Born in Tanzania, perhaps the most famous safari destination in the world, and going on safari trips for fun, I always wondered: What will happen if an animal charges on a tourist? Will safari guides bring out their rifles and shoot the animals right in the head just like a bollywood movie?
This is until many years later that I realized that safari guides do not carry guns (and for all the right reasons)
Safari guides are not allowed to carry guns in any African country, either in game drives or on a walking safari. You can have an armed ranger while going on a walking safari for safety. Usually, park rangers are the ones who are authorized to have guns on game drives for the general safety of tourists and to keep poachers away
Why Do Safari Guides Not Need Guns?
Here is the thing. Look at this data of how many people have been visiting safari every year.
Reports suggests that Africa is being visited by 30 million tourists every year, and most of them are for safari.
Not to mention that the overall safari industry has reached nearly $33 billion in 2022.
But how many time have you heard animals killing tourists on a safari tour? Yes, this is true that there are some stories where animals killed human beings, but almost all of them happened due to human negligence.
Or from humans who tried to invade animals territories.
So data suggest that the death rate on safari tours in next to none, which means that guides have no need to carry guns.
Why Don’t Safari Guides Carry Guns?
Let’s break down this famous question of safari tourists for different types of safari.
Guns in Photographic Safari Tours
Photographic safaris are the most popular and widely enjoyed form of safari tourism in Africa. These tours focus on capturing the beauty of wildlife through photography and observing animals in their natural habitat.
In such tours, guns are not allowed for safari guides.
The primary purpose of photographic safaris is the thrilling experience of game drives and the opportunity to witness magnificent wildlife up close.
Many animals in Africa are already endangered, so killing more of them is the last thing one could imagine.
Guns in Tourist Hunting Safari:
In contrast to photographic safaris, Hunting safaris take place in the designated hunting blocks where hunting is permitted. These areas are specifically designated for hunting purposes, and visitors who partake in this activity are allowed to carry guns. However, it is important to note that tourist hunting is a distinct and separate activity from traditional photographic safaris.
But as the name suggests, these safaris are meant for trophy hunting, so guns are a must for it. And those guns are the ones that are not to protect humans but to kill animals.
Park Rangers are the Ones Who Carry Guns
Every safari traveler needs to understand one thing: there is a difference between safari guides and park rangers.
Park rangers are present in the national parks (or any other safari destination, for that matter) in order to protect you from animal attacks and to push any potential poacher back.
In the worst-case scenario, these rangers (and not guides) are the people who are authorized to use guns against animals.
You will see park rangers patrolling in safari destinations, keeping an eye on what’s happening out there.
Guns on a Walking Safari
Mostly, I have seen those safari travelers worried about guides having guns who are going on walking safari.
Even on a walking safari, guides do not have guns with them, but you have an opportunity to equip an armed park ranger with them.
When booking a safari, the cost of safari guides, as well as any necessary game rangers, is typically included in the package price. Visitors can enjoy the services of a trained game ranger if activities such as walking safaris are part of the itinerary.
In such cases, the cost of the game ranger is incorporated into the quoted price per person. This ensures that visitors can engage in exciting activities with added peace of mind. This is one of the reasons which make safari trip expensive.
And if you don’t have an armed game ranger with you on a walking safari, you can specially ask your tour operator to add one, and the ranger will be added to your package on the request.
How Do Safari Guides Protect Tourists Without a Gun?
But here, a question arises: if safari guides don’t have a gun, how can they protect travelers?
While the absence of guns in the hands of safari guides may raise concerns about safety, it is important to highlight the comprehensive training they undergo.
Safari guides possess extensive knowledge about the local flora, fauna, and wildlife behavior. They are skilled at identifying potential risks and ensuring visitor safety during game drives. Through their expertise and understanding of the environment, guides help minimize the chances of encountering dangerous situations.
Here are the steps safari guides may take to protect you from wild animals.
Expertise in Navigating Challenging Terrain
Safari guides are equipped with the right vehicles and trained in off-road driving techniques. They can skillfully maneuver through tough, muddy terrains, ensuring a safe and effective exploration of the game park. This eliminates the risk of being stranded in an unreliable or broken-down 4×4 under the scorching African sun.
Understanding of Animal Behavior
Having a proper understanding of animal behavior is the biggest arsenal of any safari guide. Most safari guides have extensive knowledge of animal behavior and can identify which animals pose potential dangers and in what ways.
With this understanding, they act sensibly and provide you with informed advice on how to react in different situations. Their expertise ensures that you can enjoy close encounters with wildlife while remaining safe and without disturbing or alarming the animals.
Maintaining Safe Distances
Safari guides are well aware of the appropriate distances to keep from different animals to ensure both your safety and the well-being of the wildlife. They understand the thresholds that allow for observation without causing undue stress or provoking aggressive behavior. This knowledge enables them to guide you on how close you can get to various animals without compromising your safety or disturbing their natural behavior.
Awareness of Animal Life Stages and Patterns
Safari guides possess in-depth knowledge about the life stages and patterns of different animals. For example, they understand that male elephants can exhibit heightened aggression during musth, a period of elevated testosterone levels. In the presence of such individuals, guides exercise extra caution while driving to avoid potential charges. By being well-informed about animal behaviors and patterns, guides can anticipate and mitigate risks effectively.
Safety on a safari tour is a long debate. Over the years, many people have come across the idea of how to make safari experiences safe for travelers. But guns in the hands of safari guides carry too many risks that cannot be ignored, so that is why they are not allowed to carry guns. But that does not make you unsafe.
In fact, safaris are absolutely safe as long as you are following the guidelines of your guide and tour operators. These guidelines are the real weapon that will save you at the end of the day.
Bariki was born and raised in Tanzania, the land of the magnificent Serengeti, Ngorongoro, and Manyara wildlife parks. He grew up surrounded by Africa’s natural beauty. Visiting his grandpa in Moshi Kilimanjaro, at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, provided him with early exposure to wildlife and the natural world.
As a technology and human rights blogger, he has always been passionate about writing. With many relatives working in the tourism industry, he has stayed abreast of the industry’s successes and challenges, which led him to write about African safaris.
Now residing in the USA, Bariki is using his firsthand knowledge to help foreigners plan their dream safari in Africa. At Posire, he shares his expertise on everything you need to know about planning a safari, from choosing the right destination to the best time to go and what to expect during your adventure.