Safari FAQs

Questions and Answers about Dark Continent Explorer's
African Photo Safari's

1. Who is "Dark Continent Explorer"?

2. What does Dark Continent Explorer offer that other companies don't?

3. Suggested book reading list

4. Travel safety – Is travel to Southern Africa safe?

5. Travel requirements

6. Currency & accepted forms of payment for gifts/souvenirs

7. VAT and purchasing of gifts

8. Typical day on safari

9. Are children allowed on safari?

10. Do people speak English in Africa?

11. Who looks after us while on safari?

12. Are their opportunities to meet with local people or visit real African villages?

13. Are the wild animals dangerous?

14. What shots or medicines do we need before traveling?

15. Is there electricity in the camps?

16. Will I be able to recharge my camera and video camera batteries?

17. What brand/type of digital camera would be best?

18. What weather should I expect on an African safari?

19. What type of luggage should I use?

20. What type of clothes should I pack?

21. Suggested luggage list

22. What laundry facilities are available on an African safari?

23. Reserving your African safari

24. Will we be "roughing it" if we stay at a luxury tented camp?

25. Accommodations.

26. Is there Internet access while on safari?

27. Do cell phones work on safari? What about satellite phones?

28. Park Fees?

29. Do you handle air tickets? Where should I purchase my air tickets?

30. Can we use our mileage to fly to Africa?

31. What trip insurance should I obtain, if any?

32. How much should we tip? Who do we tip? How do we tip?

33. Is the water and food safe?

34. What types of food are served on safari?

35. What about special dietary needs (vegetarian, diabetic, allergies)?

36. What drinks are available on safari?

37. How do I pay for my safari?

38. What if we have to cancel our safari plans?

39. What is and is not included in the tour?

 

Have more questions. Don't hesitate to Call us at 724.694.8858 or E-mail us at  AfricaSafariAdventure@gmail.com

____________________________________________________________  

1. Who is "Dark Continent Explorer"? Dark Continent Explorer is a safari consultants and travel agency. Based in North America, specializing with adventure travel in Southern Africa. We have been exploring the ‘dark continent’ since 1995.

2. What does Dark Continent Explorer offer that other companies don't? We are unique because of our personal touch. Across 16 years we've been networking with South Africa's top Afrikaans tour guides. This company began because our wildlife photographer, Wade Nolan, wanted to share his experiences and secrets of wild Africa. Our one of a kind "African tours have been crafted from blending Wade Nolan (US Adventure Biologist) and top rated tour guides expertise to share the best of South Africa's wonders with you.

3. Suggested book reading list Go to the Safari Reading page for a list of Africa books.

4. Travel safety – Is travel to Southern Africa safe? (This is the question we are asked most often by prospective travelers) Africa's biggest enemy is the international media who represent all 46 African countries as a single entity and not as unique and individual countries with their own characteristics. This misrepresentation is actually due to lack of education on the part of the media. It would come as a surprise to many people to find out that there are in fact areas that are worse off in more developed countries than in the "dangerous" African countries. No country can claim to be 100% safe, and so as with travel to any new or unknown destination, it is advisable to take certain standard security precautions. Visitors should take the same precautions as they would normally take in any other destination worldwide. Keep an eye on your purses, wallets, passports, money and cameras when walking in a crowd. Choosing a knowledgeable operator such as Dark Continent Explorer as your specialist South African tour operator is the best move you can make. While staying at African safari lodges and tented camps you are typically far removed from human settlement and crime in the camps is virtually non-existent (we have never heard of it and have been traveling to the camps for years). We advise that valuables be locked away or kept under the supervision of the camp or lodge manager, or better yet, left at home if you are at all concerned. We are extremely knowledgeable about the continent (but our guides having been born and lived there) and can therefore minimize any possible risks for our guests

5.  Travel requirements All people traveling to the Southern African region require a valid passport that is normally valid for 6 months beyond the intended length of stay. At present, holders of American passports do not require visas for South Africa South Africa… IMPORTANT:  Southern Africa passport control has become very strict with regards to passport control requirements. There have been instances of visitors being deported due to non-compliance. Passports MUST be valid for at least six months after your return home date. We recommend a validity of nine months to prevent any problems in this regard. The passport entry requirement for any travelers entering South Africa is a minimum of two blank pages in their passport (in addition to the two endorsement pages in US passports). If however a guest should be traveling to more than one African country via South Africa, then the traveler must ensure they allow for sufficient pages for each country visited and also have the minimum of two blank visa pages for each re-entry into South Africa. COST – It is surprisingly easy and less expensive than you might think. There are direct flights from both New York and Atlanta to Johannesburg and Cape Town with a flying time of about 18 hours. This might seem lengthy, but if you consider that it is a night flight where you can sleep and also watch plenty of movies, the time passes faster than you may have thought. The great advantage is that there are no connecting flights and therefore less stress.  

6.   Currency & accepted forms of payment for gifts/souvenirs A side benefit of the region, particularly South Africa, is that the US Dollar is so strong (around 7-10 South Africa Rand's to the US dollar.) We recommend that you bring travelers checks/cash with you that represents your spending/tip money. Upon arrival at the airport in Johannesburg we recommend you convert your US dollars to South African Rand. Visa and MasterCard are honored by most restaurants, shops, car rental firms and other points of sale. Proof of identity may be requested, so be sure to carry a passport or some form of photo identification at all times. Although it is best to have cash on hand for the places that don’t accept credit.

7. VAT and purchasing of gifts Please note that 14% Value Added Tax is levied in South Africa

8.       What does a typical day on safari look like? Every camp and safari location will differ in terms of its activities and schedules, but in general, safaris follow a general pattern which is consistent throughout Southern Africa. Typically, a safari day includes two major activities per day – one which begins early in the morning and the second which occurs in the mid- to late-afternoon and continues until dark or sometimes up until 2 hours after sunset. A safari activity may include game drives (a game drive is a guided wildlife viewing drive) in safari vehicles, and/or ranger guided bush walks.

9. Are children allowed on safari? All children under the age of 18 have to be accompanied by adult or legal guardian. The guardian is responsible for the child at every moment of the safari, making sure he/she is safe, listening to the guide, and being responsible.

10Do people speak English in Africa? English is spoken widely throughout East and Southern Africa (with the exception of Mozambique). South Africa has eleven national languages but two languages; Afrikaans and English are taught in school. Afrikaans is the conversation language and English is the language of commerce in South Africa. In Botswana, Malawi, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe, English is actually the national language. This is in contrast the USA where you must press #1 for English.

11. Who looks after us while on safari? A very important element of traveling to a largely unknown destination is the peace of mind to know that you will be properly taken care before, during and after your trip. At Dark Continent Explorer we take a conservative stance in deciding which tour operators we will work with – they must have a lengthy and consistent record of truly exceptional service, be fully licensed and insured. While in Africa you will be met at each location and transferred from airports, to hotels to lodges and camps; your in-country representatives are on call 24 hours a day to answer any questions you may have or to handle any eventuality – from medical emergencies to retrieving a bag that may have been left behind and having it delivered to your next destination. In this way it is possible to travel with all the security of a packaged tour, but all the flexibility and privacy of an individual traveler.

12. Are their opportunities to meet with local people or visit real African villages? There are many opportunities for cultural interaction. We will have opportunities to meet with and interact with local native people during stop over’s in small towns/shopping.

13. Are the wild animals dangerous? Most of the regions visited in Southern Africa are in areas where you are within the natural habitat of the wildlife and so there are no fences surrounding the camps. In South Africa you will find that most of the private reserves are fenced, but within the confines the animals roam freely and you still need to be cautious. The best advice to be given here is to listen to your guides instruction while in camp, ensure that your tent flaps are not left open and doors are closed etc. At almost all the camps the guides walk you to and from your tents and they are trained to handle any situation, should it arise. Keep in mind that animals do wander through the camps during the day and at night, so at all times just be aware of your surroundings and you will be fine. Having wild animals in such close proximity is one of the main reasons people visit the area – enjoying them in their natural habitat is what makes the experience all the more special. Mostly, you are in no danger whatsoever if you listen to the guides and keep aware of your surroundings – always remember that you are in a wild place, with wild animals.

14. What shots or medicines do we need before traveling? Malaria? Certainly you need not rush off and get every possible inoculation and take every pill under the sun just to travel to Africa.  Do not go overboard with the information put out by the disease control centers. We return time and again to Africa and to the bush and have only ever taken Malaria prevention tablets. A course of anti-Malaria tablets is advisable and many doctors advise a dose of Hepatitis A vaccine. The medication “tablets” usually begins before you leave and is completed after returning home.  We recommend that you visit with a local travel health specialist for complete details and safety.

15.    Is there electricity in the camps? Camps and safaris in the remote wildlife regions of Southern Africa have no access to electrical power due to the remote nature of their locations. Most camps have generators on site with 220v electricity or they make use of solar panels. The generators are not normally heard by guests as they are run for a couple of hours at a time in the morning and afternoon while guests are enjoying their activities. The electricity is used to power ice machines, fridges and freezers that keep the food and drinks cool and fresh. The generator charges batteries that provide the power for the bedroom lights and overhead fans in the rooms. There is plenty of power available to charge batteries for cameras and video cameras, but not for hairdryers and the likes. Power converter In South Africa current is 220/240 volts at 50 cycles per second. Please note that some game lodges do not have electricity and run on generators. You will not find plug sockets in the rooms/tents at lodges.

16. Will I be able to recharge my camera and video camera batteries? We recommend that you bring your own AC adapter –C and H for east and southern Africa. Please make sure your electronic equipment switches automatically from 110 to 220 electricity (most do – it will say on the adapter or in the manual). If they do not switch automatically a converter will be needed. *Be sure to check if your plug is two or three pronged and the adapter that you choose.

17. What brand/type of digital camera would be best? We highly recommend a digital camera. The better zooming capability your camera has the happier you will be with your digital photography. Tip- The ‘Cannon Powershot’ line of cameras are an excellent choice for a photographer who doesn't want to invest thousands of dollars into camera gear but still has the gets the benefit of a quality picture. A camera that uses AA batteries makes life simpler, because you can bring a supply with you and there are readily available in South Africa. If your camera requires a custom battery, plan ahead because there is a good chance you won’t find it in South Africa. *To operate on South African AC current all devices including battery chargers must be rated for 110/220 volt. Bring along multiple memory cards (you’ll probably fill them all up, and it’s best to have them separate in case you happen to lose one.)

18.What weather should I expect on an African safari?In general the climate in southern Africa is as near perfect as you can get with dry season temperatures similar to those of the American Southwest or Mediterranean, but without the humidity. Daytime temperatures average 70 – 80 degrees Fahrenheit but can get much hotter, especially in the months of October and November, just before the rains arrive. During the winter period June through August nighttime temperatures in some areas can drop to the 40’s Fahrenheit. Early morning game drives during these winter months can start out very chilly and you should bring a warm sweater, gloves and even a hat to cover your ears. However, by mid morning (9 am or so) the layers will start coming off as the days will heat up dramatically. The rains occur each year during the period November through March with the dry season stretching from April through October.

19. What type of luggage should I use? Soft sided 50lbs max. rolling carry on, and day pack Luggage safety and security There has been an increase in the incidence of theft of personal belongings from checked-in luggage at airports in southern Africa.  Authorities are addressing this problem, but the level of occurrence remains high. As such, it is imperative that you do not put anything of high value (personal or financial) in your checked-in baggage, as luggage can be tampered with and valuables removed. This includes, but is not limited to jewelry, cameras, video equipment, reading /sunglasses, laptops or other computer/electronic equipment, medication (especially chronic medication) etc. We also suggest you lock your entire luggage with a suitable TSA approved lock to deter opportunistic theft.

20. What type of clothes should I pack? Because the temperatures vary, it is best to plan on dressing in layers. Some short and long sleeve shirts, Hi-Tech base layers top and bottom, long pants or jeans, shorts are optional. We also suggest a brim hat to keep the African sun out of your face. Bring tennis shoes or shoes that cover your toes. Shower shoes. Browns, tans, khaki, and earth tones are the most preferable clothing colors on a safari. For evening and early morning bring a jacket adequate for fall weather (fleece, lined windbreaker, or others of the sort). Also bring thin gloves, and stocking cap. Don’t forget your bathing suit if you would like to get into a pool during your safari.

21. Suggested luggage list Remember the weight restrictions covered above!

  • Good quality sunglasses – preferably polarized. Tinted fashion glasses are not good in strong light.
  • Sun hat.
  • Golf-shirts, T-shirts and long-sleeved cotton shirts.
  • Shorts/skirts.
  • Long trousers/slacks.
  • Sweat pants/sweat shirt.
  • Underwear and socks.
  • Good walking shoes (running/tennis shoes are fine).
  • Sandals.
  • Swimming suit.
  • Warm winter sweater.
  • Warm Anorak and gloves
  • Camera equipment and plenty of film/digital storage
  • If you wear contact lenses, we recommend that you bring along a pair of glasses in case you get irritation from the dust or pollen.
  • BINOCULARS – ESSENTIAL
  • Personal toiletries (Towels are provided.)(You may bring a face/wash cloth, shampoo, razor, etc.)
  • Malaria tablets (if you choose).
  • Moisturizing cream & suntan lotion.
  • Insect repellent (small amount is only needed)
  • Basic medical kit (aspirins/Tylenol, Imodium, cough/cold tablets, cough drops, etc).
  • Tissues/"Wet Ones".
  • Airline Tickets, passports, money, etc.
  • Waterproof/dust-proof zipper case/cover for your cameras.
  • headlamp (to see when walking around safari camp at night)

22. What laundry facilities are available on an African safari? You will have an opportunity to do laundry every few days. Most travelers bring enough clothes for half the trip to save space then wash clothes once. It’s all to your preference how many sets of clothes you want to bring. We strongly recommend you limit yourself to one 50lb. luggage bag.

23. Reserving your African safari You can register at your earliest convenience when we open booking for each safari. For short notice booking call for information. We encourage you to plan your African safari as far in advance as possible; several months at a minimum to ensure a better selection of camp availability.

24. Will we be "roughing it" if we stay at a luxury tented camp? Absolutely not! While staying at a luxury tented camp you will enjoy the comfort of a proper room with the sights and sounds of camping – the best of both worlds. Most tented camp rooms consist of very large walk in tents with entry doors. Walls are canvas with large roll up viewing sections. Inside you will enjoy a bed (usually 2 twin beds or a king) with pillows and duvets, throw rugs or full carpeting and full bath.

25. Accommodations. Our safari camps will range from 3 and 4 stars. Often times with thatched roof. Clean, safe private fully equipped rooms with maid service.

26. Is there Internet access while on safari? Internet access is available at most large city hotels, typically for a small fee.  Our experience with connection speed is noteworthy. Most African connections are slow amped-up dial-up and they charge by the minute. The majority of safari lodges and camps do not have Internet access (but some do).

27. Do cell phones work on safari? What about satellite phones? South Africa is in touch with the world. You will have an opportunity to rent a cell phone at the Johannesburg Airport that will work at most the private camps and rest camps in Kruger. Cell coverage in most towns is mostly excellent. So you will be able to stay in touch with home base daily. If you prefer to bring you own cell phone you can use its international package, if your provider has the option. Surprisingly cell phone coverage is widespread in South Africa, Namibia and Botswana. City coverage is remarkable. Kruger National Park and Kruger private camps in South Africa as well as the Rest Camps do have adequate cell phone towers. Satellite phones may be rented at the airport in Jo’berg at the beginning of your safari. Rental cost is very reasonable as is the cost per minute from Africa to the US…about a dollar per minute. Keep in mind most lodges and camps require guests to keep satellite phones turned off and use them only for outgoing calls so as not to disturb other guests.

28. Park Fee’s? Park fees are generally included in the cost of your package, but this is specified in the included and excluded section of your confirmation.

29. Do you handle air tickets? Where should I purchase my air tickets? We are able to help with all of your air ticket arrangements. We use an international travel agent that is simply the best. We have great contract rates with several airlines and are able to access most flight specials that are offered. Our agent, Barb Wolbrink, will co-ordinate the various flight schedules so we all arrive and depart at the same basic time. She also is our coordinator if there are cancellations or emergencies. Phone: 1-800-203-0951 E-mail: barb.intljourneys@verizon.net

30. Can we use our mileage to fly to Africa? Yes. We still ask that you coordinate with our international agent to insure the flight schedules mesh with other travelers.

31.    What trip insurance should I obtain, if any? It is a condition of  booking that the sole responsibility lies with the guest to ensure that they carry the correct comprehensive travel and medical insurance to cover themselves, as well as any dependents/traveling companions for the duration of their trip to South Africa. This insurance should include coverage in respect of, but not limited to, the following eventualities: cancellation of the trip to Africa, emergency evacuation expenses, medical expenses, repatriation expenses, and damage/theft/loss of personal baggage, money and goods. Travel Guard travel insurance. The on-line application is very easy to complete on Travel Guards website. The application offers multiple coverage options and also shows a price comparison for each.  Please feel free to contact us if you have questions and we will gladly assist you.

32.    How much should we tip? Who do we tip? How do we tip? Tipping at private lodges and camps is always welcomed but the amount varies depending upon the level of service you receive. As a rough estimate you can tip 10%/15%, if you choose to. We recommend that you tip those persons who make your safari special. Tipping the Dark Continent Explorer safari leader and staff is our recommendation. Tips are up to 15% of your total safari cost. Example10% goes to the guide and the 5% goes to the staff. Tips are welcome in US Dollars or SA Rand.

33. Is the water and food safe? Many parts of Africa do have problems with their water and foods; however, the food and water in South Africa is much safer than the rest of Africa, especially in the African safari camps and hotels you will be traveling to, furthermore we purchase and prepare all our own food.  Please do not over-react to the detriment of you own enjoyment.  We have never experienced any problems with the food or water in any of the camps or hotels we have traveled to over the years. Plenty of fresh bottled water and a cooler full of drinks is always available at all of the camps throughout the day and should be consumed regularly and in quantity.  We have seen many guests, even experienced African travelers, who forget to drink enough water and become dehydrated.  A case of dehydration will usually put you out of action for up to a day and is no fun.

34.     What types of food are served on safari? Our African cuisine is like no other. Our amazing chef will prepare fantastic meals which often include incredible homemade bread baked in a cast iron oven over the coals. Many meals will be prepared over open fire. Which South Africans call a brie. We will eat a variety of American and South African meals, created with beef, pork, chicken or wild game. You will enjoy fresh vegetables, salads, and desserts. If you have any allergies or specific dietary needs please inform us upon booking. Our guests our very impressed with the quality and quantity of food provided while on a Dark Continent Explorer safari. Some evenings your table will be set elegantly under the southern stars and your dinner will be served by candlelight.

35. What about special dietary needs (vegetarian, diabetic, allergies)? Upon booking please let us know all of your dietary needs. We will cater to them, if given enough warning time.

36. What drinks are available on safari? Cooled bottled water, soda, and juice are always available to you.

37. How do I pay for my safari? Secure payment is accepted via checks or Pay Pal. A deposit of 50% of the total safari fee not including air travel is due upon booking. The remaining 50% is due 60-days prior to the depart date. Once booking is confirmed and deposit is submitted the deposit will be used to secure lodging/guiding and will not be refundable.

38. What if we have to cancel our safari plans? All cancellations requests must be made in writing, signed by the client, to Dark Continent Explorer and all trips may be subject to the following, per person, cancellation charges based on the number of days before trip departure that we receive your written cancellation request: More than 60 days: Loss of deposit Between 30 and 60 days: 50% of trip cost per person Less than 30 days: No refund of trip cost

39. What is and is not included in the tour? Things not included in a tour:

  • All flights, Travel insurance
  • Value Added Tax (VAT @ 14% in S.A.)
  • Items of a personal nature, telephone calls, laundry
  • Side trips not included in itinerary
  • Shuttles if airline is late/delayed
  • Alcoholic beverages (we ask that you be responsible with drinking)

Services included in tour:

  • All accommodation between airport pick-up and departure
  • Safari Vehicle
  • Guide staff
  • Driver, fuel and toll fees
  • 3 meals daily
  • Smiles and laughs
  • Drinks (bottled water, juices and soda)
  • Park and conservation fees

Post to Twitter