Frequently Asked Questions
(Do not hesitate to send us an email to ask any additional questions whatsoever)
What is a safari? What will we do on an Academy Safari?
Safari is a Kiswahili word meaning “to travel.” Originally the word safari was used by Westerners to describe an overland trip in Africa to hunt big game. Today we, more humanely, hunt wildlife with cameras.
Although the order of Academy Safari locales can vary, most safaris begin in Cape Town at 10AM at the Hotel Verde immediately adjacent to the Cape Town Airport. At the end of our first wonderful day of sightseeing and shopping in historic Cape Town we will check into our Villa overlooking False Bay. We will always have visits to Table Mountain (weather permitting), the V&A Waterfront, Cape Point and the wine country towns of Franschhoek and Stellenbosch on our itinerary while in Cape Town. You might want to take these into consideration if you choose to arrive early to see more of South Africa before your safari. A detailed itinerary of our time in Cape Town to include specific restaurant reservations will be circulated about a month before departure.
Normally we fly from Cape Town to the bush portions of the safari. We start by staying 3 days at a private holding within the Sabi Sand Private Reserve. Sabi Sand is one of the premier private reserves along the border of Kruger National Park and there are no fences between it and Kruger. It is close to the Sabi Sabi River which attracts wildlife in profusion and makes for wonderful game drives. From Sabi Sand we will be going by private transport to the Greater Makalali Reserve and staying 4 days at a private holding within Makalali. We have engaged 2 experienced guides to oversee our stay in Makalali. They add tremendously to the safari experience with their attention to detail, personalities and depth of knowledge, not to mention their culinary talents.
Every day at our two venues in the bush we will be going out with guides in an open Land Cruiser (or similar vehicle) for several hours in the morning and again in the late afternoon hunting for game sightings. Before your trip is over you will have many opportunities to observe elephant, giraffe, lion, buffalo, hippo and a wide variety of other African wildlife. Be sure to bring along a good digital camera (high resolution, with good zoom and video capability) so you can to capture some of the amazing wildlife we will see. But also be sure to put the cameras aside from time to time to just soak in the experience. We never tire of seeing wildlife in the bush, but our goal is to have your appetite for games drives completely sated so you will be ready for other experiences if you decide to stay on in Africa after the safari.
Flights to and from Africa are not included and we must arrange our own. What guidance can you give for arranging these flights?
On the first day of your 2017 or 2018 safari the group will meet at 10AM at the Hotel Verde adjacent to the Cape Town Airport. Please arrange your flights to arrive in Cape Town on or before this time. At the end of the safari we will deliver you to the little Airport in Hoedspruit, SA. Please arrange your departing flight for noon from Hoedspruit on the final day of your safari.
The group will take a flight within South Africa to go from Cape Town to our bush locations. In order to insure the entire group is on the same flight, we will make this reservation for you, pay for the flight and invoice you for it (typically $200-250 US) when the second half of your payment is due about 45 days prior to arrival. By using Orbitz, Kayak, Expedia and others, Camilla can currently make coach reservations for round trip flights from Seattle well under $1500. To and from East Coast locations flights can be under $1000. So we estimate the total cost of your flights will be no more than $1200-1700 per person to include the internal flight, unless you fly business or first class. To allow us to make these reservations for you we will need for you to email us your names (EXACTLY as they appear on your passports) and birthdates.
From the US there are many flights to South Africa. Some go directly to Cape Town, others route you through Johannesburg. We prefer flights that minimize our total travel time and including potential layovers to minimize jet lag. On occasion we have chosen to split our flight into two almost equal legs by stopping in London, Paris or Amsterdam, etc. Spending a few days soaking in one of these intermediate destinations is a nice option.
We recommend coming in to Cape Town at least a day early to get over jet lag and rest for a day prior to beginning the safari. If you choose to come in a day early, we suggest staying at the Hotel Verde which is in sight of the Cape Town Airport and the inception point of the safari (We are usually there, having come in at least day early as well). Some safari trekkers have arrived even earlier to enjoy more of Cape Town, the wine country or even to travel the Garden Route along the coast. There are a myriad of great places to stay should you decide to do so.
What is or is not included in an Academy Safari?
Meals, beer, wine and game drives at our bush locations are all included. All automotive transport and parks fees are included. All beer, wine, breakfasts and one catered dinner at our villa in Cape Town are included. All air transport, meals taken away from our villa in Cape Town, any hard liquor and tips for guides and maids are not included.
Do I need to get a Visa or shots to enter South Africa?
US passport holders (and visitors from most modern western countries) get an automatic 90 day visa upon entry into South Africa. Note: Make sure your passport is current - has at least six months remaining before expiration from your date of departure from South Africa - and your passport will need at least two un-stamped pages on arrival.
Currently there are no required shots for entry into South Africa. However, you should consult your own physician concerning any shots that you may want to update and possible prophylactic measures to take for malaria (Health Information for Travelers to South Africa - Traveler view | Travelers' Health | CDC). Be sure to consider both South Africa and any other countries you may pass through or choose to visit when planning. Camilla and I took malaria pills on our first visit to South Africa's bush years ago but have not since. But this remains an important decision you must make personally.
I see my deposit is not refundable if I commit and cannot come on safari for some reason and you cannot find a replacement. Why is this? How can I protect myself?
Academy safaris are small consisting of only 5 couples each. This makes them more intimate and allows us to secure small venues in their entirety for the group. A failure by any single person to come is significant. We will do our best to find a replacement for anyone who drops out, but we may not be able to, especially as the departure date draws near. We encourage everyone to protect themselves against every eventuality by acquiring trip insurance for all aspects their trip. Here is a link to a list of providers: Frommers.com's Top 8 Travel Insurance Providers | Frommer's .
It is a long trip to Africa, what do you recommend doing if I want to take advantage of being there by coming early or staying after the safari?
Whether you opt to arrive in Africa before the safari or stay after there are many wonderful things to do, limited only by how long you can stay, what you want to do and how you want to travel. Other people have come in early to Cape Town early to spend extra days in the wine country while recovering from the long flight over. One couple will be visiting Madagascar after a safari. Victoria Falls is certainly a destination many put on their list. The beaches, dive resorts and golf courses along the South Africa's warm Indian Ocean can provide a completely different kind of relaxation. For a really unique beach/dive experience one could easily engage a driver or rent a 4X4 to drive to the Mozambique coast. The almost totally unspoiled Mozambique coastline has a sprinkling of rustic beach/dive camps worth a visit. In that vein, a short flight to the Seychelles might also provide a wonderful, more upscale beach experience. We have yet to go to the Seychelles but it is definitely on our list.
If your appetite for wildlife hasn't been sated by our 7 days in the bush, a flight into the Okavango Delta would provide a rich and different experience in lush riverine terrain. If time permits, the high, red dunes of Sossusvlei in Namibia are certainly worth the trip.
Give us an idea of what interests you and how long you can devote to seeing more of Southern Africa and we will be happy to advise you. We get excited just thinking about the possibilities.
What is Academy Safaris? How and why did you start doing these safaris?
We (Pete and Camilla Grimm - USMA 1969) first visited Africa in 1996 traveling on safari with our second daughter, Lisa, who had taken a semester abroad in Kenya. Our older daughter Kelcey moved to South Africa in 2001 to commit her life to conservation and now owns the 25 square mile wildlife sanctuary called Lapolosa Wilderness in Mpumalanga. In addition to travels in South Africa, Namibia and Botswana, we managed Lapolosa Wilderness for Kelcey for two years. We are also the founding directors of the Lion Foundation, a 501(c)3 US non-profit. Enkosini Eco Experience, managed by Kelcey, is the arm of the Lion Foundation that has placed hundreds of volunteers in self-funding conservation projects all over South Africa, Namibia and Botswana annually since 2001.
Academy Safaris was born in 2013 when we decided to invite some American friends to come experience the Africa we had come to love. Each year thereafter we held a single safari for USMA grads and their wives. In 2017 demand from interested grads, their families and friends caused them to offer several more. We host each Academy Safari personally.
Are your safaris only for Academy couples, or can I invite a non-grad friend to come along?
Grads are welcome to invite couples who are friends or relatives to accompany them.
Academy Safaris are designed for 5 couples. Can a single person go on an Academy safari?
The safaris are designed for couples. A grad single or class widow is welcome to invite a friend or non grad to accompany them. If a last-minute opening were to occur, we might be able to accommodate a single or put two flexible single men or women together. A single would need to be able to decide to come with as little as a month’s notice. In the case of a single not-sharing there will be a $1000 single supplement. Please contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org to go on the list of interested singles.
Are Academy Safaris always limited to 5 couples or could you accommodate a larger group for a mini-reunion of family holiday?
It is possible for us to custom tailor an Academy Safari for a mini-reunion, company-class reunion or family excursion. Contact us by email at email@example.com if you have an interest in a custom-tailored safari.