Southern Africa

Southern Africa has adapted to its visitors needs and most who are involved in the tourism industry put a lot of effort into ensuring that guests have an incredible all-round experience while visiting.  You will find most of your home comforts here and be very surprised at how easy it is to find your way around – especially with English being widely spoken throughout all Southern African countries.  The infrastructure is sound and traveling in these areas is “comfortable”.

The Guides

Both crew members are trained and qualified guides, but only one may be tour leader (either the driver or the courier/cook).  Although our guides are qualified for the work they do, please remember they are human too.  Adventure tours place enormous demands on our guides due to the nature and duration of the tours.  Working 18 hours a day, week after week would place a strain on anyone so please don’t be quick to judge them and rather have a quiet conversation with them if you feel that there is an issue.  Guides do this job because they love Africa and want to share it with our guests so please treat them with respect and decency and you will get the same in return.

It should also be noted that guests often hold guides responsible for things that are out of their control, so please be fair to them, the guides are not personal servants, butlers or maids and may be handling a lot more than you are aware of.

Sometimes our tour leaders and drivers have to make a decision with regards to health, safety, security and circumstances beyond their control.  This may not always be a popular decision but as far as possible, your guide will take into account the wishes of the group as a whole, but your understanding and patience at these times will be much appreciated.  Sometimes both crew members will need to discuss the matter together, this means that you’ll not always have someone in the back of the vehicle to answer questions and remark on certain locations.  For anything that you would like to know or have explained, please ask the guides so they may assist.

In terms of the information that is provided on tour, some guests prefer more information, others prefer less so if you feel that you’re not receiving enough information, or that you’re receiving too much, please let the guides know so that they can do something about it.  It is always easier to sort this out on tour than to complain about it afterwards.

The Tour Leader has complete authority on tour and his/her decision is final however you do have our emergency contact number if you feel that you’d like to speak to someone in the office too.

Translators

On some of our tour departures we have German translators who are there to help guests who are not confident in speaking English.  Please keep in mind that these translators are often foreign students and are sometimes not acquainted with the tour.  They are not guides and are only there to help along with the communication between the guides and guests.  They are not specialized in tour guiding nor are they professional interpreters.  They will do line by line translations directly from the guide to the guest.

Tipping

In Africa tipping is not compulsory.  Tipping in restaurants is usually 10% for good service and more if you feel that you received exceptional service.  You do not normally tip taxi’s and we provide specific information with regards to tipping certain groups.  This information is in your tour dossier under “Optional Activities” or under “Tipping on Tour”.

Our guides do work hard, but they are also paid industry standards for this work.  Our Crew can be tipped if you feel that they have done a good job and/or gone above and beyond the call of duty.

If you feel pressured by a crew member to tip please do not hesitate to report this to us at ops@nomadtours.co.za.  Please use this address for any other feedback you have from your tour with us.  At the end of the tour you will be provided with a confidential feedback form where you are encouraged to rate the tour, service, and experience with Nomad. We use this feedback extensively in our efforts to improve our tours and we really do appreciate receiving this information from you at the end of the tour.  You’re more than welcome to email it to us if you’d prefer not to hand it to your guide, however please do let them know that you’ll be emailing it if you intend on doing this.

The Group

Travelling in a group offers many advantages and allows you to share the experience with like-minded fun-seekers!  It’s also a cheaper and more secure way to explore an unfamiliar continent.  Making friends with your fellow travellers will certainly help you make the most of your tour and an open mind may sometimes be necessary as we have a range of cultures and nationalities on our trucks.

The guides are there to ensure that the tour runs smoothly and this includes the group dynamic.  If you feel that someone is behaving in an unsociable way the mature thing to do would be to mention this in a non-confrontational way to the individual.  If you do not feel comfortable with this please speak to our crew.

You are travelling in a truck together and the best way to avoid petty conflict is to follow the Guide’s schedule with regards to keeping the truck and environment clean and tidy at all times, the fastest way to lose friends on tour is to leave your smelly hiking boots all over the place.

In all honesty, it is very rare that we have passenger conflict on tour and we feel very lucky that the Nomad guests have always been like-minded and considerate people and we hear far more stories about people making friends for life (as well as meeting future husbands and wives) than we do about the very rare unsociable passenger problem.

An average day on tour

The days usually start early and end late, although a lot of time is spent travelling, we do cram a lot into every day.  Expect some frustrations, you are in Africa and things don’t work that well sometimes.  Coming on tour with an open mind, flexible attitude and realistic expectations will ensure you have a great time.

An average day on tour begins around 6am and departure is after breakfast at around 7am.  There are some mornings that need a very early start to reach our next destination, or to photograph a spectacular African sunrise – it’s all part of the adventure.  Prepare yourself for the worst, especially in winter when days are shorter.  We lose approximately 5 hours of daylight in Winter so it may happen that you’re setting up your tent in the dark or that some optional activities are not available then.

We usually take a lunch-break en-route and depending on the distance to be covered, afternoons are often spent relaxing or exploring the lay of the land.  Usually every few days, we will spend a couple of nights at one venue to break the travel routine.

Travelling in our purpose built Nomad Trucks

The transportation on tour is a major component of all adventure tours. These tours are road trips and incorporate long drives, bumpy roads and possible mechanical problems, also, digging your truck out of mud is sometimes a considered a highlight.  These setbacks are what you make of them so please be prepared and note that we have trucks and not buses.  Your Crew will be very unhappy if you call them bus-drivers.

Nomad vehicles are amongst some of the finest on the road however do not forget the nature of an adventure tour, it is not a city to city coach liner trip and there is no airconditioning or toilets on the truck.  We also don’t provide up-market tours, our tours are still budget tours aimed at the adventurous traveller.

No bus or other vehicle is designed out the box to operate under the conditions in which our trucks run and this is why we build them ourselves.  We run a strict maintenance program and all of the trucks are on a permanent rotation schedule.  Unfortunately break-downs are not uncommon so if a problem occurs, please be patient as it can take time to resolve mechanical problems in Africa so make the best of the situation.  I can guarantee you that your guides and our operations team will have any situation like this as their top priority and will do all in their power to ensure that you get back on the road as soon as possible.

Distances and road conditions

All of our tours cover long distances on the roads of Africa as our passion is to show you the magnificent sights of this continent. This means that there will be many hours spent driving which cannot be rushed for the following reasons:

You are in a truck and not a sports car so expect average speeds of approximately 80kph, however there are roads where we are forced to reduce to speeds of 30kph due to bad roads conditions or safety concerns.  The guides will always have your safety as their first concern.

Distances between highlights are often on a bigger scale than those at home.  Often there is absolutely nothing between focal points except vast open deserts.  Most tours average approximately 350 km per day however there can be stretches of up to 650km in a single day and that’s a long way in a truck so be prepared.

We will be travelling along winding dirt roads and your safety is of paramount importance, please keep this in mind when you are tired, hot and irritable.

Participation and Interaction, what’s expected of you

Although we do most of the work, the nature of these tours is not that of a beach holiday.  A little assistance from the group can make a real difference as it means that the guides have more time for you and more time to make the tour amazing so getting involved definitely enhances the tour experience.  This is an adventure, not a holiday.

All Nomad Dive tours are limited participation tours and what we would like your assistance with is:

• Assist with washing up duties
• Offer your help with the food preparation if time is pressing
• Loading and unloading the truck
• Loading and unloading your own bag
• Help keeping the truck clean (it is your home after all for the next days and weeks)

Your kitchen utensils are provided on your tour so please take care of our equipment, as anything broken or lost on tour cannot be easily replaced.

Our guides do all the cooking, however you are welcome to ask the guides if you are keen to share your culinary skills with the group.

The more you get involved, the better the group experience and not doing your dishes is not a great way to make friends.

Communication

An enjoyable trip depends heavily on open and honest communication between yourself, the guides and your fellow passengers.  Many problems have their root in a lack of communication, misjudgements and assumptions.  Essentially, you have people from all over the world, taken out of their comfort zone, put in a box in the middle of Africa, shaken around and then expected to all get along.. it requires a positive attitude because essentially, you are all there for the same reason!

On Tour

When on tour be sure to keep the communication channels open with your fellow passengers and the guides.  This is the key to a successful trip.  If you are unhappy, please discuss it because problems cannot be resolved if no one knows that there is a problem. Feel free to approach your guides at any time because the smallest problems can turn into big ones very quickly!

How others can reach you

The easiest option to keep in touch with your loved ones at home is to buy a SIM card of the respective country you are travelling in. Usually you can get sim cards rather easily in major cities and in some instances vendors might even sell them at border posts.  The cost for a sim card is usually rather low (often between ZAR 20 and ZAR 30).  Please keep in mind though that this is an adventure tour and that there still might not be reception in a lot of the areas we travel through.

Although you may not be able to contact the outside world easily while you’re on tour, we track you constantly and are always able to find you.  Feel free to provide your family with our contact details and should there be an emergency of any kind at home we will be able to contact you almost anywhere.  Please bear in mind that in certain instances there may be a charge for this (in some areas there are not even radio facilities) should we have to physically send someone by boat, road or air to your camp site, the person we send will expect to be compensated.  Please inform your families that although we can find you – it must be a real emergency – as we will not be sending one of our local contacts 500km over terrible roads to remind you to change your underwear regularly!

In an emergency your family can contact us on nomad@nomadtours.co.za or by calling our offices on +27 21 845 7400 and if the call is outside of office hours the emergency contact number is +27 82 578 2199.

We advise that you should also contact family and friends before leaving and tell them that you are on an adventure tour and that you will probably be out of contact for that time.

There are telephones in some places but do not count on these being all that reliable!  E-mail facilities can be found in major towns and city centres, but it is often very slow and expensive.

Climate and weather conditions

Please ensure that you are familiar with the exact weather conditions to be expected on your particular tour and be prepared because the weather in Africa can be extreme.  In the rainy season, prepare to get wet and in the dry season, prepare to bake, the weather is part of an African adventure but it can be a tough taskmaster.

The African sun is fierce and we suggest a factor 50 sunscreen and that you wear a hat.  From October until April you can experience extremely hot temperatures and during the winter months the nights can be extremely cold, even dropping down to below zero, but the days are generally warm to hot.

In Southern Africa, the short rains are from October to December, but the main rainy season begins in February and can last until April, Cape Town on the other hand experiences a cold winter with lots of rainfall from April to September.

Please note that this is only a general indication and the weather is not within our control and sometimes the rains start earlier or finish later, or don’t come at all. Local conditions also prevail, for example if your accommodation is on the rim of a crater or close to the seaside, conditions can be affected by the geography of the area so prepare for all seasons.

Laundry

Most camps have hand-washing facilities.  Please remember to bring some environmentally friendly washing-powder for your laundry.  For a small fee you can often have your laundry washed by someone else, ask you guide for assistance en-route.

Security

The truck has a safe for passports, money, credit cards and flight tickets only.  Please use this facility as lost passports and money cause delays and may result in you having to leave the tour.  The truck safe is not large enough for cameras, cell phones, ipods and other digital equipment and these items should be kept in your day pack and your day pack should be kept with you at all times.

The camps that we use are generally safe but please be aware all the time as tourists are easy to spot targets in Africa, as well as in the rest of the world!  Make copies of travel documents and keep separate from the originals.  Also photograph all documents and serial numbers of your items and email a copy to yourself.

Your possessions are your responsibility at all times and Nomad will not take responsibility for damaged, lost or stolen personal items.  It is advised that you take out comprehensive travel insurance if you are planning on bringing expensive items like digital cameras, ipads, ipods and laptops on tour.

Although all care and attention will be exercised, neither Nomad Adventure Tours & Holidays CC, it’s agents, employees or operators will be liable for any damage or loss caused due to the storage of valuable items or money in the truck safe or inside the vehicle.

 

Photography

Please ask the guide to stop if you would like to take photos at any time as everyone’s photo requirements are different.  Please stock up on memory cards and spare camera batteries before departure as these can be difficult to find en-route and there are not always charging facilities available.  If you are going on a tour to  Kruger National Park you may find that you take a lot of pictures trying to get that perfect shot.  2GB is minimum and if you are interested in photography we would highly recommend more.  Please take care of your photographic equipment in the dusty areas we pass through.  At some camp sites power points to recharge batteries for video/digital cameras are available, but you will have to provide the necessary connections and adaptors.

Forbidden Photos

Don’t take pictures at border crossings, government buildings, and military installations and avoid photographing army, police or anywhere else if your guide advise against it.

Please remember we are guests in the countries we visit and respect local customs and feelings.  Certain tribes in Southern Africa do not allow their picture taken so please ask your guides before photographing whether it is permissible or not.  You may also have to pay a nominal fee to take photos of some local people.

Responsible Touring

Nomad is committed to the principles of responsible environmental tourism and it would be appreciated if you would respect the customs, laws and environment of the countries and areas we visit.  Please be ‘green-minded’ and dispose of rubbish in the appropriate manner, we do have a dustbin on board and we ensure that we have cleaned up everything before leaving our accommodation sites.