A well-planned safari is often the vacation of a lifetime. Africa’s national parks and game reserves boast some of the best wildlife viewing, if not the best in the world. Here are a few tips to make sure your african safari is as enjoyable and hassle-free as possible.

Passports and Visas

Getting visa approval may take a while, so it’s best to tackle this aspect of your safari in good time–say at least 2 months in advance.

Passport must be valid for at least six months upon your return home. Also make sure you have extra passport photos (just in case).

Make sure your passport has enough blank pages to accommadate any visa requirements (entry/departure stamps) that may arise during the course of your safari.

Ensure you have up-to-date information on the specific documentation requirement for your trip–find out from your travel agent, relevant diplomatic mission, airline or tourist board.

Leave a copy of your passport and travel itinerary with someone responsible at home. It is also advisable to carry an extra copy with you when you travel to Africa.

Travel Insurance–minimum travel insurance is essential. In general your insurance should cover:

twenty-four hour medical assistance

emergency cash transfer

accident coverage

lost baggage

accidental death

Gorilla Tracking and Permits

Each safari park gets allotted a limited number of gorilla permits each season. It is therefore essential to obtain your gorilla permit when you initially book your safari.

For the gorillas’ protection (and visitors’) nobody under the age of 15 yrs or persons with illness may view the gorillas on safari treks.

Viewing the gorillas is limited to one hour at a minimum distance of 5 metres.

You are not allowed to use a flash when taking photos.

Video cameras are (generally) allowed.

Every viewing group will be escorted with park rangers, trackers and guides. Follow the guide’s instructions and please abide by the park’s rules.

Avoid the temptation to break the minimal distance for viewing the gorillas. Also absolutely avoid physical contact with the gorillas. Physical contact with gorillas exposes them to human diseases (a major cause of death to wild gorillas). Remember there’re few enough of these magnificent creatures without you abetting in their extinction (albeit unintentionally).

Gorilla viewing may be denied at short notice at the discretion of the national park authorities. This may occur because of:

Park or border closure due to security reasons;

Gorillas out of range (usually close tabs are kept on the where abouts of the gorillas by rangers who track them on a daily basis).

So please be aware that obtaining a gorilla permit is not an absolute guarantee that you’ll see the gorillas. If for any reason you’re unable to view the gorillas (though you paid for a permit), refunds are at the discretion of the park or the respective wildlife authority of that particular country…not your tour company.

Customs Issues

Don’t forget to factor in airport taxes, which may sometimes be extra and due before you depart.

Check duty-free allowances (alcohol and cigarettes) for the various countries you are visiting if you intend to take stock with you.

Generally, personal effects such as cameras, video cameras, digital recorders (tape as well) may be imported without a permit (so long as you don’t have unreasonable numbers).

Occasionally a customs bond may be required–to ensure that any such imported merchandise is exported at departure.

Firearms require a special permit.

Health Issues

Discuss pertinent health issues with your doctor (in good time) prior to embarking on your african safari.

Make sure your childhood vaccinations are up to date.

Different countries have different vaccine requirements.

Yellow Fever–No vaccine is usually required unless you’re arriving within six days of leaving an infected region.

Malaria–A malarial prophylactic course is highly recommended for all non-Africans. As usual confer with your physician/and or the nearest vaccination center for the most up-to-date requirements.

AIDS–For many African countries AIDS / HIV are serious health issues. However for most travellers this should not be a major concern. The HIV virus is transmitted by the exchange of bodily fluids, therefore, as long as you practice the same sensible (cautionary) measures as you do back home you should be okay.

Bilharzia–(schistomiasis). This disease is caused by tiny waterborne parasites found in certain snail species. Prophylaxis (preventitive measures) is not available and the only option is treatment by drugs and injection. The condition is quite unpleasant so it is best not to swim or or wade in rivers or streams.

Currency

It is inadvisable to enter or depart an African country with large sums of local currency.

Travel with a sufficient number of small-denomination traveller checks to cover any incidental expenses you may have.

In cities and larger towns many establishments accept international credit cards.

Usually there is no limit to the amount of foreign currency you can import.

Currency exchange is legal only through authorized dealers. Most city hotels are equipped to exchange money and more often than not the official exchange rate will usually be quite favorable. It is ill-advised to try to exchange your money on the black market (for a better rate). Doing so is an unnecessary security risk, and there’s a good chance you may get ripped off.

ATMs are usually available in most cities and towns but remember this is not America or Europe so plan accordingly

You may tip in local currency or U.S. dollars (more likely than not most locals would prefer being tipped in dollars).

You can change your travellers checks and dollars into local currency at airports and banks. Small denominations are preferrable. Always keep your receipt so that you can exchange any excess local currency back to dollars on your departure.

Keep at least $150 (usually in denominations no larger than $20) in cash, for visas and airport departure fees (per individual).

Be aware that only high-denomination US bills printed after year 2000 are generally accepted (something to do with counterfeit preventative measures).

What To Pack On An African Safari

Find out the luggage restrictions (limitations) from your tour operator if your safari is through such an organization.

Avoid clothing that resembles military attire–African countries tend to be jittery of such (coup plot phobia).

It’s preferable to travel with soft compact baggage.

Laundry is performed on a daily basis in most camps and lodges (this may not extend to your underwear), so it isn’t necessary to cart along tons of luggage.

Africa is sun rich so sunglasses are recommended as well as head protective gear(safari hats).

Malaria is a fact of life in Africa–mosquitoes usually hunt from dusk till dawn–so long-sleeved shirts and trousers (pants) are advisable for the evening.

Formal dress attire may come in handy if you intend to visit any clubs, casinos or restaurants that implement such requirements. The following items are strongly recommended:

Insect repellent

Sun block

Comfortable trekking shoes

Raincoat / Jacket

Best of luck and have a great African Safari!