While going on a walking safari, the most important question that comes to anyone’s mind is the safety standards of these trips. Anyone who is going on a walking safari always asks: Are walking safaris dangerous?
We interviewed many safari experts and guides who have been doing walking safaris for years to know the inside story.
Although there are some safety risks associated with walking safari, bush walks are usually safe if the general guidelines are followed. However, there are multiple death incidents reported with walking safaris, which concerns people about the safety of these trips.
Death Statistics in Walking Safari
There should be no doubt that people have died or been injured in walking safaris in the past. And the shocking thing is that predators are not the only species that you should be aware of in these situations. In fact, elephants and hippopotamus also offer significant challenges to walking safari tourists.
Or even a safari guide who was mauled to death by a lion in Zimbabwe walking safari.
While listening to these stories, you might think that it is better not to leave your house for a walking safari.
But there’s another side to the coin as well.
Walking safaris are specifically made safe by tour operators, as they follow a set of safety protocols.
And we are not claiming this out of thin air.
Here is our East African Representative, Leo, organizing walking safari.
How Does the Safety of Tourists Ensured in Walking Safari
To ensure the safety of participants, safari providers follow strict safety protocols.
Let’s have a look at the safety precautions which safari guides may take in order to protect tourists from animal attacks.
You Have an Armed Ranger With you
While going on a walking safari, an armed ranger mostly accompany you to avert any danger.
All walking safaris are guided by highly trained, expert guides who have a deep knowledge of the bush and the behavior of its inhabitants. The guides often come from local communities and have spent their lives learning about wildlife and how to react in different situations. They are mostly accompanied by park rangers, who carry guns for the worst-case scenario.
Training and Briefing
Before setting out on a walking safari, the guide provides a comprehensive safety briefing to guests. It’s essential that tourists follow these instructions carefully to ensure their safety.
Monitoring Wildlife Behavior
The guides are skilled at reading the behavior of wildlife and will alter their path if they perceive potential danger.
Size of the Group
Walking safaris are typically conducted in small groups to minimize impact and manage safety more effectively. The size of the group also impacts the behavior of the animals, as predators do not attack groups. They try to attack single individuals who are easy to attack.
Responsible tour operators use camps and lodges with highly trained and experienced guides, which helps to minimize risks.
Dangers of Walking Safaris: What Are the Most Common Concerns?
This one is a no brainer, but the most important concern in any walking safari is the close encounter with the wild animals. If you do come across a wild animal, your guide will instruct you on how to respond. This usually involves remaining calm and silent, avoiding direct eye contact with the animal, and allowing the animal to move away on its own.
Walking safaris guides are required to maintain the minimum physical fitness standards. So they are used to walking so much on a walking safari. However, if you are not an avid traveler or hiker, you can find many challenges that may curtail your ability to walk on long bush walks and catch up with the pace of the group.
Depending on the region, there may be risks of malaria or other diseases that may come with walking safaris. Or the reptiles that may be wandering in the wild. In order to avert these reptiles, you have to have the good safari hiking shoes that will save a day for you. In fact, it’s recommended to consult with a travel doctor or clinic before you go to get any necessary vaccinations and medications and advice on avoiding insect bites.
Weather and Terrain
Weather conditions can change rapidly in many African countries, and the terrain can be challenging in certain areas. It’s crucial to wear appropriate clothing and footwear, stay hydrated, and protect yourself from the sun.
Safety Tips for Individuals Going on a Walking Safari
If you’re considering a walking safari, it’s crucial to choose a reputable safari provider known for prioritizing safety and employing experienced guides. Prepare yourself physically for the demands of walking in potentially challenging terrain, and ensure you have appropriate clothing and footwear.
Here is the complete set of guidelines that will tell you what to do:
Listen to Your Guide
This is the most important rule on any safari. Your guide is an expert on the local environment and wildlife behavior, and they are there to keep you safe. Always follow their instructions.
Stay Quiet and Calm
Keeping noise levels to a minimum will not only increase your chances of seeing wildlife, but it can also prevent you from startling animals, which could potentially lead to dangerous situations.
Stay in a Group
There’s safety in numbers, and straying from your group can put you at risk. Always stay close to your guide and the rest of your group.
Wear Appropriate Clothing
Neutral colors that blend in with the environment are recommended, as bright or contrasting colors can attract or alarm wildlife. It’s also important to wear long pants and sleeves to protect against sunburn, insects, and thorny vegetation.
Wear Appropriate Footwear
Good safari hiking boots are essential for any walking safari. They should be comfortable for long distances and provide protection against sharp objects and potentially dangerous animals like snakes.
Stay Hydrated and Protect Against the Sun
Drink plenty of water, wear a hat, use sunscreen, and wear sunglasses to protect against the strong sun in many safari environments.
Don’t Touch or Feed Wildlife
This is not only for your safety but also for the well-being of the animals. Feeding wildlife can disrupt their natural diet and behavior, and touching them can lead to disease transmission or provoke defensive behavior.
Carry a First-Aid Kit
While most safari operators will carry a comprehensive first-aid kit, it’s a good idea to have your own basic kit as well. This could include band-aids, antiseptic wipes, insect repellent, and any personal medication.
Know the Risk of Malaria
In many safari destinations, malaria is a risk. Consult with a travel doctor before your trip about whether you need to take prophylactic medication, and always use insect repellent and sleep under a mosquito net if provided.
Keep a Safe Distance from Wildlife
Never approach wild animals too closely. Remember, this is their home, and you are a visitor. Respect their space to stay safe and not disrupt their natural behavior.
Don’t Run if You Encounter Dangerous Wildlife
Remember, only the food runs, so whatever you do, don’t run. If you encounter a potentially dangerous animal, don’t run. Running can trigger a chase instinct in predators. Instead, follow your guide’s instructions, which typically involve standing still, avoiding direct eye contact, and backing away slowly if necessary.
As you go on a walking safari, it’s important to know that you are signing up for dangerous activities. But you can easily avoid many dangers that may come your way if you are vigilant enough to stick to the safety protocols.
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.