South Africa Lures the Adventurous

Lucy Izon is a Toronto-based freelance writer. Internet

New "youth travel" opportunities have opened up in South Africa.

For independent travelers, Hostelling International South Africa (HISA) has introduced three-day tour packages in four major cities. And for those who prefer traveling in a group with a guide, Contiki Holidays has teamed up with Virgin Atlantic to offer travelers a $200 discount off South Africa tours booked before Aug. 31. Contiki has introduced new tours that visit Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

HISA's "South Africa Unplugged" city packages are available in four major cities, and each package includes a transfer from the airport, three nights' accommodation (dormitory or double room), two continental breakfasts and a day tour.

The "Cape Town Package" costs about $65 per person for dormitory accommodations or $165 for two people in a private room. Day tour choices include visiting Cape Point or a township tour, wine lands tour, whale watching, mountain biking or "kloofing" (you hike into a gorge and jump into pools from heights of six to 40 feet).

The Johannesburg package costs $67 in a dormitory or $168 for the double room. Day tour opportunities include a city tour, Soweto, Gold Reef City (reproduction of Johannesburg at the turn of the century) or Sun City (casinos).

The Pretoria package costs $70 in the dormitory, $154 for the double room. Day tours include a city and diamond mine tour or visits to a tribal village, the Cheetah Research Center, Soweto or Sun City and Pilanesberg National Park.

The Durban package, which costs $68, is available only with dormitory accommodations.

On the HISA Internet site at you can find information on the hostels plus a section on travel safety in Africa.

For more information, contact HISA, 3rd Floor, St. Georges House, 73 St. Georges Mall, P.O. Box 4402, Cape Town 8000, South Africa; telephone 011-27-21-4-242-511, fax 011-27-21-4-244-119.

For those who would be more comfortable in a group with a guide, Contiki Holidays, which caters to travelers ages 18 to 35, is offering a $200 discount on its "Rainbow Nation" tour. The tour runs from Cape Town to Johannesburg (you can go in either direction) and includes visits to the Motswari Game Reserve, Kruger National Park and Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, plus the cities of Durban and Port Elizabeth. The weeklong air/land (from New York) packages start at $2,444 and include accommodations in superior tourist-class hotels, daily breakfasts and several dinners, a driver and tour escort. Contiki has also recently introduced two new programs that visit Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Its 15-day "Desert and Delta" tour, priced from $1,355 plus air, is the most adventurous because it includes nine nights camping in tents erected by the participants, sometimes outside national parks. Starting in Zambia, the tour includes the Sossusvlei Dunes (some of the largest sand dunes in the world), Etosha and Chobe national parks, the Okavango Delta and Victoria Falls.

The 12-day "Zambezi Discovery" tour starts in Victoria Falls and includes houseboating on Lake Kariba, a three-day canoe safari and visits to the Great Zimbabwe Ruins and Hwange National Park. The cost is from $1,345 plus air fare.

Both trips can be combined for the "Grand Safari" tour for from $2,925 plus air fare. Passengers travel in 24-seat vehicles and are accompanied by a tour manager, cook and guides.

For more information, see a travel agent or call Contiki at (800) CONTIKI, Internet

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