We are often asked about safe places to travel in Africa. Safety, now more than ever before, is on most traveler’s minds in the difficult times that we live in. We believe that by informing our travelers to the best of our ability, the safer, better prepared, and happier your vacation will be.
When travelling to any exotic destination – such as Africa – there are of course a number of other considerations to take into account when going on safari such as the presence of large, wild animals like lion and elephant (many of the safari lodges are unfenced within the reserve and national parks where wildlife roam freely). Malaria, as well as transport and cultural issues are also considerations.
Botswana, Namibia, Tanzania, South Africa and Zambia tick all of the safety boxes, but by following these safety tips, travelling anywhere throughout Southern and East Africa can be a safe and richly rewarding experience.
- Water: Tap water is safe to drink in South Africa’s urban areas however we recommend drinking bottled water in urban areas in other African countries. The lodges and safari camps that we book will offer purified water, whilst lodges located in remote areas will always ensure that guests have access to bottled or purified water.
- Dehydration: Dehydration is one of the most common ailments, and Africa has one of the world’s hottest climates. Not drinking enough fluids, overheating, or doing continuous exercise for a long period without drinking fluids all lead to dehydration. We advise our guests to pack electrolyte replacement sachets (to be added to bottled water) into their safari first aid kit, in case of dehydration.
- Food: The food at our recommended luxury hotels and safari lodges is always superb and of a high standard. Even the wholesome and creative ‘bush cuisine’ prepared by safari camp chefs in the middle of nowhere is worthy of the numerous accolades received. Recently one of our safari clients shared that her hyper-allergic-fussy-eater son loved the chef’s cooking and really thrived whilst being on safari. In the major cities and wine regions, you are in for a treat as Cape Town alone boasts two entries on the World’s Best Restaurants list!
- Hat And Sunblock: Wherever you are travelling to in Africa, summer or winter, make sure that you always apply a sunblock and wear a hat during the day as the African sun is known to be unforgiving.
- Inoculations And Vaccines: The best person to speak to for advice on country-specific vaccines and inoculations is your local doctor. Vaccinations (or childhood vaccine boosters) for cholera, polio, tetanus, meningitis, typhoid, and hepatitis A and B are strongly recommended as a precautionary measure as medical services and facilities may be limited in Africa. If you are planning on travelling into East Africa (particularly Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda) you will be asked to show your yellow fever inoculation certificate, even if you are just in transit via Nairobi. Yellow fever vaccinations are valid for ten years and need to be administered at least ten days prior to departure. We suggest having your vaccines done before travelling, as some vaccines may make you feel unwell for a few days. Note that you have to travel with your yellow fever certificate card.
- Be Malaria Savvy: Speak to your local doctor about which anti-malarial prophylactics will be best suited to the country you are planning to visit. Some malaria prophylactics may have side effects. Small children and pregnant women should avoid malaria areas completely. There is now a children’s equivalent of the Malarone based malaria prophylactic. It is important to complete the course of anti-malaria pills you are administered. The best defense against mosquito bites is to use the mosquito nets and ceiling fans provided in your room and to apply insect repellant to exposed skin in the early morning and late afternoon (before game drives) and again before dinner in the evening. If you seek a completely risk-free destination there are plenty of malaria-free regions in Southern Africa to choose from such as the Eastern Cape and the Madikwe Game Reserve, as well as Namibia and the Indian Ocean islands.
- Use Common Sense: As in many other destinations around the world, you will need to use a fair dose of common sense when travelling in Southern and East Africa. Don’t walk around deserted areas after dark, secure your personal possessions, never leave your baggage unattended, keep your car doors locked, make use of your hotel safe, don’t flash your expensive camera equipment, jewelry or cash around unnecessarily, and know where you are going before you head out. We recommend that you keep a copy of your passport number, airline tickets, and credit card numbers in a separate place other than your handbag. Taking photographs of border crossings or government buildings is not advisable. Be sure to consult your guide or hotel concierge as these will have insider knowledge of the country that you are visiting.
- Be Respectful: Take care to treat the destinations, their cultures, and religions with the respect that they deserve such as the Masai homelands and Zanzibar. Ensure that you dress appropriately in these sensitive regions (clothing that covers the body up to the collarbone, up to the knees and elbows) and don’t take intrusive photographs unless you have asked permission beforehand. In most parts of Africa, it is deemed offensive not to ask before taking a photograph of another person – especially in this Instagram and Facebook influenced world where we feel compelled to photograph and share everything!
- Contact An Expert: It’s always best to speak to a safari expert well ahead of time to pre-arrange all of your personal logistics such as airport transfers. We have on-the-ground knowledge of the best service providers and will be able to help you plan an effortless, stress-free vacation.
Make Use Of Private Transport: We don’t recommend that you use public transport in most African countries (such as minibus taxis, local buses, and trains) as these can’t be guaranteed to be safe. Rather book a reputable taxi service through your hotel desk or make use of scheduled tours or enlist the services of a private guide.
- Know Where To Go: It is always a good idea to familiarize yourself on how to get from A to B to ensure there are no nasty surprises. Africa is a vast country with remote areas that may be difficult to access. To visit Kenya’s legendary wildlife reserves (for example) you will land at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi and will then have to transfer across Nairobi to Wilson Airport (about an hour and a half’s drive away).
- Self-Drive Vacations: Both South Africa and Namibia are ideal countries for self-driving with their wide open spaces, well sign-posted roads, great infrastructure, and excellent accommodation options. We recommend that you plan your self-drive journey carefully to allow enough time to arrive before it gets dark. If you are planning on driving through Namibia (one of the safest countries in Africa) you will need at least two spare tires as blowouts are common on the long, stony roads typical of Namibia.
The great beauty of being on safari in this continent is that you can experience the wilderness in its natural state. Travelling safely through the incredible landscapes of Africa with her multitude of wildlife, vast open spaces, and friendly people relies on sensible preparation and precautions that in general you would apply when visiting any other adventure destination. At African Safaris we believe that by being well informed about your destination and seeking advice from your health professional prior to your departure, coupled with our extensive safari expertise we can tailor your trip to ensure that you have an incredible and safe trip to Africa.