When considering take a safari holiday it is logical and perfectly understandable to ask yourself the question, “will I be safe”?
So let’s examine the question and see what it really means…
Security of the Country
Given the current levels of terrorism around the world, the first question you have to ask if whether the country you are looking to visit is safe (safe as in from the personal security perspective). If the replies you receive do not make you totally comfortable, then look at another country. Remember, Africa is a continent not a country, so what may be true for any one country most certainly does not mean that it stands true for the rest of Africa.
Your key source of information here has to be the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) who issue in depth and timely pronouncements on each country. You can find their homepage here. Just type in the name of the country you are thinking about visiting and see what the FCO has to say.
Most countries have some sort of caveat about threats these days, and the FCO chooses how it words its advice carefully, so read the advice in full, relate it to where you are going to go and then take a view. To take France as an example, having started to read the current advice (as at 21 March 2016) you will very quickly come across the phrase ‘high threat of terrorism’. So, don’t go there then! And yet 17 million UK nationals do so each year.
There have been a number of outbreaks of diseases in recent years that have had the ability to become pandemics, SARS, bird-flu and Ebola to name but three. So this is the next element of safety that I’ll consider.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) monitors these outbreaks and produces advice at the highest level as to the threat to human health. The threat that has hit the world headlines in the last year has been the outbreak of ebola in West Africa, centered on Sierra Leone.
If you have any doubts on any health issues then WHO should be your first asset to check. But, like the advice given out by the FCO, don’t just read the advice but consider it in relation to where you are going and what you are going to be doing. Stories abound of tourist from Europe refusing to disembark from their cruise liner in Cape Town because of Ebola, but happily going home to a place far closer to Sierre Leone than Cape Town – Africa is a continent not a country.
For lower level health advice, travellers should consult their local surgery, or a specialist such as MASTA, for up to date health and inoculation requirements.
There are usually some standard inoculations that you should have up to date in any respect such as tetanus and polio and there will then be some others that will either be mandatory such as Yellow Fever or recommended such as Malaria. Look at your itinerary, consider where you are staying and for how long and then decide, in conjunction with your medial specialist, which inoculations are right for you. Age plays a part in this process.
So the country you are thinking of visiting is safe from a security standpoint and there are no major health issues to worry about but you’re about to book your safari when a thought hits you – wild animals, will I be safe?
The vast majority of lodges and camps in the prime safari countries are unfenced and wildlife comes and goes as it pleases. Really! So should I now be even more worried? In short the answer is ‘no’ as the lodge operators take extraordinary measure to ensure the safety of their guests.
Lodges are often built on raised wooden walkways to allow animals to pass unhindered beneath but not all are. Lodges mitigate any risk of guest coming into uncontrolled contact with any animals in a multi-layered way. Firstly guests are fully briefed as to any potential dangers on arriving into the camp – a list of ‘do and don’ts’ that if followed will ensure a safe stay; simple things like, ‘always close your door at night’. The next layer is that all guests are escorted between their accommodation and the communal areas of the lodge at all times but especially so at dawn, dusk and at night. Every lodge will also employ night watchmen, who monitor what is coming close to, or into camp, and where it’s going to. If there is any safety issues that directly affect a guest then they are advised accordingly. The final layer is that should a guest themselves have an emergency, every room is equipped with the necessary means of alerting the camp staff. All of this is done in a very low key way but be certain that your safety is the first concern of every member of staff within the camp.
Safaris are not sanitised holidays. There will always be an element of danger inherent in your safari; it’s what gives the whole experience an ‘edge’. Africa is not a zoo. But follow the guidance above and you will have a superb wildlife experience and come home wondering what you were worried about in the first place.