So you’ve been thinking about a safari and want to know all about malaria in Africa. Malaria is easily preventable through medication, and there are ways to avoid getting bitten at all. Here’s how you can safely travel on malaria-free safaris, and a list of fantastic safari destinations that are malaria free or low risk.
What is malaria anyway?
Malaria is essentially a fever, with chills and sweats that wax and wane. It’s transmitted by mosquitos in some tropical and subtropical regions, with symptoms usually appearing a few weeks after being bitten.
Malaria is easy enough to avoid though, by taking antimalarial medication prescribed by your GP. And if you do get malaria, it’s fully curable.
Malaria-free and low-risk malaria areas
If anyone in your party is very young, very old or pregnant, we do however recommend that you visit malaria-free or low-risk malaria areas on your safari, just to be on the safe side. Of course, you might simply want to avoid malaria areas regardless.
While malaria-free areas have no history of malaria, low risk means that only a handful – or even no – malaria cases have been reported over a number of years. In low-risk areas it’s not necessary to take antimalarials; instead you can simply implement measures to avoid getting bitten by mosquitos.(We’ll outline how to do this below.)
At Art of Safari, we’ve curated a selection of malaria-free and low-risk malaria areas in Africa, as follows:
South Africa’s a fascinating cultural melting pot: where once empires collided, now flavours, rhythms and styles fuse. It’s a land of game-rich savannahs, peaceful deserts, rock-art filled mountains, wild coasts, pristine beaches and shipwreck-and-fish-filled seas. And apart from small nooks, it’s malaria free.
Malaria-free areas to visit include the Western Cape and Garden Route (for internationally acclaimed winelands, flower safaris and whales), the Mother City of Cape Town (for high-end culinary delights, magnificent beaches and oodles of culture) and the Kalahari, Madikwe and Waterberg regions (for off-the-beaten-track wilderness experiences). Alternatively you can spend time in the low-risk South African part of Maputaland, for scuba diving, animal tracking, turtle hatching and more.
Botswana showcases life and death in microcosm against the most sweeping of backdrops … like salt pans, wetlands and desert. Almost the size of France or Texas, it’s not surprising this immense realm offers such varied terrain. Although famed for its elephant population, which outnumbers its people, the country is also celebrated for its zebra migrations, its friendly meerkats and all the water-loving creatures of the Okavango Delta.
The Central Kalahari makes up the low risk and malaria-free part of the country; here see desert-adapted wildlife, go searching for black-maned lion or learn about desert survival with a San cultural experience.
The unique wildlife and authentic tribal cultures thriving in what seem to be inhospitable conditions make Namibia a compelling destination. This is desert country, with sand as far as eye can see. Enormous sand dunes, fossilised trees, ancient welwitschia plants and crazy desert-adapted creatures are all waiting for you here, as well as shipwrecked-scattered coasts and honking seals.
For a malaria-free part of the country, visit the red dunes and salt pans of Sossusvlei, or for a low-risk area, go to Damaraland and the Skeleton Coast – the former a lunar landscape where you’ll find desert-adapted black rhino, and the latter a rugged coastline famed for its rusted hulks of doomed trawlers and cargo ships.
Best known for the Great Wildebeest Migration that passes through the Masai Mara, Kenya is one of Africa’s safari capitals. There is plenty more that makes it special though, such as the abundant resident wildlife (including plenty of predators), the many exciting safari activities (like hot-air ballooning), the varied terrain (from savannah to sea) and the majestic local tribes (such as the Maasai and Samburu).
Northern Kenya, the country’s wildest part, ranges from malaria free to low risk, depending exactly where you go. Here you can see the Samburu Special Five, spend a day with elephant with the Douglas-Hamilton family and go on camel and quad-bike safaris.
When to go
For malaria-free and low-risk areas, the only thing you need to consider is when the area is at its finest, as you can go any time. For this we advise checking out our ‘when to go’ information listed with each of the above location links.
To avoid malaria in high-risk areas, it’s good to be cognisant of the weather. As malaria is carried by mosquitoes, you want to steer clear of hotter, wetter and more humid months, as this is when mosquitoes are most prevalent. Here, the cooler, drier months are the best times to go, so do your research beforehand. Again, you can refer to the handy ‘when to go’ information that we’ve included with all of our recommended safari destinations here, or ask one of our consultants for advice.
How to avoid getting bitten
The best way to avoid getting malaria is to not get bitten! In the evenings (when mosquitoes are most active), close up your room and put the aircon or fan on. Then cover up with long sleeves, trousers and socks, and defend exposed skin with mosquito repellent. When you change for bed, apply repellent to any further exposed skin, and sleep under a mosquito net.
If you do get bitten, don’t panic. Even in malaria areas, only a minority of mosquitoes actually carry the disease. Simply be aware of how you feel, and if you get fluey within a few weeks go see your doctor, letting him or her know you’ve been in a malaria area. As mentioned above, it’s easily treatable.
What to pack
As per above, you’ll need:
- A good insect repellent
- Long-sleeved tops and bottoms (lightweight is good for hotter areas)
- Malaria medication (ask your doctor which is best for your destination)
We hope we’ve convinced you that safari travel is perfectly safe, and that there are many great options for malaria-free safaris. If you have any further concerns, please chat to our expert travel consultants. And remember, always advise your GP before travel to ensure you’re adequately prepared.
To help with planning, download our handy malaria-free safaris infographic.