‘ Ebola in Africa ’ – our thoughts on the Ebola Virus & Safari Risks

We understand that you may be feeling a little scared about the outbreak of the Ebola virus in some parts of Africa at the moment, especially if you are considered a safari, or have already booked a safari. I think we are all concerned, not only for the beleaguered people of Liberia, Guinea and Sierre Leone, but also about the possible spread of the disease to other countries around the world. We have been arranging tailor-made safari holidays to Southern Africa for the last 20 years. During that time we have never compromised our client’s safety and we are not about to start now. If people have asked us whether a specific area is safe to travel to, we always tell them straight. So we appreciate our clients’ health concerns and we are committed to providing up to date information on this blog. However there’s also a lot of media misconceptions flying around about ” Ebola in Africa ” and so want to address the issue from where we stand, living at the southern tip of Africa.

Some Facts about ‘ Ebola in Africa ‘

Ebola is a scary virus which has got a grip in three of the very poorest countries in the world: Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. However the one consolation is that it is NOT an airborne disease. According to the World Health Organisation, Ebola spreads “through close and direct physical contact with infected bodily fluids.” The person has to be showing symptoms to be contagious and usually by the time they are contagious, they are too sick to travel much and need hospitalization. The Ebola virus got a hold in those three countries due to the slow declaration of the disease, a practise of caring for relatives at home and a lack of understanding on the part of the population, until it was too late. There have been isolated cases in Senegal, UK, Spain, USA and Nigeria so far. However quick preventative steps and good hygiene, as in Nigeria, has been shown to stop the halt of the virus. Nigeria, being a richer African country and because it has acted quickly, has been able to successfully stop the spread of the Ebola virus. One man entered the country in July and 20 other people contracted Ebola (eight of whom died). But as of now, the spread of the virus has been completely contained using clear procedures and there has not been a new case since late August, six weeks ago. This is also the case with Senegal. South Africa does not have a single case of Ebola at this stage.

Africa is Massive

Africa is a vast continent. As the chart shows below, it is the size of Europe, Asia, India and the USA combined. It has 53 countries and over 3,000 languages. It is not one vast ‘country’ of savanna grasslands, but many, many different countries which differ in their culture, language and economic resources – just as Mexico differs from Canada but both are in North America, and Greece differs from Norway but both are in Europe. Many of Europe’s capital cities such as Madrid, Paris, London, Lisbon and Rome are closer to West Africa than the capitals of East and Southern Africa such as Nairobi, Gaborone, Cape Town and Johannesburg. Africa is huge.

ebola africa outbreak

Ebola and Southern Africa

South Africa, and all countries of Southern and East Africa, are free of Ebola. However we understand that the situation can change and so we commit to keeping you informed of any developments.

South Africa may get a case of Ebola, as has happened in the USA and Spain. The question is whether we can deal with it effectively. Given the example of Nigeria and Senegal, it is highly likely that if someone arrived in South Africa with Ebola, this person would be isolated immediately as well as the people who had contact with them. All people arriving from ANY West African country are been monitored and screened as they arrive. There are no direct flights from any of the three affected countries into South Africa.

The likelihood that YOU would come into close bodily contact with a person who had flown in from a West African country is miniscule.


Safeguarding your options

If you want to book a safari in Southern Africa for some in the future, but you are concerned about Ebola, the best thing to do is to talk to us about your concerns. There are things we can do to protect your money. For example, we can negotiate with suppliers to not charge a cancellation fee if you want to cancel your holiday before a certain time period prior to travel. In this way, you can go ahead with your travel plans for 3 or 6 months’ time, but know that you are protected.

We will only charge a cancellation charge if our suppliers are charging us. Obviously if there is a ‘No Travel’ warning on a destination, following an Ebola outbreak, then we commit to giving a 100% refund on any land arrangements in that country.


Protection of Africa’s wildlife

At the moment, the spread of the FEAR of  Ebola in Africa is outstripping the actual spread of the virus. Southern and East African countries rely on tourism revenue to provide employment and to protect valuable rhino and elephant populations. A decline in tourism will see an increase in poaching which could have a catastrophic effect on rhino numbers.

We appreciate your concerns about Ebola in Africa. Ebola is a terrible virus which has affected so many victims and their families in those three unfortunate countries. Indeed we feel somewhat ambivalent about even writing a post which detracts from this suffering.

But we want to address any of your fears about travel to the rest of Africa. We hope we have provided some perspective on how we see the Ebola issue, how carefully we are reviewing it, what we are doing about it. We hope we have alleviated some of your concerns?

The irony is that West Africa is closer to Western Europe than it is to Southern Africa. If you fly from Paris to a safari in South Africa you are actually flying FURTHER away from the Ebola outbreak!

So come talk to us about any concerns you have, and about your safari plans. Lets chat…

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Kate Bergh is co-founder of Cedarberg African Travel, a specialist tour operator for Southern and East Africa.

She heads up the South African office, having lived in South Africa since 1993. Her home looks up to the Cedarberg Mountains, where she enjoys hiking and cycling, when she’s not out discovering new places to visit, with her three children in tow. Kate has travelled extensively throughout the region to Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe as well as most areas of South Africa. She also loves history, meeting people and a good thriller...


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