I am writing this article whilst sitting on a Virgin train between Watford and Crewe, after arriving in London from Barcelona, where I spent five wonderful days. It is only the third time I have been overseas from South Africa and it is always so interesting for me to visit other countries, I am a guide after all. Each country has its own beautiful scenery, interesting people, most have foreign languages, different cultures and traditions, and especially in Europe and the UK, so much history, which fascinates me. South Africa has a very interesting history, but in South Africa we regard “old” being a hundred years.
My memory has just been refreshed with this latest overseas visit, and what always comes to mind is, if I enjoy travelling, and if I am so impressed with the countries that I have visited from a South African point of view, then people must be blown away by what South Africa and Southern Africa as a region has to offer on safari. Southern Africa is a truly unique, wild, interesting, beautiful and exciting destination.
Have you ever wonder where the word safari comes from, well safari is the Swahili word that means journey. Swahili is a language which is spoken by the indigenous people of Central East Africa, in countries today know as Kenya and Tanzania. You can imagine hundreds of years ago these tall black people who were nomadic farmers wondering from region to region in search of ideal hunting grounds or for grazing land for their most prized possessions, which was their cattle. This movement of entire families or clans was known as a safari.
However, I have always imagined an African safari to be explorers in the 1800’s and early 1900’s, pioneers such as Livingstone and Stanley or hunters that went out on safari into the African wilderness, a safari that would last months and months or even years. These safaris were usually large parties that were mainly made up of servants to carry supplies, equipment and weapons, servants to set up camp and look after the daily needs. But, what is great today is that one can still enjoy an exciting and adventurous journey or safari to South Africa or Southern Africa, experiencing the beauty of the African continent with its abundance of wildlife, interesting history, fascinating and friendly people, and diverse natural vegetation set in amazing geological features.
A question that is almost always asked about a safari to Southern Africa, but especially about South Africa is: How safe a travel destination is South Africa or Southern Africa? Well, unfortunately, South Africa does have its problems and there are on going campaigns to try and reduce the crime, but with a nearly 30 % unemployment this is going to be a long slow process. The good news is, South Africa and other Southern Africa countries are like most other countries in the world when it comes to the issues of crime involving tourists and that is, you have to know the places or routes you should visit and the places or areas you should avoid. With this in mind, I would advise you to always make use of local accredited, experienced tour operators. Tour operators that know the region and that can offer any type of safari you desire, either self drive safaris or escorted safaris.
This subject of crime will always come up when I am on tour and when I asked my clients how they felt about crime in South Africa, they all say that they did think twice about coming and that they were nearly all advised by family or friends not to visit South Africa, as it is too dangerous a destination to travel. As a South African, this is sad to hear and it is also nonsense. We have millions of tourists visiting each year, and we hardly ever have an incident that involves tourists. I don’t know the figures, but this figure would definitely not be any worse than other modern countries of the world. Touch wood – but, I have been arranging safaris and touring with literally thousands of tourists over the last 10 years throughout South Africa and Southern Africa and I have not yet experience one single incident. So, don’t be scared, be adventurous and come on a safari to South Africa or Southern Africa, it will be an experience of a lifetime.