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|ZIMBABWE & BOTSWANA |
Victoria Falls and Chobe National Park 1 - FAQ
With such a rich and varied itinerary and so many aspects to touring Zimbabwe and Botswana, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and unsure about where to start preparing for your Victoria Falls and Chobe National Park tour. We are here to help. Below, you'll find some useful information you'll need as you get ready for your African adventure.
Zimbabwe and Botswana are 2 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time year-round, which equates to 7 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time in the U.S. When it's noon in Victoria Falls and Kasane, it's 2 a.m. in San Francisco and 5 a.m. in New York.
There are many beautiful things to bring back from Zimbabwe and Botswana, so make sure you have space left in your suitcase. There are no luggage restrictions on this tour, beyond South African Airlines' restrictions of the maximum of 44lbs for checked luggage and the maximum of 15lbs for carry-on luggage. If your luggage exceeds these limitations, you will be responsible for paying the overweight luggage fees. Packing light is always a good idea, so you should pack smart: loose cotton clothing, especially long pants and long sleeve tops, will afford both comfort and protection from mosquitoes. You do not need any formal clothing for this trip. For the time spent on the safari, you should bring dark or neutral (green, khaki, sand) colored clothing, as white and bright colors could potentially make the animals stay away. Of course, comfortable walking shoes are a must, as well as a sun hat to protect your head from the unforgiving African sun. While touring the Victoria Falls, you will get wet. While rain ponchos are provided, please make sure to bring non-slippery shoes which will dry fast. You should also bring insect repellent, a pair of binoculars, swimsuit, sunglasses and sunscreen, as well as a backup pair of glasses if you wear contacts and want to avoid the dust. Bring any prescription or special medication with you, as pharmacies may not have exactly what you're prescribed. Both the hotel in Johannesburg and the safari lodges come equipped with hair dryers. They also have electricity adapters, but to save the hassle of going to reception and paying a deposit, bring your own.
Visitors to Zimbabwe and Botswana require a current passport, valid for at least 6 months from the date of departure and with a minimum of two blank visa pages facing each other for Zimbabwe, and three blank pages facing each other for Botswana. A visa is necessary to enter Zimbabwe, and it is best obtained on entering Zimbabwe. Citizens of the US, Canada and Australia must pay $30US in cash with clean, not torn bills issued after 2004. The cost of the Zimbabwean visa is not included in the tour cost. Citizens of the US, Canada and Australia do not require a visa to enter Botswana. The tour starts in South Africa, and upon entering South Africa, you will automatically be given a free entry permit sticker. Before traveling abroad it's a good idea to make two photocopies of your passport, your driver's license and your credit cards. Leave one copy at home with a trusted person and another in your suitcase.
Travel insurance will also be required for entry, so please ensure you purchase a policy prior to departure.
|ARRIVAL AND DEPARTURES INFORMATION |
This tour starts and ends in Johannesburg (airport code JNB).
Whether you are getting your intercontinental flights through Sights and Soul Travels or making your own arrangements, all domestic flights are included in the cost of the tour, including the flight from Johannesburg to Victoria Falls, then from Kasane to Johannesburg at the end of the tour. The tour begins on Sunday, January 31, 2021, and you will depart North America on Saturday, January 30, 2021.
The tour ends after breakfast on Friday, February 5, 2021, and we'll be taking an early afternoon flight from Kasane to the Johannesburg airport, arriving at JNB around 4PM, so that you can easily connect for your flight home. All North American bound flights leave in the evening, arriving in JFK/Washington Dulles/Atlanta the next morning. In addition to competitive airfares to South Africa from Washington Dulles and JFK, we can also arrange add-on airfares from most US and Canadian cities. Please call us if you have any questions about the airfares.
To avoid jet lag (common when crossing more than five time zones) drink plenty of nonalcoholic fluids and eat light meals. Upon arrival, get exposure to natural sunlight, exercise and readjust your schedule (for meals, sleep and so on) as soon as possible.
The Zimbabwe and Botswana group is limited to the maximum of 16 women + the tour director. The minimum group size is 6 women + the tour director. In addition to the tour director, the travelers will be taken care of by guides and rangers, trackers and drivers, as well as the safari camp staff while in Botswana.
The areas that we'll be visiting in Zimbabwe and Botswana have a low risk of malaria, but the risk is increased in the wetter months from November to April, so you should contact your physician or travel clinic regarding recommendations for anti-malaria pills such as Malarone. In addition, you should have strong mosquito repellents that can be safely sprayed or rubbed on skin, and make use of the provided mosquito nets at night. Mosquitoes generally appear in the evening, and you should try to prevent being bitten. Vaccination against yellow fever is required to enter the country if you have traveled to a country where yellow fever is reported (such as Zambia) within the last 6 days. It is recommended to make sure that your injections for Polio, Cholera, and Tetanus are up to date, and will cover you for the time you will be away. It can get very hot under the African sun, so you should bring a high-factor sunscreen, a hat that will protect your face, and good sunglasses, and be vigilant to prevent overexposure to the sun. Bring your own prescription medications as well as copies of your prescriptions, with the generic name, in case you lose your pills or run out. If you wear glasses or contact lenses, pack an extra pair. If you're hiking through the bush, beware of ticks; tick-bite fever is very unpleasant, though you should recover in 4 days. To remove ticks, smear Vaseline over them until they let go. When on a safari, you should bear in mind at all times that you are in a wilderness area: Even animals that look cute are wild and should not be approached (this includes baboons). When you're in a safari vehicle on a game drive, your ranger will caution you not to stand up, make sudden or loud noises, or otherwise draw attention to yourself. It is probably unnecessary to point out that lions and crocodiles are dangerous; however, hippos kill more humans in Africa than any other mammal, and you should take this seriously. Hippos may look harmlessly ponderous, but they can move amazingly fast and are absolutely lethal when provoked. Even some of the smaller animals should be treated with a great deal of respect. Swimming in any river or stream is not advised due to the presence of crocodiles and bilharzia.
Drinking tap water in Zimbabwe and Botswana is not recommended, and mineral water is readily available in all three hotels where we'll be staying, as well as in convenience stores. It is very important that you drink plenty of water especially during the warmer months.
Both safari lodges where we'll be staying during this tour have Western style flushable toilets. All other locations that we'll be visiting, restaurants, airports, hotels, will also have Western toilets. It's always helpful to carry your own toilet paper, soap or hand sanitizer, as these may not be provided. Please keep in mind that some public toilets may require payment, so you should always have with you some coins in the local currency to pay for them.
Safety rules for travelers in Zimbabwe and Botswana are the same as elsewhere in the world. Most incidents of crime occur in rural areas and in areas away from the main tourist destinations. When flying, secure your luggage with TSA-approved locks; use an airport plastic wrapping service; and avoid placing electronics, jewelry, cameras, or other valuables in checked luggage. Don't flash expensive jewelry or fancy cameras or phones; wear handbag straps across the neck, and keep a good grip on items. While on the safari, always treat all wildlife with respect, and encourage your driver to keep a safe, respectful distance when viewing and tracking animals.
As long as you take the normal precautions when traveling in a developing country, Zimbabwe and Botswana do not offer significant problems for women. When you're on your own, you may attract more attention from men than if you're in a group - a firm "no, thank you," should dissuade any unwelcome advances.
During the Victoria Falls and Chobe National Park tour, we will travel by a private bus, a private game vehicle and by plane. This tour's activity level is considered easy, as most of the safaris (game drives) are conducted from a vehicle. However, to be able to enjoy the tour and participate in scheduled activities, you will need to be able to walk, at a leisurely pace, up to 3 miles throughout the day. You will need to be able to stand, unassisted for up to 30 minutes, you will need to be able to climb stairs, get in and out of vehicles without assistance and manage your own luggage without assistance. Overall, this trip is not strenuous, though it is busy. You must be prepared for some full days and early starts, especially during the safari when we leave the lodges for the safari drives very early in the morning, around 6AM.
|IMPORTANT SAFARI CONSIDERATIONS |
Your ranger and tracker will look out for you and inform you of the safari rules (such as not alighting from the vehicle while in a national park for any reason). The time to be especially vigilant and alert to the potential dangers in the wilds is while out on bush walks or hiking safaris. Whatever the case, you will always be with an experienced (and quite often armed) ranger, guide, or tracker. It is absolutely in your best interest to follow his or her instructions very clearly and be on full alert at all times. This is not the place to let your guard down. Under no circumstances should you ever wander off alone, even in broad daylight, and when you are out walking, always inform your guide or ranger if you need to use the toilet or are going to stop for a moment to take a photograph. Most precautions in the bush are actually linked to common sense, but it's easy, when staying in luxury lodges and camps, to forget that you're in the middle of a different world, one where the beasts still rule. Do not swim in dams, lakes, or rivers. Hippos may be grass eaters, but they're Africa's biggest killers (after mosquitoes) and are known to snap humans in half with their powerful jaws. And just because you feel safe in your safari vehicle, don't think the animals aren't sensitive enough to know if they're being teased, taunted, or cajoled. Always treat any and all wildlife with respect, and encourage your driver to keep a safe, respectful distance when viewing and tracking animals.
Zimbabwe enjoys a temperate climate, with summer rains generally characterized by heavy afternoon showers with sunshine the rest of the day. January lows are around 64°F with highs averaging around 86°F. Botswana has a subtropical climate with summer as the rainy season, cooling the high temperatures under cloud coverage. January temperatures in Botswana range from 80°F - 90°F.
The hotel where we'll be staying in Johannesburg and both safari lodges have WiFi Internet for the guests. Outside of these, Internet coverage in the national parks is almost non-existent. Cell phone coverage is good close to the safari lodges where we'll be staying, but weak in the wilderness areas.
Electricity in Botswana is 230 volts, alternating at 50 cycles per second. Electrical sockets in Zimbabwe usually supply at between 220 and 240 volts AC. As in the rest of southern Africa, you'll need an adapter/voltage converter for any appliances that do not have dual voltage. Zimbabwe and Botswana use the same kind of plugs as are used in South Africa, and if you cannot find them at home, they are easy to purchase on arrival at Johannesburg airport.
The currency of Botswana is the Pula (P), but US dollars, South African Rand, Euro and Pound Sterling are widely accepted. Credit cards are accepted by most shops and restaurants.
All monetary transactions in Zimbabwe as of June 2019, are now in the Zimbabwean Dollar. However, at the time of this writing US Dollars and South African Rand are still acceptable forms of payment. We advise you to travel with smaller denominations such as USD$1, $5, $10 and $20. Hotels and restaurants will only accept US$ notes printed after 2001. Credit cards are accepted in most hotels, restaurants, and by some service providers. For shopping, it's best to have cash.
Many locals in the areas that we'll be visiting are struggling to make ends meet, so being generous by tipping service workers is a good idea. The restaurant tipping for group meals is included in the tour price, but when dining outside of the group meals, you should leave a 10% to 15% tip at restaurants and bars, even if the service charge is already included. Tipping the housekeeping (about $1US per person per day) and porters (about $1US per bag) is at your discretion. The cost of the tour includes all tipping for the rangers, trackers and staff.
Zimbabwe has many tribal languages recognized in addition to English, Ndebele and Shona languages, which are Zimbabwe’s official languages. In Botswana, English is the official language and is widely spoken; Setswana is the national language, spoken by the Batswana people, who make up 50% of the population. You will have no problem communicating in English in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana.
Shopping in Zimbabwe and Botswana offers a wealth of choices from excellent art galleries, numerous flea markets, and even bargains from roadside vendors. Some of the most popular items to buy include gemstones, carved teak wood, the soft Shona stone carvings, hand-painted Batik fabrics, beading, weaving, local music CDs, pottery and basket ware. You should shop responsibly by choosing not to buy ivory, coral or animal products nor support businesses that exploit or abuse endangered animals. In Zimbabwe, you can pick up local handicrafts such as table linens, wood carvings and 20-billion (Zimbabwe) dollar banknotes. In Botswana, look for hand-woven baskets made from the fronds of the real fan palm, Hyphaene petersiana, and the many different handicrafts of the San, like jewelery made from ostrich eggshells.