What is safari like amid a pandemic? In the past year, we've been fortunate to have had a handful of intrepid clients and staffers travel to Botswana, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe to experience an African safari in our new reality. We're happy to share some first-hand accounts of our travellers' experiences from their safaris – and even gorilla trekking – during COVID-19.
Although Africa continues to see positive momentum with most African safari destinations now open to international visitors, restrictions and COVID-19 travel guidelines change regularly. If you're planning on travelling, ensure you stay up to date with the latest requirements.
What It's Like Going on a Kenya Safari During COVID-19
Masai Mara & Victoria Falls Safari, June 2021
The safari was absolutely AMAZING. Kichwa Tembo was a great lodge and I highly recommend it to anyone traveling to Africa. The animal sightings were unreal. The Masai Mara as a whole was just astounding, and I can't even think of the words to capture its beauty. I swear there might be a different sun and sky there, because it certainly doesn't compare to what we have at home! Everywhere we went, the people were incredibly kind and welcoming. We were nervous about feeling unwelcome traveling during COVID times, but we felt quite the opposite which was a lovely surprise.
All in all, I'm very pleased with our experience working with the Go2Africa team. I know there was a lot of back and forth, and I truly appreciate your time, effort, and patience throughout this process. It would have been a huge additional stress not having you guys as a communication point when our flights were changed. I would definitely recommend you guys to anyone who inquires about traveling to Africa.
It was truly the adventure of a lifetime! The safari bug has definitely bitten and I am confident we will be going back to Africa.
Mandy stayed at:
Aberdare, Samburu, Laikipia & Masai Mara Safari, June 2021
The trip was everything we expected and so much more. The facilities were all great and the service was especially great. From the bartenders to the guides – we can't say enough positive things. Sadly, all of the Kenyan staff had been out of work during COVID and none of them earned any money during that time. For our guides and lodge staff, we were their first clients in over a year.
We'd been vaccinated – as had just about everyone at the lodges and the guides. Temperatures were checked before dining and before entering any of the lodges. Almost everyone wore face masks. All the possible precautions were taken to keep everyone safe. We even had cellphone and Wi-Fi service everywhere.
Hands down, the best day was the hot-air balloon ride. No one should ever go to Africa without having this experience.
Paul & Amy stayed at:
Nairobi, Masai Mara & Amboseli, January 2021
Our trip was AMAZING! Our Africa Safari Expert Emma did such a wonderful job, planning and organising everything perfectly. Everybody was so helpful and wonderful. From the time we arrived until we went into security back at the airport to go home, everything was taken care of. That meant it was even a vacation for me as a mom! I’m a planner and might have control issues (I’m sure Emma noticed since we planned the trip almost two years in advance), but everything was so well planned and each step so clearly communicated that it made everything completely stress-free.
My kids’ most memorable moments were seeing four baby cheetahs and their mom eating a gazelle in the Masai Mara, and kissing the giraffe at Giraffe Manor. My husband has mentioned many times how hospitable everyone was. My eight year old even said last week, “I miss Amos (one of our guides in Amboseli), he was funny”. Every place we went to and stayed at was completely different, so there’s no way to pick a favourite, but I enjoyed the carefree time we spent exploring as a family, and seeing my kids and husband have so many new first experiences.
We love animals and the outdoors, so it was wonderful to see it through their eyes for the first time. I do wish we would have been able to go to the elephant orphanage and in the Masai village, but we understand the limits with COVID. I was nervous about traveling during the pandemic, but honestly, I felt very safe the entire time in Kenya. People wore masks, checked temperatures, and kept their distance.
We really appreciate everything you did to organise our trip. The excellent planning and organisation has given my family memories that we will have forever.
Crystal stayed at:
Samburu & Masai Mara Safari, January 2021
Our entire Kenya safari was completely seamless: from the pick-up at the airport to travelling to three safari camps and back to Nairobi for the COVID-19 tests before flying home.
Our driver/guide, Lenny went above and beyond to ensure we saw everything – and I mean everything! As soon as we arrived in the Samburu Reserve, a family of elephants welcomed us. That's when we realized this trip would be a trip of a lifetime!
Samburu was my favorite of the entire trip. It's so rich in wildlife and you can drive off-road into the bush to see everything up-close and personal. Even the lions came sniffing around our 4x4! On our first game drive in Samburu we were lucky to see lion cubs playing with their mum and an elephant family crossing the river. Plus giraffe and cheetah... So amazing!
The Masai Mara was incredible and it was amazing to meet a local Maasai tribe. We also saw five beautiful cheetahs and followed them all day!
I was seven months pregnant on this trip, but that didn't stop us from having an adventure of a lifetime!
Linoy & Francis stayed at:
Laikipia & Masai Mara Safari, October 2020
On Kenya Airways, the entire cabin crew was in full PPE and all passengers were hand sanitized and offered a packaged wipe to use at their seat. Arrival in Nairobi was efficient: first a medical officer checked for negative COVID-19 test certificates, while the next station scanned Health Registration forms via QR Code and took body temperature scans. Everyone was wearing masks at our first hotel and our bags were even sprayed down with sanitizer before entering.
In Laikipia, at the sublime Segera Retreat, we rarely saw the other guests. Dining in private at every meal almost felt like we were at home – the ultimate in social distancing. The staff were extremely prepared, always in masks and checking our temperatures daily.
At Angama Mara, I counted just seven other vehicles over four days, and two were from our lodge. We had our own safari vehicle and would drive for hours with large swathes of the Masai Mara all to ourselves. The Wildebeest Migration was still lingering about thanks to the late rains, so we were extremely fortunate to be there at this time. If you have the inkling and are able to do so, there are real rewards to travelling now.
– Ryan, Go2Africa
Ryan stayed at:
Kenya Safari, September 2020
Health and safety protocols were spot on in Kenya. All staff wore their face masks and hand sanitiser was always available in the restaurant, safari vehicle, etc. Social distancing was also adhered to. We were so lucky to have had a private safari experience with a fantastic guide, Agnes. She made us feel so welcome and she had a wealth of knowledge. Furthermore, we felt extremely safe at all times and she certainly went that extra mile to ensure we had a fantastic experience..... It was a very special holiday; one I will never forget.
Experiencing Gorilla Trekking During Coronavirus
Uganda Gorilla Trek & Kenya Safari, October 2020
The staff at Bwindi Lodge way exceeded our expectations; incredible people that made our trip for sure. The hospitality and service were the best we’ve experienced in our lives – above any hotel we’ve ever stayed at. The people at Bwindi Lodge are beyond extraordinary, their warmth and kindness are truly unforgettable. The place is beautiful, the forest is something magical to witness right beside you, and the food is delicious.
Our gorilla trek was an amazing experience and also exceeded all our expectations. We got to do the trek with no other tourists / visitors, just the two of us and our guides. That was really cool and we felt very special. Before starting, I was a little nervous about the gorilla encounter but once we got to the gorilla family, I felt everything but fear. To the contrary, I felt pure peace. Seeing these animals’ faces, their stares and family dynamics almost felt like we were co-existing with other (more interesting) human beings. The hour and 15 minutes we spent with them felt like 10 minutes – we did not want to leave!
When we got to our honeymoon tent at Kempinski Camp in the Masai Mara, we were blown away. Our tent looked right over a river filled with hippos, the common areas were very luxurious, and the cuisine was first-class. This is one of the most amazing accommodations we've ever been to. It's truly magical, right in the heart of the savannah. We felt so tiny and special. We met three other couples from India and France and spent three nights hanging out with them in the camp’s common areas. It was wonderful and a great highlight of our trip.
At first, we thought the hot-air balloon safari was expensive and Eloy was a little resistant to do it. But I insisted and now he's grateful that I did! It was a life-changing experience. We were lucky to witness the Wildebeest Migration into Tanzania, so we got to see Africa at its finest. We’ve never seen so many animals running free in their habitat, which felt so infinite. Once we landed, Eloy said he’d pay triple the amount if he knew just how incredible this experience would be.
Giraffe Manor was TOP NOTCH. What an amazing way to conclude our Africa trip. This hotel is so elegant and dreamy, we could stay and live there forever. The house is warm, charming and luxurious – it felt like we were in a movie. The service and staff are AMAZING, and always tried to make our stay the best. And they achieved it! Our room was beautiful, and the main house and common areas were so cozy.
This was a life-changing trip and our hearts are beyond happy. Our crazy decisions to be some of the first tourists to arrive in Uganda since March and to be one of the first couples to do a multi-country trip to Africa were SO worth it. Every PCR test, every uncertain and nervous moment… Everything was worth it!
|A note on gorilla trekking in Uganda during COVID-19
Mountain gorillas share 98% of our DNA and are therefore highly susceptible to many of the viruses that we carry, and coronavirus is no exception. In order to keep these majestic creatures safe, the Ugandan government has put a number of safety protocols in place for gorilla trekking:
Fer & Eloy stayed at:
Going on a Tanzania Safari During COVID-19
Tanzania Safari, September 2020
Hello! Our Tanzania trip is amazing so far. The first two camps have been very good with safety – hand sanitizer is always available, you wash your hands upon arrival at camp, and everyone is wearing masks. Roho’s employees quarantine prior to going to work at the camp too.
Jonathan & Lisa stayed at:
Arusha, Tarangire & Serengeti Safari, February 2021
Before travelling to Tanzania, we were not sure what to expect. Although we had been assured that all our airline, transfer and camp staff would be following strict COVID protocols, we were still a bit nervous. But this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit some of the best private reserves without the crowds.
We flew on four different airlines and travelled through three international airports between Cape Town and Arusha. On board the flights, all staff wore masks and passengers were required to do the same. Although mask wearing is not compulsory in Tanzania, 90% of the staff in the airports (aside from those in Zanzibar) had face coverings – plus, hand sanitiser as well as running water and soap were widely available.
Throughout our trip, we were fortunate enough to have private vehicles and guides as well as flexible mealtimes and activities (something that’s usually quite rare on safari). On our first day, we were picked up from the airport and transferred to Legendry Lodge in Arusha via private vehicle. Once at the lodge, we were given time to relax before having an al fresco – socially distanced – dining experience.
Next, we headed to Mwiba Lodge in the southern Serengeti. Although the lodge has only 10 suites, it’s located on a 40 000-hectare private reserve, which meant that we didn’t see a single other vehicle while on game drives. In addition to game drives, all activities were private and the distanced dining had us eating at different spots around the lodge for each meal.
We returned to Legendary Lodge – which has a COVID Concierge who handles all of the bookings, transfers and admin to get your PCR test done – to ensure that we were able to get our PCR tests results in time to fly home. Then it was on to Little Chem Chem Camp, which borders Tarangire National Park.
With just six tents on a 16 000-hectare private concession, every guest at Little Chem Chem is given their own private vehicle and guide, and we were always the only vehicle at sightings. The staff were attentive, spraying our bags with disinfectant, but were respectful of our space and asked if we would like to have our bags taken to our tented suites. Meals were private, al fresco and incredible!
The results from our COVID-19 tests arrived 54 hours after having them done and we were able to board the plane to go home having experienced some of the best private reserves in East Africa like we never had before.
– Liesel, Go2Africa
Tarangire, Ngorongoro Crater, Serengeti & Zanzibar, May 2021
We were a little apprehensive about travelling, but we had the vaccine and we knew everyone we'd come in contact with – fellow travellers or lodge staff – would be tested. Every lodge we were in followed strict protocols, even to the point of washing our hands for us upon arrival. We were comfortable not wearing our masks, but all lodge staff wore theirs.
We also took the added step of booking private game tours. Not only was this a Covid precaution, it had the added benefit of allowing us to create our own schedule each day. If we needed to sleep a little later or come back a little earlier, it was not a problem. This probably was the best decision we could have made.
Jim stayed at:
Visiting South Africa for Safari During Coronavirus
South Africa Safari, September 2020
The airport experiences were pretty seamless. In Cape Town, as you enter the doors, you submit your health form, have your temperature taken, and then move to the check-in counters. On arrival in Johannesburg, we were met by our driver who transferred us to Marataba. All our transfer vehicles were clean and stocked with water, sanitiser, wipes, masks, and had onboard Wi-Fi. Safety measures at the lodge included temperature checks on arrival as well as every morning. The staff all wore masks, and sanitiser and wipes are readily available.
– Tracy, Go2Africa
Tracy stayed at:
Hear what other international travellers had to say about their trips to South Africa during COVID-19
Wesgro – the official tourism, trade and investment promotion agency for Cape Town and the Western Cape – chatted with a few international visitors about their trips to Cape Town just before they departed South Africa:
Travelling to Cape Town, Kruger National Park & Mozambique, May 2021
South Africa was incredible. We can’t emphasise enough how amazing the trip was and how grateful we are to have had you help plan everything. The experience was seamless from start to finish and very thoughtfully put together. We’d like to thank you for working so well with us to figure out all the specifics, especially during the coronavirus when everything is made so much more complicated.
Cape Town was awesome to explore, and we received such personal, intimate and exceptional service at The Clarendon at Bantry Bay. Plus, a perk of COVID-19 is that very few people were around and we were really able to enjoy Table Mountain, the Cape of Good Hope, Boulders’ penguins and the winery on our peninsula tour.
Our favourite part of the trip, though, was staying at Savannah Lodge in Sabi Sand Game Reserve. We saw the Big 5, cheetah and wild dogs in a single day – the place was an absolute dream. We were on game drives alone most of the time, and the time spent with our ranger and tracker was so memorable! We’re already planning on going back for an anniversary in a few years.
Azura in Mozambique was the perfect way to end our trip. The resort was so relaxing and mindful, and truly unlike any place we’ve ever been. We’d also like to put a huge shout out to the Ilios travel team who made the airport pickups/drop offs a breeze. They were always there early with cold water, and were pleasant and informative. We really valued our time with these guys too!
– Kelly & Molly
Kelly and Molly stayed at:
A trip to South Africa, May 2021
We travelled to South Africa in May 2021 as a family of six. The trip was incredible. We felt safe the entire time and felt that the COVID-19 precautions were more than adequate – I would definitely recommend travelling. The people of South Africa were so hospitable and friendly. The natural beauty is beyond imagination. Our family agreed it was the best trip ever and would be hard to beat.
The highlight of our trip was safari at Londolozi Game Reserve in Sabi Sands Game Reserve. The staff made us feel like family and we were sad to say goodbye. The food and service were 5-star. The rooms were luxurious beyond belief. The game drives twice a day we’re awesome. We saw the Big 5 multiple times and in addition leopards, giraffes, zebras, etc. The stars at night were spellbinding, and the sunrises and sunsets are memories that will stay with us forever. If you could go one place before you die, go to Londolozi.
Chuck stayed at
Safari in Botswana During COVID-19
Travelling to Linyati & the Okavango Delta, May 2021
I'm not sure how to start. We had an absolutely fantastic time at Abu Camp! The staff is indescribable. They made us feel like we were at home – and we were the only ones there. I think my best memory is sitting in front of the 'bush tv' with everyone. Or it could have been seeing two lions after getting off the plane, or the herd of elephants we saw as we headed back for lunch one day.
Our next stop, Duma Tau Camp in Linyati, didn’t disappoint either. The pride at Duma is unbelievable and we had so much fun there. Having 1:1 contact with the staff was so great. It got to the point that they knew exactly where they’d find me and automatically bring me a cup of my favourite bush (rooibos) tea.
We couldn’t have asked for a better end to our trip than our stay at Vumbura Plains in the Okavango Delta. Again, the guides were fantastic and had such passion for the Delta, its plants and animals, and the culture that has been passed down for generations there.
If you couldn’t tell, we had an incredible time in Botswana. Our first safari will always be special, but it was made even more special because of all the people we met during our trip. As for travelling during coronavirus, most of the staff asked us about, we said, “Why not?” We are vaccinated and the number of COVID-19 cases in Botswana was less than in our home city in the US. Plus – at all of the camps – you are mostly outdoors, have masks on and have your temperature checked. And the staff are tested regularly, so we felt completely at ease the entire time.
– Abbey & Chris
Abbey & Chris stayed at:
Book Your Safari With Peace of Mind
For all new bookings made between 1 July 2020 and 31 August 2021 that are affected by COVID-related restrictions and complications, we commit to:
Considering a Safari But Cautious of Travelling?
See our updated COVID-19 T&Cs and our advice on safety:
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Chat with someone who’s been there. Get in touch with one of our Africa Safari Experts: