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SAFARI 2006, Carolyn and Tom, So. Africa, Zambia, Kenya

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Foreword – Ok gang, here goes my stab at this. I’ve created it in MSWord and then copying it over to Fodors. Hope it works as planned.

SAFARI 2006, Carolyn and Tom, So. Africa, Zambia, Kenya
Part 1 of 5 parts

This was our second safari, the first was in 2005 to Zambia (Robin Pope Nsefu), Botswana (Khwai River Lodge), and So. Africa (MalaMala). (Some photos at - http://www.kodakgallery.com/tdgraham/main/safari_2005 ).

We loved it all and after returning in September 2005 we started planning for 2006. We wanted to go back to MalaMala and Robin Pope. And, try a new camp so we chose Little Governors Camp , Kenya. The camps availability dictated their order of safari and it became MalaMala (four nights) then Robin Pope (Nsefu and Tena Tena, six nights), then Little Governors (five nights). This totaled 15 nights of safari which I felt was just great.
I’m breaking my trip report into five parts. The first is about getting to Kruger National Park including info about the photography equipment we took. The second is a short part about Kruger National Park. The third is MalaMala, the fourth Robin Pope Zambia, and the fifth is Little Governors and back home. Let me just say here and now that we had a great time and are planning for 2007.

One more thing, just so you know I know. I’ve been to only 4 different safari camps which is not many. I compare camps one to the other, not just “this is what we saw”. So from this aspect please take this report as from someone who is just speaking from very limited experience, but this is how I see it now. YMMV. If anyone wishes to email me re any of this report, my email address is tdgraham at sbcglobal dott net. Please put AFRICA FODORS in the subject line. My spam filter removes any unknown sender address and I must fish out the real email. If I don’t reply it is simply because I missed it, please send it again. I answer all real email.

To start with, a bit about our safari photography equipment. For 2005 we took the new Canon S2 and loved it. The photos from it are very good (see above link). And, it can take high quality video with stereo sound. So we did take many short video clips, just little scenes of action. Using the DVD making program ProShow Gold I made a DVD slide show of still photos, video clips, with sound. It was easy to do thanks to ProShow and when friends and family asked to see our safari pictures I give them a DVD that they can play on their TV. I’m doing the same for this year.

The big change this year in photos for me was going digital SLR. After years of using film SLR cameras I simply could not tolerate the electronic view finder (EVF) of the Canon S2 (or of any EVF). In 2006 Nikon introduced the D200 DSLR and a new lens, the 18-200mm zoom (28-300mm 35mm equivalent). With both getting rave reviews I decide the time was right to go DSLR with the D200 and stick the 18-200 lens on it and use it and only it for safari. ( I also got the Tokina 12-24 zoom, but figured I would not need it for safari photos). The Nikon combo was great on safari. The only limitation is the longest range of 300mm which is too short for most bird photos. (I do believe bird photos are the most difficult of all nature photos). I really enjoyed using the D200, that big bright optical view screen, the important options such as ISO, exposure bracketing, manual focus, shutter rates, white balance, etc, are all dedicated buttons. You don’t have to wade through three menu layers to access them. I did not shoot RAW, I did JPG, large, fine, with very mild image “processing” by the D200. I also had the Nikon SB-600 flash unit. I also took my Canon S2 as back up and for video. Carolyn used her “old” Canon S2 for photos and short videos.

The only “problem” I have with the D200 is that being an SLR it bangs when the shutter fires. So if Carolyn happens to be taking a video, that SLR noise, at least to me, on the video is distracting. I’m going to have to either clip it out or noise reduce it. If anyone has an easy way to do this, I’d like to know about it. Just another chore I don’t need.

In general, we do not have quite as many photos this year with that “wall hanging print” pizazz. I feel that this because last year we had some very awesome game sightings of attractive subjects (leopards and lion cubs) and because that the lighting this year was not as consistently as good. While there was mostly sunlight at Mala this year, the sun in Zambia and Kenya was obscured a lot by cloudy conditions. Now, I certainly don’t want bright noon time hard sun, but you do need the sun in the early morning or late evening for that wonderful glow. And, at least hazy sun during the rest of the day to avoid flat lighting. My favorite axiom about photo lighting is – light isn’t the only thing, it is everything.

With each of the other trip reports (but not this Part 1) I have associated a Kodak Gallery of photos. About 20 photos. Some are simply “editorial” illustrating the report but many I hope are good photos by their own right. Almost all of them have been post processed (PhotoShop) to some degree. The Canon S2 were mainly cropped some. The Nikon D200 jpgs (because of my image processing settings) all received more PhotoShop color work including sharpening.

For memory card backup I had two hard drives planning to load all cards into both backups. The first was an Archos 320 and the second a little 60gig 2.5inch hard drive (in a case) that downloads from a card reader. The Archos I have used for three years and it works fine and reliably for downloading off of cards. But it is very slow to playback/review photos so I do that just to check that the download completed successfully. The little housed 60 gig hard drive is less reliable but it is very small and is better than nothing for a second backup. I have considered taking a PC laptop and I would like to but there is a limit as to how much electronic “stuff” I want to haul around. The electron support for the two different cameras, that is; two backup drives, two different types of spare batteries, outlet adapters, three different types of battery chargers, duplicate cords and cables, is all much heavier and larger than the two Canon S2s and Nikon D200. Enough is enough, Good Lord.

First time I went to charge a set of four NiMH AA batteries one of them came up bad. So that negated a full set of 4 AAs, although now I had three spare AAs. Then at camp Nsefu I came back to my AA charger and it was smoking. Evidently the charger (LaCrosse BC-900U) had malfunctioned and the four AAs were fried, hot and bubbly. Tossed those four AAs and thus another full set of batteries lost. I did not have another AA charger but could rig up an AA charger using a Nikon charger and alligator clips. This worked for the AAs but required monitoring which is most inconvenient when you are out on game drives. The D200 has it’s own special battery so no problem there.
Enough already, on to safari 2006.

Last year at MalaMala we shared a Land Rover with a couple from New York who had driven to MalaMala after flying in from Joburg. This got me to thinking that since Mala was our first camp and we were flying into Joburg perhaps we should drive to Mala and see some of So. Africa along the way. Oh, and also, how about going to Kruger National Park. I inquired about the reasonableness of such here on this site and at the Kruger web site. Everyone said sure, easy, go for it. Thanks mkhonzo for your encouragement and advice.

We flew Northwest Airlines, LAX to Detroit, Detroit to Amsterdam, then KLM Amsterdam to Joburg. Connections were very short and we arrive Joburg on Sep 3rd at 9pm. This was too late to start anything so we spent the night at a very nice B&B near the airport. They, the Dove’s Nest, picked us up and took us back to the airport, cost was $60 for the night with breakfast. BTW, all the costs I give are in USA dollars.
Sep 4th, Monday morning we picked up rental/hired car form Avis at the airport, a VW Chico. It was the bare minimum of transport, more than big enough for only the two of us and safari luggage/duffels. But anything less would have been a three wheeled vehicle. Carolyn fancies herself proficient at driving on the wrong side of the road so that is fine with me, she handled the clutched manual stick shift smoothly. As long as a charging rhino did not hit my side of this tin can I was ok.

Off we went planning to spend that night somewhere around Hazyview then next morning drive into Kruger. Taking highway N12 to N4 we turned off heading north at Belfast for sight seeing. The little town of Dullstrom is really growing and bustling evidently do to sport fishing. There many shop, places to eat and lodging but ewe did not stop wanting to get up towards the great escarpment. We stretched our driving past Graskop into the escarpment to see the “Gods Window” and the “Three Roundavels” and just barely made it before sunset. On our drive out we planned to have pancakes at Harrie’s but it was after 6pm and they had closed. Next year. We decided to drive to Hazyview to find a B&B for the night. It was dark by the time we got there and this made reading signs for B&Bs difficult. It seems that the B&B’s a have little roadside signs that direct you up another little gravel road for a mile perhaps. The are not just simply sitting next to the main road. Being dark made this a bit harder and we found about the first four B&Bs to be already full and never did find a couple of them. The last full B&B recommend the B&B “Idle & Wilde” which we finally found and they had one room, a very pretty and large roundavel bungalow. We had a good nights sleep serenaded by frogs and a good breakfast. Cost was $90. We thought this cost very reasonable for B&B and now believe that South Africa is overall a better dollar value than either Zambia or Kenya.
After breakfast we set out for Kruger, about 30 miles away.
End of Part 1.
Next, Part 2, Kruger

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