Physical Demands of a Safari

Old Jun 6th, 2007, 08:20 AM
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Physical Demands of a Safari

DH and I are considering a safari for our next major vacation, but I have some concerns over how physically taxing one may be. DH has back problems which can be aggravated by such things as bad beds or too much jerking around (as in driving over rough terrain).

I know that safaris can run the gamut from primitive camping to luxury digs, but realistically, what should we expect? I don't really want to take a vacation where we're completely sheltered from any activity. But at the same time, I really don't want him to be miserable, because then I'll be miserable too.
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Old Jun 6th, 2007, 09:10 AM
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There is jerking around in driving over rough terrain no matter how high end your accommodations and bedding. But others have gone who have had back problems. Except for sleeping bags on the ground and maybe a few cots in some mobiles, all beds I've slept in have been very comfortable--like any nice hotel. There is no need to have cots or sleeping bags for the majority of safari accommodations or activities.

A private vehicle may allow you to reduce some of the bumpiness, but that can be very costly in Botswana, Zambia, or the private reserves of South Africa. It is not so costly for a couple in Tanzania or Kenya where private safaris for two are common.

Good luck and I'd talk to your doctor also.
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Old Jun 6th, 2007, 11:58 AM
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I have had back problems over the years (back in my sports days I was told at age 17 and again at 30 that if I didn't have back surgery I wouldn't be walking in a few years. Fortunately I ignored those doctors. If you want to know what made a huge difference, and has kept me almost problem free, post). We spent 7 months last year in Africa, most of the time on safari and I had almost no problems. In the Serengeti, the road from NCL to Klein's camp had my kidneys sore (my wife's too) but my back was fine. Otherwise no problems. Beds were good at all the camps. There was quite a bit of bouncing at some other places (Bongai comes to mind) but the it did not trigger any back problems. I would go for it, you can mention the back problems to the camp manager at check-in and also to your ranger and he/she should take that into account on your drives. Lynn makes a good point about a private vehicle. It is interesting you mention the beds because I was recently informed that Sossusvlei Mountain Lodge was creating a specific lodging for the visiting astronomers and I mentioned the importance of a good bed so back problems won't be an issue.
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Old Jun 6th, 2007, 03:55 PM
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This is all very heartening. I was on the verge of ruling this trip out, and now I am going to reconsider.

Yes, tuckeg, I'd be really interested in hearing what you do about your back problems.
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Old Jun 6th, 2007, 05:49 PM
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Another vote for private vehicle. And my suggestion would be to choose places to stay so that you are most of the time in camps or lodges where there is something to do other than game drives. This could be a busy waterhole, a river where animals come to drink and on which boat trips might be possible or bush walking options. That way, if problems were looking imminent, DH could rest up his back while still enjoying Africa to the full.

However, I have also had back and shoulder problems since my late teens and sitting at my computer stressed out about work is much worse for them than a safari ever has been. I sleep like a baby in Africa (because of the beds or being relaxed I don't know) whereas after 6 or so hours at home I have to get up and stretch or pay the price.

Purely anecdotal and I cannot compare my problems to those of DH...
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Old Jun 6th, 2007, 06:38 PM
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To make a long story shorter, after suffering off and on with back problems from age 16 to age 39, I decided to vinyl side our newly purchased home over my summer vacation. I had no idea what I was doing so I spent a lot of time measuring and trying things so the job dragged on most of the summer. I spent hours each day climbing up and down ladders. By the end of the summer my back finally felt like it did when I was 15. I don't know if it was streching or if it corrected a muscle imbalance, but the change was dramatic. I then had no back problems for about 9 years until I stepped into hole in the ground that was covered by fallen leaves (idiot maintenance guys removed stop sign and didn't fill hole). The result was the worse back problems of my life, and that's saying a lot. I was in constant pain from November to April and at times the pain was so intense my legs would collapse and I would fall. That April I dragged myself to the Big Bend National Park in Texas and hiked and climbed for 10 days on spring break. It was pretty funny because I kept collapsing in front of hikers, and had to spend lots of time reassuring them I was ok. The worse day was on a hike to the Window (if anyone knows Big Bend) where at the end I probably fell 10 times alone in the dark on the hike back up. Slowly I began to feel better and by the time I left for home I was about 80% recovered and after doing some more climbing at home I was 100% and have been trouble free since. I am not suggesting this works for everyone, but in my case the doctors who wanted to do surgery were wrong (as were others who injected me with cortisone) and the solution was lots of climbing of one kind or another. Perhaps a stretching exercise or specific weight training could have accomplished the same thing, but I had done both when I was younger and never hit the right solution. I was actually happy to climb in and out of the vehicles on game drives because I knew it was keeping my back trouble free.
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Old Jun 6th, 2007, 08:21 PM
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Regular exercise and a full size monitor and keyboard tray at work keep my back problems in check. More than an hour or two on a laptop and I'm in agony.
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Old Jun 6th, 2007, 09:06 PM
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i recently returned from a safari to Kenya. I too, was concerned about the physical demands as i also have lower back problems and issues with my legs and fatigue. I felt that this trip was actually far less demanding than trips where there is much walking, standing etc. Yes, there are some bumpy rides didn't seem to really bother my back........i never had a problem with a bed. For me, the taxing parts of the trip were the long hours of traveling and those darn 5:00 AM wake up calls. Most of the time we were in vechicles, sitting at meals, relaxing at the pool. ......the most amount of physical exercise was walking from the main lodge to the sleeping cabin or tent. I live in NYC and believe me the walking and standing here is far more taxing than my trip was. If you decide to go, i think you will really enjoy it.
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Old Jun 6th, 2007, 11:08 PM
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The other option is a boat safari on the Okavango.
They offer 6 and 7 day safaris by Motor Boat that starts on the Panhandle ot the Okavango (Top) and end in Maun.
Great experience and should be perfect for your back.
The game viewing is far better from a Boat than Mokoro.
These are still camping but quite comfortable.
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Old Jun 7th, 2007, 12:50 AM
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There's a message here. GoAway's DH obviously has problems with jolting vehicles in rough terrain, but every back problem is different. Some require rest, some need exercise, some need physiotherapy or chiropractic, some get by with anti-inflammatory medication, some need surgery.

I had a bad back problem before a walking safari; I could barely walk-- physio didn't fix it, but anti-inflammatories did. As a precaution, I wore a wide elastic back support on my walking safari and got through 170 kilometres of walking with flying colours.

Since then, I've found sitting in front of a computer is more likely to give me back and shoulder problems. Jolting around in a safari vehicle is perfect flexes my spine and does me no end of good.

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Old Jun 7th, 2007, 02:39 AM
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I went on a safari near the Kruger park in 2004 with my wife. Here is a trip report with pictures: . As you can see our accommodation was more towards the luxury kind and we had a nice room with a comfortable bed. The driving around that we did was a bit bumpy but it was worth it

Gard - trip reports and pictures
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