African safari. It's the dream we've all dreamed of. Or...maybe not, if we've heard and believed the rumors and myths that swirl around this literally awesome destination. We'd like to set the record straight on these myths, so that if Africa ISN'T already on your 'must visit' destination list now, it will be soon.
But before we start...there's one myth that is so egregious, it doesn't even get to be on the official list. So, it gets number zero...
Nope. False. Africa is a continent, like Europe, containing 55 separate countries and a myriad more cultures. For some reason we Americans tend to cognitively conflate the countries of this continent more often than those of any other region, but understanding their fantastic diversity and individual uniqueness is crucial, especially when you're trying to find the truth behind the myths and plan the right safari for you.
OK, and with that out of the way, here are the six myths (and realities) about African safaris:
You've heard of the Big Five—the safari animals everyone has to see. (Not sure what they are? We're talking about lions, rhinoceroses, elephants, leopards, and Cape Buffalo.) And it's true, there are lots of places where you can see those same five animals —and giraffes and zebras, too. But there are sooo many more animals to see on safari, and the journey to find each one is a different experience. Want chimpanzees and flamingos? Head to Tanzania. Thousands of wildebeests on their annual migration? Kenya is really best. Tracking mountain gorillas? It has to be Rwanda or Uganda. The world's 99 species of lemurs are only in Madagascar. Beyond the wildlife, the cultural diversity of the African continent is vast and rich. If you love your first safari, there are tons of opportunities to do another one that astounds you in completely different ways.
Take our quiz! This tool asks you the right questions,
and gives you a recommended destination.
Alas, safaris can sometimes be pricey, but don't dismiss Africa out of hand, based simply on perceived expense. So many factors affect the affordability of a trip: how early you begin to plan (and save!), fluctuating flight costs and exchange rates, duration of stay and desired level of luxury. Participatory camping safaris can be relatively affordable. At Journeys, we have over 20 group trips to Africa, with a wide range of cost. We have adventure specialists who would love to speak with you about choosing the right one, or designing a custom trip to fit your needs and budget.
Like on other continents, some cities have more littered streets than others. Beyond trash, there have been highly visible news stories about disease outbreaks in African countries—but in reality these have been contained to a limited number of nations. Plus, there are no continuing contagious epidemics at this time. Depending on your destination country, your doctor may recommend a few extra immunizations, but this is true for travel to many other places including South America, Asia, and even Europe. Meanwhile, many business owners in Africa, like elsewhere, take great pride in maintaining impeccably clean, and charming, offerings. Over the years we have developed close, trusting relationships with our local partners. This allows us to provide immersive in-country experiences without ever compromising on hygiene. Ensuring the health and safety of our travelers is something we take very seriously here at Journeys and we pride ourselves on doing it well.
Health concerns aside, some travelers worry about physical safety on safari—whether because of violence by people or by animals. In reality, only four cities on the whole continent make the list of the World's 50 Most Dangerous Cities, all of these in South Africa, which is often considered a "safer" safari destination. Like anywhere, common sense and avoiding particular neighborhoods goes a long way in protecting people. Similarly, the dangers of safari animals are minimal when travelers follow safety precautions. Journeys guides and hosts are trained to advise you where you can walk alone, where you need to be accompanied, and where to stay in the vehicle to avoid hungry lions. Speaking of which—keep reading...
OK, maybe this one isn't a real "myth' about African Safaris, but my inner 6-year-old still dreams of a slumber party where the lions and I snuggle up and they let me braid their hair... they're just big cats, right?? Unfortunately those big cats aren't domesticated and don't appreciate petting or hair-braiding. Some companies offer opportunities for close encounters with cheetahs or lions, but the safety of many of these is questionable, and the ethics complicated.
Technically speaking, yes, you can. The question is really, do you want to? I'm sure by this point in your life you've figured out that one of the keys to success is knowing when to delegate. This is one of those times. Transportation across Africa's vast wilderness is challenging. Knowing which sites will have animals in a given week is more art than science. Spotting the animals once you get there is a practiced skill. We have a team of experts with a collective 145 years of travel planning and long-standing relationships with partners on the ground who live and breathe safari. Let us take the details off your hands so you can relax and revel in dreams of petting that lion (kidding!).
Thinking about an African safari?
Let an Adventure Specialist help you plan your perfect trip.
Welcome to The Bird's Word, the blog of Journeys International. Here at Journeys, we don’t just visit a place. We immerse ourselves into the culture, the people and the places where we travel. It’s what we call “adventure deeper.” Won’t you join us?