There's a truism that goes something like: “If you think you're too small to make a difference, you clearly haven't spent a night with a mosquito …”

[Updated 12 April 2018]

That about says it all. Mosquitoes are teeny little insects that cause great annoyance, lack of sleep, awful itchiness, serious illnesses and, in some cases, death. (Malaria is a leading cause of death among children with poor access to healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa, but malaria deaths among safari tourists is very rare).

Malaria is caused by the Plasmodium parasite, which is transmitted via the bite from an infected female Anopheles mosquito.

For their size, mosquitoes are effectively the deadliest creatures on Earth!

The 9 Nasty Facts

  • Only female mosquitoes bite when they’re ready to reproduce; both sexes normally prefer a diet of flower nectar.
  • Mosquitoes generally prefer to bite men.
  • Mosquitoes can zero in on the carbon dioxide from your breath and skin from almost 23 metres (98 feet) away!
  • Overweight people and pregnant women are more at risk as they produce more carbon dioxide.
  • Conversely, mosquitoes are attracted to sweat and body odour as well as flowery scents from perfumes, soaps and toiletries.
Flowery fragrances attract mosquitoes

Mosquitoes are attracted to flowery scents

(Image: Hans Vivek)
  • Movement, heat and carbon dioxide attract mosquitoes.
  • Scientists have found that genetics account for a staggering 85% of our susceptibility to mosquito bites.
  • Certain elements found in excess on your skin, like lactic acid, attract mosquitoes.
  • One in 10 of us is a walking ‘mosquito magnet’.

The 12 Avoidance Tactics

  • Take extra care when the sun sets, mosquitoes are busiest at dusk. Cover up and wear long-sleeved shirts and pants or skirts. Less skin exposed = fewer areas to bite!
  • Wear loose-fitting clothes in earthy, neutral colours like khaki and beige. It’s accepted that dark colours, especially black and navy, attract mosquitoes and other insects as it's great camouflage for them.
  • Make use of any mosquito coils, mosquito mats and liquid insecticides available - either from your lodge or bring some with you.
  • Make use of mosquito nets, window and door screens and so on provided by your lodge – they are great protection.
Tau Game Lodge Bedroom View

Use mosquito netting

  • Shower more frequently to ward off mosquitoes attracted by sweat and body odours.
  • Avoid using highly-scented, floral fragrant toiletries which also attract them.
  • Use repellent sprays and lotions. These are always more effective than stick applicators. Repellents containing DEET (N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) are still the most effective way to prevent mosquito bites. Re-apply every several hours.
  • Other aromatic oils and candles can deter mosquitoes but have yet not been proven to prevent bites, e.g. citronella oil, eucalyptus oil, tea tree oil, lavender essential oil, vinegar, garlic.
Certain aromatic oils repel mosquitoes

Some essentials oils can act as natural mosquito repellents

(Image: Kelly Sikkema)
  • If you’re applying sunscreen, do that first, then apply the insect repellent over it.
  • When in your lodge room, close the door and window screens to stop mosquitoes and other insects moving in with you.
  • When you’re not in your room at night, rather leave the lights off so as not to attract these unwanted guests.
  • Electric fans and air conditioners provide double protection– they confuse mosquitoes as they blow away the carbon dioxide that attracts them and they cannot fly in the air currents caused by them, even when on low speed.

To sum up

While it’s always recommended to take malaria prophylaxis when visiting high-risk areas, especially if it’s your first ‘exposure’, the first prize is always to simply avoid being bitten in the first place.

If you do get bitten, don't panic. Only about 1 in 10,000 mosquitos carry malaria. And the risk is lower the more remote you are (away from other people). So remote safari lodges away from big towns or villages have a much lower risk of malaria than accommodation near populated areas.

The rainy season (September to May) is when the risk of malaria is highest. Those at high risk (e.g. immuno-compromised, lack a spleen, pregnant or children under five), should rather visit in the dry season (June to August), or opt for one of the excellent malaria-free safari destinations such as the Waterberg and Madikwe Private Game Reserve. Please ask us and we'll be happy to give you recommendations.

Don't let the risk of malaria stop you from visiting Africa and enjoying your African safari!


About the author


A 'word smith' or copywriter with over 25 years experience, love travelling, wildlife and conservation; fascinated by alternative energy, alternative building and alternative health. Consummate reader and traveller, both internationally and southern Africa. Have two remarkable daughters that continue to amaze and teach me daily. Consider myself privileged to live on the best continent on the planet.