Off topic: Journey to South Africa
Thread poster: Sandra Bertolini

Sandra Bertolini  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 18:19
German to Italian
+ ...
Jun 21, 2009

Hi all,

I'm thinking about a trip to South Africa (Republic of South Africa, Swaziland, Botswana) and I would like to have some information regarding the country (and the parks). Furthermore I'd like to know if you think that a "Fly & drive" solution would be suitable for this country.

Thanks in advance to everybody willing to help me!icon_smile.gif

Sandra


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:19
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Best season for the parks Jun 21, 2009

We once flew to Johannesburg from Madrid and rented a car and drove around for 5 days. This was 10 years ago, and crime rates were high I think. Nothing happened to us. We drove to the Kruger Park. It was winter I think (i.e. July/August), and they say it is the best time to see animals, as in the summer (December/January) the vegetation is so dense that you don't see a thing. Also, in winter animals gather more in areas where they can find water (it's the dry season), whereas in the summer they are more disperse as they can find water almost everywhere.

While in the parks, I'd take their night safaries. During the day you can easily see giraffes, buffalos, even elephants. But for lions and other animals you want to do the night thing. I'd therefore try to reserve lodghing INSIDE the park, whose gates remain closed during the night, as far as I can remember.

So I'd recommend to plan your trip for our summer/their winter. As for safely driving around today, honestly I don't know! There are several active Southafrican Prozians around who can tell you more about it.


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 18:19
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Unfortunately Jun 21, 2009

Sandra Bertolini wrote:
I'm thinking about a trip to South Africa (Republic of South Africa, Swaziland, Botswana) and I would like to have some information regarding the country (and the parks).


Unfortunately I know very little about my own country when it comes to touristy things. Why do you want to come to South Africa? For how long to you intend to stay here? Are you looking for 5-star hotels all the way, bed-and-breakfasts, or camping out on the cheap? Are there any specific things that you want to see or don't want to see? Has anyone recommended anything specific to you?


 

Evonymus (Ewa Kazmierczak)  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 18:19
Member (2010)
English to Polish
+ ...
nostalgic Jun 21, 2009

Hi Sandra,
I envy you so muchicon_smile.gif I love that country with all good and bad aspects. Few years ago I spent there two years. Time of my life. I miss it so muchicon_frown.gif
For me, beautiful landscapes throughout the country, anytime of the year. Enjoy your tripicon_smile.gif
Ewa


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:19
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Crime rates? Jun 21, 2009

Samuel Murray wrote:
Unfortunately I know very little about my own country when it comes to touristy things.

I am most curious about crime rates today. When we were there we got lost along the road and ended in the middle of a shanty town where we were stared by a thousand people.

We have some little areas like that even in Madrid, so we knew perfectly well what to do: A) Pray everything you know, and several times; B) Lock the doors; C) Look uninterested and not stare anyone; D) Make sure you keep moving while you get-out-of-here-NOW-for-God's-sake-why-did-you-take-that-bloody-turn!!!; E) Feel ashamed and stupid at the hotel for thinking only about the safety of your dumb ass and not about the people who have no option but to live there.


 

Deborah do Carmo  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 17:19
Dutch to English
+ ...
Crime rates Jun 21, 2009

I haven't been back to SA since 2002 but my mother and sister still live there and have both had very close (and separate) escapes recently. It must be said, however, that they live in the suburbs of Johannesburg, which is a crime hotspot.

I was hijacked at gunpoint in Pretoria in 2001 and so I can't say whether crime has actually increased. As this was my second incident, I wasn't prepared to wait around and see whether it would be a case of third time lucky. My job as a liquidator involved travelling long distances alone, often returning at night, and it simply became too dangerous.

It is a beautiful country -- and if truth be told I miss it dearly -- but in view of my own experiences I'd explore other options to driving (especially alone).

As for Swaziland, I was there in 2000 taking control of a company where I was appointed liquidator. I wouldn't rate it worth a visit, most of the roads are poor and there aren't many attractions. Border control was also painfully slow at the time. There are far nicer places to see in SA itself.

Can't talk about Botswana, although I would expect the game parks to be pretty good.


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 18:19
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Crime is still quite high Jun 21, 2009

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:
I am most curious about crime rates today. When we were there we got lost along the road and ended in the middle of a shanty town where we were stared by a thousand people.


I think crime is still quite high. Stick to the main roads and have good maps (those by the Automobile Assocation are generally cheap and very recent). Be a little extra vigilant if you don't reach the destination you expect to reach when you expect to reach it. Try not to look like a tourist. Charge your cellphone regularly. Beware of pickpockets and scammers. Don't try to bribe the police. Don't go off the beaten track -- South Africa has such variety of scenery that you can safely stick to the main roads (and even the highways) and still experience something unique. Have sufficient local currency with you -- foreign currency is too foreign for most locals.

We have some little areas like that even in Madrid, so we knew perfectly well what to do: ... B) Lock the doors;


Your doors should be locked permanently, and your windows shouldn't be too open (besides, if you're a tourist, pay that little extra and get a car with airconditioning). Make sure the boot is locked too, and don't leave anything on a seat where a passerby can see it and decide to grab it. Normal stuff... I'm sure these rules apply to every country in the world.

You're more likely to get raped and/or murdered and/or assulted in South Africa than in most other countries in the world. You're also more likely to die of Aids. That said, only about 1 in 7 people in South Africa are HIV+, and you're more likely to be raped/murdered/assulted if you live in a poor area than if you're a tourist.

Do you want me to paint a bleak picture or a bright one? It's a lovely place to visit... and to live in too. Just be aware that this aint Kansas anymore.


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:19
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Good reasons for hope Jun 21, 2009

Samuel Murray wrote:
You're more likely to get raped and/or murdered and/or assulted in South Africa than in most other countries in the world. You're also more likely to die of Aids. That said, only about 1 in 7 people in South Africa are HIV+, and you're more likely to be raped/murdered/assulted if you live in a poor area than if you're a tourist.


So the good point is that you are more likely to be murdered than to die of aids.


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 18:19
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Wintertime... Jun 21, 2009

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:
It was winter I think (i.e. July/August), and they say it is the best time to see animals, as in the summer (December/January) the vegetation is so dense that you don't see a thing.


Yep, that's true. Just remember that you'll be cold in our winters. Pack something warm. We don't have central heating or double glazing in South Africa, and it is not weird to be wearing your jersey indoors. You can safely wear shorts in winter but you may consider wearing boots or shoes instead of sandales in winter (but pack your sandals anyway).


 

Nicole Maina  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 18:19
Member (2005)
German to Italian
+ ...
Absolutely yes Jun 22, 2009

Hi Sandra,

I have been to South Africa in November 2008 and it was a wonderful trip. We just booked the flight to Johannesburg (from Paris) and the first night in a B&B near the airport, and decided everything else on the spot.

The first morning we rented a car (VW Polo with air condition!) and started our visit, which of course included the Kruger park, one of the best in Africa, I believe, and many other parks and wildlife reserves.

We also drove down to the coast, to Saint Lucia, and from there all the way to Durban, where we took a plane to Elizabethtown. Here we rented another car and drove to Cape Town.

After visiting this area we flew back to Jo'burg, where we stayed one more day, and then back to Paris and finally Turin (altogether about 20 days).

This just to say that flying and driving is actually a good way to visit SA, or possibly the only one, because using buses and trains is not feasible, I believe. Renting a car is not very expensive and fuel is quite cheap. Roads are almost perfect everywhere, even inside the parks. You don’t actually need a 4WD, unless you want to visit Botswana. We did perfectly well with our small Polo. Just be careful in some rural areas because petrol stations might be scarce AND they might have run out of fuel!

As far as safety is concerned I was terrified at first, because I had read about crime rates etc., and everybody, especially B&B owners, kept telling us what not to do, where not to go and even road signs on the highway ("No stopping here: car-hijacking") made us panic. But if you behave reasonably, follow the advice of the locals and avoid certain areas you should be safe.

I'd actually not travel alone in SA, firstly because of safety issues, and secondly because if you do safaris, and you’ll want to do a lot of them, it’s nice to be able to take turns in driving and in spotting animals, taking pictures or looking through your binocular.

Now I could go on for hours talking about this wonderful country, but I’d suggest you just write to me in private and I’ll be happy to tell you more about it.


 

Sandra Bertolini  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 18:19
German to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks a lot!!! Jun 22, 2009

First of all I would like to thank everybody for the information you shared with me...

I know that we're almost at the end of June but I had suddenly this idea of flying there to visit this area in August and I just wanted to be sure that this could be a good period (and apparently it is if you want to be sure to see so many animals) and yes, I also wanted to have an idea about crime rates, safety and everything related.

So once again thank you and now I try to start to think what I can do and plan!!!

Bye

Sandra

icon_smile.gif


 

Martin Stranak  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 18:19
English to Czech
+ ...
RSA Jun 23, 2009

Hi Sandra,
I´m going to South Africa by the end of August this year, it is my high school reunion party, 10 years after matriculation. Currently living in London, UK, I am looking forward to see the country.
The exchange rate is very pleasant these days. I am going to hire a car and travel for about two weeks. Places worth seeing should be almost crime free as the government always recruit enough police to keep the order. However, places to avoid would be the former townships (Mamelodi in Pretoria, Soweto in Johannesburg), as there might be a higher number of hijackers and car thieves.

We used to have a very nice apartment in Ballito, noth off Durban, beautiful seaside views... South Africa is one of my most favourite places to travelicon_smile.gif


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:19
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
The Kudu is mine!!!! Jun 23, 2009

I know some people think it is not a good idea for environmental reasons, but when I was there ten years ago environment was not a main issue in Spain and I bought this 70-cm tall wooden kudu made by a roadside artist. It's worth nothing really, but if someone broke into my house my main concern would be, after the safety of my children and wife, to make sure my kudu was safe! I am pretty sure I would not find such a piece in any shop. Just perfect!!!

Near the parks you will surely find local woodcarvers and painters selling their stuff. Although there are all sorts of things, make sure you have some free space in your suitcase for some sample of their beautiful work!


 


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