Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

F.A.Q.s

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS about programs in South Africa

 List of Questions (See detailed answers below):

What kind of accommodation can I expect?

What is the food like?

Do you cater for vegetarians or people with other special diets?

What do I need to bring?

Will I be able to do laundry?

Will I be able to shower?

How do I get from the airport to camp, and back?

What about Ebola?

What about malaria?

Do I need any vaccinations?

Are there snakes and spiders?

Where are the nearest medical facilities?

What emergency response systems are in place?

Why do you carry guns?

How physically fit do I need to be?

Will I see the Big Five?

What other animals and interesting things will I see?

Will I be able to interact with local people?

How many participants have you worked with?

Can I design a custom program?

What’s the big deal about tracking; why should I include it in my program?

 

Detailed Answers:

What kind of accommodation can I expect?

We use several different venues. Some are tented camps, others are luxury lodges, and there is a range of options in between. Even in our most rustic tented camp, however: there are comfortable beds with good mattresses on bed frames (not sleeping pads or cots); solar lights to lessen environmental impact; an energy-efficient low-noise generator for charging things like phones and camera batteries once a day; beautiful and private open-air hot water showers; flushing toilets; laundry service once a week, and hearty meals that are fully catered.

 

What is the food like?

Your day usually starts early, before sunrise with a light meal of oatmeal, fresh fruit and white or brown toast. Coffee, tea (both black tea and African Rooibos, or red tea, are available), and hot cocoa are always available, as are water and flavored juices. Around 10:30, after a morning game drive, walk, or other activity, a hearty brunch is provided for you consisting of green salad, a main dish, and a side dish. For example, a dish of traditional South African farmer’s sausage, called “boerewors,” might be served with baked beans, green salad, and hot muffins. Snacks are freely available all day, usually: fresh fruit, cookies, toasted or untoasted white or brown bread with butter, or with peanut butter and jelly. A wholesome dinner is served following the afternoon activities; around 7 pm. Dinner also includes a fresh green salad, a main dish, and one or two side dishes. One example of dinner is “seswaa” a local Motswana dish of slow cooked, salted-beef , so tender that it falls apart. Seswaa is served over “pap,” a sticky corn-meal dish resembling mashed potatoes in appearance, a vegetable such as grilled butternut squash, and a tossed-green salad. Once a week we try to provide a traditional South African “braai” or bar-b-que of chicken, steak, boerewors, or wild venison bought from the local butchery, along with hearty side dishes and salad.

Alcoholic beverages are one of the few items not included in the program costs. It is your individual and group decision whether or not to have alcoholic beverages (some of our groups agree on a ‘dry” program) but we expect individuals to act responsibly.

 

Do you cater for vegetarians or other people with special diets?

Yes, we regularly have participants who require special diets, such as: vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, lactose intolerant, and salt-free. Please let us know if you require anything special and we will do our best to provide a wholesome variety of foods that you enjoy.

 

What do I need to bring?

An exact gear list will be provided for the venue you will be staying in and the program you are on. Generally, you will need your own toiletries and seasonally appropriate clothing. Summer weather in the Lowveld area where most of our camps are range from 25 to 40 degrees Celsius (77 – 104 degrees Fahrenheit), with little humidity but almost daily afternoon thunderstorms. Winter weather ranges from 5-10 degrees Celsius (41 – 50 degrees Fahrenheit) with little-to-no rain. In an open-air, moving vehicle, it can seem a lot colder. Items of importance are neutral-colored clothes (earth-tones), closed-toed shoes, a water bottle and a flashlight. We highly recommend that you bring binoculars and a camera. Comfort items include flip-flops and/or slippers for wearing around camp.

 

Will I be able to do laundry?

Laundry will be done for you once a week. You should plan on hand-washing any special or delicate items.

 

Will I be able to shower?

Yes, all of our camps have hot-and-cold water showers.

 

How do I get from the airport to camp, and back?

From the start of your program to the end, all ground transportation is arranged for you and included in the program costs. If you arrive early, there are hotels and hostels near the airport with free shuttle-busses that we can recommend to you, at your own cost, until the time of your group pick-up.

 

What about Ebola?

There is no Ebola in Southern Africa. South Africa has implemented very strict requirements at all ports-of-entry, and is Ebola free. The nearest cases of Ebola to South Africa are several thousand miles away in Western Africa, in: Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sierra Leone. There have also been cases reported in Spain and the United States.

 

What about malaria?

The region we work in is listed as a malaria zone by the Center for Disease Control. Malaria requires two things for transmission: a reservoir (someone with malaria in the area) and a mosquito to transfer it. Many of our programs run during the winter months when mosquitos are rare, and there are no known reservoirs in the area we work in. No one has ever contracted malaria on one of our programs, but there remains a slight possibility, which results in the CDC warning. Malaria is easily treatable when discovered early and 100% recovery is common. We recommend that you consult with your doctor regarding whether-or-not to take a prophylaxis for the prevention of malaria.

 

Do I need any vaccinations?

We recommend that you consult with your doctor over vaccinations; usually none are required, but some are recommended. We recommend that you have an updated tetanus shot.

 

Are there snakes and spiders?

Yes, there are venomous and non-venomous snakes, spiders, and other invertebrates such as scorpions; yet, there are far fewer of them active during the winter months in South Africa (May-August). It is important to remember that these creatures perform valuable roles in the ecosystem and that their tendencies are to move away from large animals such as humans, rather than to be aggressive. Our guides are professionals, and have been trained to safely identify and remove these creatures in the event that one gets too close to the camp.

 

Where are the nearest medical facilities?

All of our guides are certified in first-aid and CPR. A private doctor is located less than one hour’s drive from most of our camps, and a fully equipped military medical hospital is situated on the Air Force base located near the little town of Hoedspruit. Additional hospitals are located in almost every major city in South Africa, including state-of-the-art hospitals in Johannesburg and Pretoria, which are less than a one-hour flight from our furthest camps.

 

What emergency response systems are in place?

We encourage all of our participants to enroll online in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) with their nearest US Embassy or Consulate. STEP allows you to: “receive important information about safety conditions in your destination country; help the US Embassy to contact you in an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency; help family and friends get in touch with you in an emergency.”

 

Why do you carry guns?

We are required to carry large-caliber rifles on guided walks in areas with potentially dangerous animals by our licensing agency, the Field Guides Association of Southern Africa (FGASA). Rifles are intended to be used solely in the protection of guests, but we make every effort to never have to shoot an animal. Thus far, we have been successful, and with a combined experience of over 47 years of walking in dangerous game areas no one on our team has ever had to shoot an animal.

 

How physically fit do I need to be?

We expect a reasonable degree of fitness but there is no need to run a marathon. You must be able to walk for a few hours at a time, and climb a tree or one of the large termite mounds that are found in many areas where we walk.

 

Will I see the Big Five (lion, leopard, Cape buffalo, elephant, and rhinoceros)?

This depends on the amount of days in your program, and where the animals are moving during those days. One of the beauties of the areas that we operate in is that they are part of a complex of reserves that make up one of the largest natural areas for free-roaming wildlife; but free-roaming also means that they move in and out of the areas we traverse, and we may occasionally miss them while they are out. We use tracking to find animals and radios to communicate with other guides to ensure that if something exciting is in the area, you will see it. While there is never a guarantee that you will see the Big Five, we strive to make this happen and are very successful at it.

 

What other animals and interesting things will I see?

Birding, even in winter (May-Aug), is incredible, and we have had winter bird lists reach over 100 species in a matter of a couple of weeks. Outside of winter, the potential is much higher for seeing up to 350 bird species, as well as for seeing interesting and beautiful invertebrates, reptiles, amphibians, fish, wildflowers, trees & shrubs, grasses, and baby mammals. At any time of the year, It is also possible to see rare creatures such as wild dog, cheetah, aardvark, and pangolin; as-well-as common creatures such as giraffe, zebra, impala and other antelope, mongooses, and jackals. The possible species list is abundant and exciting!

 

Will I be able to interact with local people?

This is possible to include in any program. Interactions range from as casual as a game of soccer to sponsorship of a local participant on the program for a true exchange of culture. We prefer to organize authentic experiences between our program participants and local people, that can benefit all, rather than a staged song-and-dance experience at a school.

The cultures are deep and varied in the areas where we work, exemplified by the 11 officially recognized national languages in South Africa: Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu. Areas where we walk are often littered with artifacts such as stone tools, and some areas contain rock-art murals or metal-ore forges that are hundreds of years old. World Heritage Sites in South Africa include The Cradle of Humankind and the Kingdom of Mapungubwe. The Cradle of Humankind is a complex of limestone caves where a large number of some of the oldest fossil hominids have been excavated, while Mapungubwe is thought to be the first pre-colonial state with a class-based social system in South Africa, mysteriously abandoned after 80 years of habitation.

With the Apartheid regime ending as recently as 1994 and transforming to a democracy, there is also a rich political climate for discussion and optional visits include socially important sites such as the Soweto township and Nelson Mandela’s house.

 

How many participants have you worked with?

In the past 8 years we have had almost 600 satisfied participants, of all ages, through our educational and adventure programs. In addition, Nature Guide Training has had several hundred more participants, in the past 15 years, who have successfully completed guiding courses and gone on to become professional field guides in Africa.

 

Can I design a custom program?

Yes, our programs are ecology/safari based, but can also include components of: culture (historical and current); primitive skills; political science; photography and art; animal behavior and tracking; game capture and rehabilitation; ornithology herpetology; dendrology, botany and Ethnobotany; entomology; mammalogy, astronomy, spatial thinking and Geographic Information Systems, tourism, hospitality, leadership, and much more. Ask us!

 

What’s the big deal about tracking; why should I include it in my program?

Tracking helps us to find animals for more direct observation and for photographing, and tracking is most successful when everyone is fully engaged with each other, their observations and their awareness. When we trail and approach animals undetected, tracking offers us a non-invasive window into the world of their natural behaviors. We can also interpret the tracks themselves, determining behaviors, such as: food preference and availability, sleeping areas, and complex interactions between individuals of the same species or other species. But first, for example: in order to find a lion we need to know what a lion track looks like (or a partial lion track) and be able to tell a small lion track from a large leopard track. Some of this can be done through interpreting behavior and social structure (lions are pride animals, while leopards are mostly solitary), but a lot must be read in track morphology. Identification and interpretation of tracks and sign (scat, feathers, skulls, beds, dens, chews, etc.) has been described as learning the ABCs of a language when compared to the reading and telling of the sentences and paragraphs in the story of laid down in the trail of an animal. Therefore, while yielding intimate details of an animal’s behavior, tracking can also give us a big-picture view of how an animal fits into the health and ecology of the larger landscape.

Tracking helps to keep us safe. By knowing how to identify and age tracks and sign, we know if lions or other dangerous animals are nearby, and can determine what time they were here, and where they went.

Tracking has been called the first science. Identification, interpretation, and following an animal’s tracks all require: observation; hypothesis development; data collection; data analysis; revision; and a conclusion and discussion of further applications of the results – this is all a simple, physical exercise in the scientific method and in solving puzzles. Tracking may also be a root-cause of human evolution, because through tracking we were better able to provide food, shelter, clothing, and improved quality of life for our families; which allowed our brains to grow and for art, science and culture to develop.

While tracking is a practical and physical exercise in identification, interpretation and following of tracks and sign, it can also be used to metaphorically explore and enhance participant relationships to themselves, others and the natural world. In track and sign identification, participants must come to their own decisions about what a track or sign is before it is discussed among the group and then explained by our highly qualified instructors; this is often a process of discovery into how and why confidence is tested, gained or lost. Likewise, following the trail of an animal becomes an exercise in self-discovery, leadership, and teamwork/relationships with other participants (What do I do when I lose the trail? Do I search randomly or systematically? Do I ask for help? Can I accept help? Do I stand there and do nothing waiting for someone to offer a suggestion? What if I find the animal but it sees me first? Etc.). Tracking also deepens their connection to the natural world (Where do I think this animal is going? Why? Does it live here or is it passing through? What other animals does it interact with? What does it need to survive? Etc.). The enhanced knowledge of self, community and the natural world interact with each other to increase understanding of all three; increased understanding creates a sense of belonging, confidence and possession – and, time-over-time, we have witnessed our participants taking ownership for social and environmental issues and striving to make the world a better place.

 

“In the end we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.”

-Baba Dioum

11

Share This: