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What Not to Do on Safari?

Going on an African safari is a dream come true for many travelers – the chance to observe iconic wildlife like lions, elephants, and giraffes in their natural habitats. However, it’s critical to remember that safaris take place in wild, unpredictable environments. Irresponsible behavior not only puts you in danger, but can also harm the very animals and ecosystems you came to see.

What Not to Do on Safari?

To have a safe, rewarding safari that respects wildlife and local communities, there are certain things you should never do. By being a responsible safari-goer, you’ll help protect these incredible places for generations to come. Here are the top things to avoid on your African safari:

Do Not Disrespect Wildlife

The number one rule on safari is to respect the wildlife you encounter. Remember, you are a visitor in their home. Disrespecting animals not only puts you at risk, but causes them unnecessary stress. Some key ways to show respect:

  • Never approach, follow, or chase animals. Always keep a safe distance, especially from potentially dangerous creatures like lions, hippos, and elephants. If an animal moves away, do not pursue it. Listen to your guide’s instructions.
  • Don’t feed wild animals. Feeding wildlife, even with good intentions, can seriously harm their health and alter natural behaviors. Animals can become dependent on handouts or dangerously comfortable around humans.
  • Never disturb animals for a better look or photo. Making noises, throwing objects, or otherwise harassing wildlife to get a reaction is never acceptable. Be patient and let animals go about their natural business.
  • Don’t interfere with hunting or mating. On safari, you may witness a predator hunting its prey or animals mating. As difficult as it may be to watch, never intervene in these natural processes. It’s all part of the essential circle of life.

Do Not Litter or Leave Anything Behind

“Take only memories, leave only footprints” is an excellent motto for safaris. Littering not only spoils the pristine wilderness, but can injure animals who mistakenly eat trash or get tangled in it. Food waste attracts scavengers and can make animals ill.

To minimize your impact:

  • Always dispose of waste properly. Put trash in designated receptacles or pack it out with you.
  • Never leave food scraps or crumbs behind, even biodegradable items like fruit peels. Animals will be attracted to the scent.
  • If you need to use the bathroom, do so far away from trails and waterways. Bury human waste in a cathole and pack out toilet paper.
  • Don’t take any natural “souvenirs” like rocks, plants, or animal parts. Leave the environment exactly as you found it.

Do Not Get Too Close

One of the biggest safari mistakes is getting too close to wildlife in pursuit of the perfect photo or view. Not only is this extremely dangerous for you, it agitates and scares the animals. It may even provoke an aggressive reaction.

Always stay in your vehicle unless your guide says it’s safe to exit. When watching wildlife, use binoculars or a telephoto lens to get a closer look. If an animal approaches you, stay calm and slowly increase your distance.

Be especially cautious around breeding sites like dens or nests. Never disturb mating rituals or baby animals, even if they seem abandoned. Mothers are likely watching from a distance.

How close is too close?

Follow these general guidelines for minimum distances:

Animal Safe Distance
Elephants 50 meters
Lions 100 meters
Cheetahs 75 meters
Primates 10 meters
Hippos 75 meters
Crocodiles 30 meters

Of course, always defer to your safari guide’s expertise and instructions for each specific situation. They know the animals’ behaviors and how to keep you safe.

Do Not Be Loud or Disruptive

Noise pollution is incredibly disruptive to wildlife, especially sounds that are not naturally occurring in their habitat. Loud noises and commotion can scare animals away and agitate them.

To minimize your noise impact:

  • Keep your voice down. If you need to communicate, do so quietly or with hand signals. Never yell, whistle, or make animal sounds to get a creature’s attention.
  • Turn off sounds on mobile devices. Beeps and rings are disturbing to wildlife.
  • Avoid slamming vehicle doors. Close them quietly.
  • Skip the music. The sounds of the African bush are enchanting enough on their own. Save the tunes for back at camp.
  • Speak softly if you must talk. The wilderness is a place for quiet reflection.

Remember, the less noise you make, the more likely you’ll be to see amazing wildlife go about their natural routines undisturbed. Embrace the quiet and really soak up the experience!

Do Not Disrespect Local Cultures

Many African safaris take place on or near lands belonging to indigenous tribes and communities. It is crucial to respect local people and their cultures. Some key guidelines:

  • Always ask permission before taking photos of people or their homes/villages. Never take pictures of children without parents’ consent.
  • Dress modestly, especially when visiting villages. Cover knees and shoulders.
  • Be respectful of religious and cultural sites. Never touch artifacts or wander where you shouldn’t.
  • Don’t hand out gifts like candy or pens, especially to children. This encourages begging. If you want to help, donate to a vetted local charity.
  • Support locally owned businesses and camps that give back to communities. This sustainable tourism provides jobs and preserves traditional lifestyles.
  • Learn a few words of the local language like “hello” and “thank you.” Showing an interest goes a long way!

Remember, you are a guest. Treat local hosts with the utmost respect and appreciation, and be open to cultural exchange. You’ll gain so much more from the experience.

Do Not Ignore Safety Rules and Guides

Perhaps the quickest way to get into trouble on safari is disregarding safety rules and ignoring your guide’s instructions. They have years of experience and training to keep you secure while ensuring the well-being of wildlife.

Some cardinal rules to always follow:

  • Wear your seatbelt. Safaris often traverse rough, bumpy terrain. Seatbelts prevent injuries.
  • Never stand up or hang out of the vehicle, even for a quick photo. You never know when an animal may charge.
  • Don’t walk away from your safari group or camp alone, especially at night. There may be predators about.
  • Avoid smoking except in designated areas. Bush fires spread rapidly.
  • Never enter areas marked as restricted or off-limits for visitors. There are good reasons they are blocked off.
  • Don’t bring food on game drives. The smell attracts scavengers.
  • Never run if you encounter an animal, even on a walking safari. Stand still and let your guide handle the situation.

Above all, always listen to your safari guide’s commands, even if they seem overly cautious. It’s for your own safety and that of the magnificent wildlife you came to see.

Do Not Harass Animals for Photos

In the age of social media, it’s tempting to go to great lengths to “get the shot.” But harassing animals for the perfect photo is unethical and dangerous. It’s not worth risking injury or stressing out a creature for Instagram likes.

Some photography behaviors to avoid:

  • Using flash photography. Camera flashes can confuse and disturb animals.
  • Baiting animals with food to lure them closer for a better shot. This disrupts their natural diets and behaviors and can make them sick.
  • Making noises like calls to get an animal to look towards the camera. This is disruptive and may even mimic mating or distress sounds, confusing the animal.
  • Asking your guide to drive closer than is safe to wildlife, just for a photo. Trust your guide’s judgement on what distance is appropriate.
  • Getting out of the vehicle in hopes a curious animal will approach you. This is extremely dangerous.

Remember, the welfare of the animal is more important than any photo. Use a telephoto lens and take what you can get from a safe, respectful distance. The most rewarding wildlife photography captures animals behaving naturally, without human interference.

Key Takeaways

To sum up, here are the essential “don’ts” to keep in mind for a safe, ethical, and rewarding African safari:

  1. Don’t disrespect wildlife. Maintain a safe distance and never feed, chase, or harass animals.
  2. Don’t litter or leave anything behind. Take all your trash with you and leave the environment as you found it.
  3. Don’t get too close to animals. Stay in your vehicle and use binoculars or a telephoto lens to observe wildlife.
  4. Don’t be loud or disruptive. Keep noise to a minimum to avoid disturbing animals and other visitors.
  5. Don’t disrespect local cultures. Ask permission for photos, dress modestly, and support local businesses.
  6. Don’t ignore safety rules and guides. Always follow your guide’s instructions and pay attention to all safety regulations.
  7. Don’t harass animals for photos. Never bait, flash, or coax wildlife into a “better” shot. Prioritize animals’ well-being over photography.


An African safari is a profound privilege and responsibility. By avoiding these “don’ts,” you’ll ensure a safe, sustainable, and infinitely rewarding wilderness experience. Remember, safaris are an opportunity to glimpse the power and fragility of the natural world. Treat it with the utmost care and respect.

When you embody the best practices of a responsible safari-goer, you set an example for others and actively contribute to wildlife conservation. And you’ll take home the kind of memories, photos, and insights that only come from treading lightly and observing keenly. Here’s to your wonderful, wild, and ethical African safari!

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What should I do if a wild animal approaches me on safari?
    Stay calm, don’t run, and slowly increase your distance from the animal. Always follow your guide’s instructions for the situation.

  2. Can I bring food on a safari game drive?
    No, avoid bringing food on drives, as the smell can attract scavengers like baboons and disrupt animals’ natural behaviors. Eat meals and snacks back at camp.

  3. Is it okay to feed wild animals if they look hungry?
    Never feed wild animals, even with good intentions. It can make them ill, alter their natural behaviors, and cause them to become aggressive towards humans in search of handouts.

  4. What should I do with toilet paper and human waste on safari?
    Use designated restroom facilities whenever possible. If you must go in the bush, bury waste in a cathole far from trails and waterways, and pack out used toilet paper.

  5. Can I take plants, rocks, or animal parts home as souvenirs?
    No, it’s illegal to remove any natural items from parks and reserves. It disrupts the ecosystem and can encourage poaching. Take only photos as mementos.

  6. What should I do if I see an injured or distressed wild animal?
    Alert your safari guide, but do not approach or try to help the animal yourself. Guides will contact wildlife authorities to properly assist the animal if needed.

  7. How close can I get to animals on a walking safari?
    Always stay close to your guide and never approach animals. Walking safaris typically observe wildlife like giraffes and antelopes from a distance using binoculars.

  8. Is it safe to go on a safari with children?
    Yes, many safaris cater to families and offer kid-friendly activities. However, it’s even more essential to closely supervise children and make sure they follow all safety rules.

  9. What happens if I accidentally disturb an animal and it becomes aggressive?
    Stay calm, never run, and do exactly as your guide instructs. Guides are expertly trained to handle aggressive wildlife and will have methods to safely deter the animal.

  10. Can I use flash photography on night safaris?
    No, flash photography should always be avoided around wildlife, as it can temporarily blind and confuse animals. Let your eyes adjust to the dark or use a red-filtered flashlight.

  11. Is it okay to make animal noises to get their attention?
    Never make animal sounds, as they can mimic mating or distress calls and agitate wildlife. Observe animals silently to avoid disturbing their natural behaviors.

  12. Can I post wildlife photos on social media?
    Absolutely! Sharing your safari photos raises awareness about conservation. Just make sure the image doesn’t depict any unethical behaviors like getting too close to animals.

  13. Am I guaranteed to see the “Big Five” on my safari?
    Sightings can never be 100% guaranteed, as animals are wild and unpredictable. But choosing reputable parks and experienced guides gives you the best odds of spotting bucket-list wildlife.

  14. Can I smoke while on safari?
    Smoking should only be done in designated areas, if at all, to avoid starting bush fires and littering cigarette butts. Many safari camps are entirely non-smoking to respect other guests and the environment.

  15. What should I wear on safari?
    Choose lightweight, breathable, neutral-colored clothing that covers your arms and legs to protect from sun and insects. Avoid bright colors and loud patterns that may disturb wildlife.

  16. Do I need to get any vaccinations before going on safari?
    Depending on the country, certain vaccinations may be required or recommended, such as yellow fever, hepatitis A, or malaria pills. Consult a travel doctor well before your trip.

  17. Can I use a drone to take aerial photos of wildlife?
    No, drones are illegal in most African national parks and reserves, as they dangerously disturb wildlife and other visitors. Enjoy wildlife from ground level, as nature intended.

  18. Is it safe to swim in rivers and lakes on safari?
    No, avoid swimming, as water sources may contain wildlife like crocodiles and hippos, parasites, and waterborne diseases. Stick to swimming pools at your lodge or camp.

  19. What should I do if I have a health emergency on safari?
    Alert your guide and lodge staff immediately. Quality safari providers will have first aid kits, communication devices to call for help, and partnerships with local medical services.

  20. Are safaris ethical for animals?
    Well-managed safaris are a vital ecotourism model that incentivize wildlife conservation and community development. Choose responsible operators and follow best practices to ensure your safari benefits African ecosystems.

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