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Wednesday, 01 July 2015

When you go to Africa: Preparing for the Trip of a Lifetime - Page 4

Written by Philip Perry
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It’s not uncommon for friendly locals to chat you up, flirt and even propose on the spot. Don’t rebuff them too strongly. But don’t be too polite either. Keep your distance and be suspicious. Sometimes it is these very people who are trying to get your guard down that also want your camera, cell phone or wallet. For those who want to marry you, they may wish to escape to a Western country. Chat with friendly locals, but always keep your distance and take care. Hanging out with local people can be a wonderful experience. It’s better if it’s someone trustworthy from your project, lodge, place of work, mission and so on. In fact, hanging out with trustworthy locals is your best protection, and the best way to get the lowdown of what’s going on. 

Due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic there is a proliferation of orphans, sometimes seen begging on the street, though this phenomenon is not distinct to children. Still, do not give to them or others. It may break your heart but if you give them money you are only encouraging them, to the consternation of aid workers. Often development means creating self-sufficiency among the population. Africa has been hurt by handouts from charitable aid. Many aid workers believe it does nothing but breed complacency and dependence. Instead, donate to reputable charities, N.G.O.’s, nonprofits and other programs. This will go much farther in helping the people.  Volunteering or even voluntourism are great ways to get to know the country, the locals and the situation in the country. Investigate and set something up before going. 

Traveling with a friend or in groups is recommended. If you make friends with locals introduced through friends or projects that’s even better. That said its best not to go walking about at night in any city center, especially by yourself. Instead, if you want to go out, get a taxi. They are inexpensive. Don’t use gypsy cabs you don’t know. Instead, get the number to a reputable taxi from your hotel, lodge or from other friendly expats. Do feel free to travel by minibus in the daytime. But don’t get on if the driver appears intoxicated. The same goes for your taxi driver. With taxi drivers get the price beforehand too. It will save you a headache later. 

Going on safari is one of the most unique and memorable experiences you can have. Whenever going to tourist destinations, make sure that the guide you select is reputable. Sometimes locals mill about outside the park and ask to guide you. But if you haven’t set up anything in advance, and it is recommended that you do, go inside the park and get a guide from the front desk. You will be assured an authentic tour. Some parks give you a map and let you go off by yourself exploring a safari area or national park. This is not recommended. An American tourist in Liwonde National Park wandering by himself was hemmed in and attacked by two angry elephants. He’s no longer with us today. 


Africa is rising. But corruption still abounds. There are sometimes protests against corruption. Steer clear of these protests. Oftentimes they are peaceful but they have been known to turn violent. One time when I was at a Black Missionaries concert in a bar and nightclub in Blantyre, a riot broke out. The Black Missionaries are a local reggae band with a big following. They also have some rebellious lyrics and fans. Their political talk onstage must have frightened the club owner. A local security force came. They tried to take some fans out of the show. I saw a man in a riot gear helmet head butt a big Rastafarian, whose head split open and started bleeding. The place erupted and our Malawian friends quickly escorted us out.   

Though it may seem like a lot to do beforehand and to look out for, with some careful preparation and following a few simple procedures can eliminate serious issues and make your trip a truly unforgettable experience. Africa is addictive. The beauty and variety of the landscape and the natural world, the friendliness of the people and unique adventures available are on par with no other place on earth. Once Africa catches hold of you, and you’ll want to come back again and again. 

Malawi Kids 006 


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Source 4: Armstrong, Kate, Bainbridge, James, Firestone, Matthew D. and Murphy, Alan, Lonely Planet Southern Africa. New York 2010.    

Nyala Malawi 611 

©Philip Perry


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Last modified on Wednesday, 01 July 2015

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