The Safari Experts



These days electricity in Africa is a good deal more reliable than it used to be. The vast majority of travellers should experience little or no inconvenience due to interruptions to supplies. Nevertheless you do need to be prepared for potential power outages.

Similarly you need to understand that some more remote lodges and camps may only offer centralised charging facilities, may not operate power around the clock and may not permit you to use high current devices such as hair-dryers. Some few bivouac camps do not have any electricity.

Always bring multiple spare batteries to provide you with at least 48hrs of operation for your cameras and other critical devices.

Voltage and frequency ...

Electricity across Africa is 230Vac and 50Hz.

These days most electronic devices are designed to cope with this, but do check your equipment specifications if your voltage or frequency differs back home.

Power outlets ...

Several different power outlet formats are used across Africa.

Although many lodges provide plug converters for the use of guests, we strongly recommend that all travellers carry their own. These should be purchased in advance of travel as they are often not available in country and are often out of stock at airports.

South Africa is the only country to have its own plug and outlet specification, which uses three chunky round pins in a triangle layout. This is also widely used in countries which have historically been under the influence of South Africa, such as Lesotho, Swaziland, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia.

The UK plug format of three large rectangular pins is most commonly encountered in countries which were previously British colonies and protectorates, notably Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Botswana.

The European plug format of two small circular pins is most commonly encountered in countries which were previously European colonies, notably Rwanda, Mozambique and Namibia.

The format used in each country is provided at the bottom of the sections linked to below ...

South Africa

On grid ...

Most lodges in towns, cities and more developed rural areas are usually on mains or utility electricity supply and expect to offer 24 hour electricity. However in many areas mains power is not particularly reliable and back-up generators are widely used. This can cause temporary outages and, in some locations, considerable noise nuisance.

In our experience electricity can never quite be taken for granted anywhere, you should always be ready and prepared to accept power outages and the inconvenience that they can bring about. For example when a lodge switches to back-up power it may only be able to bring essential services such as lighting back on-line, whilst heavier current devices such as air-conditioners may be left without power. Also some lodges may choose to only run their back-up systems for peak hours and switch them off at night, so without fans and air-con, which can be very uncomfortable. Generally speaking this type of inconvenience is more likely the further you go down the price spectrum ... at high and very high priced places you can usually expect full power outage cover, whilst at lower priced accommodation you simply have to be grateful for anything. In the middle can be pot luck.

We estimate that over 99% of visitors do not encounter serious power difficulties during their trip. But for those who do it really can be quite disruptive.

Off grid ...

The vast majority of lodges and camps in safari and rural locations do not have access to mains electricity and instead run power from generators or solar installations. The larger the lodge the more robust these electrical systems are likely to be. So a fifty room safari hotel is likely to have a serious diesel generator capable of powering all manner of high current devices including air-conditioners, water heaters and hair-dryers. In this type of facility all power is likely to be 24hrs.

A smaller camp is more likely to have a solar power installation which is only capable of powering low current devices such as lighting and electronics. Inverters in the solar plant convert the power to the usual 230Vac and 50Hz, so devices can be plugged in for charging in the usual way. Power outlets are less likely to be available in the rooms, more often there is a central charging station. Power is less likely to be 24hrs. High current devices such as air-conditioners and hair-dryers will most likely not be supported.

Ironically non-mains electricity tends to be a good deal more reliable than mains power since it is often the utilities which are the weakest link in the supply chain.

Charging electronics ...

Assuming that you have equipped yourself with suitable plug converters, the next most important thing is to ensure that you have sufficient spare batteries for your electronic devices such as cameras.

You need to plan for the worst. We always carry enough battery capacity to last us through at least 48hrs, which allows for a night stop where there is no electricity for whatever reason. If you are on a multiple day trek then you may need to carry even more capacity. It is probably also worth factoring in the possibility that one battery set will become lost or broken.

You also need to consider the possibility that battery charging may only be available during daylight hours, when you may be out on safari. So you need to be able to leave a set of batteries back in camp on charge, whilst you are out with another in the camera and at least one other in reserve.

As for the possibility of your charging device failing ... well we always carry a spare one of those too, but in many years of hard reconnaissance work we can only recall one occasion where this paid off. Even then we could probably have borrowed time on another guest's charger since our cameras are all from commonly used manufacturers.

Other items ...

Refer to the packing lists section for other related items such as matches, candles, torch batteries etc.
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