Are you worried about your safari trip to Africa?
If so, you’re not alone when it comes to stressing out about the different things that could go wrong whilst on your trip. Although it can seem like there’s a lot to be concerned about when on a safari, these worries are often unfounded.
In this article, we’ll run through 19 of the most common types of concerns people have before going on safari in Africa, and what you can do to help deal with them.
Safari Worries are Normal
An African safari is considered the trip of a lifetime for many. It’s an opportunity to see some of the most amazing wildlife on earth and have an authentic, unforgettable experience.
But before booking your trip you might be worried about what could go wrong while traveling on safari.
More often than not, these worries stem from a combination of going out of our comfort zones, having no idea what to expect, or hearing horror stories online.
Not Knowing What To Expect
If you don’t know someone that has recently been on safari in Africa, getting an honest answer about what to expect can be challenging.
How do you find out what it’s really like to stay in a tented safari camp? What if you desperately need the restroom during a game drive? How much risk are you at of being attacked by wildlife?
Once you’ve done your research, planned well ahead, and prepared yourself both physically and psychologically, you’ll be better equipped to deal with any worries or anxieties you may have.
So, what are some of the most common things people worry about?
19 Common Things People Worry about on an African Safari
1. Needing the Restroom during a Game Drive
Needing to use the restroom frequently or unexpectedly is a very common concern among travelers going on safari in Africa.
Once you’ve left your camp or lodge, you may not have access to facilities for several hours, and the thought alone can play havoc with your bladder or bowel, not to mention the dread of feeling like you’ll be impacting other people’s experience during a game drive.
A frequent or urgent need to visit a restroom could be down to:
- Long hours of travel
- Drinking too much water
- Dehydration from not drinking enough water
- Lack of fiber-rich food and drink during pre-safari preparation days
- Upset tummy from a change in diet
- Anxiety from worrying about the need to have access to a toilet
- Anxiety from the thought of relieving yourself in the wild
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
For those that suffer from IBS or other gastrointestinal conditions, the increased need to use the restroom may be related to stress or anxiety.
How To Deal With It
Speak with a doctor about any conditions you may have and whether medication could be helpful in assisting with regulating your bowels.
Anxiety can play a huge part in IBS, so learning about ways to control anxious feelings (such as deep breathing, meditation, caffeine avoidance) can be extremely beneficial.
I managed my IBS by getting up really early, having a large breakfast, and then leaving plenty of time to ensure I could use the restroom facilities before heading out.
If you’re the type of person that needs a pee every couple of hours, then you’ll need to be comfortable going in the bush! The other option is to choose a safari destination that has more restroom facilities across the parks than others.
2. Whether you’ll see any Animals Up-Close
It’s only natural to be apprehensive about forking out for the trip of a lifetime only to worry about whether you’ll actually experience any animals up close.
If your chosen safari park (and the country in general) uses ethical methods for wildlife tourism, the animals should be comfortable enough around humans, and many will actually use the shade from your vehicle for some much-needed respite.
On our first safari, we were astonished at how close the animals approached, particularly the big cats and their cubs who would often crawl under the vehicle and stay put for a while!
How To Deal With It
Just like most things in life, there’s no guarantee of anything. But increasing the number of days of your safari along with getting up early in the morning when most animals are hunting, will give you better odds of experiencing up-close scenes of the wildlife, particularly if you are longing to see a kill.
The likelihood is that you will see some amazing wildlife during your trip, and the best way to enjoy your safari is to take the pressure off of any expectations you may have.
3. The Need for a Professional Camera
Many people worry about whether they should invest in expensive cameras or equipment when planning a safari in Africa. The truth is, you don’t need a professional camera to get great photos of the wildlife and landscapes during African safaris.
Unless you are a professional photographer, most of the pictures you take will be of the animals within close vicinity of your vehicle. A good smartphone camera can provide incredible shots and is more than enough when trying to capture the moments that matter the most.
One extremely useful smartphone tool when on safari is a selfie stick.
We know what you’re thinking, and yes they are totally out of fashion! But when you have animals walking around or hiding behind the vehicle, it’s far better to hang your selfie stick out of the window rather than your arm!
4. Animals Jumping Into Safari Vehicles
It’s a valid concern and one that many people ask when picturing themselves out in the wild with nothing but faith standing in the way!
The animals in ethical safari parks have become accustomed to seeing humans and their vehicles roaming around their habitat, and they know that we do not pose any threat to them.
As they do not associate humans with being a food source, they will generally remain relaxed when being approached by safari vehicles.
It’s not completely unheard of though! Our safari guide explained that in his 30 years of experience, he’s only heard of one case where a cheetah had managed to jump into a safari vehicle.
How To Deal With It
If you’re still worried about the potential of animals jumping into your vehicle, then you can opt for a fully contained safari vehicle or one with a pop-up roof.
Open-sided safari jeeps look very cool, but they do come with limitations. We found that all of these vehicles had to remain a fair distance away from any predators, whilst we were able to experience everything up-close.
5. Tsetse Flies
Tsetse flies are probably the most bothersome insects you will encounter whilst on a safari. They are a blood-sucking fly that can be found throughout sub-Saharan Africa and are fairly difficult to avoid when on safari.
Historically, the reason that tsetse flies are a major cause for concern is due to the transmission of a potentially fatal disease, known as African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness).
African sleeping sickness was (rightly) something to worry about years ago, but much effort has gone into eliminating this disease in the last few decades.
In fact, many countries in Africa have not had a single case of sleeping sickness for over a decade now, yet anxiety around them still remains rife.
As tourists visiting Africa, your exposure to tsetse flies that are carrying the sleeping sickness disease is extremely limited. Nowadays, the most you’ll have to worry about is dealing with their nasty bite, which can pack a punch!
How to Deal With It
Tsetse flies are naturally drawn to darker colors such as black, dark blue, and red, and avoiding these is paramount. Opting for earth tones like light green and brown have been proven to substantially reduce your chances of being a target.
If there is one item of safari clothing that’s worth investing in – it’s a shirt with built-in anti-insect treatment. Tsetse flies can bite through thin or penetrable fabric, so a safari shirt that’s made specifically for this purpose will go a long way to ensuring you remain bite-free.
Take more than you think you’ll need! In order to get the most out of insect repellant in the bush, you’ll need to spray it over your clothing, so selecting one that will not damage fabric is important.
Don’t be caught short! Being equipped to deal with bites means that you don’t have to worry about finding decent relief once you’re out in the bush. Without a doubt, this is the best insect bite relief and it completely takes the edge off of swollen and itchy skin.
It’s highly likely that your safari guide will have at least one fly swatter available in their vehicle. Don’t be afraid to use it! At the end of a safari day, our guide spent a little while clearing out his vehicle of all the tsetse flies that had come to an unfortunate ending.
6. Mosquitoes and Malaria
The fear of contracting malaria has been top of the list when it comes to things people often worry about when on safari. It is still a big problem in Africa, and travelers need to take precautions before they leave in order to reduce the risk of infection.
You usually have two gangs of people with differing perspectives on the matter of taking antimalarial tablets:
- Those who take them without a second thought
- Those who would rather take the risk of being infected with malaria than dealing with the side effects of the medication
The side effects of antimalarial tablets can often include:
- Upset stomach
- Sleep disturbances
- Sunburn (as a result of light sensitivity)
Some of these can make for a fairly miserable experience whilst out on a game drive, which is why so many people prefer not to take medication.
Whilst many travelers do get lucky and manage to arrive home safely without any issues, there is one thing we know for sure. If you need emergency medical care for malaria treatment, it’s a sure-fire way to turn your bucket-list dream into a complete disaster!
If you don’t think you can deal with the potential side effects of antimalarial medication, you should seriously reconsider whether a safari vacation is right for you.
You can obtain further information from your travel clinic about the risks of the medication for your personal circumstances.
7. Other Insects and Creepy Crawlies
Large insects are one of the most common things people worry about when on safari in Africa. After all, if you come from a fairly tame country where it’s rare to see creepy crawlies frequently, you may rightly feel apprehensive about what may be lurking around the camp.
Africa is host to some exotic species of giant insects, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed with how they may make your safari trip a misery. The reality is, if you want to avoid seeing the majority of them – you can!
Some of the more bothersome insects and creepy crawlies you are likely to find on safari are camel spiders and dung beetles. Scorpions are fairly rare to come across (even when you are looking for them), so there’s no need to worry too much about those, especially if you’re wearing boots.
How to Deal With It
Stay in Lodges
Avoiding tented campsites is the single most effective way to reduce your chances of coming across creepy crawlies, as they do not like cool environments, such as air-conditioned rooms.
Hang Clothing Indoors
You may have heard some stories of people finding insects or larvae in their clothing. The best way to prevent this is to hang clothing (above ground level) inside your lodge or tent.
Go During the Dry Season
You are less likely to encounter tsetse flies, mosquitos, and scorpions during the dry season.
Wear Boots with Socks
Wearing boots is a great precaution against insects crawling on or biting your feet, and tucking your trousers into your socks will help keep them off. You should avoid wearing open-toe sandals in camp.
8. Worrying about Self-Drive Safaris
The thought of planning your own self-drive safari can seem like the perfect way to get the most out of your trip, but there is an awful lot that can quickly turn your dream into a nightmare if you’re not a seasoned safari-goer.
Even without any hiccups, your safari experience will be extremely limited without the help of a professional guide. A few of these can include:
- Having to stick to main roads
- Not allowed access to certain parks
- No local knowledge or experience
- The stress of navigating or getting lost
- Underestimating your safety levels
- Unable to communicate with local guides to find out where the action is
- Getting a flat tire
- Vehicle breaking down
- Vehicle getting stuck during bad weather
How To Deal With It
If it’s your first safari experience and you’re already worrying about the implications of self-drive, the best way to deal with this is to ditch it and go for a private safari tour instead.
It’s not as expensive as you may think, and the experience will make every dollar spent entirely worth it! There’s no one better than an experienced safari guide to show you where you’re likely to find the best wildlife.
9. Long Game Drives
Safari days are long, they can be uncomfortable, and require lots of patience.
If you have any trouble sitting comfortably for long periods of time, then you may be worried about whether your back can take all the bumpy, long game drives.
You may also have concerns with how to cope with long drives that take over 4 hours to get from one park to the next with very little to see out of the window en route.
How To Deal With It
Vehicle with Pop-up Roof
When booking your safari tour you can opt for a vehicle that has a pop-up roof. We spent at least 5 hours of the day standing up during our game drives, which made a huge difference to the usual sciatic pain experienced from sitting for long periods.
It also provides a little workout, as you’re using your core strength and thighs for balance.
The beauty of booking a private safari tour is that you can dictate when your safari day starts and ends. Although 6am drives can be the best time to go out, you can decide what you choose to do with your day.
Take a book, kindle, or anything else that could help pass the time and make the ride more comfortable to help with long periods of inactivity between game drives.
10. Length of Safari
Many people will have you believe that you need at least two weeks on safari to really get any enjoyment or value out of it.
The truth is, you can have a great time in just five days if you’ve spent a little time planning it right. Also, two weeks on safari can be incredibly tiring!
If you are having several apprehensions about your safari, then cutting down the number of days is one of the best ways to be eased into it.
Speak with a tour operator about your requirements, what you would love to experience or see, and then plan out how many days you’ll need to achieve this.
When we planned our Serengeti and Ngorongoro safari trip, we removed Lake Manyara and Tarangire National Parks from the standard itinerary and were so pleased we did. Spending the extra time in the Serengeti was the most important aspect for us, and five days was the perfect amount of time.
11. Group Safari Dynamics
You’re not alone if you’re worried about the impact group dynamics may have on your safari experience. Taking a gamble on how well you get on with other travelers can be a stressful concept if you’re the type to be easily annoyed by others.
Spending 10 hours a day in a vehicle can seem like a daunting prospect when you have no idea who you will be sharing with.
Group Tour Considerations:
- On a strict schedule
- It can get cramped and stuffy in the vehicle
- Scrambling for the best spot in the vehicle to see the action
- You may feel obliged to share your binoculars/bug spray/charger with others
- If one person needs the restroom – you all need the restroom!
How To Deal With It
If you know you’re likely to be miserable in a group, then consider booking a private safari tour.
Go for a Private Safari
We used Roy Safaris for a private tour and it only cost an extra $200 per person over five days – we’d be happy to pay twice that amount for the luxury of our own space and schedule.
12. Selecting the right Safari Company
The single most important factor in the success of your safari trip comes down to the safari tour operator you select. A well-organized, easy-to-reach, and friendly company will take a heap of stress off your shoulders.
It’s best to find and book with a tour company that you can have direct contact and control with, as opposed to using a travel agent as the go-between.
A Reputable Safari Company will:
Takes Safety Seriously
A great safari company prioritizes its passenger’s safety before anything else, even if it means saying no or causing disappointment.
Have a Reliable Fleet of Vehicles
The last thing you want is to worry about breaking down whilst out on a game drive. Vehicles should be fitted with at least one spare tire, and great safari companies will train their drivers in vehicle mechanics and equip them sufficiently to carry out minor repairs without the need to call in help.
Offers a Selection of Guides
Do you prefer someone who is chatty, speaks another language, has lived in the bush, or is a great storyteller? A reputable company can offer guides that cater to individual needs.
Provide Ethical Safari Experiences
An ethical safari company ensures that they are protecting their wildlife and respecting their space, and making contributions towards conservation and sustainable safari travel.
13. Whether you’ll like your Safari Guide
If you’ve chosen the perfect tour operator, you should have little to worry about when it comes to the selection of your safari guide.
Even with this, there could still be a reasonable level of concern about whether you’ll get on with your guide, especially when you’re relying on them to deliver the ultimate safari experience for you.
If your safari tour operator is well regarded, it’s because they have a knack for finding and retaining the best safari guides. Traveler reviews have such a huge bearing on their businesses, they cannot get away with offering sub-par guides.
In any case, if you find that you’d like to limit the time spent with your safari guide outside of game drives, then you can!
How To Deal With It
Talk to your tour operator about your ideal type of guide, along with any characteristics you may prefer. They can arrange for this if they have plenty of notice.
During the safari, there’s absolutely no pressure to invite your guide to join you for dinner. Generally, guides will have their meals in staff quarters, unless you expressly state otherwise. You’ll be expected to cover their dinner expenses if you do decide to have them along.
14. The Weather
When you’re booking a trip of a lifetime, it’s completely reasonable to have worries about the weather ruining the experience for you.
When dreaming about the ultimate safari experience, you’ll have visions of the African sun beating down onto the dry plains, and subsequently packing a light suitcase (as you would for a summer vacation).
When on safari, the mornings and evenings can be incredibly cold, so pack something to keep you warm. Extremes in weather conditions can be a problem if you’re not prepared.
The heat on a safari can make you miserable if you have not planned accordingly, and many people are often caught short without supplies once out there.
Sunburn, heatstroke, and dehydration are all serious conditions that should be avoided at all costs. As a minimum, take a hat with a wide brim, high-SPF suncream, and sunglasses.
Extreme rain can make driving conditions quite challenging, even for the most experienced of guides. It can also mean that certain routes become inaccessible by road.
How To Deal With It
The weather systems are still fairly reliable in sub-Sharan Africa, so if you’re really keen on avoiding rain then selecting the right time of year for your visit is easily done. If you are planning to travel in-between seasons, then packing the right safari gear is important.
15. Choosing the Right Type of Accommodation
When most people think of their dream safari, it often includes images of staying in a luxury tented camp in the middle of the action.
However, camping is not for everyone.
Lodges provide far superior comfort for those that have any camping anxiety and could be a better option if there’s any apprehension.
How To Deal With It
There are pros and cons for both accommodation types, and often the best way to deal with this is to split your time between camps and lodges for the full African safari experience.
Carry out thorough research on any camps or lodges you have shortlisted, and read through online reviews to see what concerns other people have mentioned about the accommodation.
16. Living Conditions in Tented Camps
You have some people that just sign on the dotted line when it comes to booking an adventurous trip. Then you have those of us that need to know every little detail about the living conditions before we’re willing to commit to anything!
If you’d really like to stay in a tented safari camp but are worried about how comfortable you’ll really be, then here are few common things to note:
If you can’t survive without a hot shower then do not worry! There are plenty of tented safari camps that offer hot water bucket showers – boiled to order. One big bucket is usually enough for two people, but if you need more you can just give the staff a shout.
Toilet and Bathroom Facilities
If you’re concerned about the toilet and bathroom facilities on camp, you’re definitely not the first!
Most mid-luxury safari tents will have a fully functioning flushable toilet – no need to worry about a hole in the ground! If you’ve gone for an uber-luxury camp, then you’ll probably have a bathtub (and hot water) to go with it.
Electricity is scarce on campsites, and although you’ll have lighting 24/7 in your tent, do not expect to be able to use large electrical appliances like hairdryers.
Charging items such as mobile phones and cameras can take a lot longer than usual, so using a good power bank can help ensure your battery never runs low.
Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
If you generally struggle with your sleep, then you may be restless on your first night in a safari tent!
The camel spiders you saw at dinner, the sounds of animal footsteps around your tent, and the completely unique environment you find yourself in can play a key role in keeping you up at night.
A good set of earplugs are a must if you are woken by the slightest of sounds.
Walking around the camp during daylight hours is perfectly fine, so long as you stay close by. At night and first thing in the morning, you will be escorted to and from your tent by camp staff, who can be called via your own personal walkie-talkie. A headtorch can come in very handy in camp!
17. Keeping Insects Out of your Tent
On our first night in a safari tented camp, we witnessed the speed of huge camel spiders scurrying around us during dinner.
Convinced that they would be in our tent, it kept us up all night. It wasn’t until we woke the next morning and didn’t find a single one, that we realized just how well-sealed our tent was.
How To Deal With It
The easiest way for insects to get into your tent is when the integrity of the seals have been compromised. All good tents are fitted with zippable insect meshing and nets across the front and sides.
Ask the camp staff to keep the tent fully zipped up when they are cleaning in order to limit the chances of insects sneaking in during the day.
18. Free-Roaming Animals in Camp
If there is one thing that’ll make your safari experience highly memorable, it’s waking up to the trotting of zebras or the roar of a lion within close proximity to your tent.
Whilst this can cause a huge amount of anxiety in some people, it’s important to understand why these animals are extremely unlikely to cause harm to humans.
Although elephants are known to cause severe damage, camps sites are set up away from paths regularly used by elephants.
Lions may roam around the campsite at night, but as long as you keep your tent zipped up and free of any food, they are no cause for concern.
Free-roaming animals in camps are the highlight for many travelers, and incidents involving contact with humans are extremely rare.
19. What You Need To Pack
A safari trip requires a little more planning in terms of what you need to pack in comparison to most other vacations.
Luggage weight and space is precious in safari vehicles and bush flights, so only packing what you need is key.
Apart from a few absolute essentials, there’s no need to splash out on loads of new gear that you may only use once.
Having recently been on safari, we have put together this list of safari items you should consider in order to make your experience the best it can possibly be!
It’s only natural to have concerns about what could go wrong during your African safari. Not knowing what to expect can be an adventure for some, and a nightmare for others!
Once you do a little research, trust your guides, and obey the rules, there should be nothing stopping you from enjoying this experience of a lifetime.
We hope this list of common safari anxieties has helped answer some of your concerns.
Is there something else we haven’t covered? Let us know in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you!