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Health & Safety
Africa, like anywhere else in the world, has its fair share of challenges. But if you’re properly prepared, any health and safety issue can be quickly and astutely dealt with, leaving you to continue your adventure in style.
Health: Before You Go
You can drastically reduce your exposure to health risks when travelling in Africa by coming well prepared.
Firstly, you will need to update your vaccination card and, for some of our itineraries, go on a course of malaria prophylactics. Find out from your travel consultant whether your Overland trip passes through malarial areas and then contact your local travel clinic or doctor for the latest recommendations well in advance of your trip to Africa.
Then, you’ll need to take out comprehensive travel insurance - indeed, you won’t be able to go on the tour without it - and your tour leader will want the details of your insurance company before the start of the tour.
You’ll also need to inform your crew of any allergies and medical conditions you have or if you are on any medication. And remember to ALWAYS tell them if you are feeling unwell while on tour: they are much more experienced in dealing with tropical diseases and will know where to take you if you fall ill.
There is a comprehensive First Aid kit for emergencies on board all overland vehicles but if you use anything you will be expected to replace it if at all possible. We strongly recommend that you take a personal medical kit with a few essential items.
Suggested contents include:
• Pain killers
• Anti-diarrhea remedy
• Anti-histamine cream or tablets
• Rehydration salts
• Antiseptic cream
• Sterile dressings
• Insect repellent
• Medicated soap
• Suntan lotion
• After-sun treatment
And finally, remember that if you feel unwell within a few weeks of your return, it is advisable to see a doctor to have it checked out, telling him or her where you have just been. The symptoms of many African diseases such as malaria, bilharzia or hepatitis can take weeks or even months to show but the presence of these diseases can be easily detected by a series of simple blood tests.
With the exception of most of South Africa, travel through southern and East Africa - particularly during rainy seasons - carries the risk of malaria. A mosquito-borne disease that kills up to a million Africans a year, malaria should be taken very seriously and it is essential that you not only take malaria prophylactics but also to protect yourself when you’re on the road. Use plenty of effective insect repellent and wear long sleeves and trousers in the evening when mosquitoes are at their most active. All tents have mosquito netting so make sure that you keep the doors shut as soon as you’ve put up your tent.
Note that if you experience any side effects from the malarial drugs while on tour, tell your tour leader at once. Larium, for example, sometimes makes people feel unwell and over-emotional and Doxcycycline often makes people extra sun-sensitive. All prophylactics are available in Africa and you may need to swap to another brand. Don’t forget to take your drugs for the allotted time after you have left the malarial region.
Whilst it’s not compulsory to have a yellow fever vaccination, it is strongly advised as the disease is prevalent in East Africa. You will not be allowed on the ferry to Zanzibar if you don’t have a yellow fever vaccination card and some of the countries in southern Africa will not let you in without a card if you are coming from a yellow fever endemic area.
Bites & Stings
Scorpions, spiders, ticks, mosquitoes and biting flies are all part of the African fauna and an Overland traveller should accept this and be prepared for it. Bites and stings should be looked after carefully and kept clean as they can easily become infected in Africa’s tropical regions.
While on your Overland tour you will be living closely together and sharing equipment with others so pay extra attention to hygiene. Always wash your hands, particularly before touching yours and everyone else’s food. If you’re not feeling well, don’t share drinks bottles and cutlery – bugs pass around quickly in close groups.
Generally, food cooked on an Overland trip is fresh and healthy and you are unlikely to get sick from truck grub. Avoid buying snacks from the side of the road, particularly fried items which easily harbour stomach bugs. Likewise, only drink water you know is safe; your crew will know where to source good drinking water - if not, they’ll purify it.
That said, diarrhoea is usually part of an Overland tour so expect a bout and rest assured that you won’t be the only one jumping off the truck with a toilet roll in hand. Most upset stomachs last just a day or two and are a result of a simple change in diet and water. The best way to deal with it is drink plenty of fluids and avoid food until the bugs have been flushed out of your system. It’s a good idea to pack oral rehydration salts in your medical kit.
Always follow the advice of your tour leader and if the problem persists you may need to consult a doctor and get medication.
Remember that on a camping and overland trip you will be spending almost all of your time outdoors and sensible sun protection is essential. The African sun is perhaps stronger than you are used to and is at its strongest between 10am and 2pm. Minimize your exposure during this time by applying plenty of sun protection and wear a hat and sun glasses. And just because the sun is not shining does not mean that you are safe - on an overcast day the suns rays are just as damaging.
Suntan lotion and after-sun products are not always readily available in some parts of Africa: best you bring plenty with you.
Your personal possessions are your responsibility at all times. All Overland vehicles have safes for passports, money, credit cards and flight tickets - please use this facility as the process to recover lost/stolen items can cause serious delays and may result in you having to leave the tour.
As well as your own possessions, the truck and its equipment must be looked after at all times and security is the responsibility of the whole group. Everything must be put away and locked up at night, especially in urban areas.
It is advised that you take out comprehensive insurance if you are planning on bringing expensive cameras and so on.
In Africa, as elsewhere in the world, crime exists, and we advise that you keep an eye on any valuables and have your wits about you at all times. But in saying that, most African crime takes place in the bustling downtown cities and it is very rare to be robbed in a campsite in the middle of the African wilderness. Listen to the advice given by the crew, exercise common sense and don’t make yourself a target - it’s as easy as that.
Furthermore, through the monitoring of Travel Advisories issued by the British Foreign Office and US State Department, Overland crews are well aware of potential problem areas and these are avoided entirely.