Going on safari is definitely not something that just happens overnight. Unless you live in South Africa where you can simply take a self-drive in one of the national parks. (those lucky bastards!) Having to fly to another continent is a totally different thing, speaking from logistic and financial point of view. After returning from my third visit to SA, in the middle of Covid-19 pandemics, I got a lot of new questions.* Hence, a new post with the most frequent questions about safari, including those about traveling to South Africa during coronavirus situation.
*I have covered the basic information about safari in this post, so it might be a good idea to read it first.
Is traveling to South Africa during Covid-19 pandemics safe?
If you are taking normal precautions, I would say that traveling to SA is as safe as to any other normal country. By “normal” I mean countries with normal hygiene conditions and health system. If you are going to safari with a limited group of people, like I did, you are actually safer than in any supermarket in your home town. I would, however, avoid visiting crowded places, as anywhere else in the world.
What are travel restrictions and entry requirements for South Africa?
South Africa reopened for tourism at the end of 2020 and currently anyone can visit, subject to usual visa regulations. While all the international and local airports are operating normally, some of the land borders are closed. You can check the current situation in this link. Visitors are required to present a paper copy of signed negative PCR test, taken within 72 hours from departure to SA. I suggest you take several copies just in case. You will also need to complete a short health form which is provided on each international flight. No big deal, really!
What is the biggest problem about traveling to South Africa during Covid-19 pandemics?
The South African variant of Covid-19 is supposed to transmit more quickly, and vaccines are potentially less effective against it. In Slovenia we only had a couple of such cases with no drama around it. Unfortunately, many countries have imposed flight restrictions to SA, and most of them enforced a mandatory quarantine upon arrival. Luckily, a negative PCR test was enough for me to avoid quarantine back home in Slovenia.
Are hotels and restaurants open? What are the safety measures for tourists in SA?
All the hotels and lodges that survived the corona crisis are operating normally. Currently there is a curfew in place, from midnight to 4 a.m. and no alcohol can be sold during those hours. Beaches are open, and gatherings are permitted with limited number of participants. Mask wearing is compulsory in public transport and inside public buildings, which is now the “new normal” anyway.
What were the safety measures in Vuyani Safari Lodge and during safari?
During my stay at Vuyani Safari Lodge, maximum number of guests was 16 in total, so we were not at all alone. We had to wear masks in public places, like the reception or in the self-serving restaurant. Other than that, we were “free”. We had temperature checks every morning and the cars were disinfected after each game drive. I felt super safe the entire time. Actually, my biggest fear was that I wouldn’t see the lions. 😊
Do you need to take Malaria tablets for safari in South Africa?
I took the malaria pills during my first and second visit to South Africa. The first time it was just a safety precaution, and the second time because we went there during the rainy season, so I was expecting mosquitos. However, South Africa is more or less malaria-free zone*, even in the greater Kruger National Park. I didn’t take the malaria tablets during my third visit, nor will I take them ever again for this area, unless the situation changes. If you want to be on the safe side, then the answer is yes. In Slovenia, we need doctor’s prescription to get malaria pills and they cost around 50 €.
*Mosquitoes which carry malaria are prevalent in most areas of Sub-Saharan Africa, during the hot wet season (November – March).
What about other vaccinations?
No immunization is mandatory for South Africa, however I would consider Hepatitis A & B and Typhoid vaccination. On the other hand, if you only visit a private game reserve, this is also not necessary.
Are the open safari vehicles safe?
In most of private game reserves in South Africa you’ll drive around in open 4 x 4 vehicles, which makes you a perfect target for the wild beasts. Luckily, the animals have plenty of food and humans are not considered as their first choice. This doesn’t mean that the animals are fed by the game reserve management nor are they drugged to behave nicely. The number of prides is only managed to some extent, so that the reserves don’t become overcrowded. The “law of nature” is maintained.
While animals won’t kill you for food, you still need to act by strict rules: do not stand up in the vehicle, do not make sudden moves and do not put your legs or arms outside of the car. The animals are used to vehicles as a whole, but they might consider each strange move aggressive. No one can give you a 100% guarantee that nothing will happen, but the chances of getting attacked by a lion are smaller than crashing with a plane.
What about insects like snakes and giant spiders?
Yes, you can find both in South Africa. While I never saw a snake, I did sort of witness it indirectly. First time it was our neighbor who saw a snake on a tree in the resort, and the second time it was actually my dad who saw a black mamba near the pool. Snakes are quite common visitors; however, you have to be very “lucky” so spot them. The staff at Vuyani camp carries anti venom medicines with them all the time, which gives everyone plenty of time to get transferred into a hospital if something happens.
Spiders, on the other hand, are easy to spot, as they nest in visible places. They come in various colors and they are not a sight for sore eyes, that’s for sure. However, you won’t spot any of them in or near your suite, because the staff cleans them at least twice a day. Thank you, brave people! 😀
Do I need binoculars for a safari?
If you are only visiting a private game reserve, you practically don’t need binoculars because you will get very close to the animals. For a self-drive safari in Kruger park or other national parks having binoculars is probably a good idea.
Why do you keep returning to South Africa? Why not Kenya or Tanzania?
This one is easy. First, I am obsessed with lions and if I could, I would go on a safari every year. Second, South Africa is the most accessible option when it comes to safaris. The cheapest way is to sleep at one of the budget lodgings near Kruger national park, and do a self-drive safari which only costs around 30 USD pp per day. The much more comfortable way, which gives you a hassle-free vacation and almost 100% guarantee that you will see most of the animals is to book a lodge in one of the private game reserves. Vuyani’s price performance in this case is unbeatable. Third, Vuyani never disappoints, and to me it is like coming home.
Sure, I have done my homework regarding Kenya, Tanzania and Botswana, but trust me, they aren’t even close when it comes to the comfort and the accessibility. To do a safari in those countries, you need to make loads of local flights and still you will drive long way to reach your final destination. Not to mention the price – the fees and extras pile up quicker than you can open your wallet.
To sum up:
For safari firs-timers South Africa’s is a perfect introduction to the African safari experience. The advantages of visiting private reserves include more intimate accommodation, experienced guides and limited visitor numbers which gives you a more exclusive safari adventure. In my opinion, the off-road game drives, which are not permitted in most national parks, are truly unbeatable.
Got any other questions about safari? Recommendations? Scroll down for comments!