Subscribe to our newsletter!

Safari Budgets Explained

Erik 18 Feb 2016

Africa is one of the biggest continents on the face of the Earth, and although this makes exploring her wildernesses so interesting, it also poses certain challenges. For example, in many of the wildest places, there is absolutely zero infrastructure. Consequently, if you want to see these places, you have two options. (1) You gear up and bring everything in with you, which requires having a capable touring vehicle (preferably a 4x4) and cooking equipment, cleaning gear, rescue equipment, etc... or joining an organised tour by a company that has all the appropriate gear and experience. (2) You stay at a lodge or camp that has set up a bit of infrastructure in the wilderness, and has made a plan to get supplies to the camp. For example, transporting fresh food in is usually done by plane so that the food is still edible when it arrives.

These types of operations have far higher running and maintenance costs than hotels in the city, and consequently their prices tend to be a bit higher. That said, they also tend to be "all inclusive" - i.e. meals and wildlife activities are included in the price. After all, you can't quickly pop out to a restaurant for a meal! The safari industry prides itself on its ability to provide phenomenal comfort and luxury in these wild locations, and we are frequently awarded for it, so don't be surprised to find an experience that rivals those of top hotels in the big cities, with very different scenery. Another factor to consider is the logistics of getting you into these wild places, and this varies wildly depending on just how deep into the wilderness you want to go. Transport options range from road or boat transfers to charter aircraft.

Having said all that, the continent offers a tremendous variety, so why not chat to a consultant and find out what suits you?

Click here to talk to us.

Ocean Sunset

Erik 8 Jan 2015

When was the last time you had the opportunity to sit on the beach and watch the sun go down? 

A photo cannot do it justice, as it is a multisensory experience. First, the waves become louder, as your body reacts to the dwindling light by ramping up the sensitivity of your senses. Next, you get goosebumps, which the poetic types will ascribe to an emotional reaction to the warm embrace of the refracted light. 

More likely, this is due to the sudden cooling of the sand. Being so reflective, it does not hold its heat long after the sun stops beating it. Although likely present since the late afternoon, it is normally at this time that one notices the sea breeze, and the gulls drifting in it. Of course, all this is accompanied by the visual feast of the sunset itself.

So perhaps I should ask, when is the last time you had the opportunity to sit on the beach and feel the sun go down?

 – Erik

Storms

Erik 2 Jan 2015

These skulls washed up on the Cape coastline after a particularly big storm. Locals also reported finding several seals and penguins washed up on shore just after the storms. It is odd to think of creatures so graceful in the water being bested by its power, but I think it is easy to underestimate the true power of the ocean during a storm.

 – Erik

4 Principles of tracking

Erik 26 Dec 2014

On a recent tracking course with Bushwise Field Guides, I picked up 4 vital principles for analysing any situation.

4: Analyse the detail within the problem

Here we see a civet track… or is it a genet? Maybe a small leopard? Or a tiny lion? Maybe even a wildcat! Tracks are wonderfully detailed things, and the third step that I learnt during Track & Sign week with Bushwise Field Guides, is to look at all the little details within the problem. In a potentially confusing example like this, for example, here the shape and position of the toes lead to African Civet, and the size comparison to the Blue Wildebeest track next to it confirms this.

- Erik

4 Principles of tracking

Erik 22 Dec 2014

On a recent tracking course with Bushwise Field Guides, I picked up 4 vital principles for analysing any situation.

3: Look at the whole scene for additional information

In the bushveld, one always has to be aware of one’s surroundings. For example, a tracker following a pride of lions for his guests would do very well to look at the shadows underneath the trees before he ends up on the menu – but when you are inexperienced, it it hard not to focus entirely on the problem instead of looking around. Thus, the final ingredient that I learnt during Track & Sign week was to always take a step back and look at the entire scene as well. You will often find extra information that can make all the difference, and as a bonus you get a chance to appreciate how beautiful the bushveld is!

- Erik

4 Principles of tracking

Erik 18 Dec 2014

On a recent tracking course with Bushwise Field Guides, I picked up 4 vital principles for analysing any situation.

2: Evaluate the direction of the problem

Unfortunately, there are no “footprint marshals” instructing our wildlife to politely step around each other’s tracks, and to only step neatly and firmly in soft soil. As a result, tracks can become muddled, and in order to identify the one you are investigating, it helps a lot to be able to gather extra information, such as a matching track from the other foot, or a clue about the behaviour of the animal. To do any of this, it helps tremendously to know where to look. Thus, determining the direction of the animal is invaluable, and this was the second thing I learnt to do during Track & Sign week – after making sure the light is coming from a good angle.

- Erik

4 Principles of tracking

Erik 14 Dec 2014

On a recent tracking course with Bushwise Field Guides, I picked up 4 vital principles for analysing any situation.

1: Optimise your lighting

Tracks are delicate, intricate things beyond belief. The amount of detail that a patch of earth, slightly disturbed, can convey to an experienced reader, is astonishing. When looking at tracks then, external factors such as casting your own shadow over the track you are investigating, can make your efforts at interpreting the sign significantly harder. Glare can also be very influential. Thus, the first thing I learnt during my track & sign week was to be aware of my location and position myself appropriately when approaching a problem.

- Erik

Part 2 - How not to Hike

Erik 25 Nov 2014

Alas, there was one more upset to come... but as I indicated earlier, all three girls are still my friends, so allow me to tell you how it all ended!  We were all pretty eager to get a good night's rest, and spend the next day enjoying being so far up in the valley - I guess we were hoping to reap some reward from having pushed so hard on day 1.

Now, in the 'Berg you will often end up having to compromise when it comes to choosing where to pitch your tent, and on this particular instance, the only flat ground we could find that wasn't too close to the valley floor (and thus at risk of flash flooding), was on a ridge.  I knew this would present a risk of unpleasant wind during the night, but failed to notice that we were actually now camping at the meeting point of two valleys, and would therefore face double the wind if it did blow... which it did.

Now, I've had windy nights in the 'Berg before, but this was the first time I've actually had to brace the frame of the tent!  Needless to say, we woke up pretty much as exhausted as when we went to 'sleep'!  At this stage, my girlfriend staged a grumpy mutiny, and we had a group re-evaluation of the plan, after which things went more smoothly.

So how did I not end up in everyone's bad books?  Well, actually I have no idea... the only pleasant thing about the hike was the scenery!  Or maybe that's the secret... the Drakensberg is one of the most spectacular places in South Africa, and despite all the odds, the majority of our stops involved the frantic whirring of shutter mechanisms, and a lot of ooh-ing and aah-ing.  And waking up on a ridge, 2500m above sea level, in the vast empty chasm at the confluence of those two valleys, with the whole world stretching out before us, and watching the sun dust off the mist, is a memory that I will treasure forever.

So, in short, do a bit more research than I did before you transition from hiker to hike-leader... because although the 'hardcore' badge is appealing, the enjoyment of the hike is a much better prize!  Oh and take the right friends!!! 

 – Erik

Part 1 - How not to Hike

Erik 24 Nov 2014

I am a lucky man... not because I went hiking in the Drakensberg with three girls, not because I am unharmed despite poor planning, and not because I managed to get my girlfriend's father's sporty Audi all the way to Injesuthi camp and back without breaking the undercarriage.  No; I am a lucky man because the Drakensberg is such a breath-taking part of the country, that despite leading my girlfriend and two friends on the worst organised hike I have ever been involved in (also the first one I led, hmmm), all members involved are still happy to be my friends!  Allow me to tell, nay warn, you about my 'how not to hike' experience.

I've been on a number of overnight hikes before, and thought I understood the process fairly well.  Little did I know just how many vital decisions are made before you put a thing in your backpack... My first mistake was trying to cater for too many options.  Half the party wanted two nights, and the other half wanted three, so I thought we'd carry three nights of food and see how we felt on day two.  The group wanted to head for the escarpment, but this is hard to do in two days (from Injesuthi) so we picked a route which looked like a hard hike but allowed us the option of turning back if we ended up not wanting to do the full three days.  

Now at the time this sounded reasonable, but let's look closer.  If you plan a two-night hike it's easy to justify carrying nicer food, and nicer means heavier.  If you suddenly add a third day (in a party of four), it is easy to just add more food, instead of realising that you are now adding a significant amount of extra weight, and should actually replan the meals entirely.  A route which allows the option of turning around sounds ok, but  we chose to head to the foot of Ship's Prow pass, and to get there from Injesuthi is not only a difficult hike in its own right, but also means scrambling through a kilometre or two of very undefined path about 12km out of camp, after having climbed nearly 1000m already.  This may sound fine when your legs are fresh, and when the ranger describes it as a bit of an adventure, but when you get there after 6 hours of hiking uphill it suddenly becomes less appealing, and much more of an adventure!

We did one thing right, which is that we were over-prepared for emergencies, so at no stage did we feel unsafe or in danger, but the effect of these innocent pre-hike choices meant that by the time we pitched our tents, more than 2,500m above sea level, we were so exhausted that we couldn't even appreciate the view.  Straight into our sleeping bags after dinner, and we were all hoping that the next day would be better!

 – Erik

Zebra

Erik 5 Nov 2014

Looks like a horse, smells like a horse... but is it a horse? Despite the best intentions of the conservationist in me, my human nature cannot help but wonder whether you could ride a zebra. 

Like the wolf vs. dog argument, logic suggests that an animal with sufficient wild instincts to take on a lion will have little regard for my pale, pudgy mounting attempts. However, the annals of history hold several successful examples of domestication. 

The records do state categorically that despite their improved resistance to African diseases over a textbook horse, they are more unpredictable and tend to panic when stressed. The preferred stock is actually a zonkey (zebra-donkey hybrid).

 – Erik

Crocodile River

Erik 2 Nov 2014

For someone who spends  a lot of time on the road, I have a surprisingly bad sense of direction. So when I popped into the Kruger on my way to Nelspruit from White River, I thought I'd avoid the roadworks on the N4 by taking the parallel road on the opposite side of the river (which, retrospectively, was obviously a narrow winding mountain pass so I really should have known I wasn't saving any time). 

First, the Kruger. Turns out that you can't just pop in for an hour or two and 'stalk' game at 30km/h in a roaring little coupé, nor are you going to have a good time if you decide to turn off onto the dirt roads in said little coupé. That said, I was enormously impressed by how friendly the staff were, and how well maintained the roads were (I might have felt a bit nervous, but even the dirt roads were fine for my car). So, I got to see impala and have an wonderful scenic drive and a nice lunch. Perhaps a different strategy next time!

Now, onto my drive back... as it turns out, the road on the other side of the river winds through the Crocodile River Mountain Conservancy - on which I can find very little information online but from what I saw the area appears to be mixed use general conservation land - very bushy, a few tiny villages and farms, and one long gloriously twisty mountain road. This was without a doubt the prettiest mountain pass of my entire 4 week trip! As I hinted earlier, it's not a fast route to take, but if you are in the area and have the time, I'd highly recommend it.

 – Erik

Horsing About

Erik 28 Oct 2014

I haven't been on a horse since before I grew chest hair, but still considered myself quite the cowboy... that is, until I stood next to a horse considerably bigger than (how I remembered) the ponies at the riding school I attended when I was 12. I had planned on having a macho photo for this blog, but believe me, the image of me using a stepping log to get on is far more accurate!

We looped through what used to be a baboon trail through the forest, onto a scenic plateau with a breathtaking view of the valley, and back to the paddock. I have no idea how long the ride took because I enjoyed the scenery too much, but later calculation pegs it at just over an hour, with more than enough variation to keep you entertained.

There are numerous horse trails around South Africa, but the Witzenberg Valley and its softly forested slopes is one of my favourite places to spend a day. Do look up Horse Abouts if you are near Tulbagh.

 – Erik

Birthing Season

Erik 24 Oct 2014

Typically, winter is said to be the best time for a safari, as the rains have yet to come, and the bush is sparse. This makes the game easier to spot, and photographers don’t go home with hundreds of beautiful images of African grasses, with defocussed lions in the background at F2.8

However, the late spring has a very special kind of magic. Yes, the rains have come and the bush is lush and intimidating... but scurrying around under all that brush you will find the next generation. Most of our game drops in early spring, and the harsh wildernesses of Africa turn into the cutest, cuddliest nurseries in the world.

Bear in mind, if you hope to come and see this event, that there are still vast legions of predators lurking about, and you should be prepared for the eventuality of seeing a new entrant to the bushveld make its exit.

 – Erik

Life and Death

Erik 20 Oct 2014

If, instead of drifting towards the sciences as a child in search of a world that made sense, I had drifted towards the arts instead, then perhaps I would have the vocabulary I need to express the wonder of this scene. In its purest form, here we have life and death in the same frame of reference, intrinsically connected not just by the shared colours of the two proponents, but intertwined even more deeply in that the caterpillar will soon die to become a moth, but the moth will surely live due to the protection offered by the skull of the seal during its most fragile moments.

Instead, I find myself at a loss for words at the complexity of this scene – perhaps a simple smile might express it best.

 – Erik

Lone Survivor

Erik 18 Oct 2014

A lone survivor of the recent otter invasion of our garden pond sits on his throne, cautiously observing the world. Soon enough, however, the insect-rich waters will rear another crop of tadpoles, and just as the night noises of the frog pond reach their crescendo, the otter will return and the cycle will repeat itself. The pond was there long before we built the house, and it is interesting to wonder for how long indeed has this cycle been going?

 – Erik

Bain's Kloof

Erik 16 Oct 2014

Bain's Kloof pass - 25km of tiny, twisty tarmac. The road is so narrow and twisty that even driving at 40km/h leaves you feeling like a racecar driver, making it quite the adventure... and like most passes in the area, it is stunningly pretty.  Bain's Kloof, however, has another twist up its sleeve - its dual nature. From the Worcester side, you climb through classic Cape mountains (rocky, steep, with lots of shrubbery), until you suddenly pop over the top and look down onto typical pastoral winelands on the Wellington side.

Roads like these are a pretty good reason to consider renting a car if you spend a few days in Cape Town.

 – Erik

Pages