Recently, I was fortunate enough to check another big one off the bucket list; taking a trip to South Africa. The continent of Africa as a whole is so enormous and boasts such a wide range of travel options that I hadn’t even set foot there yet and was already planning my next trip (which will include some combination of Victoria Falls, Mozambique, and a re-visit to Cape Town).
The trip was an amazing experience that exceeded all of my expectations and surprised me in ways I had never thought it would. Somehow, my experience in South Africa didn’t match up at all to what I had envisioned in my brain beforehand. Post-visit, it was extremely clear to me that the media, word of mouth, and who knows what else, had given most Americans (including myself) a very inaccurate perception of the destination as a viable vacation spot.
My goal with this post is to explain to those who have been affected by what I like to describe as “the American smokescreen” that there is no reason to be hesitant; South Africa, I now know, is the perfect destination for so many people! I especially think it would be a great fit for many honeymooners or even families with older children—the service and personalized experience you’re given sets it apart from any other destination in the globe. It’s no coincidence that Africa has the highest percentage of repeat visitors of any destination in the world.
Here are a few myths that were proven wrong before my very eyes:
1.“Going on a safari is the only thing to do in Africa.”
It is true that the highlight of any trip to South Africa is the game drives, wildlife viewing, and experiencing life in the bush, but the assumption that there is nothing else to experience outside of that couldn’t be further from the truth. I experienced some of the world’s most fine dining in Cape Town, explored stunning wine lands, sought out diverse wildlife in the Cape Peninsula, and witnessed gorgeous natural scenery and hiking and climbing near Table Mountain.
It is my firm belief that you could spend months in South Africa touring around and still not see all there is to see. I visited the game reserves toward the end of my stay in the country—at that point I thought, How could this get any better?”. I don’t feel that going on a safari makes or breaks the trip, but rather enhances it.
2.“It’s undeveloped and plagued by poverty.”
South Africa is as first world as it gets. Most of the time there, you’ll feel like you’re visiting Santa Monica, California or some other well-known US city. Just like in any big city, there are of course areas of poverty, but it’s nothing like the dusty streets and desert desolation that’s shown on TV depicting the continent of Africa as a whole.
Cape Town in particular has areas of the shanty town remnants of the Apartheid; these are in highly concentrated areas usually on the outskirts of the city. There are more and more programs being offered that allow tourists to leave a positive mark on the people living in these shanty towns and experience a mutually beneficial afternoon while on their vacation. They’re generating income and providing jobs for those affected while at the same time getting to interact and enrich their trip with a learning and cultural experience unlike any other.
3.“It’s too expensive.”
Buying a plane ticket to Johannesburg or Cape Town is similar in price to purchasing a ticket to go just about anywhere in Europe. People are buying flights to London and Paris left and right, so planning your next trip to South Africa should be no more harrowing than that.
The price of a safari package can sometimes seem daunting, but don’t discount the fact that a stay in a game lodge in a private reserve usually includes the following:
- Deluxe accommodations in the form of luxury tents or bungalows with private outdoor sitting areas, bathrooms, lots of space, and even kitchenettes sometimes
- An experienced guide ranger to not only facilitate your morning, afternoon, and night game drives but to personally see to it that you’re comfortable throughout your stay, eat meals with you, and answer any questions you may have during the entire time you’re visiting
- Breakfast, lunch, and dinner and sometimes even alcoholic beverages are included depending on the lodge you’re staying in
- Luxurious pools overlooking rivers, valleys, and wildlife
- Exercise facilities always available for use
- Mentioned earlier, but this deserves its own line—3 game drives a day with a guide and sometimes also a tracker; they communicate with others in the area and make sure you’re seeing the most robust amounts of animals and present at the most exciting animal sightings happening during your time there
- Transportation to and from the airport you’re entering into the area through
- Morning wake-up calls and personalized meals for those with dietary requests or medical restrictions
When you see what looks like an outrageous dollar figure for a safari package, think twice before shrugging it off as outside of your budget. The US Dollar, at the time of writing this post, is equal to about 15 African Rands. With everything included at the game lodges and an exchange rate as in your favor as that for when you’re traveling throughout other parts of the country, where can you go wrong? I guarantee you’ll spend less in the long run on a trip to South Africa than, say, a trip to France or the UK. AND you’ll get a much more unique experience out of it too.
I hope this post will serve to inform you that Africa shouldn’t be something far off in the future on your bucket list that you assume will probably never happen. Africa is so approachable and has such unexpectedly great tourist infrastructure that it shouldn’t be put off for another moment. I say quit dreaming about it and do it!
Stay tuned for another post that goes more in-depth on the safari experience itself and what to expect on the game drives and in the lodges. I can promise you that it is an out-of-this-world experience that is incomparable to any other trip you may take.
Feel free to comment if you have specific questions about anything at all pertaining to South Africa and to traveling there—I’m more than enthusiastic to talk about it with others!
Until Next Time,
CAITLYN WITHOUT A COMPASS