The first time I ever went to Cape Point, it was the same sister mentioned above that took me there. During the drive down through Simonstown, it was already apparent that we were in a breathtakingly beautiful part of the Cape.

Visitors to the reserve can take a nice, brisk walk up to the old lighthouse that was built there in 1860. Due to the fierce weather conditions (fog) there, it was not always visible and a new one was built, a bit lower, in 1914. This is the most powerful light house on the South African coast. There is a funicular available if you aren’t much into walking up steep slopes…

Next to the car park, there is the reputable Two Oceans Restaurant where one can enjoy a lovely lunch or glass of our fine Cape Wines while looking out on the awesome scenery. The restaurant has also been ‘baboon proofed’, so harassment won’t be included in the bill…

There is also a curio shop on the premises.

All over the reserve there are short looped walks as well as a few delightful little beaches.

Birders will thrill at the sight of peregrine falcons plummeting down from the cliff tops, African black oystercatchers hopping about the rocky shore, ocean birds soaring about and sunbirds flitting amongst the fynbos.

Various antelope species like the endemic bontebok, blesbuck and Cape Mountain Zebras roam the reserve and ostriches are often seen striding along the beaches.

Although the restaurant, main parking and lighthouse areas are well guarded by rangers, the walks and beaches are not… This brings us to the next section:

Primeval warrior

On a recent trip to Cape Town, my girlfriend and I decided to spend a day relaxing on one of the little beaches in the reserve. Buffalo Bay – the little white patch in the picture to the left. The view is from the restaurant deck, looking back towards Simonstown over False Bay.

When we got to the parking space at the completely deserted little beach, it looked like we were in for an idyllic day! I quickly got out our fishing gear and headed out to make my first cast of the day as quickly as possible (something I just do…) leaving my girlfriend sitting next to our rental car, busy organising her equipment.

After a few minutes I looked up just in time to see an elongated snout peek over her blissfully unaware shoulder to see what she had in her hands! Seeing that it was nothing edible, it turned its beady little eyes towards the car…

We had made the mistake of not immediately winding up the windows and one of the back windows was still open - without further ado it leapt right in. Luckily I always keep most of my valuables and loose items in the trunk of the car, except for a packet of sugar we used for our coffee on this occasion. A baboons’ sweet tooth is as finely developed as any I’ve seen…

A few seconds later, the second, much larger baboon also hopped into the car despite us screaming like pure bred banshees and dancing around with waving arms. I now had to deal with two baboons in the car, one sneaking up behind me, and another ten or twelve busy ambling along in our direction. At that time I was wearing only my swim shorts and a fishing rod…

It’s amazing how naked one feels without a shirt or shoes when staring into beady little eyes, filled with malice, backed up with large yellow fangs and a nasty attitude. I was running around like a true cave man with only a big rock for defence, chasing off the circling baboons all the while trying to intimidate the car occupying duo into retreat!

Baboons have a nasty habit of ripping, tearing, biting, scratching and defecating on (then smearing) everything they come across. I’ve had this happen to me once in Zambia and I can tell you, the smell takes a looong time to go away, no matter how often you wash the car.

At one stage, after the large male decided to leave the car, the smaller one actually got out of the car and stormed me! After my strategic retreat, it calmly climbed right back in and carried on. Trying to throw these beasts with rocks was also very frustrating. The clever buggers sit and watch the trajectory of your hurled projectile, and then lightly step aside at the last moment…

After what seemed an eternity, I eventually got the main troublemaker out of the car with beast-like cries and threatening gesticulations. Adrenaline charged and full of vinegar we both uttered victory yells that would have done Tarzan extremely proud!

After the whole incident, the whole troop retreated a bit, probably to hold council on what the next angle of attack will be... That signalled the end of our Cape Point day (at 8:30 am) so we headed on to Hout Bay (via the absolutely stunning Chapman's Peak Drive) for a seafood lunch and drinks to settle the nerves.

Baboon free experience

You can ‘baboon proof’ your visit to Cape point, or similar places by keeping the following in mind.

Baboons are primarily attracted to food; the best preventative is to keep food out of sight.
Don’t walk around with anything edible in your hands. They will try to grab it off you.
Don’t pack out a picnic in an area where there are baboons, but no rangers.

Always keep your eyes open. In areas where baboons are nuisances, there are often signs posted.

Keep your car closed and the windows wound up. Very important! :-)

Try and stay in areas where there is supervision by rangers.

Cape Point is visited by thousands of people each year, and the baboon incidents only occur every now and then, and always involve food.

Chances are that you may not even see one… Do yourself a favour and go there, the Cape Point is truly well worth the effort!

Wednesday 25 April 2007

Preventing the bite.

As you all may or may not know, malaria is caused by a parasite that is transferred into the blood stream during a mosquito bite. When in a malaria risk area, it does not mean that every single mosquito has the malaria parasite, ready to deliver into your unsuspecting veins. The occurrence of malaria mosquitoes are often as low as one malaria mosquito for every thousand in a specific area – before you start relaxing, remember that they all bite, so it’s purely a matter of time….

Anti - Malaria pills (prophylactics)
An absolute must! This is so important that I am not even going to waste time elaborating on it.
Simply put: just go to your doctor and get a prescription. People visiting a malaria risk area for longer than 3 months should discuss this with the doctor as long term use of malaria pills may have side effects. Malaria pills often have disagreeable side effects and the kidneys and liver take serious punishment with some kinds of pills.

Other precautions:
If for some reason you decide not to get the malaria pills, all is definitely not lost. I personally never take them and have been fortunate so far in avoiding malaria while people around me were dropping like flies… I believe this is because I religiously follow all the steps below (especially the g&t part!)

Also remember that special care should be taken close to water and swamps, at sundown and when there is no wind.

Tony’s malaria avoidance plan

Malaria is no joke, take my word for it, or do a little bit of research. I don’t want to scare anybody so I’ll leave out the horror stories, but this is a serious risk that can be easily avoided with a little care:

The best way to prevent malaria is simply to avoid the bite… This can be done by taking the following precautions:

Mozzy net
Unless you are going to a resort that specifies mosquito nets, it is always a good idea to have one handy. They retail for around R100-00 in SA (roughly $15 US) are light and compact when folded up. Rather risk never having to use it than be stuck somewhere without it.

Use lots of insect repellent!
A definite must! If you can find a product (spray or stick) called Peaceful Sleep , get some. Out off all the chemical repellents, I find it works the best and should be your first line of defence in case one of the buggers gets through…. Spray it on as many times a day as you like, but make sure you’re well covered as the evening approaches and at night. It may initially have a strong smell, but it’s a small price to pay if you consider the alternative… (It can most definitely be used as an alternative to MACE – powerful stuff!)

Also look out for some of the herbal alternatives (to compliment the Peaceful Sleep, not always 100% effective). If you can get soap, aqueous creams, or spray with Citronella and Lemon grass as ingredients, grab it! There is a product available that is a citronella and lemongrass oil based sun block. Just spray it on twice a day and you’re covered! (Still looking for their site, will update this as soon as I find it.)
The glycerine based citronella soap has a fresh, crisp smell and offers a reasonable amount of protection. It also makes your hair feel nice and soft if you choose to use it as a shampoo…

Take particular care that your arms, legs, hands (including the back of your fingers) and feet are well sprayed! These are the mozzy target areas. Best is to make sure your whole body is covered. The aqueous cream lotion is also good for the skin in general, and you can always get someone to help you apply it all over after a shower…

Here is a link to a site that sells Citronella soap. I will update links as I find them on the web. Please contact me if I have not updated the links and you urgently need the info.

There are other forms of insect repellents available like:

Mosquito coils:
They give me a headache if used while I sleep, and they don’t always work – not worth it in my opinion.

Citronella oil candles:
Might as well get a few.

Anti mozzy wear

It is always a good idea to have a few light weight, loose fitting and long sleeve shirts when travelling in a malaria risk area. During the day when it’s hot, you can roll up your sleeves, but at sundown you can roll your sleeves down. I do not know why, but the mozzy attacks are always the worst right after sundown, especially if it is wind still. I call it ‘mozzy happy hour…’
If you get hold of the modern, light weight fishing shirts, they usually have a handy ‘flip-up’ collar for extra protection of the neck area.

This is a hard one, because it’s a terrible thing to have to wear long trousers/skirts in the African heat… I always go with shorts, and pleeenty mosquito repellent.

More bad news if you like wearing sandals. The sad fact is that feet and ankles are the main mozzy targets. Regular and liberal applications of repellent to the feet may do the trick, but ankle high boots and socks are the best option. This is generally true for all aspects of the footwear issue.

Anti mozzy diet

A very effective way of battling Africa’s nr.1 killer. (And you all thought it was the hippo…) Battling the mozzy through your diet has a lot of obvious advantages and one (or two) minor discomforts attached to it. Suffice it to say that as proven by the repellents, smell is a very effective agent…

Repel mozzys and humans alike, but lots of lovely garlic is a winner!

Gin and tonics (g&t’s):
Tonic Water contains quinine, which is used to combat malaria once in the blood. The gin helps to get the tonic down, thin the blood and I am sure that mozzys don’t like the smell of gin in your sweat either. Have a few during the day to keep the levels up, it refreshes like nothing else during hot days spent lazing in the sun…

Same as garlic. Beware: This is not an option for the feint hearted – over application may result in random bouts of uncivilized behaviour or other radical changes in behaviour. These attacks are usually short lived but can be extreme. Recovery is normally coupled with remorse and embarrassment. Liberal doses of g&t next to a swimming pool the next day will normally speed up recovery.

General precautions

Fans (wind):
If there is a fan nearby, switch it on. Mozzys have trouble flying in moving air, that’s why they are more active in wind still areas. If you have a ceiling fan in your room or chalet, keep it on, even if it means using an extra blanket. With the air constantly in motion over your bed, you are 100% sure of waking up bite free even without a mozzy net.

Keep the fly sheets zipped up at all times, don’t let them sneak in during the day.

Keep the windows closed when the car is standing still, especially at night. Nothing worse than being repeatedly bitten by all the mozzys that were hiding beneath your car seats during the next day’s driving!

Take special care at sunset (as well as the rest of the night) and wear protective clothing if possible. Always try to apply a fresh layer of insect repellent just before sunset.
Once, while camping on the banks of the Zambezi River (that year there was some of the worst mosquito action I’ve ever encountered), we got into the habit of spending sundown and the two hours after in our tents toasting another fine day with g&t’s. Later a breeze would come up and we could go sit outside by the campfire.

Ok, that about sums it up for now. I will appreciate any comments you may have regarding this article.

Remember: malaria doesn’t have to be an issue; a little discipline is all it takes!

Sunday 22 April 2007

Here be monsters...

It sometimes happens that visitors to Africa get attacked (and often eaten) by the wildlife that we have over here…

This is normally due to inexperience with wild animals and recklessness. A man was killed in one of our nature reserves when he got out of his car to take pictures of a lioness busy giving birth right below a bridge that he was crossing. He probably reasoned that she was 'otherwise engaged' and had to cover a distance of approx 200meters to get to him.

I suppose he was quite suprised to find out that she could easily cover that distance and kill him before he could get back in his vehicle…

This is just one example of what people get up to in wildlife parks in attempts to shorten their holidays.

In short – when out on safari or in a game reserve: do not get out of the car! The tragedy above is definitely not the first of its kind and quite a few would be nature photographers and daredevils have ended up as an easy lunch…

The image used in my First Post is of of a lion that has had a person for lunch before, not far from where I took the picture...

Always listen to your qualified ranger when on a wildlife safari – these people have skills and knowledge that should be respected. Too many guides that I get into contact with have a horror story or two because tourists on their safaris don’t listen, and get into trouble.

A while ago a few tourists from Europe on a walking safari through the Kruger National Park, were attacked by elephants because the ladies would not listen to the guide, and separated from the group to get a closer look at Dumbo… A bit too late they realised that these animals are the real deal and not circus trained! The end result: the game ranger had to shoot a beautiful elephant bull to save irresponsible tourists… They got lucky and escaped with no fatalities that time.

Feeding of wild animals is another serious problem that we have. Too many visitors’ feed (especially baboons and monkeys) wild animals because they’re so cute… Don’t! The problem is that once you start doing this, these animals start to associate humans with food as well as losing their natural fear for us. Next step a troop of baboons spots a little girl with a bag of sweets and I’m sure I don’t have to elaborate on the possible consequences – nobody ever taught these animals how to ask nicely and it’s survival of the fittest out there…

I often get asked how dangerous a baboon can be. Once you look a baboon in the eye from up close and see the size of their fangs and claws, you will never ask such a silly question again. I will personally rather deal with two pit bull terriers than one grown male baboon! The Cape Point Nature Reserve is a good example of this – the baboons have become a huge problem and I personally know a few people that have had bad experiences with the accursed beasts there.

The unfortunate reality is this - once baboons lose their respect for humans, and become a problem, the only solution is to shoot the whole troop... Feeding of wild animals often result in a death sentence for them. (And sometimes also for their 'beneficiaries...')

I had a bad run in with a troop of baboons at Cape Point during Feb this year (luckily there were no casualties, but it was close!) resulting in me not taking any clients there again without a 'negotiating tool' of sorts (I would prefer a large gun, but am busy practising with my high powered slingshot) – safety is the important factor here. I would rather go walking through a reserve with predators etc. than go to Cape Point where humans are targeted relentlessly by these black hearted fiends...

A very entertaining and humoristic book about baboons (a 'must read') is: 'A Primates Memoir: Love death and baboons in East Africa' by Robert M. Sapolsky. Do yourself a favour and get a copy for more insight into the dark souls of these creatures...

OK, so this was a long rendition of the following advice: when in an area where there are wild animals – don’t expose yourself unnecessarily.

Greetings, Ill be back...

Thursday 05 April 2007


Hi Everybody!

I am going on a short hunting safari up to 14 April. Although connectivity will be limited, I am taking all my technological aids with me, and will try to update the posts from time to time in order to keep you up to date with our adventure from next to the campfire at night - you have to love the new technology!
For this safari, I have chosen an original bush veld venue on the Northwest border of South Africa, and Botswana, about 50km's North of Madikwe game reserve. Although it is a relatively short drive from Johannesburg on good tar roads (approx 3,5 hours drive), one can also charter a plane for a reasonable price (groups of 2 - 8) should you wish to save some time.
We will be staying in a camp with small chalets, and a boma for the evening campfire. Our host, Stephan Boshoff, (more about him a bit later - he definitely deserves a post all to himself!) can arrange catering but we are going 'rough it' a bit this time, and do our own catering. Look out for the first 'bush catering' post on this.

Game targeted on this trip will be Gnu (image), Warthog, Impala, Eland and Kudu. I plan to make game salami, - russians and biltong. The warthog is a great pork substitute in the salami. Game meat has no cholesterol and offers a healthy alternative for the committed carnivore that may be a bit worried about his heart.
Keep watching this space and I will try to post the next blog with a picture of Tony (and friends) doing their thing in the bush veld.
Have a great Easter weekend and if you absolutely have to be bad, be good...

Tuesday 03 April 2007

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

This post won’t be of much use to people who prefer to travel with large tour operators and groups, but read it anyway – you may just decide to go Kawaya - Waya’ing* through Africa on your own wits in the true tradition of heroes like Livingstone.

*(Zambian version of the Australian ‘walkabout.’ The expression is always accompanied by a snake like motion with the hand, as if simulating the way a snake moves through reeds...)

Best to avoid

Public Transport (government controlled)
The level of public transport service in Africa can differ in the extreme. Again this is a matter which will require some research due to the different conditions throughout Africa.
As a general rule it is best not to make use of bus (excepting luxury coach liners, where available) and train services (also excepting the luxury options) unless you are a determined backpacker that loves to ‘travel on the edge’ as they say…
Trains in particular can be very dangerous due to crime and overcrowding. I have not been to every country in Africa yet, but this seems to be the case pretty much everywhere.

A few viable options

There are regular flights scheduled between most African cities that are operated by respectable major airlines. A few of these are SAA, Air Namibia and Egypt Air. International carriers like British Airways also service quite a few routes. For smaller distances there are also a myriad of air charter companies available. Example

Luxury coaches
Not very many destinations you may choose to visit have safe, reliable coach services. Better developed countries like South Africa and Egypt have them in abundance. Best make sure first.

Luxury Trains (Highly advisable)
Not the fastest option, but a luxurious train safari en route to your next destination can be very rewarding. These trains do not carry regular commuters, only leisure passengers and is an absolute must if the old stylish mode of travel appeals to you. This option is not available everywhere, but check out the companies listed below. They may just be going your way…

Blue train (Arguably the best in the world)
Rovos Rail (Highest recommendation)
Premier Classe (Great value)

Road Transfers
For the destination minded tourist (resort based holidays) this is probably the best option, and is generally available wherever you find an airport, resort or major centre. Best to arrange transfers through your booking agent or the accommodation venue that you want to use. Although this is one of the most effective ways of getting from A to B, it’s also one of the most expensive… For more than one person it’s often cheaper to just rent a car. (See the Self Drive post.)

For the budget minded traveller and backpackers, there are quite a lot of minibus services available. The Bazbus is a classic example.

Car hire/Self drive (Now we’re talking!)
This is by far the best way of getting around –and the only real way to actually experience the wonder that is Africa. This section deserves a post by itself. A definite must read!

Map of Africa

What will a blog about Africa be without a map?

Monday 02 April 2007

Crime and political instability

Ok, let’s face it – we all watch the TV news and read the papers and yes, Africa has its problems… As elsewhere, tourists make easy targets.

NB! Most important!
No matter who you are or what special abilities you may have, you too will become a crime statistic if you are not vigilant. Trust me on this one... Rather leave the vanity at home and have a well deserved, safe holiday in the most awesome setting on mother earth, Africa.

Wars and Political Instability:
While things have quieted down in a lot of strife torn African countries, old issues flame up from time to time. It will be of no use to list all the areas to avoid as they may not be current when you read this. My best advice will be to contact the embassies of the countries you are planning to visit beforehand and try to get some info on current events in the particular country. Try to do a search of local newspapers, and the CNN site can also be helpful.

I personally won’t like landing in Harare the day before Zimbabwe’s next general election…

Although there are significant levels of crime throughout Africa, it is not the same everywhere and with a little ‘street smarts’ one can reduce the risk of becoming a victim.

Know where you are:
As with most places in the world, crime is not distributed evenly. Sometimes the difference between a dangerous and safe area is a matter of two or three city blocks. If you plan to go out and about, speak to your guide, guest house proprietor or hotel manager first. Find out where the local danger spots are, and the kind of threats to look out for. Just recognising a name on a signpost may avert disaster.

Don’t tempt them:
It is important to realise that poverty is a real issue in Africa. If you insist on dangling all your expensive belongings in front of people who could be fed for a few months on income generated by a new camera and set of diamond earrings, you are asking for trouble. If you leave your valuables unattended, they will most probably disappear…. Always keep the items about your person to a minimum, and you don’t have to ‘dress to impress’ – it’s Africa and you are on holiday!
The same rule applies for your vehicle. Never have valuables lying around on your car seats – this invites the ‘smash and grab’ specialists, and believe me, it happens as fast as lightning!
It's a good habit to keep windows wound up nearly all the way, but leave a small gap - it makes it much harder for the would be robber to break the window.
In a lot of places there are loads of beggars and street vendors that crowd your vehicle when you stop at parking lots and traffic intersections. It is important to keep your car windows wound up (as above) in such instances to prevent the sneaking hand that will sooner or later try to pilfer something from the unsuspecting traveller. Many a camera, laptop, cell phone or wallet has gone missing this way!
When leaving your car unattended anywhere, lock whatever you don’t take with you in the back and make sure there is nothing visible inside the car. It is good to keep most items locked in the boot all the time. Arriving somewhere and then displaying the whole content of the boot in front of watchful eyes is also not advisable for obvious reasons.

Lock up!
If you can lock something up - do it, and keep it locked. Get into the habit of putting things away and locking it up. It is a pain in the neck, but will help to prevent tears later on…

Be cautious:
If you are like me, you probably like living on the edge a bit and to investigate all aspects of what a country may offer...
This is a lot of fun, but can be very dangerous if you are not familiar with the local conditions, and alone.
It’s probably best to avoid the interesting dark alleys and more shadowy areas altogether. While they may promise adventure and unknown delights, chances are that you will find a nasty surprise instead. NEVER follow ANYBODY you have just met into a quiet corner, alley or other concealed area no matter what may lie at the end of the rainbow… (Remember, these guys have been waiting for you and in a lot of cases they are very good at what they do, as well as ruthless.)
Try to stay in groups wherever possible – the larger the group, the better.
When travelling the countryside, be wary when stopping at deserted tourist stops, take a good look around before stepping out of your vehicle, and be on the lookout at all times.
Try to avoid large congregations of people, especially on weekends when the beer is doing a lot of the talking…
Do not, ever, pick up hitch hikers. Not even police officers. Why expose yourself?

Fraud and con artists:
Come on people, we live in an enlightened age and should know better. I am constantly amazed at some of the scams that people get caught with. I have one golden rule – if it sounds too good to be true, it isn’t….
No local in possession of a real diamond, gold nugget, emerald, tanzanite or any other valuable item (and his sanity) is going to be as ignorant as to give it away for small change. Any such ‘amazing deal’ is 100% guaranteed to end in misfortune for you. Still I have come across otherwise intelligent and successful people who believed that they can buy a real 100 carat diamond for only a handful of dollars! Greed truly is a terrible thing...
If you are looking for gem stones etc, first acquaint yourself with the local laws. With a bit of investigative research one can find what you are looking for at a good price, legally.

Another good habit is to never change money on the street. It’s a hassle, but rather stay with changing currency at banks, exchange bureaus, hotels and businesses. While you may often receive fair treatment on the street, chances are that you are going to lose out somehow.
One of the scams I often come across is the following: the guy approaches you with a whole song and dance about them not being able to exchange currency legally for some or other reason and will therefore offer you an exchange rate much higher than the going rate. At first he may even exchange a little bit at the promised rate. When you go and do the main transaction (usually around the corner, in the back of a parking lot or someplace similar), the guy hands you the money in a bag, and it’s often a roll of notes. As soon as you want to check the cash, they suddenly start panicking about the ‘policeman’ that is on his way to arrest everyone before they start running. Back at the hotel, after your ‘narrow escape’ - you discover that the roll of notes is actually a roll of paper, with one or two real notes around the outside. Congratulations, you have just traded US$ for Zim$ at 20:1!
If you are unlucky, the ‘policeman’ is real and you get arrested. If you are really unlucky, the ‘policeman’ is real and in on the scam… This will result in a heavy bribe and intolerable levels of harassment to be endured.
On my very first visit to Zambia (1992), on my first day in Lusaka, I walked right into the middle of a nasty one – the same idea as above, but there were three corrupt cops involved and they gave it the slant that I was selling fake US Dollars on the street. A huge bribe and a few hours of very stressful negotiating later, the young Tony (21) had a lot more to tell in his letter home than he had bargained for! Not worth it, in my opinion…

If something like the above ever happens to you (because you just couldn't resist it, could you?), remember - the moment you lose your temper with an African police officer, corrupt or not, it gets very expensive - time, tolerance and/or money wise...

After all the doom and gloom I would like to say that I have have been on a lot of safaris in different parts of Africa (I live in South Africa) and have had a few brushes with petty crime, but almost all my trips have been uneventful crimewise thus far.

If you have had a similar experience, let us know by leaving a comment.

With a little guidance, caution, vigilance and common sense one need not fear becoming a statistic.

Also read the article on Secure and Anonymous travel. (To be posted soon)

Sunday 01 April 2007

The Basics

To start off with, I will mention a few basics that you have to give careful consideration to before coming to Africa – ask your trip advisor (or me) about these, and get as much info as possible beforehand. I will deal with each of these issues individually in later posts. For now, just a few lines.

Getting around
This is obviously not an issue if you are going on a guided safari, or package tour. If you plan to do your own thing (the best way, in my opinion), there are a few things to consider:
Public transport is not as accessible in a lot of African countries as we would like it. It will be worth your while to do a little homework regarding your options in this department.

Get the right vehicle for the job! Road conditions vary from country to country. Renting the budget 2 x 4 hatchback and going to the Mozambique coast for instance may result in an extremely eventful holiday in a very limited part of the country…
Read the getting around post for more info on this.

Weather conditions
I cannot stress the importance of this enough! We’re not talking about sunburn prevention here; suntan lotion is a must on any holiday anyway…

Get all relevant information on rain patterns and seasonal conditions before deciding on a date. Most booking sites have this advice available; otherwise you can visit the website for the country in questions’ weather service.
For example: You often see great specials advertised, only to make the painful discovery (usually after arrival) that the particular country in question receives 80% of its high rainfall during that month…
Another example: Due to the holiday season Cape Town is very popular during December, but the weather is much nicer (less wind) during February and March. (You don’t get trampled by hordes of other tourists then either!)
If you look at average temperatures and rainfall figures; fall, spring and winter are actually much more pleasant than summer in large parts of Africa. (Prices are often lower as well…)

Malaria and other interesting diseases
Normally you can get good advice from your closest tropical disease centre. It is important to keep in mind that most doctors in USA and Europe have never encountered malaria or some of the other diseases you may be exposed to during your visit, so please consult a specialist wherever possible for the right inoculations and advice. Most countries specify which inoculations are needed, and they may be required for your visa application.

Yellow Fever, Tetanus and Tuberculosis inoculations are a must in all cases.

Here is a link to the Centre for Disease Control Website.

It is of extreme importance to find out if the area you are planning to visit is a ‘malaria area.’ (Most of central Africa) Because there is no inoculation against malaria available, it is of extreme importance to ensure that you take the right precautions – the malaria parasite is most definitely not something you want to take home with you, it stays with you for years, and never really goes away… By taking a few basic precautions, the malaria risk can be avoided completely.
Look out for the post on malaria, it’s a must read!

It’s a sad fact that due to the poverty in most African countries, there is a bit more crime than you may be used to… As with any other country in the world – tourists make easy targets. The biggest threats by far are theft and fraud. It is important to bear in mind that a lot of these criminals are extremely poor and will take a chance if tempted, but will not necessarily do anything if you are alert. Don’t leave your valuables unattended, don’t leave items on the seat of the vehicle and keep the items about your person to a minimum. Most important – be aware of your surroundings and remember that you are in a different country – the same rules don’t always apply…
If you follow these few steps, you will be ok in most instances. Read the post on crime and political instability.
Contact me for elaboration on (or assistance with) any of the above.

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