Yes, it’s not like packing for a five-day sightseeing and shopping spree treat for the family or couple. This is an option for Nepali vacationers seeking more from their holidays. As representatives at Jaya Travels put it, it is going to take more planning and, comparatively, more money as well. However, the thrill of nature and unique cultural exposure shall more than make up for it. So if you are ready, The Week brings to you all that you need to know for planning any type of vacation in the continent that has so much to offer.

Best time to travel

Many associate Africa with summer and believe that is their only season but certain countries and even regions within a country experience different climates. If you are especially planning to make safari the highlight of your trip, you ought to research the wet and dry seasons. Add to that, there is also migrating season where herds move from one place to another. It’s best to be aware of all these things before purchasing your tickets.
Generally, the winter dry season in Southern Africa is between May and October and this is when game viewing is at its best. Indeed, you will need to tolerate the heat to truly experience the thrill of an African safari.

During the hotter, drier months at the end of the season, thirsty animals tend to congregate at waterholes, vegetation is sparse – all of which makes it much easier to see wildlife. It’s often cold at night during mid-winter but daytime temperatures are mild and the risk of malaria is at its lowest.

The seasons are more complex in East Africa so ask around, consult tour guides, and plan accordingly.

The paperwork involved

Ujjwal P. Kachhyapati, agent at Jaya Travels’, first piece of advice is to plan ahead. As adventurous as a spontaneous trip to Africa sounds, for us Nepalis, that isn’t exactly practical. To begin with, he warns that the processing time of the required documents itself has been known to be a minimum of three to four weeks.

There are more than 10 countries including the likes of Kenya, Gambia, Egypt, Madagascar, Malawi and such where a Nepali can obtain his/her visa on arrival or where a visa isn’t required altogether. “So the chosen destination country in Africa also matters,” explains Kachhyapati.

Once you approach an agent to arrange your paperwork for your travel, they are sent to the South African High Commission in Colombo, Sri Lanka. One is also required to send in all the required documents and paperwork, from the likes of machine readable passports, hotel booking information, ticketing copy to even the past six months personal bank statement and, if own a business, also the official bank statement of the past six months.

Kachhyapati assures us that other than the lengthy processing time, there usually aren’t any other challenges while getting a travel visa for African countries. The visa fee, he says, is Rs 9500 per person and the service charge is Rs 15,500 per person. “The service charge is high because the documents need to be sent to Sri Lanka for visa processing,” he adds.

The many safaris

Unfortunately, it is very difficult to find agencies in Nepal that offer travel packages for countries in Africa. Jaya Travels also share that while they are used to arranging tickets for their clients, they don’t have any specific packages yet. So, as a Nepali tourist, it’s really up to you to fix your activity itinerary.

To begin with, we have, of course, all seen the postcards and the videos. The wildlife and untamed wilderness are truly the main attractions for any tourist. If you too plan to make safaris the highlight of your trip, there are these three best national reserves that come highly recommended:

Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

Located in the extreme southwest of the country on the border with Tanzania, Maasai Mara National Reserve is Kenya’s quintessential safari destination. Covering over 580 square miles/ 1,500 square kilometers, it is regarded a true wildlife haven in every way.

Chobe National Park, Botswana

Chobe National Park lies adjacent to the Okavango Delta in the northwest corner of Botswana. Its vast expanse includes four distinct eco-systems, allowing for an incredibly diverse array of animal and bird life. Chobe is especially famous for its elephants, with an estimated 120,000 of the great gray animals living within the park’s borders.

Kruger National Park, South Africa

If you don’t plan to go any further than South Africa, then this should be a good option. Located in the northeast of the country on the Mozambique border, Kruger National Park is the most famous of all South Africa’s many game reserves. As well as the Big Five, the park is home to the vulnerable South African cheetah, the endangered wild dog and several elusive small cat species.

Risk factors

It is obviously recommended to check the political status of the country before making your travel plans. The tourist destinations in Africa are regarded as safe for travels. Even health wise, Kachhyapati informs that the only official vaccination required for visitors is the yellow fever vaccination. You will have to attach a yellow fever vaccination certificate if traveling to or from yellow fever zone and that pretty much covers it.

What else can you do in Africa?

Every traveler to this continent will have a lot to witness and experience on a cultural level. With thousands of ethnic groups in Africa – each with their own unique beliefs, festivals and traditions – you really only have to try. Even though as a tourist, you may face language barriers, many African cities host several large festivals and cultural events that happen annually. There, they tend to present various aspects of their culture through films, poetry, drama, food and music in an organized setting.

Similarly, there is the food. Whatever country you choose to visit, make sure you try the local delicacies. Also, look out for culinary tour programs. From shopping for ingredients at local markets to learning recipes, these tours try and explain the culture and history of their respective country.

Then, there is the adventure. In case, you are the daring or the sporty kind as well, you will find thrilling treats around every corner in Africa. Would you like to swim up to the edge of the world’s largest waterfall, Victoria Falls or bungee near it? There are legendary surfing spots (Senegal, Namibia), first class rafting opportunities (Uganda, Ethiopia), scuba diving opportunities near WWII wrecks (Red Sea), and even hiking, trekking (Tanzania, Kenya). If it’s the winter season, you can even ski or snowboard on the snow-capped peaks of Morocco’s Atlas Mountains.

–  REPUBLICA

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