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Destination South Africa

SOUTH AFRICA | Wednesday, 24 April 2013 | Views [930]

All too soon 3 months have passed and I am preparing to leave South Africa later today.

Without doubt, this has been the trip of a lifetime and whilst I still have another 9 months of travelling ahead of me, the South Africa part is going to be very hard to surpass.

I spent my first 6 weeks here in a volunteer programme and there are plenty of those available. Although this is by no means a cheap option, it does give the opportunity of working with other volunteers, thus meeting potential travel companions as well as experiencing life first hand in your chosen realm. The volunteer programme experiences differ widely.

My idea of a great programme allows you to be involved in a hands-on capacity whilst still having plenty of free time and access to other activities. By virtue of what they do, you may find you are located in a farm/reserve where you are totally reliant on the management for getting on and off the property. Great if it’s all going well, less so if not! Perhaps due to economic restraints you may discover that despite paying you are expected to work like a paid employee with free time being limited and even resented. It would be unfair to generalise but I would recommend finding as many independent reviews as possible. If there aren’t any, there’s probably a good reason for that too. The general consensus seems to be that 2-3 weeks volunteering is plenty. Allow yourself time to do and see other things.

South Africa is a massive country and offers such a wide spectrum of habitation - deserts, forests, mountains, veldland, stunning beaches - it really does have it all. The climate favours the outdoor life and there are any number of activities available – from surfing to skiing, bungee jumping off the world’s highest bridge jump, white water sports, hiking, safari drives to name but a few.

Baz Bus was an epic trip. In retrospect I would recommend at least 3 weeks rather to make the journey from Jo’burg to Cape Town (or vice versa). Quite aside from being able to access so many wonderful beaches and towns, I met some fantastic travelling companions. Even after the bus trip was over, I continued to explore Cape Town and the wine regions around Stellenbosch with my ‘Baz Buds’. The night of our leaving party we all stayed at the centrally located Long Street Backpackers and enjoyed going out and seeing the night life Cape Town has to offer.

Baz Bus or private car rental? It’s a matter of personal choice. You can’t stop wherever/whenever you like on the bus but you don’t get lost either. I didn’t do a price comparison simply because renting a car was not an option that I considered. Friends of our group rented still met up with us at hostels along the way, so in that sense did not miss out.

Without exception all the hostels I have stayed in have been clean. They have been a mix of styles, locations and price but all of them have been decent. The Coast to Coast guide is an invaluable listing and available in any hostel which features in it. The average cost of a dorm bed is under £10 a night. Even the lovely double en suite room I had at Wilderness only cost £32. Food is reasonably priced and far from losing weight as I was told one often does when travelling, certain clothes are decidedly a little more snug fitting these days. Fortunately clothing is generally cheap and as recycling your old clothes helps those less fortunate, it doesn’t take much persuasion to refresh the small wardrobe a backpack permits. Getting around has been fairly easy. Private taxis have been safe. The Greyhound Bus was a pleasant experience as was local airline Kalula.

So what is that stops more tourists coming over here? From all the discussions I’ve had along the way, the winning answer lies in one word – security.  Crime is a problem but one that is hugely lessened by using a little street savvy. Perversely people here worry about the threat of terrorist action abroad in countries like the USA and ask whether it is safe to travel there! Large scale terrorist action or psycho school killings are relatively unheard of over here. Crime in Africa is largely limited to personal gain, whether that is corruption at the top level through to street crime at the lower end.

If you are considering a trip to South Africa, I urge you to do it. I came here as a single white female traveller and cannot find a single dangerous mishap to report during these 3 months. I hope I will be as safe in the other countries on my itinerary.

Thank you to everyone who has made this trip an unforgettable, hugely enjoyable and positive experience.


Tags: adventure, backpacking, beaches, fantastic, game viewing, holiday, safari, south africa, volunteer, wildlife

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