Sometimes we’re asked: ‘Is it safe to travel to Africa?’ The answer is yes! Hundreds of thousands of safari goers travel safely to Southern and East Africa each year, and leave Africa with lasting memories of not only their safari, but of the genuine warmth and hospitality of Africa’s people.
Before we get stuck in, let’s unpack the common perceived threats behind the questions of, ‘Is it safe to travel to Africa?’ and ‘What are the safest places to visit in Africa?’
In our experience, the three biggest concerns for travellers are terrorism, crime and wild animals. And we’d like to discuss a fourth issue that sometimes unfairly affects travel choices: travel advisories.
While parts of Africa are at risk of terrorism, in today’s world this is true wherever you go, even on some of the ‘safest’ continents in the world. Moreover, as we sadly know, in an attempt to maximise impact, terrorism is generally aimed at high-profile targets. By its very nature, an African safari avoids high-density human areas. Apart from passing through a couple of busy airports and one or two large cities on arrival or departure, the bulk of a safari is spent in some of the remotest – and arguably safest – places on the planet.
Similarly, crime is a pervasive element in most parts of the world. Whether you’re on holiday in Europe, the USA or anywhere else, the best solution is a common-sense approach. Avoid high-crime areas, particularly late at night, and don’t be flashy with cash or valuables. Where possible, leave unnecessary treasures at home, and lock up what you don’t immediately need in the hotel safe. However, safaris mostly avoid big cities anyway; while you’re in a remote safari destination, the biggest ‘crime’ you can expect is having your fruit stolen from your breakfast table by the local monkeys.
When it comes to wild animals, well, we can most assuredly say that they’re either significantly more scared of you than you are of them, or less interested. The luxury African safari industry is highly professional, with expert guides, excellent equipment and well-considered safety protocols. You’re probably safer in an open safari vehicle watching a pride of lion under the supervision of these skilled specialists than whizzing down your local highway with your mind on your to-do list.
Many First World countries issue travel advisories to inform their citizens of the potential risks of travelling to various countries. While these can be very informative, we’d like to highlight two potential pitfalls here. Firstly, advisories sometimes take the form of blanket statements: the issuing country covers themselves by negating travel to the entire destination when much of it is perfectly safe. Or secondly, although an advisory is specific about which parts of a country to avoid, the detail is overlooked or ignored, and the advisory is perceived to be country wide.
Imagine not visiting the US because parts of Detroit are unsafe. Hot spots can be avoided in Africa just as much as they can be at home. The key is travelling with a trusted, informed operator, like Art of Safari, who will steer you clear of troubled waters.
For more information on this topic, it’s worth reading Sir Richard Branson’s piece on ‘Why travel advisories hurt countries and help terrorists’.