How to prepare for a trip to Africa…

How to prepare for a trip to Africa…

I have to say this is a first for me…we are headed to Kenya and Tanzania for our first safari in Africa! Instead of the normal historical buildings, ancient history of cultures and people, and exploring new exotic foods and customs, this is more about the big wilderness and seeing nature in its raw form.

Calling the travel advice nurse through our health insurance company (Kaiser) was a good place to start. They can give you lots of information about what you need to go to the African jungles. The list is daunting…malaria pills, diarrhea pills, antibiotics, shots for typhoid, hepatitis A& B, and yellow fever, and an entire pouch of OTC drugs. Good to be overly prepared because once you’re out in the wilderness, who knows what will be available.

The Big Five

Africa is all about going to see the Big Five…elephants, lions, water buffalos, rhinos, and the leopards, nicknamed by the big game hunters long ago as the most difficult to hunt, but now they are the target animals everyone wants to see and photograph on safari tour guides.

Packing for this trip is a little different from the norm…no suitcases with nice roller wheels allowed. It has something to do with small planes we will be taking between the countries and traveling in jeep type vehicles. Everything you take has to fit in a carry on duffle bag. We could definitely fit things into it…picking them up and carrying them is a different story.

What? We gotta carry these suckers? They are heavier than they look!

All your clothes should be the colors of the earth…khaki, green, tan, grey, beige. Blend in they say. No loud colors. The animals associate red with blood and you don’t want to get charged by an angry rhino going after your red shirt. Avoid black. It attracts bugs. I also found some companies that make clothing. Exofficio and LL Bean are good places to search for bugs- away clothing that is already pretreated with permethrin, an insect repellant, which they say will last through 65 clothes washings. We picked up a few pretreated bugs-away shirts and lightweight jackets to help protect from all those flying, biting critters.

I’m not much of an REI girl, but for this trip, its a whole new ball game and that store has most of what you’ll need. Everything has got to be sprayed ahead of time with Permethrin, to keep the bugs from biting. I’m waiting til the last minute because they say wear gloves, goggles, don’t get it on your skin, don’t breathe it…yikes. You’ll want to spray everything you wear from your shoes, your socks, your clothes, your scarf, to your head.

Chuck in our back yard, spraying all our clothes to keep the bugs away. Nasty Stuff!

Take 30% deet with you…to spray your skin. Higher percentages of deet might cause skin rashes, and make can make you disoriented, so you can save that 100% deet to also spray on your clothes when you head out. It does not help that when I took the 23andMe DNA test, the result came back that bugs like me. Duh, I’ve known that all my life. Ok…I getting a little nervous, but also getting pretty excited. Can I just wrap myself in some sort of bubble wrap to protect me from the biting bugs for the next few weeks? A hasmat suit perhaps?

The Big Five

I love to take photos and the big dilemma has been how much camera power does one need when you go on safari? When watching videos online of people on safari, you see all kinds. Some people have only their iPhones, some have little point and shoot cameras with some zoom, some have SLRs with sizable zoom lenses, and then there is my friend who just returned from Africa with his 600mm zoom lens saying my normal 200mm telephoto just isn’t going to be enough for my liking.

So I get online to see what kind of lens are available for my Sony A6500 mirrorless camera which I bought because it’s one third smaller and lighter weight than most DSLRs. The lenses will be much bigger than the camera itself. $2500 for the Sony FE100-400 zoom. Ouch. That’s almost 3 times more than the camera body costs. Do I need that? Can I even handle a lens that weighs three pounds? Will I ever use this lens again if I buy it? Enter the Looking Glass Photo and Camera in Berkeley, CA. Who knew this lovely camera store (yes, there are still camera geeks that use film and go there to use their darkrooms for developing) rents the very lens I was looking to buy. That’s a much smarter decision for a lot less money!

The compact Sony FE100-400 zoom lens
The Sony Lens Extended…it’s a monster lens!!
Practicing with the lens in my backyard

I should be able to shoot a photo of a fly on a lion’s nose with this monster of a lens. I hope I can handle it. It’s kind of like weight lifting. I should have some buff arms after 3 weeks of lifting this doozy.

Of course, this is the dream photo that I’d like to get…with me in it!! What are the chances? Well, we all have to have a goal, right?

In my dreams…
Here’s our route…
Me, Elaine, Andy, & Chuck

It looks like we are off on another big adventure with Gate1 Travels and are as ready as we will ever be. We will be traveling with our friends Andy and Elaine. I hope you will follow along with us! It’s going to be big fun out in the wild!

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Monie Thompson