South Africa - To Go or Not to Go?

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May 8th, 2004, 10:25 AM
  #1
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South Africa - To Go or Not to Go?

It seems like there's a lot of good information being shared in this forum, and I could use some! I'm trying to decide whether or not to go to South Africa. It sounds like a fascinating country to visit, but I've read so much about the dangers that it's giving me second thoughts. I'm planning on travelling independently, and love to walk around foreign cities on my own. Wouldn't be renting a car so relying on public transport in cities & between. Perhaps would take an organized tour for a day here & there, but mostly, I'm allergic to them! As a single woman travelling alone - will my movements have to be too limited so I wouldn't be able to relax and just enjoy?

Want to go to Cape Town and Durban as bases, taking day trips or overnights from these cities. Unsure about the big safari parks due to having to take malaria med. Thinking of going in October. Any advice and experience is greatly appreciated. Thanks!!
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May 8th, 2004, 03:45 PM
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All I want to say is that there is a camp in South Africa that doesn't have malaria but have forgotten the name. It would be a shame to get there and not see game. Others will fill you in on the rest.
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May 8th, 2004, 09:28 PM
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Hello Aunt_A,

Pillensburg(where Sun City is)-you do not need malaria meds there.
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May 8th, 2004, 11:28 PM
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Aunt, this is what I was referring to: (courtesy of Safarinut):
MADIKWE:

"This reserve created in 1991, sits right on the South Africa-Botswana border in a malaria-free area. In the largest movement of animals since Noah filled his arc, the 30,352 acre (75,000 ha) reserve was stocked with 10,000 head of game from 27 different species. The park's very existence contributes to the preservation of local fauna and flora and rare animals such as rhino and wild dog, and also provides a more sustainable environment for the local people.

ANIMALS & BIRDS

Not only does this reserve boast the 'Big Five' but it also has the 'Super 7'! This adds cheetah and wild dog to the traditional five; leopard, lion, buffalo, elephant and rhino. Plus brown hyena, sable, eland, gemsbok, giraffe and large herds of plains game and plenty of birds.
Wild dogs are a speciality of the area and due to their rarity and fascinating behaviour, are a wonderful sight. They are also known as Cape hunting dogs or painted dogs because of their tricoloured (black, white and tan) abstract coat. Wild Dogs are Africa's most formidable hunters (followed by hyena and lion), and the essence of their successful social system is co-operative hunting and food sharing. Not only do they regurgitate food for the young but the babysitter gets fed too. They travel great distances while hunting and as a result often traverse farmland where they were almost shot to extinction. Luckily they are thriving in Madikwe.

This all said I don't have first hand knowledge about Impodimo but you might want to look at Madikwe River Lodge as they are also offering great rates at present on MTBEDS."
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May 9th, 2004, 04:58 AM
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Thanks for the information on the parks. Can anyone address the safety issue?
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May 9th, 2004, 11:56 AM
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>>>>>>I'm planning on travelling independently, and love to walk around foreign cities on my own.<<<<<<

When it comes to South African cities, you have to know where it is and isn't safe to walk on your own. Generally speaking, the areas in which tourists are concentrated are safe for walking.

The time of day also counts for something. On the whole, I would recommend getting around by taxi rather than walking at night.

>>>>>>Wouldn't be renting a car so relying on public transport in cities & between.<<<<<<

Let's first take public transportation WITHIN cities. Since you're unfamiliar with South African cities, I recommend against using public buses. Again it comes down to a question of knowing which areas are safe and therefore which bus routes are safe. I would suggest taxis instead.

As for public transportation BETWEEN cities, flying is the best bet for that.

>>>>>>Perhaps would take an organized tour for a day here & there, but mostly, I'm allergic to them!<<<<<<

You would pretty quickly exhaust what you could see on foot or even by taxi in Durban and Cape Town. Many of the worthwhile sights, like Cape Point and the winelands, absolutely require a car. There are, however, day tours that cover these areas.

A day tour need not mean a busload of 40 people. Check out Selwyn Davidowitz's small, personalized tours at "I Love Cape Town"

http://www.ilovecapetown.com/

Unfortunately I don't know of anyone in Durban who is equivalent to Selwyn, but I hope there is someone like that there.

>>>>>>Unsure about the big safari parks due to having to take malaria med. Thinking of going in October.<<<<<<

If you're already going to Durban, the most convenient game reserves to visit would be the ones in KwaZulu-Natal. If you were going to the KwaZulu-Natal game reserves in October, you would need to take anti-malarial medication. The feedback I've heard regarding the latest prophylactic for malaria is very positive. People do not seem to experience the side effects that previous prophylactics sometimes produced. Do a word search for malaria here at Fodors. There is a wealth of information in previous discussion threads. I agree with the advice you've already received that it would be a shame to go all the way to South Africa and miss the animals.

If you go to Durban and Cape Town in October, I suggest you visit Durban first. In the southern hemisphere spring it makes sense to travel from north to south, if possible.

South Africa is a beautiful and fascinating country, and one that I find enjoyable to visit. Staying safe, however, does require some adjustments to one's travel style if one's previous overseas travel has been confined to, say, Western Europe.
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May 9th, 2004, 01:53 PM
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Judy, thanks much for the detailed reply. Yes, I am planning on visiting Durban 1st, going to a game park in KwaZulu-Natal (just got my MD's OK on the Malaria med), and then working my way down to Cape Town, stopping to view the whales on the way. Itinary still under construction, but I think this makes sense, and glad to read that you suggest it. From Cape Town I want to visit Cape Point, the wine regions, see the penguins, visit the elephant park, etc. Taking guided tours can run into a lot of money; I assume I could travel to some of these places by long distance bus?(Greyhound). Of course, I don't want to spend hours & hours riding a bus, so I'll fly the big hops.

I'm curious about what the safety issues are. Muggings, shootings, kidnappings? Outside of Jo-burg (which I've heard specifics on the problems from one who lived & worked there), are the dangers real, or are they an exaggerated fear leftover from the apartheid era? As a New Yorker used to living in a multicultural environment,and a city renowned for it's past levels of crime (which were greatly exaggerated in the media - it was never as bad as made out to be) and someone who's travelled fairly extensively, and in the Middle East, northern Africa, and Turkey as well, all on my own and on public transports, The only problems I ever had were in Paris (pickpocketed in the metro!) and Nassau in the Bahamas (mugged near the casino). All the 'dangerous' places turned out to be not quite so, so I'm just wondering if SA is the same. At night, the suggestion of taking cabs does make sense to me - had I done it in Nasssau I'd still have my pocketbook!

Thanks again for the help!
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May 9th, 2004, 03:51 PM
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Hello Aunt_A,

Here's an article on inter-city bus travel in South Africa:

http://www.letsgo.com/SAF/01-Essentials-196

The only inter-city buses I recommend for tourists are the so called executive or tourist buses (e.g., Baz Bus, TransLux, Intercape, and Greyhound). The average tourist would be way outside of his/her comfort zone in the second and third tier bus services.

But I think the inter-city executive / tourist buses are really only suitable for travelling amongst large and medium sized towns that are fair distances apart. They would not be suitable for day trips to places that are relatively short distances from Durban or Cape Town.

The whole point of visiting the winelands, for example, is to hop from winery to winery. You wouldn't be able to do that on one of these executive / tourist buslines.

Hermanus, a small town east of Cape Town that is a particularly good spot for whale watching, is not easily accessed by bus. Greyhound doesn't appear to go there at all. Baz Bus appears to offer a service, but it seems to involve disembarking at Bot River and catching a shuttle bus to Hermanus from there.

And so it goes on.

I think you may find that, because of the exchange rate, small group day tours may not be as expensive as you anticipate. But I don't know what your price expectations are. I guess you will need to do further research.

As to crime, the large cities like Johannesburg and Cape Town generally have higher crime rates than smaller cities and towns. Within the large cities, and even in towns and rural areas, there are specific spots that are notorious for their crime rates (murders, car jackings, burglaries, etc.). These crime rates are real, not imaginary. Once you know your proposed itinerary in more detail, you could post it here and ask Fodorites if there are any crime hot spots along your desired route. If it turns out that you've included a bad area in your itinerary, you can be warned about it and change your route to avoid it.
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May 10th, 2004, 05:29 AM
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Hello Judy,
I do appreciate your input. I'm going to have to do more research on getting around. Prices that I saw for guided day tours seemed expensive. I checked Selwyn Davidowitz's site; he sounds like the kind of guide I would very much enjoy touring with. But as I will be traveling alone his rates are too much for me. I had the impression that he doesn't book different individuals onto the same tour, but rather only a group of people traveling together. If I misunderstood this, then his tours might very well work for me. If not, I imagine I'll find alternatives once there.


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