African Safari Safety Guide
Spotting big game in Africa is one of the great travel adventures. Surrounded by wide-open landscapes, dangerous animals and the continent’s raw beauty. Once you spot your first lion or elephant, your life will change.
So put on the khakis, pick up the camera and - Welcome to the safari life!
No matter where you go in sub-Saharan Africa, there are rules and regulations you must follow when in the bush. Rules designed to keep you and the animals alive. Be aware, most rangers will watch you get eaten before they kill one of their beloved animals. So follow the rules.
- Always stay in the van, truck or 4WD – Africa is not a zoo and its animals will eat you. There have been too many terrible cases of people getting out to try and grab the perfect photo. It always ends badly.
- Never turn your back – this is more for the brave souls who undertake a walking safari (one of the great joys of Africa). The only thing that turns and runs in Africa is prey, so lions will chase you.
- Listen to your guide – not every situation can be safe for you. If your guide advises you to move on or back away, then do so.
- Keep your voices down – animals scare easily and you wouldn’t want to miss a pride of lion because you are chatting too loudly.
These are the simple rules and they will differ. From Botswana to Kenya, South Africa to Uganda, all rules vary. But they are aimed at keeping you safe, keeping the animals safe and keeping the tourist dollars flowing.
Danger, it's Africa!
When you travel in Africa, things can always go wrong…quickly! So make sure you are covered, don’t make a once-in-a-lifetime journey turn into years of regret because you didn’t cover yourself properly.
Plus, being in the wild will bring you in contact with all sorts of nasty infections: malaria, sleeping sickness and dysentery are just a few of the lovely diseases you can pick up. Make sure your vaccinations are up to date, and take precautions against insect bite:
- Wear long loose-fitting white clothing
- Put insect repellant on exposed skin – day and night
- Sleep under nets or have insect repellant in your room
And watch out for Africa’s favourite pest – the baboon.
These fellows will be at most tourist places in Africa – they know travellers bring food and aren’t usually up for a fight.
- Secure all your food and belongings.
- Wind up windows in cars and trucks.
- Don’t take food into your tent or room.
Baboons and their other monkey buddies are crafty and usually smarter than us, so if you want to see your new camera plus a sandwich disappear, then just leave them out. They will be stolen.
The last thing you want to do is get into a fight against the animals – baboons have giant teeth and will leave quite the scar. Better to just let them have it, but assert yourself so they don’t try it again.
Great Game Viewing Guide
Just because you have paid for a safari doesn’t mean the animals are getting a cut of the profit…and they are WILD animals.
If you want to see every animal within an hour, it’s much cheaper to buy a ticket to the zoo.
If you go to one of the better game parks they don't have fences. Man and beast live side by side. But this doesn't mean seeing a lion, elephant, hyena, leopard and cheetah is always possible.
(Surprisingly difficult to spot in the bush)
Here are some ways you can increase your chances:
- Go with a trusted guide – someone who knows the terrain, the best areas and the movement of the animals.
- Don’t expect to see everything in one safari – I’ve spent months in the African bush and still see new animals each time I go over.
- Pick your time of year – if you have limited time, go when the grass is short, the animals are around and viewing is expected. But in saying that, animals don’t have the same timetable as us.
- Keep your eyes out – people sometimes wait for the animal to come to them. They aren’t paid performers, so search yourself. After a few trips, your eyes will become sharp and you spot game everywhere.
- And finally, listen!! You aren’t the only ones on the lookout for the animals. Smaller, less aggressive creatures are also watching their backs. Bird calls, animal noises and strange silence can all mean a lion is lurking nearby.
Guides will always have suggestions where to look for the animals. Lions love the shade and leopards love the trees, don’t expect them to just walk into the middle of the road.
Always remember safari doesn’t mean animal-spotting, it literally means journey – so take in your surroundings. The environment is just as important as the creatures that fill it.
Where The Wild Things Sleep
One of the true great experiences of being on a safari is sleeping under the stars. Falling asleep to the bark of a lion, the footsteps of a nearby hyena or the grunt of a hippo can be awe-inspiring.
But don’t be fooled, along with the joys there are dangers, so go with one of the organized tour operators.
Your guides will run you through each rule.
- Zip up your tent.
- Don’t walk about at night.
- Don’t take food to your tent.
Animals won’t walk into your tent if it is secure.
If you think these rules are a little bit over-the-top, just wait until you see the footprints around your tent the next morning.
My Battery Is Dead!
Do yourself a favour before even considering travelling to Africa, buy a good camera and some extra batteries.
Africa is a photographer’s dream, from its sun-drenched plains, treacherous rivers and unforgiving jungles. Safaris can be some of your most memorable experiences; lions, rhinos, elephants, giraffes. You don’t want to get substandard snaps or miss ‘that shot’ because your battery has died.
But don’t let you whole trip be seen through the viewfinder, put the camera down and experience Africa.
(Impala - the snack food of Africa)
Hot Tips for the Best Safaris
Kenya – if you don’t find animals here, then you will never see them. Try the legendary Masai Mara, Tsavo National Park, Amboseli NP and Nakuru. Each place is unique and will provide you with an unforgettable experience.
Tanzania – try the incredible Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater for plentiful animals and breath-taking surroundings. For the more hearty souls, get down to Ruaha NP.
Botswana – heaven on Earth. The last great wilderness of Southern Africa. Moremi NP, Chobe NP and Savuti NP make up the Okavango Delta region. Want to live a National Geographic Dream? Head into this wetland paradise.
Author: Phil Sylvester
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