When on a walking safari, mountain climbing or walking round the 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 excursion. Drink water regularly and eat a light diet with lots of carbohydrates. It is essential to keep warm.

Hypothermia or exposure: this is 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 poorly clothed for the conditions. The signs/symptoms include clumsiness, stumbling, apathy, lethargy, confusion, disorientation, and eventually unconsciousness. Treatment for this is to immediately warm 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] 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 medical attention. This condition kills tourists every year in Tanzania!

Hiking in hot or sunny weather often causes heat exhaustion. The signs/symptoms are weakness/fatigue, headache, vertigo, thirst, nausea/vomiting, faintness, 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

Heatstroke 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; at all times follow the instructions of your armed guide. Never feed wild animals – baboons and monkeys can be highly dangerous, and they can steal by force, as they have learned 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 bellow freezing.

If you get 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 [esp. water] basic first aid, torch and a compass.

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

Safari ants are small shiny brown ants that move 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.

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 tires, so take care, and try not to wear sandals.

Ticks may be found in long grass. To remove a tick, cover the insect in a healthy blob of petroleum jelly, and wait a minute or two for it to drown. Then wipe off the jelly, and the tick will come off with it. If there is no petroleum jelly available, any thick, goey substance will work, such as sunscreen, which most people pack with them on outings anyway.

Snakes will usually avoid humans; one exception is the puff adder. 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.

In conclusion to protect yourself – dress right and drink right. When climbing in mountains or highland, prepare for extremes. Watch yourself – daytime temperatures can reach 35c, with little shade, and may well be freezing at night at higher altitudes. Fine weather can turn into fog or rain quickly. Always carry waterproof, 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, and skin protection. Also, drink plenty of water and eat a diet high in carbohydrates for energy. Avoid alcohol at high altitudes.

About the Author

For more information on health issues and climbing or hiking see http://www.betheladventure.co.uk – Bethel Adventure supports community Initiatives and thereby uses tourism to change lives.

Written by: Ian Williamson