Jun
26
2009

How can I visit an African game reserve without the risk of malaria?

Warning - Objects in mirror are larger than they appear! (photo by exfordy - CC-BY)

Warning - Objects in mirror are larger than they appear! (photo by exfordy - CC-BY)

Many people yearn to see large African animals in the wild—and many African countries have game reserves where elephants, rhinos, hippos, giraffes and lions roam free. But there’s a catch—how to avoid the risk of contracting malaria?

Malaria is a dangeous and sometimes life-threatening disease. The cause of the disease is a parasite of the blood, which is carried from human to human by mosquitoes. Excellent information about malaria in Southern Africa is available online.

It’s possible to take chemoprophylaxis (“anti-malarial tablets”) to suppress the infection, but it’s not foolproof. Some malaria is resistant to these medications. The tablets need to be taken according to a strict regime, and they can knock your body around. Some people don’t tolerate them well and may have to give them up due to side-effects, or may be unable to take them due to factors such as pregnancy or epilepsy.

It would be much better if there were a way to see the African animals without the risk of malaria. You may be able to visit a game park in your own country, but it’s not the same to see the animals in a free-range zoo, compared to seeing them living naturally in their own habitat.

Most of sub-saharan Africa is at risk of malaria, but the south coast of South Africa is currently malaria-free. In this area we find numerous private game parks. These are spectacular but generally small in area and very expensive. But there is also one large nature reserve in this area: the Addo Elephant National Park.

Addo Elephant National Park is large, at 164,000 hectares (405,000 acres), and it is being enlarged to around twice that size. It holds one of the densest populations of African elephants on the earth, and also contains rhino, lion, buffalo, leopard, and numerous other African animals. It extends to the coastal sand dunes and beyond, where there are southern right whales, great white sharks, Cape gannets and a large breeding population of African penguins.

You can drive around the park in your own vehicle, or go on an organised tour. Many people spend several days in the park. There are camps at which you can stay. They’re fenced so that the animals don’t storm through at night, but you can rent a hut that overlooks the waterhole and get a fabulous view of animals coming and going. There is a range of accommodation, including fixed tents, rondavels and more luxurious options.

Activities available include sunrise and night-time game drives, horse riding trails, hiking trails and 4WD trails. Food is available at Addo Rest Camp.

You can reach Addo by flying into the nearby city of Port Elizabeth. Afterwards, why not drive the Garden Route to Cape Town?

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