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.
Too far west to be East Africa, too far north to be southern Africa, and not quite central Africa either, Zambia is not only a geographical anomaly when it comes to safari destinations, but also very different in other aspects too.
You may have heard of its reputation as the birthplace of walking safaris, or the adventure capital of southern Africa with Victoria Falls, or its excellent guides, the best on the continent, along with their colleagues in Zimbabwe. Compared to South Africa, Botswana, and Kenya, the lodges are generally more outdoorsy and authentic (a number of the seasonal camps are rebuilt every season), though there are some opulent options too. And compared to these wildlife tourism hotspots, Zambia has remained largely off the radar, for no good reason. It's my favourite safari destination, no doubt partly because of the lack of tourists in most of the parks, but also for the variety of habitats, the diversity of activities, the abundance of wildlife, and the quality of the guiding.
Access is usually into the international airports at Lusaka or Livingstone, often via Johannesburg, Addis Ababa, Nairobi, or Dubai. The usual way to get around the various key locations is by light aircraft.
Whilst Livingstone has one of the seven natural wonders of the world, Victoria Falls are immensely popular, the rest of Zambia has long since been something of a secret backwater. Despite being host to superb safari, arguably some of the best, visitor numbers remain low. Yet those to do make the effort to get here are rewarded with rare levels of intimacy and authenticity, often falling in love and returning time and again.
Lusaka, the capital, sits in the middle of the country, more or less. At seven o’clock, in the south, Livingstone and Victoria Falls have a wide range of activities, and a good mix of hotels, guesthouses, and safari lodge style places to stay. From chopper rides down the gorges and over the falls, microlight flights, rhino tracking on foot, bungy jumping, white water rafting the rapids downstream, or more sedate canoeing upstream, sundowner G&T cruises with sumptuous nibbles, there is plenty to keep visitors occupied. Oh, and you can also walk opposite the widest single sheet of falling water in the world.
The most frequented safari area is South Luangwa National Park, way over in the east of the country, up at two o’clock. South Luangwa has a range of lodges and bush camps, and it was here that Norman Carr pioneered the walking safari back in the fifties (watch the video below to hear about his legacy). Most of the lodges don’t have the same level of sophistication as the top lodges in neighbouring Tanzania, Kenya, or the safari mecca of South Africa, but the wildlife experience, thanks in part to the excellent guiding standards here, is top-notch.
Add to that the picturesque floodplains, the lovely Luangwa River, and you get my personal favourite location for a green season safari, and in my top five over all. You can choose from classic 4x4 game-watching, day or night, half-day walks, walking between camps, a combination of walking and driving, or, between December and April, boat-based game-viewing too. South Luangwa is very strong for cat sightings, and the usually elusive leopard is a common sighting here. I’ve seen at least one on almost every day I’ve spent there, and on one three-night trip, 2 lion kills and a leopard kill.
My beloved Wild dogs are also well-established here, and some of my favourite Wild dog sightings are from South Luangwa. Watching them mess around with Zebra one sunset, and give the run around to an elephant mum and calf at a waterhole one afternoon were endearing moments. Access is via scheduled flights to Mfuwe.
Another great safari area is Lower Zambezi NP, at three o’clock from Lusaka, with superb camps and a wide range of activities. The Zambezi River is wide here, and boat-based game-viewing, canoeing, sundowner cruises, and tigerfish fishing are all possible in addition to the usual walking and diurnal or nocturnal 4x4 game-viewing. Opposite Zimbabwe’s famous Mana Pools, it shares its northern border with the huge rift escarpment. With a mix of beautiful leadwood and fig forests and rolling grass plains, the different habitats here encourage a wide variety of flora and fauna, though oddly it has no giraffe. The huge densities of wildlife tend to stay close the river, and game drives and canoe safaris often encounter large herds of elephant, buffalo, zebra and wildebeest. The riverfront is also ideal leopard habitat and it's not uncommon to see one of these rare predators lazing in a tree beside the river. Lower Zambezi is only visited between April and November.
Another top safari area is Kafue, at nine o’clock from Lusaka, a huge and little-visited reserve well worth considering. The size of Wales, it’s a magical landscape but one that receives substantially less attention than both the Lower Zambezi and South Luangwa. The wildlife viewing isn’t as abundant, but few places can match them, however with a little bit of patience and an appreciation of beauty and solitude, Kafue can be ideal. In actual fact, the park has a larger variety of species than anywhere else in Zambia, including cheetah, sable antelope and the elusive roan antelope, and it’s the only area where hot air ballooning is possible. With a mix of forests, plains, savannah, and the Kafue River, canoeing and boating are on the menu alongside day and night drives and walking. Out to the west, Busanga Plains attract huge herds of plains game from July to November. Other parts of the park are open year-round.
For those seeking more solitude and a step back in time, North Luangwa, with a focus on walking safari, might be your cup of chai. 50% bigger than Luxembourg, with just three small camps, including three-tent Mwaleshi, and two-chalet Takwela, located at the honey pot; the junction of the Mwaleshi River with the Luangwa River. The lion along the Mwaleshi River are known for their confidence and walking safaris can get great views, you will feel like a true explorer of old. Open only in the dry season between June and October, there are very few vehicle tracks, though more are being created to enhance the variety of game-drive areas. With enormous herds of buffalo, ever-present predators, remarkable birdlife, the rare Cookson’s wildebeest, and few human visitors, North Luangwa is one for the safari purists’ list.
Whilst Liuwa Plain, far to the west, is a remote and little-known safari area, it’s fast becoming an addition to the to-see list of the discerning safari aficionado. Its 3,660 km2, the same as Delaware’s land area more or less, of broad savannah are home to the second biggest wildebeest migration on the continent, a flourishing cheetah population, the famed Lady Liuwa lion pride, hyenas in clans of 50 or more, zebra, red lechwe, eland, buffalo, tssebe and more than 300 bird species, Africa's densest concentration of endangered wattled cranes and other rare game. Yet it remains one of Africa's greatest secrets. The solitary camp, King Lewanika opened in 2017 and only has six tented villas, so if exclusivity is your bag, this is the place for you.
At just 254 km², Luambe is one of Zambia’s smallest national parks. Situated on the eastern bank of the Luangwa it lies in the heart of the Luangwa valley between North and South Luangwa national parks. The park was declared in 1938 making it one of the oldest conservation areas in Zambia.
The wildlife found in Luambe is similar to that of its larger neighbouring parks and includes all the typical large herbivores, carnivores as well as some less well-known species, but they are generally present at lower densities than in the bigger parks. The advantage of Luambe is visitor density. With one small losge, you will have the place essentially to yourself.
Habitat diversity in Luambe National Park is enormous and within a few kilometres the vegetation ranges from riverine forest, cathedral mopane woodland, floodplain acacia thickets to the sausage tree-dotted open grasslands of the Chipuka plains.
There are over 200 species of bird in Luambe and elephant populations as well as those of lion and leopard are said to be on the increase – so it’s well worth visiting now before everyone else catches on. From the south it’s a three to four-hour drive from Mfuwe on dirt road through the Nsefu sector of South Luangwa National Park. From Lundazi it’s a three-hour drive on dirt road to Luambe’s northern entrance making it easy to combine with either or both of its neighbours.
So, there you have Zambia, in a nutshell. Loads to do, not enough time to do it all. So if you want to go, have a read of our Zambia pages here and check out some of the sample itineraries we have, or drop us a line here.
It’s not a budget safari destination though, so if you are on a tight budget, check out our African safari specials to other countries here
Photographer, conservationist, dive and field guide, teller of bad jokes.