Advice Before I Go on a Safari in Africa…

“B ack in the 90s when I was a single backpacker I got sucked into one of these and ended up with several pot smoking Europeans which totally freaked me out as if the police had stopped the car I would have been in trouble too just for being in the car with them! Luckily nothing happened!”

I mentioned a couple of times in recent articles that I will be in Kenya within the next few weeks; and although I have been to Africa, I have never gone on any type of a safari in Africa — or anywhere, for that matter.

Conflicting information was found during my search; so I decided to reach out to Tara of Miles To The Wild for some advice. First, she imparted the experience of embarking on an independent safari in Tanzania which I quoted to begin this article.

Fortunately, I do not have to worry about that scenario happening to me.

Although I typically despise tours, rental car rates in Nairobi were approaching $100.00 per day with a limited amount of kilometers included; so for me, self-driving my own safari was not an option — especially as I was unsure as to where exactly to go to get the best views of wildlife.

Through the recommendation of Michael of Michael W Travels…, I found what appears to be the best safari within the timeframe when I will be in Kenya. Even though she was not familiar with the tour operator itself, Tara let me know that “the price does look very reasonable for 4 days and I like their booking interface and that they take credit cards. You don’t have much time to lock something in and you won’t be in NBO long enough to ferret out a deal backpacker style. There are touts that pester individual travelers who are wandering around streets with safari agencies but you can’t depend on the quality of the safari.”

Tara recommended that I probably needed a vaccination for yellow fever to return into the United States, if nothing else — although a representative of the tour company claims that “a yellow fever vaccination would be required for East Africa, and I would also highly recommend that you take Malaria pills.” An advantage is that the vaccination will be good for ten years; so if I travel to a part of the world in the future where yellow fever is considered a problem, I will be protected.

The cost for a yellow fever vaccination seems to be $170.00 plus $30.00 for the examination at one facility. Malaria pills are approximately eight dollars each. I will contact another facility and see what the costs are there.

“Yes you do need malaria pills,” said Tara, who uses Doxycycline with her husband in Australia, where they are based. “It’s the cheapest (in Australia) and also prevents other minor infections.” She also recommended that I wear long pants — not a problem, as I usually wear jeans and rarely wear shorts — and “bring a mozzie spray with DEET to avoid being bitten, not sure if dengue is an issue. My husband got both dengue & malaria in 2013 when we were in West Papua, he was in the hospital for a week, really sucked!  He insisted on wearing shorts, well he doesn’t anymore!”

I remember taking chloroquine when I went to Africa; but I understand that there are many strains of malaria which are now resistant to chloroquine. I also was vaccinated with yellow fever, amongst other medications to prevent from getting sick while in Africa.

Although I did not suffer any after-effects from taking that medication, I do not like to take medication unless absolutely necessary. I constantly profess about how I rarely ever get sick by thoroughly washing my hands; but mosquitoes have been known to have a preference of me as their meal. I do remember when I was in West Africa — yes, not far from where the Ebola virus is currently rampant — in the countries of Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire; and I had been bitten by mosquitoes, of which I am glad I was properly vaccinated for malaria and other diseases such as yellow fever before I left the United States. Despite using lotions which are supposed to be resistant to mosquitoes and using burning mosquito coils, nothing helped — I was still bitten by them. I contracted no illness whatsoever after spending approximately three weeks there — not even digestive issues after drinking the water there. I slept in huts on burlap sacks for beds. I navigated walking through dense jungles. I traveled in bush taxis on bumpy dirt roads for at least 60 miles. I drank naturally fermented palm wine scooped right out of the open trunk of a dead palm tree which lay on the ground.

This article called Staying Safe & Healthy On Safari In South Africa – Videos was posted by Tara and brought to my attention in response to the recent articles I posted pertaining to an aggressive hippopotamus which nearly attacked a boat on a lake in Zambia and elephants attacking cars in Thailand. It contains good information if you plan to go to a national park in South Africa — which I just might do in late February or early March, as I am expected to travel to Johannesburg in late February.

Tara and her husband “are going to Khao Yai in a few months (April to be precise but I never post exact dates online pre-trip). Hopefully the ellies will have calmed down by then!”

I hope so as well, Tara; and thank you and Michael for your assistance. I appreciate it…

…and if you have any advice to impart to me — and yes, I intend to post reports of my trip to Kenya — please post it in the Comments section below. Thank you in advance.

  1. Glad that you booked the tour with Nomad and it was my pleasure to help! With the limited time you have, you’ll be seeing a couple of great parks in Kenya. The Masai Mara is ridiculously amazing! Enjoy.

  2. To my knowledge, you can’t be vaccinated for malaria.
    I’ve been to Africa five times and have always done a safari. My first safari was in South Africa so malaria pills were not needed. However, on my safari in Kenya, I opted to skip the malaria pills after learning my friend who works there didn’t take them (most if not all locals in Kenya do not take malaria pills.) I did, however, take the extra precaution of bringing mosquito spray and always wearing long pants/socks and long-sleeved shirts. Be aware there are other mosquito-bourne (sp?) diseases out there like dengue fever which, unfortunately, do not have any preventative pills like malaria — but can be prevented through mozzie spray or simply wearing longsleeve shirts and trousers. I also avoided eating bananas and instead ate a lot of garlic (not sure if those worked but I didnt get that many bites.) By all means if you can afford malaria pills, then go for it!
    Best advice I have for safari is to only go during dawn (morning) and dusk (late afternoon.) That’s the best time to see animals moving around/hunting/awake. The remainder of the day they seem to be under a shade somewhere sleeping.
    Have a blast and enjoy the safari!

  3. You should not need proof of yellow fever vaccination to visit Kenya unless you are visiting from a place where yellow fever is endemic. Then again, if you were vaccinated in the last 10 years, it cannot hurt to bring the yellow card you got as proof. [I keep mine in the back of my passport whenever I travel.]

    Doxycycline monohydrate should be fine for malaria prohylaxis in Kenya, but keep in mind that the recommended dosage is to start taking it 1-2 days before entering a malarious area, the whole time you are there, and 28 days after you leave. The CDC does not have a problem with long-term usage, but you can have side effects [e.g., nausea, diarrhea, and photosensitivity (increased sensitivity to the sun–and sunburn)].

    Wearing jeans might not be the best idea. Mosquitoes are drawn to darker things. You might like to wear them during cool dawn and dusk games drives, but those are also the most likely times you will be bitten by mosquitoes. Long pants and long-sleeved shirts in a light-colored fabric are best. Most people wear khaki colors.

    DEET is a good insect repellent, but a lot of people don’t want to slather it all over themselves. One of the best things you can do is buy Permethrin spray [on the Internet, or at any camping store]. It is insect repellent that binds to fabric. Spray your clothes while they are hanging up–NOT while wearing them–and let them dry. Protection lasts for up to six weeks and three washings. Be sure to treat your socks as well and hat (recommended).

  4. Brian,
    Check out an app called Goodrx, which I discovered before my recent (first) safari when researching malaria pill costs. They partner with all of the major pharmacy chains (CVS, etc.) and I was able to find malaria pills — the exact same name-brand version as prescribed by my doctor — for about 30% of the retail price. It’s free to use and there are no limits on purchase amounts, and they even have decent customer service. No idea what their business model is or how they’re making money, but you should be able to do a heck of a lot better than $8 per pill through them. Worth a look.

  5. When I went to Africa, it was stunning. The best trip I have ever done. 28 days of camping through 7,200 km of Southern Africa. Camping safaris are awesome. I woke up to the sound of lions roaring one night in Etosha (Namibia) and saw them at the watering hole 20 yards away. I realize that not all want to spend a month in a tent, but hey, I am 21 and love it. I booked my trip through G Adventures.

    For malaria pills, I took Malerone, which cost me a whopping $10 for 38 pills. Our insurance is pretty great. Unfortunately, the pills did not agree with me, so I stopped them for a day, then tried again, and just said screw it and went without them…i’m still alive! The Yellow Fever, to my knowledge, is not to get into the US, but instead to get into Africa, and other countries once you have been to endemic countries with YF, you have to show proof of vaccination. I carry mine every where (I got checked in Chile), and travel to a bunch of countries that require it, so it pays off for me. i would say it is definitely worth it. Also, South Africa has YF in certain places. Joey, you are incorrect. Kruger, is a YF zone, so it depends where you go.

    I could honestly write forever about this trip, I have a 5 page TR coming up, showing some of the 5,000 photos I took on my trip. Africa is incredible, the people are incredibly friendly, and the food (in SA) was divine. (That surprised me). You will love it, and I hope to hear about your trip in the future!

    1. Please be sure to post links of your trip report here, Andrew. I welcome it.

      I have my appointment set for a yellow fever vaccination as well as for malaria pills…

    1. That is because I had not decided yet, chicness; but because my time in Kenya is limited, I believe I have made a decision and intend to post a trip report about it in a future article.

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