South Africa Scenic Route small group camping safari

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24 Dec 2016
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14 Jan 2017
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28 Jan 2017
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18 Mar 2017
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02 Dec 2017
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23 Dec 2017
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Vacation type
Small group vacations
Small group travel is not large group travel scaled down. It is modelled on independent travel – but with the advantage of a group leader to take care of the itinerary, accommodation and tickets, and dealing with the language. It’s easy to tick off the big sights independently – but finding those one-off experiences, local festivals, traveling markets and secret viewpoints is almost impossible for someone without the insider knowledge gained from years in the field. If you’re heading off on a gap year your, perhaps – but for those with a two-week vacation, a small group tour will save valuable planning time.

The leaders are not guides – they’re not there to shepherd you around. Instead, they’ll let you know which local restaurant serves great value food – without running the risk of travelers’ tummy. They’ll allow you to avoid hour-long queues at train stations and attractions.

We like to think of small group travel as the Goldilocks option. It is independent travel without the fuss, worry and bunk beds – and organised travel without the coaches. And it’s cheaper than a tailor made tour. It’s sits somewhere in the middle – and we think it’s just about right.
What are the main benefits?
Big experiences
Have big, life-enriching experiences that would be impossible to organise without lots of time and insider knowledge.

Simplicity
Make the most of your vacation time by letting someone else do the hard work and boring logistics!

Peace of mind
Small group tours take care of the security aspects – and provide a safety net should anything unexpected happen.
Who is it ideal for?
Travelers who are short of time
If you don’t have three months to spend exploring, small groups trips let you cover more ground in less time. Your days are not spent queuing for tickets or finding hotels – so you can squeeze more into your vacation.

Solo travelers who’d like company
Likeminded travel companions plus peace of mind for those traveling alone. Single supplements are usually available – providing privacy if you want it.

Less confident travelers
Stray from the tourist trail without worrying about getting lost, and meet local people without dealing with the language barrier.
Mythbuster
“I won’t get any privacy!”
Couples and friends have private rooms, and you can choose to eat alone or not. Single supplements give solo travelers their own room.

“There won’t be any free time”
Free mornings or afternoons let you explore on your own, or just relax.

“The accommodation will be basic”
Trips are as high or low end as you like. Though off the beaten track destinations won’t have luxury hotels, this is all part of the adventure.

“I won’t like the other travelers!”
Tour operators try to create groups with a similar demographic – age, families, activity levels... Chances are, you’ll even make new friends.

“Will we be following an umbrella?”
No.
Meet a group leader
As well as taking care of all the day-to-day practicalities, your group leader is the one who will turn your trip into an adventure. Leaders are extraordinary characters – the kind of person who has spent 14 Christmas days on the slopes of Mount Everest, runs marathons wearing tiger suits to raise funds for their conservation and thinks nothing of leading an overland trip in Sudan or Afghanistan. Fearless and inspiring, group leaders are as important as the destination itself.

Meet a local guide
No matter how experienced your group leader, they can never make up for the knowledge gained from a lifetime in the destination. That’s why many of our trips work with local guides around the world – who invite you into their homeland with pleasure. As well as doing crazy things like climbing Kilimanjaro 100 times, they also donate their time to local projects supported by travelers – such as rebuilding Sri Lankan villages following the 2004 tsunami.

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: South Africa Scenic Route small group camping safari

Message from co-Founder of this Tour Operator. My name is Bruce and I am a founder of this tour operation. I believe that the old conservation tactic of the setting aside areas of "exclusion" for conservation are outdated.

The reality is that in order for effective, sustainable conservation to take place, there needs to be an interest from the society of that country, conscious effort from government and local "buy in" from the local communities. Sadly the world is in a place where economic benefit is the overriding driving force of action and as such conservation is directly linked to economic benefit. Sustainable tourism is therefore absolutely essential for conservation to be effective. Not only for local communities to see value in conservation, but for countries as a whole to place value in protecting their natural heritage.

I believe there is a deep and instinctual link between our humanity and our natural environment. Inherently we all want to know that the wild places are still out there. And Eco-tourism gives us that opportunity, as we so often hear, to "rebalance" or "rejuvenate".

The various promises and commitments detailed below are only a representation of what it is that we do. I sincerely hope that our tours offer our clients an opportunity to experience the wonders of the African continent, and in some small way through focusing itineraries around wildlife and national parks, we contribute to environmental conservation both economically and spiritually.

If you join one of our trips, and have practical feasible suggestions about our responsible travel practices, please contact us. We strive to improve our operation and if we can do more for conservation in Africa, then we're all ears!

Low impact tourism & supporting local communities:
• Small group travel: We specialise in small group travel with a maximum group size of 12 clients & minimum of 4. Small groups ensures a small impact on the destinations we visit when compared to larger groups. Smaller groups create an intimate safari experience, and mean that when we interact with local cultures and stay in environmentally sensitive areas, we do not leave a large footprint.
• Fuel consumption: By traveling in a small group your carbon foot print is approximately ½ of self drive safari. The average pick-up car hire runs on approximately 12ltr/100km with generally 2 people per vehicle and this equates to approximately 6ltr/100km pp. Our average safari truck runs on 25ltr/100km with an average of 9.5 clients per tour and this equates to 2.6Ltr/100km pp. So, by joining a small group tour, your fuel consumption is less than half of doing a self-drive 4WD or pick up trip.
• Cooking: We cook using gas as far as possible and, whenever feasible, avoiding cooking using fire or coal which depletes limited wood resources.
• Wooden carving curios: We do take clients to local curio markets to support the local communities. If they want to buy a carving, we encourage clients purchase only small wooden carvings instead of large pieces. This is in an effort to again conserve the forests around the carving markets.
• Waste: We ensure that we take all of our rubbish out of wilderness areas and use proper waste disposal facilities on all tours (and in the workshop, including oil traps, oil recycling, cleaning products etc).
• Entrance fees: All entrance fees for the national parks in each country are used by the local authorities to maintain the condition and infrastructure of the national parks, and run regular anti-poaching patrols. These are often supplemented by government grants. The national parks support a large number of local community members often providing housing and schooling for the staff families. For us as a tour operator, supporting the various national park boards is an essential element to each tour.
• Accommodation: On all tours wherever possible we use locally owned accommodation establishments which are involved in local responsible tourism initiatives. This provides direct benefits to local communities through employment. We avoid large hotel chains and more commercial properties but opt for simple self-catering lodge, B&B’s and tented camps for accommodation in rural areas. By doing this we create an intimate environment for group away from large scale tourism and the communities around the accommodation benefit directly through employment and this creates pride and further interest in sustainable tourism as the communities have tangible benefits from tourism. Our tours focus on out of the way destinations, and as such, our “spend” is distributed into rural areas.
• Drinking Water: Each client, drinking 5 litres per day from 1 litre plastic bottles produces 100 waste plastic bottles on a 3 week safari. On this calculation, we would pollute the environment (and waste energy resources in plastic production) with over 250,000 plastic bottles per year! So as solution, each of our vehicles has a tank of clean drinking water that is filled up along the journey. This is safe tap water. We do not provide bottle water we encourage clients to drink the local clean drinkable tap water wherever possible in order to minimize the amount of plastic bottle waste produced by the purchase of bottled drinking water.
• Water conservation: We are acutely aware that in many areas that we visit water is a scarce resource. Clients are encouraged to be conscious of water usage and not to take long showers or waste water.
• Wildlife: On all game drives, our trained and qualified guides ensure that our groups interact with wildlife in the appropriate way. Slow movements, no loud noises and to respect the animals “personal” boundaries. Our philosophy is that we are visitors in the amazing places that we visit, and we do not want our presence to impact the wildlife and environment in any negative way. We also enforce a policy of not feeding any wildlife (animals habituated to human feeding will turn aggressive in the future which often results in authorities being forced to kill that animal) and to appreciate the natural state of the areas that we visit and to leave the area in exactly the same condition that it was when we arrived.
• Local guides & communities: On each tour you will travel with two guides for the entire trip. In addition, we also employ local guides for certain activities on tour. These local initiatives help to maintain local cultures and also sustain the ideals of wildlife conservation. Tourism, goodwill and conservation all work together and we aim to maintain the delicate balance at all times! The employment of local guide adds value to our clients visit because they can gain specific local knowledge and expertise from the people who actually live permanently in the area they are visiting. These interactions also give our clients the chance to meet local people and see how tourism is benefiting Africa, piece by piece.
We use local guides at:
Botswana: Okavango Delta, Chobe NP, Ghanzi San Bushman excursion, national parks
South Africa: Mkuzi village walk, Qunu Mandela historical site, Kozi Bay
Swailand: Hlane walking
Lesotho: Malealea Lodge pony trekking guide
Malawi: Boat excursion on Lake Malawi
Mozambique: Dhow excursions
Namibia: Brandberg walk and drives (part of the Tsiseb Community Conservancy), Spizkoppe walk, Gariep River canoeing, Sossusvlei 4WD drivers,
Zambia: Lower Zambezi Canoe excursion, South Luangwa game walks and drives, Vic Falls optional activities
Zimbabwe: Great Zimbabwe Monuments, Matobos NP, Hwange NP, Victoria Falls
For more information on each of the community projects please talk to your guide or contact us.
• Local crafts and produce: At all local markets where fresh produce and crafts are sold and produced, we encourage the clients to barter (gently and in good humour) with the local people. This not only allows the clients to get involved with the local way of life, and interact directly with the local people, but also provides them a platform to experience local life first hand. Having said that, we explain to the clients by bartering too hard for a good deal might seem like a lot of money at the time, but if the amount being haggled over is converted to either US$, Euro or GBP, it amounts to very little. This is the local livelihood and we advise them to keep this in mind at all times.
• Underprivileged Children Groups: We operate a number of tours into the national parks of South Africa for underprivileged children from schools based in Johannesburg, South Africa. PEN Organisation is an independent, non-governmental and social development organisation. Its activities focus on neglected and abandoned children and orphans, as well as disadvantaged families. We try to run these tours as often as possible during the course of a year. We believe that the youth are Africa’s future and that environmental education is important. This opportunity allows them to see for themselves wildlife (perhaps for the first time), nature conservation at work, and also show them employment opportunities that are available in the conservation or tourism industry, and possibly encourage them to follow a career in tourism (for this reason we aim these groups at 14-18 year olds).
• Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre: We assist a wildlife rehabilitation centre in Springs, Johannesburg. Judy Davidson runs a licensed rehab centre from a small holding. A variety of birds are cared for, from injured barbets, doves, and crows to a brown snake eagle, a Gymnogene, and spotted eagle owls. All birds are treated in a small makeshift clinic, and then kept in aviaries until they have recovered. Once able to fly, or care for themselves again, they are moved to a 'flight' aviary, for a period until they have regained strength. They are then released back into the wild. Those birds which are unable to be released are kept in large aviaries and fed through various donations. We assist the project with donations of practical equipment including shade netting, paint and other items on their wish list.

Reviews of South Africa Scenic Route small group camping safari

You can trust Responsible Travel reviews because, unlike many other schemes, reviews can ONLY be written by people who we have verified have been on the vacations.

I am reborn! Simply the best vacation I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
Very enjoyable
It was OK
A bit disappointing really

Reviewed on 02 Dec 2013 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


The animals! We had lots of opportunity to see them up close.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


It can be challenging. It is real camping where you have to set up and take down tents. To see the animals and also to cover the great distances that we did (over 3500 km), we had to get up early many mornings. Some days we ate breakfast standing up. Even at the best of times, we sat on small fold up canvass chairs. Some days involved sitting most of the day in a mini bus. The hikes were also often challenging and sometimes long- trekking through steep trip; there were only 3 of us over the age of 40 (my husband and I are 65). Although we generally kept up ( I think we impressed them), the conversation is different with the age spread.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


I am not sure. I was disappointed that there was little to no recycling done- whether cans and bottles or plastic bags when shopping.
We shopped for groceries at large supermarkets instead of stopping to buy local produce and, in fact, did not visit any markets, except for one craft market in Swaziland. Our main guide was from Zimbabwe, although we did use a couple of local guides in Soweto and also in Lesotho.
The guest houses/lodges were run by white South Africans. I wonder if any effort was made to use local community coops run by black South Africans.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


I would rate it as an 8/10. My main disappointment was that we tended to drive too quickly through areas (even when I suggested detours) so that we made no effort to visit things that were historical or to see culturally significant things- only one small museum and it was a coal mining exhibit for the most part. I understand that it was described as a camping safari and that is what we mostly did, but it was a shame to not be exposed to more of the culture and history which is so rich in South Africa.

Read the operator's response here:

Dear Lee

Thank you so much for taking the time to give us and fellow travelers feedback on our tour. I am pleased that you had a great experience overall and rated the tour 8/10. We value the time taken to give us constructive criticism and so please see my response to you feedback.

The South Africa camping tour is an exciting tour visiting wonderful highlights of South Africa. You are correct, the tour does cover large distances but in order to see all of the highlights there need to be some long days of travel. In creating the itinerary we try and take this into account as much as possible and punctuate longer days of travel with two nights in one location. When staying two nights we also try and include a walk to get clients out and active.

I see you found the walks quite challenging. As an adventure vacation we try and include activities that are suitable for clients of all ages. There are two guides on each tour to ensure that when you do walks, one takes the lead with the faster walkers and the other takes the back with those clients who prefer to take things a little more slowly. I’m pleased you managed the walks and I am sure you felt like it was quite an accomplishment. We keep a record of comments made on tour and I have made a note of the difficulty level.

The chairs used on this tour are standard safari camping chairs. They are compact to allow for easy packing and they should be available to be used for breakfast, lunch and dinner. If they were not made available I would like to apologise and I will most certainly take this up with the guides. I have addressed your concern with your regards to question 3 on how the vacation benefited local people and supported conservation. I have addressed your feedback below.

We firmly believe in Responsible Tourism and this includes staying in National Parks and community run projects. There are few privately run establishments on this tour, the majority are public or community run. While it may not have been obvious at the time of stay we take great care and consideration into the areas in which we stay to ensure we are supporting locals. I have made a note of your comments as perhaps this was not communicated clearly by the guides. I will give the guides feedback and ensure that all guides communicate with clients with regards to the community projects by explaining how each campsite/project works or where you are staying.

Below I have listed the different places you stayed and whether they are a National Park campsite or community project accommodation.

•Pilgrims Rest - municipal public campsite
•Kruger NP – SANParks (South African National Parks) public campsite
•Swaziland - Malolotja - Community project and part of Swaziland Cultural Trust
•MKuzi - KZN Wildlife (Provincial) public campsite
•Drakensberg – KZN (Privincial) Wildlife Mahai public campsite
•Lesotho - Malealea forest hut - Community project
•Cradock - Tuis Huise. While this is a private the family that owns these homes has been living in Cradock and have owned these homes in their family for over 100 years.
•Addo – SANParks (South African National Parks), public campsite
•Tsitsikamma – SANParks (South African National Parks), public campsite
•Swellendam, Kambati campsite - Private
•Cape Town - Sweetest Guest Houses - Private
•Cape Town - Sweetest Guest Houses – Private

For recycling we use the facilities/accommodation recycling rather than our own on the vehicle. As you will know space on the truck is limited, to a degree, and you will find that there is a recycling project associated with all the accommodation we use. Many properties in South Africa recycle and while they may not have visibly separate bins, they separate the rubbish out and then recycle.
You also commented that you guide was Zimbabwean. We employ guides from all over Southern Africa because we run tours throughout Southern Africa. We however use local guides out of communities we visit along the way. This applies to all the countries we travel to.

Unfortunately shopping at local markets is quite difficult as we have had conflicting feedback from clients with regards to hygiene and a number of other matters. So we now shop at local supermarkets. However in every way, whether shopping at local stores or markets, we are investing in the economy of South Africa and helping support the jobs of those working for the larger supermarkets.

Then, I am sorry that you were disappointed that the tour could not visit your suggested detours. The tour is a brochure tour with a standard itinerary that is carefully worked out with highlights and timing. While suggested detours are taken into consideration when we do the planning of our tours and updating, during the tour they are not possible. We have to take into consideration the expectations of all the clients on the tour and while a detour might seem logical and would enhance your experience, another client might not feel the same way. I will however keep your notes and if you would like to email me directly with your suggestion of additions to the itinerary, they will be welcome. We will then take them into consideration for future changes to the tour.

Finally, in addressing your last comment, the focus of our tours is environmental more than historical as we are an adventure vacation company/operator and so while we do visit some historical features on the tour, we focus more on natural history. There is unfortunately not enough time on this tour to do both the adventure vacation (our speciality) and also include a large amount of historical visits. Our guides have varied and in-depth knowledge of both natural history and general history of the countries they visit. There is an intercom system in the truck and while we travel through areas the guides chat to the clients about topics of interest in those areas. I will be passing on your feedback to our HR manager who is involved in training and maintaining our high standard of guide and request that that the use of the intercom is focused on in future training.

Once again, I would like to thank you for the time you have taken to give us the feedback and I hope my response puts your concerns at rest.

I do hope you will travel with us again in the future.

Kind regards
Jayne Harley
Marketing Manager

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