Dawn’s FAQ of the Week: What is Proper Guest Etiquette While Out on Safari?

I couldn’t answer this any better than what Garth Thompson already has. Garth is the author of the great guide reference book “A Guide’s Guide to Guiding” and he has some great advice for all well-intentioned guests:

“Tourist Etiquette

o Try not to be loud when in a wildlife area. Don’t whistle and bang on the vehicle to attract an animal’s attention.

o Don’t always take the prime seat in the safari vehicle.

o Be considerate of others with you.

o It is pointless comparing things in Africa with your home country.

o Be considerate of African culture and etiquette. Don’t treat the locals as if you are from the civilized world and they are inferior.

o Ask permission to take a photograph of someone or to hold their child or enter their hut.  Imagine if they barged into your home, picked up your kids and photographed all and sundry how upset you would be.

o Try not to be argumentative with the guide and others in the safari vehicle or camp.

o Don’t leap around when other people are trying to take photos, thus rocking the vehicle and potentially messing up the photo.

o Don’t get drunk and unruly when in wild areas, the bush doesn’t lend itself to this kind of behavior. It’s a long way to travel to behave like you can at home.

o Don’t encourage the guide to break park rules; it could cost him or her their job.

o Be sensitive to what you say about other nationalities, gender, gays, politics etc.

o Try not to enter into ‘We saw more than you’ competitions with other guests. It cheapens the experience.

o There is a lot of bureaucracy in Africa, be patient and keep your cool.

o Most of all don’t disturb the natural order of things. Don’t keep pressuring animals for a better photograph. Remember they are wild and that is why you have come so far and spent so much to see them.

o Lastly remember that ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and a genuine smile go a long way in Africa.”

Garth Thompson, author of the book “A Guide’s Guide to Guiding”

2 Responses to Dawn’s FAQ of the Week: What is Proper Guest Etiquette While Out on Safari?

  1. Teddi Edington says:

    Thanks Dawn for your timely post. This was a question I was just about to ask, when I saw your post. We’re read such wonderful things about ADS and the guides – we want to be wonderful guests too! :) Could you please elaborate more on how we can “Be considerate of African culture and etiquette.” We are eagerly anticipating our trip in December. Thank you!

    • Dawn says:

      Hi Teddi!

      Thank you for your comment! To address your question, just being kind and considerate will go a very long way with local Tanzanian people. Nobody is going to expect you to know specific tribal customs for instance, but simply being polite and interested in learning about the local’s culture will go a VERY long way. Rude behavior and crude comments generally have no place in traditional Tanzanian culture, which is typically pretty conservative.

      One specific thing you can do to show your interest in the local culture is to learn a few basic Swahili words before you go, like “Jambo” for “Hello”, “Habari Asubuhi” for “Good Morning”, etc. Don’t worry if your pronunciation isn’t perfect, the local Tanzanians will be so appreciative you even tried, and they will be quick to assist too! If you want to try to learn a few things before your trip, you can find a handful of basic greetings under the category “Language” in our own ADS Handbook. Another language resource that could be helpful is this little phrase book published by Lonely Planet, which is one of my personal favorites!:


      Also, for more generalized information about Tanzanian culture, the following website does also go through some interesting points about general Tanzanian etiquette including preferred greeting methods, communication styles, etc.


      I hope this helps Teddi! As always, just let me know if you have any other questions!!!

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