Staying Healthy on Safari

Drink, Drink, Drink

©Peter Delaney
Safari vehicle.

Of all the horror stories and fantastic nightmares about meeting your end in the bush —being devoured by lions and crocodiles; succumbing to some ghastly fever, the problem you're most likely to encounter will be of your own doing: dehydration.

Drink at least two to three quarts of water a day, and in extreme heat conditions as much as three to four quarts of water or juice. Drink more if you're exerting yourself physically. If you overdo it at dinner with wine or spirits or even caffeine, you need to drink even more water. Anti-malarial medications are also very dehydrating, so it's important to increase your water intake while you're taking this medicine. 

Don't rely on thirst to tell you when to drink; people often don't feel thirsty until they're a little dehydrated. At the first sign of dry mouth, exhaustion, or headache, drink water because dehydration is the likely culprit.

Sun Protection

©Shem Compion
Wear a hat in the sun.

The African sun is hot and the air is dry, and sweat evaporates quickly in these conditions. As a result, you might not realize how much bodily fluid you are losing.  Wear a hat, lightweight clothing, and sunscreen— all of which will help your body cope with high temperatures.

Take Precautions against Malaria

In many safari locations, including Kruger National Park, summer is the high malaria season. Take great care to avoid mosquito bites while travelling in these areas. These pests can develop resistance to antimalarial drugs, so even if you're taking the newest drug, taking precautionary measures is necessary.

Wear clothes you've treated with a mosquito-repellent spray or laundry wash especially in the morning and evening when you should tuck your pants into your socks.

Wearing light-colour clothing while on safari helps to deter mosquitoes (as well as tsetse flies), which are attracted to dark surfaces. Spray all exposed skin with a mosquito-repellent spray that contains DEET (diethyltoluamide), unless you're pregnant or nursing. DEET isn't recommended for children. Citronella and other natural bug repellents are options, but they're not as potent, so vigilance is crucial.

Use Mosquito Nets

©Roger de la Harpe
Mosquito net in tent.

Mosquitoes can't fly well in moving air, so if your room has a fan over or facing your bed, keep it on while you sleep. Use mosquito coils and sprays in your room (especially if you're travelling with children), and sleep under mosquito nets. Mosquito nets shouldn't have holes or gaps and can be treated in permethrin, which is the active ingredient found in mosquito-repellent spray and laundry wash and may be sold as Permanone and Duranon. 

If you have been infected, you won't feel the effects until seven to 90 days afterwards. Symptoms mimic those of the flu, with escalating high fever, shivers and sweat-headache, and muscle aches. If you feel ill even several months after your trip, be sure to tell your doctor that you have been in a malaria-infected area.

By David Bristow