Please note that much of this information pertains to the Southern African region because visitors may be travelling further afield than just South Africa.
Africa is a continent of extremes and the climate, environment and wildlife often govern where and when it is prudent to allow the very young and old to participate in safaris. Safari operators generally set their own restrictions on age so if you are thinking of bringing really young children please enquire first. There are a range of safaris and establishments that specifically cater for families so fill out the relevant information in the Enquire/Book page. Children under 16 are often eligible for reduced fares but this does vary between operators. Include the ages of really young children in the ‘Comments’ section so that we can find some suitable options. There are also limits regarding administering malaria prophylactics to really young children and you should enquire from your doctor.
All commercial airlines have a baggage limitation of 20Kg (44lbs) when travelling economy class and this is increased for upgraded seats.
Hand Luggage restrictions on internal flights in South Africa.
Economy-class passengers would be restricted to one bag weighing no more than 7kg and one laptop.
Business-class passengers would be allowed two bags, not exceeding 7kg each, and a laptop.
A bag may not be larger than 56cm by 36cm by 23cm.
If you are planning on travelling by light aircraft (which could to be a requirement if you are visiting somewhere like the inner regions of the Okavango Delta) you will be restricted to the amount of baggage you can take because of the limited space and weight that they can carry. Bags must be soft and flexible so that they can be fitted into the irregular shape of an airplane and no more than about 12kg (26 lbs) in weight and about 80cm X 35cm X 35cm in dimension.
Wild life attacks on tourists are rare but they do occasionally happen. These are WILD ANIMALS so respect them and their environment and give them their space. Don’t encourage driver/guides to venture closer than they suggest in order to gain a better view. Refraining from attempting to feed animals, trying to make them react with loud noises or by throwing objects at them. They are also part of their ecological food chain and are trying to survive in tough, hostile conditions. By disturbing them from food or shelter you may put them in jeopardy.
Many camps and lodges are not fenced and in some cases game will move through them, particularly at night. Please pay attention to directions and safety precautions given by camp and safari staff and don’t wonder off into the bush on your own.
Please don’t litter these wonderful natural areas and be particularly careful of discarding lit cigarette ends in the bush. Fires are massively destructive to both animals and the environment and are difficult to stop once started.
Part of the privilege of really great sightings is that they are rare and unique – appreciate this and respect the animals.
When travelling by light aircraft there are limits to the baggage you can take and so you should travel as light as possible. There is no reason to bring any formal wear and your safari clothing should be ample. Most lodges and hotels provide a laundry service although there will probably be a charge for his.
Summer generally includes September/October until March/April across Southern Africa although altitude, distance from the equator and proximity of the sea and deserts will influence temperatures and weather.
When travelling to or from your destination or are at your lodge or camp shorts, light skirts, lightweight shirts, open footwear, hats and dark glasses are ideal. It is advisable to have a pair of long trousers/jeans and a light jersey with you just in case there is a cool spell after a thunderstorm or if there is a cool wind blowing at the coast for example. Lightweight long trousers and long sleeved shirt are also useful in the evenings in certain areas to help ward off mosquitoes. If you are going to be out walking or on a game drive skirts may not be ideal and some robust shoes with good ankle support are advisable.
If you are going on a walking safari or even on game drives in the bush it is preferable that clothes are earthy and natural in colour so as to blend in with the bush. It is probably less expensive to buy these on arrival in Africa if you have time in one of the main towns or cities prior to your safari commencing.
In summer the rains come at varying times and places. Bring a lightweight raincoat just in case.
Winter falls between April/May and August/ September. Whilst tourists arriving from Europe/US etc may have an ability to deal with the cold it is advisable to bring a jersey or fleece as well as a medium weight jacket and long trousers. Game drives are normally in open vehicles and it can get very chilly on early morning outings in winter. Blankets (and sometimes hot water bottles) are normally provided for these drives but if you feel the cold bring gloves and headgear that will cover your ears!
Also see Weather, Seasons and Temperatures below.
Health & Medical
Good medical facilities with first world operating theatres etc are available in South Africa but in most of the surrounding countries they may be fine for basic attention but generally to be avoided if more specialized treatment is required. However, it is possible to find competent doctors with good basic facilities in most of the major tourist destinations and safari operators will know their whereabouts. If patients need to be moved to South Africa it is normally done by air and there are a number of medical air rescue services that cater for these emergencies. However, they are expensive and good medical insurance is a must.
The incidents of people contracting Yellow Fever are quite rare and there is no risk in South Africa. However, entry into many southern African countries (including South Africa) requires tourists to have a valid International Certificate of Vaccination if they have visited or arrived from any country in the Yellow Fever region (see below). In many countries it has become a bureaucratic lever to bribe visitors or get them to use expensive local facilities so be sure to have one if you have been to or are planning to go to any of these countries.
Africa: Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African republic, Chad, Congo, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, SaoTome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zaire, Zambia.
South America: Boliva, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guyane, Guyana, Panama, Peru, Suriname, Trindad and Tobago, Venezuela.
The single-dose `live` vaccine for yellow fever is safe, effective and recommended for individuals 9 months of age and older. The vaccine becomes protective after 10 days and provides immunity to a vaccinated individual for 10 years or more. For individuals who are pregnant, immuno-suppressed or allergic to eggs, the yellow fever vaccination may not be recommended.
Generally, malaria is most prevalent in the hot wet season of Southern Africa which runs from October/November through to the end of April each year. As a precaution visitors should take prophylactics for the duration of their trips regardless of the time of year.
It is widespread in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Botswana, Malawi and parts of Swaziland and Namibia. In South Africa it is occurs in the main safari areas in summer ie across the whole northern section including Kruger National Park and northern Kwa-Zulu Natal.
The disease is carried and transmitted by the female Anopheles mosquito. They are most active in the early evenings when guests are often relaxing outdoors but their activity will continue to a lesser degree throughout the night.
Most camps either have mosquito nets or have gauzed windows which prevent easy entry by mosquitoes. These indoor areas should be or will be lightly sprayed with a suitable insecticide in the early evenings. Burning mosquito coils will also help protect against mosquitoes indoors. It is advisable to cover exposed areas of the body with repellent spray or stick type applicators if going out doors in the evenings. Lightweight long trousers and long sleeved shirts also assist in prevention of bites.
Chloroquine-resistance has evolved extensively in Africa and therefore visitors must consult a doctor for the most current and efficient recommended prophylactics. Most courses should begin at least a week before travel and continue for two to four weeks after returning. The incubation period of the parasite in the system is from 10 days to two weeks so you should be aware of fevers and headaches that occur even a few weeks after your return. Be absolutely sure that your doctor is made aware that you have been in a malaria zone if you feel unwell on your return.
HIV is rampant across Southern Africa. Be sensible and responsible.
Before you embark on any trip all foreign nationals should unsure that they have suitable, comprehensive travel insurance and medical cover. The responsibility lies with you, the client, to ensure that you are properly covered for the duration of your trip. Should you arrive without cover we can arrange this for you. Please enquire from our staff for a quotation. (maybe a link with a box to request this cover)
In case of an emergency you will need proof of your insurance cover or you will be charged directly by the relevant emergency service providers. Their fees can be extremely high particularly if you need to be flown from a remote area and given treatment in private medical facilities. You may restrict yourself from access to these services if you are not in a position to cover these costs up-front or do not have suitable insurance.
Ensure that your medical cover also includes emergency evacuation and repatriation to your home country if you are a foreign national. If you take this out in your home country, repatriation should automatically be included but check to make sure. Should you not have this cover please contact the office so that this can be arranged for you. (maybe a link with a box to request this cover)
General Travel Cover
Your insurance should also include, but not necessarily be limited to the following: Theft, damage or loss of baggage, photographic equipment, money or other goods, cancellation and/or curtailment of your trip/safari. Medical, evacuation and repatriation expenses as discussed above.
If your holiday is cancelled or has to be shortened at short notice there will be no refunds. Cancellation and curtailment insurance will generally cover you for these if the circumstances meet their criteria. Although the terms are broadly standardized, check the detail of the policy to be sure you are aware of the conditions.
When travelling by air, ensure that your valuables (including cameras etc) are carried with you in the cabin and not put in baggage that goes in the aircraft hold.
Local residents should also consider travel insurance as well as their regular medical aid cover.
(maybe a link with a box to request this cover)
In most cases prices that are related to wildlife safaris vary according to the time of year which is dictated by the weather. In Africa, winter and ‘between-the-seasons’ is the best time for game viewing because the bush is dry and visibility better and this falls between April/May and August/ September.
More and more visitors are coming to Africa during the Northern Hemisphere winter and this is also starting to influence price structures.
Operators will generally have 3 price levels on their cards – Peak Season, Off-Peak and Out of Season but this may vary from operator to operator.
Terms & Conditions
Please see and read our Terms & Conditions.
Tipping is not compulsory in Southern Africa but it is an accepted practice locally. Do not be harassed into tipping unless the service has been efficient and cordial and only if you wish to do so. Whilst the ‘accepted’ amount varies from country to country a 10% – 15% tip is normal practice in good urban restaurants in SA and this can be used as a general guide.
On safaris and tours where guides are used a tip of between 5 $US and 10 $US per day is recommended although for people with exceptional knowledge you can be more generous.
For general staff in camps or lodges tips are collected communally and split evenly amongst staff but work on $US 3 – 4 per day. For staff carrying baggage a tip of 1 $US is acceptable.
Weather, Seasons & Temperature
To get a very general idea of temperatures go to the Temperatures section on our South Africa Fact File page but bear in mind that these are South African figures.
The area of Southern Africa that we cover extends from about 10 degrees south of the Equator through the Tropic of Capricorn to a latitude just short of 40 degrees south (Athens, Los Angeles, Tokyo are northern hemisphere equivalents). The seasons in the southern hemisphere are opposite to those in the northern hemisphere and therefore, in Southern Africa, summer generally extends from September/October until March/April. As one gets nearer to the Equator obviously the influence of winter diminishes as temperatures rise. Southern Africa lives up to the notion that it is hot in summer and in the dry arid regions and deserts it can get into the 40’s quite easily and in certain coastal areas it can also be very humid because of the accompanying summer rains.
Less understood though is how cold it can get in winter (April / May until August / September) and in certain areas further south night time temperatures going below 0 are not uncommon. However, winter days in Southern Africa are quite idyllic with clear blue skies and comfortable temperatures.
Autumn and Spring exist but they are not as distinguishable as they are in the Northern Hemisphere.
Cape Town is the only destination with a difference in that it falls into the Mediterranean Climatic designation. This means that it has rain in winter and the summers are hot and dry.