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South African Holiday

TMA Member - Geelong Dr Paul Davey


Dr Paul Davey the medical director of The Travel Medicine Alliance Clinic Travel Health Geelong has recently travelled to South Africa riding a motor bike for three weeks around this amazing country. Here are his thoughts regarding the safety of this destination.

South Africa is a wonderful place for an adventure and a holiday. I decided to travel there after talking to some clients who had recently returned. They had loved their trip but then made the observation that they were glad they had travelled now as they weren't sure of what was going to happen to the country, and to its political stability when Nelson Mandela dies. I have for a long time advised my traveler clients that if they want to travel and the opportunity to go is present then go. If a trip is delayed obstacles can arise and we may never end up going. I decided I should follow my own advice and booked the trip.

Safety in South Africa

Lots of people who haven't been to South Africa expressed concern re the safety of travelling in South Africa. We checked this out with the tour operators who gave very sensible advice.

"Most of the crime that occurs in South Africa takes place in the poor township areas and mainly affects the local people. We recognize that personal safety is an issue. In the big cities precautions are needed and we suggest the following: Don't flaunt wealth; Don't walk around the cities at night; Travel by taxi to destinations at night. With caution you can stop bad experiences happening."

We had a wonderful time in South Africa, and following the above advice and being cautious meant that on no occasion did we feel that our safety was threatened. In the smaller rural towns we perceived no risk at all. The people were amazingly friendly and every South African we met loved their country.

General Advice

Dr Paul Davey has offered two general travel advice suggestions following on from his African Travel.

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Whilst at a private game park in the Kruger National Park region, we met an Australian couple arriving late in the afternoon. They looked exhausted and I asked if they had come far and they explained how they had been staying only about 40 km away but had had to travel 600kms that day. As they were leaving in the morning for the short drive they had mentioned how after visiting the game park they were travelling on to Victoria Falls. They were then asked if they had been vaccinated against Yellow Fever. They hadn't and when told that they wouldn't be permitted back into South Africa unless they were vaccinated they had to make a 300 km trip to a medical centre where they could receive this vaccination. Before leaving Australia they had been to their local doctor and had asked regarding the need for this vaccination. Their doctor had checked regarding this and advised them that it wasn't required. Unfortunately for them the immigration requirement by the South African government changed last year and it is now a compulsory vaccination against Yellow Fever if returning from Victoria Falls.

Travel Insurance is a MUST

During a motor bike trip our lead rider crashed into a truck whilst travelling at 120km/hour. Following this accident and whilst attending to the rider I attended a small medical clinic in Swaziland and then a larger clinic in South Africa before he was evacuated back to Pretoria. Our friend required road ambulance and air ambulance transfer and then open heart surgery to treat his injuries. The local facilities were basic at the level of a school first aid clinic. Transport to first class facilities was essential. The cost of the evacuation and treatment would have been astronomical. Travel Insurance in general and also specific insurance designed to cover the costs associated with increased risk activities be they motor bike riding, or mountain climbing or snow skiing or boarding is essential for all overseas travel.

... Prepared by Dr Paul Davey, Geelong TMA