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Safari destinations currently open to tourists

There is no hiding the fact that our travel dreams have nearly all been vanquished this year. Whether you were hoping to relax on the beach or head onto a fun filled safari, travel has been disrupted in ways we could never have imagined at the start of the year. However, there appears to be the green shoots of recovery. Throughout the continent of Africa, countries are slowly opening up and allowing visitors, with some enforcing tougher restrictions than others. Yet, those that can travel and are willing to do so, not only help support those companies and communities that rely heavily on tourism, but will also have an exclusive and intimate experience that would certainly not have been possible in a normal year. Tanzania Tanzania has maintained an open-door policy throughout the pandemic, welcoming tourists with open arms months before any other African countries, but its level of visitors are certainly not what they have been in recent years. Home to the incredible wildebeest migration in the Serengeti National Park as well as some other incredible wildlife viewing destinations like the Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire National Park and Ruaha National Park, destinations for wildlife do not come much better. There are no restrictions on entering Tanzania, apart from a temperature check upon arrival that was always in place, so there is no stress for passengers worried about being refused entry. All camps and lodges have enforced strict Covid protocols and with visitor levels at an all-time low, the safaris are often exclusive and very intimate. Kenya Across the border from Tanzania, Kenya have a slightly stricter policy. They require a negative Covid test no later than 96 hours prior to the departure from the home country of the traveller. Flights between the two countries have also resumed so combining the two is possible again. Not only has Kenya’s beautiful Masai Mara seen a fraction of the visitors it normally receives, destinations such as Amboseli that are firm favourites with travellers and photographers are nearly deserted. This allows for wildlife sightings to be intimate and unpressured. Travellers can spend as long as they want in animal sightings without worrying about the number of other vehicles in the area. Uganda and Rwanda Uganda and Rwanda are both famous for offering fabulous gorilla and chimp trekking experiences. Whilst Rwanda focuses more upon the luxury side of travel, Uganda is for the more adventurous traveller, however with Uganda’s trekking permits being half the amount of Rwanda ($750per person instead of $1,500), this is often the deciding factor. Both countries have opened up relatively recently to travellers with Rwanda being the stricter of the two on their Covid requirements.  Tourists arriving into Rwanda must present a negative Covid-19 test one-hundred-and-twenty hours prior to departure and must undertake a second test upon arrival. A mandatory twenty-four-hour quarantine in your chosen hotel will follow as you await the results of this second test. After a negative result has been given, visitors can go about their holiday as normal. Uganda on the other hand require proof of a negative test that is within seventy-two hours before travel from a laboratory approved in the country where the journey is initiated, and a temperature check will be undertaken upon arrival. Whilst normally gorilla treks have a maximum of eight people on them, due to the pandemic that has occurred, a lot of travellers have postponed their trips until next year, so those who do travel now often have the gorilla treks and sightings all to themselves. Mandatory mask wearing is enforced on the treks and this is to ensure the safety of other travellers as well as the gorillas who share approximately 98% of our DNA. Namibia Namibia has gone through multiple different strategies for visitors arriving into the country, and most have not been the easiest to adhere to if you were planning on holidaying there. However, over the last couple of weeks the government has abolished the mandatory test five days into the trip as well as any type of quarantine. Now you just need to present a negative Covid test not older than seventy-two hours before you board the plane from your country of origin. Although Namibia is a vast and open country, some of the hot spots like Etosha can become busy during the peak seasons, however due to the lack of travellers, whether you visit the harsh and wonderous Skeleton Coast or marvel at the dunes of Sossusvlei, an experience like no other awaits. Zambia and Zimbabwe Whilst Botswana remains permanently closed and South Africa has a very strict list on what nationalities it allows into the country, Zambia and Zimbabwe have both recently opened their doors and are hoping to reignite tourism in their incredible national parks. Zambia’s only requirement is to present a negative Covid test that is within fourteen days of arriving into the country, whilst Zimbabwe require this test result to be within forty-eight hours of your journey’s start. From then on, your adventures can continue uninterrupted in both countries. Whilst Victoria Falls is wonderfully accessible from both sides, safari in these two destinations are also exceptional. Both known for their rustic and authentic camps, the South Luangwa and Mana Pools offer some of the most incredible wildlife viewing as well as an array of activities like walking and boating safaris. No matter where you choose to travel to though, the Covid requirements are changing, so please make sure you check with your own home affairs department as well as the tourism department of the country you are visiting about requirements to enter. Rules and requirements were up to date at the time of writing. Marc Harris is Managing Director of Africa Odyssey. Africa Oydssey is run by a team of award-winning experts offering tailor-made African safari holidays. If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

Marc Harris

Marc Harris is the Founder and Managing Director of Tanzania Odyssey and Africa Odyssey. Marc founded the companies in 1999 after a 2 year stint exploring and guiding all over Africa and still enjoys regular visits to this amazing continent. We are safari experts, long-established specialists in all aspects of African safari itinerary planning and ground management across sub-Saharan Africa. Therefore, whether you are dreaming of the ultimate walking safari through the heart of Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park or a champagne breakfast in the Masai Mara, whether you wish to encounter wild gorillas or enjoy the ultimate Indian Ocean island beach break, we will design the perfect itinerary for you.

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  1. Safaris will be trending next year. Travellers will want to get away as far as possible from urban life. Africa will give us the big skies and open landscapes that we are all craving. Speaking personally, after a year of doing not very much, I’m desperate for a big travel adventure.

    1. Hi Mo,

      Yes I hope you are correct.
      I think lockdowns across the world have made people yearn for travel again, however we also need clearer government policies.

  2. It had never crossed my mind that gorillas could be susceptible to catching coronavirus from humans. Is there any evidence of that happening?

    1. Hi Suzy,

      Currently there isn’t any evidence of that, however it is better to be safe than sorry seeing as gorillas are known to be susceptible to human diseases.

  3. We had hoped to do a safari next year and we’d expected to be planning and booking by now but because of the situation and ongoing uncertainty even into 2021, we’ve held off. If you can travel and you’re not in an at risk group then it’s a good time to go I imagine, much quieter too. It’s interesting to hear the different requirements of each destination, even with how recent a negative covid test needs to be. Some really good suggestions here. It makes me pretty sad to have missed out but I know we’ll make it on a safari one day, probably to Kenya, though I’m now reconsidering Uganda and Zambia too. And Zimbabwe. So many places I’d like to go, spoilt for choice!

    1. Hi Suzie,

      I completely understand the trepidation of booking right now, however many lodges are offering money back 6 weeks prior to travel if you cannot travel when you are supposed to.
      For those who aren’t at risk, like you said it is a great time to go on safari seeing as the parks are nearly empty, yet the wildlife is still abundant.

      I hope you can make it out to Africa for a safari soon!

    2. Hi Marc, notice you didn’t cover South Africa in this article – do you have plans to do so later?
      Kind regards

  4. I visited Tanzania 20 years ago, spending most of my time on safari in the Serengeti (and a few days on Zanzibar after). It’s one of the most memorable trips I’ve been on and I would love to return some time soon. Is it likely to remain ‘open’ throughout 2021? What’s the situation there now with the virus? I thought I’d read something about their President not accepting that the virus was anything to worry about, which struck me as rather alarming!

  5. Visited Masai Mara many years back. It was incredible. The wildlife we saw was just amazing. However the most memorable, but quite unnerving, was lionesses doing a kill.

    We also visited Mountain Kenya Safari club, that takes you back to the days of the British rule.

    Great adventure for everyone.

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