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Is it safe to go on an African Safari?

written by
Sue van Winsen
Sue van Winsen

“Are African safaris safe” is a question that we get asked regularly, especially by those who have never been on safari before. Our answer is a resounding ‘yes’, especially if you take a few simple precautions before and during your trip.

Central to ensuring that Niarra Travel’s guests have a safe and enriching safari experience is our promise to solely work with African camps and lodges that have decades of experience in the industry, with finely tuned instincts for wildlife encounters and taking care of people of all ages, from infants to great-grandparents. These safari veterans do this in such an effortless way that you can just relax and enjoy the experience, knowing that you are in excellent hands.

That said, we have a few guidelines that you can follow for total peace of mind, as you look forward to your unforgettable adventure in the great African wilderness.

Marataba experience1

Destination choice is key

During the initial stages of planning your trip, your Travel Researcher will ask you a few questions to help find the perfect fit for your safari – and part of this process involves determining whether any specific safety needs should be taken into consideration.

If you’re travelling with children who are too young to take preventative medication, it may be worth avoiding malaria-risk areas. In South Africa, you can travel to Kwandwe Private Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape, the Marataba Contractual National Park in the Waterberg Region, Tswalu Game Reserve in the Kalahari or the Madikwe Game Reserve in the North West Province. All these parks offer a fantastic wildlife experience but are low-risk malaria zones.

Additionally, if you are going on a family safari with children, you may prefer to stay in a fully fenced camp, which offers an additional level of safety compared to those that are completely open to the wild. Niarra’s Travel Researchers have first-hand knowledge of which camps are best suited to young children and are ready to steer you in the right direction.

Guests with particular medical needs, for example, those that may have a physical impairment, need to sleep with a CPAP machine, or would benefit from access to a clinic, can also enjoy a hassle-free and seamless safari, simply by choosing the right lodge from the outset.

Tswalu Motse 1

Safety before you travel

There are some important measures you can take ahead of your trip too. In particular, it is important to take adequate travel insurance and consult with your doctor or travel clinic before travel to ensure you have the necessary vaccinations and medication.

What goes into your suitcase also matters, bringing along the essentials that will be put to good use during your safari. A far more realistic threat than encountering dangerous wildlife is the effect of many hours spent in the African sun, and its negative consequences are completely avoidable by bringing along plenty of high SPF sunblock and a good hat or cap.

Another important item to pack is closed-toed shoes, which is by far the best option for when you’re walking around the camp at night or in the early hours of the morning.

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Game Drive Safety

Once your safari has begun and you are ready to set off on your first game drive, your experienced guide will take you through a safety briefing covering a few of the important precautions and rules to keep in mind.

This can vary from destination to destination, so even if you have been on safari before, it’s important to listen carefully to ensure the experience is a positive one for everyone: you, your guide, other travellers joining your game drive, as well as the ecosystem around you.

A few general pointers that are common to all safari destinations are keeping your voice low, even at exciting sightings to avoid alarming the wildlife, and of course, keeping your phone on silent to ensure an unexpected phone call doesn’t disrupt your safari. When deciding what to wear on safari, its best to avoid bright colours that stand out and may alert animals and opt for neutral shades that blend in with the environment instead.

Game Drive Kwandwe

The most important rule of all is to remain in your seat in the vehicle. If you want to reposition yourself to take a photograph, check with your guide before standing up and moving around inside the vehicle.

When stopping for sundowners or a picnic, it is also important to remain in your seat until the guide has had a chance to inspect the area carefully, after which they will give you the all-clear – and even then, it is vital that you remain close by and don’t wander off into the bush.

If you do happen to come across an animal displaying signs of aggression, it’s important to stay calm and quiet – your guide has been trained for every eventuality and is an expert at reading animal behaviour and knowing how to de-escalate any situation to ensure their guests’ safety.

Singita Boulders Lodge Game Drive

Walking Safari Safety

During your trip, you may have the opportunity to explore the landscape on a guide-led safari walk. Niarra guests consistently report back that this was the highlight of their trip as the opportunity to slow down and focus on the smaller details can be hugely rewarding.

Of course, leaving the safety of the vehicle can be daunting, but if you listen closely to your guide’s instructions, you have no reason to be concerned at all. Again, you will be given a detailed safety briefing, and it is likely that there will be a minimum age for participants if you are walking in an area with predators and large herbivores like hippos, buffalos and elephants.

Once you’ve started your walk, it is important to move in single file and keep conversation to a minimum – not just for safety purposes, but so that you don’t disturb the wildlife. When you come across an animal, always listen to your guide’s instructions. Professional guides in Africa have spent hundreds of hours walking in the bush and can spot tracks, hear calls and sense the presence of wildlife that we would most likely miss, so spending time in their bush ‘office’ is always a fascinating experience!

Walking safari in the okavango delta on a botswana mobile camping expedition

Safety at your lodge or camp

Many camps and lodges are unfenced, which means animals are free to move in and around the property. Animals grow accustomed to lodges that have been around for many years, and along with smaller visitors like mongooses, monkeys and incredible birdlife, it is quite possible that you could encounter larger animals too – from gentle grazers like impala and zebras to not-so-dainty elephants and buffalo.

Lodges often jokingly refer to these visitors as non-paying guests and will let you know if there are any regular visitors you should be aware of.

Generally, animals are far more scared of people than we are of them and will move off as soon as they hear you coming, but a general awareness of your surroundings is always a good idea. Usually, you will be able to move freely around the camp during the daylight hours, but after dark you must be escorted by a guide or member of the lodge security team when walking from your room to the restaurant or anywhere else around camp.

That said, incidents between wildlife and guests are incredibly rare, especially if you stick to the camp rules.

Tinga Lodge6

At Niarra Travel, we pride ourselves in working with safari lodges that operate with the utmost respect for the landscape and its resident wildlife. Our team of Travel Researchers are ready to design a safari that is adventurous yet safe, always tailor made according to what matters most to you. If you are ready to start planning your dream safari, get in touch with our team on +44 (0) 20 3821 5994 (UK), +1 (833) 215 9353 (US), or at explore@niarratravel.com.

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