Should I Be Cautious of Wildlife?

Article from the series: Frequently Asked Questions about Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo

100mm, f/4, 1/250, ISO640

This is actually a well-worded question. Had it been whether you should be worried about wildlife, my answer would have been no. But cautious? Well, a bit of caution never hurt anyone.

Animals come in all shapes and sizes, and people often worry about the wrong ones. Spider and snake bites are very rare, for example, so there’s no need to panic every time you see something scuttle across the floor. On the other hand, you should be very cautious when it comes to Africa’s most dangerous wild animal: the mosquito. Though the Gorilla Highlands region isn’t as malaria-infested as many more tropical parts of Africa, this is a case where caution pays off. Take prophylactics if you can. Use repellent. Try to wear long sleeves and pants around dusk and dawn. Malaria is no joke.

When it comes to larger animals, you are unlikely to come face-to-face with too many without a guide unless you are self-driving in national parks like Akagera or Queen Elizabeth. The basic rules to follow include: don’t get out of your vehicle unnecessarily, avoid making sudden movements if you are out of the car and don’t try to approach or feed wild animals. Baboons in particular can become very aggressive if they suspect you are carrying food.

In general, wild animals have very little desire to harm you and will usually only do so if they feel threatened. Guides are wonderful to have not only because they have a lot of knowledge to share about the plants and animals you encounter, but because they understand their behaviour and know how to act around them. Whether or not you are with a guide, showing respect and not appearing aggressive is usually the best way to avoid trouble with any animals — or people, for that matter. And, in the immortal words of author and safari guide Peter Allison: “Whatever you do, don’t run!”

This chameleon might not look particularly terrifying, but many locals believe chameleons to be bringers of bad luck with a venomous bite. They aren’t, though they can give you a toothless nip if they feel threatened. Like so many other animals, they are simply misunderstood.

Don’t miss our extensive interview with Marcus and head to his website for even more.