Safety What to take When to go Health Travel Accommodation
We heard Cape Town could be dangerous after dark, but that's probably the same as any big city in the world. Take obvious precautions such as not leaving anything of value in a parked car - even sunglasses, and take care of bags etc. when walking in crowds. Also some reserves have had problems with muggings - get local advice if possible
See my other 'what to take' advice pages, take as few clothes as possible. Most places do laundry or sell T-shirts. A waterproof cape or cagoul is handy on the pelagic trip - as is a fleece as it gets cold with the wind blowing in from Antarctica.
We both have Opticron 10 x 42 binoculars - the 'High Resolution' and Sequoiah models. On this trip I also took my Opticron Piccolo Telescope with 30x WA eyepiece and a Cullmann Video tripod. A beanbag was useful in the Kruger NP as you can't leave the car except in designated spots, so use the car as a hide.
We used The SASOL Birds of South Africa by Sinclair, Nockey and Tarboton, and Mammals of Southern Africa by Chris & Tide Stuart. Also the Globetrotter guide to the Kruger National Park is good but you can get a nice big mapbook at any of the visitor centres/shops in the park.
We decided to go in October which is the start of the Summer. There had been a very dry winter so there was still very little vegetation about, which makes game viewing easier. As the rains had not yet arrived, many migrants such as Cuckoos and Kingfishers were still further north. However birds like European Bee-Eater and Swallows had arrived. Weaver birds were just coming into breeding plumage which makes identification easier. The temperatures were starting to rise in the north but Cape Town was still a little cool
Malaria tablets are recommended although we didn't bother this time as only the north parts of the Kruger are malarial. We took precautions not to get bitten, such as long sleeves at dawn and dusk and used insect repellant, but hardly got bitten at all. Food and water are pretty safe and bottled water is available in most places apart from rural areas where all you can get is the ubiquitous Coca Cola.
We flew Manchester - Paris - Joburg with Air France. Very efficient going, but it took an hour to get through immigration which is worth remembering if you have connections to make. Coming back was chaos with staff unable to issue boarding passes or allocate seats. The plane took off 30 minutes late. (we also had problems in Madagascar so it could be an Air France thing. It might be worth confirming the return flight over the internet 36 hours before take-off which allows you to choose a seat)
We stayed at a wide range of accommodation varying in price and quality.
Kirkmans Camp is a luxury lodge in the Mala Mala concession, adjacent to the Kruger NP. Nice rooms with balcony, en-suite bath and shower, swimming pool, huge meals, guided game drives morning and evening. You are pretty well guaranteed the 'big five' (Lion, Buffalo, Elephant, Hippo and Leopard) and lots of other game. Very close up views as they are in radio-contact with other vehicles the whole time.
In the Kruger itself we stayed at Letaba and Punda Maria. Rooms a bit more spartan but clean. The restaurants were basic with little choice but OK. There are braai and cooking facilities so you can do self-catering - the shops only have the basics, so stock up before you enter the park.
Mopane Bush Lodge is a game 'farm' west of Musina. Originally a goat farm the habitat was badly degraded. Paul and Rosemary are making efforts to restore the habitat and their dream is to eventually take down the fences and merge with the Mapungubwe NP. Until that day though, they have bought and introduced animals to the area. The lodge itself is superb with excellent home-cooked meals and a personal touch, much nicer than the commercial setup at Kirkmans. There is a nice pool, and you can walk anywhere in the grounds as there are no Lions - we did see Leopard tracks though !
Shiluvari Lakeside Lodge near Elim. Reasonable rooms with en-suite bath. No choice in the restaurant though with a fixed menu. Not much opportunity for walking or birding in the grounds and with low water levels there were no boat trips on the lake.
In Cape Town we stayed at the Leeuwenvoet House. B & B with nice clean rooms, huge breakfast and secure off-road car parking, I would definitely stay here again. 10 minutes drive from the waterfront, or excellent local restaurant (Millers Thumb) round the corner.
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