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 centres 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!

Read up: The Predator Trap: The plight of ‘canned lions’ and what you can do to help them

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, but 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 underestimate 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

Elephants 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.

For more guidelines on what you can do to travel well, see Responsible Safari: how to travel ethically 

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

Responsible Safari: how to travel ethically

ShutterstockTravelling ethically and with a social conscience is important, but how do you achieve that on safari? In this blog, we give you some ideas for responsible travel in Africa. 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

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

The Predator Trap: The plight of ‘canned lions’ and what you can do to help them

richard eveaThe breeding of captive lions for ‘canned hunting’ is a blight on South Africa’s image as a travel destination, so much so that a recent report has damned lion breeding farms in the country and called for an end to the practice. Read more about this complex topic and how you can contribute toward protecting Africa’s apex predator. 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

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

Going Green on Safari - 6 Tips for Eco-Travel in Africa

The Safari Tart Finding ways to reduce the environmental impact of travelling seems complicated at times - so let's walk lightly through some ways to green your travels in Africa. You don't need to give up on luxuries and sacrifice on comfort, or blow your budget and forsake modern amenities in order to be a more eco-friendly traveller... Read on

African Conservation Centres We Love

ShutterstockAfrican fauna and flora need protecting and there are loads of wonderful organisations who do just that. In this blog we visit six of the centres that are included in some ABS safaris. 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

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

When To Go Where On Safari: Best Times to Visit

Barbara EcksteinWe often get asked when the best time is to go on safari. In this blog, we give the best months to visit our top destinations, and explain why. 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

Our top 20 beaches in Africa - an African Beach Bucket List

From East Africa to South Africa, the continent is blessed with a multitude of breathtaking beaches. Our ultimate beach bucket list will reveal the beaches that pump all summer long, the best-kept sandy secrets and the beaches not to be missed. Here we share our top twenty beaches in Africa, all worthy of a place on the bucket list. Read on

Our TrustPilot Reviews

Show us some FB Love

Follow @RealAfroSafaris