Dana recently traveled to Africa for the first time and shares her advice and experience with you here. Prior to traveling to Africa, be safe was the “advice” I was given. And “Aren’t you scared?” was the question I was most often asked. Being new to international travel, was there something I should be concerned about?
I was so excited about this trip and decided to not let a small seed be planted by people who were probably just saying the normal things you say to someone before they travel.
I purchased travel insurance, made extra copies of my passport and itinerary, registered with STEP, had embassy phone numbers, packed modestly and headed to the airport. When traveling internationally, your passport is key. Always, keep your passport with you and make sure you have enough pages for all your stamps.
The Johannesburg Airport was slightly intimidating upon arrival. It is busy and unbeknownst to me, I let someone help me check in at a kiosk. He then stuck to me like glue and obviously wanted a tip at the end of our journey in line. Was I scared? No, just a little confused at first. Coming back through on my way home, the process was much easier. The smaller airports and immigration procedure throughout my trip were flawless. The people could not have been more helpful.
The charter flights were an experience but I felt safe. The pilots are knowledgeable and experienced. The land views and flying through the clouds were surreal. The landings, even on dirt strips, were smooth.
The vehicles for transportation to camps and on game drives were high quality and equipped with everything you need. I always had water, bug spray, blankets and all the comforts. There are even ways to charge a phone on some vehicles. Never did I feel unsafe. We did get a flat tire and had to get off the vehicle. Again, I felt safe and our guide had it changed in well under 10 minutes.
Even in a tented camp, I felt secure. Some camps are not fenced to keep the animals out, in those instances after dark or in the early morning, you are escorted to and from your sleeping quarters. The staff has guest safety and happiness at the forefront of their mind.
The food was the most amazing, fresh and flavorful food I have ever had. The water was clean, drinkable and plentiful. If ever I shouldn’t drink it but only use to rinse after brushing my teeth, that was clearly communicated.
The people no matter if working or locals could not have been more gracious and welcoming. Their genuine gratitude will always be with me.
I slept all night on a star bed and have never felt more safe and at peace. In all honesty, the only time I was a little nervous was when we canoed the Zambezi River with hippos in the water. That fear quickly subsided as my trust in my guide took over. Truly an amazing experience to be on the water with animals so close and in their natural habitat.
Looking back, I see why people said be safe and asked about fear. When traveling anywhere, you need be smart. Do not walk alone, keep your valuables with you or lock them in a safe, respect your surroundings and listen to and trust your guides. Most importantly, do not be scared. Be open to all that is offered to you and enjoy the entire journey!