Below are some useful tips and information for travelling in South Africa and around the Elephant Coast.
INFORMATION FOR SOUTH AFRICA
South Africa is 1,2 million square kilometres in size (= Germany + France + Italy)
South Africa is a summer (November-February) rainfall area except in the Western Cape.
Distances are given in kilometres (1 mile = 1,62km) and temperatures are given in degrees celsius (centigrade) (20°C = 68°F).
Major credit cards (Visa/Master/American Express/Diners) are accepted at most shops, hotels etc. All the aforementioned cards are accepted at Malala.
The currency in South Africa is the Rand and 100 cents = 1 Rand. Notes used are: R10, R20, R50, R100 and R200. Banking hours are between 09h00 and 15h30 on weekdays and 08h30 to 11h00 on Saturdays. Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) are readily available in cities and towns.
Tap water is safe to drink. Only over 18s may purchase alcohol. Drinking and driving is regarded as a serious offence.
South Africans drive on the left and give way to the right. Drivers must have a valid drivers licence or an international driving permit. It is a legal requirement to wear a seatbelt when driving on a public road. The speed limit on most highways is 120 km/hour and 60km/hour in built up areas. Roads are good and generally well signposted.
Current is 200/240 volts AC. Plugs are usually 3-round pin - an adaptor is needed for non-local appliances.
Foreign exchange can be converted into rands at commercial banks, bureaux de change and large hotels.
Vaccinations for cholera and small pox are not required but travellers from a yellow fever zone must have a valid certificate.
Malaria occurs in some parts of the north east region of South Africa and visitors to these areas should take necessary precautions. Medical and hospital charges must be paid for immediately and travel insurance is recommended.
South Africa has 11 official languages, the most common of which are English, Zulu, Xhosa, and Afrikaans. English is spoken almost everywhere.
Mobile phones are available for hire at international airports and most of the country has coverage. The three main networks are Vodacom, MTN and Cell C.
Visitors must have a full passport, valid for at least 6 months beyond their intended stay. Visas are not required by citizens of Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, United Kingdom and the United States. .
Petrol stations (together with toilets and convenience stores) occur regularly along main routes and are open 24 hours a day.Service is provided by a petrol attendant (tipping is discretionery).
South Africa has a population of around 54 million.
All towns and cities have post offices and public telephones. Business hours are usually 08h00 to 16h00 on weekdays and 08h00 to 12h00 on Saturdays. For international calls to South Africa dial 27 + the area code + the number (leave off the 0 in the area code when dialling into South Africa). For example, dialling Malala Lodge in South Africa would be 087 802 2857 while dialling from outside South Africa would be +27 87 802 2857.
Most shops operate from 08h00 to 17h00 daily and to 13h00 on Saturdays. Major shopping centres and convenience stores are open 7 days a week.
Smoking is not permitted in enclosed public areas - most restaurants have designated smoking areas.
South Africa is 2 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time, 1 hour ahead of Central European Winter Time.
Value added tax (VAT), currently at 14%, is levied on most goods and services. Visitors may reclaim VAT on purchases over R250 at international points of departure.
INFORMATION FOR THE ELEPHANT COAST
Given the lack of public transport in the Elephant Coast, and the widely dispersed attractions in the area, the hiring of a vehicle is strongly recommended. Vehicles of all types may be rented from the major car hire companies (who have offices at all the major airports). Avis and Budget are some suggestions.
There are 3 doctors in the town of Hluhluwe (12km away) as well as a pharmacy. A top class private hospital is in Richards Bay - an hour's drive from Malala Lodge.
Hluhluwe is the nearest town to Malala Lodge - 12km or 15 minutes drive away.
Though small, the town has all the necessary essentials: petrol station and 24 hour convenience store, supermarkets, bank (with foreign exchange service), ATMs, pharmacy, post office, doctors, and restaurants.
The nearest city to Malala Lodge is Richards Bay - an hour's drive to the south.
Malala Lodge is situated in a low risk malaria area and therefore anti-malaria medication is not required while staying at the lodge, though this obviously remains a personal choice. The lodge has never had a case of malaria, amongst our guests or staff. Should you be planning to travel further north, however, anti-malaria medication may be recommended and advice should be sought in this regard. A local doctor or pharmacist can provide you with the information or you could visit www.travelclinic.co.za.
Roads from Durban or Johannesburg to Malala Lodge are all tarred, in good condition and generally well signposted. After coming off the highway you will need to travel about 3km on a gravel/dirt road to get to Malala. This road is well maintained and normal sedan vehicles should have no problem - in fact, one does not need a 4x4 vehicle either to get to Malala or to enjoy the various attractions in the area.
The Elephant Coast has a sub-tropical climate with mild winters and hot summers. Summer temperatures are usually between 25°C and 30°C. December to February are the hottest months. Winters are never cold - temperatures rarely drop below 15°C during the day and 10°C at night. The Elephant Coast/Zululand is the warmest area in South Africa during winter.
Bearing in mind which season you come in, the Elephant Coast has generally a very warm climate, though the odd cool snap (10°C - 15°C) can occur in winter. Therefore, light, cool clothing is recommended with a warm jacket for the odd cool morning or evening.
In addition, we suggest the following: | Hat/cap | Sunglasses | Binoculars | Sun cream | Swimming costume+towel | Anti-mosquito spray (which can be bought at any supermarket)