Stay Safe Tips When Going on an African Safari
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Most people love the idea of going on a safari, it is often listed as one of the top most popular excursions on an African travel bucket list. The idea of seeing wildlife in their natural habitats and getting up close and personal with them is a heartwarming experience. However, one should not forget that these species are by no means gentle.
They’re wild beasts that should be respected, especially when we’re entering into their territory. Safety is of utmost importance on a safari trip, and it’s imperative you listen and take note of the guidelines given to you by your tour guide.
African safari deaths are very uncommon, however all wildlife encounters carry risks due to the unpredictable nature of these wild animals.You can mitigate these risks by going on safari with expert guides who are well-trained in safety procedures. It’s also important to brush up on the general safari rules and safety tips before you head off on your African adventure, to ensure you get the best out of your safari experience and leave a positive impact on the places you visit.
Here are some of the important safety tips you should adhere to while going on safari. Be assured that safari’s are incredibly safe – provided you stick to the rules!
Before you travel to Africa
Ensuring your safety on safari begins before you even leave your house.
Vaccinations and medication
The deadliest animal you’ll encounter on safari is the pesky little mosquito. Be sure to consult a travel doctor for the required vaccinations, stock up on malaria prophylactics and don’t forget to pack a strong mosquito repellent.
You’ll need a yellow fever vaccination for travel to many countries in Africa and will be required to present an International Certificate of Vaccination.
Check this comprehensive list to find out the yellow fever vaccination requirements for your destinations.
What to pack for your safari
Many safari travellers make the mistake of over-packing, so we’ve listed all the essentials to bring, including what to wear, and what to leave at home.
What to wear on safari
Pack comfortable clothes made out of moisture-wicking materials to help combat the heat.
Wear a hat and light, long layers to protect you from prickly plants, stinging insects and reptiles.
Bring a bandanna or scarf that you can wet and wrap around your neck for extra relief in the hot weather. Depending on the season, you’ll also need to pack some warm layers.
It’s imperative to choose comfortable, sturdy shoes such as boots or hard rubber soles. Wear your shoes for at least a month before going on safari so you know they won’t plague you with blisters.
What to take on safari
- Torch or head flashlight
- Mosquito repellent
- Reusable water bottle
- Simple first aid kit
- Waterproof bag
- Sturdy backpack if trekking
- Good quality sunglasses
- Portable chargers
- Extra memory cards for all your incredible photographs
- Travel insurance – essential protection in the unlikely event of safari injuries, illness, and lost or broken possessions
What to leave at home
- Black camera bags – dark bags will heat up your equipment. Bring a light coloured, waterproof bag to keep out the dust, sand and rain.
- Drone cameras – these are illegal in all camps in east Africa.
- Plastic bags – Kenya, Tanzania & Rwanda have banned plastic bags due to their damage to the environment. Even plastic bags for liquids in your hand luggage are illegal so its best to use transparent toiletry bags.
- Camouflage clothing – it’s not necessary for safaris and is not recommended to wear when travelling in southern African countries. It’s also banned in Zimbabwe.
Essential safari safety tips
As the saying goes, “It’s better to be safe, than sorry.” At Interlink Trails, we know this only too well. That’s why we want to equip you with some of our tried and true safari safety tips. They will help you plan a safari without any mishaps.
Follow these safari safety tips to stay out of danger and to boost your chances of spotting some incredible wildlife.
As soon as you confirm your travel plans, take out travel insurance. Select a policy that covers cancellation, medical illness, emergency evacuation and associated hospital treatments. Be sure to take your travel insurance emergency phone numbers and your policy number/details with you.
Your personal safety and security is mostly a matter of common sense. So take the same precautions while travelling in Africa on safari that you would in any major city at home:
- Do not carry large sums of cash (see below for more information on Cash, Credit Cards & ATM’s).
- Carry your cash (plus passport and other travel documents) in a money pouch hidden under your shirt. Keep it out of sight or stowed in your camera bag or knapsack (which should remain in sight at all times).
- Keep a close watch on your personal bags when walking in crowded areas (airports, markets, restaurants and on the street).
- Do not walk alone at night.
- Leave your passport, airline tickets and cash in a safe place (the hotel/lodge safe) when venturing out.
- Keep tempting valuables (including phones, cameras, wallet pouches, handbags) out of sight. Lock them up in the room safe or hand them in to management.
- If possible, leave your jewelry at home.
Always stay within your vehicle
Never stand up or dangle your arms or legs out of the vehicle. Never leave the vehicle. Doing so will provoke the animals, putting everyone at serious risk.
Watch out for low hanging branches
African parks and reserves are full of prickly bushes and wayward tree branches which can hang in the path of the vehicles. This is another good reason to keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle.
A walking safari is an exhilarating experience, allowing you to move at a slower pace and truly immerse in your natural surroundings. Choosing a reputable tour is crucial and we can advise you on the best walking safaris in Africa.
Are walking safaris safe?
As with all safaris and wildlife experiences, walking safaris come with risks. The expert guides go through rigorous training and their chief priority is your safety.
You can heavily reduce your risk of danger simply by listening to your guides instructions at all times. However, animals are unpredictable and things can go wrong, so here are a few extra safari safety tips to follow.
Stay downwind from the animal
It’s important to stay downwind so the animal doesn’t catch your scent. Your guide will instruct you on the best route to walk to ensure you stay downwind.
Walk away slowly
If you are approached by a hostile animal, give it a wide berth and check you aren’t blocking its escape route. Move away slowly, but never turn your back on an animal and never run away, as these movements will aggravate the animal.
If you do come close to an agitated animal, always listen to your guide for the safest course of action.
Walk in a single file
The best way for your walking safari to move about is in a single file about an arm’s length from each other. This way, animals will see you as one unit rather than a herd that can be split up.
It also means that the armed guides up front will have walked the track before you, protecting you from any danger lurking along the path.
Whether it’s your first or tenth time on an African safari, there is a general safari etiquette to follow.
It’s important to be respectful of your guides and fellow travelers so everyone can have an unforgettable safari experience. Brush up on these safari rules and etiquette tips before venturing into the bush.
Manage your expectations
Your safari guides want you to see the best wildlife but there’s no guarantee you’ll spot everything. Animals are unpredictable and often like to remain hidden as they roam freely around the massive reserves.
For many people, African safaris are a once-in-a-lifetime experience and they travel a long way with high expectations. It’s unlikely that you’ll spot the Big Five on your first game drive, so try not to be disappointed and don’t get frustrated with your guide if it’s not possible to find every animal you want to see.
Don’t hog the sightings
It’s good manners to allow everyone a chance to spot the majestic creatures of the African plains. There’s an unwritten rule that everyone gets a 10-15 minute window to view the animals, then move on to let the cars behind you have a turn. It’s also polite to swap seats with people each day.
If you had the best seats yesterday, let someone sit there the next day. Also, don’t go overboard when boasting about your wildlife sightings back at camp, in case other travelers weren’t so lucky!
Choose your travel partners wisely
Most will have people with a range of interests. Some want to spot the Big Five while others may be focused on bird-watching. Respect your fellow travelers wishes to stay and observe certain animals, even if you are not interested.
If you are on a tight schedule and don’t want to be restricted by other travelers, consider doing a private game drive or a self-drive safari. That way, you’ll have full control over how you spend your time in the reserves.
Tip your guide
It’s good practice to tip your guide and the safari lodge staff. If you’re not sure how much to tip, don’t ask them directly. Instead, ask the camp manager as they usually don’t receive tips. An acceptable amount is usually $10 per person per day for your guide and lodge staff.
At the safari camp
One of the best parts of going on safari in Africa is your stay in a lodge or camp. At Interlink Trails, we work with a number of reputable and luxury safari lodges and camps, offering first class security and all the amenities of a five-star hotel.
Are safari lodges safe?
All prominent lodges and camps have excellent safety procedures and you’ll be advised of these once you arrive at the property. The camps are well guarded at all times and some camps also provide escorts for moving about the property.
Animals can roam quite close to the camps, so it’s important to remain vigilant. The following tips will help you prepare for some spectacular nights in the African bush.
Don’t walk around at night
Plenty of wildlife comes alive at night and it’s not safe to walk around in the dark. If you’d like to spot some nocturnal creatures, many lodges offer guided night game drives.
Don’t store food or drinks in your tent
Animals can smell your food from miles away and keeping food or sweet drinks in your tent is a sure way to attract hyenas, baboons and insects. If you are camping, ensure your tent remains zipped up at all times.
Don’t swim in rivers or lakes
Although it may be tempting to take a refreshing dip in the water, the rivers and lakes are often filled with crocodiles and hippos, one of the most dangerous animals in Africa.
Always wear boots, socks and long pants when walking around the bush and lodgings. There are lots of thorny plants and plenty of insects, snakes and scorpions that can bite you.
Respect the locals
Africa is a continent full of fascinating cultures and traditions and it’s important to treat everyone with respect during your visit. We recommend reading up on the culture of the destinations you are visiting to help build a friendly rapport with the locals and avoid any offensive behavior.
Always greet people politely and don’t take photographs without permission.
Don’t bring sweets for children and don’t give money or gifts to people you don’t know.
If you’d like to contribute to the community, a cash donation to the right organisation is often the best way.
Interlink Trails partners with many lodges across Africa who run fantastic social and environmental conservation projects. Speak to our team to find out how you can get involved during your safari.
Children on safari
An African safari can be a deeply enriching experience for children and one of the best trips you’ll ever take as a family. Many safari lodges and camps offer family-friendly safaris, with spacious family accommodation and child-friendly activities.
Are there any age restrictions?
Most camps have age restrictions and these usually range from eight to twelve years old (although some camps don’t accept children at all).
This is for safety reasons, although game drives can be long and boring for young kids and they may disturb other travelers as they struggle to sit quietly. At an older age, children are usually able to sit quietly and will likely have a more memorable experience.
General safari safety in Africa
Most African countries have stringent exchange control regulations and it is illegal to enter or leave the country with anything other than nominal amounts of local currency. To avoid problems, do not exchange too much money into local currency at any one time. There is normally no restriction on the amount of foreign currency that may be imported.
Staying aware of current events will ensure you have the safest safari experience possible. If you’re concerned about any African safari destinations, our Africa travel specialists will be happy to advise you.
To start planning your African safari, call our travel specialists for a chat about your dream trip or fill out our no-obligation enquiry form.