Botswana: Health & Safety Facts
Botswana can be considered one of the safest travel destinations in Africa but as with all places around the world certain precautions have to be taken into account before travelling.
The guides and the staff at the accommodations you will be staying at will give you a briefing on all health and safety issues when you arrive at each destination but it is important to take note of some of the issues that WILL be of concern to you.
Malaria Precautions BEFORE you Travel
Botswana is a malaria risk area. Anti-malaria medication is a must – and you should consult your doctor in this regard. Anti-malarial medication should commence at least a week before leaving for your trip. Precautions such as long-sleeved shirts and jeans for wearing in the evenings will reduce your chances of mosquito bites. Pack some mosquito repellent, cream or spray, for applying to your hands, face and neck. This will help keep the mosquitoes at bay.
As in many places in Africa malaria does occur in Botswana with many people contracting the illness each year. Malaria however is more prevalent in the rural areas where the population lives close together. A mosquito has to draw blood from a human who has the virus in their systems before it can become a carrier and pass the virus on to other people.
Most the lodges in the safari areas of Botswana are in remote locations and as the properties are small with very few people around the chances of mosquitoes being infected are limited.
However this does not mean precautions should be avoided.
Before leaving on your safari to Botswana advice should be sought from medical personnel in your own country and they can advise on what precautionary medication to take.
Other precautions are to take long sleeves and long pants for the evenings and using mosquito repellent on any bare skinned areas.
You will have to be inoculated against this disease at least 10 days before departing for South Africa. At the time of your inoculation you will be issued with a Yellow Fever Certificate which you should keep with all your other travel documents.
You will be required to present your Yellow Fever Certificate at every border control.
If your inoculation is administered LESS THAN 10 before departure, or if you are not in possession of your certificate, you can be refused entry in to the country.
This applies to most countries in Africa.
Make a photo-copy of your certificate and keep it elsewhere in your luggage.
Tsetse Fly and Sleeping Sickness
The Botswana government undertook a project to rid the country of sleeping sickness carried by the Tsetse Fly as not only was it a danger to humans but the disease was deadly for cattle, something which endangered the lucrative beef industry in the country.
A special department was set up to control the fly in the country, a project that has had a very high success rate as the last case of sleeping sickness in Botswana was reported about 20 years ago. There is a small chance of still being bitten by a tsetse fly and, although painful, the chance of contracting sleeping sickness is almost non-existent.
About Veterinary Fences
The vet fences were set up by the Botswana government to prevent the movement of wildlife into the domestic beef herds. The European Union, which buys Botswana's beef, stipulated that the country should control foot and mouth disease for the import agreement to continue.
As Botswana is a big beef producer [second biggest export] the fences were deemed the solution to protect the beef industry. As to whether the fences will impact a holiday – the answer is a very definite NO!
They do not hinder the movement of wildlife anymore. The wildlife has adapted to the fences and there will be no sign to indicate how close you are to a fence from wherever you are staying.
At any Botswana border entry post, travellers are required to walk across a damp mat trough where a pesticide solution will sanitize the soles of your shoes.
If you are driving your own vehicle, you will be required to drive it through a dip trough in order to do the same thing for your vehicle tyres.
The tourist areas of Botswana are very safe as they are remote and most can only be accessed by light aircraft. This prevents the spread of criminal activity to the lodges.
Botswana is a very safe country to travel to and crime targeted at tourists is minimal. Like most places around the world care should be taken when walking around the towns and cities and advice should be sought before deciding to visit specific areas.
As a visitor you should take all the reasonable precautions for your personal safety, that you would in your home city.
Safety precautions in the bush will be explained to you by your guide but it must be remembered that Botswana has some of the wildest parks and reserves in Africa and with no fences to prevent wild animals moving freely there is always the chance of an incident. However if you obey the basic rules and guidelines set down for you, safety will not be an issue.