To many people, a trip to Africa is the ultimate adventure. For wildlife and conservation enthusiasts, for anyone who appreciates natural and cultural diversity in equal measure, an African safari is the holiday of a lifetime.
But by equal measure, going on safari in any of Africa’s bountiful and beautiful savannah, rainforest or desert regions is not the same as taking a two-week beach vacation. Safari holidays are active and sometimes strenuous. And that can leave anyone with a long standing medical condition asking the question – can I make that dream trip after all?
As long as your condition is under control and you are in good health, no one should let a medical problem stand in the way of their dreams. But a little knowledge and forward planning will be required. Here are some key things to consider.
The first thing is to be 100% sure that you are healthy enough to make the trip you are planning safely and without taking undue risks. Book an appointment with your doctor in plenty of time to get a thorough check-up and to discuss your plans. They will be able to give you advice on managing your condition in a different climate, what levels of activity you can safely manage, what to do about diet if applicable and so on.
If you are on medication, you will also need to get a prescription for everything you will need for the duration of the trip, plus spare as an emergency supply, to dispense before you go away. It is also a good idea to get a second prescription to take with you in the event of an emergency, with a letter from your GP explaining your condition, what the medications are and what they are for.
Another thing you will need to discuss with your doctor is vaccinations. For most of Africa, it is advised to get Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccinations, as well as boosters for routine childhood vaccinations such as measles, mumps, rubella, polio, tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough. In certain areas of Africa, you may also need meningitis and yellow fever vaccinations – some countries will not let you in without proof of the latter. You will also likely need to take anti-malarial medication if you are visiting any part of sub-Saharan Africa.
Some vaccinations may pose issues in terms of interacting with medication you are on, or causing symptoms that could trigger your existing condition. As a rule, it is always better to get the vaccination than not, but discuss the risks with your doctor.
It is essential that anyone travelling to Africa to go on safari takes out suitable travel insurance. While safaris are professionally run and take the health and safety of guests very seriously, you will be spending time travelling to remote, sometimes rugged areas, often out in the heat and the sun, and as covered above under vaccinations, there are disease risks across most of the continent. If you fall ill or have an accident and you are not insured, you could end up facing a catastrophically expensive medical bill.
For anyone with a pre-existing medical condition, it is important to declare this to your provider upfront, otherwise it could invalidate your cover if you have to make a claim. Sadly, it is the experience of many people who have medical conditions that they are quoted extremely high prices for travel insurance, or else providers decline cover altogether. Fortunately, there are firms out there who specialise in offering comprehensive cover for people with pre-existing medical conditions at fair prices. For more information, click here.