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Money

In South Africa we still - for some unexplained reason - have exchange control legislation. This means that South Africans are not allowed to have foreign currency without a good reason. This also means, of course, that shops and hotels unless specially licensed, cannot accept foreign currency. If you bring Euros or Dollars (US but not Zimbabwean !!) you will have to find a bank authorised to accept and change them - charging you a high fee to do so and taking a lot of patience as they fill out all the forms. ATMs are available everywhere, even in Ponta do Ouro (though that particular machine seems to have lots of 'out of service' notices). The ATMs work as in Europe and equally quickly plus at low charges. Visa, Masercard etc BUT NOT American Express, are accepted throughout. Please take the precaution of advising your bank that you will be using your card in South Africa. Some European banks seem to believe South Africa is close to Nigeria - the scam centre of the world.

In Southern Mozambique, businesses buy most of their stock in Mangusi just over the border in Zululand South Africa. They are more than happy for you to pay them in South African Rands rather than Mozambican Meticais.

Health

As well as it's National Health Services, South Africa has a network of Private hospitals which are equal to any offered in Europe. They are, however, expensive commensurate with the quality of service which they supply. You are strongly advised to take out travel health insurance and ensure that it is valid in South Africa. Mozambique has extremely limited healthcare service available. Ponta do Ouro is only 11 kilometres from the South African border so for any serious health problems, transport will be arranged to the nearest South African hospital with the level of service a client needs.

We highly recommend DAN Diver insurance.

Malaria

Brian suffers from malaria which he contracted firstly when living in the Belgian Congo in the 1960's and later again when living in Tamatave, Madagascar. He has the greatest respect for that disease but is adamant that the World Health Organisation maps showing northern Zululand as a malaria risk area are 50 years out of date.

For decades the Natal Provincial Government has run a malarial mosquito extermination programme (apparantly using the banned DDT spray !!) which has been extremely effective. In the 35 years that Brian has lived in Zululand, he has never met anyone local who has taken any anti malaria preventative drugs nor has he met anyone who has contracted Malaria in Natal or in Ponta do Ouro, Mozambique. North of Ponta, malaria is rampant and precautions essential - but we do not take clients there. The most effective preventative, of course, is long sleeves and long trousers after sunset when the 'mozzies' are out !

Many anti malarial drugs cause unpleasant side effects. Larium is a total no-no for divers. We have personal experience of experienced, skilled divers who have taken Larium and become completely disorientated under water becoming a danger to themselves and people diving with them.

Aids

Widely available information on the scale of the AIDs infection rates among the African population in Southern Africa are in no way exaggerated. We are definitely not a 'sex Tourism' region and assure you that Russian roulette with only one of six chambers loaded is far safer !!!

Water

All tapwater in South Africa is safe to drink. In fact most bottled water sold in the shops is actually tap water. Mozambique tap water is not filtered or chemically treated and should not be drunk under any circumstances. Bottled water is available in shops and restaurants in Ponta and the ice offered in all the restaurants we use actually comes from Hluhluwe in South Africa and is perfectly safe.

Clothing on land and under water

Our standard Safari takes place in our summer - September to April. The days are warm to hot (25 -35 degrees). Shorts and Crocs with Tee shirt if required is the normal holiday attire. Rain is possible particularly arounf 18h00 - 19h00 though in the hot summer getting a bit wet can be pleasant rather than a problem. Brian carries a plastic raincoat which he very, very rarely uses. Our bush trips are 'in vehicle' so heavy bush boots are not required. Good sunglasses, a hat protecting the back of the neck as well as the eyes is highly recommended plus a sun block cream that does not burn if dislodged into the eyes during a dive. The latter point is worth discussing with your pharmacist. Some creams are fine for the first 5 miniutes of a dive then start to burn the eyes until one can barely see -- not pleasant.

The sea water in September is 22-24 degrees rising to 26-28 in January to April. Most people dive in 3 or 5 mm wetsuits.

Sardine Run is in our winter - June and July. Day topside temperatures are a pleasant 25 degrees though evenings can be a cool 18. Long trousers in the evening and a pullover are a good idea. The water is a different story. The best Sardine Run conditions require the seawater to be 18 degrees. South Africans dive in 5 mm wetsuits with chicken vests - often 2 chicken vests with hoods -except for Brian and son Peter who took advantage of meeting the MD of Waterproof Wetsuits of Sweden at Dusseldorf BOOT Show to buy his excellent semi dry suits. They both claim this was the 'best buy' of their lives. If you have access to a semi dry or even a drysuit (even if they are not produced by 'Waterproof', be sure to bring them along.

Visas

South African visas are granted free on arrival to anyone holding an EEC passport. Mozambican visas are available at the border but are single entry. Visas from Mozambican Embassies are normally multi entry and about the same price as the visa obtained at the border. On most trips this is not an issue. On the rare occaisions that we have a really bad sea at Ponta do Ouro, it makes a big difference. The Tembe Elephant Reserve is just over the border in South Africa. It is a huge park and contains most of the worlds remaining 'Tuskers'. This is a 200 year old term describing an elephant with tusks on either side weighing 100+ Imperial Pounds. That means tusks almost reaching to the ground on an elephant probably 100 years old. The park has excellent lions and is unique in it's sand bush. You would think such a gem would be heavily visited but 'au contraire' very few South Africans have even heard of it and it gets few visitors (which Brian loves as we usually see no other tourists when we visit the Park on that rare day that diving is not OK at Ponta). Guests with Embassy issued visas can go to Tembe at no cost and return to Ponta whereas visas issued at the border need to be renewed at a cost today of Euro 65. The border guards on the Mozambique side are excellent guys and often look the other way when guests spend a few hours in SA but if senior officers are around, they cannot help and visa costs are charged.

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