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Tracking South Africa's Big Game: Bargains

October 25, 1998|LUCY IZON | Izon is a Toronto-based freelance writer. She can be reached at

Budget travelers who want to include South Africa in their travel plans can get information about safety issues by monitoring government travel advisories over the Internet. Those traveling independently also may want to take advantage of services provided by the South African Youth Hostel Assn. (SAYHA), which operates low-cost package tours in three gateway cities.

The SAYHA "City Discovery Packages" include three nights' dormitory accommodation and two full days of touring in each location. The Johannesburg version, which costs $99, includes a one-day tour that takes you to a lion reserve, to Sun City (famous for its casino) and on an afternoon drive through Pilanesberg Game Park. On the second day guests stop by an African "mutt" (medicine) shop to learn about traditional healing and beliefs; visit the South African Breweries Centennial Centre; tour Museum Africa; and ride up 50 floors to the top of the Carlton Centre for a view of the countryside. Then it's on to Gold Reef City, an authentic reproduction of Johannesburg at the turn of the century, where there's an opportunity to go down a mine shaft for an additional $6.

The "Durban City Discovery Package," which also costs $99, begins with an introduction to the lifestyle and culture of the Zulu nation with a walk through the Valley of 1,000 Hills. Stops are made at villages where you join a local family for a traditional Zulu meal. The second day of touring includes a visit to the KwaMuhle Museum, which is dedicated to the history of apartheid. Then there's a city walk through the Indian market and a visit to new low-cost housing projects. Part of the tour is by foot, and you join a local family for lunch.

The "Cape Town City Discovery Package" costs $131. The first day is spent exploring the Wineland regions, stopping for tastings at several wineries and enjoying a picnic lunch before going on to one of the local townships for a historical orientation on African culture and a visit with local residents. The trip back to Cape Town offers a view of famous Table Mountain from across Table Bay. The second day is spent exploring the Atlantic coast. At Hout Bay you have a choice of wandering around the fish market and visiting shops or taking an optional cruise over to Seal Island for $4. Then it's on to the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, where you have the choice of touring by bus or bike.

The SAYHA packages include dormitory accommodations. If twin/double rooms are available you can pay a supplement and upgrade. Picnic lunches are included in the Cape Town and Durban packages. To book before leaving North America, contact Goway Travel, telephone (800) 387-885O, fax (800) 665-4432.

The South Africa Youth Hostel Assn. was founded in 1954. There are now 40 affiliated hostels in the cities and main tourist centers of South Africa. The facilities vary from resort-style hostels with swimming pools and lots of amenities to rural locations where accommodations are in rondavels (beehive huts) that sleep up to four people. Hostels offer travel services, cooking facilities and a TV lounge. Some hostels can book you onto safaris, surfing excursions, big-game tours, white-water rafting trips and ethnic tours.

For more information, contact the SAYHA at 3rd Floor, St. George's House, 73 St. George's Mall, Cape Town 8001, Internet

Young travelers also would be wise to invest in a detailed guidebook. A 672-page third edition of "South Africa, Lesotho & Swaziland" (Lonely Planet, $21.95) is an up-to-date source of information.

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