15 myths about travel to Africa

The Mother Continent may be mysterious, but she is widely misunderstood when it comes to travel…

Africa is a soul continent. One can’t quite put a finger on exactly what it is, but somehow Africa’s intoxicating kaleidoscope of dreamworthy 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 1: Africa is a country

First, some geography. Africa is not a country, it is a continent. In fact, it is the world’s second largest and second most populated continent and—this may come as a surprise—it is larger than China, India, the (contiguous) United States and most of Europe combined.

At roughly three times the size of the United States, the vast African continent is home to 54 countries, 9 of which are renowned for their world-class safaris. From the timeless, sand-swept dunes of Namibia’s Namib Desert and the tree-dotted plains of Kenya’s mighty Masai Mara, to the lofty peak of Mount Kilimanjaro and the meandering waterways of Botswana’s Okavango Delta, each African country boasts its own unique charms and wildlife encounters.

Myth 2: Africa is dangerous

Deep, dark Africa is a lot safer than you think. Like any destination, travellers should always have their wits about them and be vigilant, as they would anywhere else. That’s just common (travel) sense.

Whether you’re an apprehensive, first-time traveller to Africa or a seasoned Africa addict, planning your itinerary with an experienced travel specialist and travelling with a respected and well-established local operator offers peace of mind, not to mention convenience, security and seamless logistics.

With the right operator, your entire journey from arrival to departure can be organised so that you don’t have to think (or worry) about a thing. You can be warmly welcomed as you step off the plane and escorted through the arrival procedures. You’ll be assisted with your luggage and whisked off to your private transfer. Every last detail will be looked after en route so that you can relax and simply enjoy the ride.

Do remember though, that “this is Africa”. Flights and transfers may operate on “Africa time”, there may be queues and there may be bumps in the road (literally). Arm yourself with a good book, some headphones and a positive attitude. This is Africa and you’ll look back on every part of the adventure fondly.

Myth 3: there is a ‘best’ time to go on safari

Contrary to popular belief, there is no ‘best’ time to go on safari. Mother Nature plays by her own rules, and no matter the season, there is always an element of beauty (and surprise).

Bear in mind that no two seasons, no two days and in fact no two game drives are ever the same in terms of the sights, smells, landscapes and wildlife interactions. There are pros and cons to every season, from weather and watering hole frequency, to vegetation and views.

The beauty of going on safari is that Mother Nature is, and always will be, utterly unpredictable. Each season, each day, and indeed each drive have their own unique appeal. Expect the unexpected and don’t let the dates nor the seasons hinder your desire to go on safari.

Myth 4: the flood season is the only time to visit the Okavango Delta

There’s no denying the captivating beauty of the maze-like waterways of Botswana’s Okavango Delta. The combination of land and water-based game viewing is what makes this destination so incredibly unique; however, there is more to the Delta than just the floodwaters and last year’s severe drought proved this tenfold.

The Delta’s dry season (typically October to April) is just as spectacular, but in an entirely different way. The iconic floodwaters recede and the channels, swamps and lagoons dry up completely leaving sand, dust and shells in their wake. The once watery wonderland is miraculously converted into a vast, open grassland allowing for some extraordinary wildlife sightings that would otherwise be inaccessible with the waterways intact.

Image © Sean Fandam.

Myth 5: the Great Migration can only be seen in July & August

There’s so much more to the Great Migration than just the widely documented Mara/Grumeti River crossings that typically take place from July to September. While these on-the-edge-of-your-seat sightings are as unforgettable as they are nerve-wracking, what many travellers fail to understand is that this migratory trek of hungry herbivores is a year-round occurrence.

The Great Migration never stops. It is a journey as old as time, and each season comes with its own special highlights.

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.

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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.

Image © Pete Symons.

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.

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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. Our &Beyond WILDchild programme has been carefully designed to engage and educate young minds in an inspiring way, encouraging them to become future ambassadors of our precious planet.

During the highly anticipated countdown to a family safari, children can tune into our &Beyond WILDchild TV channel, complete the fun-filled ranger missions and browse our WILDchild @ Home ideas in preparation for the upcoming family adventure.

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 travellers 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. &Beyond’s expert rangers and trackers are trained intensively to observe and understand animal behaviour 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.

Image © Sean Fandam.

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 socialising and security, along with that soulful and necessary privacy and quiet time.

Myth 11: don’t drink the water

Although most travellers will avoid drinking tap water in any foreign land, it is actually safe to drink from the tap in South Africa’s urban areas. Of course this is not advisable in the more rural and remote areas; however, &Beyond’s lodges across Africa have on-site, state-of-the-art water purification and bottling plants.

Recyclable glass bottles of safe-to-drink water, both tame (natural) and wild (sparkling), are provided in every guest suite, throughout the lodge, at every meal, as well as on every game drive enabling guests to stay hydrated without any worry.

Image © Lucas Raven.

Myth 12: there’s no wifi in Africa

When we travel, the aim should be to disconnect from technology, deadlines, meetings and to-do lists and to reconnect with the natural world, each other and indeed ourselves. The goal should be to wander where the wifi is weak; however, with remote work and digital nomadism now rapidly becoming our norm, many travellers simply need to stay connected.

Due to the remote location of many of Africa’s lodges and camps, internet connectivity can and will be intermittent at times. This is to be expected. That said, many private transfer vehicles are wifi-enabled for those long drives and most properties do have wifi connection. It may not be as reliable, or as fast, as the one you have at home, nor will 100% connectivity be guaranteed at all times, but you will be able to keep in touch with work and home while you’re exploring Africa.

There are plenty of reliable options for travellers looking to work from holiday (an increasingly popular trend to emerge from the pandemic). The caveat here is to connect to technology only when absolutely necessary. Zoom into a meeting here and there, find a beautiful table with a view while you answer emails, update your social media (but don’t obsess over it) and text your loved ones, but be present in your surroundings and try not to miss out on any of the fun.

Every traveller to Africa will agree that if you allow yourself to truly disconnect from the insatiable, demanding clutches of technology and connect with nature and your surroundings, you’ll find a much deeper, more meaningful connection. Every time.

Myth 13: Africa is always hot and sunny

Given the sheer size of Africa (see myth 1), it’s not surprising that each country’s climates, temperatures and precipitation differ. There are rainy seasons, droughts, rare desert rains and some places even get the occasional dusting of snow. Although African summers can be scorchers and the winters are far milder than their northern counterparts, it is not always hot.

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Yes, on a winter safari, chances are you’ll be lazing around the pool come the afternoon, but be warned, the mornings and evenings will be chilly. Layers are your best friend. You’ll be reaching for the gloves, beanie, blankets and hot water bottle on those morning game drives, but by the afternoon, you could be in a swimsuit next to the pool. Pack for all seasons and bring lots of high SPF sunscreen. Even in wintertime, Africa’s sun is surprisingly intense.

Myth 14: African food is boring

Food is an integral—and enjoyable—part of travel. Meals are meant to be lingered over and slowly devoured and going back for seconds (thirds, fourths … who’s counting?!) is always encouraged. Often some of the most memorable travel moments come in the form of a delicious impromptu snack shared en route, a celebratory drink served at sunset or a dessert savoured under the stars.

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The chefs at our lodges and preferred partner properties are world-class and every meal is an invitation to try something new and fall in love with the flavours of Africa. Savour every meal and step outside of your comfort zone. If you can’t get enough of a particular dish that you’d like to recreate at home, just ask our chefs for the recipe—they’re happy to share their culinary secrets.

Remember, calories don’t count when you’re on holiday and diets don’t feature on any of our suggested packing lists. Leave them at home where they belong.

Myth 15: there’s no such thing as khaki fever

Ladies (and gentlemen), be warned, the dreaded khaki fever is a real thing, for which there is no cure. It’s the age-old story: rugged leader in (khaki) uniform; protector, educator, lover of nature and gifted charmer and storyteller. Those afflicted by this fervent fever become hopelessly attracted to their safari suitors.

Africa’s undeniably charismatic ‘khakis’ provide a sense of safety and security to safari goers while they explore the wilderness. Not only do they protect, educate and entertain their guests, they also encourage them to experience nature’s beauty through their eyes.

Not everyone falls prey to the captivatingly charming khaki brigade. Some claim immunity, while others will openly confess. Although this myth remains hotly contested (so much so that we’ve actually included it as one of the 7 unsolved mysteries of &Beyond), deep down we know which side of the debate holds the truth.

Image © Andrew van den Broeck.

Africa is enchanting, spellbinding and truly unforgettable. It is a playground for all ages. The sun can be intense and the wildlife sightings unpredictable, but the adventure itself is deeply meaningful.

The animals don’t want to eat you—but the bugs might. Arm yourself with some sunscreen and a good insect repellent, but be warned that the most voracious bug of all is the Africa bug. Once bitten, forever addicted. You’ll fall in love with Africa’s charm and you will want to return. Often.

Image © Sean Fandam.

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