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...If you are looking for the very best in Africa, make sure that Garth is your guide.
Colin Bell. Wilderness Safaris. Johannesburg. South Africa
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Tips on booking your African Safari

‘Africa’ A continent of dreams, tales, romance and earth's greatest wildlife extragavanza. What has made you want to visit Africa?
How long have you wanted to visit this colourful continent?
How long and hard have you saved to realise such a dream?

There are a variety of reasons that people travel to this undeveloped continent, from all corners of the world.The majority come to watch, learn, enjoy and photograph as much as this massive wildlife warehouse has to offer. For others it is to pursue an interest in birds, botany, butterflies, steam trains, art, ethnic culture, scenery, history, archeology, geology, reptiles, astronomy etc. For the adventurous and adrenalin junkies it may be white water rafting, kayaking, bunjie jumping, mountain climbing, scuba diving, horse riding, mountain biking, canoeing, walking, fishing, hunting or for others, just plain sea, sand and relaxation.

Important factors to take into account when booking your Safari
When choosing the various safari camps that you wish to visit there are a few areas of vital importance that will make the difference between an ordinary safari and an extraordinary safari:

Before giving any advice on what to bring, what to look for when booking a safari camp, how to get the most out of your guide etc. The most important piece of advise is a good pair of binoculars for each person travelling. This small, but valuable asset will enhance your safari ten fold, literally. It can’t be stressed enough how important this piece of equipment is! Why pay all that money, travel such long distances, with the opportunity to see the greatest wildlife that our earth has to offer without the correct tools. To study some of Africa’s feathered jewels through a good set of binoculars is so much more rewarding than looking at them with the naked eye. To sit at a waterhole for hours watching the natural order of life as a kaleidoscope of animals make their way to drink from this life sustaining source. Binoculars give you the opportunity to study their social behaviour, pick out well camouflaged animals hidden in the grass or woodlands.

While on safari have this useful tool cloned to your body for every waking hour of the day. There are basically three makes of binoculars that will last you a lifetime (these brands are guaranteed for between 25 and 40 years, by the time you can afford them you only have that long left in your life) The makes are Leica, Zeiss and Swarovski. They cost between USD$600 and $1000. Extremely expensive, but they will become your closest bush companion for many years. Most of these makes are shockproof and water protected. There are other good makes, which are not quite as expensive; these are Nikon, Minolta, Canon, Bushnell and Pentax. They have very good optics, but do not always take kindly to being dropped, especially if it is into water. Don’t be lured into buying anything over 10 power, they will be heavy and impossible to hold steady in wind and are overmagnified. The most popular size of binocular is 8 X 30.

Situation, Situation, Situation
Where is the camp situated in relationship to the National Park? Do you have to drive a long way before you enter a game rich area? There are a number of safari camps throughout Africa which are positioned long distances from the National Park or safari area. Your camp may be sited on a private farm, hunting block, tribal land or safari concession which could have low wildlife concentrations. Because these areas lack sufficient animals to satisfy visitors, long transits into the National Park may take an hour of unproductive driving each way. These transfers in and out of the Park are often conducted twice a day, accounting for many hours of commuting, during which time, very little wildlife may be seen.

When visiting a skiing resort, how many skiers will stay in accommodation an hour from the ski lifts?
Try and choose a camp that is in the thick of things, surrounded by many forms of wildlife. These camps are often within a National Park. There are also a number of private concession areas which have large concentrations of wildlife because of long term protection and sound conservation measures. In addition they may have introduced quantities of indigenous animals by translocation from other areas. These camps are often the shop window to a warehouse full of animals. Many of them overlook popular waterholes, host to many of animals throughout the day and night.

When going out on a safari activity from these camps, animal viewing begins as you leave camp. Long distances don’t have to be covered in order to have rewarding wildlife encounters. At the end of the day, sundowners are often enjoyed around a busy waterhole, followed by a leisurely drive back to camp, possibly with a spot light looking for nocturnal life. This type of camp is in contrast to guests at properties outside Parks, who have to wrap up in blankets and endure an arduous transfer back to a distant camp at night, often arriving tired and cold.

A safari should be a special and personal experience. The incredible variety of wild experiences and natural beauty should not be destroyed by a gaggle of checklist, ticking tourists entombed within squadrons of mini buses. The occupants, safely canned, peer out from their pop up hatches and emit meaningless comments about various unorchestrated encounters that one is often, so privileged to see.

These days, the majority of humans live and work in close association with one another, often in overcrowded and stressful situations. The last thing one needs when out on a wildlife safari in the open expanses of untainted Africa, is to be surrounded by vehicle loads of noisy tourists, while the drivers all jostle for the best position around a sleeping lion as their occupants pass empty comments of “here pussy pussy, here, kitty kitty”
Endeavourer to choose a safari camp which has its own private concession area, devoid of other safari companies. This will ensure your privacy while out on safari. It will give you the opportunity to sit and enjoy a wildlife drama unfolding in a setting devoid of fellow man. Surely this is what you expect from a safari experience? There are a number of reputable camps which have access to tens of thousands of acres, dissected by only a few vehicle tracks, home to masses of animals, where ‘humans’ are on the rarely sighted list.

Camp Size
This is a personal issue. There are those travellers that prefer to stay in lodges that accommodate between 40 and 200 guests. Large dinning rooms, bar, air conditioning and piped music. Everyone to their own taste and desires. These days the discerning guest whose prime object is a wildlife experience, peace and tranquillity will often opt for as small a camp as possible. These camps vary in size from twenty beds to as few as six beds. The average size camp being sixteen beds. Obviously the smaller the number of guests the more personalised the experience will be.

This type of camp will have few safari vehicles operating within the concession. The vehicles will often have radio contact with each other, in order to pass on unusual wildlife sightings and to avoid encounters with each other, thus helping portray a wilderness experience. The best guides are often attracted to work at these camps, which offer them small groups of guests and large tracts of land which is not over utilized by too many safari vehicles.

Small camps have an intimate ambiance. The rooms are not built too close to each other, they offer spacious lounges, cosy candlelit dinners, quiet fireside moments and opportunities to get to know and often befriend the few other likeminded guests resident in camp at the same time. These camps attract people that have come to enjoy an area where the bird song and animal noises are not drowned out by a throbbing generator, noisy bar or humming air conditioners.

The staff in small camps have the opportunity to get to know their guests personalized needs and desires. The guest to employee ratio is often one to one. Strong friendships are often formed between guest and owner, camp manager or guide, bringing the guest back to the same camp on numerous occasions. These relationships often continue across continents, developing into life long friendships.

Possibly one of the most important aspects to a successful and rewarding safari experience is the quality of your guide. This person is to share with you their dedication and affinity for the great outdoors and all that it contains. They will be able to interpret and show you many of the amazing secrets that nature has hidden from urban man for centuries. Guides that are in tune with their environment often have a sixth sense and know how to seek out and present various wildlife experiences. They will often know their area intimately and the various habitats that animals frequent. Surely you haven’t travelled half way around the world to be told the obvious, “that is a buffalo” that is a giraffe”. This can happen in a number of safari areas where the ‘guides’ have little more than a driving licence and may know less about wildlife than you.

Modern day tourists are often well read and researched about their holiday destination. They know the names of many animals, possibly some birds and a few trees. Their yearning desire is to learn about the intricate life styles of all the mammals, birds, insects and plants that co exist to form a perfectly balanced eco system. Most, want to see more than just the Big 5, lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhino. They are interested in animal’s habits, habitat, breeding, territories, diet, migrations etc. They like to have the calls of birds, frogs and mammals identified to them. A good guide will point out the various constellations, stars and planets that are reflecting back from an unpolluted African sky. Interesting animal tracks, dung and sign are made known. An enthusiastic guide will share knowledge of the many uses of plants, the amazing life of insects, snakes and soils. They will be able to unravel the many myths, legends and old hunter’s stories that revolve around wildlife.

A good guide will be your host, field guide, teacher, chauffeur, medic, navigator, conservationist, chaperone, protector, counsel, interpreter and friend. Your whole safari experience can be heightened by your guide! It can also be destroyed if you end up with a disinterested, surly and boring guide, seeking only a tip at the end.

When booking your safari, ask many questions as to the standards of guide that you will have in each camp. Some guests may opt for their own private guide and vehicle for the duration of a safari. This type of guide normally comes highly recommended and will often be very professional in the treatment of guests, their needs and aspirations. In general, each small and well run safari operation will have at least one excellent guide with a few bright eyed and bushy tailed trainee guides, aspiring to get to the level of their teacher guide.

How to Get the Most out of your Guide
There are so many things to learn about the countless forms of wildlife. Ask as many questions as come to mind. No one will think them silly, that is one of the reasons you are there, to learn and have guides share their knowledge gleaned from years of a life in the wild.

Show interest and enthusiasm in what you encounter.
Be patient when your guide is waiting for an event to possibly develop. The wilderness operates on a different clock to ours, there is much to learn.
Express any special interest that you may have. It may be in birds, aloes, rock art, astronomy, geology, insects etc. Your guide will realise you are not the standard tourist and often go out of his or her way to present to you your interest.

Don’t put your guide into a dangerous position for the sake of a better look or photograph. It may result in the loss of an animal’s life or your own.
When on a walk, try to keep quiet, refrain from discussing topics from home, the stock market, your flights etc with other guests.
Invite your guide to join you for a drink or meal. Make your guide feel special and they will normally go that extra mile.

How to get the Most out of Your Safari
A simple rule is the more times you go out on safari activities the more you will see.
Carry your binoculars with you at all times and use them!
Have an enquiring mind.
Tune your senses, be aware:
Observe and appreciate the multitude of sights that Africa has to offer.
Listen to the constant diversity of noise, especially at dawn and during the night.
Don’t be in a rush to dash of to the next wildlife sighting, enjoy the moment. Try and slow your turbo down and pick up the beat and rhythm of the African bush.
Take time to relax and reflect on the overwhelming kaleidoscope of real life scenes you have encountered.
Remember none of the scenes you will witness have been rehearsed or will ever be repeated in the same way, make the most of them.
Don’t observe the whole of your African Safari through the eye piece of a camera.

Tourist Etiquette
Try not to be loud when in a wildlife area. Don’t whistle and bang on the vehicle to attract an animals attention.
Don’t always take the prime seat in the safari vehicle or boat.
Be considerate of others with you.
It is pointless comparing things in Africa with your home country.
Be considerate of African culture and etiquette. Don’t treat the locals as if you are from the civilised world and they are inferior.
Ask permission to take a photograph of someone or to hold their child or enter their hut. Imagine if they barged into your home, picked up your kids and photographed all and sundry how upset you would be.
Don’t hog the guide, conversation and topic. If you are a fanatical birder and the others aren’t, don’t let you special interest dominate the safari activity. Try and arrange an outing with the guide during the non peak game viewing time when you can both peruse your interest. Even if your guide isn’t too au fait with your pet fascination, it may be butterflies, they will learn a lot and enjoy the opportunity of being with a different type of tourist.
Try not to be argumentative with the guide and others in the safari vehicle or camp.
Don’t leap around when other people are trying to take photos, thus rocking the vehicle or boat and potentially messing up the photo.
Don’t get drunk and unruly when in wild areas, the bush doesn’t lend itself to this kind of behaviour. It’s a long way to travel to behave like you can at home.
Don’t encourage the guide to break park rules; it could cost him or her their job.
Be sensitive to what you say about other nationalities, gender, gays, politics etc.
Try not to enter into ‘We saw more than you’ competitions with other guests. It cheapens the experience.
There is a lot of bureaucracy in Africa, be patient and keep your cool.
Most of all don’t disturb the natural order of things. Don’t keep pressurising animals for a better photograph. Remember they are wild and that is why you have come so far and spent so much to see them.
Lastly remember that ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and a genuine smile go a long way in Africa.

Respecting Wildlife and Safety
The wild animals are not like those found in theme parks – they aren’t tame.
Most of the safari camps are unfenced and dangerous animals can (and do!) wander through the camps. Many of the animals and reptiles you will see are potentially dangerous. Attacks by wild animals are rare. However, there are no guarantees that such incidents will not occur.

Please listen to the camp staff and guides. The safety precautions need to be taken seriously, and strictly adhered to.
Don’t go wandering off on your own without a guide – even to your rooms. After retiring to your rooms at night, don’t leave them.
Observe animals silently and with a minimum of disturbance to their natural activities. Loud talking on game drives can frighten the animals away.
Litter tossed on the ground can choke or poison animals and birds and is unsightly.
Never attempt to feed or approach any wild animal on foot. This is especially important near lodges or in campsites where animals may have become accustomed to human visitors.
Refrain from smoking on game drives. The dry African bush ignites very easily, and a flash fire can kill animals.

Basic needs for an African Safari
Most of all a desire to see, share, enjoy and participate in the many facets that Africa has to offer. A positive attitude. Average health will assist you in enjoying more of what Africa has to offer. You don’t have to be a tri – athlete or young and energetic to enjoy an African safari. In fact the majority of visitors to Africa are over the age of 50.

Obviously money is a necessity. Africa definitely follows the code of you get what you pay for. Unlike four decades ago, an African safari is now affordable to most people that have the means to travel. Rather save up for that extra year to do Africa properly, for some, it is a once in a life time experience because of cost and circumstance. It is a long way to go and there is so much to see and do, try and do it right the first time. If so, there is a very strong chance it won’t be your last visit.

Time of year

Africa is a continent of contrasting seasons, each with their own enormous personality. Depending on your particular interests each month has its reason to attract visitors. For some it may be to watch the greatest wildlife spectacle on earth, the migration of the ‘plains game’ animals in the Serengeti or Masai Mara. For others it could be the arrival of the migratory birds in the African spring. It may be the great array and display of vivid wild flowers shortly after the first rains. There are those that come to marvel at animals standing knee deep in lush, green grass in the peak of the tropical rains, such a contrast to the aridness of the dry season. For most visitors though, it is to watch and experience as many animals as possible. To do this you need to know the correct time of year.

How many visitors go to Amsterdam to see the tulips in winter or to the mountains to snow ski in summer? There are certain peak months for wildlife watching, these all differ with the positioning of each country. While Tanzania attracts thousands of tourists annually from December to February to watch the wildebeest migration in the Serengeti, Zimbabwe and Zambia close a number of lodges during these months due to heavy rains and relatively poor wildlife viewing in certain Parks at that time of year. During September and October, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia’s two driest months, animal concentrations are at their highest. At the same time of year, the Serengeti has lost more than half of its mammal population to neighbouring Kenya. They have migrated north in search of greener pastures, more abundant grazing.

Time of year is crucial if you are coming out to Africa to hopefully be part of a specific event. This may be the annual flooding of the Okavango Delta, the endless carpet of Namaqualand flowers, the animal migration in the Mkadikadi, Serengeti or Masai Mara. Tiger fishing in the Zambezi, the whales of the Garden Route, Hermanus and False Bay. If bird watching is your interest you don’t want to visit in the African winter when a third of the feathered population have winged their way to warmer climates.

Each Park has its prime months where wildlife viewing is at its best. For most first time visitors to Africa, high animal concentrations is an important requisite. Make sure you are aware of the seasons and best time of year when booking your safari. The last thing you want to hear from your various guides is that you have arrived in the ‘green season’ when animals have dispersed and the vegetation is so thick that animal watching is difficult. However there are areas in Botswana, Namibia and Kenya where wildlife is extremely rewarding during the ‘Green Season’

There are animals to be seen in Africa during every month of the year, it is the concentrations that vary. Some people are intoxicated by the presence of masses of animals everywhere you look, while other prefer to safari in the ‘off season’ when there are less tourists and one has to work hard to earn good animal sightings and the rates have been reduced. The choice is yours.

Safari Companions

For some a wildlife safari is a very personal experience. The company that they choose to share this experience will differ with each person. There are those that like to go on holiday with friends. Others prefer to be alone and make friends along the way. Group travel is appealing to a certain sector of visitors to Africa. This may be through a local Zoological or Natural History Society, with a museum, university, travel club, alumni, package tour or in the company of a famous artist, naturalist, photographer or celebrated personality.

Should you be travelling with friends, make sure that you have travelled together before. There are many people who think they know their closest friends well. Long distance travel, for an extended time into third world situations can bring out all sorts of unusual behaviour, never encountered before. There are a number of instances where undue strain and tension is placed on life long relationships when travelling together for long periods.
Make sure that the companions that you may choose to travel with are like-minded and can roll with the punches if things don’t go according to plan. The last thing you want on an expensive safari holiday is the worry of weather your friends are enjoying themselves or not. Are they happy, bored, too hot, uncomfortable, scared, unable to adapt to semi rustic conditions. Do they really want a wildlife experience as badly as you do? Are they on safari just because you talked them into joining you?

These factors can have a negative influence on your long awaited wildlife experience. Should you be travelling alone or as a couple, you will meet and befriend many fine people while on safari, often forming firm and long friendships. There is very little chance of feeling lonely or left out, Africa is an extremely friendly continent. Most the people you will meet will be involved in the tourist industry. They are outgoing and try hard to please, normally with no ulterior motive other than to ensure you feel welcome in their country.
While on a safari holiday you will meet people from all walks of life and nationality. They may be social, political and financial opposites to you, but somehow the simplicity of nature brings out the nicest side of humanity.

How long do you intend to spend in Africa? This will depend on how much leave you have available to you. How much you are prepared to spend and what your specific interests are.

The average safari is fourteen days on the ground, plus flying time from the traveller’s country of origin. There is so much to see and experience in Africa, it is a long distance to travel from other continents, which is why few people come for less than two weeks. There are a number of people that safari for up to six weeks.

If you are planning a lengthy safari try to break it up into sections of wildlife, culture and comfort. It is hard to believe, but too many days of game viewing can burn the average person out on their appreciation of wildlife. Some folk become bored and disinterested in all the ‘usual stuff’, this being anything but a lion kill, a leopard draped over an exposed tree limb or a pack of wild dogs on a hunt. When planning a long safari try to break the wildlife viewing up with a visit for a few days to an area that may be renowned for its rock art, spectacular scenery, ancient ruins, tribal village visits, traditional healers, farm stays, hiking trails or adventure. This may be white water rafting, kayaking, mountain biking, bungi jumping or horse riding.

After a break of a few days from animal interactions they will be missed, the peace and quiet of expansive safari areas, early morning safari drives, animal experiences, fireside evenings, solitude and close relationships that one develops in small safari camps. As you change safari countries and visit different National Parks, you will encounter new species of animal with each habitat change. You will experience new cultures and traditions.
Many safaris are broken up with a few days at a spectacle like Victoria Falls. Alternatively it may be a camel safari in the desert regions of Kenya. You may be exposed to life in the ‘Old Stone Town’ of Zanzibar, infamous as the slaving centre of Africa.

A number of lengthy safaris terminate with a week or two of luxurious decadence at a coastal or island resort. Taking the opportunity to relax and soak in the warm rays of the African sun on squeaky clean white sands. Snorkel or scuba dive among rich coral reefs. For some it may be a few days in Cape Town enjoying the culture shock after a safari as they blend into the life of a bustling waterfront, crowded beaches, noisy restaurants and classic Cape Dutch wine farms. For others it may be a journey on a luxury steam train or a hire car to explore the Garden Route of South Africa?

Africa has so much to offer; animal rich Parks, jungle forests, open savannah, mountains, deserts, massive rivers, huge lakes, waterfalls, bustling cities, diverse cultures, sunny beaches and friendly people. If you have the time, funds and inclination, create an exciting itinerary that will have sufficient diversity to keep your interests and senses well stimulated.

How many countries should you visit? Most people visit up to three countries on a two week safari, although two countries is the average. This may be a combination of Kenya and Tanzania or Botswana, Namibia and South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana. There are a host of combinations; they all revolve around the travellers varied interests.

Try not to visit too many countries in a short space of time. Each country has so much to offer the safari traveller. Try to savour and enjoy all the opportunities that each country has to offer, rather than a fleeting taste.

Safari Time
How long should you spend in each camp? Endeavour to spend no less than three nights in each safari camp. Many an inexperienced tour operator will create an itinerary of two nights in each area. This does not give you enough time to get the feel of your new surroundings and understand its rhythms.
When only spending two nights in a camp, you will invariably arrive around midday (all being well, no flight or transfer delays). You will hopefully arrive in time to experience an afternoon safari activity. The next day will present you with a morning and afternoon safari. The following day you may have the time for an early outing before connecting with your transfer to your next safari camp. In reality this will have only given you one full day to appreciate all that the area has to offer.

Wilderness areas are not like museums, the exhibits are not on permanent show, they are wild and unregulated by man. They operate on their own free will. Hunger, thirst and weather dictate their movements. By spending at least three nights at each camp you then have the opportunity to enjoy two full days of exploring and animal viewing.

There are a number of camps with a variety of safari activities. These may range from walks with an armed guide, game drives in open four wheel drive vehicles, cruises on well designed pontoon boats, canoeing and makoro (dug out canoe) expeditions, fishing, well sited wildlife viewing hides, night drives to watch nocturnal animals under the powerful beam of a filtered light. Visits to ancient rock art sites. Cultural excursions to nearby villages and schools. There may be the chance to view animals from a balloon, micro-lite or horse back. Imagine arriving at a camp with this many safari activities (and they do exist) to only spend two nights? The longer you spend in an area the more you will see and begin to comprehend its ecology and personality.

A safari is not to be rushed, take a lesson from the animals. Take your time watching, smelling and living. For them it is called survival, for you it is called holiday.

Book well in Advance
How long in advance should you place your safari booking?
A safari is a special experience. Each safari unique in its own way, impossible to replicate, often expensive and long awaited.

Don’t leave it too late to book your safari dates. There is a very strong chance that you will be disappointed and find the camps and safari operators of first choice are already full. When taking such a specialized holiday, don’t settle for second best, there could be such a gap in the experience. For those that want to go with the best safari operators at the prime time of year, bookings should be made at least two years in advance

Shopping Around
By all means shop around with a number of tour operators. Compare their knowledge, rates and service. A word of advice, don’t be a fence sitter and book through two operators, hoping to hedge you bets with a better rate from the one or a better guide that the other may be able to access.

Although Africa may seem a long way in distance and development, it is only a few seconds away by email. It does not take long for a safari operator or lodge in Africa to pick up a double booking of the same name over the same dates from two different tour operators. The tour operators will be informed of this double booking by the African safari operator or lodge reservationists and you will be put in the embarrassing position of being asked to make up your mind on who you would like to book with. You don’t really want to arrive in Africa well known by all, for this reason.

When comparing costs with another tour operator make sure you are comparing apples with apples and that the itineraries are much the same.

Photography and Equipment
Gone are the days when a tourist came on safari with a box brownie and cini camera. These days you seldom encounter a camera that does not have self-wind film and automatic ASA settings. Its incredible to see the advancements that are being made in the photographic world of today. This area of the hi tech industry is forging ahead in leaps and bounds.

Digital is now the rage. It is amazing to watch guests download the scenes of their morning’s game drive onto a powerful lap top computer, while seated at the breakfast table overlooking a waterhole, deep in the wilderness of Africa. Bemused camp staff and guests gather around the screen in awe, as they relive the settings and animals that were captured on a digital chip only minutes ago. The frames that don’t fit into the ‘accepted’ category by the modern tourist are deleted to the recycle bin. Should a phone link be close at hand, friends and family, on the opposite side of the world, can appreciate the highlights of the game drive at their breakfast table, that same day!!
Today’s, modern safari tourist, comes armed with a small digital point and press camera, plus, digital video camera that can also double up as a still camera from a small flick of the thumb. This camera can take flash photos at night or utilise its infrared facilities. It is not uncommon to see a guest scuffle around in a large camera case while on a night drive, only to produce a set of infra red, night binoculars. Showing all before them as clear as day, in a green hue.

Large quantities of highly expensive equipment are brought out on safari by a growing number of visitors these days
The basic camera equipment you should initially aim at acquiring are if not digital or video is:
# an SLR (single lens reflex) camera.
# a telephoto lens, 300mm zoom if possible.
# a good sturdy mono-pod
# a wide angle, zoom lens of between 24mm and 75 mm. There are a number of good pirate lenses that are not quite as expensive as the lenses that match your make of camera.
# camera flash
# 500mm mirror or telephoto lens.
# Tripod
# Second camera body, compatible with all your lenses.
# Macro lens for flowers and insects.
# A waterproof “Pelican” case for taking good care of your camera equipment.
# A jewellers screwdriver set for emergency camera maintenance and repair work.
# A large “puffer” for blowing out dust from cameras and lenses. [A handy tip is to buy one of these massive douching puffers and keep it in your room. These are obtainable at a chemist and are the best for getting dust out of those tight corners.]
If you have to make a choice between investing in a great camera body or a great camera lens, rather spend a little bit less on the camera body and spend more on the lens to get a better quality lens. A “better” lens is generally a “faster lens” with a wider aperture to allow you to photograph more in low light situations. I would suggest a well-known brand of lens like Canon or Nikon, with an “f” stop as close to 2.8 as your budget will allow.

The choice of film is enormous. The first choice is to determine if you are going to choose prints vs slides film. The next choice is brand name and then the speed of the film

Most serious photographers do not use print film, as one can always make a print from a slide if you want to make a print for a photo for an album. Prints are only good for people who want to keep a family photo albums etc. One can buy print film with an ASA reading of 200 or 400 and get quite good photographs from low light situations which show little grain in your photograph. The same ASA speed film in slides are usually too grainy for any real use, especially if you want to produce a book at some stage in your life or sell some of your slides.

[ASA refers to the “speed” of the film and is marked clearly on the film’s box and on the film itself. The higher ASA rating or number, the “faster” the film…i.e. you can photograph more easily in low light situations. The more you increase the ASA of your film, the more light the film will absorb. This in turn allows you to shoot at faster shutter speeds, resulting in less blurred images. However the down side for this, is that there is more grain on the photograph and less clarity and colour in faster films. So most professional photographers will seldom shoot slide film at more than 100ASA.

Slide Film
Slides produce images which can be screened and shown to small and large audiences; used in brochures and in adverts (i.e. can be sold); used in books etc. At a smallish cost, prints can also be made from slides if you want a memento for your album.

The same ASA rules apply for slide film as for print film. Don’t go for high ASA film. The only time this will be good for you is when the light has almost gone and you are witnessing a phenomenal late afternoon scene.
I would recommend that you use Fuji Provia 100ASA slide film. For the best grain and quality use Velvia. This is a great quality film that has the best colours for the outdoors.

Insurance and Cancellations
One of the most significant areas of any form or travel these days is to purchase ‘travel insurance’. This form of cover is not expensive when compared with the amount you will be outlaying for your air ticket, safari experience, camera equipment, film and developing.

Travel insurance is of vital importance to protect your deposit or full payment, should you have to cancel for health or personal reasons. If you are forced to cancel your booking within six weeks of departure there is a strong chance that you will be liable for up to a 100% cancellation fees. This is a large amount of money to forfeit. It can cause awkward situations for you, your travel agent, tour operator and the ground operators in Africa. You may ask for a refund of as much of your payment as possible. The safari operator is quite within their rights not to comply with this. They have strict cancellation policies and ask their agents to ensure that their clients are made well aware of these and that they all hold travel insurance. Your request for a refund could put your agent or tour operator in a difficult position with the African operator with whom they may have a long and strong working relationship.

Cancellation Fees
You may wonder why the safari operator enforces a 100% cancellation fee? Take a small safari camp of sixteen beds, many of which are only open for eight months of the year. During this period, four months may be sold at low season rates and the remaining four months are peak season. Prime time bookings are normally placed two years in advance.

Let’s say that you and your partner have booked to safari with your two teenage children during one of the most popular months. Your booking of four people will be taking up a quarter of the camps available bed nights for the duration of your planned stay. During the course of the two years that your booking is held, other agents will be trying to access space for their respective clients. When told that the camp of their choice is full, they will source space at another camp of similar standards. In reality your booking has turned potential business away, often to a competitor camp.

Very few people book for such an expensive and detailed safari holiday only four weeks before departure. A safari is normally planned well in advance as most travellers know that it is difficult to acquire space at camps with good reputations during peak season. You cancel your booking five weeks before arrival because your mother has become critically ill. There is very little chance that the safari operators that you were booked with will be able to fill those four beds at such short notice. They remain empty and loose out on one quarter of their total revenue for each night that you were due to spend with them. In reality you are asking the safari operator to refund your payment because of your mother in laws illness? Travel insurance alleviates all of this stress and unpleasantness.

There are a number of other positive factors to travel insurance. Should your baggage be lost en route, you will be refunded for the value that you insured it for. Theft or loss of expensive camera equipment will be covered. In the event that an airline with whom you are flying is delayed and you miss out on part of your safari, you will be compensated.

Medical Insurance
Ensure that your travel insurance covers all medical expenses and casualty evacuation by air or ambulance. Many reputable safari camps have medical air rescue cover for all their paying guests. Despite this, it is still advisable for you to be covered medically by your own insurance. An accident may occur when you are not in the hands of a safari operator. It is short sighted to travel without medical insurance in Africa.

If you anticipate an insurance claim upon your return, be sure to document as accurately as possible any accident, injury or loss. Doctor’s notes and police reports will aid any claim.

Medical Advice
Good preparation can mean the difference between an inconvenient illness and a life threatening sickness.

A pre trip checklist for travellers should include the following:
A medical checkup prior to their tour.
Travel with relevant medical history and documentation - e.g: recent ECG
Special medical facts should be on record
Medic Alert bracelet is always helpful
Pre-trip dental check up.
Travel with a good stock of any current medication that is presently being taken.
A spare pair of glasses
Immunisations should be up to date and administered well before the trip e.g: Tetanus toxoid, Hepatitis A, Influenza.
Cholera, Typhoid, Yellow fever and Meningococcal immunizations are frequently required in some African countries.
A Rabies immunization may need to be considered.
N.B. Hepatitis B and HIV virus infections are common in Africa. Beware.

One of the most important aspects of prevention is Malaria prophylaxis.
There are simple measures that can be taken to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. Mosquitoes feed mainly at night and the following steps should be instituted as dusk approaches, and kept in action until dawn:
Wear long sleeved shirts and long trousers.
Apply insect repellent. The most effective contain DEET.
The living and sleeping area should be sprayed with insecticides and mosquito coils can also be used.
The use of mosquito nets should be mandatory.
The Malaria parasite, particularly Plasmodium falciparim, has become resistant to many of the older medications. The current prophylactic treatment medications are frequently changing and vary in different areas. Therefore current advice must be obtained from experts on Malaria. Local medical practitioners (especially in USA and Europe) are not always aware of the changing medical requirements. The British Airways Travel Clinic is always easily accessible and is an up to date source of information, as is the Internet.

Prophylactic medication currently in use could be either Mefloquine (Lariam) or a combination of Proguanil (Paludrine) and Chloroquine (Daramal) or else Doxycycline (Doxycyl). Newer preparations include Malaron and Co-Artan.
Whichever medication the tourist is advised to take it should be started one week prior to entering the Malaria area, continued during the duration of the stay and continued for 4 weeks after exit from the area.

Personal First Aid check list
Visitors should be advised to have with them a simple and basic First Aid kit which could include the following:.
Malaria prophylaxis tablets
Insect repellent - spray and roll on
Imodium for Gastro-enteritis
Stemetil/Valoid for nausea
Simple Analgesics - Paracetamol, Paracetamol-Codiene and perhaps an Antiinflammatory.
Sunblock lotion and roll-on
Dark glasses
Their own current medication
Current contraceptives
One course of antibiotics - e.g: Amoxil.
Antiseptic cream
Antihistamine cream
Micropore plaster
Band Aid strips

Visa and Health Requirements
Ensure, well in advance that all members of your party have valid passports. Check with your travel agent, tour operator or the relevant embassy or high commission what the visa requirements are to enter each country on your safari itinerary. It is always advisable to obtain a visa well in advance. This will save time and stress on arrival. Then last thing that you need after a long flight is to be kept waiting for bureaucratic officialdom to lethargically process your visa.

If you are entering a country more than once, ensure that your visa covers you for multiple entries. After your passport is retuned to you with the relevant visas, double check that all the entry dates are correct and that the duration of your visit equals that of your time allowed in each specific country. In the event that human error has crept in and your dates are incorrect, you may have difficulties while on safari. The object is to have a hassle free holiday, without the stresses that international travel can present at the most inopportune time.

A number of African countries have various health requirements for visitors. These especially apply to the East African countries of Tanzania and Kenya. They range from yellow fever to cholera vaccinations. Once you have been inoculated, ensure that your clinic has stamped your health book with the appropriate stamp. The various inoculations must be given at least ten days before arrival.
Check with your relevant embassy on all the up to date health requirements for each country that you intend to visit.
Booking Conditions and Acceptance on a Safari
Please ensure that you are aware of all booking conditions. If you do not have a copy of this, please ask your agent. Your travelling on the safari implies acceptance of these conditions.

It is very important that you drink plenty of water especially during the warmer months. It is generally recommended that guests drink at least 2 to 3 litres (4 to 6 pints) of water per day to limit the effects of dehydration. This excludes tea, coffee and alcoholic beverages, which act as diuretics and can actually contribute to dehydration.

Generally, water throughout Southern Africa is safe to drink directly from the tap. However, bottled water is readily available, so please do not allow yourself to become dehydrated.

Tipping is not compulsory. If, however, you want to tip because you have received good service, below is a brief guideline to assist you

Camp, Game Lodge and Specialist Guides
If the guide has done a good job, we recommend US$5 per guest per day.The General Safari Camp / Lodge Staff
Here we recommend about US$3 per guest per day for safari camps. This should be placed in the communal tipping box to be distributed equally amongst all the staff at a later stage
Hotel Staff
Allow between $1 and $2 per guest per day for hotel staff ie housekeeping etc
Here we recommend about US$1 per person per movement.
Mokoro Paddlers and Trackers It is recommend that each paddler and/or receive US$3 per guest per day.
Transfer and Touring Driver/guides
Transfer $1 per person
Half day tour $3 per person
Full day tour $5 per personRestaurants / Hotels
10% is customary on meal accounts but only if you are satisfied with the service.

Flight Check In Times

Please check in early at all airports (at least one hour prior for domestic flights, three hours for all flights to the USA and two hours for regional and other international flights) as the flights are occasionally overbooked. Please be aware that during peak season, delays are often encountered on scheduled flights. Remember that you are on holiday ... relax and enjoy the ambience, which sometimes has no sense of urgency at all!

Reconfirming Flights
Please ensure that all your onward flights are reconfirmed at least 72 hours prior to flying.

Following is a list of suggested items to bring on your holiday. Please bear in mind the luggage restrictions of 12kg (26lbs) on light aircraft transfers and 20kg (44lbs) on scheduled airline flights

Suggested Luggage List
1. Good quality sunglasses - preferably polarized. Tinted fashion glasses are not good in strong light
2. Sun hat
3. Golf-shirts, T-shirts and long-sleeved cotton shirts
4. Shorts/skirts
5. Long trousers/slacks
6. Track suit
7. More formal attire for your stay at prestigious city hotels or on one of the luxury trains.
8. Underwear (sports bra recommended on game drives as the roads can be bumpy and uneven) and socks
9. Good walking shoes (running/tennis shoes are fine)
10. Sandals
11. Swimming costume
12. Warm winter jersey
13. Warm Anorak or Parka and scarf / gloves for the cold winter months (May to September)
14. Light rain gear for summer months
15. Camera equipment and plenty of film
16. If you wear contact lenses, it is recommend that you bring along a pair of glasses in case you get irritation from the dust
17. BINOCULARS – ESSENTIAL (Night vision binoculars are not essential but highly recommended if your safari includes night activities)
18. A good bird book if you are a keen birder
19. Personal toiletries (basic amenities supplied by most establishments)
20. Malaria tablets (if applicable)
21. Moisturizing cream & suntan lotion
22. Insect repellent e.g. Tabard, Rid, Jungle Juice, etc
23. Basic medical kit as listed above
24. Tissues/"Wet Ones"
25. Visas, tickets, passports, money etc
26. Waterproof/dustproof bags/cover for your cameras.
Please note that bright colours and white are NOT advised whilst on safari

What is a Holiday?
Humans possibly spend more of their fantasy time thinking about their next holiday than any other fantasy. It may be a romantic, adventurous, cultural, social or plain relaxing holiday that they dream about. Why not? Many people work extremely hard for at least eleven months of the year to earn one month’s leave. Holidays are the obvious pleasure that we all look forward to each year, a time to spoil ourselves, explore and realise dreams.

Holidays rejuvenate us and afford us the opportunity to slow down and bring our lives into perspective, evaluate ourselves. Spend quality time with our family and loved ones. Broaden our horizons, learn more about our fellow man, nature, how to laugh and smile, genuinely.The average person who works hard for five days a week and eleven months of each year, will be rewarded with 20 working days leave. Remember you have put in a lot of sweat, toil and stress for eleven working days to earn one days leave. Before you begin to tally up the costs of air fares, accommodation, food and entertainment of a holiday, don’t forget that each days leave is equivalent to eleven days accumulated salary! These hard earned days are very precious. This does not mean that the more you pay for a holiday, the more you will enjoy it. You may want to spend time among the simplicity of nature, hiking, camping, skiing, biking, horse riding, snorkeling, sailing etc.

Wherever a holiday destination may be too, you hold the key to open some of the most memorable experiences that life will afford you. If it is to be a safari holiday to Africa, plan it wisely.