Once you've booked your safari and know where you'll be going, it's time to make an appointment with your doctor to make sure you have all of the proper vaccinations. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends seeing your doctor for immunizations four to six weeks before your travel date [source: CDC]. Your doctor will make sure your regular vaccines, like tetanus and Hepatitis A and B, are up to date and make recommendations on other vaccines you may need for your trip, so bring your itinerary along to your appointment.
The yellow fever vaccine is the only vaccination that's required for travel – and only to certain destinations in Africa. It's a good idea to bring proof of vaccinations with you on your trip, since some countries require yellow fever vaccination for entry if you're coming from a country with a high incidence of the virus even if you originally came from the U.S. [source: African Portfolio]. If your safari is in East Africa, the CDC recommends getting vaccinated against typhoid as well.
If you're traveling to a country with a high risk for malaria infection, your doctor may recommend you take anti-malaria medication in advance [source: CDC]. Of course, even if you do this you should still take precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes while on safari – like using insect repellant and mosquito nets when sleeping and covering your arms and legs.
Another consideration is the rabies vaccination. Even though a safari by definition involves spending a lot of time in contact with wildlife, your chance of being bitten by a wild animal is very low. You're more likely to be bitten by a stray dog in a city. The rabies shots are painful and expensive but on the other hand, rabies itself can be fatal if left untreated. So this vaccination is a judgment call.
The recommendations for travelers change all the time depending on what diseases are currently spreading, so talk to your doctor. The CDC keeps an up-to-date list by country of which vaccines and medications they recommend for travel.