travel tips

Tips for responsible travel

When we visit beautiful places, it’s natural to want our holidays to have a positive impact on local people and the environment. 

Before you travel

• Read up on local cultures and learn a few words of the local language – travelling with respect earns you respect.

• Remove all excess packaging – waste disposal is difficult in remote places and developing countries.

• Ask us whether there are local conservation or social projects that you could visit on your trip, and if/how you could help support them.

While on holiday 

• Buy local produce in preference to imported goods.

• Do not buy products made from endangered species, hard woods or ancient artefacts.

• Respect local cultures, traditions and holy places – if in doubt ask advice.

• Use water sparingly – its very precious in most African countries and tourists tend to use far more than local people.

• Remember that local people have different ways of thinking and concepts of time. This makes them different not wrong; try to cultivate the habit of asking questions.

When you get back

• Write to us with any comments or feedback about your holiday and especially include any suggestions on reducing environmental impacts and increasing benefits to local communities.  

• If you’ve promised to send pictures or gifts to local people please remember to do so; many are promised and not all arrive.

• Enjoy the memories, reflect on your experience and start planning your next trip.

Photography Tips

How to photograph wildlife

1. The Right Equipment

A good safari camera will have little or no lag between the time you depress the shutter release button and the photo is taken. This is because you often only have a moment’s notice before the animal disappears or the bird takes off. As many wildlife sightings will occur during early morning and dusk, your camera needs to be able to function well in low light conditions as well as bright sunlight during the day.

You can spend a lot of money on a large telephoto lens to help you take the ultimate shot. For most however, an entry level wide angle lens (50 mm to 250mm) will do a good enough job, resulting in some wonderful wildlife and even bird shots. A beanbag, a window mounted tripod or a monopod that you can rest the camera on to help stabilise the long lenses is a wonderfully useful piece of equipment. The bean bag is the simplest and least expensive.

2. Patience and Luck

“Everything comes to him who waits”, is a very relevant saying for wildlife photography. Patience will help you get better photographs because you will be able to take pictures of animal behaviour that you would otherwise have missed. There is no guarantee of what you will encounter on safari and you will need a bit of luck on your side to get that winning shot. 

3. Light and Composition

Due to the habits of many species, you will find yourself taking pictures in low light conditions at dawn and dusk so a fast lens is essential. Changing the exposure by one stop up and down will also help get the best exposure available. Be careful using the auto-focus on your camera because it will cheerfully focus on a twig or tuft of grass close to your animal subject and spoil your composition.

How to Shoot a Portrait

Getting close to people is an excellent way to get close to a culture and the camera is a good tool for meeting people. Some tips are:

• Take the time to develop relationships with people and the land.

• Focus on common experiences — love, family, friends, death and celebrations — and appreciate the cultural differences.

• Keep your camera discreet, always ask permission and try to photograph people in a natural, typical setting.

• Learn a dozen words of the local language. ‘Please’ and ‘thank you’ are good places to start.

• Learn as much as you can about a place before visiting and always respect local customs.  If you are not wanted, leave and move along to the next photo opportunity.

How to Shoot a Landscape

• To take a good landscape you have to go about it as if you were taking a portrait.

• Mastering light: Light is the most important and tricky element.

• Choose a good vantage point: Move around a bit; switch elevations, kneel on the ground, or walk around.

• Pay attention to everything in the frame; what’s in the corner is as important as what’s in the centre. Be careful not to slip power lines or half a person into the image because you’re not paying attention.

• Use bracket exposure setting for landscapes.

• Have polarizing filter for landscapes.

How to Get the Best Light

• Shoot at dawn and continue in late afternoon, into sunset’s warm tones and even half an hour beyond, to capture subtle flickering firelight. Experiment with exposure and film speed to make the most of available light.

• The best light is in the early morning and before sunset. Good light also depends on location and time of year, so plan your day well.

• Don’t be afraid of bad weather.  You can get wonderful light in fog and when the sky is dark and stormy.

• Use lens hood to protect lens and reduce glare.

• Consider one third stop “overexposure” in dark shadowed areas.

Don’t Leave Home Without 

• Memory sticks to download pictures as you travel.

• Ziploc bags for waterproofing.

• Gaffer’s tape – strong, removable and infinitely useful.

• A pen and notebook to keep track of where you’ve been.

• Beanbag/monopod: easier to carry than a tripod.

• Leatherman/multi-purpose tool – for the fix you might get into.

• Polarising and warming filters – make your pictures pop in reflective daylight.

• Spare battery/ies and a spare memory card – you can never have enough.

• Strongly suggest a backup camera as there are no camera stores in the bush.

• Camera gadget bag a must during game drives (Extra lens, battery, cards etc.) Keep closed due to heavy amount of fine dust.

Some Extra Tips from a Pro

• Choose a camera with interchangeable lenses. A standard lens for general photography and a telephoto (ex: 70 to 200 minimum for animal shots).

• Professional option: Pros suggest taking two identical camera bodies. One camera has a telephoto and the other a wide angle lens. This is a great backup and also helps avoiding to change lenses when time and opportunities exist in photographing animals. Your local photo store might be able to rent you the second one.

• Shoot all animals at minimum of 500 to 1200 of a sec.

• Set ISO  to 200 – 400 early morning and late evening.

• Have extra battery and photo card on person for easy and quick changing.

• Have camera lens brush and a “rocket” blower available at all times

• Avoid using filters during animal shoots.

• Use “rapid fire” continuous shots on animals.

• Download card on hard drive backup when full.

• Recommend using multiple high-speed, 8GB – Cards (1200 Photos – Jpeg,) If shooting raw, suggest 16 GB

• Minimum of three camera batteries (w/name & #)

• Two camera chargers (w/name)

• If using batteries, use only 8X lithium batteries

• Use flash to fill in for dark skinned subjects

• Small compact tri-pod for scenery shots              

☹ Not Great        ☺ Good        ☺👍  Best

JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEPT OCT NOV DEC
BOTSWANA    ☹    ☹ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☹ ☹
EGYPT ☺👍 ☺👍 ☹ ☹ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍
ETHIOPIA ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍   ☺ ☺ ☺ ☹ ☹ ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍
KENYA ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☹ ☹ ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☹ ☺👍
KENYA COAST ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☹ ☹ ☹ ☺ ☺ ☺👍 ☺👍 ☹ ☺👍
MADAGASCAR ☹ ☹ ☹ ☺ ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺ ☺ ☺👍
MALAWI ☹ ☹ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☹ ☹
MAURITIUS ☺ ☹ ☺ ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺ ☺ ☹ ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍
MOZAMBIQUE ☹ ☹ ☹ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺
NAMIBIA ☹ ☹ ☺ ☺ ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☹ ☹
REUNION ☹ ☹ ☹ ☺ ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺
SA – CAPE ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☹ ☹ ☹ ☹ ☹ ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍
SA-BUSH ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺ ☺
SA-NATAL ☺ ☺ ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺ ☺ ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺ ☺
SEYCHELLES ☹ ☺ ☺👍 ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺👍 ☹
TANZANIA ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☹ ☹ ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☹ ☺👍
UGANDA ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺ ☺ ☹ ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺ ☹ ☺👍
ZAMBIA ☹ ☹ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺ ☹ ☹
ZANZIBAR ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☹ ☺👍
ZIMBABWE ☹ ☹ ☺ ☺ ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☺👍 ☹ ☹

Where to Start?

How do I choose a country/area to visit?
Each country has something different to offer and the diversity of countries and wildlife in Africa means you are almost spoilt for choice. We will ask you questions to find out which country is best suited for your safari, based on your likes and dislikes, budget and interests. The time of year you are travelling will also play a role in where we recommend you go.

How do I choose the type of accommodation?
There are many different types of accommodation available and to help you, we have a variety of itineraries on our website showing the different options available. The style of accommodation you choose will be based on your budget, how adventurous you are and any special requirements you have.

Documents Requirements

What do I need to bring with me?
We have a suggested packing list that we will send to you before you travel. Clothing should be kept to a minimum as laundry service is available everywhere.

What type of insurance do I need? Is medivac and health insurance sufficient?
You should have insurance covering you for any kind of medical eventuality. You should also have medical evacuation cover although we generally provide this for you in East Africa. In addition, you should have cancellation cover. Cover for theft and baggage loss is also available though it is up to you whether or not take this.

Will I need a passport?
Yes, your passport will need to be valid for six months after travel and you will need to have at least three blank pages in your passport for stamps/visas.

Will I need a visa?
In certain countries yes and they can usually be obtained upon arrival for a fee, depending on what passport you hold. If you get your visa in advance, it will be valid for three months from date of issue (not from date of entry).

Health

Can I drink the water?
Bottled water is provided at most hotels and lodges and you should use this rather than drinking out of the taps as a precaution. However, it is safe to clean your teeth with tap water at the accommodation we book for you.

Will I need a yellow fever certificate?
Yellow fever is required for entry into certain countries (such as South Africa) if travelling from a yellow fever infected country (certain East African countries). You may also need it to get back into your own country. Your doctor will give you advice on this.

Will I need any vaccinations?
Please discuss this with your doctor or visit a travel clinic; there are a number of vaccinations recommended and they will have the most up to date information.

Will I need to take malaria medication?
We highly recommend this if you are travelling to a malarial area and most of the countries we operate in are malarial. Please discuss with your doctor / travel clinic as they will give you the most up to date advice.

What do you recommend for protection against mosquitoes?
Prevention is better than cure and for this reason we recommend that you adequately protect yourself against mosquitoes. There are a number of ways to do this for example, in the evening wear long sleeve shirts and trousers to cover your skin. We also recommend socks for extra protection and anti – mosquito spray. Spray generously on your ankles and hands and any other exposed skin. We also suggest you spray your tent/room (most camps will do this for you) and keep your tents closed (they will be mosquito proof) so keep them out.

What do you recommend for protection against tsetse flies?
Tsetse flies can be relentless and we have found two things that offer some protection against these pests. They cannot bite through a fleece and there is also a homemade spray that can help. Dilute one part Dettol (or a similar antiseptic) to four parts water in a spray bottle and add a little baby oil. You can then spray this on your skin. Dettol can be bought on arrival in East Africa or in Boots at London Heathrow and mixed on arrival.

Safety & security

Can I self drive?
In South Africa yes, the roads are good and the traffic volumes will generally be less than you are used to. In other African countries, we generally do not recommend clients drive themselves.

How safe are my belongings?
Every camp/lodge/hotel either has a lock up facility in your room/tent or the manager has a safekeeping facility. It is generally not a good idea to take valuables such as passports on game drives and we recommend you leave at home any non-essential jewellery.

Is it safe? What about the wild animals?
When you are in camp you will be briefed on safety. Most camps are not fenced and for this reason in the evening and morning you will be escorted to and from your tents. You will also be provided with flashlights in camp and either a whistle or radio for emergencies (not room service!). There are staff who keep an eye on camp in the evening and track animals that pass through or near camp. In East Africa they are known as askari. When on game viewing activities such game drives or walks, you will be given a safety briefing; the most important thing to remember is to listen to your guides, they are professionals and trained to deal with all situations.

Will I be safe in the city? eg Nairobi/ Dar es Salaam
African cities are like most cities in the world in so far as there are certain areas that should be avoided. Common sense should prevail when walking around towns; don’t flash your cash, jewellery etc. You will be transferred to and from your hotel and sightseeing can be arranged so there is no need to be concerned.

Will I get lost?
When you book a holiday with Pulse Africa, we like to make it as easy as we can for you. Thus when you arrive (usually in a strange country for the first time), you will be met and taken to your hotel. Similarly, when you go on a tour or move to different areas of the country by whatever means, someone will be there to guide and/or drive or fly you. We want your biggest concern each day to be along the lines of : what to have to drink/what time to get up/do I have time for a swim before the next activity..

Money & Finances

Credit Card Security
Credit card fraud is in on the increase internationally and sadly this occurs across the African continent too. Imprinting and/or skimming takes only a few seconds! Never let your credit card out of your sight at any time. When making any payments, please ensure that you are present when your card is swiped.

VAT and VAT Refunds
Value Added Tax is included in most items in African countries – eg 14% in South Arica. You are permitted to claim that money back on all goods that are leaving the country with you. i. e. curios, clothing, bags, perfumes etc. These claims can be made when leaving the country at all the international points of departure. In order to claim the VAT back, you need to present the original invoice and the item.

This means that you must do this prior to checking in or having your bags wrapped. Please allow at least one additional hour before check-in to complete your VAT claims.

Where and how do I change money? Can I use a credit card?
You will generally get the best rates at banks or forex bureaus that are available in most cities/towns. However, the most easily accessible places to change money are airports so we recommend you change monies as you arrive. Apart from at the more remote camps, credit cards are generally accepted (Visa/Mastercard only).

What to Expect

How do I tip the guides and camp staff?
The guides and camp staff will be most appreciative of anything that you wish to give them. The guides are usually given their tips at the end of the trip although if you have a guide at each camp you can give this to him at the end of your stay. There is usually a tip box in the main area for the camp staff and this is divided equally between all members of staff. If a camp has a different policy you will be advised of this on arrival; sometimes the managers prefer that all tips be given to them to be passed on to the staff. Your travel specialist will give you a tipping guideline prior to travel.

Should I use a porter?
The Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA) has designated porters at all airports. These porters wear black pants with an orange shirt and black waistcoat. They have the “PORTER” on their chests (or they may have orange overalls or wearing luminous yellow vests, also with the word “PORTER” written on them). Please ONLY use these official porters. For your own safety, please do not use the services of any individuals who are not wearing some form of valid identification not only in South Africa but in any African airports.

You will be given a claim form that will be cashed in after checking in and prior to boarding. If the value of your claim is a substantial amount, the monies will generally be forwarded to you at a later stage.

Why are guides so important?
A good guide is essential to the enjoyment of your safari. The guides at the camps and those we use are extremely knowledgeable and eager to share their passion and knowledge of the areas and wildlife. With a good guide you can see only animal tracks, yet still think you have had the best game viewing experience.

What can I expect to see on my safari?
Sometimes we have unrealistic expectations of seeing wildlife, encouraged perhaps by documentaries on television with fantastic close up animal shots. These have generally taken months to film. That is not to say that you won’t have brilliant game viewing, but the animals you have come to see are wild and unpredictable. That is what makes safari exciting; no day is the same and you never know what you might see.

What is a typical day on safari like?
A typical day on safari is a little different in each area that you visit but will include a morning and afternoon activity and sometimes a night drive. Your days start quite early as this is when the animals are most active with a return to camp for lunch, when it is hottest and the animals don’t move about much. Depending on the camp and area that you are visiting, a range of other activities can also be enjoyed such as walking, village visits, canoeing, boat trips, hot air ballooning and often much more!

What type of bathroom facilities can we expect?
This will depend on the camp or type of accommodation that you are staying in. Most camps / lodges will have en-suite loos and showers though it is important to note that not all loos flush. Whilst sleeping under canvas, you may have short/long drop loos; this being a loo that does not flush over a short or long hole in the ground, using ash or sand instead of water. Not all camps will have running water; often water is heated over a fire and taken to your tent for you to shower at a time specified by you. This is called a bucket shower – a wonderfully fun way to wash in the bush!

Practicalities

Are there power points for charging camera batteries?
Yes, some camps will not have power points in the tents as there is no electricity but you can ask the manager to charge these for you. You may well need an adaptor depending on which country you are travelling to. We do recommend back up batteries to use whilst charging.

Flight departure times
Please check the departure gate and time of boarding carefully once you receive your boarding pass and make sure you are at the right place at the right time. The electronic departure and arrival boards in the airport buildings do not always show every flight and you don’t want to find yourselves being offloaded from your flight.

How do my friends/family stay in touch whilst I am travelling?
There is mobile phone reception almost everywhere (sadly we think) so your relatives can contact you directly. We will also give you a full contact list of local ground handlers and our own phone numbers prior to travel. Apart from the more remote camps, most bush lodges/camps do have direct dial facilities. Wifi is available at some camps and sometimes pc’s that you can use to catch up on your e-mails.

Is there a luggage limit?
If you are flying in light aircraft at any stage during your trip, the luggage restrictions are quite strict as the planes are limited with regards to the weight that they can safely carry. It is therefore vital that all passengers adhere to the limits. These vary from country to country but are between 10kgs (20 lbs) and 15 kg (30lbs) per person maximum. This excludes a small amount (2 kgs/5 lbs) of hand luggage. Please also let us know well in advance if you are over 1.82 metres (6’2”) tall or weigh over 100kgs (220lbs).

What can I take home?
Most curios, carvings and souvenirs are perfectly safe to take back home and you may well make some excellent value purchases (eg diamonds in South Africa). Please familiarise yourself with your home country’s importation laws as certain items may be forbidden. If you want to purchase an animal skin for example, you will need an export licence and these are only obtainable from authorised dealers. If you are buying items of value, you may be entitled to claim back the VAT on departure. A number of shops can arrange to ship your purchases directly home for you, to save you carrying them around on your holiday.