include the cost of meals in my pricing. Many of the reserves and
national parks we visit have restaurants in the camps, and they
present an adequate meal. You can opt to dine in these
facilities, of course, or we can cook our own meals. Perhaps a
combination of both. Note for cooking our own meals: you
gotta help with cooking and cleaning. I work a very long
day and I must have help.
I provision outside the park for meals we cook. Many of the accommodations have kitchenettes, and all have Braais (BBQs). For breakfast, we can have fruit and cereal. I can make oatmeal, and I get a very nice muesli. Should you want a heartier meal, we can easily cook up bacon and eggs. I'm usually up very early with coffee, so you're welcome to join me. We can have breakfast before we head out, or just something light. I often will make hard boiled eggs or deviled eggs that we can have along the way. There is always something to drink and snack on. Sometimes we take a break in the morning game drive around 9h00 and stop at a picnic area to cook a nice breakfast.
For lunch, we are usually back at the camp. We can make something simple. Often it is a left over from dinner such as lasagna or other pasta; a piece of steak can slice into a nice cold sandwich and even a pork loin or chicken. We can cook up a grilled cheese as well, or have a tuna melt.
My menus for dinner usually have a main course of something like lamb chops on the braai. I also provision with porterhouse or T-Bones. I will bring along some chicken, and we can do a hundred things with that. I'll braai some that we can have for lunch, but I also make a chicken picatta and a spicy chakalaka with rice. We can keep veggies fresh for about a week, so we always have something nice. Salads as well. When I have accommodation with an oven, I will make up an ostrich lasagna...that usually provides a few lunches and snacks.
I carry a complete set up of cooking and dining gear...even an electric hotplate, a two burner gas stove, a fridge, and a freezer. I do most of the cooking, but you must lend a hand with making a salad, cutting veggies, or making a fire in the braai. I buy bottled water and I have several juice drinks. If you are a soda drinker, they are available in the stores. Of course, we might have some unexpected luck on the road. I'm not talking about road kill, but if we come upon a lion kill of an impala, I'll send you out with my Swiss Army knife to get some nice impala steaks for the braai.
Some useful tips for your South African Safari Tour. I try to make sure that my clients are fully informed about what to expect.
Whether it's an African photo safari or any other African adventure travel, the first thing to remember is that the seasons in Southern Africa are the reverse to those in the United States and Europe. The climate is quite mild all year round, but it varies greatly from region to region. Winter (June to September) in the Cape Town area can be compared to the winter of San Francisco. At the same time up north in the Kalahari or Kruger, the days are always beautiful and warm, with hardly a cloud in the sky; keep a jacket with you, but you probably won't use it much. It can get chilly in August (all right, it can get darn cold) when the sun goes down, but there is rarely an evening when you won't want to sit out under the stars.
Cheetah Elephant Lion 1996-2003
The southern summer is also their rainy season in many areas, and this can present some interesting conditions. In the rainy season and just after, the foliage grows making it a bit more difficult to spot the animals. Since there is more water for the animals, they don't frequent the watering holes (usually located near the roads) as often because there are many pools and natural holes deeper in the bush. The shoulder seasons are ideal times to view wildlife. September to November are their spring months, and April to June are their autumn months...but the seasons are not as clearly defined as in North America and Europe. As I mentioned, any time of the year is perfect.
Kudu - Black Rhino - Oxpecker on Rhino
Now, about the wildlife. It is important to remember that these animals are wild. They are used to seeing vehicles filled with strange creatures, and they have reached a kind of "détente" with these vehicles...but not necessarily with humans. In some viewing locations, it is safe to get out of the vehicle and sit in the shade or a hide near a water hole, but these areas are always marked. Along the road...well, stay in the vehicle! In game reserves and parks, you can take great walks into the bush with park rangers.
The best time to view wildlife is from daybreak to about 11:00 and again from 3:00 to sunset. This varies with the seasons. In the midday, the larger animals usually rest in the shade of trees or lie down in the warm sun. You'll notice how evolution has given many of the animals natural camouflage; their coloring is quite often the same as the surroundings: the springbok is the color of the grass so it can hide from the lion...but then, so is the lion, but not to hide from the springbok, but to stalk it!
Elephant - Ibis - Cheetah
I suggest bringing binoculars as it is easier to locate a distant animal with these than with a telephoto camera lens, but I also have a few pairs floating around. As for cameras, almost any camera can give an award winning shot, but you stand a better chance with an SLR than a point and shoot. A telephoto lens is a must; a zoom lens up to 200 MM is fine, but it is worth the investment to get one with greater focal length. Tokina, Sigma, Tamron, and other companies produce some great telephoto lenses at reasonable prices. I have been a photographer for forty years and will be pleased to discuss equipment and techniques with you.
Electricity. Many batteries for your laptops or camera are "smart" and can be used on Africa power with just a converter plug (2 prong European style plugs). Every night, I set up a charging station with a transformer and American 3-prong plug styles. If there is no electricity, I have a power inverter which will turn 12 volt car battery power into 120V.
Digital Photography is advancing at a rapid pace and most everyone has a digital camera of some type. One certainty about digital photography is that you'll shoot a lot of shots! Why not, you don't have to reload after every 37 shots! If you use film, you have to bring a lot of film, but with digital, you need to bring storage. There are many types of storage and you don't necessarily need to buy extra media cards. I will be pleased to discuss ways to store and safeguard your shots. In many cases, I download photos on my notebook and burn CD's for you...plus, I keep your photos on my hard drive until you tell me that you have your shots on your computer at home. If you lost your photos..why, you'd just have to come back.
If you use film, and some still do, film type is the most important ingredient. I recommend ISO ratings of 100, 200, and 400. I would not use any speed faster or slower. ISO 200 would be the best all around film speed. The most important factor in getting good shots is keeping your lens steady. You might be able to handhold a camera with a long lens, but it is never as clear as one that is supported. The various window pods that you can buy are not good as they limit your range of shooting, and the vibration from the engine is usually transferred to the camera. I have developed a great shooting platform that sits over the window sill. The simple bean-bag on an aluminum frame gives the steadiest shots I have ever seen. I will bring these for you.
What else to pack? Please don't bring too much; no tour company has enough room for excess baggage in the vehicles. Quite simply, you don't need so much. The weather will usually be warm, and sometimes hot. A pair of jeans and a pair of khakis are ideal, and throw in a pair of shorts if you like (no bright colors on safari, please). If you want a swim, I can usually find you a pool in the camps. A couple of shirts and a sweater can even be layered if it gets cold outside sitting by a Braai. Keep in mind that you are on safari. You can even wash your things in the camp launderettes. For footwear, bring a pair of sneakers and casual shoes for night; if any trail hiking is desired, bring the appropriate hiking boots. Evenings are always casual, even at many of the nicer restaurants in Cape Town. ...just think casual, and pack light. I suggest that you pack in a soft sided duffle type bag which are easier to pack into the vehicle.
Don't bring your cell phones; many of the US phones won't work there unless they are GSM; European phones usually work fine. If you do plan on using your cell phone, contact your provider to see just what you will be charged. Many companies now have international packages. All of the reserves have public telephones, but for emergencies, we'll provide you with the number of our mobile phone, which will work in most places in case you need to be reached. I can receive email in many places in the reserves so you can keep in touch.
Tap water is very pure in South Africa, but bottled waters are available in all markets. We carry coolers and always have a good supply of bottled water and beverages.
Malaria is a health threat to travelers, and it is advised that you see your doctor for advice, but there is a malaria season, so research this; I will discuss this with you. I have found that most doctors practice CYA medicine and prescribe an abundance of expensive shots and pills. You don't need so much. Precaution is the best advice in preventing mosquito bites; use a good insect repellent, wear long sleeves and pants, and light colors after dark; rarely are the mosquitos a problem.
For suggested African safaris and prices of specific tours, please see the
Suggested Tours and Prices page. Please remember that all these African
safaris can be tailored to your needs.
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