Traversing SA’s great outdoors: what tourists really need to know

Crime may be one of the biggest concerns for tourists visiting South Africa, but with foreigners happily frolicking about in our game parks and on our hiking trails – only for some of them to come to a sticky end – RA’EESA PATHER offers three handy pieces of advice to help all of us make it out of our encounters with nature alive.

1. If you’re driving in a lion’s den, keep your windows closed
Real lions aren’t like Simba from The Lion King. They are hungry, carnivorous creatures, and if you give them the opportunity, their bite might live up to their roar.

On Monday, a lioness attacked a US tourist in a car at the Lion Park in Johannesburg, Gauteng. Park officials say they have strict signs warning visitors to keep their windows up, but the woman and her tour guide reportedly had their windows down, and a lioness, seeing the invitation, lunged into the car, killing the woman and injuring the tour guide who tried to save her.

Yes, lions are majestic animals, and you should definitely come see them. When you do, remember to follow the rules. And be warned: South Africans can be a rather tough crowd when it comes to common sense and wildlife.

2. The more the merrier when hiking 

Venturing out alone for me-time can be a great experience. But don’t do it on the mountain. Cape Town’s Table Mountain may be one of the new seven wonders of the world, but the great big rock can shake any hikers who don’t follow the guide books off its cliff.

In October 2014, the body of a Japanese tourist was found on the mountain after he had reportedly fallen 30m. The 23-year-old had hiked alone the previous night, straying from the trail. The weather had been misty on the night he hiked, and because of poor visibility, the search and rescue teams had had to suspend their operation at one point.

At the time, South Africa National Parks (SanParks) regional spokesperson Merle Collins told the Cape Argus: “We do not advise anybody to walk alone, especially if the weather was like it was.” Collins added that even in “perfect conditions” hikers should refrain from walking alone.

According to SanParks, hiking in a group of four is the best way to get to the top.  The organisation also advises that hikers stick to the beaten track instead of wandering off course.

Go forth and summit! But check out the rest of the safety tips from SanParks – or the mountains may end up conquering you.

3. Accidents happen in shark cages too
Shark cage diving is generally quite safe, but sometimes thrill-seekers can get a little more adventure than they thought they would. Tourist Byran Plummer captured footage in Gansbaai, in the Western Cape, of a shark ramming its head through a diving cage, getting up close and personal with his Canadian friends inside the diving vessel.

The video went viral and the tour company Great White Shark Tours reported the incident to the  Great White Shark Protection Foundation.

Another shark cage incident took place last year when a widow from the US sued shark cage-diving business White Shark Projects, the boat called Shark Team, and the boat’s captain for $2.2-million after the boat capsized in Kleinbaai, killing her husband and a friend. Witnesses said that the seas had looked “quite rough”. A big wave had overturned the boat during the expedition.

While it’s unlikely that anything out of the ordinary would happen during a shark-cage dive, listening to the safety briefing before the dive is crucial. It’s also important to remain inside the cage at all times – there’s thrill-seeking and then there’s death-seeking. The thrills are much more fun than going head-to-head with a shark. If you have concerns about the weather, let your instructor know.

– Featured image: By Brent Newhall via Flickr.