Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Travel in Africa – “don’t do it, it’s too dangerous!”

After numerous questions on how dangerous it is to travel in Africa and comments on eating the local food, I thought it wise to make a list of some of the stupid travel advise one needs’ to ignore.

Sunset over Africa by Corne Schalkwyk 
I’m still around and have been able to make it my career to travel in “dark dangerous Africa”.

The world is would seem, is not as dangerous as our ill-informed parents and the mainstream news media would have us believe.

If we paid attention to all of it, we would hardly leave the house. Ok maybe… armed with a load full of Imodium, every new malaria tablet on the market and devotedly wrapped in layers of bubble wrap.  

I’m here to state that with a little common sense, and adventurous spirit and your wits about you, you can and should get out there and explore. You can and must travel, and can do it safely!

These are some of the common, stupid, though well- intentioned travel “tips” that I ignore all the time….and so should you!

“Don’t eat the local food. You will get violently ill”

If you travel long enough, you may very well get sick and believe me I have. But, after years of traveling and dining on plenty of dodgy meals in even dodgier places, I've never been truly gut-wrenching sick. Like everything else, it’s all about common sense. Eat where the locals eat and you’re likely to be just fine. And the local’s know some great spots that add a great local flair to your travels. You might even find that elusive dish that you can no longer live without!

“Why would you ever leave South Africa? It’s the best spot in Africa !”

Sadly members of my family made a similar statement. I think it stems from the idea that South Africa is the civilised version of the rest of Africa, and once you have been to the best why visit the rest? Well, how would you know….you haven't been anywhere else?

Travel is a great way to experience the world, emerge yourself and learn from other cultures and evolve as a person to become a better informed individual.  

“It’s too expensive. What about your future plans, your career.”

 Well my advice is speak to the thousands of folks who've been globetrotting for years with no fixed address making little more than the average minimum wage that you find dotted around Africa taking in the experience, and they’ll assure you otherwise.

And you don’t need to sleep in sketchy hostels or eat canned cat food every night. Make informed decisions, speak to other people that travel or read their blogs for advice.  It comes down to being smart and knowing where you can save and where you can splurge.

I made sure to incorporate my travel into my career objectives and now I get paid to know Africa. Not a bad job if you can get it! Not all of it will always be a big GO! sign. But I’m sure you will know, there is never a picture perfect time to travel, buy a house or have a child. If it’s your true passion, wouldn't you rather take the chance now? If it doesn’t work out, at least you tried and had an adventure while doing it!
Take a drive on a harley in a nature reserve 

Malaria and other tropical diseases are sure to kill you”

Well they might, but we all know by now that you can pick up a nasty illness anywhere in the world. The recent Ebola outbreak will definitely have us hearing about this “Tip” a lot more. When I said eat the local food…. I didn’t include the local primate population mom! could be a good reply?  

It’s important to be aware and informed about the country and the diseases that you might pick up. Do your research and get the necessary inoculations and be a preventative traveller. It also helps your doctor to know where you visited and what you might have been exposed too. But here is the surprise…. The local doctors are better equipped in some cases to treat illnesses like malaria as an example. They see it all the time and you might be the third or fourth person on that day that walks in with the illness. And yes prevention is better that cure!

I travel with a malaria test kit, and test myself … a lot…. If you think you have a cold….test! I have survived malaria….. more than once, and with local doctors and medication found in the countries that I where traveling at the time.

I don’t use malaria tablets anymore, and haven’t for years as I’m in Africa most of the time and I can’t make it a part of my daily routine year in and year out ….. It’s not a vitamin after all. But that doesn’t apply to everybody, if you can you should take preventative measures.

I still use bug spray and mosquito nets to try and keep myself safe.

Take Risks and have fun by Corne Schalkwyk 
'Mosquitoes will lay in any still water, but do best in stagnant spaces - Photograph: Alamy