You may be contemplating that bucket list vacation of a wildlife safari in Africa, but worried about just how safe your African safari might be.
The animals are wild and aggressive, how will you know you are going to be safe?
In this article I’m going to show you a couple of the things that can go wrong on wildlife safaris and what you need to do to ensure that those things dont happen.
African wildlife safaris are safe as long as you follow these very simple rules. Don’t get out of the car in the game reserve. Secondly, always listen to your guides instructions and lastly treat all the wild animals with respect and give them space while watching them.
All safaris will have that hint of danger, that is what makes this adventure so exciting.
What might amaze you though is just how disinterested the larger animals will be of you and your vehicle. I’ve been lucky enough to be going on safaris for the last 40 years and i’ll tell you a few stories about when I got into dangerous situations with animals and what happened.
Please bear in mind that these instances were few and far between, honestly years in between. If you are sensible they will not happen to you …and you can learn from me on how to avoid them 🙂
Before I tell you
The thought of travelling through the bush on an open-top jeep to find animals that might eat you probably sound’s terrifying but this is the safest option you can choose.
Consider this: the ranger will have intimate experience and knowledge of the wild animals. They will know when they are relaxed or if your presence is upsetting them. they will know exactly how close to get the animals and what to do if things were to become unsafe.
Walking into a Lion
So the first rule is to stay in your car.
If you stick to the major game reserves this really shouldn’t be a problem. When you get to a hide, the entrance should be right where you park.
On Christmas eve I was sitting in a hide in Mkuze game reserve. Mkuze has one of the best hides for spotting game, and we had been incredibly lucky to see rhino playing, a leopard hiding in a tree and a lioness come down to drink.
Because of the fantastic viewing all of us in the hide had stayed later than we should and dusk was setting in.
So it was time to leave.
The problem with this hide is that its entrance was at least 300 m from where we had to park the car…and that was completely through the wild bush, not exactly safe.
I was walking with my mother and aunt just chatting, and as we turned a corner on the dusty footpath we walked straight into the lioness who had earlier been drinking by the hide.
She was just as surprised as us and sat bolt upright.
I had so much adrenaline I could hear my heart beating in my ears.
I stopped everyone still.
Stood up tall
Looked as relaxed as possible.
And we calmly walked backwards very slowly while the lioness just watched us.
An add-on to not getting out of your car is this…
If you are out of your car and you walk into an animal…DO NOT RUN!
We stopped the rest of the people from walking through, went back to the hide and then as a group followed a rhino path back around the lion back to our cars.
Word spread around the camp like wildfire. We even had our neighbors come around ask if we had heard about these people who walked into a lion :p
We were fortunate, and we also knew exactly how to behave.
It wouldn’t have happened if we stayed in the car.
Being charged by a rhino
The second rule is to listen to your guide.
I was watching the rhino and her baby calf from my open window.We had a full car and in the back seat was a ranger who was a friend of ours.
Sitting in the front passenger seat and the rhinos were directly on my side.
The engine was on, it was just idling. We didn’t notice the calf walk behind the car.
When it noticed, it saw it was separated and started bleating.
The mother looked up, saw us in the way and just charged directly at me.
As soon as the rhino charged, the ranger shouted at our driver…DON’T MOVE!
I was like What???? DRIVE!!!
We stayed still…
My heart was in my mouth.
All i could picture was that enormous horn piercing straight through my flimsy door….
The rhino stopped hard centimeters from me.
She was so close i couldn’t see her head below my door.
The ranger knew that it was a mock charge. If we had tried to drive, she would have completed the charge. And we would have been caught.
Rangers have so much experience. They have seen almost everything and know what decisions to make. Listen to your ranger.
If you decide to the budget route and you decide to drive yourself the third rule be respectful to animals comes into play.
Selfies with a Cheetah
The biggest cause people being hurt is because they treat animals as if they were tame.
Near Hluhluwe there is a wild cat rehabilitation centre called esomdoweni
It’s a wonderful day out and well worth a visit if you get the chance.
Apart from the fact that you might see a number of wild cats being rehabilitated you also may have a chance of spending a bit of time with two tame cheetahs.
I’ve been many times but when I went this time I made the mistake of going over the Christmas holidays, the tour was packed with about 40 people.
it was just too many people.
The best one could hope for was to get two minutes to pose with the cheetahs for a photograph.
All of us were sitting in the boiling summer sun waiting our turn when a woman arrived.
If you want to imagine what she looked like, picture Courtney Love the morning after a hard night of partying.
Smudged makeup, Creased clothes and high heels…. Perfect for the bushveld.:p
After explaining to our guides that she was in a huge rush and couldn’t wait she managed to skip the queue and get her photo without delay.
I can’t say I didn’t mutter some rude words about her beneath my breath.
When she was finished with her photographs she set off back out of the enclosure, for some reason due to her rush she ended up running in her heels.
Instinct kicked in and both cats and they both jumped up and targeted her.
We all screamed “STOP RUNNING!!!”
Her response in a very catty tone was to say that we shouldn’t be mean to her because she hadn’t been there for the introductory speech…
My reply to her was by all means run but please let us get our cameras ready first….
As you can imagine she wasn’t amused, i was given the look of death.
Nonetheless, the point of the story is that the vast number of accidents happen because people do stupid things around animals.
Chinese man gets mauled after standing next to elephants for a photo…
Welsh rugby player bitten after trying to pet a lion.
Respect animals, give them their space, don’t try to get selfies next to a wild animal, no matter how cute it looks.