Dear Ultimate Africa Clients,
As the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve we are working diligently to stay updated in this changing environment, and to be sensitive to the needs of all our guests, our staff, and the many safari camps and lodges that support / finance the rural communities and wildlife of Africa.
If you are concerned about your travel plans, please call us at 1 800 461 0682. We are working with each traveler on a case-by-case basis and are here to help you make well-informed decisions.
As of early August 2021
Despite dire predictions Africa has handled Covid very well (see graphic below). Over 670 million vaccine doses have been purchased.
In South Africa, where Covid has been easily the worst in Africa, they have started vaccinations and cases declined 95% by April from their early January 2021 peak… since that time cases peaked again and are now down 44% from the early July peak. In Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe 77% of the adult population has been vaccinated. Botswana has secured enough vaccines for their entire adult population. In Kenya and Zambia tourism workers are considered essential when it comes to vaccine eligibility. More specifically, Wilderness Safaris, one of Africa’s largest safari operators, have already vaccinated most of their staff in Namibia, Rwanda, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia… and we are hearing the same message from other operators as well.
Regarding variants Dr. Fauci noted January 25, 2021: “There is a very slight, modest diminution in the efficacy of a vaccine against Covid variants, but there’s enough cushion with the vaccines that we have that we still consider them to be effective.” Even Johnson and Johnson’s single dose vaccine, with a 72% overall efficacy, led to zero hospitalizations and deaths across 3 continents (including South Africa). “Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is very effective where it matters most: preventing hospitalizations and deaths. “We showed that there was an 85% efficacy against severe disease and 100% protection against hospitalization and death” according to Dr. Paul Stoffels, the chief scientific officer at Johnson & Johnson.
A quick note on vaccine efficacy: A 95% efficacy doesn’t mean 5% of vaccinated people get infected. When a vaccine has a 95% efficacy it means your chance of contracting the disease drops by 95%. As an example before vaccines if 1% out of 100,000 people got Covid that would be 1,000 cases. After the vaccine, that 1% is reduced by 95% and now only .0005% of the population is expected to get sick – 50 people. The actual percentage of vaccinated people in the Pfizer (and Moderna) trials who got COVID-19 was about 0.0004%. In addition all 3 vaccines were 100% effective at preventing severe disease 6 weeks after the first dose (for Moderna) or 7 weeks after the first dose (for Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, the latter of which requires only one dose). Zero vaccinated people in any of the trials were hospitalized or died of COVID-19 after the vaccines had fully taken effect
Regarding breakthrough infections the CDC notes that fewer than .004% of fully vaccinated Americans have been hospitalized due to breakthrough infections. The unvaccinated account for more than 90% of confirmed COVID-19 US cases and 95% to 99.9% of deaths and hospitalizations, according to Kaiser. The White House noted on July 31, 2021 that they were frustrated by the alarmist tone and lack of context in mainstream media reporting on breakthrough infections. Many tweets and headlines about the mask guidance seemingly overstated the threat to the vaccinated and the degree to which they might infect others.
Regarding safaris – all African safari countries are open, the camps and lodges have great protocols in place, and in most camps staff and guides have been vaccinated (never mind that a safari is a great social distancing vacation and does so much good for the planet), travel insurance is treating Covid like any other medical issue / illness (see note below), there are no quarantine requirements to enter countries, all travelers flying to Africa must provide a negative Covid test to board their flight, most camps and lodges are requiring all guests, and staff, to provide negative tests upon arrival, and testing can be done at many safari camps and lodges as well.
Many travelers have asked how the South Africa travel ban will effect their arrangements and the simply answer is that it does not. There is a US ban on South Africans traveling to the USA but not on US citizens who are free to travel to South Africa and return home.
As of yet testing requirements have not fallen away for vaccinated travelers or those who can provide evidence of recovering from a Covid infection. We do however expect Covid passports, at some future point, and these may alleviate testing requirements.
With every changing requirements we will advise all travelers of Covid tests needed before, and during travel, approximately 4 to 6 weeks prior to departure. Testing at lodges and camps can cost several hundred dollars per person as a nurse often needs to flown out to take samples. Testing in cities such as Nairobi, Cape Town, and Victoria Falls is typically under US $100 per person.
With regards to travel insurance most policies cover Covid under medical just as any other medical condition would be. This means if you test positive before travel you should be able to cancel your arrangements (please note you must be under a doctor’s care), and if you became sick while traveling hospital costs should be covered. Please note coverage for Trip Interruption / Delay and / or Medical Expense benefits requires a confirmed diagnosis and proof of illness from a physician – again you would need to be under a doctor’s care.
If a traveler were to test positive for Covid in Africa, which may still occur even after vaccination as no vaccines offer 100% protection they would most likely be quarantined in a bed and breakfast, hotel, or even at safari camps at their own expense… there are no government run Covid quarantine facilities for tourists that we are aware of. Trip Interruption / Delay and / or Medical Expense travel insurance coverage may partially cover missed travel arrangements or quarantine costs due to a positive test – please contact your travel insurance provider for specific details. For additional peace of mind travelers may purchase a Covid Evacuation membership from CovacGlobal. Their motto is “Get Sick. Get Home” from anywhere in the world – you only need to have received a positive test and self report one symptom such as a headache. Please note CovacGlobal would get you home however would not cover costs for lost travel arrangements (travel insurance requires a traveler to be under a doctor’s care).
For guests contemplating postponing their arrangements most suppliers are asking travelers to wait until 60 days prior to their trip to assess the situation. In cases where postponement is allowed, to the following year as an example, most suppliers are charging applicable rates.
Botswana: fully open / present a negative PCR test result, not older than 72 hours before you arrival. Upon arrival travelers will receive a Rapid Antigen test free of charge.
Kenya – fully open / present a negative PCR based COVID-19 test carried out within 4 days before arrival date – starting from date of sample collection. PCR test required to depart.
Malawi – tourists not allowed to enter.
Mozambique – fully open / present a negative test taken within 3 days of arrival.
Namibia – fully open / present a negative PCR or Rapid Antigen test result, not older than 3 days at time of arrival.
Rwanda – fully open / all travelers arriving in to, and departing from, Rwanda must test negative for COVID-19 within 3 days of departure (meaning that you get tested and get results no more than 3 days before your first flight). Additional PCR test upon arrival in Kigali and wait at hotel up to 24 hours for results… additional test before departure flight and must visit gorillas within 72 hours of a negative test (so do the gorillas right after your stay in Kigali). As of mid July there is a curfew in Rwanda and travelers cannot eat at restaurants outside of where they are staying (so really there is no effect on most travelers).
South Africa – Fully open / present a negative PCR test result, not older than 72 hours before boarding your first flight. Please note many airlines are not following the South African requirement and will not let you board unless you have a test result that will be within 72 hours of your arrival in South Africa. There is a US ban on South Africans traveling to the USA but not on American travelers who are free to travel and return home.
To reduce Covid cases South Africa has a 10PM to 4AM curfew / Restaurants and bars are open until 9:30PM and alcohol sales are allowed.
Tanzania – fully open / present a negative PCR based COVID-19 test taken within 3 days of arrival. Travelers will be subject to a Rapid Antigen test upon arrival – payable direct US $25.
Uganda – fully open / present a negative PCR based COVID-19 test carried out within 3 days before boarding in bound flight to Uganda. Additional PCR test must be taken upon arrival (even if fully vaccinated) and within 3 days of departing.
Zambia – fully open / present a negative PCR based COVID-19 carried out within 3 days of arrival. If arriving from a high risk Covid country, such as South Africa, non vaccinated travelers will need to quarantine. Vaccinated travelers will need to show proof of completing vaccination and can bypass quarantine. Negative Covid test to depart the country.
Zimbabwe – fully open / present a negative test taken within 2 days of arrival. Zimbabwe has a nationwide curfew from 6:30PM to 6AM which effects visitors to Victoria Falls. Safari camps and lodges are operating as per normal. Visitors from India & the UK require a 10 day quarantine.
IMPORTANT: The above Covid notes and testing requirements are subject to change at any time. We recommend reaching out to the relevant embassies and airlines for the latest information. We cannot be held responsible for any inaccuracies in the above information.
IMPORTANT: Even if vaccinated travelers can test positive for Covid. Most doctors still advise avoiding crowded indoor environments and wearing N95 masks when around others.
Ultimate Africa President
“I first visited Africa in the late 1980s. I came face to face with a wild elephant, and fell in love with being on safari! I made it my goal to create an African travel company that was all about authentic wildlife experiences. Many years later we are one of the top African travel companies in the Americas – known for arranging custom safaris to East and Southern Africa; personal trips, no cookie cutter stuff.”