All reserves have a set of rules that you need to follow to ensure your safety. Many of the animals youíll come across, particularly lion, hippo, elephant and buffalo, are dangerous. Stay in your car and keep a reasonable distance - especially with elephant - in case you need to beat a hasty retreat!

Africa has its fair share of poisonous snakes - though they are rarely encountered and, when they are, they usually try to get away as quickly as possible. But if you plan on doing any walking, take along boots, socks and long trousers as a precautionary measure (which also helps with ticks) - and always look where youíre going.

Avoid swimming in rivers that have hippos and crocodiles.

Besides malaria, there are other insect-borne diseases such as dengue and sleeping sickness. These are less common, and you can use the same precautions you would use against mosquito bites: long-sleeved clothes and trousers, repellents and mosquito nets.

In countries where drinking water isnít properly regulated, stick to bottled or boiled water and avoid tap water, water fountains and ice cubes. Ask your travel consultant about the safety of drinking water in the areas youíll be visiting.

Use common sense when it comes to food and beverages. If youíre unsure of their origin, donít touch them.

If youíre walking, itís best to wear shoes at all times.

AIDS is rife throughout Africa, so if youíre planning to have intimate contact with the locals always use condoms to reduce the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Avoid handling animals, especially monkeys, dogs and cats.

Avoid swimming in stagnant water.

  • If youíre on a guided tour, your chances of encountering problems are minimal - tour operators make it their business to know the areas they travel to so you are never at any undue risk.

  • If youíre travelling alone, keep up to date with local news so you know about potential hot spots. News from Africa carries top stories from most of Africaís local newspapers, and is updated daily.

  • Get a local perspective - ask someone where youíre staying to give you a run-down on any unsafe areas, and codes of dress and behaviour.

  • As with anywhere in the world, when youíre in a city err on the side of caution: donít carry valuables openly, and if you must carry your passport and money then keep them in a buttoned-down pocket or well concealed on your person.

  • Driving in Africa can often be an adventurous undertaking. In many countries, and particularly in rural areas, roads are often poorly maintained and itís not unusual to come across large domestic animals such as sheep and cattle. The best advice: stay alert, use your seatbelts and avoid travelling at night.

  • Avoid deserted areas, particularly at night. If youíre in a car, park in well-lit, populated areas; always keep it locked - even when youíre in it; and donít leave valuables where they can be seen.

  • If youíre thinking of hitchhiking, youíll need to understand the high risks involved. It is often exciting, always potentially dangerous - particularly in urban centres or after dark - and isnít advised if safety is a priority.

  • The best advice for security when you travel: simply stay aware of whatís going on around you. If you do this, you have a good chance of enjoying a problem-free holiday.

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