All you need to know about Malaria on safari

May 01 2018


Apart from packing the binoculars, airing out those comfortable walking shoes and reading all about the different kinds of wildlife you’re bound to encounter on your safari adventure, it’s also important that you arm yourself with the necessary knowledge with regards to malaria. It can be a life-threatening disease so it’s vital to take the necessary precautions if your safari is going to be taking you to a malaria area. Here’s everything you need to know about the disease and the safest way to approach it.

What is malaria?

It’s a serious blood disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to humans and animals through the bite of an infected female Anopheles mosquito. It can be controlled and effectively treated if diagnosed early.

Areas in South Africa/Africa prone to malaria:

  • The north eastern parts of Limpopo (along the borders with Mozambique and Zimbabwe). The Mopani district is a high transmission area.
  • The Lowveld areas of Mpumalanga (this includes the famous Kruger National Park – although it can be considered low-moderate - but excludes Mbombela and immediate surrounds). The towns of Sabie, White River and Nelspruit are not considered transmission areas.
  • Far northern parts of KwaZulu-Natal (Richards Bay and St Lucia can be excluded).
  • Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Botswana (not in major cities though) and Namibia (certain regions) are considered moderate-high risk areas.

There are plenty of game reserves in South Africa that offer world-class safaris without the worry of malaria. Assured malaria-free safari areas include:

  • The Eastern Cape
  • North West Province (including the Pilanesberg National Park and the Madikwe Game Reserve)
  • The Waterberg.

The great news is that all of these reserves offer wonderful wildlife viewing and superb safari experiences, so you won't need to compromise on quality to ensure a medication-free trip.

When is malaria season?

Malaria in South Africa is seasonal, with it predominantly occurring during the rainy spring/summer season (between September and May). January to April tends to be the period of highest transmission. Mosquitoes tend to hibernate during the winter months, hence it being a lower risk period, generally.

Preventative measures (because prevention is better than cure)

It’s imperative that the necessary precautions be taken should you be travelling to malaria-prone areas. Consulting your healthcare professional should be your first port of call to discuss the recommended medications available.

Other means of prevention include:

  • Use mosquito repellents
  • Use mosquito nets (most lodges come equipped with these in their rooms)
  • Burn coils
  • Use insecticide spray inside the room
  • Be sure to wear long pants with socks, particularly in the early mornings and evenings (this is when you’re most susceptible to being bitten as the mosquitoes are most active between dusk and dawn)
  • Make use of fans and air-conditioners
  • Keep screen doors and windows closed at all times.

Travelpharm

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Who is most likely at risk?

At the end of the day anyone can be affected, but the following are more susceptible to infection:

  • Children under 5 years of age
  • Adults over 65 years
  • Pregnant women
  • Those with pre-existing health concerns such as cancer, HIV, epilepsy and others.
  • It’s best to speak to your doctor should you suffer from any illnesses or be on any medications just to be safe.

Whilst the threat of malaria should be taken very seriously, it by no means should be a reason not to enjoy a fantastic safari adventure in Africa - you simply have to be careful and take all the necessary precautions to avoid transmission. 

Visit our Travel Info page full of useful links and advice to 'Know Before You Go' to Africa.

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