I am between semesters, so it’s good not have homework this weekend. Friends and coworkers have asked about my adventures in Tanzania, Africa (Djibouti Feb. 2011- Mar 2012; Tanzania November 2011) as well as some of the [NR] members. I thought I would start a new thread about my lessons learned in Africa. I think it would be helpful to those who may be planning a trip. If you bought too much gear this year, you will have to sit it out another year.
I was fortunate enough to be already working in Djibouti. Already being on the continent helps out tremendously on airfare. Airfare from the states will be at least 60-70% of your total cost. When I had priced the same trip from the states (2011) it was in the $11,000 range. From Djibouti with a group of 19 people we lucked out with individual prices of about $2,000 each, two weeks (travel included).
The Lodges we stayed at were:
1. Lake Manyara Serena Lodge (http://www.serenahotels.com/serenalakemanyara/default-en.html
2. Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge (http://www.sopalodges.com/ngorongoro/home.html
3. Serengeti Serena Lodge (http://www.serenahotels.com/serenaserengeti/default-en.html
*PARAMOUNT- Please check your local embassy or state department on conditions in the country you wish to visit and if your Government has restrictions in place for its citizens visiting those countries of interest in Africa. Additionally, educate yourself about visa conditions and requirements.*
1. Travel as light as possible. Light shirts and a pull over for night. No bright colors. No sandals. Have enough room in your bag to bring back souvenirs. Don’t bring all of your gear. Listen to Spraynpray, “Use what you've got and stop whining!” I had a small carry on that fits in the overhead and a back pack. That’s it. Gear to consider: a proven ROBUST monopod; telephoto lens and maybe a prime for those sunsets and close-ups; batteries and that battery grip if you’re a DX user(correct outlet adapter Europe two round pin: CEE 7/7 and Africa heavy three prong: BS 1363 (Type G) I am sure your Nikon battery charger is dual voltage but double check; get a local SIMM card for your GSM phone (once you arrive in Tanzania); enough memory media (about 500T should do it! ); Sunblock and a good hat.
2. You will need cash. ATM’s are scarce. Your charge card will pretty much only see use at the hotels/lodges. Credit card fraud is high in East Africa be careful. Tell your credit/charge card company about your future travels, locations and times. Once you land at the Kilimanjaro Airport, you will have to pay for your visa on the spot cash only. There is a cash exchange kiosk in the airport. Kilimanjaro also has (had at Nov. 2011) good Tanzanite prices.
3. If you transfer through the Nairobi Airport, Kenya, everything is overpriced! Buy your souvenirs once you get in to Tanzania. They are much cheaper. However, buy a cup of coffee! Very good coffee!~O)
4. Buy two pocket ponchos. One for you and one for your camera and lens, $5 total! Best insurance policy. Speaking of insurance put your gear on your home owner’s policy or buy a separate policy that will cover your gear if you ruin it or someone else ruins it.
5. Keep a log or journal of your day when you get back to your lodge for the night. Internet is scarce and/or expensive to use. Don’t stay up late. Excursions start early, for my trip they were at 7am every day.
6. If you see something your guide/driver does not see tell them to stop. And if within the park rules, go in closer. Our guide had one heck of an eagle eye.
7. Visit the Maasai. About half of our group chose not to go. It was an awesome experience to see their culture and to talk to them. They love wrist watches. Bring a good quality watch you can part with. It goes a long way with them and you might be able to trade for that cool souvenir.
I look forward to your comments.