Since the writing of our last blog post about single-country itineraries, many actors within the tourism industry have pulled together and made plans to ensure that multi-country itineraries are possible in Africa once again.
What has emerged as standard in Africa is that almost all countries, with the exception of Tanzania, require a negative PCR test before you are allowed to travel to them. This means that if you are visiting multiple countries, you generally have to get a new PCR test every time you depart one country and head to the next, though Zambia's 14-day old test requirement makes it possible to use your test done at home to enter Botswana, spend a week there, head to Victoria Falls on the Zambian side for a couple of nights, and then fly out.
For other popular countries and destinations, we will tell you how it easy to get tested inside each country, but first, we have made a table to show what the requirements are for you to enter the various countries in the first place.
A useful tool we have found for telling you the latest requirements to enter a country is this one:https://klm.traveldoc.aero/?WT.mc_id=L_DE_Email_ExactTarget_Newsletter_UPDATEJANUARY2021_null_SmartFun&WT.tsrc=Email&WT.i_vid=61577889
But the latest requirements should always be checked on each country's government website.
South Africa is the biggest country in Southern Africa and the economic hub of the region. It is also the transit hub for Southern Africa as many flights to Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Mozambique transit through Johannesburg. This means that these other countries are often dependent on South Africa for getting travellers through to them and back out again, which made it important for South Africa to be able to offer speedy and easily accessible PCR tests.
Travellers departing from OR Tambo Intl airport in Johannesburg may now get tested and collect their PCR certificate at the airport prior to departure. The National Health Laboratory Service (www.nhls.ac.za/) is operating three mobile COVID-19 test units in clearly identifiable vans located opposite the InterContinental Hotel, just outside the terminal building. The service is available 24/7, at a cost of ZARR600 per person – cash, cheque cards and credit cards are accepted, except American Express. Children under five years do not require a test.
Results are available in four to six hours and you will be advised by SMS that the test result and certificate are ready for collection. After testing, you can wait for the SMS at the airport or nearby, collect the certificate, and proceed to fly, or the test may be done a day or two prior to departure if preferred, and the certificate collected on the day of departure. Please refer to this article for further information: https://www.tourismupdate.co.za/article/247-covid-19-testing-or-tambo
UPDATE: Due to local residents making use of the OR Tambo testing facilities, PCR test results now take 12 - 24 hours and we recommend booking a night of accommodation in Johannesburg after your safari in order to wait for results.
One of our preferred guesthouses in Johannesburg, Safari Club SA, is now offering day rooms to all travellers waiting for their PCR test results. Guests will be allocated a room for the time they are at the hotel and will have access to all the hotel amenities including bar services, swimming pool, use of the garden and ordering of meals. Transfers are included in the day room rate.
For guests heading to Cape Town, the situation is a bit different. Of course, you can book your flight home via Johannesburg in order to get tested at OR Tambo Airport, but it is also possible to take a few hours out of one of your days in Cape Town to head to the nearest clinic and get tested. Rates differ depending on the clinic, but prices of between ZAR600 – 1000 can be expected. We will be happy to show you where the nearest clinic is to your hotel.
In the Greater Kruger Park, South Africa’s wildlife gem and one of its most popular destinations, PCR testing is also possible now. A PCR clinic has been set up in the town of Hoedspruit, which is the nearest town to many lodges within the Greater Kruger Park. Lodges are able to transfer guests in between safari activities to the town of Hoedspruit to get a PCR test done. The cost of the test is ZAR850 per person, while the cost of the transfer will differ depending on the lodge you are staying at. Some lodges have gone a step further and are able to offer PCR tests in your room. Please ask us for an updated list of which lodges can do this.
Botswana is one of the most popular destinations for a wildlife safari due to the exquisite unspoilt nature of its wilderness. However this vast wilderness and lack of infrastructure which many people fall in love with also originally meant that getting a PCR test done would be difficult.
Several luxury bush camp and lodge operators have come together and are now able to fly clinicians into camps to take samples for testing. The samples will then be sent to the nearest major town for testing, with results to be expected back the following day. The results will then be e-mailed to the camp and can be printed out for you to take with you. The cost of this service ranges from +-USD275 - USD330 depending on the camp you are staying at.
If you do not wish to be tested in camp, it is possible to be tested at the airports of Maun and Kasane at a cost of BWP850 - 1100 (+-USD110.) The test results will be ready in 24 - 48 hours, so it is recommended to spend a night in Maun or Kasane while waiting for results.
For Maun, bookings and payment for the tests can be made online here: -http://www.pharma.co.bw/# - be sure to pick “Testing office – Maun International Airport"
For Kasane, booking and payment for tests can be made here: http://diagnofirm.co.bw/
Please note that you need to have a negative PCR test in order to depart Botswana, irrespective of where you are travelling to. It is not officially in the regulations, but the overly efficient border guards are asking all travellers for them and it is not wise to start an argument with a border guard.
The testing will be offered between 07h30 - 16h45 every day and Sundays from 10h00 – 12h45
Due to limited testing on weekends, the timing of your journey is important.
The primary destination of choice for any traveller to Zimbabwe is Victoria Falls, so this is where the government has focussed most of its efforts. PCR testing is now possible upon arrival or departure at Victoria Falls Airport, with a waiting time of 3-6 hours for the results. Alternatively, several luxury lodges offer in-house testing now. The cost of the test is US$60 per person, but this can change without notice.
Zimbabwe has re-entered hard lockdown on 08 January 2021 and travel is therefore banned at the moment.
The majority of itineraries to Namibia only include one or two nights at each destination, which makes getting finding the time to have tests done difficult. In addition, Namibia is a vast, sparsely populated country. We therefore recommend adding a night in the capital city of Windhoek at the end of your tour to get a test done at one of the private laboratories there. Windhoek is situated right in the centre of Namibia, so it is the starting and ending point for almost all safaris in Namibia and therefore you do not have to go out of your way to get a test done.
Zambia updated their entry requirements in March 2021 due to increasing infections in Europe. To enter Zambia, you must have a negative PCR test not older than 72 hours prior to arrival. To leave Zambia, you will need to get a another PCR test done. All travellers departing Zambia must be in possession of a negative PCR test certificate. Even if the country you are travelling to doesn't require a PCR test (such as Tanzania) you still need one in order to depart Zambia.
Many people visit Zambia to see the mighty Victoria Falls. There are testing facilities in the town of Livingstone, but is very difficult to arrange the testing on an individual basis, especially since you cannot pay for the tests with cash or credit card. Only EFT bank transfers are accepted. For this reason, hotels have stepped up to help guests arrange tests. You can pay the hotel for your PCR test and they will then transfer the payment to the Zambian health authorities. Private testing can be conducted at the hotel and the hotel will help to arrange this. The test costs between USD100 - USD150.
If you are going on a wild and remote safari in Zambia, to places such as Kafue, South Lungwa and Lower Zambezi, lodges are in the process of setting up testing facilities. The lodge will take a swab in camp and then fly it to the lab in Lusaka for processing. The cost for this is US$300pp. Alternatively, you can spend a night in Lusaka at the end of your safari. There is a private testing facility in Lusaka and you can prebook and pay for your test here: https://cidrz.timetap.com/#/
All test results take 24 - 48 hours to be delivered. Therefore, if you are only visiting Victoria Falls for 2 nights, it would be a good idea to get tested on the day you arrive.
Tanzania does not have any entry requirements for travellers. It is currently the easiest country in the safari industry to travel to. You will have to fill out a health questionnaire when you arrive and have your temperature checked, but you don't need a negative PCR test to arrive. You may need a negative PCR test to depart, depeding on the country you are departing to, or the airline you are travelling with. It is possible to get a negative PCR test in Dar Es Salaam, Arusha and Zanzibar. Tests cost between USD100 - 120 and resutls can take up to 96 hours. Please note that the current government advice is for travellers to undergo Covid19 testing a minimum of 5 days prior to departure to allow enough time for results to be delivered.
Kenya has perhaps done the best job of handling the pandemic out of all major African countries. Their testing facilities appear to be world class.
All arriving passengers on international flights must show a PCR COVID-19 negative certificate carried out within 96 hours before travel to Kenya (before departure) that has been digitally verified through the Trusted Travel (TT) Initiative or Global Haven. This will produce a QR code which travellers will be required to display to port health officials for them to be allowed to proceed to arrival immigration. From 01 January 2021, all travellers requiring a visa will need to apply for an e-visa in advance. No visas shall be issued on arrival in Kenya. For more information visit www.evisa.go.ke
When departing Kenya, it is possible to be tested in your hotel in Nairobi at a cost of US$120 per person. Results will be ready within 24 hours. It is also possible to be tested in some safari destinations, including the Maasai Mara. The collection point for testing in the Maasai Mara is in Mararienta, close to Musiara Gate and it costs US$110. Alternatively, the test can come to your camp, for US$140 per person (*min 2 guests.) Testing in the Mara his is subject to availability and results will take 48 hours. You only need to get a PCR test done on departure if the country you are travelling to requires it.
There are not widely available direct flights from many European countries or America to Uganda, which means some people are worried about their validity of their tests. Happily, to travel to Uganda, your negative PCR test must not be older than 120 hours, which means that even if you have to catch 2 or 3 flights to get to Uganda, you don't have to worry about your test certificate expiring before you arrive.
When departing Uganda, you also need a negative PCR test not older than 120 hours, but please bear in mind the entry requirements of the country you are travelling to from Uganda. PCR tests can be obtained in either Kampala or Entebbe. There is a 24 hours test which currently costs between US$65 - US$85, or you can pay more to have an express test done. The express test costs US$150 per person and results will be ready in 6 - 8 hours. It is probably safer to book a night in Entebbe and wait for your results.
Rwanda has a complicated set of testing standards. There is one testing standard for entering Rwanda and another one for entering Rwanda's national parks. Rwanda is implementing double testing standards. This means that you need a negative PCR test not older than 120 hours, but that once you arrive, you will be given a second test to confirm the results of the first test. The cost of this test is USD 60. In addition, you will need to upload your first test certificate to the passenger locator form link, here: www.rbc.gov.rw;
While waiting for the result of your second test, which will take 24 hours, you will need to quarantine in a hotel at your own expense.
To enter Rwanda's national parks, you need a negative PCR test not older than 72 hours. Happily however, you can use the test results from the second test you did upon arriving in Rwanda.
To depart Rwanda, you need to undergo another PCR test, which you are encouraged to book and pay for online at least 2 days prior to departure, here: www.rbc.gov.rw;
Seychelles is open to the world again from 31 March (except for visitors who have recently travelled to South Africa.) All you need to visit this tropical island paradise is a negative PCR test not older than 72 hours prior to departure. Visitors are strongly advised to get vaccinated before travelling, although it is not required. You may only stay in certified tourism establishments, although this shouldn't be a problem as anyone who travels to the Seychelles wants to stay in a hotel on the beach which offers a plethora of water activities.
You only need to get a negative PCR test to depart Seychelles if it is a requirement of the country you will be travelling to.
We have been working hard updating our website during lockdown and have added new pages specially dedicated to multi-country itineraries. If you are looking to explore as much of Africa as possible in one go, or tick off the biggest highlights, check out our pages for Southern Africa Combo Itineraries and East African Combo Itineraries.
Please remember that you will have to adhere to the lockdown rules of any country you are travelling to, such as curfews and mandatory mask wearing.
If you are unsure about anything, send us an e-mail or give us a call and we’ll do our best to make your ideal trip happen.
I first went to Namibia in 1998 and have been back many times since. In that time I have met, tried, and tested many different service providers, car hire companies, lodges, campsites and routes. I’ve done it in everything from a four-door saloon car to specially built 12-seater four-wheel-drives, one modified to take a wheelchair-bound client.
Namibia has a surprising variety of landscapes, the oldest tribes in Africa, and some rare and stunning fauna and flora, from desert-dwelling elephants and rhinos to 2000-year-old plants. There is a similar variety in itineraries, campsites, and lodges.
Namibia is easily explored on a self-drive basis, which gives maximum flexibility and even though the roads are 70% gravel roads, with a suitable vehicle the driving is easy; I’d always recommend a raised SUV or pick-up truck over a normal road car. There are also a number of set-date group guided trips to experience the main highlights of the country on a budget. And if you want to see more in less time and have a very exclusive experience, then a flying safari is the way to go.
The sand dunes of the southern Namib Desert five hours from the capital, Windhoek.
Desert-dwelling elephants, black rhinos, and lions in the other-worldly wildernesses of northern Damaraland and Koakoland.
Abundant game in Etosha NP.
Leopard and cheetah tracking at Okonjima, three hours north of Windhoek.
In the far south, the supremely photogenic deserted mining settlement of Kolmanskop and the fantastic Fish River Canyon.
Amazing scenery throughout the country.
If it rains, it rains between November and March, the rest of the year is very dry. In the winter months of June, July and August, night time temperatures in the desert can drop to freezing. Daytime temperatures are 25-31°C.
Namibia is a country we know extremely well; I have been there nine times, spending a total of 27 weeks in the country, coming it from north to south and east to west. Matthew O’Brien, one of our Senior Safari Consultants, used to guide overland tours there, and Ines Moosmann, our Sales and Product supremo, has spent over two months here too.
To paint a bit more of a picture of the many wonders of this beautiful and diverse country, we have put together a selection of our individual highlights.
Kicking off is Matthew.
It is hard to conjure up the adjectives to describe your feelings when you first set your eyes on Dead Vlei. I can remember the first time I saw pictures of Dead Vlei in postcards and thought that such a place couldn’t be real. The colours were too vivid and too contrasting. Those postcards had to have been manipulated. There was the whiteness of the salt pan, the sharp ochre colour of the towering sand dunes and the deep blue of the sky that you find in parts of the world that haven’t been touched by air pollution.
The journey to Dead Vlei is an exciting one. It is located 66km inside the Namib-Naukluft National Park on a stretch of road that winds through the oldest desert in the world, past some of the highest sand dunes in the world, all of which are bright orange, with the occasional Oryx and Springbok running on them.
About 5km before you get to Dead Vlei, the tar road ends and turns into a 4x4 sand road. If you have your own 4x4 and know what you are doing, you can proceed along the sand road yourself, keeping your revs up so that you don’t get stuck. Digging your car out of sand is not anyone’s idea of fun. If you don’t have a 4x4, you can either walk the last 5km, or catch the shuttle that will take you there. The shuttle is quite an experience as the drivers load you into the back of an open game viewer and roar through the sand like rally drivers while you cling to the roll bars.
Once dropped off in the parking lot, in the shade of the only tree there, it’s just 400 more metres to go and after one short climb up a tiny dune, you can lay your eyes on Dead Vlei and confirm to yourself that those postcards were not lying. Most people stop and stare for a few minutes to take it all in before finally heading into the Dead Vlei to marvel at it all and take their own post card pictures.
It might seem weird to be writing about a seaside town as one my favourite places in a land of contrasts such as Namibia, but you have to remember what you will have been through to get to the town and the sights you will have seen along your journey. Most people who arrive in Swakopmund do so after bouncing along a corrugated dirt road for hundreds of kilometres. To those travellers from more developed parts of the world where everyone has a nice smooth tar road running past their gates, finding what actually amounts to a dirt highway snaking its way through the driest landscape in Southern Africa must be quite an experience. Then the corrugations end, the dirt turns to tar and you have arrived in Swakopmund, Namibia’s seaside playground. It is perhaps a weird place to have a seaside resort, as the Atlantic Ocean is freezing and the town is usually blanketed in sea fog every morning.
But just outside the town is 35km belt of sand dunes where you can go quad biking, sand boarding or camel riding. Out in the freezing cold sea, there is also much to see. There are daily sightseeing cruises that will get you up close to dolphins, Cape fur seals and pelicans. There is also the Swakopmund Sky Diving Club. This is arguably the best place in the world to go sky diving because of the consistency of the desert weather. They claim to have more clear sky diving days than any other sky diving club in the world. This is where I did my first sky dive and if it was more affordable, where I would have done many more sky dives.
After an eventful day of activities and fun in the, well, cold, we finally come to my favourite part of Swakopmund; watching the sun set at the Tiger Reef Beach Bar. Now, you probably won’t find the Tiger Reef Beach Bar in any main tourist guides and it isn’t where tour guides take their guests for dinners, but it is one of my favourite restaurants in Southern Africa, for the setting. The bar is literally the last building in Swakopmund and is built on the beach. You need a 4x4 to park there. The floor of the bar is beach sand and you can take your shoes off when you enter and walk around in the sand. This is where I like to come, order a plate of chips, a local Tafel Lager and watch the sun set over that frigid Atlantic Ocean. I can’t think of a better way to end the day. Don’t forget your jacket.
Ines heart beats to these Namibian tunes.
Namibia Rand Reserve/Wolwedans
The Namib Rand Reserve offers the most beautiful desert scenery, where mountains meet the desert that looks like a soft, orange and light green carpet and all that with no crowds of people. Activities are all private, guided by fantastic guides who not only find the bigger game like all the common desert adapted antelopes, zebras, giraffe and baboons, but also the invisible inhabitants of this harsh environment like hares, moulds, mice, moles, beetles, spiders, lizards, chameleons and other reptiles. A highlight is an excursion on horseback, which really makes you feel one with nature and brings you to the most special spots.
Etosha is the only national park in Africa with an semi-arid environment and its main characteristic, the Etosha Salt Pan is so large that it can be seen from space. Despite this dry environment you can find an abundance of wildlife here, congregating around the many waterholes. Nowhere else can you find as many species sharing a waterhole as in Etosha, it’s usually a lively gathering of giraffe, zebras, wildebeest, elephants, rhinos, jackals, warthogs, lions, and numerous antelope species and all with the background of white earth and blues skies; beautiful and fantastic for photographers.
Fish River Canyon
The second biggest canyon in the world might not be as spectacular as some of the other well-known canyons in the world, but it is still spectacular to see how the river has snaked its way through the rocks all the way from Seeheim to AiAis, on the border to South Africa. My favourite spot here is Fish River Lodge, where you will also be the only one around and your room will look straight down into the canyon, with incredible sunsets, which is pretty special. The hikes from there also take you down into the canyon, rather than just along the rim and you can even camp overnight in the canyon and make it a multi-day hiking excursion.
I’ve got to say, these are pretty cool spots, mainly. Swakopmund doesn’t do much for me these days, though the size of steaks at Kuki’s are always impressive. Etosha has superb wildlife, Okaukuejo waterhole is a rhino magnet at night, and the elsewhere elusive blavk rhino is easy to see. Big cat sightings are common too, and it is the only place where I have seen Aardwolf in daylight, mating nonetheless. Wolwedans is s-t-u-n-n-i-n-g, both the reserve and the accommodation, I love it there, such a special place. And enjoying a sundowner round the fire (it gets cold at night) at Fish River Lodge having spent the day descending into the canyon and then bounding back up, is a delight.
But my favourites involve desert-adapted wildlife in Damaraland and Koakoland, where not only elephants, rhinos, and lions roam, but where the game is truly wild, not hemmed in by any boundaries. Giraffe, zebra, oryx and springbok can be encountered as you cruise along the gravel roads through the ever-changing and ever-stunning landscapes.
Damaraland is a huge, untamed, ruggedly diverse and beautiful region with prehistoric water courses, open plains, grassland, massive granite kopjes and deep gorges. Along the coastal belt, the geography has vast sand areas that are able to sustain small, but wide-ranging, populations of desert-adapted elephant, black rhino, giraffe, ostrich and springbok. Elephant and rhino move through euphorbia bush country. It's also home to the highest peak in the country, Brandberg, and its ancient "White Lady" rock art.
Damaraland extends 600km south of Kaokoland down to the main road to Swakopmund at Uis, and extends 200km inland from the Skeleton Coast. Named after the Damara people in the area, the name is still commonly used, although the entire region has now been renamed; the southern section is in the Erongo region and the north forms part of the Kunene region.
The remote northwest corner of Namibia, the remotest part of the country, is one of my favourite places on the planet. Now part of the Kunene Region, it's rugged yet sublimely beautiful, with incredible craggy mountains, coastal desert, huge areas of sand in dried-up river beds full of trees and bushes, and the country’s only flowing waterfalls at Epupa and Ruacana. Stretching north from the Hoanib River up to the Kunene River and the Angolan border, the region is home to desert-adapted wildlife; elephants, black rhino, lions, giraffe, springbok, Hartmann's zebra and around 5,000 Himba pastoralists. The game is relatively sparse, but so rewarding to see it, and the backdrops make excellent photographs in the early morning and late afternoon light, when the pastel shades glow. From ragged mountain ridges, to sandy plains dotted with bushes or tufts of grass, the landscapes are postcard porn. Boating or canoeing on the Kunene, and putting a cheeky foot or two on Angolan soil is a bonus. Kaokoland is also the place from where the Skeleton Coast can be experienced in the most depth, if staying at one of the up-market lodges , like Shipwreck and Hoanib Valley Lodge.
Self-driving in the far north is for the intrepid, experienced, and prepared only. There is no cell phone coverage in most parts, and very few to no passing vehicles, depending where you are. Some of the routes involved driving through thick sand, navigating with a mix of GPS and dead-reckoning. It is possible to drive part of way, and then make use of a lodge transfer service or light aircraft for the final leg.
My final favourite place is also the last on a classic circuit, Okonjima Game Reserve, halfway between Windhoek and the Etosha National Park; only a two-and-a-half-hour drive or a brief flight into the reserve’s private airstrip. At the end of a trip, it’s a great last stop to give yourself the best chance of having a good encounter or two with leopard and cheetah, and potentially brown hyaena and pangolin, as well as the in-house patients of the AfriCat Foundation.
Photographer, conservationist, dive and field guide, teller of bad jokes.