South Africa

I have a trip to South Africa coming up: 10 days at a tented safari camp, postponed from 2020 due to COVID, to which we’ve added an additional 9 days in the south, and a couple of days at Victoria Falls before returning home.

The more I read the more apprehensive I become - it seems to be the crime capital of the world!! But yes, I’ve read a lot and am pretty prepared, I think, however I wondered if anyone familiar with the country can offer any tips - both to keep safe, protect belongings, and get the best out of what will be a once in a lifetime visit.

First 10 days are at a tented camp at a private reserve near Kruger, and may take several trips out arranged by the camp whilst there. I will be taking a Canon R SLR with 100-400 telephoto (permanently wrapped in ‘camo’ covering as I don’t like going anywhere showing off a big white lens). Probably also taking either a 24-105 or a 10-24 - undecided which will be most useful (not both because I feel I need to keep kit to a minimum). No tripod as it is mostly game drives, though may take a mini tabletop one for true dark night sky photos, camera and lens will be carried a hand baggage, and out and about, either in belt bags (like overgrown bumbags, or a small rucksack.

After the camp we fly to Cape Town where we hire a car, with boot big enough for everything. We spend a two nights there, then drive to Franschhoek, two nights there, then a night near Ladismith, followed by a visit to Swartberg pass on the way to Knysna, where we stay 4 nights before flying to Jo’burg from George, and next day on to Vic Falls, and 3 nights there. Not sure the long lens will get any action on tgis part of the trip, but thinking keep all camera gear with me as hotel safes may not be large enough.

Any/all contributions welcome - maybe not even as direct responses, but sharing infor and experiences about SA.

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I’ve travelled with work, lived & holidayed in SA for years, 1980’s right thru to 2019.
Travelled everywhere, coast, bush, cities & wayside halts, high end hotels, farmland B&B, tented camps, luxury lodges, most always self drive plus a few luxury trains & bush planes, safari has almost always been self drive or guided in the high end Sabi Sand safari lodges ……
100-400 is a must have for the Kruger, 35-105 is ideal for everything else.
You will have one hell of a time, massive envy, can I carry your luggage ?

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Sounds fantastic!

I have been to Africa a few times but not recently. Egypt, Morocco, Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa.

One thing I learned about being safe, or at least not being bothered or pestered is to not look too much like a tourist. It always took me a couple of days before I blended in.

We went to South Africa in 1997, self driving the garden route. It was not long after things had started to open up to visitors. We didn’t have any issues, we were just careful about where we went at night.

Highlights included:

Climbing Table Mountain. The lift was out of action so it was almost deserted on top.

Whale watching in Hermanus, without even getting out of bed.

Seeing dozens of elephants coming down to the water hole at Addo. It’s a bit too far east from your route perhaps.

Your itinerary looks great though.

I take my compact (but almost full size when set up) Manfrotto tripod on trips. It is sturdy enough and nearly as good as my full blown one. I didn’t need one on safari, but I like to make use of the dark skies.

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I’m am actually South African. Living in Europe for about ten years but came from there.

If you stick to the normal touristy stuff you will be fine. It’s a lovely friendly place.

It’s also large when compared to European standards. From Johannesburg to Cape Town is like going from north Europe to Spain. So the media reports are definitely not about the entire country.

So keep to the beaten track and it will be fine. If anyone says “don’t go there” then do not go there. And with the exchange rate and the quality of food your bigger concern will be to come back without adding too many kilograms :laughing:

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Travelled there a few times between 98-05. You won’t find friendlier people, people who want you to have a fantastic time in their amazing and diverse country.

My parents visit regularly and I had family out in Mombassa as was; a girlfriend in Malawi and many visits in consequence to SA. There have been lots of changes but generally only white people worry about them. Don’t believe all you read. You’ll have a great and interesting time.

Thanks for all the comments so far - your positivity is encouraging given the negative things I had been reading about safety!

I’ve just edited my opening post to clarify the second lens I’m debating about taking - Canon 24-105 or Sigma 10-24.

Probably one of the best holidays we ever had, hope you have a great time, sounds like a great trip.

We drove from Oudtshorn over the Swartberg pass to Prince Albert and the scenery up on the pass is absolutely fantastic. The roads are quite narrow and it will take you more time than you think but worthwhile oh and watch out for the baboons on the road, you don’t want them damaging your hire car!

As for safety…as per other advice if you stay on the beaten tracks in the major tourist areas then you should be fine. The only place I ever felt uneasy was downtown Joberg which was necessary for work reasons.

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Hi again, 24-105 would be my choice, I normally take a Sigma 17-70 & rarely use the 17 end.
Awesome night skies, especially so in the bush (Kruger) with very low light pollution.

The negative stuff on safety is because the country does have its problems, we can’t deny it.
But for a tourist its as safe as anywhere, you just need to be aware, don’t leave stuff on show in the car & minimise what you carry around in bags in the town/city.
You will be perfectly OK in the camp, its just you, fellow guests & staff.

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As good as a 10-24 is, I would also go 24-105 and would be the lens I would have on by default as it would cover more situations. If you are doing landscapes, then I guess you can move back where possible, or stitch together if necessary.

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We did think of going all the way to Prince Albert and breaking journey there, but decided before the pass was more midway timewise allowing for sightseeing, hence Ladismith.

Ah Oudshoorn is great. My dad was born there.

Also close to Oudshoorn is Meiringspoort which definitely deserves a drive through.

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The R339 down to Knysna is a nice picturesque valley/canyon type of drive.

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Franschhoek is a lovely place to stay, especially if you like excellent food and are interested in wine (meaning more interested than just liking to drink it).

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I’ve been a couple of times to SA and also to Tanzania, so I have no doubt you will love the safari experience. Africa is an amazing continent, with a wonderful array of culture, landscape, seascape, flora and fauna. Regarding safety, I’ve had more problems in the UK than I ever had in Africa, though it always pays to be sensible and alert wherever you are. Personally, I would always want to keep all my lenses with me, because you just never know what you might encounter. I didn’t take my manfrotto tripod, but I did take a lightweight monopod which proved a good decision. Have a great trip.

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Second that.

As for lenses, I just brought a Lumix with a fixed telephoto lens with 24x capability at F2.8. Made life easy. No lens issues, and some great shots. :grinning:

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Been to Africa about twenty times including SA around 6 times.

A 100-400 lens is ideal for safari , but after two weeks of lugging it around, you may want something lighter.

Africa is complex, I have never felt safer than in African parks , i have never been threatened or felt unsafe in the cities (though I did have my bottom pinched in Mombassa ) . I have passed townships in Cape Town that are scary - just due to the level of poverty .

Wherever possible, I use local drivers who have inside knowledge , hiring a driver and car - is to my mind far better than self -drive.

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There’s not much in Prince Albert it’s more of a place just to stop for coffee/lunch before heading back so you not missing out on anything there.

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I’m sure that’s wise in much of Africa, but it’s not necessary at all in the Cape region of South Africa, as long as you don’t flaunt your wealth or go sight-seeing in the townships.

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Thanks for the additional contributions everyone.

We’re doing self-drive, Cape-Knysna/Geoge. I’ve yet to book a car. Primary requirement is to be sure boot big enough, otherwise ideally a common car and not flash so it won’t stand out. Small SUV perhaps for higher driving position and better view. I gather there is no need for 4WD, though not all road surfaces great. Any thoughts anyone?