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A Guide to Preparing for an African Safari

African Safari Guide: African Customs

Customs in Africa naturally vary by region and by country, so we'll just cover some basics.

If you're not sure what to do, go for modesty and over-politeness. In some areas of Africa, it's customary to keep your legs and shoulders covered, even if it's hot outside. You should ask permission before you take someone's photograph [source: African Wildlife Foundation]. Public displays of affection are also a no-no, which might be hard to remember if your safari is a honeymoon trip [source: Baobab]!

East Africa has a large Muslim population, which has its own set of customs and traditions. In case your guide is Muslim, you might want to brush up on Muslim culture, so you won't accidentally offend him. 30-Days Prayer Network has a great list of Muslim customs to help you navigate interactions with any traditional Muslims you meet on safari.

Tipping is part of the culture in most African countries, especially when service staff is involved. This extends to the guides and drivers of your safari, as well as any camp staff. Your tour operator can provide guidelines on how much to tip.

It's best not give money to local children who beg for it. Instead, give to a community project like a health center.

As far as etiquette on safari goes, the general rules are a lot like the ones for visiting national parks here in the U.S. If you follow Leave No Trace guidelines, you should be in good shape. On a hunting safari, there are a few extra things to keep in mind.

If you do kill an animal while you're out there, try not to measure it until it's dead. This is considered an act of respect for the animal. Approach a "dead" animal from the rear just in case it's not really dead. If it springs back to life, it will generally run in the direction it is facing. Be safe with your firearms and have some shooting skill prior to this trip [source: Shakari Connection]. Most importantly, your professional hunter – who will accompany you on safari and lead stalks – deserves common courtesy, and you shouldn't treat him like a servant [source: Boddington]. Always follow his advice.

In general, if you're not sure what to do go for being polite, kind, and soft-spoken.