What I packed – Photographer – Africa – 2017

Check out my Amazon page for gear that I personally use and products similar to those I pack on my travels (many of which are listed below).

As a photographer, my priorities for travelling always have been photography first. This time around for a safari adventure in Africa, I left my North Face Basecamp Duffel behind and replaced it with the Victorinox VX Touring Wheeled 2-in-1 carry-on as my main luggage. I used the PRVKE bag by WANDRD as my personal camera bag. I am still not a big fan of wheeled luggage but this hybrid wheeled duffel bag was an interesting one to test out. Follow the link to see my review on the Victorinox VX Touring Wheeled 2-in-1 carry-on.

Going to South Africa and going on a safari – less is more. On the safari, you are travelling with a medium size group of people and a laptop is more of an inconvenience than anything else. Unfortunately, my 120mm Twin Lense film camera had to be left at home (especially with an addition of a sleeping bag). Africa can be hot but when the sun goes down, the temperature dips. Black & Blue clothing attract tsetse flies so avoid wearing those colours. Northern parts of Africa are quite conservative so be aware that tights/leggings & revealing tank tops won’t do in the city or small villages (shoulders and knees should be covered). While on safari, you can wear whatever you feel like but in terms of colour, stick to neutrals so you can blend into the environment. White will only get dirty so the colours you should try to stick to are greys, greens, browns. In terms of fabrics, dry-fit and light linens are ideal and layering is key (I hate layering). We were given opportunity during our trip to do our own laundry and hang it to dry.

*We were given slightly wrong information in terms of what we needed to pack. Our friend had previously done Northern Africa, which encompasses more Muslims thus more conservative. Southern Africa is not as conservative meaning shorts and tank tops are the more appropriate attire. Marked in BOLD are clothing or items that weren’t needed or I didn’t use and also important information.

 

Africa Packing List

14 days

Wearing onto Plane

1 pair of pants (Uniqlo Easy Legging Pants)

1 tank+sports bra

1 hoodie

1 sneakers

1 pair of socks

1 pair of underwear

 

PRVKE 21 (personal bag – camera bag)

1 Nikon D750

1 28mm lense

1 150-500mm lense – Wish I had the 50-500mm for more versatility BUT highly recommended a lense of 300mm+ for game drives or a teleconvertor

4 Nikon batteries

1 Nikon charger

1 GoPro

3 GoPro batteries

1 GoPro charger

1 Earphones

1 Mogics – travel adaptor power bar – MAKE SURE TO HAVE THE APPROPRIATE OUTLETS (Type D, M, N & G – 3 prongs – flat and also circle)

USB cables (external USB 3.0 & MicroUSB)

Gnarboxnot needed

Astrolapin

Memory cards (5 64GB & 6 128GB SD cards)

Eyedrops (Rohto 40a from Japan is my preference – menthol) Good to have eyedrops for those safari game drives

Flashlight / Headlamp – Needed for camping at night

Rainjacket

Tilly hat

Passport

Currency – USD/ Euro

Wallet

Money Belt

Malaria Pills

Lozenges

Water bottle – Collapsible Waterbottle from MEC

Wet wipes / Toilet Paper

Nuun – electrolyte tablets

 

Victorinox VX Touring Wheeled 2-in-1 carry-on (my carry-on/check-in bag)

Deflated balls + ball pump (2 reg size vball and soccer ball + 1 mini soccer ball – to give to locals)

1 Toothbrush

1 pairs of Contacts + 3 single use

1.5 travel size Solution – Clear Care

2 in 1 shampoo

1 Body wash

1 Lotion

1 Tigerbalm

1 tweezers

1 nail clippers

5 pairs of socks (I wore flip flops majority of the time. Used shoes twice for bushwalks and for God’s Window stairs)

3 sports bra

1 bra (didn’t use)

9 pairs of underwear (if doing laundry regularly, not that many needed)

4 light weight pants (2 elephant pants – leaving 1 behind)

5 tanks

2 shirt (only 1 used)

PJ’s (1 shirt, 1 shorts) (didn’t need – showered and wore what I would wear the following day to bed)

1 button-up (didn’t need)

2 Long sleeve (only 1 needed)

1 buff (not needed – can be used as a headband)

1 small towel (used for pillow on top of clothing compartment bag)

1 pack towel (micro fiber quick drying is clutch)

1 Matador packable backpack

Bug spray – try to purchase from the country you are going to as the chemicals are targeted to local insects

Sunscreen

Rope & Clothing pins – on safari you will have opportunity to do your own laundry

1 selfie stick (also use as a monopod) (did not use)

1 flip flops

1 MEC  Sleeping Bag (needed for safari)

 

 

 

Overview – On The Go Tours – 12 Days – Vic Falls to Joburg

Overall of On The Go Tours

I booked the 12 days Victoria falls to Joburg with 3 of my friends when we spotted the 2-for-1 tour special deal come up back in November. On the Go Tours happens to have a 2-for-1 tour sale a few times a year for a week or two (Mid- January, end of March/beginning of April & end of October/ beginning of November).

We booked through Flight Centre but found it difficult to communicate with our travel agent in regards to more information about our tour that our tour guide could answer. In order for us to fully book our trip, we had to go back and forth in terms of emailing to find out information such as the end destination in which we would finish in Johannesburg to book accommodations and timing of arrival to plan further travels.

Airport transfer from VGA to the first accommodation is provided with the tour cost. We stayed at Shearwater Explorer Village. It is here that you can get your bearings and meet your tour group before starting the tour. On the Go Tours is represented by ATC (African Tour Company) who locally run the tours. The Trip notes come in very handy. Our guide Will went over the excursions list and updated us with prices and what was and wasn’t included in the tour price. This timeframe in Vic Falls seemed to also be the only time you can freely explore markets for souvenirs that we found on our trip during the tour.

This is a budget tour where there are shared duties that rotate such as helping prep meals, washing dishes and sweeping the bus. There are also ice-purchasing responsibilities that rotate. Accommodations during the tour are tents (shared by 2 people) that are the responsibility of said pair and designated for the entire duration of the tour. It is a decent paced tour where you stay at each destination for at most 2 nights thus the tents must be put up and taken down almost everyday and packed back into the truck. All the accommodations are on camping sites with majority of them having wifi (not in Delta), swimming pools, shower and toilet facilities. A few even have volleyball courts (3 of them!) There is also a chance to upgrade into lodges (for a small price) if you want a break from setting up and sleeping in a tent.

The truck is large and can hold up to 30 people. The main seating area requires climbing a few steps (with help of a step ladder) to get on and off the truck. There is an 8 person seating area in the front sitting sideways with a table to play games. There is also a second area with a table (4 seater) and the rest are 2 seaters. The truck also has a communal cooler that people are able to keep their drinks cold. The truck does not have A/C but many windows and no wifi or toilets. The truck features 2 locked safety boxes and large luggage storage below amongst other compartments. During the evenings at each campsite, a charging station is created in the truck to recharge phones and cameras.

On this tour, we had Frans as our driver, Clive as our cook and Will da Beast as our guide. All the staff was very friendly and treated everyone with respect and courtesy never being impatient with any of the guests. They all had a fun humour about them too. Frans drove us safely to all our destinations on time and avoided as many potholes to make our ride smooth. Clive provided us with meals (Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner) however, some meals could have more thought put into them for the price we paid. Breakfast was always yogurt, cereal and burnt toast (majority of the time), options for fruit were scarce and lunch/packed lunches could have been better (rice, spam with peas and cheese and DIY sandwiches are lacklustre). Will was a fountain of knowledge answering all questions thrown his way and made the whole experience that much better.

I wish we had more days where our stops weren’t in malls but I completely understand that those stops were also time for the staff to go grocery shopping for us and for our safety sake. There were a few days (long drive days and early arrivals) where I wish we had options to leave the campsite to explore the local areas.

I found the only time we had to do souvenir shopping at markets was only at the beginning in Vic falls. I wish we had more opportunities to interact with locals or stop at locations that give back to the community for our pitstops. I would definitely recommend this tour to my friends. I hopefully will return to Africa one day.

Palapye, Botswana – Polokwane, South Africa, Africa 2017 – Day 10-11

12/09-10/17

12/09/17

We had a 6AM wake up call before hitting the road once again for a long haul drive. We switched up the seating in the truck. We traded and took over the smaller 4 person table and played cards. First time playing gin rummy for me. We literally played for 7-8 hours with only 2 stops. Frans needed to open the cabin and fix the the pipe as it became exposed. Our last pitstop was at a gas station with a newly opened Nando’s.

Arriving in Palapye, we stayed at Camp Itumela which probably had the best wifi spanning the entire campsite. The main reception area had a courtyard that held the main pool, tree top like patio and further in, the bar and more lounging areas as well as a playground.

This campsite also features a pig and 2 goats as well as roaming dogs, cats, chickens and peacocks. There are 2 outdoor toilets and showers but also an indoor toilet and shower facility. There is also a volleyball court mind you the size was more of a badminton court and had metal poles as the court and middle line. The net was also really floppy and low. After dinner we played a few rounds. Word of advice, don’t chase after it outside the court as immediately or if the perimeters, the ground is less cared for and rocks and other jagged things await. Clive was telling us that in his 2 years with ATC, he has never seen anyone actually use the volleyball courts that are available.

Majority of the other people on the campsite work in the nearby energy plant as engineers building turbines. These engineers come from around the world – Netherlands, South Africa, Thailand etc.

Sarah had heard from Will that there was a local club nearby which she wanted to check out so we decided to go. Clive was originally going to accompany us but it was getting late so we made arrangements with two of the bar staff – G and Benny who were willing to take us. Benny’s fiance Charity also joined us.

We ended up walking to Wamzito night club which is the only club in town. All ages it seemed for only 20 Pula entry fee. The bars in Palapye close at 11PM everyday are aren’t allowed to serve alcohol past that time so they all come from the bar to the club. The club opens at 11PM which is the time we arrived. Pretty dead for the first hour but then the crowd slowly but surely filled out. The music playing was house music (not really my cup of tea) and we stayed on the couch for a little while. We were definitely the minority in the club and had many people come up to us just to shake our hands. We danced for a bit and we wanted to walk back but G kept telling us we shouldn’t. Luckily enough Benny and Charity hadn’t left yet and drove us back. I can definitely say Sarah was the life of the party that night with her dance moves and got her photo and video taken by/with the locals. There was a row of food being sold on the side of the road but the rules of the road were out the door with 3-4 lanes trying to find parking at the club leaving us stuck just outside the club for a long period of time. We got back to the camp and showered around 130-2AM and went to bed.

12/10/17

Another 5 hours in the truck to get to our next destination in South Africa.  We crossed the Botswana border to enter South Africa. Pretty quick and easy. The river divides the Botswana and South Africa but also two other countries.

South Africa info

-Population of 56 Billion

-South Africa is still under dictatorship.

-There are 11 official languages – 9 that are African

-SA in the Iron age was gold trading with China

  • -In the 1400’s Europeans & Portuguese wanted to use Africa as a route to trade with China

-The Dutch came in the 1600’s in persecution.

-The French came down and brought wine and formed the African culture of wine

-The British came and colonized and pushed the Dutch inland in 1820s

-Union of South Africa Cape created the Orange free state and Transvaal where the Dutch inherited the apartheid with white segregation 50-70s

-Cape Town was the first to be explored.

-Johannesburg was a gold mining town and is the largest city in the world not sitting near water

-The Blacks, Indians and Chinese were categorized and segregated by race

-These ethnicities lives in the township of Soweto which meant South West township

-They were issued a dog pass that they had to use to get into the city with curfews and segregated in all walks of life (bathrooms, buses etc)

-Mixed race people would be put into prison as black and white weren’t allowed to procreate

-1976 massacre saw 176 students killed as students from the Soweto township protested against the Apartheid.

-In schools, students must learn Afrikaans languages.

-With the Soweto uprising – The English, Canadians and Australians shut down trading with South Africa

-Only by 1980’s the trading started again.

-In 1994, South Africa became a democracy and Nelson Mandela became the first president of South Africa.

-South Africa holds the Guinness World Records for having 2 Nobel peace prize awarded

-The population is comprised of 80% black and 20% white

-Gay marriage was put into law early on

-South Africa is slowly balancing it out with the government giving more incentive for Black owned companies

-The 1995 movie Invictus shows us how two South African men – Nelson Mandela & Francois Pienaar united a country using Soccer / Rugby.

-The South African flag features a sideways Y which represents people coming together – The rainbow nation.

-South Africa is the largest producers of platinum in the world. They also mine Chromium and Angston

-80% of the country is run on coal

-East coast cities like Durban have warm tropical beaches

-West coast cities have cold climate linked by deserts

-Cape Town rainy climate

-South Africa has so many different ecosystems within it’s country

-It has the 2nd largest population of Indian outside of india

-Unemployment is high

-The language of Afrikaans is a mix of Dutch, Belgian, German, French & Flemish

 

After 5 hours of travelling, we arrived in Polokwane, South Africa. We stopped by the mall for an hour lunch so the staff could go grocery shopping for the next few days. The girls and myself shared 4 pies from King Pie. NOTE – The bureau and alcohol stores are closed on Sundays. Unlike many places I’ve visited, it is very strange to be in a place where black and white people and some Indian are the norm however being an Asian person is a rarity. The staring is not subtle at all. We hopped back into the truck and stayed the night at Boma in the Bush. The camping property is quite large but no wifi and the bar is situated in the house of the owner. The water pressure for the showers was the best thus far of the trip.

It was my day to do cooking prep in the rotation. The sky started turning darker as we prepped and the temperature dropped significantly. Rain was coming. After prepping, we did a little bit of a yoga session lead by Lisa pre-dinner before it started to rain. We had free time and I honestly didn’t know what to do with myself. The girls ended up by the pool reading and catching up on their journaling and the rest were napping or at the bar.

For dinner, we had beef stroganoff and vegetables. The kitchen had covered grounds with a fridge and outlets so we just hung out there into the night as one by one we all went to shower. We ended up staying up until 11PM chatting away after dinner with Alberto about life and the tour itself and how expensive it was to fly out of Costa Rica.

There was a crazy amount of lightning and thunder overnight. The clothes I was regretting to have brought (long sleeves and pants) came in handy in that moment.

Elephant Sands – Nata, Botswana, Africa 2017 – Day 6

12/05/17

Botswana info

-2 million population

  • -It is one of the least corrupt countries

-Tourism is the 2nd biggest industry

-Botswana people are more reserved but friendly

-Kasane and Okavango Delta are the last areas where elephants can migrate and run freely

-The Zebra is the national animal – unifying with it’s black and white

  • -The death penalty still exists

-One of the only countries in Africa not colonized by England because 75% is desert and very dry

-In 1966, Botswana gained independence and just celebrated their 50th anniversary

-The 1st President Sir Seretse Khama married a white woman named Ruth Williams. It was illegal for black and white to marry and they were exiled to England. They returned after the Apartheid as the 1st president.

-The blue in the flag is water which means wealth.

-Beef production is one of the main commodity in Botswana

-Mining production was the fastest growing production in the whole world back in 70’s & 80’s along with diamond, iron and copper

Setswana is their main language. Here are some phrases:

Du mella ma (female) ra (male) – hello

LA guy – how are you

GA taing – I’m fine

Kea la bogaa ma – thank you

Kea rata – I love you

Muntle – beautiful

Muna – single man

Buna – 2 or more men

 

Our wake up time was for 8AM and it was actually quite mild outside. We had cereal, baked beans and sandwiches for breakfast. All packed up and from Chobe to Nata we went. On the road side, we were able to spot elephants and giraffes. Very unusual for us to see these animals alongside the road and having to stop as they cross the road. We played Bananagrams, spot it and Yuker (still can’t fully get the grasp of it).

Our accommodation for the night in Nata was Elephant sands. At Elephant Sands, you can upgrade your lodging for an extra 40USD to a cabin with a balcony facing the watering hole in the centre. We set up our tents right by the barrier near the bathroom facility and were ready to hit the pool until we saw elephants start appearing and walked through the camp to the watering hole. Elephants sands pumps water into this man-made watering hole to attract the elephants. There are triangle cement rock/shards barriers around the campsite as there are elephants only zone where we aren’t allowed to walk.

At the time we arrived, the sun was strong and our kitchen was outdoors with no shade cover. I was on cooking duty and we made leftover rice with pologna (similar to spam), green peas, cheese in the hot hot heat. We ate under the one big tree nearby.

After lunch, Lulu and myself decided it was prime opportunity to do laundry and what boggled our minds was the fact that we were doing laundry while the elephants were walking past. We did eventually dip our feet in the pool but it didn’t seem the cleanest. Lulu and myself peppered with the volleyball for a bit before we had to leave for our game drive.

We booked the evening Elephant Sands game drive for $25USD. Unlike the game drive we did the day before, this game drive wasn’t done in a game park but just in the wilderness. There are camps with anti-poaching units in the area we went through. The girls, Will, Frans, Lisa, Katie and Stephanie joined us. 2 drinks are also included – Hunters Cider & Iron Bru were my drinks. The drive was nice and we were able to spot many elephants and giraffes, impala, thigpin steinbach and also a jackel. The giraffes run so gracefully and silently. Elephants walk and run like their feet are marshmallows – so so soft and quiet. Unfortunately, the sky was cloudy so we didn’t have quite an intense sunset but the sky was still a nice with its subdued hazy pink and purple colours.

Since we were going from wild to designated non wildlife areas, we needed to go through the border patrol to do the shoe dip to prevent foot and mouth disease.

We arrived back to an elephant sands but had a delay as there was a large journey of giraffes crossing the road. The road to enter Elephant Sands is bumpy yet on our way back, we got caught up with an elephant trying to cross us to get to the watering hole. Once parked, there was a huge swarm of elephants around the watering hole. Before we left at 3PM, there were only 4 or so but in the evening there were so many! Average 40-50.

Clive had dinner ready for us right at 7PM. He made a more authentic African meal – maize that resembled a mix of mashed potatoes and mochi which you pull apart with your hands and it becomes the wrapper that you use to pick up the beef stew he made and spinach. Delicious but super hot. The trick Clive showed us was to quickly pull the maize into small balls to let them cool down before molding as a wrapper to eat with.

During dinner, we looked behind us and there was a giant elephant that stood silently meters away. It stood still and stayed for a few minutes before making its way to the watering hole. By the time dinner was done, the sun was completely down and we were able to just sit by the pool side in chairs to watch these elephants so closely. They were about a volleyball court length away but sometimes they got closer as some elephants would become alpha and nudge other elephants out. We went to shower around 830PM as they shut off the water at 9PM so the elephants don’t go after the water pipes. After Lulu and myself left the showers, we noticed 2 elephants heading there.

The elephants would push out the medium sized ones but the babies would just sneak through or go with their mothers to the other watering hole. The main watering hole where the larger ones went to had a pipe to refill the watering hole so majority of the elephants kept going to the main source. We sat for hours just watching the interactions between the elephants and seeing different families coming in and out taking turns becoming alpha and overtaking the drinking spots.

This went on all night long and you could see large shadows from your tent at the hole a day walking to and from all night long. Sarah mentioned she would have loved to stay up and watch them all night until the last one left.

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe – Chobe River, Botswana, Africa 2017 – Day 4-5

12/03/17

We woke for 6AM and took our time to get ready. We went into the main area with Will to visit the grocery store and get breakfast. After grabbing breakfast, we walked back a bit the way we came to rent bikes for the day. Very difficult to find 5 bikes where the seats could be adjusted, had both pedals, chain didn’t fall off and had brakes but we managed to. $25USD originally was what the man asked for but we bargained for $20USD for about 5 hours. We rode up the dirt road to get to the baobab tree and continued towards the river that leads to Victoria Falls.

We ended up biking to Victoria Falls where we asked security if we could leave our bikes inside. The entry fee of $30USD is included with our tour price. The falls are lovely with many viewpoints along the way. You can also see the Devil’s Inkpot that is on the Zambia side where you can feel the rush and sit on the edge of the waterfall. At I think viewpoint 13, Lulu and Jin decided to climb over the short branch barrier to get a closer look over the edge but that was short lived as they got whistled to come back because it’s not safe being so wet (felt like it was raining in that area) and possible snakes hidden in the grass.

What made it even better was the fact that there was a vivid rainbow that formed at the bottom. We walked around to all the viewpoints and then decided we needed to rest and sat at the cafe – Shearwater Cafe where we ate our “picnic” and I got an energizer smoothie $5USD (ginger & orange etc). Will left us from here but told us the route to take to get back.

We continued on bike to the bridge border of Zimbabwe and Zambia. We asked if we could go through with border patrol and they just waved us through. On the bridge the joins the two countries, they offer bungee jumping but we didn’t partake. We decided to head back and came back to the gate where we were told we needed a letter of some sort get back into the country but they let us through anyways.

We biked back and returned the bikes and decided to hit the pool because it was just so hot too do anything else and biking for half the day deserved a dip. Shearwater seems to be the spot where the safari tours start and end off so there was a mix of people beginning, ending and continuing their travels on-site. 5 of the people that joined our 12-day tour were continuing and joined from a tour that went to the Serengeti.

We grabbed a late lunch poolside from the restaurant on-site – Panini and a nice cider. We met Erik from the Netherlands who had just finished a tour and he filled us in on what he did and saw on his tour that was the reverse of what our tour was minus Cape Town. We all hung out by the pool and talk for a few hours but then realized we needed to switch tents so we rushed off, showered and packed up and moved over to our new tents. The tents we stayed in that night became our designated tent for the rest of the tour. Lulu and myself shared Timon as our tent. The tent is quite large. You need to bring your own sleeping bag and a lock but the tour company provides sleeping mats. After we moved in, the rain began to pour and all four of us stayed in our tent until to died down about 20 minutes later. We grabbed what we needed for the night and the next morning and threw our luggage into the truck. We went to Shearwater Café on the main road with Lisa and Katie which has the best wifi signal. I got the prefixed – $15USD – tomato soup, steak and frites and carrot cake.

12/04/17

I had a horrible time getting to sleep as my mind wouldn’t shut off and my nose was stuffy. Finally was able to sleep around 3AM – the wifi signal was strong around that time. We woke up for 6AM and packed, took down our tents, packed the truck and had breakfast. Off we went with the crew. First things first, the truck has storage below. The very front passenger side is cooking supplies, driver side front are tents, the 2 back tops on both sides are luggage’s and lower passenger side is chairs and tables. You need to climb a ladder (a little help from a step ladder) to enter the top seating compartment). In the seating compartment, the very back has shelves for the sleeping mat. The very front has sideways seating for about 8 people with a table, a 4-seater with a table then 10 more double seats. We get a combination cooler and the 2 giants chests go on board.

Once we hit the road, Will stated his speech on the breakdown of the tour as ATC brings together multiple tour companies like on the go tours and others to run the tour and not ask the information shared is the same. Once that got sorted, he broke down the day for us and told us the optional excursions. He also posted on the door our schedule along with our shared duties. This is a budget tour so everyone has responsibilities including buying ice for the cooler each day to security and bus cleaning duties to helping with keeping meals etc.

Info about Zimbabwe

-14 million population

-The House of Stone in Masvingo is the 2nd largest African civilization to the pyramids.

-Zimbabwe in the shona dialect means House of stone

-The British came and colonized Southern Rhodesia – They made a railway to promote trading from Europe to Africa.

-In 1980 Zimbabwe  gained democracy.

-The tobacco industry deflated so the currency Inflated – For Eg – eggs could cost 10,000 rand one week then 20,000 the next.

-They adopted USD as currency but almost adopted Chinese yuan because of the trading and building.

-Zimbabweans are very well spoken (English ruling a different education) and very polite.

-Victoria Falls is the largest sheet of water and highest bridge bungee jump.

-Government officials weren’t really being paid and hospitals were expensive.

 

We drove to the border of Zimbabwe and Botswana and had 2 check points. The first, we departed Zimbabwe and the second to enter Botswana. At the Botswana border, where we needed to bring all our footwear with us to dip the bottoms to “clean them” to prevent the spread of foot and mouth disease. I was welcomed with a warthog. Also quick note – no photos at the border.

Our first pitstop was an hour-hour and half stop to pick-up groceries, alcohol and exchange money for local currency of Pula. You should get Pula for tipping money. 10 Pula is 1 USD. The bureau Centre didn’t open until 9AM so we bought groceries at the grocery store Spar. At the Bureau Centre, you can change currency and purchase cheaper ice (Lulu’s responsibility for day 1). Note – The block of ice lasts longer than the cubes but needs to be broken up. We all threw in $20USD each and the Pula equivalent together became our tipping money.

In Botswana, you CANNOT DRINK the tap water. We all purchased 5L jugs for about $1.65USD. The tour stops every 2 days or so at grocery stores so you can pick up snacks and water etc.

We found Erik (our new friend we met the day before) at the grocery store as 2 other tour trucks were also doing the same thing loading up. Erik finished 1 tour and joined another. At one point, they were sitting in our bus as their bus disappeared and we all thought they left without them but that tour only consisted of 9 people. Turns out the bus was getting gas around the corner and off they went.

We also found out from Will that the information we got from Sarah was completely wrong in terms of clothing because she told us we needed to dress conservatively covering shoulders and knees.  It turns out, on her last Africa trip, she was in northern Africa where there are more Muslims thus dressing more conservatively but on this trip, clothing didn’t matter as you can wear whatever you want. For safari however, neutral colour clothing. That meant all 4 of us packed clothing we didn’t need and could have been replaced with summer clothing such as more shorts.

We thought our ride to the next campsite was far but it was just up the street – Thebes Safari campsite. We setup our tents and then ate lunch – self serve sandwich station. We have 2 showers and 2 toilets on our campsite but if your walk further into the site closer to the pool area, there is a much nicer shower and toilet setup with hot water. The main hotel (upgrade is available) had free wifi in the lobby and 2 single toilets.

After eating, Stephanie, Susan and the girls and myself we went on the Chobe game drive in a safari truck and off we went (optional excursion for $70USD for 3 hours in the park). Our driver was very knowledgeable and had an amazing eye finding animals of all sizes for us. Usually noon is the hottest time of day so many animals are in hiding but we got lucky and spotted a good variety of animals. Impala, kudu, hippos, lionesses (one sleeping and one heading for a nap), baboons, zebras, eagles, vultures and so many beautiful birds as well as a leopard tortoise. I learned that elephants don’t have sweat glands so they overheat which is why they roll in the mud to cool down. We didn’t get to see a live elephant but we saw a 2-day old dead young elephant who overheated and was trying to get to the water to cool down but once it made it there, it was too late. You could smell the stench from where we were in the truck 300M away. Giant vultures circled and were eating the elephant. The lions like fresh meat so they probably had first dibs one day 1 before we saw it. The guide stopped by the sleeping lioness so it awoke briefly then turned over to return to slumber.

We finished this lovely game drive and was driven straight to our next excursion (included) of a sunset boat cruise on the Chobe River. The river separates Namibia and Botswana border. Shimmy was our guide. This is where our cooler of ice and alcohol purchased earlier in the day was present. The boat cruise had seats for everyone and a drop toilet in the back. Once they started up the boat sailing, you were free to roam around to spot animals and the boat driver found them and we got closer views of them. Tons of hippos, crocodiles, baboons, water buffalo etc. Definitely the highlight were the hippos.

We cruised down the river spotting animals and a cold drink which ended up with a lovely sunset. Near the end of the cruising, there were 2 hippos in a certain area where the water levels were lower and you can see them running right into the water. With the water level lower, the hippo kept bobbing up and down and eventually running and jumping up similar to a dolphin. We kept trying to follow where they would surface and one of the hippos decided to rush our boat and came up right under the metal guard in the front where  Sarah was sitting and she flew back. The sunset was intense with lovely colours however all of us felt disgusting as we were all very sticky from being out all day in the sun.

We got back to the campsite and Clive had dinner waiting for us – chicken stroganoff and a salad. Will went over itinerary with us and call time.

We were told the pool seemed murky and we couldn’t find it in the dark so we showered and sat near the inner courtyard on the hotel and charged our phones. Finished off the night trying to journal and we thought the truck would be a good place as any to write and charge but turns out Clive and Frans sleep in there so we decided to journal in our tent. Hard to fall asleep when you haven’t really done much physical activity in a day when you are so use to walking everywhere.

Itinerary – Africa – 2017

11/30-12/15/17

 

I usually jump onto trips because of amazing flight deals but this time around, my friend Sarah alerted myself and 2 other friends about this other special deal on a tour. We had spoken for a few years about going to Africa and twice a year, On the Go Tours runs a promotion of 2 for 1 on tours. Grab a friend and go for the price of 1 person. Regular price for our 12 days Victoria Falls to Johannesburg was $1495CAD. Meaning $747.50CAD per person for the tour.

Our flight we got for a reasonable price at $1283.90CAD. Toronto to France (CDG) (10-12 hour stopover), France (CDG) to Addis Ababa – Ethiopia (ADD), Ethiopia to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe (VGA). Return is from Johannesburg (JNB) to Addis Ababa – Ethiopia (ADD), Ethiopia to Dublin, Dublin to Toronto. Originally we wanted to stay for another week to optimize our time but for $500CAD cheaper to return home on a Thursday just made more sense for us.

Would’ve loved to go into a township like the Apartheid Museum and Soweto in Johannesburg but our timing of arrival and departure just didn’t work out. I would recommend the Sightseeing hop on and off tour bus as that would have been the method we would have seen the city if we had time. Otherwise, if not renting a car, UBER is the next best way to get around – cheap and safe.

Uber discounted ride code: rosannau34ue

https://www.uber.com/invite/t0pz2w

I travelled with my friends Sarah, Jin and Louisa. #CUTYAdventures #canasianwerewolves

 

Things to do before you leave:

 

Vaccinations:

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis B

Typhoid

Cholera

Yellow Fever (Required if you are going to an area with high risk or transiting from a country with high risk (more than 12 hours) – please check websites to find out) As of 2017, there is a shortage in Yellow fever shots – certain clinics will only have partial vaccine (1 year validity) some locations have lifetime shots. Technically, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa don’t require it.

 

Prescriptions (Recommended but not all required)

Malaria Pills (take pill 2 days before and 7 days after trip)

Cinpro/Anthim in case of diarrhea

Ducarel – must be started a week or 2 before you leave

 

Visa

 

-Check to see if you need a visa for the countries you are visiting (Canadians are required a visa for Zimbabwe but can obtain on arrival – $75USD – still cheaper than obtaining prior to arrival)

*If you plan on going to Zambia as well, there is a cheaper dual visa for $50USD (For Canadians)

 

Alcohol

-Beer is roughly $2

 

Outlets

-Outlets the big round 3 prong and sometimes larger 2 round prong with flat prongs.

 

Credit Card / Debit

-Credit Card can be used in majority of all the areas minus markets.

-ATM – Better exchange rates than currency exchange with Debit Machine

 

Zimbabwe

-Zimbabwe adopted USD as their currency (bills only).

-$1USD = 362ZWD (Zimbabwean Dollars) – otherwise, currency is 1:1

-You can drink the tap water and can also ask for tap water and ice at many places.

-No Tipping as Vat is included so tax is included in prices shown. Tip is usually 10%.

-Entry Visa required

 

Botswana

-$1CAD = 7BWP (Pula)

-$1USD = 10BWP (Pula)

-You cannot drink the tap water

-Carry 2 pulas & toilet paper around for public washrooms

-Language is Setswana

-Du mella ma (female) ra (male) – hello

-LA guy – how are you

-GA taing – I’m fine

-Kea la bogaa ma – thank you

-Kea rata – I love you

-Muntle – beautiful

-Muna – single man

-Buna – 2 or more men

-Botswana people are more reserved but friendly

 

South Africa

-$1CAD = 10ZAR (Rand)

-$1USD = 13ZAR (Rand)

-You can drink the tap water

-UBER is the best and cheapest way to get around. Door to Door is key for safety

-11 Official languages; 9 of which are African

-Afrikaans – A mix of Dutch, Belgian, French & Flemish.

-Population – 20% is White & 80% is Black & Other (Indian, Korean & Chinese)

 

Below is my initial itinerary for the trip (not updated to what we did)

 

11/30 Toronto / France

FLY – 840PM YYZ-> 950AM CDG

 

12/01 France / Ethiopia

950AM

LAYOVER – 10-12 hour stopover in France
1030-1130AM

TRAIN – CDG term 2 – RER Train to Châtelet-Les Halles. Walk to Centre Georges Pompidou (45 mins – €10.30 – purchased 2 pack ticket – €20.60)

-Châtelet-Les Halles

-Le Centre Pompidou (Opens at 11AM – Place Georges Pompidou, 75004 Paris, France)

-5 euro – panoramic ticket – rooftop view

18 min walk

1250PM

-Le Louvre – Pyramid & Carrousel Arc de Triomphe (75001 Paris, France) – Take photos outside

12 min walk

150PM

–L’ardoise (28 Rue du Mont Thabor, 75001 Paris, France) (Open 12-3PM & 630-1130PM) (Pre-fixe – 38€)

2 min walk

3PM

-Louis Vuitton Maison Vendôme – 2 Place Vendôme, 75001 Paris, France

14 min walk

330PM

-Galerie Vivienne – 5 Rue de la Banque, 75002 Paris, France – mosaic – rustic elegance

4 min walk

345PM

-Jardin du palais royale – 6 Rue de Montpensier, 75001 Paris, France

-Les Deux Plateaux (2 Rue de Montpensier, 75001 Paris, France) – Take photos outside

5 min walk

430PM

-Galerie Vero Dodat – 8 Galerie Véro-Dodat, 75001 Paris, France

-Walk La Seine River

530 – TRAIN – CDG Term 2

Châtelet – Les Halles, 75001 Paris, France -> RER BEPOLAéroport CDG Terminal 2 TGV

FLY – 945PM CDG -> 645AM ADD

 

12/02 – Ethiopia / Zimbabwe – Victoria Falls

FLY – 835AM ADD -> 1215PM VGA

Airport shuttle transfer

STAY – Shearwater Explorer Village (Wifi)

 

12/03 – Zimbabwe – Victoria Falls

-Victoria Falls

-Biking

 

12/04 – Victoria falls – Chobe River, Botswana

STAY – Thebe River Safaris Campsite (Wifi available in reception area)

– Kasane – Chobe River – Watch Elephants & Hippos

– Sunset Boat cruise

 

12/05 – Kasane – Nata Region

STAY – Elephant Sands (Wifi – very weak signal)

-Afternoon/Evening Game drive

 

12/06 – Nata Region – Maun

STAY – Sitatunga Campsites (Wifi available in bar and weaker signal around site)

 

12/07 – MaunOkavango Delta

-Overnight excursion into the Delta

-Early morning to Mokoro Poler’s Station

STAY – Mobile Tented Camp in Okavango (NO WIFI)

-Guided evening bushwalk

 

12/08 – Okavango Delta – Maun

-Morning bushwalk

-Visit local village via Pole Canoes

-Return to Maun w/ optional scenic flight over the Delta

 

12/09-10 – Maun – Palapye – Polokwane (South Africa)

-Drive to the small town of Palapye (between Francistown & Gaborone (Bostwana’s capital)

STAY – Itumela Campsite (WIFI – good signal all over site)

-Drive to town of Polokwane

STAY – Boma in the Bush (NO WIFI)

 

12/11-12 – Kruger National Park

-Morning viewpoints drive – Blyde River Canyon Region – The Three Rondavels, The Pinnacle, Bourke’s Luck Potholes, & God’s Window

STAY Nkambeni Safari Camp near Kruger National Park (20 min free WIFI at reception)

-Visit Kruger National Park

-Night game drive

-Morning Game Drive

-Buffet Dinner (optional – group decision)

 

12/13 – Johannesburg

-Hazyview – Johannesburg

-7AM-2/3PM

-Joburg Arrival – Mufasa Backpackers (21 4th Rd, Van Ryn SH, Benoni, 1513, South Africa)

3/4PM

-Check into hotel – Hyde Park Villas – 28B 3rd Rd, Hyde Park, Johannesburg, 2196, South Africa (WIFI – Complimentary 500MB each day)

-Rosebank Mall – Rosebank Art & Craft Market – Cradock Ave, Rosebank, Johannesburg, 2196, South Africa

– Open 9AM-6PM

 

12/14 – Johannesburg -> Dublin

10AM – Airport Shuttle / UBER to O R Tambo (JNB) Airport

 

FLY – 210PM JNB -> 825PM ADD

FLY 1130PM ADD -> DUB

 

12/15 – Dublin – Toronto

FLY – 530AM -> 745AM YYZ