Spending Summer in South Africa- advice?

I just got news that I’ve been awarded a grant to do an internship with a grassroots rural development project this summer in the Western Cape province. It will be in a fairly small remote Tswana-speaking village a good ways out of Kimberley.

Basically, there is a retired American couple who stumbled into this village through a complicated series of happenstance events, and they started working with the traditional leadership, which is very interested in development. The village (around 1,000 people) is very poor, but relatively organized and forward looking. Everyone has a lot of ideas, but nobody has any actual development experience and so they are not quite sure how to plan and manage such projects. This is where I come in. They are working on a larger health project, but feel they don’t have the capacity to pull off such a large project now. I will go in and help them manage a sort of trial-run community education project, and that will hopefully give them the experience and systems they need for larger projects in the future. It will be good practice for me, as I have been studying development management, and this is a chance to use those skills to actually make an impact in a community that is willing to work towards a common goal. It’ll also be good to learn about another part of Africa.

I’m counting on having around a month in South Africa before my project starts. I won’t have a ton of money, and South Africa is looking relatively expensive to travel in. Any suggestions on how to do things on the cheap? What are the don’t-miss locations? Any other advice? How hard is it to travel to neighboring countries, and is it worth it?

The bad thing about this is that I’m a hot weather fanatic, and I’ll be there for winter :frowning: . No summer for me this year! But I bet it’ll be worth it.

Nobody? Here are some more specific questions:

What books can I read to give me a start on understanding this very complicated country?
What are the can’t-miss locations? Any out-of-the-way wacky sites worth visiting?
How cold am I going to be all summer?
Is there any way to do a Safari on the cheap? Is Kruger basically the place to go?
Does anyone know anything about the part of the country I’ll be in? The guidebooks are pretty sparse.
What kind of budget will I be looking at, assuming cheap travel?

Climate ranges from Mediterranean (think California) to more-extreme desertic (think Nevada - I’m feeling geographically lazy). A search for “kimberley south africa weather patterns” showed up a few webpages, but I can’t access them (classified as “press”, blocked by the filter).

I imagine some of our SA residents may be showing up now, as so many people Dope at work (which somehow always seems to be a self-contradicting statement).

You probably want to wait for Mr Dibble.

Weather-wise, you’ll be cold at night (temperatures near freezing) but comfortable during the day (temperatures in the high teens or low twenties Celsius). Hardly any rain (it’s a summer-rainfall area). That part of the country is sparsely populated and semi-desert. (Incidentally, a nitpick: from your description it’s either in the Northern Cape or North-West Province, not in the Western Cape.) The agriculture is mostly cattle-based.

And me!!

South Africa is broadly divided into two, weather wise, with the South West being Californian in climate (hot, dry summer & cold wet winters) and the rest of the country having hot, wet summers & cold, dry winters. The Kimberly area falls into the latter and is probably the better place to spend a winter (although bitterly cold in the mornings as ctnguy says).

Must sees:
Kruger (or another game park - not sure what the cheapest way to do this is?)
In spite of the weather, Cape Town and surrounds (Table Mountain, Robin Island, Winelands, etc)

So’s the part of the country you’ll be living in :slight_smile:

Well on the plus side winter is the best safari season! Because all the animal’s gather around waterholes. Kruger is expensive but if you spend a few days there you’ll very likely see the big five.

Ithala in Kwazula Natal is amazingly scenic but it doesn’t have many of the big cats.

I’d also recommend hiking in the Drakensberg mountains, which is very cool (Also in Natal).

Look out for crazy amounts of German’s on the Western Cape. I don’t know why.


Yes, I’ll be in North West-Cape Province, that was a typo.

I’m a warm weather fiend, and I’m pretty grumpy about having a year with three winters in a row. My accommodations won’t have anything in the way of heat. Fun! Brrrrrrr!

I’ll count on spending time in Kruger and Capetown. How hard is it to travel to nearby countries, and is it worth doing? How developed is the backpacker travel culture? I’ll be travelling on my own, so it’d be nice to have the chance to meet up with people. It can be nice to have a tourist trail to drift in and out of. Does anyone have any experience with Couch surfing there?

What music is hip right now? What would people expect a white girl in a village area to wear? Are there some cultural do’s and don’ts that I should know?

The Rough Guide book on SA isn’t too bad. Otherwise, just getting here will be the best way to understand.

Cape Town (acknowledged as one of the world’s most beautiful cities) and theGarden Route(Knysna/George on the South Coast, including Addo Park). The Cradle of Humankind in Gauteng. The Drakensberg in Natal.

If you can, travel to Namibia as well, to see the desertand theFish River canyon. There are reasonable overland tours that do this sort of thing, it’s a good idea to investigate these before you come, if you can spring for $200-$400.

Nieu-Bethesda for the Owl House and the Dinosaur Museum.

Not very. It does get hot, and cool at night, where you will be working. The rest of the country varies a lot. Cape Town has wet winters, but the Garden Route has the world’s second-best year-round weather after Hawaii. Go there!

There are cheaper places to do a safari. I’d recommend Addo Elephant Park, and there are lots of lion & rhino parks around. There’s quite a good one near the Cradle. Basically, Kruger and Table Mountain National Parks cover the costs of all other parks, so they’re a bit spendier.

So’s that part of the country. It’s mostly farming land, and sparse land at that. I’ve been there, but there’s not a lot to tell. Nice people, though.

You can get away with R3-500/day (which is ~ $40-$70) for eating, sleeping and getting into places if you stay at backpackers, of which there are lots. Those run around R100-200/night. It depends where you are, I’m basing this on Cape Town.

I’ve never thought of us as expensive. Not the ultra-cheap of the rest of Africa, but you can live quite well here for not a lot of money, IMO. I do know the summer backpacker crowd here is quite big. The key is to travel on the same transport as locals, so in towns, use minibus taxis & buses, and intercity buses rather than flights.

The same as worldwide, R&B, Hip-Hop, Rock, Pop, Dance. The local hip-hop variant called Kwaito is huge.

Pretty much anything, but if you’re working with older folks, probably not a good idea to run around in hotpants. Jeans, cargoes, skirts, t-shirts, whatever you normally wear would be fine. You’ll soon discover the curious mixture of First/Third World that makes SA so exciting, it’s really not like the rest of Africa.

Oh, one last thing? Don’t bother with the Robben Island tour, it’s really not worth it. Save your money, buy Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom autobiography, and visit the District Six, Castle, Gold of Africa and Slavery museums instead.

Perfect…exactly the sort of advice I’d be looking for.

I’ll try to pick up a Rough Guide today. I spent the other day in the library reading up on history, but it’s a little overwhelming. I’m a pretty fussy dresser here, and I don’t think my knee-high boots and pencil skirts will be quite as practical in a village, so I’ll need to find some less high-maintenance clothing.

Travel to Namibia sounds great- I love deserts. I’ll make some time for it. I may just spring for a step-up-from-bottom-of-the-barrel Kruger safari. I’ve only been on really lame safaris, and it’d be nice to do the real thing once.

I know South Africa isn’t crazy expensive, but I’ve been traveling in Asia where for $10.00 a day you can live like a king. I don’t have a ton of money, so I’ll have to work really hard to conserve funds. Couch surfing is starting to sound like a good deal, and I’ll have to find cheap ways to eat.

This is starting to get pretty exciting! I don’t usually plan trips, well, at all. But South Africa seems so big and so complex that it’s worth doing my research.

Is that $10 including accommodation? $10 will buy you a couple of Big Mac Meals or some truly awesome Gatsbys, but I wouldn’t say anything less than $40/day for *good *living. Remembering that booze is ridiculously cheap here, if that’s your thing - $5 will buy you an OK bottle of wine, say.

Contrast this with when I go to Europe, where I budget something like $150/day.

Cool, I’ll have to draw up a pretty serious budget then, and maybe consider spending a bit less time.

Yeah, Asia really can be that cheap. In China I’d pay around $3.00 for a dorm room. $2.00 will get you a feast at a Chinese restaurant, and for $3.00 you can eat fancy foreign food. When running broke, a huge bowl of noodles is less than fifty cents and giant beers are twenty cents. A quick taxi ride is maybe fifty cents, and you can cross town for five bucks.

Well, time to move on in life and have new, more expensive adventures! :stuck_out_tongue:

Yeah, Capetown is really pretty. I don’t know if it dangerous to hike up and down Table Mountain in the winter, but you could still take the cable car.

Namibia is lovely. I did some river canoe trip down the Orange River that was spectacular. The Fish River Canyon was kind of mediocre compared to the Grand Canyon (what isn’t?), but we got there at dusk and the view was pretty crappy. Sossusvlei is where they shot that crappy jLo movie The Cell, but it’s really out of this world eerie. I suspect that it’s kind of hard to get to as it was on an extended truck trip to Victoria Falls from Capetown.

Seconding the Garden Route. There’s some cave complex along it that they let you crawl through some barely squeezable passageway. I think it’s called the Devil’s Chimney in Cango Caves. Not for claustrophobic fatties and the sort of thing they would never let you do in the USA. There’s also a 206m bungie jump, supposedly the world’s highest (maybe beaten by now).

I heard about this thing called kloofing in Capetown, but I only heard about it after I left. It’s basically hiking down a river canyon using natural rock slides and jumping off of waterfalls into pools. It really sounds like a blast, and possibly really dangerous.

All this shit is not super cheap, but is pretty damn exciting.