Imagine this situation: you just planned your entire trip to central South Africa – you booked your flights, mapped your routes, and have a list of things to do ready, all months ahead of time. Someone mentions you’ll need a travel adapter and possibly a converter, but they’re not much help beyond that. You visit a few websites and find a myriad of adapters flooded with text leaving your head spinning. With only a few weeks before your trip, you begin to panic. This, my friends, is what we call a travel nightmare.
Luckily, it can be explained fairly easily. Read below for why and when you need travel adapters and converters, along with a few helpful tips to help your electronics be as happy as you on your trip.
Travel Plug Adapters
Why do I need an adapter? Since South Africa’s outlets are different from other countries, you’ll need a South Africa plug adapter so your device’s plug fits the outlet. Otherwise, you can’t power up your camera for that snapshot of the rugby match!
When do I need an adapter? You’ll need an adapter if your appliance’s plug does not match the outlet holes in the picture below. If you’re not from South Africa, you’ll most likely need an adapter.
Why? Some countries, like the USA and Canada, run on 110 volts of electricity, while other countries, like South Africa, run on 220 volts. A voltage converter decreases the voltage to 110 volts so electronics using 110v don’t short out or explode.
When? You need a converter when your electronics typically run on 110 volts of electricity. Check your device manual if you’re unsure.
5 Quick Tips
1. Other travel adapters are needed near South Africa. The UK electrical adapter and the continental Europe travel plug adapter are two you’ll need if you travel much further north.
2. A universal travel adapter works in up to 160 different countries and could potentially let you only carry one adapter for a multi-national expedition.
3. Grounded adapters fit both two and three prong plugs, and nongrounded adapters fit only two prong plugs.
4. Sometimes you don’t need a converter. If your device is dual-voltage like most laptops, it runs on 110v and 220v of electricity. Just make sure you check your manual first!
5. Most converters have a high and low setting. Use a high setting for high wattage appliances like hair dryers and use the low setting for lower wattage devices like electric shavers. There are some “auto-switching” converters that do this for you.
So, if you are that person panicking, hopefully now you can get back to enjoying life and being excited for that upcoming trip. Happy travels!
Nate Schrader, writer for TravelProducts.com, uses his study abroad experiences in ‘08 to help troubled travelers better prepare for their trips. Outside of that, he enjoys cross-country running, trying new foods & seeing new things.
(Images supplied by author)
If you’ve always wanted to climb Mount Everest but don’t fancy the long flight or altitude sickness you should make a beeline for Harrismith. The little Free State town is able to offer something that no place outside of the Himalayas can: a genuine “I’ve climbed Mt Everest” t-shirt. You won’t need sub-zero equipment, oxygen or porters. You will need a spirit of adventure and very good shoes.
Harrismith is more or less halfway between Johannesburg and Durban and Mount Everest is just a little further north than that. It’s in the Eagle Mountain Game Lodge, which also hosts several other significant peaks. Its primary attraction is rock climbing, which, in addition to the whole altitude thing, is what sets this Everest apart from the slightly more famous one.
According to one avid rock climber, there are around 130 bolted sport routes and 20 traditional climbing routes.
Accommodation at the lodge is simple. There is a camp site and caravan park, which costs R40 per person per night, and there are chalets at the foot of each mountain. Over the weekends there is a two-night minimum for the chalets, but during the week one night is perfectly acceptable. All the basics are included, i.e., bedding, towels and kitchenware.
A stay at the Mount Everest Chalet will set you back R425 per night. The chalet sleeps six in two bedrooms and one loft.
Other chalets include:
- Eagle Head Chalet at R575 per night. It sleeps six in three bedrooms and has three bathrooms. There is a full kitchen and separate lounge and dining areas. There is also a garage.
- Mooihoek Chalet at R400 per night. It sleeps six in two bedrooms and one loft.
- Witkruisarend at R375 per night. It sleeps five in an open-plan loft.
- Tarentaal at R375 per night. It sleeps five in an open-plan loft.
Day visitors are also more than welcome. Day visitors pay per vehicle. Current prices are:
- R20 per car.
- R75 per taxi with an additional charge of R5 per person.
- R350 per bus with an additional charge of R5 per person.
Like its accommodation, the lodge is simple. There isn’t a restaurant on the premises. There’s no TV and no lodge-sponsored activities. You can go fishing in the nearby dams and there are mountain bikes trails aplenty. Bird watchers will also be kept busy.
Despite the lack of modern amenities (TV being considered modern), or perhaps because of it, the Eagle Mountain Game Reserve also offers leadership development courses, which are similar to team building, only with greater purpose.
See the website for more information.
(Image by topgold, CC by 2.0, via Flickr)
Van Reenen’s Pass, which is the gateway between Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, is notoriously dangerous. It’s also incredibly beautiful. Since the late 1800s, when intrepid explorers first battled their way across the mountains, the fog, rain and snow have played havoc with travellers’ schedules. This was made especially clear towards the end of July and the middle of August 2011, when snow closed the roads and left drivers stranded.
By far the worst of the two occasions was the end of July, when the road was closed for three days and drivers had no option but to sleep in their vehicles – with only the provisions they had brought with them. According to a report, 3000 trucks were stranded on 250km of road. Most of these contained essential goods and there was some concern that stores would run out before the road was re-opened.
When the road was closed again on Monday 15 August, fewer trucks and cars were stranded, as authorities said the road is generally quieter after a weekend. However, while trucks weren’t stranded on the road, they were stranded at their depots and truck stops on both ends of the pass, which once again threatened supplies. Even the alternative route was closed on account of the bad weather.
Weather most foul
It’s been a bad winter in the interior of South Africa. The Free State and Gauteng have experienced the longest cold snaps in living memory, making a lie out of the snap in the term. Temperatures have hovered around freezing for weeks on end and when respite comes it is brief.
Furthermore, it’s been a wet winter. In an area that relies on summer rains to grow crops this is rather problematic. Roads have been flooded around Welkom, Theunissen, and Hennenman. Pans and dams have broken their banks and rivers are in full torrent.
By contrast, the Western Cape, which is supposed to be a winter rain region, has had a mostly dry, mild winter. The cold snaps have been snappy indeed and despite a wet start to the season, rain has been rare.
Every snow cloud has a silver lining. While authorities have warned travellers to keep an eye on the weather and plan very carefully before heading out to Van Reenen’s Pass, it has attracted some visitors keen to experience snow.
Children also rejoiced at the unexpected days off school.
All of which goes to show that it may be a bad season for truckers but for snow angels it couldn’t be better.
(Image by Mike Quinn [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons)
Bronkhorstspruit in not the kind of place one would normally associate with Buddhism. It’s a small farming community near Pretoria, on the border between Gauteng and Mpumalanga. It’s the kind of place that looks like it would have strong traditional Afrikaner values, and those most definitely don’t include Buddha. Nevertheless, the little town boasts the biggest Buddhist temple in South Africa.
The temple is called Nan Hua and it’s part of the Humanistic Buddhist order called Fo Guang Shan.
When one thinks about it, Bronkhorstspruit is the perfect location for the temple. It’s close to Pretoria and Johannesburg but far enough away to provide the tranquillity inherent in Buddhism.
Entrance to the temple is free, which is in keeping with the spirit of Buddhism, but donations are always welcome. As the official Nan Hua website states, donations need not be monetary; food, clothing and time are also much needed commodities, especially for the temple’s Outreach programme, which aims to uplift nearby impoverished communities.
The temple also hosts weekend retreats for tired souls who need to rest and recharge. There are two levels: a beginner’s retreat and an intermediate Pure Land retreat.
The beginner’s retreat is recommended before you try the Pure Land retreat as it provides the base from which more profound meditation can grow. The beginner’s retreat includes an introduction to meditation, simple tai chi and yoga and talks on Buddhist philosophies and practices.
According to the website, the beginner’s retreat costs R400 per person sharing, provided the people are of the same gender; R500 per person single, where you’ll have your own bedroom and bathroom in a two-bedroom and bathroom chalet; and R600 per person private, where you get your own chalet.
All meals are included in the price. Note that all meals are Chinese vegetarian. You may bring your own snacks and drinks, provided you don’t bring any meat or alcohol.
The idea of the temple was first mooted in 1991 when the Venerable Master Hsing Yun met the then Chief Executive of the Bronkhorstspruit City Council who was visiting Taiwan in an attempt to drum up business. The idea must have made economic sense if nothing else because in 1992, the council donated 6ha to the order.
The mutually beneficial deal gave the council a new tourist attraction to flaunt, while the order gained a foothold in Africa from which it could promote Buddhism and coordinate all Buddhist branches on the continent.
The monks at the temple stay true to five core aims:
1) Teach Buddhist philosophy to all who enter the doors and alleviate suffering and provide joy.
2) Help people shake off their worldly trappings and gain enlightenment by adopting a simpler way of life.
3) Provide refuge for those in spiritual turmoil or who need spiritual guidance.
4) Translate Buddhist scriptures into African languages to make them accessible to wider population.
5) Construct more temples to bring succour to Buddhists and would-be Buddhists around South Africa and across the wider continent.
For more information on the retreats at Nan Hua, on Buddhism in South Africa or on Buddhism in general email email@example.com or call +27 (0)13 931 0009 during office hours.
(Image by Ivan Fourie from South Africa (Seminary 2) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons)
South Africa has a lot of game reserves. Some are more famous than others, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are better. The Pilanesberg Game Reserve in the North West Province is perhaps not as well known as the Kruger Park, but it’s no less worth a visit. The park came into being as an important relocation programme called Operation Genesis. In 1979 the 55 000 hectares of the park were fenced off and many species long since gone from the region were reintroduced – very successfully as it turned out.
In addition to its relocation origins, the park is unique thanks to its geographic landscape. It’s located within a long dead volcanic crater on an assortment of alkaline rock types and structures. It’s full of minerals and surrounded by three concentric rings of hills. It’s not uncommon to find traces of stone-age civilisations on your explorations of the park.
Adding to the park’s uniqueness is the fact that it is situated within a transition zone between the Kalahari, which is arid, and the Lowveld, which is not. The result is a landscape of scrub bushveld, forests, koppies and grasslands.
In terms of wildlife, the park boasts the Big 5, including both species of rhino, as well as hyena, cheetah, giraffe, zebra, hippos and crocodiles. There are also over 300 species of birds, not to mention curious insects.
Activities within the park naturally include game drives – guided and unguided – bird watching and a spot of environmental education.
There are a lot of accommodation options in and around the park.
Out of the park there are all the accommodation options presented by the Sun City and Lost City resorts. The resorts abut the park and provide a number of activities to keep you occupied when not spotting elephants and leopards.
For extreme luxury you can book yourself into the Palace of the Lost City, while the Sun City Hotel, Cabanas and Cascades offer more affordable alternatives.
In the north east of the park there is the Ivory Tree Game Lodge. It’s renowned for its elephant trails and open vehicle safaris. It consists of 60 luxury double suites with all the modern amenities your heart could desire, and then some.
Tshukudu Lodge, also called Place of the Rhino, is more exclusive with only six luxury cottages. It’s incredibly indulgent and incredibly isolated. You won’t find TVs, radios or even cell phone signal, so you have no choice but to get back to nature. But don’t worry; you can fill the gap left by your cell phone with fantastic 5-star dining, including full English brunches, high teas and 6-course dinners.
For more information on accommodation and park activities visit the Pilanesberg Game Reserve website.
(Image by NJR ZA (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons)
Long ago, Thaba Nchu Sun was the epicentre of fun in the Free State. It was the only casino for miles and miles, there were live shows and the scenery was beautiful. Then Bloemfontein started growing, it started attracting more businessmen and women who wanted a more sophisticated place to pass the time, one that was closer than 65km. A new casino opened up and nightclubs and snazzy restaurants and bars sprang up all over Bloem. Thabu Nchu was out of favour, but it’s staging a comeback.
Thaba Nchu, which means black mountain, is actually a small town outside of Bloemfontein, located at the foot of the real Black Mountain and within stone’s throw of the Maria Moroka Game Reserve.
These days it boasts two major hotels: Protea Hotel Black Mountain and Naledi Sun Hotel and Casino. Both of which are easily accessibly via the N8 which goes from Bloemfontein to Lesotho.
The Maria Maroka Game Reserve is not as big and flashy as many of its counterparts. It doesn’t boast the Big 5, it doesn’t have expensive luxury lodges with 5-star chefs and comfy open vehicle safari drives. But, it does have Black Mountain and the hiking it provides; it has peace and quiet and white rhino, zebra and lots of birds for bird watchers. It has picnic spots, which game parks with predators naturally don’t allow, and it has night tours.
The Protea Hotel Black Mountain offers comfort and luxury within this spectacular setting with spas and saunas and shopping at the nearby Ratlou Shopping Complex. It has taken over where the old Thaba Nchu Sun left off. But don’t expect more of the same. Black Mountain is far more luxurious, elegant and stylish. Adults can relax and enjoy their surroundings while the kids enjoy the specially designed activities and entertainment programmes at Kamp Kwena. A lovely way to end the day is one a sundown cruise on the Moutloatsi Setlogelo dam.
Naledi Sun Hotel and Casino is geared primarily towards adults, especially those bitten by the gambling bug. There are only 30 hotel rooms, but they are more than comfortable. Slot machines are present in numbers, as well as card tables and roulette.
(Image by Kwang Cho from Pacific Grove, California, USA [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons)
South Africa doesn’t have a lot of theme parks but what it lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality. Gold Reef City in Johannesburg is central South Africa’s nod to theme parks. Only it’s much more than a nod, it’s a fully-fledged, passionate embrace. Gold Reef City is the oldest theme park in the country and the most diverse.
There are rides, of course, but there are also theatres, museums, historical tours, hotels, restaurants and casinos. It’s a playground for the rich and famous, young and old, and folks just looking to have a good time.
Let’s start with the rides:
The rides are categorised according to excitement factor and include:
- Thrill rides, such as the Tower of Terror, which gets a 10/10 for Fear Factor and which consists of a 50m drop at 100km per hour. There is a height restriction – 1.3m. Other thrill rides include the Anaconda, a terrifying rollercoaster with a difference and the Raging River Rapids.
- Other rides are, obviously, less thrilling with lower Fear Factor ratings. Some have height restrictions unless children are accompanied by an adult. They include the Giant Wheel, Shells and Lazy Boats.
- Kiddies’ rides and activities include the Elephant Ride, Jungle Train and an indoor play area.
Other entertainment options
- 4D Theatre: short (10-15 minutes) movies that tantalise all the senses with moving seats, smells and vapours. Children shorter than 1.3m are not allowed.
- The Town Square provides a range of live entertainment with times scheduled for bands, dancers, acrobats and the like.
- The Amphitheatre with its Tribal Dancing shows.
- Dr Doolittle’s Farmyard for petting, photographing and occasionally riding. Animals include ponies, alpacas, goats, tortoises and geese.
- Underground Mine Tour.
- Gold panning.
- Museum houses.
- The Lyric and Globe theatres.
The casino has a number of rooms offering a variety of gaming options. There are slots in smoking and non-smoking rooms, as well as tables with Roulette, Baccarat, Black Jack and Poker. Salon Privé is reserved for high rollers and has a rich, sumptuous and exclusive feel with indulgent furnishings and first-class service.
There are two hotels: the Casino Hotel, which is 4-star accommodation and the Theme Park Hotel, which also boasts 4-star status.
There are restaurants catering to all tastes, from the franchises like KFC and Steers in the food court to sit down coffee shops and fine dining at Back ‘o the Moon.
For more information visit the Gold Reef City website.
(Image by jespahjoy, CC by 2.0, via Flickr)
Lanseria used to be small airport playing second fiddle to Joburg’s other airfield, the somewhat overwhelming OR Tambo International Airport. But Lanseria’s days as the second option are numbered, as it continues to grow in leaps and bounds.
For starters, Lanseria is properly called Lanseria International Airport. That’s right, it’s a designated international airport – its status having been reviewed and renewed in 2001.
Secondly, over the past 10 years it’s had to expand twice to accommodate the demand for more air traffic and the greater numbers of passengers.
Thirdly, people are starting to realise that its location makes it far more convenient to reach major centres in Joburg and Pretoria than OR Tambo.
Finally, more airlines are considering sending traffic its way.
Kulula used to be the only affordable air carrier that ferried passengers to Lanseria. As a destination, Lanseria seems to suit Kulula’s no frills service. It’s not as flashy as OR Tambo, it’s not a crowded and, so far, it’s more efficient. But one of Kulula’s major competitors, Mango, has started flying to Lanseria and is, by all accounts, very pleased with its decision.
1Time is also humming and hawing about establishing flights between Lanseria and other destinations in South Africa.
And, the South African National Taxi Council has plans to launch its own airline from Lanseria. Although the airport is keen to assure passengers that no uncertified pilots will take to the skies.
Lanseria has a history dating back nearly 40 years. In 1979 Fanie Haacke and Abe Sher, who were pilots, earmarked the land as great airport potential. There was plenty of space and while it was close to residential and commercial areas it wasn’t too close to be a nuisance. Perhaps most importantly it was on a patch that wouldn’t be troubled by fog or smog.
Their foresight was borne out, with the most significant moment in the airport’s history being not its first international flight but the moment when Nelson Mandela landed in Gauteng, fresh from being released from prison. It wasn’t Joburg International (as it was then known) that welcomed him but Lanseria.
As the airport has grown and demand for its services increased, its range of facilities and services has also grown and become more sophisticated. There are several car hire companies operating out of Lanseria, which is a relief to many frequent flyers. There are also plane charters for private and medical purposes. Passenger comfort isn’t ignored either with executive lounges, shopping and an award-winning restaurant.
It may not be as big, busy and bustling as OR Tambo but therein lies some of Lanseria’s charm. If the old faithful isn’t careful, it could find itself losing out to Lanseria’s prolific growth.
(Image by Petrus Potgieter (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
Once a year, Mercer releases the results of its Cost of Living Survey, detailing the most expensive cities in the world in which to live. London consistently makes the top 20. Londoners bemoan the high cost of city living, but for the most part they wouldn’t give it up for anything in the world. Tourists, on the other hand, count the cost of every penny. Now, just a year before the city is set to host the 2012 Olympic Games, the tourism industry is wondering whether they’ll pay the price for all the expense.
The European Tour Operators Association has predicted that visits to London will drop by 50% during the Games. Apparently this is a phenomenon associated with hosting the games – visits drop off as people seek to avoid the throng. But, despite the lower numbers, revenue tends to increase, slightly.
The bad news for London is that its reputation as a destroyer of budgets could deter even more people than usual, especially considering that prices will naturally escalate during the Olympic period. Then there is the small matter of tickets, which are more expensive than any other Games ever.
Tickets for the 2012 Games are up to 10 times more expensive than tickets for the 2008 Games in Beijing. London officials try to justify this by saying that tickets are priced according to the income level of the host country – salaries in Beijing are significantly lower than in London.
But, if one compares income levels with countries on a similar footing, London’s tickets are still outrageously high. Tickets for track and field Super finals – the ones with the uber-super stars, like Usain Bolt – will cost up to £725. Bottom of the range prices for the same event will cost £50.
The cheap seats for the opening ceremony will only cost a smidge over £20, but the really good seats will set you back £2000.
And all you’ve done is watched some athletics, you haven’t eaten anything or slept anywhere.
South Africa set a new precedent in pricing accommodation for high-profile sports events when its rates for hotel rooms, guest houses, B&Bs and even hostels went through the roof during the Soccer World Cup. Property experts are saying that London home owners are likely to adopt the same approach and will be able to earn in the region of £2000 per week, which is far out of reach of ordinary folk.
An article on SA news portal IOL cites economists from Oxford Economics, who say that London could lose £375 million while people stay away for the period preceding and during the Games.
One industry insider was quoted as saying: “I think the worse case scenario is effectively a close-down of London as a tourist destination for five to seven weeks. This will cause real damage. The ramifications are going to affect everybody in tourism throughout the British Isles and Ireland. The fact is that London has been largely removed as a gateway for a seven-week period of high season.”
But London & Partners is optimistic, saying that the Games will benefit London in the long-term.
As they say, only time will tell.
(Image by Arthur Stockdale Cope [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
South African tourism relies heavily on its game reserves, and with good reason as some of the best game parks and lodges are found within its borders. Take for instance Sabi Sand Reserve, which shares a border with the Kruger National Park. The Sabi Reserve is the oldest private reserve in the country; its primary concern is conservation and its accommodation has just been named the second best in the world by US Travel and Leisure World’s Best Awards – which relies on feedback by readers.
Sabi Sand Reserve is part of the group Singita Game Reserves, which also nabbed the top award for its Grumeti Reserves near the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.
Pioneering conservation in South Africa
Sabi Sand Reserve is the self-proclaimed birthplace of sustainable wildlife tourism in southern Africa. As it shares an unfenced border with the Kruger Park and is also part of the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park (which includes reserves in Mozambique and Zimbabwe) it is part of the largest conservation area in the southern African region.
In addition to the Big 5 – with a particular focus on leopard – there are a number of endangered species within the reserve’s borders. These include the wild dog, 10 bat species, honey badgers, oxpeckers and ground hornbills.
The lodges in the Sabi Sand Reserve are not only luxurious, but they also have an eco-bent. All lodge management staff are tasked with monitoring the surrounding wildlife and habitat densities to preserve the natural balance, controlling fires, eliminating alien plant life, conducting anti-poaching programmes and practicing micro-catchment management to prevent erosion.
When commenting on the awards, Lindy Rousseau, the chief marketing officer at Singita, said, "When it comes to hotels, the new world order is very different from just five years ago. Today it is about authenticity, integrity and being real. I think this is why more and more guests identify with what we are doing."
This is thanks, in large part, to the group’s determination to maintain “a finely tuned relationship between wildlife, local communities and tourism”.
Despite all the luxury, low impact tourism is the order of the day at all Singita’s reserves.
The Sabi Sand Reserve is between the Sand River and Sabie River, which provides it with uniquely diverse fauna and flora. Each lodge within the reserve is situated to make the most of the surrounding landscape, providing guests with panoramic vistas.
The highlight of any Sabi holiday is the guided game drives on open vehicles. Early morning, late afternoon and night drives are available.
(Image by Fulya Pirim (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons)