As December flies toward January and 2018, we took some time out to chat to African Budget Safaris’ owner and founder, Terry Murphy, to find out what’s changed in the African travel landscape in 2017 and how will those changes affect the 2018 safari season.
Article Quick Links
- East African Safaris to Tanzania
- East African Safaris to Kenya
- Gorilla Trekking
- Travelling Solo
- Travelling with Children
- Visa Requirements
- Age-Specific Tours
- Last Minute Booking
- Peak Season
- South African School Holidays
- Summer in Cape Town
- Tourism in Namibia
- Visiting South Africa's Garden Route
- Cape Town Drought
Terry spent his childhood growing up on the coast of South Africa, in the open desert of Namibia and deep bush of Botswana. He first heard the call of the wild in the vocational sense whilst working as a game ranger in Botswana's Charter Reserve in the Tuli Block.
Back in Cape Town he entered the inbound travel trade and ended up manager at local adventure specialists, Aardvark Travel. This became the launch pad from which African Budget Safaris sprung way back in 2007.
Basically, he’s done plenty of working in the African Bush and travelling himself and has now been in the business for over 15 years. We caught up with him to ask him some questions.
What’s happened in 2017 in the East African safari scene?
There are a few things that have happened over the last year that travellers will need to be aware of. I will tackle this per country.
The pricing of safaris to Tanzania has increased significantly. This is mainly due to the addition of 18% VAT on tourism-related services, implemented by the Government in 2016. Increased fees in 2016 to visit the Ngorongoro Crater Conservancy – one of Tanzania’s major tourist attractions – has also driven prices up.
There were some concerns for tourist safety during the Kenyan elections in August 2017. The elections have now come and gone and there was no unrest in the areas tourists visit. Kenya is good to go. And spectacularly beautiful!
Yes. Rwanda increased their gorilla trekking permits from USD750 to USD1500 in May 2017. This makes it very expensive to do your gorilla trekking there.
In Uganda gorilla trekking permits remain at USD600, making it a much more appealing trek destination for travellers on a budget.
It is now possible for single travellers to join existing group tours in all countries we operate in.
For most safari options, travellers can pay a single supplement for their own tent or accommodation. Alternatively, if there are two singles who would like to share (same gender), they can share a tent or accommodation. On a few of our tours, travellers will be paired up. Ask one of our knowledgeable travel consultants to guide you in the direction of whichever you prefer.
We’ve heard things have changed on the bureaucratic side when travelling to Africa with children. What does it all mean?
Regulations imposed on minors travelling to South Africa were tightened in June 2015, followed by Botswana in October 2016. It is vital to have the right paperwork before you try to board a fight. Without it, you’ll be turned away, usually with no refund!
What you need, if travelling with minors (under 18-years old) into South Africa or Botswana:
If the children are accompanied by both biological parents, they must travel with the following for each child:
- Valid passport for both travelling parents and child
- Visa, if required
- Unabridged birth certificate listing both parents. This must be either the original document or a certified copy of it
If only one of the parents listed on the birth certificate is travelling with the child, they also need:
- A recent affidavit of consent for travel from the non-accompanying parent.
For more information, see the South African Department of Home Affairs statement and Botswana Embassy statement.
Our advice: contact the local embassy way in advance of your trip so that you know exactly what you need. Being turned away at the airport before you even start your trip is no fun!
While on the subject of bureaucracy, have there been any changes in visa requirements?
The South African Department of Home Affairs declared that, as of January 2017, all travellers from New Zealand require a visa for entry into South Africa.
We advise all of our travellers to check with their local embassy on visa requirements for each country (and those you may be stopping at, in transit) before travelling. It’s important to check your itinerary to determine whether you need a multiple entry visa or not.
Yes. While we do offer some ‘family-friendly’ tours, safaris can be tricky with young children. Read all the ins-and-outs on our blog, ‘Kids on Safari: Yes or No?’
From an adult point-of-view, we now have certain overland camping tours that have an age restriction of 18-39 years. We also have scheduled tours that are for 40+ travellers. The idea behind both is that people can choose to travel with others within their own age bracket which, we’ve found, makes for great cohesion on tours. With some of the overland tours for instance, the group dynamic may lend itself to a more, shall we say, festive vibe, and often the more mature traveller is not really looking for that type of thing.
Should travellers wait for last minute specials to book their safaris?
If you want to go on safari during peak season (July to September), no, this is a very unwise move. Safaris during the peak season get booked up quickly. The days of waiting for last minute specials in the high season before travelling are sadly gone, and if you really want to go on safari, you need to book early as our tours fill up quickly.
During low season, there are occasionally good deals, last minute, but your dates need to be flexible. If it’s low season and your backpack is ready, check out our Specials/Last-minute page. Busy times include:
July to September is peak season in all countries. Travellers wanting to travel during this period need to book between January and April, at the latest, to avoid disappointment.
During the South African school holidays at Easter (28 March to 10 April 2018) and Christmas/New Year (12 December 2018 to mid-January 2019), it is next to impossible to get travellers on tours, especially in the Kruger Park. Book well in advance if you’re looking at those dates!
Cape Town is buzzing in the summer break (mid-December to mid-January), and people book accommodation up to a year or more in advance. If you want to join in on the summer vibe for next year, book soon!
We hear Namibia has had huge increases in tourism numbers. How does that affect travel there?
Tourism numbers are up by 40%, so booking well in advance is vital. Added to this influx of visitors, Namibia’s infrastructure has not kept up; meaning that in certain places, there is just not enough accommodation! Staying inside Etosha, for example, is problematic. Many companies have to stay outside and do day tours into the park, due to this limited accommodation availability.
Road infrastructure has been affected too, making detours par for the course, so travellers may need to be flexible in terms of their itineraries.
Apparently, there was a devastating fire in Knysna. Does this affect travellers wanting to visit the Garden Route?
In early June 2017, massive fires wreaked havoc across the southern Cape, the firestorm stretching from George all the way to Humansdorp. Seven people died, huge tracts of forest burned and in Knysna alone, 846 houses were destroyed.
South Africans are resilient, though, and the rebuilding is well on its way. The Garden Route is picking itself up and rising from the ashes, all Phoenix-like, and most activities have dusted themselves off and are up and running again. See our blog on our pick of the activities offered along this spectacular coastline to get an idea of what to expect.
What should visitors to Cape Town need to know about the current drought?
Cape Town is currently experiencing its worst drought in a century, having had way below the average annual rainfall for the past three years. Current predictions show that the city will run out of water in mid-May 2018.
What this means for visitors, is that they will need to do their bit for water conservation too. Currently, water usage per person per day is limited to 87 litres. To help Cape Town survive, please:
- Choose your accommodation carefully. Many places have water-saving measures in place. Pick them
- Don’t expect towels/linen to be laundered every day
- Some places may not have water in their pools/allow swimming. We have the sea, though!
- Quick showers. An 8-minute shower uses 120 litres of water. It only takes less than 2 minutes to get clean. No bathing
- Turn the tap off while shaving/brushing teeth. An open tap can see 6 litres per minute disappearing down the plughole
- Only flush the toilet when necessary
- If you see leaking taps or toilets, report them immediately
To work out your daily water use, there’s a nifty calculator available.