A well-planned safari is often the vacation of a lifetime. Africa’s national parks and game reserves offer some of the best, if not the best, wildlife in the world. Here are a few tips to ensure your African safari is as enjoyable and hassle-free as possible.
Passports and visas
Getting visa approval can take some time, so it’s best to address this aspect of your safari in good time, e.g. at least 2 months in advance.
Passport must be valid for at least six months upon return. Also make sure you have extra passport photos (just in case).
Please ensure your passport has enough blank pages for any visa requirements (entry/exit stamps) that may arise during your safari.
Make sure you have up-to-date information on the specific documentation requirements for your trip – check with your travel agent, relevant diplomatic mission, airline or tourist office.
Leave a copy of your passport and itinerary with a responsible person at home. It is also recommended to take an extra copy with you when you travel to Africa.
Travel insurance–minimum travel insurance is essential. In general, your insurance should cover the following:
twenty-four hours of medical assistance
urgent money transfer
Gorilla tracking and permits
Each safari park is allocated a limited number of gorilla permits each season. It is therefore essential to obtain your gorilla permit when you first book your safari.
For the protection of the gorillas (and visitors), no one under the age of 15 or infirm persons is allowed to view the gorillas on game drives.
Viewing of the gorillas is limited to one hour at a minimum distance of 5 meters.
It is not allowed to use a flash when taking pictures.
Video cameras are (generally) allowed.
Each viewing group is accompanied by park rangers, trackers and guides. Follow the guide’s instructions and obey the park’s rules.
Avoid the temptation to break the minimum distance for viewing the gorillas. Also, absolutely avoid physical contact with the gorillas. Physical contact with gorillas exposes them to human disease (a leading cause of death for wild gorillas). Remember, there are few of these magnificent creatures without you contributing to their extinction (albeit unintentionally).
Gorilla viewing may be denied at short notice at the discretion of the national park authorities. This can happen because of:
Park or border closure for security reasons;
Gorillas out of range (usually closely monitored where the gorillas are by park rangers who monitor them daily).
So keep in mind that getting a gorilla permit is not an absolute guarantee that you will see the gorillas. If for some reason you can’t see the gorillas (even though you paid for a permit), refunds are at the discretion of the park or that particular country’s respective conservation authority…not your tour company.
Don’t forget to factor in airport taxes, which can sometimes be extra and are due before you leave.
Check the tax-free allowances (alcohol and cigarettes) for the different countries you visit if you intend to take stock.
In general, personal belongings such as cameras, video cameras, digital recorders (including tape) may be imported without a license (as long as you don’t have unreasonable numbers).
Occasionally a customs guarantee may be required – to ensure that such imported goods are exported on departure.
Firearms require a special permit.
Discuss relevant health problems (in good time) with your doctor before you start your African safari.
Make sure your childhood vaccinations are up to date.
Different countries have different vaccination requirements.
Yellow fever–No vaccine is usually required unless you arrive within six days of leaving an infected area.
Malaria–A malaria prophylactic course is highly recommended for all non-Africans. As usual, check with your doctor/s or the nearest vaccination center for the most up-to-date requirements.
AIDS–For many African countries AIDS/HIV are serious health problems. However, this shouldn’t be a major concern for most travelers. The HIV virus is transmitted through the exchange of bodily fluids, so as long as you take the same sensible (precautions) measures you take at home, you should be fine.
Bilharzia–(schistomiasis). This disease is caused by small waterborne parasites found in certain snail species. Prophylaxis (preventive measures) is not available and the only option is drug treatment and injection. The condition is quite unpleasant, so it is best not to swim or wade in rivers or streams.
It is not advisable to enter or leave an African country with large sums of local currency.
Travel with a sufficient number of small denominations to cover any additional costs.
In cities and larger towns, many establishments accept international credit cards.
Usually there is no limit to the amount of foreign currency you can import.
Currency exchange is only legal through authorized dealers. Most city hotels are equipped to exchange money and usually the official exchange rate will be quite favorable. It is unwise to try to exchange your money on the black market (for a better rate). This is an unnecessary security risk and you are very likely to be scammed.
ATMs are usually available in most cities and towns, but remember this isn’t America or Europe, so plan accordingly
You can tip in local currency or US dollars (most locals probably prefer to tip in dollars).
You can exchange your traveler’s checks and dollars into local currency at airports and banks. Small denominations are preferred. Always keep your receipt so that you can exchange any excess local currency for dollars upon departure.
Have at least $150 (usually in denominations of no more than $20) in cash, for visa and airport departure fees (per person).
Please note that only high denomination US notes printed after the year 2000 are generally accepted (something related to anti-counterfeiting measures).
What to take on an African safari
Check with your tour operator about the luggage restrictions (restrictions) if your safari is going through such an organization.
Avoid clothing that resembles military clothing – African countries are often nervous about this (coup phobia).
Preferably travel with soft, compact luggage.
Laundry is done daily in most camps and lodges (this may not extend to your underwear), so there’s no need to lug tons of luggage.
Africa is sunny, so sunglasses are recommended, as well as head protection (safari hats).
Malaria is a fact of life in Africa – mosquitoes usually hunt from dusk to dawn – so long-sleeved shirts and trousers (trousers) are advisable for the evening.
Formal attire may come in handy if you plan to visit clubs, casinos or restaurants that have such requirements. The following items are highly recommended:
Comfortable trekking shoes
Raincoat / Jacket
Good luck and a great African safari!