Posts Tagged ‘Safari’

First time to South Africa? Expect the unexpected.

If you are heading to South Africa for the first time, consider yourself warned. Expect to be blown away. Expect to have your soul stirred. And expect to have your expectations shattered and rearranged beyond your imagination. Here are seven experiences I wasn’t expecting on my visit to South Africa.

Zulu warriors

1 Hundreds of Languages are Spoken in South Africa

Though there are 11 official languages recognized in South Africa, hundreds more are spoken by its people, most of whom speak more than one language. Visitors will most often encounter English, yet it is spoken by fewer than 10% of the population. Make it a point to ask the people you meet along your travels about the languages they speak and you will be surprised, and even heart-warmed, by the efforts of many who are learning a new language to better be able to speak to more of their brothers and sisters.

Pay attention. You never know when your hotel receptionist might effortlessly switch from English to Zulu, or when the guide and ranger team on your safari might share stories about how they are teaching each other’s families English and Xhosa (respectively).

You’ll also quickly realize that though English is often spoken, South Africans have a wide array of slang words that will confuse Americans. To brush up on your South African slang, check out this post of terms compiled by our own Product Development Manager, who was born in South Africa.

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What it’s like to go on safari in South Africa

Today I want to share a blog post from my friend and our Product Development Manager at Friendly Planet, Judy Poliva. Judy grew up in South Africa, the destination at the center of our Win Wild South Africa Sweepstakes. I asked her to fill us in on what makes South Africa so special and she delivered, so read on. After you’re finished, be sure to enter to win a free trip for two to South Africa on our Facebook page (now closed)!


When we were children growing up in the Johannesburg area, we didn’t realize how lucky we were. We lived within driving distance of the Kruger National Park!

Almost every year during our winter school holidays (July), my parents would pack up the car with supplies, and we would head off on a self-drive safari, for a week or sometimes two. As we got closer to the park, my sisters and I would start practicing game-spotting by looking at the herds of cattle.

But once we entered the park, the competition started in earnest: who could spot the first animal (this was usually an impala), the first giraffe, or a lion! This was a daily, all-day competition, and we never tired of it. On our journey home, we missed being on the constant look out, and the cattle didn’t seem so interesting anymore.

We would be ready at dawn to start out on our game drive as soon as the gate opened. At every rest stop, we listened carefully as travelers shared their stories of what they had seen, so that we could head off there as well. We also had to remember to close all the windows so that the vervet monkeys or baboons didn’t try to steal our things.

If we saw some cars in the distance, we headed in that direction. Or we drove around, hoping to get lucky. At night, we would watch wildlife films in the open-air theatre at the camp or listen to a lecture by a game ranger. We would fall asleep listening to the sounds of roaring lions not too far away, and wake to the gentle coos of the bush doves.

One of the most memorable of my childhood experiences was in the northern region of the Kruger National Park, a more remote area that had only one-lane dirt roads. There was no other car in sight. We came around a corner, and the road dipped down a sharp incline to a dry river bed and then up an equally sharp incline. As we neared the bottom of the dip, an elephant walking along the dry river bed started crossing the road. Then, another and another and another, a seemingly endless stream of these huge, majestic creatures. There must have been more than 10 elephants of all ages.

Suddenly, one of the larger elephants looked in our direction and raised its trunk, flapped its ears, and took a few steps in our direction. My father put the car in reverse and we slowly went back up the hill. My sisters and I were shrieking with a mixture of excitement and fear. The elephants eventually decided we weren’t so interesting after all. They continued their journey, and disappeared into the bush once more. Once again, we were alone on the road.

A customer’s thoughts on Kenya Wildlife Safari

I already told you how receiving positive feedback from our travelers is one of the most rewarding parts of my job. Traveling is my passion, and when I know that everything we’ve done at Friendly Planet Travel has made for an unforgettable life experience for one of our travelers, well, there’s nothing better than that.
Here’s another one from our files, written by an experienced traveler after her first Friendly Planet Travel vacation on our Kenya Wildlife Safari. As always, we’ve done no editing to the original letter.
“Traveling to East Africa has been a long awaited dream for me. Last November, I was finally able to realize my dream by going on Friendly Planet’s 2 week jeep safari to Kenya and Tanzania. The trip was organized locally by Vintage Africa. I cannot sing enough praises for Vintage Africa, and especially our driver guide in Kenya, James Mungai. James was an extremely knowledgeable and attentive guide. His ability to intelligently answer all of our sometimes unusual questions and spot wildlife from miles away never ceased to amaze us. James went out of his way to accommodate our needs and was always patient with all our requests, from stopping to photograph every sunset and tree cluster to positioning his vehicle for the perfect photo opportunity. As a seasoned traveler, I can truly say that this trip has been one of my favorites and having James as our guide contributed to making it so memorable. I can only hope that my next group excursion will be as enjoyable and well organized.
— Magda Laska”
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