The Essential Safari Anti-Bucket List - Things to Avoid & Helpful Alternatives

This is a short, yet indispensable list of things to consider NOT doing whilst travelling Africa. We've published this post as an attempt at some friendly pre-departure traveller education, to keep you safe and on the do-right side of the tourism line. 

Things that may seem harmless or even like must-do activities...

There are several behaviours and activities that, to the average visitor, may seem natural or fun to do, but which upset the natural order of things, either in the bush or urban landscape. In addition, there are more than a few commercially successful, but increasingly controversial tourist activities which you may be offered, but which are getting a lot of flack lately from the responsible tourism lobby, often for good reason.

Read it here first, and travel with peace of mind

We've tried to highlight a few common mistakes or ethical pitfalls you may encounter on your trip to our unique continent. The idea is to read it here first, before you travel, which we know will make for a more enjoyable, socially and environmentally aware, as well as stress-free trip.

Cuddling lion cubs, walking with lions & related 'interaction'

kimvanderwaalWild! - kimvanderwaal

Many lion sanctuaries, lion parks and research centers offer lion cub petting and walking with lions, as part of various rehabilitation programmes. This is a huge money-making industry with questionable results, and in supporting such activities, you are usually doing more harm than good.

Not interacting with humans keeps lions safe and equipped for survival. Cuddling them can mean a death warrant.

Captive-bred and human-friendly lions will never live free

Lions are wild animals. While a lion cub is ridiculously cute and it is extremely tempting to want to cuddle, pet and feed them, human interaction will only place them in danger. If the lions become ‘imprinted’ by humans, they will never survive in the wild, and are destined to be kept captive for life, or more likely, sold to canned hunting operations, to be shot at close range by warped individuals with fragile egos and big guns.

See for a quick explanation of exactly why these places are usually to be avoided. While there are many, brilliant and hard-working organisations doing incredible work in conserving Africa’s lions and other threatened wildlife, there are also, unfortunately, a lot of people treating wild animals terribly, purely for money.

The only thing that should be cuddling a lion cub, is a lion!

Tambako the JaguarCuddling Lions - Tambako the Jaguar

Feeding Baboons

Dan DickensonBaboon - Dan Dickenson

Baboons are endemic to many areas of Africa and are integral to the fine balance of nature. Unfortunately, they are also extremely vulnerable to human interaction and are often found on roadsides and at picnic sites. This is mainly due to humans trying to interact with them/feed them, encouraging them to congregate in these spaces and putting them at risk.

Baboons are wild animals with a tendency toward aggression when things don't go their way. If left alone, and not interfered with in any way, they are fascinating to watch, uncanny in their human-like actions.  

Safely watch baboons by following these simple rules:

  • Never feed a baboon. In doing so, you are giving them food which is unnatural (and potentially harmful) and encouraging them to interact with humans. This may, in the long-run, be a death sentence for them.
  • When staying in an area where baboons live, be sure to lock away food and close windows and doors.
  • If in your car, keep windows closed and doors locked. NEVER get out of your car or attempt to pet a baboon - they are wild animals, despite their 'cuddley' look.
  • In the event of your being confronted by a baboon, never try to take back anything it has stolen. Establish its best route of escape and back off slowly, but with confidence. It is important that the animal knows you're in charge and are serious about it leaving.

Just following these simple rules could save you, and our very precious baboon population!

Where There's Smoke, There's Fire

rjrgmc28Bush Fire - rjrgmc2813 million km2 of the African continent is savannah or grassland - almost half of the continent. The rest is made up of desert, wetlands, coastal regions and mountains. These areas are highly susceptible to bush fires. A bush fire in Africa is disastrous, with thousands of square kilometres of destruction, both fauna and the animals that live there.

krugergirl26Burnt Out - krugergirl26When in the bush – no smoking, please! Most lodges/campsites have specific smoking areas. Please stick to those. One small spark or throwaway match can cause untold damage to the bush. Smoking not only is a potential hazard to the bush, it can also adversely affect your game-watching experience. Wild animals have an extremely sensitive sense of smell.

Jon RawlinsonMountain Fire - Jon RawlinsonAs for making fires in the bush – again, please only do so in clearly designated areas. Be sure to check that that they are completely doused before going to sleep and before leaving the area.

Getting Out of Your Car In Game Reserves: Don't. Ever.

When you're in a game park, filled with wild animals, remember that. They're wild. Their basic instincts are to protect themselves and their young and to find food. Do not understimate their agility, speed and stamina when you're exploring their territory. Getting an extra special shot of a lion kill is not worth losing your life for.

If you want to experience the bush first hand, and get up-close-and-personal, do so on a guided walking safari, accompanied by an experienced game ranger, who can ensure your safety.

Here's a gentle reminder of what could happen - these people narrowly avoided a nasty situation. The internet is filled with far more horrific examples, including many deaths, due to people irresponsibly getting out of their cars in the wild.

Helping the needy - begging, poverty and what to do about it

Africa is a continent of extremes, from its weather to its landscapes to the living conditions and financial situations of its people. Going on safari in Africa contributes to easing the extreme poverty, but you will be exposed to a certain amount of begging at some point, and you may well wish to do something to help.

Please do. The best way to do this, though, is to contribute to organisations making a difference in Africa. This does not necessarily mean you have to give money. Many places welcome volunteers, albeit for a morning, or a week. Spend a day helping out an orphanage or feeding scheme, donate pencils and paper to a school, plant trees, donate clothes... the options are endless.

David BerkowitzNursery School - David Berkowitz

Riding Elephants

Rob SchleiffertElephant - Rob Schleiffert

Elephant are known as family-orientated, gentle giants, and that they are. They are, however, also wild animals. As such, they were not made to be led by humans on specific paths carrying the weight of an adult (or two) on their back. This, in fact, is one of many reasons that you should not partake in this particular activity. An elephant's spine is not designed to have the 'chair' used for humans to sit in strapped to them, nor for the weight of the people. In short, it hurts the elephant in the long-term.

Another reason to avoid elephant rides is the manner in which they are trained to submit to human command. In most cases, in order to 'break' the elephant's spirit, they are taken from their mothers at a young age, and then confined and often abused with bullhooks and sticks (often with nails) in order to, literally, beat them into submission. While they are 'tamed', there are countless stories of these elephant turning on humans. Again, they are wild animals.

So, while we're not saying interactions with elephant should not be actively sought, they need to entail elephant activities, not human ones. Elephant riding, circuses, and elephants kicking soccer balls are not that. Many fantastic sanctuaries offer places for previously abused and orphaned elephants and offer interactions such as feeding, bathing and spending time with them, doing what elephants do. Places like the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya do amazing work. Visit those that are ethical and contribute to real conservation of these wonderful creatures.

If you liked this post, these trips cover similar ground…

Leave a Comment or Ask a Question

comments powered by Disqus

Similar & Related Blog Posts

Below you’ll find further reading and articles related or similar to this post.

13 Things to do in Nairobi, before & after your Kenya Safari

Gopal VijayaraghavanTravellers on safari in Kenya usually fly into its bustling capital, Nairobi, and fly out from there, too. Here we list some of the fabulous activities and top things to do in Nairobi, before and after your East African safari adventure.  Read on

Endangered Animals in Africa - Best Places to See these Rare Animals & How to Help

Gerry ZamboniniOn African Safaris you may be lucky enough to spot these 10 endangered animals, roaming freely. Get the facts about these endangered African wildlife species, find the best places to see them and see how you can help to ensure their survival! Read on

Is Gorilla Trekking Good for Conservation?

Andy leskowitzDoes trekking critically endangered mountain gorillas in Central Africa help save these great apes from extinction? Taking a closer look at the main threats to mountain gorillas, increasing the transmission of human diseases is the biggest risk involved in trekking, but then there are also the significant benefits that tourism brings to gorilla conservation. Read on

40 foods to eat in Cape Town, recommended by locals

The Dogs Bollocks If you love to learn about a new place through food, read on. We asked Capetonians what they think visitors should eat when they come to their city. Some of these foods you’ll find only in Cape Town; the  others are available throughout South Africa. Read on

Africa’s Adventure Travel Hot Spots - Part 1

Luke Hardiman Africa abounds with adventure - whether you explore it on foot, bike, horseback, 4x4, bicycle, canoe, boat, underwater, free falling, kloofing or floating in a hot air balloon, you’re in for an unforgettable ride. Read on

Climbing Kilimanjaro

Ninara Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, is spectacular. Climbing it is an incredible experience and an amazing feat. Here we discuss all things Kili and the different routes up to it's peak. Read on

How to do your Safari right - choosing your travel style

Bernard Dupont Overlanding? Accomodated? Camping or lodge type? Choosing the right Safari option is an important - but often confusing - pre-trip exercise. We've put together a list of the different types of Safari and their related pros and cons. Read on

Serengeti vs Masai Mara: A Comparison

Marc VeraartWhat are the similarities and differences between Serengeti and Masai Mara? Which of these famous East African game parks is best for an African safari? Find out in our blog comparing Tanzania’s Serengeti and Kenya’s Masai Mara, two of the best (and joined) game reserves in Africa. Read on

Guide to Gorilla Trekking in Africa’s Rainforests

Martijn.MunnekeHere's an in-depth guide to trekking critically endangered mountain gorillas in the tropical rainforests of central Africa - from where is best to go and how the trekking works, to making the most of this unforgettable wildlife experience and getting permits. Read on

8 Budget adventure activities in Cape Town

Animal OceanWedged between the Cape Fold Mountains and the icy Atlantic Ocean - Cape Town has an impressive collection of affordable adventure activities to offer visitors thanks to its diverse and dramatic natural setting. Read on

Things to do in Johannesburg under R450

sacks08 on FlickrJohannesburg – South Africa's largest city and one in the midst of a must-see cultural and social revival. From Maboneng to Sandton, Soweto and the Cradle of Mankind, eating out to galleries, the theatre and bungee-jumping off an old cooling tower. Here we list a bunch of the most happening things to do in Jozi – our pick of the places to see and be seen in. Read on

How Much Does it Cost to Go on Safari?

Ross Huggett From $120 per day for an all-inclusive safari package. That's the no frills option, but the sky is the limit in terms of luxury if you want to spend more. Seasonality, level of accommodation and the destinations you're visiting all make a difference as we explain in this post. Read on

Is Shark Cage Diving Safe?

Andrew James Hofmeyr Safe? Eco-Friendly? Good for the sharks? Good for the tourists? Good for tourism? Whats going on with Shark cage diving?!!! We take a trip to Gansbaai to go cage diving with great white sharks.  Read on

Kids On Safari: Yes or No?

SarahTZ Here we break down the ins-and-outs and do’s and don’ts of travelling with children in Africa. Read on

Most Amazing Drone Footage from Cape Town

Times Asi See Cape Town like you've never seen it before. When nature meets technology in a beautiful location like Cape Town, you are in for a visual feast! Read on
Show us some FB Love

Our TrustPilot Reviews

Follow @RealAfroSafaris