Activities other than game drives
In South Africa there is a wide variety of activities, some of which entail certain risks. Tailor Made Safaris uses only reputable companies for such activities, where no unnecessary risks are taken. Below we describe what each of the planned activities entail, what the possible risks are and how to best avoid them.
Boat trips at sea:
The tours that go out to sea as whale watching or swim with dolphins are highly weather dependent and are particularly dependent on wind conditions. If it is too windy trips may be cancelled. On some trips you can get pretty wet. Therefore, wear clothes that may get wet and cover your bag with an extra plastic bag. Also take special care of photographic equipment, or better yet, do not take these to sea.
The whale watching tours that depart from St Lucia are not recommended for people who have heart, back or neck problems, or for those who are pregnant, nor for children under 9 years of age. As this tour departs from the beach and not from a port (there is no port in St Lucia) the first part of the trip is fairly rough as the boat pushes through waves in order to motor offshore. Wave height depends on the weather and it is therefore difficult to predict how rough the ride will be.
Once at sea the captain will search for whales, however he will stop to view all manner of interesting animals on the way, such as turtles, dolphins, etc.
You may also get seasick. If you are unsure as to whether you will be affected by seasickness, take a pill an hour in advance just in case. This will allow you to fully enjoy your whale watching trip instead of hoping the boat returns to shore as soon as possible.
Swimming with dolphins:
For this activity, being able to swim is imperative and knowing how to use a snorkel is also important. Swimming with dolphins takes place at sea, usually in water of between 10 and 25 meters deep. Following an explanation of this activity, you will be taken out to sea by boat where you will spend between 5 and 20 minutes in the water before returning to shore. If you know how to swim but have never used a snorkel, practice at home in a nearby swimming pool. If so desired, your guide can give you the snorkel a few days prior to this activity, in order to practice using it. The organisation we use to swim with dolphins is our chosen organisation because it conducts the activity in a humane and ethical manner. This, however, also means that the dolphins have the choice whether or not to swim with you. Once the dolphins are spotted from the boat, the dolphin expert on board will review their behaviour and decide whether or not you can swim with them. If the activity can go ahead, the boat will edge closer to the dolphins and the expert will enter the water first. He/she will again assess their behaviour. At this stage you will be ready to snorkel and, when given the green light, you will enter the water. Typically you have an 80% chance of being in the water with dolphins. Sometimes they are seen only briefly, on other days they are very playful and will swim with you for more than 20 minutes. If per chance no dolphins are located, the boat will usually take you to a nearby coral reef to snorkel. However, no refunds will be given, even if you are seasick or could not enjoy the experience for other reasons.
Boat trips on lakes or rivers:
These are usually very ‘easy’ and relaxing. Usually, the goal is to view wildlife or merely enjoy the beautiful scenery, as such it is not very dangerous. It is wise to bring a warm jacket or windbreaker along on these trips, as it can be rather windy and quite cool on the water compared to the shore. You can usually bring your camera and binoculars as there are many photo opportunities on these trips. Also, it is often nice to take a cool bag with drinks and snacks so you can picnic on the boat. Please inquire about the possibilities. In some locations it is not allowed because the boat itself has a bar on board, which offer snacks and drinks as part of the cruise.
If you are on a walking safari you may well encounter potentially dangerous animals such as buffalo, elephants, rhino, etc. Walking safaris do include an armed guide who will keep the correct distance between you and the animals at all times, however, nature can surprise you and you could suddenly find yourself close to a potentially dangerous animal. In this instance, the guide will instruct you as to how to behave and it is imperative that you follow these instructions closely. During close encounters, different animals behave in very different ways. We therefore advise against walking safaris for people who are nervous walking through an area with wild animals, or for those who think they will not be able to control themselves when encountering a potentially dangerous wild animal. This is also the reason why children under 14 years old are not allowed to participate in walking safaris.
Walking in the Drakensberg:
Ensure that you are always well prepared when hiking in the mountains. The weather can change suddenly so even on a sunny day it is advisable to pack a sweater and raincoat in your backpack. If the weather does change suddenly, it is important to return to your accommodation as soon as possible, so you do need to be reasonably fit. Hiking in the mountains is a lot more tiring than everyday walking, not only because of the steep terrain, but also because of the thinner air.
If you would like to photograph people, ask in advance but be aware that people sometimes ask for money when you take their picture. International visitors do find the traditional Zulu huts and the living environment of local people interesting, but you must also realise that some of these people live in poverty and are ashamed of having it photographed. So be discreet when taking pictures and ask your guide if you are unsure.
Take enough storage on which to keep your photos, i.e. memory sticks or discs. An external hard drive is a good option. Remember that you are in South Africa, with ample photographic opportunities, and your memory card will fill up in no time. It is preferable to back up your photos to two different storage devices in order to avoid losing all of your photos should your hard drive fail.