In the middle of Africa, things run very differently from at home. It’s very important to be sensitive to your surroundings, both cultural and environmental – not only will it make your safari experience more enjoyable, but it will also have substantially less impact on the animals you’re viewing and your hosts.
Here are some tips for anyone going on safari:
- Be as quiet possible at all times (this is extra important if you’re considering taking small children on safari). Avoid making any noise that will attract or frighten wildlife.
- Be as unobtrusive as possible: wear the neutral coloured clothing (khaki, white, light brown) while walking in the bush.
- Dress and behave respectfully to avoid offending local people.
- Do not litter – everything you carry in you must carry out. Aside from the environmental damage, litter can be harmful to the wildlife. Waste disposal can be difficult in remote areas – remove all unnecessary packaging before you travel.
- Don’t encourage your guide to take you too close to the animals or to change the driving route; they will feel pressured. Remember that they are the professionals and know best.
- Never pick plants and flowers.
- Obey all game laws and regulations, and respect the fact that your guide must also obey these rules.
- Do not buy or trade for any articles covered under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). These include ivory, turtle products, rhino horn, furs, butterflies and many plant species.
- Support the community by buying locally crafted souvenirs. Haggling is expected, but be aware that what may seem to be a very small sum to you can make a big difference to a local, so don’t force them into reducing their prices too drastically.
- If you wish to make a charitable donation – such as writing equipment for students – it’s better to give through a local organisation or school, as handing things out on the street encourages begging.
- As a courtesy, ask before you take a picture of someone, but think twice if they request payment.
- Be aware that water is a scarce resource in many places, so use it very sparingly. Sign up to Tourism Concern’s WET pledge to support the organisation’s campaign to ensure water rights are protected.
By observing these suggestions (many of which are simply common sense), you’ll find yourself at ease with locals and your surroundings. Avoiding tension or embarrassment with the locals, and respecting the animals and their habitat will mean that your safari holiday is a better experience for all involved.