When Will African Safaris For International Visitors Resume?
This is a complex question to answer and it depends on a lot of different factors, but I believe there are four major indicators that should be taken into account to give a clearer picture...
1 - International Flights To/From Africa
Every major African safari country apart from Tanzania and Zambia currently has borders locked to international visitors.
Below is a list of travel restrictions applicable to African countries where safaris take place. I update it frequently as the information becomes available:
|Country||Restrictions||Provisional End Date||Source|
|South Africa||Flights to South Africa are suspended and borders closed.||Until further notice||*Timatic|
|Kenya||All international flights to Kenya are suspended.||Until further notice||*Timatic|
|Tanzania||All air travel restrictions lifted. Visitors screened at point of entry.||20 May 2020||Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority|
|Botswana||Borders closed and flights suspended.||Until further notice||Wikipedia|
|Namibia||Borders closed and flights suspended.||Until further notice||*Timatic|
|Zambia||All flights must arrive at Kenneth Kaunda International Lusaka Airport and passengers undergo a 14 day quarantine at own expense.||Until further notice||*Timatic|
|Zimbabwe||Flights suspended for international visitors.||Until further notice||*Timatic|
|Rwanda||Resumption of international travel for charter flights. All visitors traveling by charter flights are expected to test negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours prior to arrival. Tourists will take a second COVID-19 test prior to visiting any tourist attraction.||17 June 2020||Rwanda Development Board|
|Uganda||All international flights to Uganda are suspended.||Until further notice||*Timatic|
|Eswatini (Swaziland)||Borders closed to international visitors.||Until further notice||Kingdom Of Eswatini Government website|
(The information above is correct to the best of my knowledge based on a variety of sources but given the rapidly evolving nature of the COVID-19 outbreak I can't guarantee its accuracy and can accept no liability for any errors or omissions. *Timatic is a global database containing documentation requirements for passengers traveling internationally via air.)
Safaris will only be able to resume once borders open and flights start again and when that will occur is in my opinion dependant on the following factors...
2 - Number Of Confirmed Covid-19 (Coronavirus) Cases
The graph above updates daily and tracks the number of new confirmed Covid-19 cases in all the major African safari countries.
This is an important statistic to keep track of because realistically international travel to a country can't resume until the pandemic in that country is under control.
But it's also true that international travel can't resume from any country that still has a big caseload themselves because the risks of spreading infection once visitors reach Africa will then be too high.
Which means that if you are wanting to go on an African safari it probably won't be possible if your own country still has a large number of daily infections occurring, so keeping an eye on the case statistics in your own country is also an indicator of when international travel can resume.
To see where your own country stands at the moment, click on the "+ Add Country" icon in the top right-hand corner of the graph, search for your country by entering it in the search bar, tick the box once found and then click on the X to get back to the graph.
Some things to note about the graph above...
3 - Quarantine, Testing, Tracing Apps and Immunity Passports
Quarantine - Zambia has led the way here with a mandatory 14 day quarantine for every international visitor at their own cost at a government designated location and I think that most, if not all, the other African countries will follow suit at some stage.
The problem with this approach is that you will have to be in total lockdown (no leaving your room) for two full weeks before your safari can even begin and you will have to pay for the accommodation (of the governments choosing) yourself. Not ideal.
Testing - Another approach that some of the European countries are starting to take for border crossings is that the visitor must produce a recent negative Covid-19 test certificate before they can enter.
There are new rapid testing kits becoming available which will cut the testing time down to approximately fifteen minutes allowing for efficient testing on inbound travellers.
Unfortunately this isn't foolproof because the incubation time of the virus is estimated to be between one and fourteen days, commonly around five to six days (Source: WHO), so a negative test after disembarking from an international flight might not reveal infections that occurred soon before that. Countries may decide that they are willing to take the risk but it remains to be seen which will.
Tracing Apps - Mobile tracing apps are being developed which can be rolled out nationally with opt in required by international travellers, and when used in conjunction with another test on day four after arrival, the window for infection will be narrowed significantly and tracking and isolation made faster and easier.
Immunity passports - There is another idea that has been put forward where people who have already been infected with Covid 19 and recovered get a passport of some kind which makes them safe and eligible to travel.
But the World Health Organization has stated that there is no proof at the current time that people who have recovered from the virus are immune from getting it a second time or transmitting it again (Source: WHO). So this idea is a non starter for the time being but it may change when more research is done on the subject.
4 - Effective Treatment And/Or Vaccine
This is the best hope of completely restoring international travel but unfortunately the timelines for development of either a treatment ( many months if one can actually be found ) or vaccine ( one year to 18 months if possible ) are in the medium to long-term currently.
On the positive side there is a huge amount of ongoing research, development and resources worldwide being poured into solving this problem, so hopefully a solution will be found sooner rather than later.
My Advice For Your African Safari
If you are currently booked to go on an African safari and the date is approaching for you to leave soon, postpone rather than cancel your trip, if at all possible. Most safari companies are bending over backwards to make postponement possible without any penalty.
The circumstances surrounding this pandemic are changing at such a rapid pace that it might well become possible for you to travel internationally soon if any of the above factors change for the better, or an as yet unforseen one realises. You just never know.
Keep an eye on this page for the latest, up to date developments regarding safari travel restrictions.
Stay safe and God bless you in this very challenging time.