Your safari is planned, your tickets are booked, and now you are probably hearing the chatter of those around you sharing their opinions of a place they have never been to themselves…Are you sure it is safe? What about diseases? Do you have to get vaccinations?
Contrary to what people think, most of Africa is developed, clean, safe, and has more to offer than most of the world. While on safari or traveling with us to any of the countries, you are likely going to be experiencing restaurants, areas, camps and lodges that provide a clean, safe environment. Unless you are doing a camping safari, you are not necessarily going to be “roughing it” or exposed to many of the elements that may require you to have extra vaccinations.
*Use this nifty feature from the CDC to check what vaccinations are recommended based on the country you are visiting - it is updated regularly.
The two main “vaccinations” you will hear about are:
Yellow Fever. This vaccination is administered with one shot, and a certification is provided.
The past year, there has been a shortage of the vaccine in the U.S. Therefore, it is important to research what clinic has them in stock, and whenever they come in, just get it done.
We have had clients that are unable to find the vaccine in their home city, and end up traveling to a nearby city or state to get it.
Should be vaccinated at least 10 days prior to travel for it to be effective and valid.
The vaccination is valid for 10 years, so it is vital to keep the certification in a safe place and with you, to avoid having to get another shot if lost.
See Sample of certification below:
2. Anti-Malarial. These are in pill form, and depending on the brand you are prescribed the dosage and instructions may differ.
It is vital to stick to the dosage and schedule in taking these for them to be effective. Most of them require you to take the anti-malarial a few days before, during and after your travel.
There are side effects, and again, this depends on the type of anti-malarial.
Generally our clients are prescribed either Malarone or Lariam by the travel clinic. Why? I am not sure, but I am guessing based on the availability.
Are they Mandatory?
Depending on where you are traveling and to and from, the yellow fever vaccination may be mandatory. The map below shows the “yellow belt” where vaccinations are most likely going to be required (highlighted yellow). Example, if you are traveling from one of the yellow countries, to another yellow country or to a purple or green country, then you are more than likely going to require to show proof of your yellow fever vaccination. However, if you are traveling from a green or purple country into a yellow country, you will most likely not be required to have a yellow fever certification.
Please note that this is a general understanding of how it works, and things might change at any given notice.
Anti-Malarials are recommended. Most of the countries have varying risks of malaria, and depending where you go in each country the risks can higher or lower. The anti-malarials are also only about 90% effective, so we suggest supplementing them with:
A good repellent. Use religiously.
A great clothing repellent is the Sawyer “Permethrin Clothing Insect Repellent”, which you can find on amazon. We use this one, and it has worked great on all of our travels. Simply spray onto your clothes and let dry before you pack. The repellent is apparently good for about 6 washes. It does not leave stains, and does not smell. So, you won’t even know you have it on your clothing - HUGE bonus!
For topical application, I would consider the “Safari Strength BugMace” - All natural certified organic essential oils, and well reviewed. The mist spray application makes it easy to apply. OR as a perfect compliment to the Sawyer Permethrin, is their Sawyer topical Insect Repellent with 20% Picaridin.
Try to cover any exposed skin: Neck, ankles, arms, face, feet, hands, etc.
Mosquito for some reason tend to be attracted to the color blue (dark) and black. Therefore, it might be a good idea to avoid those colors if you are going to malaria prone areas.
In the evening in addition to the repellent around exposed skin, try to cover your ankles. For me anyway, they tend to love attacking my feet and ankles, so closed toe shoes, and some socks are helpful.
In your lodge or hotel, try to keep the window and doors closed. If in a tented camp, keep the zipper shut, and leave the lights off when you are away from the tent (at dinner, game drive, etc).
Most of the places will provide repellent in the room, so spray it down before you head to dinner. More than likely, the house keeping staff will do this when they turnover the bed.
Make use of the Mosquito Nets (mozzie nets) if they are provided.
Other Important Things to Consider
Before your journey begins, make sure you have gotten a general check-up with your doctor, and that you are cleared for travel. You are in high altitude in some areas, which can lead to difficulty breathing, especially if you push yourself.
Make sure your prescriptions are filled and you have enough for your entire trip and then some in case of flight delays or anything else.
Disclose to us if there are any medical conditions we should be aware of, including allergies so that we can let our ground team know well in advance.
Share your itinerary and our contact information with those close to you, so they are aware of your whereabouts in case of an emergency.
Get comprehensive travel insurance. It is an added expense to your already expensive safari, but protect your investment and spend the extra bucks for travel insurance. I didn’t believe in insuring myself until a few screw ups (usually flight related) that ended up costing me thousands out of pocket in extra tickets, lost luggage, and cancellations.
Be safe, be vigilant, and don’t push the boundaries of what is sensible.
Disclosure: The information above is compiled from our own experiences, those of our many clients over the years, and from the WHO and CDC. It is important to be informed, and well researched to make sure that you are prepared and that all the requirements are up to date. They change constantly, and it is up to you to stay informed. The information provided herewith are only suggestions, and should be treated as such.