Going on safari in eastern Africa

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of September 4-10, 1997
Dressing for success on Kilimanjaro
Going on safari in eastern Africa
Telemarking the gladed Eastern slopes
Overnight camping trips on horseback
Near escapes from the Arizona heat

Going on safari in eastern Africa
Question: We are traveling to Africa in early September — Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Rwanda — for the purpose of game-park safaris and gorilla tracking. I read the consular information sheets and travel advisories, which of course make me nervous. The travel companies that organized the trip assured us the situation is relatively stable at this time. Do you have more up-to-date information regarding these particular countries?

Kara Watne
Los Angeles, CA
[email protected]

Adventure Adviser: Unfortunately, I don't have much to offer you in the way of "insider" travel information on the countries you mentioned. I do know, however, that State Department travel warnings can err on the conservative side. I'm not saying that you shouldn't heed the warnings, but you need to remember that it is the State Department's responsibility to ensure all American travelers are fully aware of potentially hazardous situations when they travel. If the department doesn't do this, they will definitely be the first to hear from disgruntled Americans abroad.

My best advice to you is to make sure that none of the countries you are going to has a Travel Warning issued. A Travel Warning is the most serious of the State Department statements — usually about armed rebels storming villages, or some such disturbance. Check the State Department website at http://travel.state.gov/travel_warnings.html or call 202-647-5225. Right now, there are approximately 30 countries for which the State Department has issued these warnings.

Another idea is to call a person in the country you are planning to visit and ask them what the political situation is. Get the name of an outfitter who has recently done a trip there (not the outfitter you are going with) and has nothing to lose by telling you the real situation.

Finally, call the U.S. Embassy in the countries you are concerned about and ask workers there how safe they feel it is to travel to the country. Or even check the country's website to see if they have issued any particular warnings to travelers in their country. If you have chosen a decent outfitter, chances are you don't need to be concerned because the outfitter will be well-informed about the danger hot spots and will keep you far away from them.

Finally, evaluate your fears and determine whether or not it is worth taking the risk. If it's not, go to Florida, but stay away from Miami.

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