Audrey Bergner- Road tripping across South Africa with Baz Bus

So it’s your first time travelling to South Africa, you want to see a bit of the country, but you aren’t quite sure how to get around… What do you do? WHAT DO YOU DO?!

That was my predicament as I planned a 3 week backpacking trip across the country.

Travelling by coach seemed like a bit of a hassle (I’d be dropped off at a bus terminal and then still have to take a taxi to get to my hostel), renting a car sounded like a manageable option so long as I remembered to drive on the left, and then there was Baz Bus which calls itself “South Africa’s Convenient Hop-On Hop-Off Door-to-Door Backpacker Bus Service”. Quite the mouthful, but it fit the bill!

Visiting Wilderness, South Africa

Since it was my first time travelling in the country I decided to save the car rental for my next visit and I opted for Baz Bus instead. Over the course of my 3 weeks in the country I used them to travel the full length from Johannesburg to Cape Town.

There were a lot of things I liked about their service, so this post will look at some of the benefits of travelling with Baz Bus as well as a few things to consider:

Door to door pick-up and drop-off. 

This is one of things that won me over. Had I been travelling by train or coach bus I would have arrived at a bus terminal or train station in the middle of the city, and I then would’ve had to find my own way over to the hostel. However, Baz Bus offers pick-ups and drop-offs at a number of hostels and lodges across the country, which makes it safer and more convenient for travellers to get around. And if you happen to be staying at a hostel that isn’t affiliated with Baz Bus (I stayed in 2 hostels that weren’t), the owners are usually more than willing to arrange transportation for you.

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No limit on how many times you can hop on or off.

With the Hop-On Hop-Off ticket, you buy one ticket to your final destination and you can then hop on and off as often as you like along the route. This is great if you’re travelling in one direction. Alternatively, you can get a travel pass, which allows you to travel in any direction you want and as often as you like within the time period (7 day / 14 day / 21 days).

The flexibility to spontaneously change your travel plans.

Technically, you are supposed to reserve your seat at least 72 hours in advance to ensure there are enough seats, but also so that the driver knows where to pick you up and drop you off. However, this didn’t stop travellers from getting off the bus earlier if they thought a destination looked interesting; I also saw this work in reverse where travellers chose to skip over a destination because they thought it looked a little too remote for their taste once they arrived.

Lubanzi, Wild Coast, South Africa

Fun and personable drivers.

Whether it was Sammy trying to teach us his real name which involves clicking one’s tongue (I couldn’t manage to pronounce it right), or Johnny cracking jokes and imparting his wisdom on things to do in Durban, we had really fun drivers who were chatty and happy to share their insights on South Africa.

You get to see quite a bit of the country.

In a way, Baz Bus is a really great way to scout your next trip to South Africa. Since travellers get off at stops all over the route, you get to see quite a few towns and cities that you many not have previously considered. Over the course of my 3 weeks travelling with Baz Bus, I got off at a total of 7 stops and I also spotted a few places I’d like to go back and visit – Swellendam, I’m looking at you!

Landscapes of Drakensberg

There are lots of breaks along the way.

The Baz Bus drivers made a point to stop off every 1.5-2 hours so that we could stretch our legs, pick up some snacks, and have a bathroom break. Sure, there were days when we covered long distances, but we certainly weren’t cooped up in the car for 10 hours straight.

You get to meet other travellers.

Baz Bus allows you to connect with a community of backpackers who are slowly working their way across the country, and even though you may not all be getting off at the same stops along the way, you still get to know each other and swap stories and travel tips. For example, while on safari in Kruger I ended up meeting a group of German girls and a Brit – I never thought I’d see them again but then I ended up running into them twice on the Baz Bus down to Cape Town. I also noticed that some travellers who were backpacking South Africa solo ended up joining other travellers from Baz Bus for a stretch of the journey, so it’s a great way to meet other backpackers.

Wild Coast

Things to keep in mind:

This is a budget friendly way to travel across South Africa.

What I mean by this is that you shouldn’t come expecting plush headrests, reclining seats, and movies playing with surround sound. The bus is comfortable enough and it’ll get you where you need to go, but that’s it.

Baz Bus doesn’t run every day.

At the moment, the Cape Town to Port Elizabeth route runs 5 days a week. The other two routes run 4 days a week. This means that you need to put some thought into planning your itinerary and booking your hostels. If you don’t plan this carefully you could end up stuck in a destination for an additional night…which isn’t always a bad thing considering how beautiful South Africa is!

Reflections in Northern Drakensberg
The route doesn’t cover the interior of the country.

Baz Bus has 3 major routes: Johannesburg to Durban, Durban to Port Elizabeth, and Port Elizabeth to Cape Town. (These same routes are also done in reverse.) These routes will allow you to travel through Gauteng, Kwazulu Natal, Eastern Cape and Western Cape, mainly focusing on destinations along the coast. It won’t get you to Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Free State, North-West Province or Northern Cape. Nor will it get you to Lesotho or Swaziland. I’m kind of hoping they expand in the future!

Lastly, on a note completely unrelated to Baz Bus – the Eastern Cape has some stretches of seriously curvy roads so if you get motion sick easily I suggest you stock up on Gravol. I opted for window seat and popped a pill to zonk me out for the journey.

For more info on travel in South Africa visit http://www.bazbus.com.

Have you travelled around South Africa?
What do you think is the best way to get around?

Ebola in Perspective

With media often presenting skewed facts and stats around the Ebola outbreak, public perceptions of the real risks a disease actually presents are fast distorting and in many cases inaccurate.

Today, I am not going to write a medical journal with technical facts about the virus. There is enough material on this to go to the moon and back. No, today I am going to put a few things in perspective and hopefully make potential travellers to South Africa (and its neighbours) realise that it is not a life risk to visit our beautiful country.

Fact 1: How did Ebola get into other continents and countries other than West Africa?

Most people are overlooking the fact that non-African individuals, who get infected, are those who have voluntarily exposed themselves to the Ebola virus, by treating patients who suffer from Ebola. These individuals are mostly doctors or nurses. This virus did not spread to other individuals travelling to and from these countries.

Fact 2: What causes Ebola to spread?

Ebola spreads mainly due to poor hygiene and lack of proper procedures when dealing with the individuals who are infected. This includes wearing gloves, a cover over the mouth, nose and protective eyewear. Ebola is NOT airborne, is spreads in a liquid form only, e.g. sneezing, blood, urine etc. Most Africans are also not educated that handling the bodies of the deceased can still spread the virus. The chance of an epidemic in first-world countries, or even just areas with proper medical care, is very slim since the correct sanitary and quarantine procedures are implemented immediately.

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Fact 3: Ebola is only present in a very small section of Africa, very far removed from Southern Africa.

I am not going to say much about this, see the illustration below for comprehensive insight.

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Fact 4: South Africa is a very, very low risk country for Ebola

Apart from the fact that South Africa is more than 5000km away from the Ebola hotspot, it also has strict procedure at all ports of entry into the country. Should any individual come from the countries seen as an Ebola risk, they must submit to comprehensive medical testing before being allowed to continue. South Africa also has a very advanced medical infrastructure to quickly and effectively deal with any possible medical threat.

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Fact 5: Contrary to media reports, South Africa does not have an Ebola cases in 2014

Many infographics show that South Africa has cases of Ebola – this was true in 1996, NOT 2014. Yes, South Africa had two cases of Ebola in its entire recorded medical history, the last case being 18 years ago.

Fact 6: Why is everyone (suddenly) so scared of Ebola?

“Rumours and panic are spreading faster than the virus,” said Dr Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organisation. Yes, an outbreak of Ebola certainly is scary, but the risk of such an event occurring is much lower than alarming headlines would lead us to believe. The media is riding the wave of sensationalism, often painting a much, much darker picture than reality. Remember, the “spread” of Ebola to other continents is due to individuals voluntarily visiting, treating and coming into contact with Ebola-infected patients.

Fact 7: Panic and worry is due to lack of proper information

Given the facts above, it is clear that most of the worry is completely excessive. Yes, of course the world is concerned about this outbreak in West Africa, but it is well-contained and not spreading. In fact, a few countries have been cleared as an Ebola-infected country, like Nigeria.

Conclusion:

If you want to travel to South Africa, there is nothing to fear about Ebola. South Africa is a low-risk country (same as the rest of the world without reported Ebola cases). It is currently safer to be in South Africa than in the USA and Europe! See below – so what is stopping you from booking your journey and coming right away? Summer season is here and South Africa cannot wait to host you for your journey!

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(information is accurate at the time of writing – 05 Nov 2014) – Written by Leon Steyn, General and Marketing Manager, Baz Bus

Top Safety Tips: Planning ahead when visiting South Africa

Planning an overseas trip (of course it will be to South Africa – the most beautiful destination in the world) is an awesome opportunity and an exciting task; this allows you to experience new and exciting things in a different part of the world. Yet, dealing with an emergency abroad is the last thing on one’s mind when preparing for the adventure – an unforeseen crisis can be a harsh reality.

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When travelling abroad, you could be faced with challenges like losing important documents, getting sick, being involved in an accident or becoming a victim of a crime. These challenges are all unplanned, and even though we would hope it never happens to us, the odd chance is always there that something might go wrong.

The most  important is to stay calm and handle these situations to the best of your ability, especially while in another country. Before starting your journey, it is important that you prepare yourself as best as you can for anything that could happen while you are away from home. Copies of important documents and medical insurance are just a few things to be prepared with before your trip.

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An emergency travel pack is a vital component when planning a trip. The most important things of this pack are medical and personal documentation.

A few other items you should have are:

  • Copies of your passport/Visa
  • A copy of your insurance information
  • A copy of area maps of your destination/ places you may visit
  • Copies of your air ticket
  • Medical needs treatment
  • Copy of your home country’s drivers licence
  • Cellphone with local Sim card – international roaming costs are still very high
  • Credit Card
  • List of emergency numbers provided by your travel agent

 Tips for handling an emergency situation

Dealing with lost/stolen goods: If any of your possessions are lost/stolen, the first thing to do is report the lost items/theft immediately at the closest police station. A police report is needed for any insurance claims, so report a crime to the local police station.

Handling a medical emergency: Medical insurance will benefit you. In an event of an injury, you should get help from the nearest location and call an emergency number immediately. You should also get to a clinic/hospital as soon as possible to stabilise your condition.

Listen to Locals: Being in a place that is not familiar to you could expose you to risks and unsafe areas. It is important to listen to advice from people that are used to the area/country.

Always ask for inside info or handy tips. For the backpacking industry, this should be easy as the staff at the hostel are always willing to give the best information and recommendations of the area.

Plan your transport arrangements before you leave. If you decide to do Tours, go in a group and always let someone know which route you intend taking. Stay in well lit and well marked areas at night.

Travelling with everything prepared ensures maximum enjoyment and a worry-free journey.

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If you have any questions, or would like to add more items and advice to the above, please comment below.

(blog article composed by Insaaf Kamaldien, consultant at Baz Bus)

My Unforgettable trip to the Mystical Fairytale Land!!!

If long walks in the forest, waterfalls and fairies are some of your favorite things to do and see, then Hogsback is the place for you. Using my hop-on hop-off Baz Bus ticket, I chose Hogsback as one of my stops and spent two days at the amazing backpacker hostel called Away with the fairies and fell in love with all the beauty it has to offer.

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The backpacker hostel is perfectly located with a magical view of the Hogsback mountains, which is an ideal place to just relax and unwind. On my first day I did a 5 hour walk through the forest, which started in the back garden of the backpacker hostel

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I was amazed with all the life inside the forest. I got to see spider webs, fairies, butterflies, birds, as well as the famous big tree. Our first stop along the way was at the natural rock pools. There is no better feeling than having fresh mountain water play against your skin.

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Our last stop was at the Madonna and Child waterfall. The sight was breathtaking, we all just stood there totally blown away by the view. We then decided to just spend the rest of our time right there relaxing and listening to the waterfall with good conversation and a picnic lunch. This was by far, the best day of my life.

 

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There is no better feeling than experiencing it for yourself!!!

4 day Kruger National Park tour – part of my Baz Bus Wildlife Safari & Adventure package!!!

Our adventure began on the 18 January 2014, we left Johannesburg on the exciting journey to Kruger National Park.

Our first stop was Moholoholo Wildlife Animal Rehabilitation Centre, where we learnt about abandoned, injured and poisoned animals.  We then had an opportunity to interact with a variety of animal species and I got to touch a vulture and a leopard, all of this was assisted by guides.  Wow!!!!!! It was phenomenal getting up close with such a big cat.

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We then arrived at the camp site and had the option to upgrade to bedded accommodation, which was an additional R1000 on tour and we took it. After settling in, we immediately explored the grounds in search of a swimming pool. We were spoilt for choice and found both, a swimming pool and beautiful lake.

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We woke up at the crack of dawn to the sound of singing birds. We had breakfast and journeyed off to start the adventure of spotting the infamous Big 5.

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We spent the whole morning amazed and in awe of the beautiful life, in the park, such as birds, Lions, Elephants, Giraffes, Wildebeest, flying vultures and plenty of other animals. Our Ranger Brett was excellent. He made sure he chatted to other rangers for information about the big cats as well as other animals.

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We then got back to camp in the afternoon just in time for a refreshing swim, afterwhich we then headed off to a nearby reserve for a night safari drive. Wow!!!!!!! I’ve always heard about the beautiful African sunset but witnessing it, is in no comparison with a picture… Breathtaking comes to mind. The night drive was so different compared to during the day, because the heat ensures the animals hide whereas at night they come alive and roam all over. Dinner was really delicious, look out for the chef Martin, he really knows his way around the kitchen!

 

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Day 3 we spent a full day in Kruger, going as far as the Mozambique border. What an extraordinary day as we were lucky enough to see 4 out of the Big 5 and stopped off for a picnic lunch, in the heart of Kruger, overlooking hectares of the national park.

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On the last evening we were all very sad that this overwhelming experience was coming to an end and decided to party, in celebration, which only ended at 3 in the morning.

On the last day we departed at about 06h30 and head to a view point of the 3 Rondavels as well, as the amazing Blyde River Canyan. This was the highlight of my tour!!! Our last stop was the Caves where the guide explained the fascinating history of the Caves.

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I would highly recommend this tour to everybody!!!!

I’m looking forward to traveling with Baz Bus en route to Cape Town…. Watch out for my next blog!!!

Baz Bus end of year party!!!!

Baz Bus staff ended the year off in style with and delicious dinner at the Hilton Hotel. We were lucky this year with clear skies and got to see breathtaking sunset. 20 staff joined in on the fun which included office staff, guides and drivers.

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Yumna Isaacs arrange the evening and one of the requirements was making a hat for another staff member.The staff became extremely creative with the designs and put everybody into character on the evening. Thank you Yumna!!!

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The food buffet that was served looked amazing and tasted even better the menu ranged from Carved slow braised lamb shoulder with pesto to Individual trifles and profiteroles.

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Melanie, Yumna and Mark started dancing and eventually got everybody on the dance floor. It was great to see all the Baz Bus staff showing off their moves.

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Darren from the accounts department gave a great speech on behalf of Barry the owner getting everybody motivated and ready for 2014.

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Thank you Baz Bus for another great staff party!!!!

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Visit to Community Projects Thursday, 15 August 2013

BABES CRECHE

The property consists of 2 classrooms which houses the children according to age groups. One is a basic wooden structure and the other a proper concrete classroom extending to the road.

When we visited the crèche in February the immediate need was a proper fence in front of the property as the existing one was just a makeshift fence made of wooden planks. This would allow the kids more freedom to play outside of the classroom.

We proudly donated the funds of over R20 000 to erect the fence and hence our visit to view the fence.  The community is so grateful that their kids are able to safely play outside and we feel honoured to have assisted in giving the children the freedom to play safely outside as all children should. We also took other items of food that they desperately need on a monthly basis to keep the children fed such as rice, samp, mielie meal and muffins and much needed toilet paper.

We also spoilt the children with party packets filled with delicious goodies.

When we arrived there the wooden structure had collapsed due to the bad weather. Harriet had to rent a room at a neighbours house and house some of the children there.

They are now in desperate need of a new classroom and ablution facilities as the children use buckets outside the classrooms

Harriet has done an amazing job of pushing forward with her dream to educate the children and get them ready for school and her commitment to improving the school is evident.

The Union of Jewish Women are working closely with Harriet to realise some of these challenges that she is facing by raising awareness and getting sponsorships and donations.

 ELUNDINI DISABLED CRECHE

We also visited this crèche and donated groceries for childrens daily meals.

As usual we always spoil the children with goodie bags full of treats.

Indy has managed to secure the premises including the ground from the council at a very good price. The Union of Jewish Women are also raising funds and getting sponsorships and donations so that she can purchase the land.

Please view our video clips from the Harriet and Indy thanking Baz Bus for all that we have done for them!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yuJYjA8NlKM : Baz Bus community project 1: Elundini disabled creche

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rlJxI-CdFf4 Baz Bus community project 2: Babes Creche

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“The Little Five” in the Kruger National Park

We are all familiar with the Kruger National Park Big 5: elephant, lion, rhinoceros, buffalo and leopard and it is a thrill to be able to spot and take photos of these amazing animals in their natural surroundings.

The Kruger Park also has the Little 5. These are five small animals which share part of their names with the Big 5. The ones that you will most likely spot are the Leopard Tortoise and Red- billed Beetle buffalo weaver. Here’s the lowdown on some of Africa’s finest little creatures!

Antlion
This insect makes a cone-shaped hole in the sand to trap ants and they are visible if you look carefully on the ground in rest camps or picnic sites.
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Eastern Rock Elephant shrew
The elephant shrew is a small mammal which is similar to a mouse but it likes to eat insects. It has a long nose that looks like a mini elephant’s trunk. They live in rock crevices and are active at dusk. They only grow to a length of 250mm, with an average weight of 60 grams.

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Leopard Tortoise
This tortoise gets in name because of the spots on its shell. It is the 4th largest tortoise species in the world and can often live up to be a 100 years old! A mature leopard tortoise can weigh over 23 kilograms, with a shell circumference of up to one metre.
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Red-Billed Buffalo Weaver
The red- billed buffalo weaver is a member of the weaver family of birds and is famous for weaving nests using grass and strips of reed! They nest in open colonies and are a rather noisy and busy lot.
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Rhino Beatle
The Rhino Beatle is one of the largest beetles in the world and the males have horns on their noses used to fight other males and dig holes in the ground!
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Read about our Wildlife Safari and Adventure Packages which includes the Kruger National Park tour!

Pictures courtesy of South African Tourism.

Is Baz Bus on your Bucket list – it should be!

Baz Bus is a convenient and flexible way to travel within South Africa. This Hop-on Hop Off service is excellent for independent Travellers keen to meet other like minded travellers.

On the Baz Bus route we travel mainly along the coastal route with shuttle links to inland towns and villages.

South Africa is a diverse nation offering scenic landscapes, awesome adventure activities and countless cultural experiences.

Here is a bucket full of ideas to do along the route.

Hike up to Table Mountain and enjoy spectacular vistas or take the cable car ride to the top! It is one of the new 7 wonders of Nature!

Book a Cape Peninsula Day Tour with Baz Bus with tour highlights including a visit to Hout Bay, Boulders Beach Penguin Colony and hikes in the Nature Reserve to the top of Cape Point and the most South – Western Point of Africa.

During Whale Season Here you have the rare opportunity to spot whales breaching in the bay. Hermanus is the best land based whale watching spot in the world.

Try Shark Caging and get your adrenalin going!

Visit the Kruger National Park and Experience game viewing at its best. It is one of the few places on earth where wildlife can be seen in such great variety and at such close quarters. Baz Bus offers a Wildlife Safari packages!
Visit Hogsback which is a magical world of mountains and forests.

Wild Coast is one of South Africa’s most remote stretches of shoreline which is home to some of the most beautiful coastal scenery in the world.

Hike in the magnificent Drakensberg Mountains.

Attempt the Bloukrans Bungy which is 216 metres high and one on the highest in the world

Do a cultural tour and enjoy spending time in the local communities.

Happy Travels!

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Visit to Elundini Creche in Dunoon – community project!

On Wednesday, 7 February 2013, we visited this disabled creche in Dunoon!

his has been a long term project of ours and it has been great to have participated in the improvements via contributions and see this crèche grow to where it is today.

It now has 3 classrooms to house over 70 children including many disabled kids with specific disabilities. Indy the principal showed us around each classroom explaining to us the different age groups and activities the teachers were doing with the kids.

There is also a good sized play area, kitchen, sleeping area, ablution facilities ablution facilities (which Baz Bus helped to build) and a combi bus (which Baz Bus made a contribution to the purchase). Indy is now in the process of purchasing the land from the city council which will be a great achievement for her.

The children were so excited to receive their goodie bags and we had another successful morning spent with these amazing children!

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