Frequently Asked Questions
Bench Africa has the experience and knowledge of Africa to ensure that any holiday booked with us exceeds your expectations. We have been operating tours to Africa for over 50 years and we regularly send our staff to inspect our product so that we keep up to date. Every member of the Bench family has a real passion for Africa and has travelled extensively throughout the continent, with many having also lived and worked there. Our advice comes from first-hand experience and we work hard so our clients can make well-informed decisions and book their perfect holiday.
Our parent company – Southern Cross Safaris – is based in Kenya so we can guarantee you will glide effortlessly through both the booking and travelling experiences.
The countries in Southern and East Africa are quite safe to visit. The same travel safety principles apply for any large cities in the world, e.g. don’t carry valuables in plain view, keep cameras out of sight when not in use, don’t go walking alone at night, ask hotel managers about the safety of visiting specific areas which are unknown to you, be aware of your surroundings, leave valuables including passports, air tickets and excess funds in the hotel safe or safety deposit boxes. Travellers on escorted groups are the least at risk. Self-drive clients should plan travel routes in advance. If travelling by car, make sure the doors are locked at all times. Don’t leave bags or personal items on view on seats. While on safari in the bush pay close attention to briefings from your guide or ranger. Both are highly experienced in the presence of wild animals.
Visa requirements differ from country to country so please check our Trip Planner for further information on the country that you are travelling to. It is important that your passport either contains the correct visa for your journey, or you are aware that it may be purchased on entry and paid for in cash. It is the personal responsibility of the passenger to make sure his or her passport is valid and contains the necessary visa and travel documents for his or her journey.
Your passport must be valid at least six months beyond intended stay. A minimum of two blank pages in your passport is required. If there is insufficient space in your passport, entry will be denied. Visitors must also be in possession of outward travel documents and have sufficient funds for the duration of their stay.
The single prices on our website should be used for ‘solo travellers’, meaning that there is only 1 person travelling throughout.
In contrast, a single room supplement will apply when there are 2 or more people travelling but someone stays in a single room by themselves. They will pay less than the single price on our website since the road transfer, guide, and activity costs are still shared among multiple people, but they will be required to pay a supplement for having a room to themselves. Please contact our consultants if you or your client requires a single room supplement for any of our packages and we will happily be able to send you the correct quote.
The Big Five game animals are Lion, Leopard, African elephant, Cape buffalo and Rhinoceros. The term “Big Five” was actually created by big game hunters and refers to the five most difficult animals in Africa to hunt on foot, and therefore the kills that were most highly prized. So rather than their size, the members of the Big Five were chosen for the degree of danger involved when they were cornered and shot at.
As tourism took off, safari tour operators adopted the term for marketing purposes and the power of the name has attracted countless people to Africa. South Africa has even featured a different Big Five animal on each denomination of its Rand banknotes (released after 1990)! The Big Five can be found in South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia, Botswana, Uganda, and Zimbabwe, but make sure you do your research so you visit the right parks to see the specific animals you are interested in.
For more experienced safari goers, it can be fun to seek out the “Little Five” which have been labelled based on their corresponding names to the Big Five – the Ant Lion, Leopard tortoise, Elephant shrew, Buffalo weaver, and Rhinoceros beetle.
Of course, Africa overflows with a diversity of wildlife and most people would include other animals on their personal Top Five list. We asked the Bench consultants to name the animals they would most like to spot – or see again – while on safari and here is their combined list: Warthog, Rhino, Leopard, Elephant, Wild Dog, Cheetah, Giraffe, Zebra, Gorilla, Aardvark, Impala, Hyena, Hippo, Crocodile, Meerkat, Lion, Civet, Genet, Chimpanzee, Baboon, Oryx, and of course “all baby cubs!”
Please check our Trip Planner for a comprehensive look at what you should pack for your trip to Africa.
A safari holiday is often the trip of a lifetime an done that will produce thousands of photographs, so it is no wonder that packing for this type of holiday is fairly stressful. Once you add the light aircraft luggage restriction of 15kgs per person to the equation, the panic can really set in. How can one possibly fit all the clothes, camera equipment, and bug spray needed for 2+ weeks in Africa? Well good news! With hundreds of trips to Africa under our collective belts, the specialists at Bench have perfected the art of packing for a safari holiday in under 15kgs, and you can find our tips here.
In addition, we send out a detailed travel document pack 2-3 weeks prior to your departure which contains more information including a packing guideline.
Casual clothing is all that is required in most of Africa. However there are exceptions such as Rovos Rail and some deluxe hotels where you might feel more comfortable at dinner in a jacket and tie or cocktail dress. However, it is often important that you carry only a limited amount of light clothing, preferably cottons, for your stay in the bush. Clothing should be in neutral colours – khaki, beige, bush green. A good guideline is three sets of socks, underwear, slacks/shorts, and shirts. One jumper or cardigan. A hat is essential! In winter take warm clothing for the evenings – a fleece and long pants. Flying safaris are more restricted as the aircraft sometimes allow only around 12kg of luggage per person, but many lodges and camps in the remote areas offer a complimentary laundry service to assist. Check with one of our consultants before travelling.
There are a variety of destinations where one can remain stationary for reasonable periods of time, such as Cape Town or Makutsi Safari Springs located near the Kruger National Park. From both places one can do a whole variety of activities. However the best example of having a full safari holiday without the unpacking is the Shongololo Safari Train around South Africa or through to Victoria Falls and vice versa for 16 days. The vehicles for the day tours travel on the back of the train which travels overnight. Each morning you wake up somewhere new with your vehicle waiting to take you on a selection of tours – no packing nor unpacking!
A good 35mm camera with a telephoto lens will reward you with superb shots, as well as a good supply of memory cards for the digital users.
The lodges will usually offer a daily laundry service, due to restrictions in luggage, often included in the tariff.
Africa provides outstanding value for families and more properties are now making it easy to travel with young children. However, some destinations and establishments cater better for children than others. In most regions children under the age of six years are generally not allowed on game drives in the parks and reserves, and some properties do not accept children under 12 years of age. Most lodges have swimming pools and baby-sitting services, and some have specialised children’s programmes. We can advise on the very best options for your family safari in Africa so please contact us for more specific information.
Please check our Trip Planner which will advise on what currency to carry for each country.
United States Dollars, Euro or Pounds Sterling are the currencies for most of Africa, and Rand in South Africa or Namibia. Take small denomination notes for tips and other minor expenditure. Avoid the larger $100 bills as they are often unacceptable. ATM machines and money changes are readily located in most major cities and at airports and casinos and some credit cards are acceptable.
There are many different types of activities available while on safari, including open vehicle game drives, guided walks, bird watching, boating, canoeing, adventure – based activities like white water rafting, helicopter rides over Victoria Falls and balloon trips over the Serengeti or the Masai Mara. Cultural village visits are also popular.
Most city hotels will have internet connection either in the room or in a business centre. Internet cafes are readily found in urban areas. Some safari lodges and camps also offer this facility.
Yes, there is extensive coverage throughout Southern and East Africa. In some countries, this may be primarily in and around major urban areas. However, in South Africa, networks cover all national roads, towns and cities. Before travelling, ask your mobile phone service provider to open your phone to allow international roaming. It is possible to get prepaid phone cards on arrival at major airports.
All travellers should be adequately insured against all eventualities and circumstances. This applies anywhere in the world. There are many companies offering travel insurance, so ask one of our consultants to recommend one for you.
Most lodges and safari camps have restaurants and licensed bars, and the food offered ranges from good basic meals to gourmet style. The standard of food in lodges and camps is generally very good.
It is possible to get vegetarian and most other food preferences in Southern and East Africa. If you have any special dietary requirements let us know in advance and we should be able to cater for you. As a rule, do not eat anything purchased at the side of the road and wash fruit and vegetables thoroughly before eating.
Most water in major hotels and lodges in South Africa is safe to drink, but in other regions bottled or mineral water is recommended.
Malaria is a dangerous disease, but if you take your anti-malarial tablets, your chances of contracting it are extremely slim. Malaria is transmitted by mosquitoes which are more active at night, so all travellers are advised to wear long pants and cover their arms and shoulders at night and avoid wearing perfume or aftershave lotion. Sleep under mosquito netting where possible and use tropical strength mosquito repellent.
Yes, but once again, the further north, the fewer there are. South Africa has many private hospitals, excellent specialists and state of the art equipment and facilities, including emergency rescue and air ambulance. However government hospitals are overcrowded.
Doctors are understandably ultra-cautious and their advice should be heeded. It is best to take prescription medication with you. However cities and towns all have drugstores/pharmacies equipped with everything one requires. South Africa has a first world infrastructure, but the further abroad one travels, the more difficult it may be to acquire a specific medication. On safari you will generally be quite remote from pharmacies. In some countries Yellow Fever is compulsory and inoculation certificates must be carried with you.
Many tents used on our tours are much larger than the average residential bedroom and are mostly on permanent sites with ensuite facilities. They are perfectly secure. In camps which are unfenced or open to animal traffic visitors are escorted to and from the tent after dark by an experienced ranger.
Please check our Trip Planner for our advice on when to travel to different countries in Africa.
Southern Africa is a year-round destination. Generally speaking winter is popular for game viewing, as it is dry and game tends to congregate around the limited water sources, making the animals easier to find. It is also cooler during the day and roads are in their best condition. From June to October is regarded as the ‘Safari Season’ but note that African nights can be very cold so warm clothing is a must for early morning and night game drives. In some countries, summer is the best time to visit beautiful beaches and coastal resorts, but it often coincides with the rainy season, resulting in lush, green countryside and lovely scenery. In East Africa the long rains are from early April through to early June, and the short rains from late November through December. July to September is generally extremely busy in East Africa due to the attraction of the “Migration” that occurs between the Serengeti and the Masai Mara, but temperatures are comfortable apart from high humidity on the East African coast.
Throughout the website we have given each tour or experience an Elephant, Gorilla, Palm Tree or Camel Rating for you to use as a guideline.
This rating system slightly differs from the international star rating system. After all, how can you compare a 5 star city hotel in Australia with a game lodge in the heart of the Masai Mara? In addition to the standard and service available at a property, these Bench Ratings also takes into account the mode of travel, the safari experience on offer, the exclusivity of the region or how much participation is involved.