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The Definitive Guide to Activities in the Area of Nature's Valley, Plettenberg Bay Area, South Africa

COUNTRY FACTS

People
Approximately 46,9 million people call South Africa home. South Africans are also known as the Rainbow Nation and a there are 11 official languages in South Africa. If you can speak English you should be understood everywhere. With Dutch you can certainly get by and locals, especially in the Western Cape, usually find it charming.

Time Differences
South Africa operates two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time throughout the year, making it an hour ahead of Central European Winter Time, seven hours ahead of Eastern Standard Winter Time and seven hours behind Australian Central Time. There are no time zone differences within Sotuh Africa.

Passports and Visas
For the majority of foreign nationals who travel to South Africa for vacation, entry is straightforward and hassle-free. All visitors to South Africa must be in possession of a valid passport that is still valid for a minimum period of 6 months after departure from South Africa and that has at least one unused page, a return ticket and, in some cases, a visa. Visitors may enter with duty-free personal effects and goods worth R3000. Duty is balanced at 20% up to R12000. To determine whether you require a visa to enter South Africa, visit the South African Home Affairs Department website. For South African missions abroad see Department of Foreign Affairs website

Health and Safety
The Westernn Cape is malaria free and malaria is found only in the Lowveld of Mpumalanga and Limpopo and on the Maputaland coast of KwaZulu-Natal. Malaria is not much of a risk in the winter months. Although the incidence of malaria is rare, it would be best to take adequate precautions if you choose to visit these areas.

Visitors who are entering South Africa from a yellow fever zone must have a valid international yellow fever inoculation certificate. Only infants under the age of one year are exempt. Immunisation against cholera and small pox are not required and no other vaccinations are required when visiting South Africa.

Provided tourists take basic common-sense precautions (not walking alone in deserted areas at night and keeping expensive possessions out of sight) most parts of the country can be safely visited. If you are in doubt as to the safety of a particular area or attraction, contact the National Tourism information and Safety Line on 083 123 2345. This number may also be used for practical assistance in replacing lost documents or reporting incidents.

Many foreigners are unaware that South Africa has a well-developed infrastructure, high standards of water treatment and medical facilities equal to the best in the world. HIV / AIDS is a global problem and South Africa has a very high prevalence of HIV / AIDS. Never have unprotected sex. A toll-free HIV/AIDS helpline exists at 0800-012-322.

In a great many medical disciplines, South Africa is a global leader. In fact, South African trained doctors are sought after all over the world, so this should give an indication of the standard of medical care available. There is a large network of public and private hospitals countrywide, offering excellent service. However, clients must have adequate health insurance to cover the fees private hospitals charge.

Smoking is not allowed in public premises.

Food and water
As a rule, tap water in South Africa is safe to drink as it is treated and is free of harmful microorganisms. In Nature's Valley the water is ozone cleaned and quite safe to drink. In hotels, restaurants and nightpots, the standards of hygiene and food preparation are of a high standard. It is safe to eat fresh fruit and salads and to put as much ice as you like in your drinks.

Electricity
South Africa's electricity supply: 220/230 volts AC 50 Hz Exceptions: Pretoria (230 V) and Port Elizabeth (200/250 V) Most plugs have three round pins but some plugs with two smaller pins are also found on appliances. Adaptors can be purchased in most supermarkets and hardware stores. US-made appliances may need a transformer.

Road safety and Driving
South Africa's transport infrastructure is excellent and major roads are in good condition. However, the distances between towns are significant, so if you're planning to self-drive, it is a good idea to plan your itinerary well. In some of the more remote rural areas, such as the Karoo, the roads are not fenced so there may be stray animals on the road which could be very dangerous at night. After the rains keep a watch out for tortises and hedgehogs.

Driving is on the left. All visitors intending to drive are required to obtain an international drivers permit, visitors found driving without a permit will be fined and not permitted to continue on their journey. Visitors will also not be able to rent a car without a valid driver's permit. The wearing of seatbelts is compulsory and strictly enforced by law.

South Africa has very strict drinking and driving laws - with a maximum allowable alcohol blood content of 0.05%. Translated that means about one glass of wine for the average woman and perhaps 1.5 or two for the average or large man. The speed limits are 120kmph on the open road, 100kmph on smaller roads and between 60 and 80kmph in towns. Be aware that even major national roads cut through residential areas so there may be a speed limit of 80 or 60kmph on a road that looks like an autobahn.

Banks and Money
The currency unit is the Rand, denoted by the symbol R, with 100 cents making up R1 (one Rand). Foreign currency can be exchanged at local banks and Bureaux de Changes. Banking hours are from 09h00 - 15h30 weekdays, and 08h30 - 11h00 on Saturdays. Sundays are closed. ATMs are found near most shops. Most credit cards are accepted. Foreign exchange conversion can be done at commercial banks, bureaux de change and hotels, never on the street.

Tipping
Most restaurants do not add a service charge to bills - thus it is customary to leave a 10-15% tip. Parking and petrol station attendants should be given whatever small change you have available, R1, R2 or R5. This is always appreciated, even though it may seem a small amount. Taxi drivers usually expect 10% of the bill and porters R2/bag.

Tax
Value-added-tax (VAT) is charged on most items. Foreign tourists to South Africa can have their 14% VAT refunded provided that the value of the items purchased exceeds R250.00. When purchasing goods you should request a tax invoice. When leaving South Africa all invoices need to be stamped by customs officials at the airport before proceeding to the VAT refund outlet (prior to check-in).

Shopping and clothing
The seasons in the Southern Hemisphere are directly opposite to those of the Northern Hemisphere. For summer months, lightweight (cottons and linens), short-sleeved clothes are best, although a light jersey/jumper might be needed for the cooler evenings. Umbrellas and raincoats are essential for the summers and the Western Cape winters. Warmer clothes are needed for the winter months.

Most major shopping centres and malls operate 7 days a week, but you will find that in the smaller towns and rural areas that shops are closed on a Sunday.

Disabled Travellers
Generally speaking, facilities for disabled visitors can be improved, and this is an area the government is working on. An increasing number of accommodation establishments have wheelchair ramps and bathroom facilities for the disabled. Almost every national park has at least one accessible chalet and many accommodation establishments have one or two wheelchair-friendly rooms. Most of our sports stadiums have accessible suites, stands or areas for wheelchairs near accessible parking as well as special toilet facilities. Most public buildings also caters for wheelchair access. For tours that cater especially for the disable contact Pam and Jeff Taylor on 082-4502 031 / 9200 901 or 021-557 4496, fax: 021-557 4496 or see Flamingo Tours

These travel facts are courtesy of South African Tourism southafrica.net

  • The Africa Guide
  • The land and the People of South Africa (government site)
  • African Studies Center
  • Wikipeida encyclopedia statistics on South Africa
  • South African Embassy in The Hague, the Netherlands
  • South African Internet Resources
  • For general information and statistics on South Africa see http://www.mbendi.co.za/land/af/sa/p0005.htm
  • For information on visas, health, time, electricity, weights & measurements, public holidays, airport information, communication services, and a host of other things click here or here
  • Go2Africa.com is a comprehensive travel guide with recommended tours, packages and accommodation in East and Southern Africa. See African Safari
  • S.A. National Anthem


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  • Copyright 2003 Maaike Pypekamp. All rights reserved.
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