June 29

Is it Safe to Travel to South Africa During the Third Wave of Covid-19?


By David Ryan on
June 29, 2021

South Africa has moved to alert level 4 and introduced a new set of Covid-19 restrictions today, Tuesday, 29 June 2021, to help the country curb the spread of the virus. Many of our Rhino Guests planning to travel in the next 90 days have since asked whether it’s still possible and safe to travel to South Africa.

The short answer is YES! However, here is what we believe our guests should know as they consider travelling through July and August 2021. This is the period in which we expect South Africa to reach and surpass this third wave peak. For the latest travel updates, please visit our Travel with Confidence pages

International Borders Remain Open

South Africa is still welcoming international arrivals. Image Credit: Felix Studios

South Africa’s, and Sub-Saharan Africa’s, international borders all remain open, as they have been since late October 2020. Many international airlines have and continue to resume flights to South Africa through July and August. 

We’re also delighted that many report high demand for travel into South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa. So you can still get here – and you can get in!

International Travel Requirements to South Africa

Today, the world may be a very different place. However, one thing that will never change is that our feet still itch to explore Africa’s wide-open spaces and wildlife. We’re delighted that vaccinated guests are once again joyfully reaching for their passports. The protocol remains unchanged for your arrival and exit into South Africa and her neighbouring countries. All you require is a negative PCR test, with results not older than 72 hours at the time of departure.

How Bad is Covid-19 in South Africa?

The highly contagious Delta variant is the dominant strain of coronavirus in South Africa now, as it is in over 80 countries worldwide. This B.1.617.2 variant is driving the third wave of infections here in South Africa, as vaccination programs continue to roll out.

South Africa’s socio-economic construct is that the majority of her 58 million people live in confined high-density urban settlements. Curbing the spread of the virus is thus exponentially more challenging in comparison to other countries around the world.  

The concentration on infections – is still in South Africa’s smallest but most populous province, home to Johannesburg and the country’s administrative capital, Pretoria, which are the industrial and financial epicentres of South Africa. The country’s epidemiologists expect that Gauteng will start to show a peaking pattern over the next few weeks.

Vaccinations in South Africa continue to gain momentum. Several mass vaccination sites are now open, and millions of vaccines are expected to be delivered in the next few weeks, with teachers and the 35+ groups now eligible from mid July. 

While Gauteng, and notably Johannesburg Airport (OR Tambo Airport), is the country’s main entry and exit point, it’s used primarily for transit purposes. Gauteng Province is a business and not a leisure destination for international guests, and therefore easily avoidable without impacting your holiday experience. Other than a requisite airport hotel overnight, we are making every effort to keep our guests out of Gauteng.  

Melhor época para viajar para a África: seu melhor calendário de viagens para a África
The updated restrictions have very little impact on safari experiences. Image Credit: Felix Studios

How Will The Restrictions Affect Me?

As vaccination programmes continue to roll out, the best defence in curbing the spread of the virus continues to be social distancing and wearing masks. Southern Africa’s tourism industry is characterised by small boutique lodges and hotels that have been at the forefront of developing and implementing Covid-19-friendly safety protocols.

While wearing a mask is mandatory, it won’t necessarily affect you during your visit to one of the many National Parks or lodges South Africa offers. Characterised by wide-open spaces, open safari vehicles, and a low density of people, these well-executed safety protocols means there couldn’t be a better environment than the African bush to holiday through this pandemic.

If you’re visiting one of South Africa’s urban area’s like Cape Town over the next two weeks, you’re likely to be more impacted by the 9pm to 4am curfew that affects restaurant operations, as well as the alcohol ban. From experience, we can tell you the alcohol bans are short-lived and not designed to impact international guests. A ban on alcohol sales does not mean no alcohol!

South Africa’s Health Care System

South Africa has no shortage of ICU beds. A little known fact is that South Africa has more ICU beds than the United Kingdom. South Africa’s private health care system is also one of the best globally, rated on a par with Switzerland. So should you be unfortunate enough to contract Covid-19, be it at a lodge or in the city, and require medical assistance, rest assured you will find yourself in the capable hands of some of the best doctors and hospitals in the world. 

While private health care in South Africa (and Namibia and Botswana) are world-class, they are also expensive. For this reason, we recommend all guests travelling, both now and in the future, take comprehensive Medical Insurance. Rhino Africa has partnered with a global leader in this field,  Global Rescue, and your Rhino Travel Expert will ensure you are fully covered for complete peace of mind.

Perception is Everything

South Africa has both a Private and Public Health Care System. Therefore, do not create your perception on media reports around Public Health care! The sad reality of South African society is that the most effective response in ensuring South Africa has sufficient beds to handle increased hospitalisations in the public health care system through these peaks is the temporary alcohol sales ban.

This is because it significantly reduces trauma causes in hospitals – everything from road accidents to domestic violence. When combined with postponing elective surgeries, it’s proven as the most effective measure in coping with the consequences of Covid-19. Currently, only Gauteng hospitals are feeling significantly increased pressure as a result of increased hospitalisations.

These alcohol bans have proved highly effective but are traditionally short in nature, implemented only over the expected peaks.

South Africa is still welcoming international guests. Image Credit: Felix Studios

What About Those Guests Who Are Vaccinated?

The World Health Organisation says that all approved Covid-19 vaccines currently in distribution provide at least some protection against all new virus variants. This is because these vaccines elicit a broad immune response involving a range of antibodies and cells. Therefore, changes or mutations in the virus should not make vaccines ineffective. 

Researchers continue to collect and analyse data on new variants of the Covid-19 virus. They do this with the expectation that, if these vaccines prove to be less effective against one or more variants, it will be possible to change the composition of the vaccines to protect against these variants.

Escape to Africa

Our borders are open, with the highest safety protocols in place across our travel ecosystem. And African Travel is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves and the world around us. 

We have isolated ourselves for so long as we reach for that fictitious pot of gold – When to Travel!  We now recognise that Covid-19 will be with us for a very long time. However, we also see that it’s now manageable through vaccines and treatment.

Unique safari experiences await travellers in South Africa. Image Credit: Silvan Safari

Booking with Rhino Africa 

As travel continues to change, considerations about everything from health to financial security are front of mind. As Africa’s Leading Safari Operator, established in 2004, we have worked hard to put together an array of exclusive products. 

We focus on giving all our guests complete peace of mind. From the moment they book their tailor-made African holiday to when they depart again. For example, this includes flexible T&Cs to financial protection, PCR tests in the comfort of your hotel or lodge, to comprehensive Travel Insurance. Our Travel Experts have you covered to ensure you can book and travel without any fuss or stress.

Let’s Start Planning

You might find inspiration and everything else you might be looking for on African Travel on our website or blog. Still, from personal experience, I can tell you nothing will ever be as useful as chatting directly to one of our safari Travel Experts. 

Please don’t wait. Africa is open, and we can’t wait to welcome you.

Read more about African travel here:

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About the author 

David Ryan

David makes things happen! With a canny inability to sit still for a minute, it’s a miracle he actually sat down long enough to finish his degree in economics. David is a brave and pioneering entrepreneur with a true passion for Africa - especially Africa's wildlife. With his African Grey parrot by his side, there is more than a hint of the Dolittles about our intrepid leader. Before founding Rhino Africa David spent a number of years earning his stripes and cutting his teeth in the industry. David’s interests include photography and travel, and having travelled extensively through Africa most of the images on the Rhino Africa website hail from his well organised image library!

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