| Yes. Safaris in general are fairly safe. But of course not 100 % safe.
Few activities or holiday destinations are. |
Safety of the region
The most common safety concern among safari-goers seems to be the general safety
situation and stability in the region. Kenya's and Tanzania's neighbouring countries
include Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and (Democratic Republic
of) Congo, which have recent or ongoing records of war, civil war, genocide etc.
In 2008, Kenya itself saw violent political unrest, and Tanzania, too, has seen
violence following elections in modern times. Black headlines taint the region.
For Africa, Kenya and Tanzania are fairly stable, though. Both countries
are multi-party democracies that work reasonably well. The political violence
of later years has been seen in connection with elections, has been temporary,
and has not been directed at tourists or the tourist industry. Few safari-goers
visit the border areas facing the above neighbouring countries, as the better
safari regions are found centrally within the countries or along the border between
Kenya and Tanzania. These safari regions are far from those areas in East Africa
that cause the black headlines.
| Safaris cost a lot and so require a fair holiday budget.
Because of this, the average age of safari-goers is slightly on the high side.
Many couples travel after their children have left home. So you may meet a few
older ladies in the bush. But they don't wear flak jackets and steel helmets,
or crouch under tables. They go on game drives in khakis and flower patterns,
have sundowners, buy souvenirs, and take pictures of elephants, Maasai tribe warriors
and each other. |
They are, in brief, enjoying a good holiday.
Safari guide Henrik Hult
on safari safety
Health is another cause of concern. A lot of tropical diseases
are present in East Africa, including malaria and yellow fever. There are vaccinations
for many of them. Others, like ebola, are rare and local. Visit a vaccination
clinic in good time before your safari, to get those vaccinations and the information
that you need. That's what you need to stay in good health. Most safari-goers
do so. Those who don't usually have problems with their stomach. The risk of the
latter can be much reduced by eating and drinking wisely.
Bottled and safe
drinks, including water, are widely available, and you rarely see safari-goers
drinking anything else. But as to food ... well, taste buds seem to have precedence
over brains when it comes to choosing from buffets and menus. When guiding tours,
I include information on safe eating in my very first briefing with my clients.
Next morning I usually find a couple of them having those dishes that I told them
are not safe.
More about health
Since I started guiding safari
tours in East Africa in the early 2000s, the injuries my clients have suffered
so far include a broken foot (fall in lodge reception), a few cases of grazed
knees (falls) and some bruising (bumps into vehicle interiors on poor bush tracks).
Safaris include a certain degree of activity, some of it outdoors and in non-flat
terrain. You won't be as safe from hurting yourself as you'd be in an office chair
or in the sofa at home. Unless you choose a walking safari, where you may walk
the bush in all sorts of terrain, you should be able to avoid most hazards by
keeping your eyes open and being careful where you know you should.
at home, road accidents can happen. Once outside the cities, traffic is far from
heavy, but safari vehicles can sometimes be seen driving at high speed on poor
bush roads, and a closer look at some vehicles may reveal for example poor tyres.
You may reduce the reason for high speeds by choosing a safari itinerary
that allows time for travelling at a moderate pace, i.e. not too long days on
the roads, and no long drives to catch planes, other connections or meals. You
may also want to choose a local tour operator of good repute. Such a company is
likely to keep its vehicles in good repair and employ good drivers. Some operators
even have an internal speed limit (less than the maximum legal speed), and adapt
their itineraries to it, resulting in more comfortable and safer travelling for
Hospital quality and health care hygiene isn't good. There is a risk
of disease transmission, including HIV. The best hospitals, offering western standard,
in the region are found in Nairobi in Kenya (from where a flying
doctors service operates).
Using your brain
on a camp in Tarangire National Park in Tanzania, I met a lioness on my way to
dinner in the camp restaurant. The lion soon disappeared into the bush, and I
moved on. When passing a tent where a couple of safari-goers sat enjoying the
evening, I told them what I had seen and warned them to be careful. They laughed.
Those guys were sitting outdoors some 20 paces from the bush in an unfenced
camp in a wildlife area, and their immediate reaction to a wildlife warning was
that it was a joke. This indicates either an alarming lack of briefing ("beware
that there may be dangerous animals around") or an equally alarming lack
of awareness ("hey, what can happen, we're on an organized tour").
Only a week before, a child was killed by a leopard in that very camp. Such tragedies
are very rare. But a good way to make them happen is not being careful.
Use your brain to minimize risks. Don't expect someone else to take full responsibility
of your safety. Don't go where you don't know or can't see what's waiting for
you. Don't sit or walk around in the dark if there may be animals around. Stay
clear of animals that you see, unless you're escorted by a professional and armed
guide or safe inside a vehicle. Don't hesitate to tell your guide that you've
seen something that worries you, or that you want to get away from it. The professional
staff, including guides and lodge/camp staff, is there to serve and please you.
More about scary animals
volcano Oldoinyo Lengai in northern Tanzania erupted a year or two ago. This was
bad news to those locals that got an income from guiding tourists climbing the
mountain. Some guides continued bringing clients onto the volcano, claiming that
they knew the area and the mountain, and that the eruptions weren't big enough
to be really dangerous. I can't make any comments on their expertise. But I have
seen the terrain of the volcano, the clouds of smoke coming out of it, the ash
fallout, and a couple of movie clips where magma appears like out of nowhere and
flows like liquid. My brain says it's not a safe place to go. While the guides'
brains may have said it's income going there. Your safety benefits from brains
looking at things from your perspective.
Good vs. bad
in all, and as far as I know, there have been no thefts, robberies, threats or
acts of violence directed towards my safari clients. None of them have been injured
by animals or in the traffic, and those injuries suffered out in the bush could
have happened during a sunday stroll in a park or forest at home. Some have suffered
health problems, mainly in the stomach region, but these have been relatively
mild, and some could probably have been avoided by wiser choices in front of the
All of my clients, except for that poor lady who broke her foot
and was evacuated by air, have completed their safaris after experiencing lots
and lots and lots, after seeing Africa, its people and its scenery, and after
seeing oh so many animals and generally enjoying an eventful holiday. And when
I myself travel to guide my next group, I don't do it reluctantly because of safety
hazards, but happily because of the events and experiences both I and my clients
It's like when I go into town to a movie theatre or a restaurant.
I know that there are dark alleys, drug dealers and robbers, and poor drivers
in heavy traffic. So I do what I can to avoid the bad stuff, to get the good.