Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Should you travel to Africa?

Following on the tragedy that took place in Nairobi last weekend, we have had quite a few questions from travelers about the wisdom of traveling to East Africa or Africa for that matter.  Here is more or less what we tell them:

In almost 15 years, there have been just two notable terrorist attacks in East Africa, namely the Kenya/Tanzania embassy bombings of 1999 and now the Westgate attack in Nairobi.  So compared with practically every other part of the world include the USA, there is no reason to consider East Africa a less safe destination now than in the recent past.  Visitors' exposure to populated areas - where attacks ordinarily take place - is almost nil, perhaps a quick overnight in Nairobi and that is that.  In the game reserves and other remote places where visitors spend 90% of their time, the risk to life and limb is practically zero due to the absence of public roads & population. 

One can never predict the insanity of angry or marginalized groups, but on the whole East Africa has proven to be a very safe area to travel.  We really don't see that changing.  Due to the fact that it does not share a border with Somalia, Tanzania is probably an even better choice than Kenya but I am very comfortable recommending travel to either country.  As well as to Uganda, Rwanda and Zanzibar (which is of course part of Tanzania).

Here is an e-mail which we sent to several of our clients who will be traveling to Kenya over the next few months.  We did not have any cancellations, one party just opted to change from Kenya to Tanzania.


What occurred in Nairobi over the weekend is a tragedy and our condolences go out to the survivors and the families and friends of the victims.  The sad thing about this kind of senseless attack is that it never advances the cause of the perpetrators. It only serves to further inflame the situation and exacerbate existing conflicts. 

That being said, we just wanted to touch base with you because we know that these kinds of events attract a lot of publicity.  Well-meaning individuals, friends & family may in fact question your wisdom in traveling to Africa.  If so please feel free to share some of my thoughts with them.  If you have traveled to Africa before you will know that on safari you are very safe, and with people who know their way around the area, with years of experience.

It is our sincere belief that by traveling to Kenya you will not be unnecessarily exposing yourself to risk.  Unfortunately random attacks - whether inspired by mentally insane persons, political fanatics or terrorists - are a worldwide phenomenon and none of us are 100% safe - anywhere. 

As we all know they can and do happen anywhere:  Lower Manhattan, the Boston Marathon, London underground, a movie theater in Colorado, Spain, Oklahoma City.  The list goes on and on. The world is not a safe place and there is nowhere to hide.  A localized attack in one of these places does not reflect on the safety situation elsewhere in a country or continent or region.  So it does not follow that an attack on a mall in Nairobi makes all of Kenya or by extension East Africa or the entire continent of Africa, a risky place to travel.

It may sound banal but the greatest risk to life and limb is right at home and on the road.  The two places where people are most likely to be injured or killed are in their own homes or while driving on a public road.  We tend to lose sight of that when confronted with dramatic images of aircraft crashes, buildings imploding, bomb victims running in terror and so on.  As a percentage of the total population of the USA, the number of people who are injured or killed in a terror incident is exceedingly small.  Yes it is devastating for them and their families, but the publicity devoted to incidents of this kind drowns out the fact that they are very rare. The vast majority of us are much more likely to fall off a ladder, burn ourselves accidentally, slip in the bathroom or be hit by a careless or reckless driver.  Or fall victim to some kind of disease or chronic health issue. 

The point?  You will not be putting yourself in harm's way by going on safari in Africa.  The specific areas you will be visiting are no more dangerous than much of  the USA - or practically anywhere else. Putting one's life on hold and canceling plans to do things and go places is not a solution.  It boils down to exchanging one set of risks for another, while robbing yourself of the joy of living and experiencing new things, new experiences and new places.

Our destination management company in Kenya - Origins Safaris - have a spotless safety record and they will take every precaution necessary to keep you safe and away from any area that may be considered vulnerable or dangerous.   

Of course once you are on safari out in the bush or on the coast you could not be in a more peaceful and relaxed setting, with almost no personal safety issues due to the absence of cities and and heavily populated areas. 

No comments: