Health Issues Whilst On Safari

Hiking in hot or sunny weather often causes heat exhaustion. The signs/symptoms are weakness/fatigue, headache, vertigo, thirst nausea/vomiting, faintness, and high body temperature. The treatment is to lay flat in shade, remove clothing to cool the patient, soak the body with cold water, re-hydrate patient and monitor body temperature.

Heat stroke is more serious with the signs/symptoms being delirium, coma, rapid pulse, rapid breathing; skin hot and dry, body temperature above 40c [104 f]. Treat as for heat exhaustion but this condition can be fatal, so seek medical assistance quickly – evacuate if possible.

Wildlife: Try to avoid interaction; normally the wildlife will try to avoid you. Buffalo or elephant may attack if surprised or provoked. When hiking in forest or dense bush, clap often or call out if met by an aggressive animal and at all times follow the instructions of your armed guide. Never feed wild animals. Baboons and monkeys are highly dangerous and they can steel by force as they have learnt to get food from the tourists.

Weather in Tanzania has a rainy season, November through to May, with sometimes a dryer season January to March, dividing the season into short and long rains. It never rains all the time. The dry season is June to October, the coldest month being July with high altitudes reaching temperatures below freezing.

If you become lost, remain where you are. Your guide will look for you and find you quicker if are on the trail – this sometimes happens in fog or dense forest. A day pack should include instant body shelter, warm clothing and a water proof jacket, matches or lighter, a mirror or whistle for signaling, food and drink [especially water], basic first aid, torch and a compass.

Some areas have stinging nettles, so no shorts in these areas as stings cause temporary but painful irritations

Safari ants are small, shiny brown ants moving rapidly in columns across trails. They are common and carnivorous; they crawl up your trouser legs and start to chew. Tuck trousers into socks and watch where you step and especially where you stand still.

Acacia thorns, “cat claws” of the wait-a-bit thorn tree, rip skin and clothing. The thorn is long and straight and can pierce soft soled shoes and even car tyres, so take care and try not to wear sandals.

Ticks may be found long grass. To remove a tick, grasp the head and jerk out of skin.

Snakes will usually avoid humans the puff add being one exception. This snake is sluggish and slow to move. When moving around in the dark, use a torch to avoid a most unwelcome encounter with the puff adder.

Scorpions lurk in the dry country under rocks, behind bark and sometimes climb into boots, clothing or equipment left out at night. The sting from a scorpion can cause severe pain for several hours.

When on a walking safari, mountain climbing, or walking round the safari camp, it is advisable to be aware of the following guidelines on health and safety in the African Bush.

Altitude related illness: These illnesses can kill you and every year tourists die from altitude related illnesses. Higher altitudes are colder, even in Africa. There is less oxygen and to walk slowly is essential, especially for hikes or climbs above 1,500 to 3,000 meters above sea level. You should be breathing easily with no panting and no extreme physical exertion. Drink water regularly and eat a light diet with lots of carbohydrates. It is essential to keep warm.

Hypothermia or exposure: This is a life threatening condition with a lowering of body temperature and can occur with a temperature as high as 10 c [50 f] usually caused by cold wet clothing or simply being poorly clothed for the conditions. The signs/symptoms include clumsiness, stumbling, apathy, lethargy, confusion, disorientation, and eventually unconsciousness. Treatment for this is to immediately place the patient in a warm, dry environment – a sleeping bag is ideal, with one or even two people inside the sleeping bag with the patient. Warm, energy rich drinks help, as does rest, with a return to camp as quickly as possible.

Acute Mountain sickness: This affects many people above 2,050 meters [or 10,000 ft]. The signs/symptoms include headache, nausea fatigue, malaise, loss of appetite, restless or no sleep. The treatment is to slow down, remain in camp, drink water, and rest your body. It is important to adjust to altitude slowly. In case of severe headaches, loss of coordination, breathing difficulties, evacuate immediately for a quick decent to a lower altitude and seek medical attention. This condition kills tourists every year in Tanzania!

In conclusion: To protect yourself – dress correctly and drink plenty or bring your own blood pressure cuff. Climbing in mountains or highland, prepare for extremes. Watch yourself, for day time temperatures can reach 35 c with little shade yet it may well be freezing at night at higher altitudes so bring best arthritis gloves. Fine weather can turn into fog or rain quickly. Always carry a waterproof and dry clothing in a plastic bag to keep warm. Wool and synthetics are better than cotton or down – to keep cool, cotton is the better option. Protect yourself from the sun with a hat, sunglasses, skin protection and do drink plenty of water whilst eating a diet high in carbohydrates for energy. Avoid alcohol at high altitudes.