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Travelling in South Africa with load shedding

Someone asked me recently how I explain load shedding to my overseas tourists and I realised that I do not. The tourists that travel with me stay in luxury or boutique hotels and upmarket game lodges, all of whom are well prepared for load shedding. When the lights go out, the back-up systems kick in, and there is not even a second of darkness.

And yet, as I walked home the other night in the almost dark, I realised that of course I should be explaining load shedding. And warning people of the disruptions that there may be, noting that load shedding will not spoil a holiday in any way.

So firstly, what is load-shedding?

Sad to say, South Africa does not generate enough electricity. And so to avoid overloading the systems and having total blackouts, we have controlled blackouts. We know that the power will go off for a certain amount of hours per day, at different times and in different areas. The load shedding schedules change daily, sometimes the power is off for two hours, sometimes four, and sometimes once or twice a day. South Africans have had to prepare for these hours of no electricity, either with generators or inverters, and for us it is a bit of a pain in the butt. And an expense. It’s not good for the economy and it is not good for business. But we keep things ticking over.

What to expect during load-shedding

Most hotels and guesthouses have generators, even the small ones. When you make a booking, ask your hotel about back-up systems. If you book with me, I will always put you in a place that is well prepared so that you barely notice. A bit of load shedding in the game reserve doesn't even count, it's all dim lighting and natural beauty anyway, but the lodges are also prepared. And any guides we book for you will be ahead of load shedding schedules so if they need to make any changes or special plans, they can.

To make it easy for you, we suggest:-

  • Bring a power bank. It’s a good idea, whenever or wherever you travel, to do this.

  • Keep phones and computers charged; I never let mine get below 20%, light or no light.

  • Travel with a headlamp. Not so much for your hotel or game lodge, but if you are walking back from a restaurant and the streets are dark, it might be helpful.

  • Maybe don't walk back from a restaurant. We can book transfers for you.

  • If the streets are dark, be careful with your valuables.

  • Be careful anyway, as in any big city.

  • Download the ESP, Eskom Se Push app. You get load shedding schedules ahead of time, wiith a bit of humour thrown in.

  • Sometimes there are traffic jams if the traffic lights are down.

  • And sometimes it can be tricky to get phone signal, but not usually.

  • And don’t ever panic. The lights always come back on. Eek. I hope.

Load-shedding is something you should know happens, but also know that as a tourist, you are really okay. South Africa is beautiful and we might have the odd black out or two, how dare you Eskom, but as a tourist we know you are hardly affected and will have the most incredible time.

Come visit!

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