We’ve watched the restriction levels rise from level 4 to 5 and finally to level 6. There have been videos on social media of people queueing for that most precious resource. Tips on how to survive on 50l a day are doing the rounds on community groups. The politician’s, never shy to take advantage of an opportunity, have pounced and are gleefully playing the blame game. Media meanwhile, is being whipped into a frenzy, worthy of Rikki Lake or Jeremy Kyle.
Drone footage from 2017 showing how low the dam levels were last year
But what does this mean for me and my dream holiday to Cape Town?
It's important not to have a panic-induced knee-jerk reaction. At such times it is important to pause, take stock of the situation and dig a little deeper. Yes, Cape Town is suffering its worst drought in recent memory. Should you cancel your trip? Absolutely not. The message is clear, come and enjoy this stunning destination but, be mindful. There is more to do in Cape Town than use water from municipal taps.
Here are 10 of the most frequently asked questions about the Cape Town Water Crisis (CTWC), and what you need to know for when you visit.
Can I still travel to Cape Town?
YES! Yes yes yes. Cape Town still works. Table Mountain is still glorious. There is power in the sockets and enough entertainment to keep you busy for weeks. Restaurants and bars are open.
Bear in mind, even without the current drought, the Western Cape is a water scarce region, just like Southern California and Western Australia. While Cape Town is hardest hit at the moment, places only a few hours away like Hermanus and Swellendam and the famous Garden Route, are not severely affected.
Is there water available for tourists visiting Cape Town and the Western Cape?
Yes. Tourism is a huge part of the Western Cape’s economy that provides thousands of jobs to the local communities. Cape Town and the Western Cape is open for business. There is water for washing, flushing toilets and other daily hygiene. Hotels and B&Bs will keep you posted as to the restrictions that are in place and the recommended daily allowances.
What is “Day Zero”?
Simply put, ‘Day Zero’ is when the City of Cape Town would cut the regular flow of water. It is calculated on predictions of current water usage. If all stakeholders adhere to restrictions and do their bit, then ‘Day Zero’ can be avoided. In a nutshell, ‘Day Zero’ is the worst case scenario.
‘Day Zero’ does not mean that Cape Town would stop working and you will still be able to enjoy all of the world-class attractions.
In the event of ‘Day Zero’, will there be drinking water?
Yes. Everyone involved is committed to making sure that there is adequate drinking water for everyone, both locals and tourists alike.
How wide-spread is the drought in South Africa?
It must be remembered that South Africa is a water scarce country. The current drought is isolated to parts of the Western Cape province, particularly the City of Cape Town and surrounding areas. However, popular nearby destinations like the Cape Overberg and the Garden Route are less affected by the drought.
It is perfectly possible to visit the Kruger National Park, Johannesburg or KwaZulu Natal and not even realise that there is a drought in Cape Town.
Will tourists still be able to bath, shower or use a swimming pool?
Currently, tourists are able to shower and maintain personal daily hygiene. Mandated guidelines suggest showers of no longer than two minutes. Under current restrictions, baths are entirely discouraged.
Many establishments have converted their pools to seawater and have put in place measures to ensure reduced water consumption. Many are developing plans for alternative supplies. If you absolutely have to have a bath, speak to your travel agent about visiting the Garden Route or the Overberg.
Should I cancel my safari because of the drought?
No. The worst-hit areas are in the Western Cape. Big safari destinations like Addo Elephant Park (Eastern Cape), Kruger National Park (Mpumalanga) and Hluhluwe-Umfolozi (KwaZulu Natal) are largely unaffected.
How badly will restaurants and bars be affected?
Currently, though they are required to comply with restrictions, they are not badly affected. Even in the event of Day Zero, bars and restaurants have already proactively implemented water savings and will remain open for business.
Will emergency services still be in operation?
Yes. All critical emergency services, Police, hospitals and clinics will continue to function.
Will major events in the city still take place?
Yes. Cape Town is not broken. The water crisis means that we are having to tighten out ‘water-belts’ and pull together as a community. All major events have put measures in place to ensure events have a minimal effect on the strained water system.
Farmers donate almost 10bn litres of water to the City of Cape Town
H2O or no H2O, is that the question?
On the positive side, we know what is coming. Being laid back and South African means that, quite simply “a boer maak a plan” or to roughly translate, “a farmer always makes a plan”. To add to this adage, when in Rome…
Come to South Africa! Enjoy a water-free braai (BBQ), drink some beer and wine and go swim in the ocean. Just be mindful that your holiday destination is someone else’s home. And, if you really have to have a bath I can think of worse places to visit than Plettenberg Bay on the Garden Route!
If you have any questions or would like more information then please, leave a comment below or contact one of the African Budget Safari consultants directly.