Still smiling, but we won’t shake hands
We are confident that as well as being the most exciting, romantic, beautiful and richly rewarding continent on Earth, Africa will also be one of the safest places for a holiday once we are allowed to travel again. During the Coronavirus hiatus, safari camps and lodges have devoted time to maintaining their conservation projects and supporting their local communities. They have also been very proactive designing new guidelines to ensure the safety of guests and staff when they are allowed to welcome visitors once more.
Although the outline below doesn’t apply to every safari property in Africa (we are happy to let you know the protocol at individual camps), it is a really good example of a pragmatic and eminently workable policy being implemented by Offbeat Mara in Kenya.
African people are among the friendliest, most welcoming and sociable on the planet, and the entire camp staff usually meet guests with smiles and hearty handshakes. While handshakes will need to be curtailed, smiles and warm words will still be there when you arrive.
Safari camp staff usually live on site, either permanently or on a long rotational shift basis. In Kenya they will all be tested for Coronavirus every 14 days (regular testing of staff looks set to become common practise in most safari camps).
Guests’ temperatures will be taken on arrival in camp and every day during their stay, and recorded on each guest’s medical card. Staff temperatures will also be taken every day. Handheld contactless thermometers will be used to keep the procedure safe and easy to implement.
When guests arrive in camp, their luggage will be sanitised with a disinfectant spray. Should guests arrive in their own vehicle, this will also be sanitised.
Tents will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before guests arrive, and then closed. The first person to re-open the room or tent will be the guest. Cleanliness is a matter of fact in all well-run safari properties, and tents and rooms will continue to be cleaned as usual during a guest’s stay. The one big change for guests will be that turn-downs will no longer be carried out.
Public places at the lodge or camp
All public areas, such as dining rooms, bars, lounges, and loos will be thoroughly disinfected and sanitised regularly. Hand washing and sanitising stations will be positioned at every entry point to a shared structure.
One of the joyous things about a safari is that many meals are eaten outside, either in the shade of a tree or under a canopy of billions of stars. This, happily, will continue, and will probably be more frequent too. To aid social distancing at meals, alternatives include private dining in a guest’s tent or room, or individual tables spaced well apart (based on government guidelines) in the dining room. Meals will all be plated, and served to the guests at the table; no more buffets.
Wildlife drives and safari vehicles
Many properties in Kenya already try to give each booking their own safari vehicle and guide, but naturally this has not always been possible to guarantee. Henceforth, the overwhelming majority of guests will be provided with a private vehicle, although single travellers and some couples may have to share with another couple, well spaced apart. Numbers per vehicle will be restricted, four instead of six as in the past, and nobody will be allowed to sit beside the guide. Guides will wear masks in most cases too.
Vehicles will be spray sanitised before each drive, and sanitiser will be provided on board for guests and guides. Any surfaces that are regularly touched will sanitised more frequently.
Chlorine is very effective at destroying viruses, and levels will be appropriately maintained. Pool loungers will be spaced two metres apart, and shared use will be limited to enable guests to maintain social distancing. All pool equipment and furniture will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected regularly.
We’re busy arranging future safaris so do get in touch if you would like ideas. If you would like information on the Covid-19 policy of particular camps, we would be happy to provide it.