Getting from US to Johannesburg for a safari


Sep 23rd, 2013, 08:56 AM
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Getting from US to Johannesburg for a safari

This is my first foray to the Africa forum and I hope I'm welcome. I am completely uninformed on all things African, especially in terms of tourism.

My employer takes a young man with fairly severe physical limitation to Europe each year, and I do the planning. This year, he wants to introduce the young man to Africa.

South Africa is their preferred destination.

Can anyone please give me an idea of where to start searching for airfare to South Africa? I presume that the OR Tambo Airport is what is should be looking at, but for all I know, this could be totally wrong.

I am also looking for a safari for at least the two men, maybe more. Since they are vegetarians, I don't think they want to shoot animals, just see them.

Our young man is extremely game, but as I said, there are limitations to what he can physically do. Climbing might be out. My employer is also an enthusiastic traveler, but he is 65 and has a heart condition. I guess all this means that I need to find them a somewhat gentle physical experience.

This seems overwhelming, and I'm going to order some books from the library, but I thought this was a good place to start.
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Sep 23rd, 2013, 10:11 AM
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Regarding airfare, it's easy enough. Just use something like Expedia or Kayak, for example, to see various itineraries and prices from wherever in the US you are to JNB, which will be your entry point in SA. (I usually will book directly with the airline (it will be the same price) which helps in case there are problems with flights somewhere along the way.) Assuming a safari in the Kruger region (e.g., a private reserve such as Sabi Sand or Timbavati) you have some options: use a shuttle out of JNB with a company such as Federal Air directly into the reserve, where you will be picked by your safari provider, or use SAA to fly from JNB to nearby Nelspuit or Hoedspruit, from which you will need a road transfer.

Noting the physical problems of the young man, I suggest you get a copy of Bradt's "Access Africa, Safaris For People With Limited Mobility." It will have general tips and also a section on South Africa which may help you in finding an accessible safari lodge. No need to worry about dietary needs, as lodges/camps will do all that is necessary to accommodate the visitors.

I hope the men are not thinking about hunting because helping hunters is not in my job description.
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Sep 23rd, 2013, 10:43 AM
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No no, not hunting. They are both on a spiritual path that excludes any sort of harm or violence.

This is really great advice and I will follow up. I have been reading since I posted and I'm beginning to get a feel for who flies from the US and prices.

Do you know anything about South African Airways? I'm going to post a question on the airlines/flying forum, but I thought someone here might have an opinion.
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Sep 23rd, 2013, 10:45 AM
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I do know about SAA. From what city will they fly?
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Sep 23rd, 2013, 12:39 PM
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Delta flies non-stop from Atlanta to JBurg.
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Sep 23rd, 2013, 03:29 PM
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Safari itself is for many a sedentary vacation. You go out on game drives to view animals, have 3/meals daily and other activities as you might wish... or just take leisure time when not out game viewing.

There are a wide array of accommodations in/at Kruger whether in the park itself or on the adjacent private conservancies, and at all budgets. Also be aware that there are 'season's and some are better than others weatherwise and, of course, price.

Food should be of little issue as the lodges/camps provide just about everything.

When is this visit planned for? Month?
Is this visit for safari only? How many days total in-country? If more than safari, you can also fly to Capetown which is beautiful and lots of sightseeing available where you can arrange for private guide/vehicle to areas of interest.

Whether via SAA or their partner Delta out of ATLanta, know it is a long flight, believe non-stop about 14/hrs. Alternate might be to fly thru Europe, maybe spend an overnight and continue next day onto Johannesburg/JNB.

Remember also that seasons are opposite in SA than the Northern Hemisphere. And depending on how much time you have to plan, and as you have no idea about the Continent, you might want to consider a Tour Operator to coordinate. That's not to say that most here with sufficient time (months) manage to coordinate on their own, though booked thru in-country outfitters who get discounted/contract rates on lodging... you might use the Tour Operator option for all ground arrangements from meet/greet and transfers throughout.

As you go about arranging this, do not hesitate returning here with questions; many here can arrange a safari with their eyes closed. Good luck.
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Sep 23rd, 2013, 05:27 PM
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The only way to get from PIT to JNB with only one stop is on Delta through Atlanta (ATL). Everything else requires two connections, which would make the trip more difficult for your employer and his charge. We are making the flight in November. It is 18+ hours from ATL to JNB. If at all possible, I would highly recommend upgrading to Business Class. The Delta (DL) flights have lay flat bed/seats in Business class. The flight arrives in the late afternoon in JNB, so they will require a hotel upon arrival before they can head on to safari. The easiest would be to put them in the Intercontinental Hotel that is on airport property.

I highly recommend you connect with a good planner who is well versed in South Africa.

Good luck!
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Sep 23rd, 2013, 06:43 PM
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Did I miss that the pair were starting in PIT??

Actually, I think another way of getting PIT to JNB with one stop would be to fly early PIT to JFK and then pick up SAA 204. I believe JFK is a shorter trip to JNB than from ATL.

I'm going to assume the origination point is NYC, in which case I'd highly recommend SAA 204. It's a nonstop, with a flying time of about 13-14 hrs, that leaves in the a.m. and arrives JNB early a.m. as well. That gives both men a full day to recover in Jo'burg from the trip. Some like to go via Europe but I think that's too taxing, whether one overnights in Europe, which means leaving the airport and then back to the airport and through the security rigamarole again, or whether one makes a connection, which means a little added stress worrying about making the connection and moving about the airport to get to the appropriate gate.

In my mind, SAA is a middle-of-the-road airline. I have no complaints about any of my trips with them, which included leaving from ATL (when they flew from there), Dulles or JFK, and I certainly wouldn't hesitate to use them again.
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Sep 26th, 2013, 02:30 PM
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Because flying to SA is such a long flight, it is a good idea to stay the first night near the airport and then do a transfer to the first game lodge/camp. For some that may be another flight to Maun, for a Botswana safari, for others there may be a short hop flight to one of the wonderful lodges/camps near Kruger. We have gotten there on British Airways from Baltimore via London (where I spent some miles on a great hotel, to break up two back-to-back overnight flights.) and more recently, on the aforementioned Delta flight out of Atlanta, which is about a 15 hour flight to JNB. We stayed at a guesthouse arranged by our TA, which was about 15 min from the airport, and started out fresh to enjoy Africa the next day. I preferred the latter arrangements.

Our first trip to Africa in 2004 included Cape Town and Botswana and we booked the safari through the company now known as &Beyond. They also have safari camps in We self-booked Cape Town, and the surrounding wine country because we met up friends and fellow Fodorites in Cape Town before we went on safari, and on our return, rented a car to explore wine country.

Last year we went back, so we could visit Victoria Falls, and we "safari'ed" in Zimbabwe; then we flew to Cape Town (it has become a favorite city) and visited friends there before renting a car and driving the Garden Route, visiting Addo Elephant park (and sleeping in a tent through a hurricane force storm), and Prince Albert, driving the exquisite Swartberg Pass. Our last night was spent in Stellenbosch, which had been a sleep college town in 2004, but has turned into a much busier, much more populated, only slightly out of the way suburb of Cape Town. (But still a cool place, just not as laid back.)

If the travelers want to stick to just SA -- they will have plenty to see. Read a few trip reports here, and you can get some recommendations on TAs to work with or specific camps. Most safaris are not run as hunting adventures anymore. The emphasis is on a broader base of tourism. (yay!) There are camps at all kinds of price levels. & Beyond is one of the most expensive (it wasn't back in 2004) but I think there is also a good bit of competition so there are a lot to choose from. The biggest mistake (in my opinion) people make is being satisfied with too few nights on safari. I'd recommend a minimum of 3 nights per camp, and a minimum of 9 nights total for a good experience.
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Sep 29th, 2013, 08:08 PM
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The flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg is only about 16 hours there and less than 17 hours coming back depending on winds. If you cannot afford the flat beds in business class, try and buy economy comfort seating ?
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