For animal lovers and work-weary urbanites like us, an African safari is a dream trip. Some travelers, no matter how much they yearn for an African safari, resist this special trip because of myths, bits of misinformation that make them think that a safari is a bad idea. We want to debunk those myths.
We have been lucky enough to visit Africa several times, experiencing Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and recenlty Kenya and Tanzania with & Beyond, a top-rated, luxury safari company that uses its revenues to conserve the land, sustain the animals and aid the locals.
Myth #1: African cities are dangerous, crime-filled places.
Yes, there is crime in Africa's cities, but likely no more than in the same size U. S., U.K. or European metro region. Depending upon your flights, you may land in Nairobi, Arusha, Dar es Salaam or Johannesburg just long enough to transfer to where your safari begins.
If you require a city overnight,a savvy safari operator books you into a good hotel in a safe neighborhood. At our trip's start, & Beyond put us at the Nairobi Serena Hotel and at the end at Dar es Salaam's Hyatt Kilimanjaro. At both properties, we had comfortable rooms and were glad to see guards manning the gates and security staff patrolling the floors.
Myth #2: The food and water make you sick so you can't eat anything but bread. Intrepid travelers know the mantra for eating in developing countries: "Open it, peel it, cook it, or forget it." Drink bottled water and avoid salads, raw vegetables, unpeeled fruit and food from street vendors, you should be fine.
The more upmarket the lodge, the better the food tends to be. We especially liked the cuisine at & Beyond’s Bateleur Camp, Kenya, and & Beyond’s Lake Manyara Tree Lodge, Tanzania.
Myth #3: You will contract malaria, typhoid fever or other potentially deadly illness.
Before traveling to Africa, you must consult a physician or a travel clinic. Some of the recommended inoculations such as tetanus or hepatitis you probably have already had. Others like typhoid (shots or pills) you may need plus some form of malaria protection.
To protect against malaria, our doctor prescribed Malarone pills, starting the day before entering the bush, each day on safari and for a week after our return. Most people have little or no reaction. Since the Malarone gave us a headache, we swallowed Tylenol along with it and felt fine. Other malaria precautions: wear pants and long-sleeved shirts and use insect repellant.
By following our doctor’s advice, dressing appropriately and using bug spray, we have never experienced any illness as a result of a trip. The vast majority of travelers come back from Africa with only wonderful memories.
Myth #4: You will be eaten or mauled by the lions, leopards and other wild animals.
Years ago before our first trip to Kenya, I had a hard time convincing my then eight-year-old daughter that she wouldn’t end up as lion food. The animals simply aren’t interested in the game vehicles and the people in them.
Most of the time when zebras, antelope and Cape buffalo hear the Land Cruisers’ engines, they look up and either continue munching grass or move away. The lions stared at us and then kept playing or went back to sleep. One evening we even watched a leopard hunt an impala.
Myth #5: What's the big deal? It's the same as seeing the animals in the zoo.
Even the best zoo offers limited space. Africa’s plains and forests provide the backdrop for a multitude of animals to coexist. Watching loping giraffe, elephant herds, sunbathing lions and mud wallowing hippos creates a sense of joy. For my children and for me, ever since our first game drive in Kenya some twenty years ago, an African safari remains our all-time top trip.