Body & Soul


Image credit: Robin Pope Safaris


With an increasing number of us more conscious of our mental and physical health, we’ve put together 17 pages of suggestions for ways in which you can make your next safari more invigorating and rewarding, without breaking too much of a sweat. Feature compiled by Sarah Baxter and William Gray

The African wilderness is good for you. The escape from the hullabaloo, the at-oneness with nature, the space, the silence ­— all balm for the brain. But can it be beneficial for your body too?

Historically, the answer has been mostly no. “On safari it’s easy to forget about health routines,” says Jeroen Beekwilder of “When the focus is on getting fed without lifting a finger, unlimited alcohol thrown in, and sitting back in vehicles watching wildlife, fitness tends to slip from the mind.”

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Increasing numbers of people are interested in their mental and physical wellbeing, especially when travelling. According to a study by the Global Wellness Institute, the wellness tourism market grew from US$563 billion in 2015 to US$639 billion in 2017, more than twice the increase of tourism overall. While Africa currently represents only a small chunk of that — $4.2 million in 2015, $4.8 million in 2017 — it’s predicted to be one of the biggest growth regions, hitting an estimated $8.1 million in 2022. The continent is getting fitter.

This is no cause for alarm. Incorporating more activity into your safari doesn’t mean having to do 100 press-ups before you’re allowed on your morning game drive, or signing up to run a marathon (though that’s possible if you want). It’s about changing your attitude and considering more active options.

“Pick a safari that will get your limbs moving — maybe game-viewing on foot or by mountain bike,” Beekwilder recommends. “Consider incorporating a multi-day hike — some parks offer this — or choose destinations that don’t have dangerous animals so you can walk freely.”

You might look for a spot where you can swim, a lodge that has a gym, a camp with a yoga platform gazing out across the bush. Or you might want to cycle the length of the continent. We’ll give you some ideas to get you started.

But we’ll also ponder the mental benefits of a bush escape, suggesting ways in which you can recharge your mind and soul as well as your body. Mindfulness can come naturally in Africa’s open spaces.

However you choose to make your trip healthier, you’ll be repaid in spades. Your body will benefit, but you’ll also forge deeper connections with the land itself. When you’re moving under your own steam, slowing down to cycling or strolling pace, it’s easier to inhale, to touch, to take a closer look; you’ll notice so much more. You might find your muscles strengthening and your stress reducing; you may discover an even deeper joy in the wonder of nature.

This article introduced the 17-page feature on healthy travel in issue 85 (buy it here). Sarah Baxter wrote about her walking holiday in South Africa, and compiled a list of great places across Africa that offer excellent walking options. For those interested in swimming, cycling, running or yoga, she also gave some suggestions for how you can include these activities while on safari.

William Gray explored the mental benefits of venturing into Africa’s wilderness, of connecting with nature and appreciating the vast empty spaces that can found across the continent.

For those travelers who are conscious about their health, this feature will give you loads of stimulating ideas and confidence when plotting your next African holiday.

Buy issue 85 here.