We understand that you are excited about going to Africa for an unforgettable safari adventure. And due to the coronavirus pandemic, your visit was never more welcome and needed than it is now. The national parks, their wildlife and the people working in the safari industry rely heavily on the money brought by adventurers, like yourself, who come to experience Africa’s wonders first hand.
But before packing your binoculars and camera we recommend that you read up on the latest developments in the safari country you are planning to visit. Below we have included a list of websites that contain the most important information, as well as financial security tips for booking a safari.Jump to:
Status of the Coronavirus Outbreak Per Safari Country
Please note that the policy and capability of countries to test for coronavirus varies widely. If testing is done on a limited scale, the number of coronavirus cases and deaths reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) might be lower than the actual reality in a particular country.
Coronavirus-Related Travel Restrictions Per Safari Country
Coronavirus-related entry requirements and travel restrictions can change on a daily basis. Most tourist boards and government organizations of African countries struggle to keep their websites up- to-date. The travel advisories of Australia, the UK, US and EU countries are currently the most reliable online resources for up-to-date information. Of those advisories, we specifically recommend the Australian and UK travel advisories as these offer the most specific and complete information. Click a safari country below to access links to travel advisories for that particular safari country.
Financial Security Tips When Booking a Safari
The coronavirus pandemic has created unique operational and financial challenges for safari tour operators. The tips below are intended to help lower your financial risk in the event that you book a safari and the tour operator is not able to honor their obligations.
Paying less money up front is one of the best ways to lower your financial risk. It is common practice for safari tour operators to request a 20-40% deposit upon booking a safari. They need this money to confirm your reservation with the accommodations being used on your safari. But these are exceptional times and the safari industry is in need of clients. Therefore, it’s worth checking with tour operators because they might be able to arrange a lower deposit or waive a deposit completely.
Please only agree to a lower deposit if the operator is able to come to an agreement with the accommodations to also lower or waive their required deposit. Otherwise the tour operator will have to take great financial risk by paying the deposit to the accommodation themselves. And that is not sustainable for you or other people who travel with this tour operator.
Lowering the deposit will be easier to achieve if you are planning to go on a safari within a couple of weeks versus planning a safari in 12 months. It is more likely that accommodations will be flexible for short-term bookings.
Depending on the terms and conditions of your credit card, you might be protected financially if your tour operator is not able to honor their obligations. We recommend that you contact your bank or card provider and ask if your credit card provides protection in the event the tour operator goes bankrupt or is not able to provide a refund (in a situation where you are entitled to a refund). If your credit card provides financial protection, then we recommend using a credit card to pay for your safari.
Please do note that accepting credit card payments is expensive for tour operators and it is common practice to apply a 3-4% surcharge. Please also make sure that you have your paperwork in order: a booking confirmation, proof of payment, the cancellation policy and other terms and conditions provided by the tour operator. You will need those in the event you want to apply for a refund or chargeback from your credit card company.
Please be sure to ask a tour operator for their cancellation policy and other terms and conditions. If a tour operator offers highly flexible cancellation conditions but you are still required to pay a large deposit, we recommend to be a bit watchful. The only sustainable way for a tour operator to offer flexible cancellation conditions is if the accommodations used on the tour offer similar flexible conditions to the tour operator. If a tour operator offers flexible cancellation conditions, we recommend contacting the accommodations yourself to verify whether they offer similar flexible conditions to the tour operator.
Around the second half of March 2020, most travel insurance policies stopped covering coronavirus risks for new bookings. Insurance companies consider the pandemic to be a ‘known event’. But as the coronavirus risk gets smaller over time, insurance companies might introduce coronavirus coverage as a premium add-on to their travel insurance. It is, therefore, always worth a search on the internet to see if such policies are being offered.
Some countries have organizations that offer a protection scheme for residents when they book a holiday or vacation with a travel agent located in their home country. Often the laws in these countries require all travel agents to be a member of these organizations. The ABTA and ATOL are examples of such organizations in the UK. If a protection scheme is available in your country, you might want to consider booking your safari with a travel agent in your country.
South Africa is the only safari country that offers some protection for overseas travelers. The protection is provided by the SATSA bond, but is limited to a total of R150,000 (roughly US$8,500) per tour operator. The total coverage for all South African operators is R900,000 in 2020 (roughly US$51,000). The SATSA bond is heavily promoted as a means of financial security, but in reality offers very limited protection due to the low coverage amounts.