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Animal Attacks: How to Stay Safe on Safari

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Megan Warrington

Safari Travel Planner

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Megan Warrington

Author: Megan Warrington - 5 April 2024

Last Update: 10 May 2024

The thrill of seeing the Big Five is often the prime reason for going on a safari. Seeing these wild animals in their natural environment is awe-inspiring and creates unforgettable memories. Despite safari lodges, operators, and guides undergoing the necessary training and implementing safety precautions, these animals remain unpredictable, combining the thrill of a bucket-list safari with a degree of risk.

The recent death of an 80-year-old U.S. citizen, tragically killed by a bull elephant, is a stark reminder of this. The incident occurred during a Wilderness game drive in Zambia’s Kafue National Park on 30 March. 

Wildnerness issued a statement confirming the fatal attack.

“At around 09h30 on Saturday, the six guests were on the game drive when the vehicle was unexpectedly charged by the bull elephant. Our guides are all extremely well trained and experienced, but sadly in this instance the terrain and vegetation were such that the guide’s route became blocked and he could not move the vehicle out of harm’s way quickly enough” said Keith Vincent, Wilderness CEO.

The incident has spotlighted safety measures for Africa’s diverse safari adventures, from Big Five spotting and mountain gorilla trekking to more exposed walking safaris. These experiences can bring you face-to-face with some of the world’s most majestic wildlife. 

Guiding Training and Safety Measures: 

Very little industry data exists on fatalities related to wildlife safari experiences, as incidents involving the death of tourists are rare. Industry experts estimate that on average less than two deaths are reported a year, despite millions of travellers booking safaris annually. 

Safari safety across the industry isn’t regulated by one specific organisation. Instead, standards are set by various bodies and associations across the continent, including adherence to sustainable and safe tourism practices and industry certification for guides. These measures contribute to high safety levels in safari operations across Africa.

Game Drive and Lions | Photo credit: Katavi Wildlife Camp
Game Drive and Lions | Photo credit: Katavi Wildlife Camp

Here’s a guide to the most popular safaris, an estimated thrill level, and suggested safety tips to ensure you remain safe and secure during your experience: 

Big Five Safari Game Drives

  • Thrill Level: High
  • Safety Measures: encounters with lions, elephants, buffalo, leopards, and rhinos can all be unpredictable. Always remain within the vehicle, follow your guide’s instructions, and keep noise levels to a minimum to avoid attracting attention. When spotting elephants, maintain a safe distance, especially from mothers with calves. Males are susceptible to a condition known as Musth, which makes them more energetic and irritable. It’s crucial to have an experienced guide who can read the environment and the animal’s behaviour.

Night Game Drives

  • Thrill Level: High
  • Safety Measures: The cover of darkness adds an element of unpredictability. Staying inside the safari vehicle, using only the guide’s spotlight, and keeping quiet enhances safety during these thrilling excursions.
Spotting a leopard on a night game drive.
Spotting a leopard on a night game drive. | Photo credit: Supplied

Mountain Gorilla Trekking

  • Thrill Level: High
  • Safety Measures: Gorilla trekking in countries like Rwanda and Uganda is a unique experience. A qualified guide will brief you on respectful behavior, such as not making direct eye contact and keeping a safe distance to prevent the transmission of diseases to this vulnerable species.  

Cheetah Encounters

  • Thrill Level: Moderate
  • Safety Measures: Cheetahs are generally less aggressive towards humans, but maintaining a quiet and still presence helps prevent startling them and ensures a peaceful observation.
  • Walking Safaris
  • Thrill Level: High
  • Safety Measures: Walking in the bush brings you closer to nature but requires strict adherence to the guide’s directions. Always walk in single file, stay quiet, and don’t stray from the group.

Bird Watching

  • Thrill Level: Low
  • Safety Measures: Birdwatching is generally safe, but being aware of your surroundings is essential, especially in areas where larger wildlife roams.

Hippo and Crocodile River Tours

  • Thrill Level: Moderate to High
  • Safety Measures: When in boats or on riverbanks, it’s vital to keep a safe distance from the water’s edge and follow all safety instructions, as hippos and crocodiles can be extremely dangerous.
Nile crocodile resting on a mudbank in the Mara River in Masai Mara, Kenya.
Nile crocodile resting on a mudbank in the Mara River in Masai Mara, Kenya. | Photo credit: Supplied

Rhino Tracking

  • Thrill Level: High
  • Safety Measures: Rhino sightings are a rare privilege due to their endangered status. Keeping a safe distance and remaining downwind ensures your safety and the rhinos’ comfort.

Wildebeest Migration

  • Thrill Level: Moderate
  • Safety Measures: The Great Migration is a spectacular event to witness. Observing from a vehicle and keeping to designated areas prevents disturbing the animals and ensures a safe experience.
Wildebeest migration, Image credits, Esirai Camp
A Wildebeest migration sighting. | Photo credit: Esirai Camp.

Basic Safari Safety Tips:

  • Always choose a reputable safari operator with experienced guides.
  • Stay in your vehicle unless instructed otherwise.
  • Listen to and follow your guide’s instructions at all times.
  • Wear neutral-colored clothing to blend into the environment.
  • Avoid loud noises or sudden movements that could startle wildlife.

 

Remember, every safari adventure is unique, and respecting wildlife is paramount to ensuring a safe and unforgettable experience. Adventure awaits, but safety always comes first – contact us to discuss  any added concerns or considerations you might have about planning your safari. 

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Copyright © Discover Africa Safaris | Animal Attacks: How to Stay Safe on Safari | Last Updated: 10 May 2024