A Guide to Preparing for an African Safari

African Safari Guide: Insurance and Safety Precautions

While many parts of Africa are much safer than you might expect, you do need to take some precautions when you're planning your safari. Tour companies often recommend trip insurance. When you're traveling within the U.S., trip insurance might seem like overkill, but if you're paying thousands of dollars to fly overseas, it's worth the extra cash for peace of mind. Airlines and major credit cards often offer trip insurance, and some tour companies include travel insurance in the price [source: African Portfolio]. If you're planning to use your credit card for trip insurance, call them before you book to find out what they cover.

When you're traveling, keep your valuables out of sight. Don't flash cash or wear showy jewelry. One of the easiest ways to stay safe is to dress neutrally and just try to blend in. Keep your purse or bags close, and stash important travel documents in a money belt rather than in your bag or your pocket.

Protecting your valuables is important, but your personal safety is much more valuable than your wallet. Don't walk anywhere alone at night, and listen to your guide when you're on safari. You hired him for a reason, and he knows what is and isn't safe. When you see a herd of rhinos or a lion it might be tempting to pressure your guide to get just a little bit closer, but that great photo isn't worth your safety [source: Morgan-Shott].

Most parks and wildlife refuges are closed after dark for your and the animals' safety. Don't wander out on your own at night. If you need to get up to use the restroom, bring a flashlight and check the room for critters. Keep your door or tent flap closed. You don't want a snake surprising you while you're indisposed!

One last safety tip: After a hot day on safari it might be tempting to wade or swim in a nearby body of water. Don't do it! Stagnant water can be home to bilharzia, a parasitic snail. What's especially tricky about bilharzia is that symptoms might not show up for weeks or months after exposure. Symptoms include fever, cough, diarrhea, headache, and a painful rash [source: National Health Service]. Stick to the hotel pool for your swims instead.