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Is It Safe To Go On Safari In Africa?

Updated: Jan 10, 2023

Vehicle with Elephants Kruger Park Tours
On Safari in the Kruger National Park

Is it safe to go on a safari in Africa? This is one of the top questions asked to our Nhongo Safaris Africa Team.

They want to know whether it is safe to visit Africa. They’ve read about the lions and elephants that live near an open jeep, and seen pictures of people gazing in awe at Lions and Elephants just a few metres away. They hear about the thrills of walking safaris in Kenya and can imagine experiencing a night under the stars in a safari camp halfway through the African country.

When in Africa on a safari, you have access to some of the world’s greatest animals in their natural habitat. But is safari tourism safe?

When going on a safari in Africa, is safety a priority? These destinations present amazing opportunities to explore and get up close to magnificent creatures from across the world. However, Africa is not without danger for an adventurous tourist.

Millions of travellers go on African safari's every year and on average, \\\"perhaps one tourist dies per year as a result of wild animals.\\\" African safari deaths are very uncommon, however all wildlife encounters carry risks due to the unpredictable nature of these wild animals.

You can also mitigate these risks by going on safari with expert guides who are well-trained in safety procedures. But you should brush up on what generally rules and tips there are for a safari experience before you head off.

Safaris and other adventures may be feasible for those with disabilities and the opportunistic traveler. Nhongo Safaris — to name a few — work with many top camps and lodges that assure safety to all visitors. With decades of collective experience on safaris across Africa, our safari planning team provides expert advice, even when managing safaris for wheelchair users.

Can you go on a safari in Africa while staying safe? In this comprehensive guide, we’ve rounded up their insights on everything you need to know to stay safe on safari. We’ll also answer all your burning questions including what colours to wear, how to take a toilet stop on safari, why animals don't attack open jeeps, and essential animal spotting etiquette.

Before you leave

How to keep yourself safe in Africa before going on a safari

Vaccinations and Medication:

Be sure not to let pesky mosquitos ruin your safari in Africa. With malaria prophylactics and a strong mosquito repellent, you can avoid these pests and have a safe and enjoyable trip to Africa.

To go on safari to Africa, you'll need a verifiable yellow fever vaccination before you travel.

For Covid-19 information click here

What to Pack for your Safari:

Save packing time by following these safari packing list do's and don'ts. Pack the essentials to bring on safari, but minimize clothes by bringing quick-dry items that can double as day clothes or on-site work clothes. Pack at least two pairs of shoes that will fall on the formal end of your spectrum, too.

What to Wear on Safari:

You should pack clothes made out of moisture-wicking material to help with the heat. We recommend wearing a hat and light, long layers to protect you from prickly plants, stinging insects and reptiles while on safari in Africa. It's safe to go to Africa on a safari as long as you bring a few key things. For example, pack some warm layers and wet the bandanna or scarf to make it cooler. Africa can provide unique opportunities to experience untouched beauty, but there are precautions that must be taken. Wear comfortable shoes like boots or hard rubber soles before your trip to make sure they will not get you stricken with blisters.

FAQ: What Colours should I Wear on Safari?

In order to maximize your safari experience, you should wear dark green, brown and khaki clothing. The colours you wear can startle or scare away animals that would otherwise interact with you. If wearing neutral colours, try not to wear black, white, or bright colours as they will pop against the location's background.

What to Take on Safari:

  • Binoculars

  • Camera

  • Torch or head flashlight

  • Sunscreen

  • Mosquito repellent

  • Reusable water bottle

  • Simple first aid kit

  • Waterproof bag

  • Sturdy backpack if trekking

  • Good quality sunglasses

  • Portable chargers

  • Extra memory cards for all your incredible photographs

  • Travel insurance - essential protection in the unlikely event of safari injuries, illness, and lost or broken possessions

What to Leave at Home:

  • Black camera bags - dark bags will heat up your equipment. Bring a light coloured, waterproof bag to keep out the dust, sand and rai

  • Drone cameras are illegal in most safaris in Africa

  • Plastic bags- Kenya, Tanzania & Rwanda have banned plastic bags due to their damage to the environment. Even plastic bags for liquids in your hand luggage are illegal so it’s best to use transparent toiletry bags

  • Camouflage clothing is not recommended for safaris, and is banned in Zimbabwe.

Group Kruger Park Safaris
Clients on Safari With Guide Amanda

Essential Safari Safety Tips:

There are many different safari experiences that can be had in Africa and the tips listed below apply to all safaris, which includes open jeep, self-drive and even walking safaris.

Listen To Your Guide:

Safe travel while on safari is facilitated by following your guide's instructions. A guide is an expert in the environment and animal behaviour, and will have the best judgements in any situation. Paying attention to your guide continues safety for you while traveling, so always follow their instructions.

FAQ: Do the Guides Carry Guns on Safari?

The guns are rarely used, but may be needed for protection. Guides carry the guns only as a last resort. You don’t need to bring any weapons if you go on a Safari.

Do not Disturb the Animals:

If you’re considering going on a safari in Africa, remember that the animals should not be disturbed. For your safety and theirs, it’s best to stay quiet and keep your distance.

There may be easy to spot dangers while on safari in Africa, but make no mistake, there are other more subtle risks by which safari-goers should remain vigilant. For instance, never approach an animal, come too close or make sudden movements even nearly to avoid an accidental startle reaction.

Keep Quiet:

It’s recommended to avoid getting too close to the animals when driving a safari. When you start driving, begin with a slow speed and then slow down when you get closer to the animal in case they panic and try to run off. Mute your phone or switch off your speaker when passing them by or if it’s needed, keep your voices at a whisper so nothing will cause the animals to be startled. Taking a luxurious trip in Africa can also take your breath away. Enjoy awe-inspiring safaris where you can explore the beauty of the African bush in majestic silence.

No Food or Drink:

Dangers on safaris include animals that have an incredible sense of smell who will be attracted by something as small as a wrapped candy. Don’t bring any food or drink except water. Africa is a wonderful place, but it does have its risks. Sodas and sweet drinks lure insects, so stick to water instead. If you need to eat during the safari, try to avoid noisy foods. Inform your guide before heading off if necessary.

FAQ: Are There Toilet Stops on Safari?

Depending on your safari, there may be safe times to take a toilet break or there may be no stops at all. Guides will explain the rules for toilet breaks before you depart and if you need to make an emergency stop just let the guide know. Be prepared to go behind a bush while checking the ground for creepy-crawlies before you go.

No Smoking or Littering:

Fortunately, you can still keep your safari fun by following these rules. For instance, there are no-no’s for smoking trash in the African bush. There are designated bins for trash disposal, so be sure to dispose of all litter.

Protect Yourself from the Sun:

Wear a hat and sunscreen and stay hydrated; dehydration can quickly become a serious problem in Africa. Africa is home to many animals, some of which may want to feed on you for dinner. Carry tempered glass to use as a shield against anything hungry, but remember that your vehicle is the safest place to spend your time in Africa.

FAQ: What Happens if it Rains Heavily Suddenly?

When touring Eastern Africa, be prepared for heavy showers. It you are on an open jeep safari, I recommend bringing a poncho. Walking safaris are not recommended during the wet season as the trails may become muddy and unsafe. Protect your camera by keeping it inside a waterproof bag or purchasing a waterproof case.

Minimize Your use of Technology:

Safaris are a great way to go to Africa and enjoy the wildlife. The trip requires that you use your camera, but be careful about clicking it. The animals may run away when they see the flash, spoiling the sight you came for. On your safari, don’t bring your phone. You likely won’t have a connection, and it can be annoying to people to see someone chatting and texting on their device. That said, if you must bring your phone, make sure it is turned off or on silent

Vehicle Safaris:

Open-jeep and self-drive safaris are the most popular ways to see wildlife in Africa, all while reducing your carbon footprint. Do you want to visit Africa but don't know how safe it is? Here a few safari safety tips to stay out of danger and boost your chances of seeing incredible wildlife.

Always Stay Within your Vehicle:

While safety should always be your top priority, don’t let that deter you from experiencing the adventure of a lifetime. Animals are more likely to attack you when you are at eye level with them, so keep yourself inside the vehicle at all times to avoid any potential risks.

Watch Out for Low Hanging Branches:

African parks and safaris can be difficult to traverse successfully with unpredictable obstacles such as bushes and wayward tree branches. This is another reason to keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle.

FAQ: Is an Open Jeep Safari Safe? Do Animals Attack Safari Vehicles?

So, is it safe to go on safari in Africa? Dean Cherry says that animals are used to the sight and smell of the vehicles so they won't attack or investigate. However, while it is safe for passengers to remain inside the vehicle when watching a kill, they should still proceed with caution.

Stay on the Path:

One of the most intimate ways to encounter Africa’s wildlife is through a self-drive safari. Read about staying safe on a self-drive safari with Kruger National Park’s self-drive safari guide here. Some of the most crucial points to remember are keep your windows up, drive slowly and carefully, and stay on the marked paths. Never leave your vehicle even if there are no animals around, as there may be snakes or other creatures hiding in the grass. Additionally, when it rains bush fires are much more likely to spread so every effort must be made to put them out before they get too big.

FAQ: What Happens if the Vehicle Breaks Down?

It is safe to go on a safari in Africa, but there are precautions you should take. Be sure to ask about emergency protocol if you are taking a self-drive safari. If you break down, call the emergency number or wait for a passing vehicle. You must always tell the game reserve where you are going before leaving and stay on the marked paths at all times. With a guided game drive, your vehicle can break down with expert drivers to supervise. Verity Cherry, a Nhongo Safaris Travel Specialist, has broken down before on safari and says she and the drivers all made it safely back to camp.

Bushwalk Kruger National Park Safaris
Walking Safaris in the Kruger NationalPark

Walking Safaris:

There are many safaris in Africa, but the safest is to go on a walking safari. We can advise you on making sure you find the safest African Safari Company so that your experience will be unforgettable. One of our favourite places to go on a walking safari is Laikipia where you can choose to trek for a day or go on longer multi-day hikes through this unspoiled corner of Kenya. Zambia is also another great walking safari destination, as the activity first originated here.

Are Walking Safaris Safe?

With African safaris, there are risks involved--the guides go through rigorous training and their priority is for your safety. To ensure the health and safety of the animals you will be seeing, it is advised to follow your guide's instructions at all times. However, animals are unpredictable and things can go wrong, so here are a few extra safari safety tips to follow.

Stay Downwind from the Animal:

With a proper guide, it is possible to stay downwind and out of danger when on an African Safari. Your guide will let you know the best route to keep you downwind and how to avoid animals if they do happen to see or smell you.

Walk Away Slowly:

If you are approached by a hostile animal, give it a wide berth and check you aren’t blocking its escape route. Move away slowly, but never turn your back on an animal and never run away, as these movements will aggravate the animal.

if you do come close to an agitated animal, always listen to your guide for the safest course of decision.

Walk in a Single File:

One way to ensure a safe Safari is to stay in a single file and not stray from one another. Animals will see one group rather than many and will not attack. Africa as a continent is as safe as any other country in the world. Armed guides protect travellers from danger, and they know the terrain - walking through before with your group.

Safari Etiquette:

When traveling to Africa, safari etiquette includes respecting wildlife, respecting locals, avoiding carrying Zebra-patterned items and dressing and acting appropriately. Remember to respect your guide and fellow travellers when doing an African safari, or you might regret it afterward. Brush up on safari etiquette so you can have an unforgettable experience in Africa.

Manage your Expectations:

Is it safe to go on a safari in Africa? Your guides want you to see the best wildlife, but there’s no guarantee. Animals are unpredictable and often like to remain hidden. For many people, wildlife safaris in Africa are a once-in-a-lifetime experience and they travel a long way with high expectations. For the right safari, you'll need to reserve time for different types of locations and activities before embarking on your trip. Be sure not to get discouraged by your guide if it’s not possible to find every animal you want to see and try not to be disappointed.

Don’t Hog the Sightings:

On safari, it's important to allow others to enjoy the majestic creatures you might catch a glimpse of. Respectful viewing generally lasts 10-15 minutes so everyone gets an equal opportunity. It comes with kind manners to swap seats with someone else who wants to view the wildlife for the day. A little bit of concern before you go is always needed, but with some precautionary measures it is safe to go on safari. Make sure you have the best seats yesterday so someone else can sit there tomorrow. Smart broadcasting about sightings back at camp ensures that others are not jealous of your skills!

Choose your Travel Partners Wisely:

Respect the safari-goers with a range of interests from seeing Big Five animals to bird watching. You can participate in any way you please or not at all, but respect is key. If you’re on a tight schedule and don't want to be restricted by tourists, consider doing a private game drive or self-drive safari. You won’t be restricted in how you spend your time in the reserves.

Tip your Guide:

Consider giving your guide and the safari lodge staff a tip (R150.00 per person per day is usually sufficient). When you’re thinking of tipping someone that doesn’t usually receive tips, such as the camp manager, ask around until you determine an acceptable amount.

At the Safari Camp:

One of the biggest fears people have on safari is their stay in a lodge. When you are booking flights to Africa, book with Nhongo Safaris for first class security and luxury safari lodges with plenty of amenities to offer for everyone!

Are Safari Lodges Safe?

Popular safari lodges and camps have excellent safety procedures for their guests. Lodge staff will provide more information on their policies before arriving to the property. Camps tend to be heavily guarded with some offer guests an escort when moving around the park. In Africa, wild animals come close to the campsites- it's important to stay alert. Use the following tips for a few spectacular nights in the African wilderness.

Don’t Walk Around at Night:

If you’re up for some excitement, many lodges offer guided night game drives to help you spot nocturnal creatures. There are, however, plenty of wildlife who come out at night like elephants and lions--but it's not safe to walk the trails in the dark.

Don’t Store Food or Drinks in your Tent:

Africa may be a carnival for animals, but it is a detrimental place to go on a safari if you don't take precautions. Animals can smell your food from miles away and keeping food or sweet drinks in your tent is a sure way to attract hyenas, baboons and insects. If you are camping, ensure your tent remains zipped up at all times.

Don’t Swim in Rivers or Lakes:

Let's leave the rivers and lakes vacant. The rivers and lakes are home to crocodiles and hippos, some of the most dangerous animals in Africa.

Cover Up:

Always be sure to wear boots, socks, and long pants when walking in sometimes-prickly brush and insects, snakes, and scorpions that can injure you.

Respect the Locals:

Africa is an interesting continent with a long history, having amazing cultures and traditions. For a hassle free trip, it’s important to have a general understanding of the religions and other customs in the countries you visit so that your conversations are appropriately respectful. It’s always polite to greet other people politely, always ask before taking photos. “Don’t bring sweets for children and don’t give money or gifts to people you don’t know.

If you have money to spare, the best way to contribute is with a cash donation. This can be directed towards an organization according to its needs. As the Nhongo Safaris website explains, travellers can participate in fantastic social and environmental conservation projects during safaris. Speak to your Africa Trip Planner to learn about the options.

African Wildlife Safaris Kruger
First Time visiting the Kruger Park

Children on Safari:

An African safari can be an enriching experience for all, with many safari lodges offering family-friendly accommodations. With spacious family accommodations and activities for both children and adults, an African safari can be one of the best trips you'll ever take.

Visit our African Safari With Kids blog for a mum’s perspective on the best safari destinations for children. This guide includes a list of safety tips, a timeline for your trip and a breakdown of items to pack in your suitcase.

Are there Any Age Restrictions?

You should take your child’s age into consideration when choosing a camp for them to attend. Quality camps often have an appropriate age restriction, but some may not offer any activity options at all. Some safaris are long and will be boring to young children. At an older age, children are usually able to sit in the car quietly and have a memorable experience because they weren't getting antsy or stressed out. If you are looking to go on safari with the whole family, a self-drive tour is best. You have complete control over the schedule, making the experience seamless and stress free for all who are joining in on the adventure. To help you with your itinerary, contact us today!

General Safari Safety in Africa:

It is important when traveling to any country, to make note of political or civil unrest. Countries such as Northern Kenya, Western Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda currently do not require any avoidance, but this may change soon. You can get the most up-to-date government information from a variety of travel advisories, including the United States, Australia and UK sites. Stay up to date about the latest safari news. Your fears can be assuaged by getting advice from our experienced Africa Travel Specialists. Prepare your requests today!


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