In July last year I visited Africa for the first time, flying into Nairobi and travelling through Kenya into Tanzania before flying to Zanzibar from Arusha. This will be a short blog post, but I want to tell myself the things I know now I wish I knew a few years ago.
I have wanted to go on a safari for many years, but always made a semi-believable excuse about why I would go next year instead. I finally booked a trip with a friend, but even leading up to my trip I had doubts.
1. The wildlife you don’t visit Africa to see.
By this I mean the spiders, scorpions, snakes, mosquitoes and so on. People are always keen to tell you horror stories they have heard, include one colleague who told me her friend was ‘trapped’ in her tent by a giant spider. Stupidly I paid attention to these stories and prepared for the worst.
I shouldn’t have listened.
Part of my trip involved basic camping for 10 days. During this time I saw one spider in a shower (okay I was sharing a shower with him, but he didn’t move), a flattened snake under a tent (it was small) and one scorpion. Okay not as dangerous, but I’m pretty sure I see far more spiders at home than I did on safari.
Flying things that bite
Mosquitoes were few and far between, aside from Lake Victoria when all the stops were pulled out. We also drove through a stretch of road where tsetse flies were common, the bus driver asked us to close the windows until we were clear and that was the first and last I heard of them. We did see some huge grasshoppers (they looked like grasshoppers anyway) in Ngorongoro Crater, but they were fascinating more than anything else.
I wore shorts and a t shirt (not the same ones!) for most of the trip and aside from one evening in Zanzibar, I escaped without a mosquito bite throughout the entire trip.
A grasshopper (or something that looks like one) at Ngorongoro Crater
2. It is safe
I know people who care about you worry. But my parents (sorry to my parents if you ever read this blog post) and a few friends would have led me to believe that the best case scenario was coming back from my trip having only been mugged, kidnapped and held hostage for a few weeks. This image probably wasn’t helped by the Western Media portraying an entire content based on few, very localised events.
I can only speak for Kenya and Tanzania, but they are perfectly safe. I was sensible and listened to advice, never once did I feel even remotely unsafe. Not in Nairobi, not in Zanzibar, not in any of the other towns we visited.
If you have any doubts about visiting Africa, cast them aside and go to wherever you want to go to. If you keep putting it off you might never take the chance.