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  More about health
Sunburn on game drives
The sun is very strong. To prevent sunburn, you should wear a hat when directly exposed to the sun, and use sun block for your skin. Light reflects from the surroundings, so you may need a sun block even when in the shade, for example below the sunroof of a safari vehicle.
Water at night
A glass of water on your bedside may attract insects or bugs. Use a corked bottle instead.
Flavouring water
Children (and adults, too) may tire of drinking tepid water during a hot week on safari. Bring a water-flavouring product to make the water more enjoyable.
  More web sites
The Flying Doctors Service
By AMREF.
Health information for travellers to Kenya
By CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
Health information for travellers to Tanzania, including Zanzibar
By CDC.
The essential travel med kit
By Fodor's.
  Glossary
Safari glossary
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On safari:
Health
Most lodges and tented camps in Kenya and Tanzania provide the same services as hotels, which means private bathrooms, hot water for showers, restaurants for hot meals, bars where bottled water and other beverages can be bought, laundry services etc. You can expect a comfortable stay.

The hot climate can be tiring, though, and the new environment may mean unfamiliar threats to your health.

On budget safaris, for example camping safaris, you can expect less comfort, and maybe an increased risk of stomach problems because of more primitive kitchen facilities.

Food
The most common health problem experienced by safari-goers is problems with the stomach. For most, it's not severe, but passes in a few days and doesn't prevent you from taking parts in the safari activities. But a few may need medical care.

The risk of ruining your safari because of a bad stomach should be reason enough to be careful with what you eat and drink. Most safari-goers are very careful to protect themselves from malaria, but not from stomach problems from what they eat.

Meals on safari
Hotels and lodges may present many appetizing dishes in their buffets, but listen to your brain when choosing from them, not to your stomach. Hot (i.e. warm, not spicy) and well-done dishes are most safe. Avoid cold cuts, fresh vegetables, fruit that you can't peel and ice-cream. Only eat eggs that are well done; have them hard-boiled or well fried on both sides. Avoid everything that contains raw eggs, such as mayonnaise. Many desserts may look tempting, but are usually cold and may contain ingredients that have never been cooked.

Salt
Because of the hot climate, most safari-goers drink more than usual. Adding a little extra salt on the food helps you preventing salt deficiency.

Picnic lunches
Some lunches may be had as picnics, which mean cold food. Such lunches are most common in Tanzania. To reduce the risk of stomach problems, you may want to choose wisely from what's in your picnic box, and eat only what seems to be safe. When you know a picnic lunch is coming up, start the day having a big breakfast.

Recommendations
When travelling ourselves, leading tours, we stick to a fairly monotonous diet. For breakfast: Bread, sausages, bacon, egg (well done), cooked vegetables, beans, pancakes, fruit. For lunch and dinner: Well done meat, cooked or in casseroles etc, but never from the barbecue. We avoid chicken, if possible. Potatoes, rice, pasta, ugali (local maize porridge), gratins, cooked vegetables, and fruit for dessert.

If you've come to East Africa for the wildlife, not for the food, you may want to follow the above recommendations. We experience little stomach problems, as do those of the groups that we travel with that follow our example.

Hand hygiene
Wash your hands before meals. Even better is using an alco-gel. Coins and bills are notorious bacteria colonies, and some safari-goers always use alco-gel after handling money.

Drink
Water

Don't drink tap water. You may also want to avoid using it for brushing your teeth. Have your drinks without ice. Ice in bars etc should be made from safe water, but you never know.

Consider bottled water safe, as long as the bottle is sealed when you get it. Bottled water is easily available; it's sold in all lodges, camps and hotels, and in roadside shops.

Drink when you are thirsty. During hot days in the East African climate, you may lose water fast and end up drinking too little. Dizziness, stomach and concentration problems may be signs of dehydration. Keep a bottle at hand and have regular sips. Avoid drinking too much, as this too may affect your health. There's no need to drink a lot if weather is cool.

Other beverages
You may consider bottled beer, soda, juice and wine safe for drinking. The same goes for hot coffee and tea. We normally drink the juice served for breakfast, too.

The sun and the climate
Kenya is situated on the equator, Tanzania just below. This makes the sun very strong. Use a sun block to protect yourself from sunburn, and a hat to avoid both sunburn and sunstroke. Drink enough water to avoid dehydration.

The inland air, where most safaris take place, is quite dry. The most popular safari regions, including Serengeti and Masai Mara, are situated at altitudes between 900 m/3,000 ft and 2,000 m/6,500 ft. The altitude moderates day temperatures, and makes night temperatures cool and sleepable. At the highest safari altitudes, for example on the Ngorongoro Crater rim, Mount Kenya or the Aberdares, you will need a sweater or a jacket during evenings and mornings.

The coastal air is humid, and the temperatures vary less.

More about seasons and climate
More about luggage and what to wear

Showers and hot water
Your hotel room, lodge room or tented camp tent probably has a private bathroom, where you'll find a shower or a bathtub. There is usually water pressure enough and hot water available. Water shortages do occur, and as the hot water in many smaller lodges and camps is solar heated, the water may not be very hot when weather is bad.

Most camping sites don't offer hot water. If you travel on a packaged camping safari, you may be provided hot water by the safari staff. Some tour operators bring portable showers.

Small solar system behind a bungalow for heating the bathroom water.

Toilets
Toilets in hotels, lodges and tented camps are usually kept reasonably clean. When travelling to and between parks, you usually stop every hour or so for a toilet break. Such toilets range from nice and clean (usually toilets by souvenir shops or park entrance gates) to simple and far from clean.

When urgent, you may use the bush toilet, i.e. go behind some roadside shrubs, or behind the safari vehicle. When inside parks, tell the driver guide you need to go, and he'll find a suitable place safe from animals.

Laundry
Most hotels, lodges and tented camps offer a laundry service.

More about laundry

Diseases
Many diseases that are exotic or unfamiliar to foreign visitors can be found in Kenya and Tanzania. Many of them should be taken seriously. They are not very common among safari-goers, though, partly because safari-goers are usually not exposed to the environments where the diseases are most common, and partly because many safari-goers make sure to be vaccinated against the most dangerous diseases.

Vaccinations
Consult a doctor or vaccination clinic in good time before travelling, to make sure you have appropriate vaccinations and malaria protection for East Africa.

More about vaccinations

Avoid mosquitoes
Malaria is a deadly and widespread disease in Africa. Like for example yellow fever and Rift Valley fever, it's spread my biting mosquitoes. Few safari-goers get infected by these diseases, but it does happen, and you should do what you can to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. The basic protection is sleeping in an environment free from mosquitoes, and covering your skin (using clothes and mosquito repellent) when outdoors during dusk, dawn and night. For malaria, there is also malaria prophylaxis medicine, which reduces the risk of being infected.

Mosquito nets
Mosquito nets are meant to keep mosquitoes away from you when sleeping. Most hotels, lodges and camps have mosquito nets in your room or tent. If so, use them. If there are holes in your net, cover it using a towel, adhesive tape, band-aid etc. You may even bring a net of your own for a spare.

Some hotels and lodges don't have nets above the beds, but instead have nets covering the windows. If there is a chink below the door to your room, you may use a towel to cover it.

Avoid tsetse bites
Bites from tsetse flies, which are active during the day, may spread sleeping sickness. The disease is uncommon among safari-goers, but the bites are painful and are reason enough to avoid the flies. They are usually encountered during game drives, in certain types of vegetation. Chase them out or kill them if they get into your vehicle.

Bilharzia
Bilharzia, or schistosomiasis, is a parasite disease that you may catch in fresh water lakes or slow rivers; avoid drinking, bathing, wading or washing in water from these. There is no risk of bilharzia in chlorinated swimming pools, salt water or temporary water puddles.

Parasites and ticks
Avoid walking barefooted outdoors. Apart from stepping on sharp acacia thorns, you may get in contact with parasites on the ground, for example in animal droppings. When walking through grass or vegetation, you may be exposed to ticks, which can infect you with tick bite fever.

Health care and hospitals in East Africa
Good hospitals are available in Nairobi only. Otherwise, local hospitals and medical treatment is generally low standard, and should be avoided unless in emergencies.

African Medical & Research Foundation (see More web sites in the left column) offers a flying doctor service based in Nairobi. Membership isn't very expensive.

This page in Swedish
Go to www.savannen.com for this page in Swedish.

 
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Page updated 27 April 2013