Alan Murphy
Australia AU
Aug 20, 2015 August 20, 2015

Alan Murphy is a Lonely Planet author and expert on Southern Africa and its wildlife. In 2013 he established Roundtrip Foundation. Check out

Category: Alan Murphy's Column

This week, Alan has a rant about some basic safari safety, reflecting on some recent incidents, while recalling his own experiences.

Seriously…going on safari isn’t rocket science. The animals are wild, often unpredictable and driven by instinct. That instinct means they can be curious, hungry or just plain pissed off! There have been some terrible incidents of animals attacking people on safari recently. Such occurrences are very rare, and I really feel for all the families involved. However in most cases these incidents should never have happened.

Lion Attack
A woman was killed at a lion park outside Johannesburg, South Africa, earlier this year. The lion approached the car and then lunged at an open window, mauling the woman. Tragically she died from her wounds. The sad irony is that she was raising money for a charity that protects animals from poachers.

Is this unusual behaviour from the lion? Yes it is. Preventable? Most certainly – apparently the passenger and driver windows were both down. And yet there were notices specifically telling visitors to keep their windows up. I remember coming around a corner in Kruger National Park, and seeing a car parked by the side of the road with the driver’s door open…and no-one inside. I couldn’t believe my eyes! The driver had wandered off into the bush to have a look at something that caught his eye. Can you believe that?

When on safari, another tip is to keep the doors locked! I was in a bakkie (covered pickup truck) some years ago in Zambia when a troop of baboons jumped onto the roof. The backdoor was not locked and these creatures have very dexterous paws, it wasn’t long before they pulled the handle down and got into the rear of the bakkie. And in South Africa recently a lioness opened the door of a car containing an American family. She used her mouth on the door handle to open the door. Clever. Fortunately, nobody was hurt.

Safari Safety
Safety is serious business when on safari. If you are in an open vehicle with a guide your safety is in their expert hands – listen to and follow their instructions closely. In your own vehicle read up on safety requirements at the entry to the park. And for goodness sake, you are more than asking for trouble with open doors and windows in a protected area, you are sending out a gold-plated invitation…Have fun, but please, stay safe.