Tuesday, June 30, 2009

South Africa- Ready, Set, GO!

Now you know all the amazing things South Africa has to offer… ready to go?! Below is a recap of all the amazing things to do, places to stay, what to eat and what to expect!

Places to see would include Krugar National Park, Cape Town which includes the V&A Waterfront, Table Mountain, wine country and Robben Island, the fantastic beaches situated along the coasts of South Africa, the town of Durban, the Garden Route to enjoy golf and forests, and of course, the cultural villages which encompasses traditional South African life.

Some amazing things to do must include the Pretoria and Cape Town ghost tours, wine country tours, sky adventures including bungee jumping, helicopter rides, skydiving, hot air balloon rides and white water rafting. Additionally, go for the lesser known safari at night, the star gazing safari in Northern South Africa.

Where to stay in South Africa can actually be a tougher choice then you might think as SA is home to many renowned hotels. Just a few include the One and Only Resort, The Melrose Arch Hotel, Hakunamatata Hotel, The Palace of the Lost City at Sun City and The Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve. Remember it is very important to do a lot of research on where you will be laying your head at night.

Cape Town has undoubtedly been a popular topic as it is home many cultural and historic places and things. This must be why Cape Town was voted one of the top 5 places you must see before you die. Take a look at this BBC video of Cape Town. You might just add South Africa to your Bucket List!

Monday, June 29, 2009

South Africa: Surf's Up!


Surf's up in South Africa, one of the world's best countries for catching a wave. South Africa boasts some of the best surfing spots in the world with beautiful coastal scenery and a high quality surf. South Africa’s surf culture is first class and extremely popular! There are numerous awesome surf spots in South Africa - for the novice and the hardcore surf junkie.

KwaZulu Natal
boasts a coast that is a surfer's paradise. There are fantastic waves far and wide. The water temperature is warm all year round so the waves are always waiting for your riding skills - no wetsuit needed!

Not to be missed is the world famous Jeffreys Bay. This legendary right-hand break is by far the most consistent and well known surf spot in South Africa. Fans all over the world come to experience the famous breaks around this area and in nearby St Francis Bay.

Check this out for more information on spectacular surfing venues!

What is your favorite surfing spot?

Friday, June 26, 2009

South Africa: Volunteerism

Have you ever sat down at work or school and wondered what was missing in your life? Sometimes we think and dream about helping people abroad, but we never go through with it. Some of these reasons can be because of safety concerns, homesickness, fear of other governments, stereotypes of the country, and other fearful thoughts.

The real question is, setting fear aside, where do I start gaining the knowledge of who to talk to, and how I will stay safe?

Who would I talk to?
There are many different volunteer organizations that will help people willing to help others. They will be able to work with you on how to make a difference. Some volunteer organizations require longer stays than others. They may also require long screening processes.

The Peace Corps Volunteers serve in 74 countries in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Central and South America, Europe, and the Middle East. Collaborating with local community members, Volunteers work in areas like education, business, youth outreach and community development, the environment, and information technology. With the Peace Corps, you must commit to 27 months of training and service overseas.

What if I don’t want to volunteer that long?
Another organization is the Cross-Cultural Solutions. They have 1 week up to 12 week programs that offer the volunteer the opportunity to complete service. Although for some programs, you will have to pay for them because of all the costs involved.

What would I do?
You will be assigned to a job depending on what types of skills you have. For example if you are graduating from college or have graduated from college with a business degree, you are eligible to work with these organizations to advise and develop private and public businesses, develop urban and regional planning, or help deal with youth, social services, small-business development, or the environment.

There are many other specialties that you can involve yourself in including education, youth outreach, and community development, business development, environment, agriculture, health, HIV/AIDS, information technology, and food security.

Also depending on which organization that you work with, you may be doing something completely different, so if you are serious about volunteering, do your research and see what fits you best.

What if I don’t want to go alone?
There are certain programs that offer you to bring your family or others; however some of these volunteer positions require payment for costs that are involved with volunteering. Again, do research to see what fits you or your group that wants to go. Also check with your local community leaders and churches that already have programs fitted to volunteering abroad.

Are there any safety concerns?
When volunteering abroad, situations can become dangerous to you and your health. If you go prepared, your risk of getting ill, or being stuck in a scary situation will be greatly reduced. Some places may require you to be vaccinated due to outbreaks of certain diseases in the area. Passport Health can offer you advice on how to stay safe and healthy, as well as offer any vaccination to protect you from deadly diseases. Passport Health also works with Global Rescue; where if you get injured or put in a life threatening situation, they will help you. Getting the right knowledge, vaccinations, and coverage will mean a safe trip helping others. South Africa needs help in certain areas of the country. It is up to the privileged to make a difference.

If you were to volunteer, where would you want to go? What would you want to do?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

South Africa: FAQ

How far will my money go?
A long, long way. With the exchange rate in your favor, you'll find South Africa a very inexpensive destination.

Will I see the big five?
Maybe. Many reserves have all the big five - lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo - but it's not that easy to see them all, particularly leopard. Leopards are nocturnal, secretive and well camouflaged, but there are some reserves where they are easily spotted. However, just being in the bush, seeing tiny animals like ants and frogs and learning the relationship between them, can be even more exciting than a procession of lions and elephants. So, even if you miss out on one or two of the big guys, you'll still have a great time.

What about mobile phones and phoning home?
South Africa's mobile phone operators utilise the GSM system so if your phone is GSM compatible, set up international roaming with your service provider before you leave home. Alternatively, you can rent a phone at the airport on arrival, and use a "pay-as-you-go" (which means exactly what it says) card during your stay.

Fixed line telephones are reliable and dial abroad. The country's telecommunications operator Telkom, is the 28th largest in the world, and accounts for 39% of the phone lines on the African continent.

When is the best time to visit South Africa?
South Africa is a fabulous all year-round destination so when you visit depends on what you would like to do. The best time for game watching, for instance, is early spring (August to October). The southern right whales can be seen off our coasts from about mid-June to the end of October, and the humpback whales from August to December.

The diving is generally best from April to September, and so is the surfing, but these activities are by no means limited to these periods. Flowers are at their best in August and September. River rafting is better at the end of winter in the Cape; and in summer (late November to February) in KwaZulu-Natal.

In Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces, activities are not quite as time-dependent but spring and autumn are best for hiking since summer can be very hot. If you want to lounge on the beaches, midsummer is the best time to do so, though bear in mind that everyone else will be there too. The beaches of KwaZulu-Natal are warm and sunny, even in midwinter.

More questions about South Africa? Submit them in the comments section.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

South Africa- Best Kept Secrets

South Africa has a lot to offer including wildlife, adventure, cuisine and wine, culture and entertainment. Some of the best secrets aren’t even secrets, simply things you MUST do because they are some of the best activities South Africa has to offer!

Safaris are obviously a very popular activity tourists engage in while vacationing in South Africa. Did you ever think about a stargazing safari? The skies in South Africa are renowned for its spectacular stargazing opportunities. Kruger Park, admittedly a popular park, offers stargazing safaris in addition to the more traditional tourist safaris in the day. This celestial adventure is an experience only few have, so ask about this option when booking your safari tour!

Do you believe in the supernatural? You might want to consider starting to if you’re traveling to South Africa. South Africa is one of the most haunted countries in the World. SA offers many ghost tours to proudly prove this point. Ghosts ranging from murderers to murder victims, road accident fatalities and war spirits are among the few you can find in SA. Join the Mystery Ghost Bus Tour which runs its routes on the southern part of SA and includes guides with excellent story telling abilities and sometimes a stiff drink followed by a cemetery visit. The tour is sure to make your skin crawl. Cape Town and Pretoria also offer historical ghost tours. Pretoria has the most haunted residence in South Africa and is often referred to as the city of ghosts! Below is a story of a ghost that can be seen on a SA tour courtesy of South Africa Tourism site (www.southafrica.net)

The most famous country spook is the Uniondale hitchhiker. On a stormy night in 1968, an Air Force officer and his fiancée crashed in their Volkswagen Beetle just outside the town in the Kamanassie Mountains. He was badly hurt, she died instantly. Since then, people traveling the area on rainy nights have picked up a woman hitchhiker – who then simply disappears into the darkness again.
Let the haunting begin…

Rather choose an activity with a different kind of thrill and adventure? Check out the Cape Wineland Adventures, specifically the Cape Wineland Sky Adventures. Enjoy the many extreme sports in the wine country including paragliding, skydiving, gliding, helicopter rides, air balloon rides, bike riding, hiking and white water rafting. Then relax by exploring South Africa’s wine cellars and wine tasting tours. Speak with your trip advisor about planning a relaxing wine tour including exhilarating sporting. The level of sport activity and wine activity can be personalized to your tastes!

Another great secret that makes Cape Town “cool” is Cape Quarter. This little area is home to great shopping, excellent restaurants, art, fashion, beauty and offices. It also offers great Bed and Breakfasts, eateries and outside cafes. Cape Quarter enjoys great proximity to the busy city center and the popular Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. All the locals are in the know, so check it out to truly enjoy an authentic South African vibe!

What’s your best kept secret of South Africa?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

South Africa: How to Avoid Communication Breakdown

Strolling around the U.S, we may find ourselves with a cell phone texting away, or talking for hours to a relative in Texas, California, or New York. Sometimes we don’t realize how good we have something until it is gone.

South Africa is a place full of wonder and amazement; but what if you do not have any way of contacting family, colleagues, businesses, or services through cell phone or internet? Here are some common questions that can be answered:

Can I use my cell phone from home in another country?

On some phones such as Sony Ericsson, Motorola, and Samsung models, there is a GSM (Global System for Mobil Communications) system built into your phone. You will be able to make and receive calls across civilized areas around much of the globe. You will have to call your wireless operator and ask for “international roaming” to be activated on your account. The only problem is that per minute charges can be very high. They can be $5 a minute in some areas, so make sure that you know the risks. http://www.telestial.com/view_product.php?ID=LSIM-ZA01

Renting a Phone
You can rent a phone at a Vodafone outlet in any of the international airports in South Africa. Vodacom has 24-hour desks at all major international airports offering mobile phones for rent. You can also rent the phone before you travel. You can go to InTouch USA (tel. 800/872-7626; http://www.intouchglobal.com) or RoadPost (tel. 888/290-1606 or 905/272-5665; http://www.roadpost.com). InTouch will also offer free information on whether your existing phone will work overseas. You can go to http://intouchglobal.com/travel.htm

Buying a Phone there
Roaming rates can be very high, and for various reasons, people do not want to bring their cell phones. Have no fear! Many nations have cheap prepaid phone systems. Once you land in the country, go to a local cell phone shop, and buy a prepaid phone and a calling card. Local calls can be as low as 10 cents/minute, and overall you probably will spend less than $100 for a phone.

What if I need to access the internet to update people on my status?

If you do not have your own computer, cybercafés will be where travelers roam. Go to http://www.cybercaptive.com and http://www.cybercafe.com to find a cybercafé is near you.

Your Own Computer
If your laptop has built in wireless capability, airports, hotels, cafes, retailers, and resorts are going Wi-Fi, which offers wireless internet for your laptop to use. Most of these places that have Wi-Fi offer it for free, or for a minimum fee. You can find out if your destination has Wi-Fi by visiting http://www.jiwire.com.

Good advice would be to bring a connection kit of the right power and phone adapters. Bring a spare phone cord and Ethernet network cable in case something happens to the others. You should also check with the hotel to find out whether your hotel supplies them to guests.

Other Concerns
There are other concerns with traveling abroad. What if you or someone you know gets hurt or sick abroad. You may need travelers' insurance, to ensure that you don’t pay a high bill out of your pocket in case of an emergency.

Name a time when you had a communication breakdown. How did you solve the issue?

Monday, June 22, 2009

South Africa- How to get around within the country

South Africa is generally easy to navigate within the country. Similar to many other developed countries, it offers automobiles, buses and trains. If planning a vacation with tours included, your transportation should already be set. Getting to your tour destination might be the only transportation issue you have. Check with your hotel desk staff to have them arrange a car or taxi to take you to your destination.

If you are an adventurous person and looking to explore the country via rental car just remember that South African drivers drive on the left side of the road and all cars, including all rental cars, are right hand drive vehicles! The road infrastructure is sound and well built. The toll roads even accept credit cards!! The tolls range from $0.31 to $5.68. Additionally, everything is measured in kilometers, so make sure you know how to convert miles to kilometers! Wearing a seat belt is a must and chatting on a mobile phone, like in many states in the U.S., is illegal. So rev your engine because the speed limit on national highways in 75mph!

Traveling a long distance and don’t feel comfortable navigating the road on your own? Check out the bus system in SA. There are many bus options to choose from, for example, Intercape, Greyhound and SA Roadlink. Want to really upgrade your bus travel? Check out Compassline. This tailored, personalized, luxury Mercedes tour bus can carry up to 12 people in its spacious and comfortable seats.

If you want to get a whole new experience, travel the railways in South Africa, specifically the world’s most luxurious and famous railway, The Blue Train. In addition to riding in high style, for short trips you might prefer to try the Banana Express or the Apple Express. The Banana Express runs in the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast while the Apple Express runs out of Port Elizabeth. You might even check out the Steam Train Company which operates out of Cape Town and offers golf and scenic tours.

Disabled? No worries! Many places of interest in South Africa have wheelchair-friendly facilities and walks. Some shorter trails even have Braille. Accommodations for disabled persons are in progress as the government has introduced legislation on this.
Flamingo tours specializes in tours for people with disabilities.
Eco-access.org/ is a database of accessible destinations in South Africa for people with disabilities.

Keeping in touch with people from home? Be aware that South Africa has well structured communication land lines as well as 4 mobile phone service providers including- Cell C, MTN, Vodacom and Virgin Mobile. Cell phones can easily be rented right at the airport upon arrival. Internet cafes are another great way to stay in touch and can be found even in the smallest of towns.

Currency exchange is made easy as vendors can be found at the airport, many hotel front desks, banks, bureaux de change and automatic tellers. South Africa has very favorable exchange rates for many international currencies. The form of currency used in SA is the ZAR.

It is always a good idea to understand the modes of transportation available to you before you travel. Not only will knowing the best ways to get around make your trip less stressful, you might also learn about great transportation methods you never considered before, such as The Blue Train. These methods could enhance your whole experience and trip itinerary!

Special thanks to http://www.southafrica.info/travel/advice/ for all of their great information!

Have you ever taken a trip on The Blue Train? Share your experience with us!

Friday, June 19, 2009

South Africa: Food

South Africa has many traditional dishes; however, it also caters to international palettes by offering a mixture of different cultures’ cuisines. Overall, South Africans eat similar food that is eating in the U.S. Below is some of the traditional foods South Africans eat.

One of the long standing traditional foods is biltong. This food is dried meat, similar to the dried jerky style meats we have here in the U.S. It comes in many flavors and types such as ostrich, beef, kudu or any other red meat. Potjiekos is another South African favorite as it is similar to a meat and vegetable stew. It is slowly cooked over an open flame. Frikkadel is a traditional South African meat ball made from tomatoes, onion, minced beef and other ingredients, and shaped into round balls.

South Africans LOVE to barbeque! They say you shouldn’t mess with a South African man’s braai! Boerewors is a spicy sausage that is most commonly used to barbeque. If you love barbeque, South Africa is clearly the place for you!

If you want to get really adventurous, you might try Skop, which is the head of a sheep, goat or cow. All the “parts” are removed as well as the skin and then the head is boiled, simmered and flavored. Bon Appetite!

South Africans also drink a lot of tea. Rooibos tea is a popular South African herbal tea made in the Cape from the Cyclopia genistoides bush. Rooibos is an Afrikaans word meaning "red bush". Rooibos has no caffeine and less tannin than tea.

Of course, South Africans also enjoy lots of fruits and vegetables. The pioneers of SA commonly ate dried fruit and berries. The produce is very fresh which makes it a big part of their daily diet. They usually shop for fresh produce and fruit a few times a week as they have little room to store things and hate to waste the fresh food! Fish, prawns and other seafood are common foods the enjoyed by South Africans as part of their daily diets.

What is your favorite dish?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

South Africa: Dream Weddings and Honeymoons

Every woman dreams of the perfect wedding. How about a wedding on the beach of Cape Town, South Africa?

Msnbc.com posted an article titled “Want to marry overseas? Here’s how to do it” If any couple is considering getting married abroad, this article will offer tips on how to plan a successful overseas wedding and or honeymoon.

The 3rd tip in the article says if you are traveling to exotic areas; keep up to date with what travel vaccinations you will need for that area. It mentioned Passport Health, and we are delighted to say that we have got exactly what you need to stay safe, when traveling abroad; especially for a wedding.

It would be great to have a wedding overseas, but it requires too much work; Right?
Wrong! This is your wedding you’re talking about! Go the distance and make it the best time of your life.

Planning a wedding in South Africa is not as hard as you think. You just need to be pointed in the right direction. See the South African Wedding guide, where you will be able to pick from where you want your wedding to what type of flowers you want. This complete wedding guide will help you choose from 10 different provinces in South Africa, each with a list of regions to choose from in those provinces. The detail of this site is absolutely amazing, and is a must see for anyone who wants to get married.

This site has a list of destinations, hotels, and lodges where you might have your wedding. It also shows a list of who you can contact to make your dreams come true.
Even if you aren’t planning on getting married anytime soon, it can be very exciting to see the possibilities of what you can experience in your life.

What would your perfect wedding/honeymoon be in South Africa?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

South Africa- Hotels and Hostels

Where you lay your head at night after a long and exciting day of sightseeing is going to be very important during your trip to South Africa. Some of the hotels in South Africa are regulars among the best known “World’s Best” choice survey and Travel & Leisure magazine’s World’s Best Award. There are several five and four star hotels in multiple locations around the country. To help you out, here are a few ideas of great places to stay on any budget!

Cape Town:
One & Only Resort: The name says it all for this five star, island resort. The resort includes views of the waterfront, Table Mountain and is home to tropical gardens and spas. Nightlife and entertainment can be found right on your doorstep while uniquely South African adventures such as wildlife safaris and wine country excursions are just next door. The resort is also home to two world renowned chefs, so you know the restaurants within the hotel are good! There are rooms to fit everyone’s needs including island lodges. All rooms are equipped with multimedia entertainment systems including a Bose sound system, flat screen TVs and a DVD player. This resort is expensive, but for some, it is within budget.

Ashanti Lodge Green Point Hostel: This brand new hostel would seem more like a hotel. It is affordable and offers rooms for quads, triples, doubles and singles. Private bathrooms are available for some rooms and those rooms also include a television and electronic safe! Breakfast is available, and if you enjoy cooking, a self catered kitchen is available for all guests, including a BBQ. A clean pool for swimming or tanning is available. This hostel will feel like a hotel and give you the amenities of home!

Melrose Arch Hotel: This five star accommodation will probably be at the top of your budget for hotel stay. It offers great restaurants and has night clubs right next door. It is located in the newest neighborhood. The thrill of this hotel would definitely be its legendary pool which features tables in the water and massive potted plants on Pedi stools situated in the pool. The hotel includes flat screen TVs in every room, a DVD player and 6 complimentary DVDs for your viewing pleasure! There is free internet and a computer room for guests. The hotel even claims they have the most comfortable mattresses in all of South Africa! The hotel praises its excellent services. This hotel is the total package!

Hakunamatata Hotel: “No worries”, is literally what this hotel means and what the staffers want you to feel. In between a luxury hotel and a hostel, this worry free accommodation is just the right price. It has a truly authentic South African theme. It is a country lodge located just outside the hustle and bustle of the busy city life. If you are looking for a quiet retreat at night with easy access to entertainment, this is the place for you! The service is excellent as this lodge offers a homey and smaller feel. The hotel is easily a place to rekindle a romance or spice things up.

Diamond Diggers Backpackers
: This hostel is WELL within your budget! It offers great room accommodations and has sunset views! It also offers a Jacuzzi bar! Stone’s throw away from many restaurants, this hotel offers a shuttle service to activity destinations and the airport! Let’s not forget that the great shopping at East gate Centre is also right near by. A comfortable hostel, great amenities, transportation and a Jacuzzi bar, what more could you ask for from a hostel?

Ready to book your lodging?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

South African Youth Day, June 16th

South Africa is known all over the world for its righteous teens and their involvement in political issues.

Kids and teens in South Africa even have their own national holiday, National Youth Day on June 16, to honor the political and social struggles of South African youth, that eventually led to their new democracy. Known as Soweto Day until just a few years ago, Youth Day in South Africa was originally created to remember the Soweto Uprisings, the massive educational protests by students in 1970's.

Flashback to the '70's
It's the end of the school year for many South African teens and the apartheid government has decided that all classes will now be taught in a Dutch language called Afrikaans. Only the country's minority European ruling class speaks Afrikaans. Native African high school students are outraged that they will have to all-of-a-sudden learn in a language that they don't even speak. Plans are made to resist.

On June 16, 1976, close to 30,000 high school students take to the streets in protest of racism in their government. South African teens gain the attention of the world during the Soweto Uprisings. Afterward, the government changes its decision to require Afrikaans in schools. This marked the beginning of the end of apartheid or institutionalized racial segregation in South Africa.

It is estimated that between 300 and 600 people lost their lives during the uprising, which became a defining moment in the resistance against apartheid.

National Youth Day means South African kids get a day off from school, but that's not all. The legacy of South African teen action for freedom and democracy, which began in Soweto, continues to influence teens in the post-apartheid era.

What do you think is the most important thing that the Soweto uprisings can teach children from other countries today?

Monday, June 15, 2009

South Africa: Language Barriers

Communication is something that is extremely important to travelers, so it is good to know what different types of languages there are in a particular country. English and Afrikaans were the official languages of South Africa until there was a change in political disposition in 1994. (Also bear in mind that Afrikaans was regarded as the language of the old oppressive Nationalist Government pre 1994 and therefore even trying to say a few words to the locals in this language may be regarded as offensive. Best advice is to keep to English if the person is a complete stranger).

9 more languages were added to the official list in 1994.

There are 11 official languages in South Africa.

You can learn more about each language by clicking their links below.

If you are an American traveling to South Africa, don’t be overwhelmed by all of the official languages. Most South Africans, particularly in urban areas, are conversant in English.

Here you can find a light-hearted take on the differences between American English words and South African English words.

Remember, a smile translates in any language!

Have you ever been in a situation where language barriers were a problem? Tell us about it. What happened and how did it work out?

Friday, June 12, 2009

South Africa- Wildlife!

South Africa is no doubt home to many cultural activities but it is also home to an abundance of different species of animals, 200 to be exact! Who knew lions and penguins could exist naturally in the same country?

SA is known for “the big 5”. The big 5 includes elephants, lions, rhinos, leopards and buffalo. Kruger National Park is a world renowned safari destination in the north of South Africa. It is home to over 10,000 elephants and 20,000 buffaloes! The best time to travel on safari in South Africa is in the winter months (May-Sept).

The elephants in SA are very important as in the early 1900’s they were almost extinct to the country! The elephants were brought back from the brink of extinction and now reside in National Reserves. The lion is another animal that lives exclusively in conservation… for some reason they don’t live well with humans… Other than Christian of course!

Most of the big cats live in the north of the country in conservations, such as the cheetah and the leopard. The leopard lives in large spaces such as the far north of the country or the southern cape. The cheetah, what small percentage resides in SA, lives mostly in the north and in conservations.

In addition to the big 5, you can see South Africa’s most endangered animal, the wild dog and the lesser known “little 5”. The little 5 includes the leopard tortoise, buffalo weaver, ant lion, elephant shrew(pictured left) and rhinoceros beetle. Look closely to find these little animals!

Primates are high in population and include bushbabies, vervet, samango monkeys and chacma baboons. Of course, the usual suspects reside in the country as well which include the hippo, giraffe, kudu, zebra and wildebeest. The most difficult species to spot is the clawless otter and the spotted-neck otter.

Another popular wildlife attraction is the Penguin Conservation. It is popular among tourists to swim with these little creatures at Boulder’s Beach near Cape Town. Robben Island, Dassen Island and Dyer Island Conservation Trust are all areas of the country great for viewing the penguins. Penguins, of all the animals living in SA, have a hard time surviving due to the oil spill of 2000, climate changes and fish depletion.

Back in 2000 there was a major oil spill in the south of the country where the penguins reside. South Africans from all over came to help save these little animals. After cleaning up the penguins, the animals were transported to another coast of country and a few were tagged to track their progress back their original nesting site (the oil spilled coast). This gave conservationists a few weeks to clean the waters before the penguins arrived again. Now, the penguins live happily as they used to with the few struggles of being a penguin in South Africa!

What animal would you most be interested in seeing during a South African safari?

Thanks to these sites for their GREAT information!



Thursday, June 11, 2009

South Africa: Stay Safe

Here are some precautions you should take when visiting South Africa:
  • Avoid ostentatious displays of expensive jewelery, cameras, laptops and other valuables
  • Plan your route beforehand, and the type of transport you're going to use.
  • Keep your doors locked at all times and wind windows up
  • If renting a car, rent one with a closed trunk (called a “boot” in south Africa), as opposed to a hatchback. Lock valuable items in the trunk
  • Be aware of whether any vehicle or people are following you (being followed from the airport and robbed on arrival at your hotel happens).
  • Never pick up strangers, no matter how friendly they appear
  • At night, park in well-lit areas
  • Explore in groups rather than alone, and stick to busy, well-lit streets
  • At night stay clear of dark, isolated areas
  • Avoid isolated beaches.
  • Never carry large sums of money around. Travelers cheques are your best bet
  • Always carry a map with you in the event that you do head off course (although being seen with a map is a giveaway that you're a tourist)
  • Also keep your passport, plane ticket and other important documents in a safe place

If in any doubt about the safety of an area, phone a police station for advice. Don't let these safety precautions scare you or deter you from having great experiences. These rules apply to anyone in any city. Always think about your safety and the safety of those with whom you are traveling.

Is there anything that was NOT included on this list that you think SHOULD be?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Top 10 Attractions in South Africa

Elephant - Kruger National Park
©South African Tourism


Experience the bushveld and romance of 'real' Africa in this extraordinary park, indulge in a holistic spa at a luxury game lodge or get your pulse racing on a cycling safari...
More info

Table Mountain
©South African Tourism


Table Mountain, the Waterfront, Cape Point, Robben Island, Beaches, the Winelands, wonderful things to do, don't miss attractions like whale watching, fascinating history and culture, the fynbos of the Cape Floral Region in Kirstenbosch Gardens...
More info

©South African Tourism


An invigorating blend of India, Africa and the Colonial past spices up this sub-tropical city with a strong beach holiday and surfing culture...
More info

Diaz Point - Cape Town
©South African Tourism


There's a beach for every season and every reason, from the beautiful, long, lonely beaches on the West Coast or the sultry North Coast to the most hip and hot in Cape Town...
More info

Humpback Whale - Plettenberg Bay
©South African Tourism


Gorgeous beaches, rocky headlands, leafy forests and dramatic river cut gorges, world class golf resorts, so much to do and an abundance of great places to stay...
More info

Wine Cellar
©South African Tourism


A World Heritage Cultural Landscape, the classic Winelands of Paarl, Stellenbosch and Franschhoek is a sybarites delight with a plethora of delightful restaurants, coffee shops and fantastic places to stay...
More info

Horse Riding - Transkei
©South African Tourism


Golden beaches, the Garden Route, Port Elizabeth, East London, great surfing, malaria free game and bird watching, Addo National Park...
More info

Lion - Kgalagadi Park
©South African Tourism


Bright carpets of wild flowers in Namaqualand, the black maned lion of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park...
More info

Ndebele Woman & Child
©South African Tourism


Visit fascinating and colourful cultural villages, experience traditional and contemporary culture in a rural or urban homestay, township tours, music festivals in Soweto...
More info

Drakensberg Mountains
©South African Tourism


Cloaked in emerald green in summer or golden and snow capped in winter, this dramatic mountain range is an awesome scenic destination with beautiful rock art, great places to stay, fly fishing, golfing...
More info

Thank you to South African Tourism and safarinow.com for the great information for this post.

Have you ever been to one of these places? We'd love to hear the tale and see pictures!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

South Africa- African Zulu History

While the history of South Africa is full of hardships and apartheid, there stands a tribe today that has left a major impact on the history of South Africa.

Zulu Warriors
A famous fearsome warrior was the mighty King Shaka. Prior to King Shaka, the Zulu consisted of numerous related but disorganized clans. As a mighty warrior and intellectual, King Shaka united the clans into a single and powerful tribe. By introducing new military tactics and strategies, in just 11 years, King Shaka built an army of 1,500 to 50,000 warriors. When the British decided that South Africa was their land, they fought the Zulu tribe in fearsome battles. The Zulu warriors fought with the strength and courage of a lion; however they eventually fell to the shield piercing British gunpowder.

The Zulu tribe in that time were more than a group of fearsome warriors; they were also a vibrant culture full of exquisite costumes, and soul enchanting music.

Zulu Dance

Zulu Music
A singing style that originated from the Zulu tribe is called Isicathamiya. People from the Zulu tribe were taken from their homes and families to work in the mines of South Africa. Poorly treated, these men decided to sing together in unison to keep themselves busy and entertained. Today, Ladysmith Black Mambazo is a group that represents this type of music.

Here is a link to some more Zulu inspired music

Monday, June 8, 2009

South Africa- What to Pack

South Africa has many different climates based on the various terrains. This subtropical country has mountainous areas, beaches, safari locations and wildlife reserves.

The east coast cities have higher temperatures and more rainfall than the west coast cities. Generally, the coasts and low lying areas are the warmest areas while the mountains can have below freezing temperatures! The best time to vacation here is the months of April and May. The rainy season has yet to happen on the Western Cape (which has its rainy season in the winter months) and the rainy season on the east coast has just completed.

The seasons in South Africa look something like this:
• Spring: September, November, December
• Summer: December, January, February
• Autumn: March, April, May
• Winter: June, July, August

It is important to remember that in the Southern Hemisphere, the seasons are exactly opposite of the Northern Hemisphere.


It is a common misunderstanding that South Africans dress in tribal wear and more historical indigenous attire based on African culture. The dress in South Africa is much like ours in the U.S! The people are extremely fashionable and modern. South Africa imports the popular brands of fashion from the West and Asian countries. They have designer clothing available as well.

It is important to keep in mind that SA is generally a hot country, so bring some light, airy clothes! The dress is casual so wearing jeans, tees and skirts will allow you to fit in. Packing clothes might be easier than you think! However, it is important to remember that South Africans are generally conservative, so dress appropriately.

Like all countries, it is not a good idea to wear expensive clothes and jewelry in certain areas of the country. Having a responsible and knowledgeable tour guide will help aid in your safety during the trip as they should know the areas in which to be careful. You certainly wouldn’t want to lose your nice gold watch while on a safari or visiting an indigenous tribe!

Additionally, here are some key items that should be on your Checklist:

- plenty of sunscreen
- sun hat or other covering for your head
- sunglasses
- water bottle with filter (staying hydrated is important on your trip)
- power adapters (make sure your electronics are compatible)
- traveler guides/ maps
- a camera
- insect repellent (although most of the safari areas are malaria free, it is important to stay protected against other insects living in SA)

… And don’t forget to stop at your Passport Health location to pick up a mosquito/sun kit which includes appropriate repellents containing DEET, as well as a kit for traveler’s diarrhea including antibiotics and re-hydration powders.

Friday, June 5, 2009

South Africa: Stay Healthy on vacation!

Getting ready for any trip takes months and weeks of research, planning and packing. While preparing all the activities, transportation, documentation and securing loose ends while you’re are away, don’t forget to prepare your health for the visit too! It is important to make the most of your trip by participating in all pre-planned activities rather than experiencing South Africa from the tent or a local medical center; so be safe, vaccinate!

Planning to stay healthy while you travel is the MOST important part of planning for your trip.

The best ways to ensure a safe and healthy trip are to be educated about the health risks in South Africa and get vaccinated.

For travel to South Africa, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends the following vaccinations:

Hepatitis A and B
Varicella (Chicken Pox)
Yellow Fever
• PPD Test

Most of these vaccinations are routine for citizens of the USA and you have more than likely been adequately vaccinated for some, but it is important to see a travel medicine specialist to be sure you are prepared with the proper vaccinations and information to stay healthy in South Africa.

  • Now that you know about all the diseases and viruses that have preventive vaccines, you are free to take other preventive measures for the rest of the "icky" things that can affect your trip.
  • Insect-Borne Diseases(Dengue Fever, Malaria, African Sleeping Sickness, Leishmaniasis, Typhus/Rickettsial infections, etc): use appropriate repellents containing DEET, and prescribed Malaria medication.
  • Travelers' Diarrhea: use antibiotics and re hydration powders (diarrhea kit available at Passport Health)
  • Intestinal Infections: Swim only in properly chlorinated or salt water, wear shoes at all times (even on the beach), follow food and water precautions given by an expert.
  • Jet-Lag, Motion sickness, Altitude sickness: several different medications available
  • Deep Vein Thrombosis: Remain properly hydrated during flight, get up frequently to stretch your legs to maintain circulation, consider wearing pressure gradient Travel Socks
  • Emergency Medical Evacuation: Obtain appropriate Travel and Evacuation Insurance
Don't let the possibility of getting sick in South Africa deter you from going. The best way to ensure safety and good health is to know the risks and take the right precautions against them.

Thank you to the CDC and our Travel Medicine Specialists for their contribution to this post.

Have you or anyone you know ever taken an overseas trip and found yourself unprepared? What happened and what did you do?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

South Africa: Legal Documents Needed for Entry

First-time travelers may have a hard time figuring out all of the requirements and paperwork that it takes just to enter another country. In the United States, people can travel from state to state without interruption; however that luxury does not exist when traveling from country to country. South Africa requires certain legal documents as well as certain vaccinations. Entry requirements depend upon the country from which the traveler is arriving. Requirements can change any time, so it is best to keep up to date with the regulations by checking well in advance of your trip and a few months before you leave as well, to be certain nothing has changed that will effect your trip.

Let’s cut to the chase.
The U.S department of State recommends that the passports of all travelers to South Africa contain at least two completely blank (unstamped) visa pages each time entry is sought. It also says that these pages are in addition to the endorsement/amendment pages (as many as four) at the back of the passport. While South African statutes require only one completely blank visa page, this rule has been applied inconsistently by South African immigration officials.

The U.S department of State says that in addition, any trip to a neighboring country would necessitate another blank page upon return. Travelers lacking adequate blank pages in the passport may be refused entry into South Africa, fined, and returned to their point of origin at the traveler’s expense. South African authorities have denied diplomatic missions access to assist in these cases.

As a general precaution, all travelers are advised to carry a photocopy of the photo/bio information page of their passport and keep it in a location separate from the passport.

Short vs. Long Term Stays
Travelers do not require visas for stays of up to 90 days. If travelers overstay that period without a permit issued by the South African Dept. of Home Affairs, they may be fined up to 3000 rand (approximately 300 US dollars). All others (apart from travelers) including academics, students on educational trips, and volunteers, may need visas. Americans who want to work in South Africa must apply for work permits before arrival; or they can be refused and returned to point of origin.

Required Vaccinations and Proof
If you are traveling to South Africa, where yellow fever is endemic, you are often required to present the yellow International Certificate of Vaccination (ICV). If you are unable to do so, you must be inoculated at the airport in order to be permitted entry. That could be a great hassle considering you will need to spend extra money; and a planned great time in South Africa can turn into an unexpected stay at the airport!

You can get the yellow fever vaccination, as well as the internationally recognized Certificate of Vaccination as proof, all in about an hour with a visit to Passport Health.

Any questions?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

South Africa: Some Facts About the Country

Population: 49,052,489

Capital City: Pretoria

Government: Republic - a representative democracy in which the people's elected deputies (representatives), not the people themselves, vote on legislation.

Country Size: slightly less than twice the size of Texas

Culture & Heritage: South Africa has a rich cultural heritage. For those travelers looking to witness and experience cultures that are extremely unique, South Africa has just what the doctor ordered. Go on the Rastafarian Township Tour, or experience the cultural villages .

1993 Nobel Peace prize winner Nelson Mandela is part of South Africa’s history of amazing people that have stood up for what was right. To experience a great pride of South Africa, visit the Nelson Mandela Museum and discover a part of South African history that is full of hardships and triumph.

What else would you like to know and experience on your journey in South Africa?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

South Africa: World Cup!


For all you soccer fans out there, you probably already know that South Africa won the bid to host the 2010 World Cup, but for those of you who didn't know, please allow me the pleasure of sharing the news!

For South Africa, hosting the World Cup has been a 20-year journey from the end of apartheid, the government-sanctioned policy of racial separation, and the release from prison of Nelson Mandela, to the World Cup. In between, South Africa’s unsuccessful bid to host the 2006 World Cup, which went to Germany in a close vote. South Africa persisted, and was awarded the tournament in 2004 when the president of FIFA, Joseph S. Blatter, committed soccer’s worldwide governing body to taking its major men’s championships to the African continent.

Still some are skeptical on two counts: Can South Africa develop the infrastructure and man power to pull off such a feat, and is South Africa safe enough for an international tournament?

Since winning the bid, significant progress has been made on the 10 stadiums in nine cities that will be used for the World Cup. All stadiums are due to be finished by the end of 2009 or earlier. South Africa’s recent pedigree of hosting other major sporting events is impressive as well. Those include the World Cups of rugby, cricket, and track and field. In recent months, the country also played host to the entire season of the Indian Premier League of cricket.

SA believes they have a security plan in place and the World Cup will be played without incident.

Congratulations to South Africa for winning the bid to host the 2010 World Cup!

What do you think are the biggest safety concerns for the players and spectators at the games?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Country of the month: South Africa

For the month of June we will be exploring South Africa in all it's wonder and beauty. Let's dive right in to the top 10 reasons you should consider making South Africa your next travel destination.

Top 10 Reasons to Visit South Africa


During these tough times, who doesn’t want an affordable holiday? In SA, you can even afford luxury and have spending money for shopping and other treats!

Natural Beauty

South Africa’s scenic wonders are legendary. From Table Mountain to God’s Window, our mountains, forests, coasts and deserts will feast your eye and lift your spirit…

World-class facilities

Whether you opt for Afro-chic or authentic Africa, you’ll find it easy to get around, find a comfortable place to stay, have a great meal, connect.


South Africa is the adventure capital of the world. With over 130 adventures and counting, there is something for everyone from mountain walks to shark cage-diving!

Good Weather

In sunny South Africa, our great weather invites you to enjoy the outdoors, play golf year-round and take advantage of the nearly 3000km coastline…

Rainbow Nation

The Rainbow Nation celebrates all its African and immigrant cultures. Find out how friendly our people are whilst you try your tongue at 11 official languages!

Diverse Experiences

Go almost anywhere in SA and experience the ultimate combo of nature, wildlife, culture, adventure, heritage and vibe – you’re spoiled for choice, so pack it in!


Warning! Watching wildlife is addictive. First you start with the Big Five in so many ways, then whales, penguins, meerkats, wild dogs, birds, dung beetles…

Freedom Struggle

Discover a nation’s struggle for freedom whilst following the footsteps of Mandela, Hector Pieterson and many other celebrated revolutionaries. It will touch and inspire you.

Responsible Tourism

In SA you can travel with care as you explore our protected areas, contribute to social and conservation projects, buy recycle art and stay green.

Ever been to South Africa, or know someone who has? Can you think of anything this list might be missing? If so, please share your experiences with us!

Thanks to Southafrica.net for info for this post.