Malaria is a concern for many visitors travelling to Africa. However, the risk of malaria should not stop you from going on safari. Malaria can be prevented and treated.
Mothers who are pregnant or travelling with young children often prefer avoiding malaria areas altogether, mainly because doctors usually advise against taking malaria prophylaxis during pregnancy. The good news is that there are some excellent safari areas in South Africa that are malaria free. For a malaria-free safari, you can head to Madikwe Game Reserve or Pilanesberg National Park, any of the game reserves the Waterberg region (such as Marataba, Welgevonden, Lapalala, Qwabi or Mabula, to name a few), or any of the game reserves in the Eastern Cape, including the greater Addo Elephant National Park, Shamwari, Lalibela, Amakhala, Kariega, Pumba, Kwandwe, and others.
In the Kruger National Park, the risk is low and cases of malaria seldom occur, particularly among tourists. The accommodation at most camps and lodges either offers mosquito nets above the bed, or mosquito screens on the windows and doors. Electric fans and air conditioning also help to keep mosquitos away. Most camps and lodges in Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe have mosquito nets and electric fans and some also have air conditioning.
The summer months (November to April) are the higher risk time for malaria, due to it being the rainy season. During the dry months, from May to October, the risk of malaria is very low. Keep in mind that the more remote the lodge, the lower the risk of malaria. The risk is higher close to big towns or densely populated communities.
Your best defense against malaria is effective malaria prevention. [Read our blog on how to prevent being bitten.] Avoid mosquito bites by sleeping under a mosquito net, wearing long-sleeved clothing in the evenings and using insect repellant on exposed skin. It is also advisable to take anti-malarial medication during your trip, as prescribed by your travel clinic or GP. With these measures in place, the chances of getting malaria are very low. And if you do get bitten by a mosquito while on safari, don't panic. Less than one in 10,000 mosquitos carry the disease.
However, if you should develop any flu-like symptoms or start running a temperature within six weeks after your safari, consult your doctor immediately and inform him that you have been to a malaria area, so they can test for malaria and treat you correctly. Malaria can be treated. Many locals don't take malaria prophylaxis due to the side effects, but they keep a rapid malaria test kit on hand, as well as early treatment medication such as Coartem tablets, in case they develop symptoms of malaria.
New Malaria App
The University of Pretoria Institute for Sustainable Malaria Control is an excellent source for up-to-date information on malaria. They've also recently developed an Android App called Malaria Buddy which is an excellent resource, providing detailed information and advice on malaria.
This map shows the malaria areas in popular safari destinations in Southern Africa and East Africa.