Starting a conversation with your dietary preference works brilliantly for ending friendships before they start.

It is right up there with religion and politics.

But what do you do when you are heading out on Safari and you happen to be totally on culinary trend… or you are traveling with family members who already live in the future?

Global food industry experts have slated plant-based food to be all the rage in 2018… and many restaurants and hotels are jumping on the vegetable delivery wagon with glee. Millennials, Gen X and Gen Z have embraced plant-based diets with the same conviction that their forefathers reserved for cheeseburgers and apple pie.

In Great Britain, the number of people identifying as vegans has increased by 360% compared to 2006 and 3.25% never eat meat in any form as part of their diet. In the US those figures are even more extreme, with a 600% increase and 6% of people now identifying as Vegans Stateside.

Times are changing.

“But African society is famously carnistic with meat featuring daily!” you think.

“This is the tradition and we might have to conform. It is inconsiderate to ask for first world luxury when we travel.” says the chef on TV.

“And do we not disregard much of the principle of cultural exchange of travel if we do not partake of the local food when we travel?” you read in the paper.

“I am dismissive and (sometimes) contemptuous of food that is made with a narrow world view as its first priority,”

Anthony Bourdain

All is not quite as it appears, however. When we look a little closer at globalization, colonialization and cultural appropriation of the traditional African ways a different picture emerges.

Before Europeans arrived in Africa the continent was filled with hunter-gatherers (the basis of the popular Paleo diet). And the hunting would only happen very occasionally. Gathering leaves, roots, tubers, corns, rhizomes, bulbs, seeds, buds, shoots, stems, pods or edible flowers would fill the larder on a daily basis. Africa was dependent on this traditional way of living until five centuries ago when adventurers and slave-traders introduced crops and domestication of animals… together with the spread of diseases and the change in lifestyle and diet.

Crops like maize, cassava, groundnuts, sweet potato, tomatoes and pumpkins from Mexico and America; and bananas, sorghum and rice from Asia which are considered traditionally African today, have now become staples together with meat.

Basically. Africa was vegan long before you visited. Hooray!

And if that little history lesson has not made you feel better already here is:

Our Boss, Leora Rothschild is Vegan at home and Vegetarian on Safari (she has to try every cake and cheese in Africa)!

She is almost constantly on the move and travels through Safari camps several times a year. Her notes on enjoying your Safari on a plant-based diet:

All the ingredients in Africa are super fresh, locally produced and yummy.

You are going to find it much easier than you thought!

It isn’t a crazy idea to consider going plant-based for the first time on Safari – the selection is that wide and delicious.

*Be prepared.

*Make it very clear that you are Vegan. Rothschild Safaris speak Vegan… but if you are not familiar with your travel agent you still might have to explain that ‘no, fish is not vegan’. Even in 2018. Be as clear as you can be WAY in advance. And double check that your dietary requirement made it all the way down the blower.

*Bring some non-perishable snacks. Think monkey and squirrel when you pack these. You want them sealed or wrapped in convenient packaging to pop them into your courtesy fridge etc.

*Check with your host when you arrive that they have received your dietary requirement.

*Check again before every meal you order – although many of the lodges will present you with your very own menu – and when your food is presented.

*Finally. As soon as you can, along your journey… do try to relax. No-one will try to present you with food that you do not want to eat for any reason whatsoever. There are many different religions throughout Africa that prohibit the consumption of various food and so you will find much more understanding of your preference than you might at first expect.

Image via Brooke Lark