Staying Healthy

Trips to Tanzania are extremely expensive, even for residents, and great care should be taken to stay healthy during one's travels in the region. During the year I spent living and traveling here, I suffered from a wide variety of maladies that either reduced my enjoyment of trips or cost me valuable opportunities to see and experience wildlife. For example, Aimee and I had just begun a five-day trek through the Ngorongoro Crater highlands when I fell ill with malaria, forcing us to cancel our trip and absorb the cost of the exorbitant park fees. Indeed, during our only game drive on the crater floor itself, I was so delirious with fever that I could barely lift my binoculars to observe my first Black Rhino in the distance. Dengue, malaria, yellow fever, typhoid, and hepatitis are just some of the familiar viral and bacterial diseases one could contract by mosquito bite or water ingestion, and the list of more exotic sounding diseases is even more impressive, and scary. Taking a malaria prophylaxis is strongly advised, but common sense measures against getting sick are equally important, such as wearing long and loose-fitting clothing, using insect repellent, and avoiding eating uncooked vegetables.

Aside from getting malaria, my largest personal struggle with health involved tsetse flies. These large biting flies feed on the blood of vertebrate animals and are famous for transmitting human sleeping sickness, which is rare in most parts of Tanzania. During my stay in the region, I became increasingly sensitive to their bites, culminating at the end of my stay in intense allergic reactions where my entire appendage would swell up painfully for days if I sustained just one bite on my arm or leg. As the flies swarm slow-moving vehicles passing through woodland and often bite through thick clothing, I was reduced to doing much of my birding from inside a car with windows rolled up, wearing a rain jacket for extra protection. Mosquitoes, sand flies, ticks, fleas, and lice can all transmit disease, so wearing insect repellent and shoes, socks, and long pants and shirts is highly recommended even when the temperatures soar midday. Remember that the price of being uncomfortable is a lot less than the cost of sitting out a safari.

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