Africa is a soul continent. One can’t quite put a finger on exactly what it is, but somehow Africa’s intoxicating kaleidoscope of dream worthy landscapes, iconic wildlife, intriguing cultures, soulful music and starry nights grab hold of one’s soul. Once you’ve experienced the heart of this ancient land, chances are, you’re incurably hooked.
Yet many who have not yet ventured to this captivating continent still hold the ‘mythconception’ that ‘deep, dark Africa’ is dangerous, dirty and backwards, which couldn’t be further from the truth. The Mother Continent may be mysterious, but she is widely misunderstood. It’s time to set the record straight and bust these 15 myths about travel to Africa.
Myth 6: wild animals roam the streets
Surprising that people actually envision this as the norm in Africa, but no, for the most part, the wild animals much prefer their natural habitat to congested urban areas. Of course, wildlife will roam where it pleases and there are always exceptions to the norm.
Outer suburbs and smallholdings can and do see the occasional genet, mongoose and otter, while sightings of small antelope aren’t uncommon in coastal towns. Twitchers and bird-nerds will be pleased to know that Africa’s urban greenbelts boast a profusion of birdlife.
In places like Botswana and Zimbabwe, where many wilderness areas remain unfenced, the occasional hippo or elephant can be spotted in town (for example, elephants do sometimes venture into Victoria Falls to feed on vegetation when the town is quiet).
Although some smaller species have adapted to survival in the city, their numbers are by no means prolific. Sadly, Africa’s wild animals, both big and small, have been severely threatened by human encroachment and loss of natural habitat, therefore Africa’s protected wilderness areas are crucial for the ongoing protection and conservation of wildlife.
While you’re likely to see monkeys, baboons and other opportunistic creatures taking their chances in populated areas (please remember to never feed wild animals, no matter how tame they may seem), if you’re keen to spot the Big Five, Little Five, Elusive Eleven or anything in between, then you’ll need to head out on safari.
Myth 7: Africa is not for children
Africa is an enchanting playground for children, not to mention the greatest classroom. A journey to the African continent, to witness its wildlife and engage first-hand with its cultures, is infinitely more educational than any textbook at school.
There are countless award-winning, family-friendly safari lodges, island properties and city escapes for parents to choose from. And when it comes to safari, there are strict safety measures (and childminding services) in place to ensure family safety and enjoyment at all times.
There are age restrictions on safari (typically age 6 and above); however, families can opt for a private vehicle (at an additional cost) to ensure the whole family can go for short ‘bumbles’ together to learn about the habitat and view safe wildlife close to the lodge.
Safaris are not ‘boring’ for children. In most cases, the ranger soon takes on hero status in the children’s eyes and every game drive becomes an invitation to learn and explore.
Myth 8: safaris are the only drawcard
Going on safari should be on every wildlife lover’s bucket list. Fact. And there really is no such thing as “too many safaris”. However, the African continent boasts such an incredible diversity of landscapes, that travelers are truly spoiled for choice beyond the safari.
Think tropical islands, glorious beaches, world-class diving, vibrant cities, award-winning wineries, picturesque mountains, dense jungles, thunderous waterfalls, ethereal deserts, and fascinating cultural and historical sites … the list goes on. Africa has ceaseless beauty and adventure for those willing to explore it.
Myth 9: the animals want to eat you
This is perhaps one of the most commonly asked questions from first-time safari goers. No, the animals do not want to eat you. It will soon become apparent on the initial game drive that the wildlife is largely uninterested and unperturbed by the safari vehicle and its two-legged occupants.
Yes, there are insects that bite, snakes that are venomous and predators on the prowl. Africa’s wilderness areas are home to some very dangerous creatures; however, they typically keep their distance so long as humans keep theirs.
Listen to your guide at all times. Expert rangers and trackers are trained intensively to observe and understand animal behavior and to practice sensitive wildlife viewing at all times. The vehicle will be positioned unobtrusively to allow a respectful distance, ensuring guest safety and respect for wildlife at all times.
Myth 10: women shouldn’t travel alone to Africa
Refer back to myth 2 (as well as myth 4 from these common travel myths)—Africa is safer than you think and solo female travel is widely accepted, encouraged and enjoyed across the continent. The key to comfort, security and peace of mind here lies in selecting an established, trusted local operator that will ensure your safety and enjoyment at all times throughout the journey.
Private transfers can be arranged, personal guides can be booked (providing both a social and highly informative element to city escapes, historical sites and cultural community visits) and meals can be shared or enjoyed privately.
Safaris, by nature, are quite social, with up to eight hours a day spent on a safari vehicle with other guests who often become lifelong friends. Small group journeys also offer the perfect mix of socializing and security, along with that soulful and necessary privacy and quiet time.