Africa Stories and Tips


Africa: Just the word conjures up mental images of a wild and primitive place with herds of the Earth’s last free roaming large mammals, colorful and interesting tribes, and spectacular scenery. I have dreamed of travel to the dark continent (a name that comes from early explorers that ventured into the jungles of the Congo basin) since I was a child. So many things got in the way later in life that I never seriously considered going. That is, not until recently.

I met a Maasai living in southern California who is a friend of my neighbor. I spent several afternoons talking to him about his homeland in Kenya. He was passionate and persuasive and eventually my family and I felt comfortable with plans to visit East Africa. He was frustrated by the media generated image of Africa as being a place of violence, disease, famine, civil wars, dictators, and crime run rampant. Africa is a big place and there are over 40 countries and each is different. After the bombings in Kenya and Tanzania tourism dropped substantially and that hurt the citizens of East Africa that were innocent victims. He also recommended Vintage Africa, Ltd., as a tour operator because of his close association on many missionary trips into the area. I was apprehensive about dealing with a company directly in Africa so I took out plenty of travel insurance (it turned out my concerns were unfounded but the insurance made me feel more comfortable). With this journal, I hope to give the reader a taste of what my family encountered in a 24 day safari through Kenya and Tanzania. I tried to paint a word picture of my feelings and what we saw. Each journal entry will begin with my feelings about the day. The journal will then proceed into an account of the day. In some cases I used repetition and careful word selection to intentionally drag on so as to simulate boredom. In other cases, I used quick, broken sentences to give a sense of fast paced adventure.

My partners on this trip were my wife and our 12-year-old daughter. My wife agreed to the trip only by my promise that I would load us down with medications of every description and my certainty that we were not walking into an area of terrorists. I did my risk assessment primarily using government web sites of the UK, Australia, and Canada. I am sorry to say that I have little confidence in the US State Department site that rarely gives accurate information. From what I gathered the two major risks in the area were traffic accidents and wandering on foot in wilderness areas. There was also some concern about "banditry" in some areas of northern Kenya and along a north-south route toward the west of the country. I could find no information regarding incursions into Kenya from some of its more troubled neighbors so I took that as meaning it was not a serious problem. From the CDC and WHO sites as well as published papers in the medical journals, I assessed the risk of viral, bacterial, and parasitic infections. I know from training and experience that immunizations and anti-malarial agents will protect the traveler from only a portion of the possible endemic organisms in Africa. The number one method to avoid illness is preventive measures. Wearing 3M Ultrathon (sustained release DEET) was high on my list. Liberal use of sunscreen and wide-brim hat to prevent burns under the tropical sun. Bottled water from a reliable source (I scratched my water purifier off my list as it probably has little effect upon viruses). Food from a reliable source (cook it, boil it, peel it or forget it). Mosquito netting sprayed with permethrin. Clothing pretreated with permethrin. With this preparation, we were off on an adventure...

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