Whether it’s down to geographical ignorance, bad press or fear, many travellers are avoiding all of Africa because of ebola – don't be one of them
Acacia-studded plains, birds, the Big Five – the Masai Mara is a bucketlist spot. But that hasn’t stopped travellers from avoiding Kenya, or cancelling planned trips, as a result of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa – at a time when Kenya is desperate for visitors.“People would rather stay away from all of Africa, even if some parts are further from Ebola than we are in the UK,” says Eleanor Dunkels of Expert Africa. Like many other tour operators, the company saw its safari bookings drop by half between August and mid-November this year, compared to the same period in 2013.
There have been confirmed Ebola outbreaks in just three of the continent’s 50-plus countries (Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia) plus a handful of cases in Mali, Nigeria and Senegal, not to mention the USA and Spain. The FCO advises against ‘all but essential travel’ to the outbreak nations, but has issued no other Ebola-related warnings. There hasn’t been a single case of Ebola in southern or East Africa according to the World Health Organisation.
Jeep Safari in Kenya (Shutterstock)
The three outbreak countries border each other, and are roughly 5,300km from Nairobi and 5,700km from Cape Town; to put that in context, the UK’s Isle of Wight is 4,800km from Sierra Leone. More flights link West Africa with Europe than the rest of Africa.
Paul Goldstein, Exodus guide and co-owner of Kicheche Camp in the Mara, reckons the problem is down to negative images of the whole continent: “Rapacious press has completely jaundiced people’s common sense. There are many ailments that can affect anyone in Africa – malaria, dengue and typhoid kill thousands – but ignorance and scaremongering has made people think an outbreak thousands of miles away could be dangerous.
“I always ask the same question, be it an outbreak of disease or a terrorist incursion: how many tourists were affected? Exactly.” In fact, now is a great time to visit Africa – travellers will find lower prices and fewer people. Eleanor adds: “For those who love wilderness experiences and a good deal, now is the best time to go on a safari.”