Why Kiwi Travellers don’t need to turn their back on a Southern African Safari in 2017.
There were a few choice expletives (and a few tears) in the office when the South African Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigabe announced mid December, that come 16 January 2017 Kiwi’s planning to head to South Africa would not only need a South African Visa BUT need to apply for it in person at the one of the VFS Visa Processing Offices in Auckland and Wellington.
The announcement caught everyone on the hop, with a staffer at the South African High Commission admitting the morning of the announcement that they had yet to be briefed. I had picked up the press release via a tweet by the Department of Home Affairs at breakfast time. No doubt staff started their morning with this email at the top of the pile and then a flurry of phone calls from concerned travellers and travel professionals.
Minister Gigabe seems to be in la-la land if he thinks that the growth in Kiwi visitors heading to South Africa is going to continue with the added hassle and expense of heading to Wellington to apply for a Visa.
Other safari destinations are happy to welcome Kiwi travellers with less hassle. In Africa for most safari destinations, where we do need Visa’s they are available online or on arrival.
New Zealand may be a small market in the scheme of things but I know that South African tourism business owners, their employees (not to mention the conservation projects that a number of these businesses support through their operations) are absolutely gutted by the move.
The way I see it there are two plans of attack…
Choose a Southern African Safari that does not visit South Africa
Kiwi Travellers do not require a Transit Visa if transiting through OR Tambo (Johannesburg), Cape Town, and King Shaka (Dunban) International Airports. Most Kiwi’s fly in and out of OR Tambo (JNB) so some smart flight selection and you can look to fly straight through with relatively small connection times to:
- Maun (MUB) Botswana
- Victoria Falls (VFA) Zimbabwe
- Livingstone (LVI) Zambia.
These are major starting points for a number of safaris.
Thankfully our partner Sunway Safaris offers Kiwi Travellers looking at small group travel a number of great options.
Cape Town to Victoria Falls: There is an alternative option
Cape to Victoria Falls is the classic overland safari route and traditionally has been a popular option with Kiwi’s lured by the appeal of South Africa’s Mother City and then heading north into Namibia and across the Botswana and ending at the spectacular Victoria Falls.
With Cape Town for a few days probably not worth the cost/hassle of the Visa, the ideal alternative is a circular Namibia & Botswana circular itinerary, starting and ending in Livingstone in Zambia.
You miss Cape Town of course, the long drive up the west coast of South Africa and Namibia’s Fish River canyon but this is more than compensated by the time spent in the game rich Kavango Conservation Area (formally known the Caprivi Strip), that small sliver of land on Namibia’s northern border with Botswana and Angola.
For campers, Sunway offer the 21 day Desert & Delta and for those who are wanting a bit more comfort but still wanting to keep things affordable the similar accommodated 21 day Southern Circle Itinerary may fit the bill.
The next step up in comfort is the 15 day Elephant Track, a Classic Journey Safari staying in beautiful small lodges in stunning locations. Camp chores and eating with plates balanced on your lap round a camp fire is out as well, with breakfasts and dinners eaten at the lodges and picnics are prepared by your guides on travelling days.
The 15 day Botswana & Zimbabwe Ivory Route offers the same style of touring, combining Zimbabwe, Namibia’s Caprivi and Botswana.
For Pure Wildlife Get Lot in Bots
Those looking for a pure wildlife adventure Botswana is undoubtedly the star of the Southern Africa safari offering. It is the premier game-viewing destination.
This means the Khama Rhino Sanctuary is missed but it is already a trade off that some travellers have been making to cut out the two long travelling days from Johannesburg to Khama and then on to Maun.
Introduced two years ago is the 9 day Botswana Baobabs, an itinerary that combines lodges with luxury mobile camping. Limited to only 8 travellers, everyone gets a window seat on this safari.
You Could Suck It Up and Get a Visa
You can of course opt to get a Visa and for those who have booked and confirmed their safaris and flights this may be the only option.
For others, South Africa still offers a huge amount to travellers but I would personally be looking to book a safari/tour that spends the maximum amount of time in South Africa to warrant the Visa hassle/cost of the Wellington trip (for those based in Wellington this point is mute, other than taking time off work/life to head into the High Commission).
The classic touring route through South Africa starts in Johannesburg and finishes in Cape Town.
Sunway’s Scenic Route is a 18 day camping tour (with some accommodated nights) that follows this route, including Kruger, the Kingdom of Swaziland and the small mountainous country of Lesotho. The Rainbow Route is a similar 17 day accommodated tour that includes Swaziland but excludes Lesotho. There is also a 14 day walking tour for tramping ethusiasts which offers a mix of traditional safari activities with easy, moderate and challenging day walks.
We are holding out hope
At the moment we need to work with the rule in place, but the best news of all is that there are still plenty of options to enjoy an outstanding Southern Africa safari experience.