'IT IS SAID THAT GOD DOES NOT SUBTRACT FROM ONE'S ALLOTTED TIME, THOSE DAYS SPENT ON SAFARI'
-unknown author (or at least unknown by me)
As promised, here I am sitting down the day after we returned to get this trip report out to everyone out there ASAP! WARNING: THIS REPORT WILL BE LONG, AND DETAILED!!!!
As mentioned in my return home post, it was an INCREDIBLE, AMAZING trip. Africa is securely in my blood now, and I know it will never wash out, no matter how much time passes, or how many times we return. This was our first safari and our first trip to East Africa ' but, we had been bitten by the bug previous when we visited South Africa and Namibia in 2003.
THE PLANNING AND DREAMING:
This trip was 5 years in the making ' in the summer of 2001 we booked a cruise with Orient Lines that would have taken us from Mombasa, through the Suez Canal and up to Athens in March 2002. Orient Lines included a 3 day safari, but having dreamt of a safari all my life, I knew that would not be enough, so we changed it to the 'optional' 7 day safari. With some research I found out that this safari would be handled through Micato Safaris. Plans went ahead, time marched on, but, as you can all imagine, that cruise was cancelled by the cruise lines by the time Sept. 2001 drew to its disheartening close. No problem we said, we rebooked for March 2003, the next time they said they would offer the cruise/safari. Again I planned, and again I dreamed of waking up in a lodge listening to the sound of the lions in the wild. But, as fate would have it again; as the war in Iraq heated up, with the final straw being the bombing of the hotel in Mombasa, Orient Lines changed it bit by bit until it no longer had ANY ports the same, which negated the safari completely. And I cried, but not for too long as our three week cruise/1 week safari ended up to be a 5 week cruise/ 1 ' week land tour that took us from India to Rome, with many wonderful stops in between. But I never let go of that dream of the land safari.
Having by this time ordered the brochures from Micato to see what we would have been doing, I was convinced that someday, we should just book the safari separate from the cruise. And that is what we did ' against all odds (our 'job' situations) in August 2005 I took the plunge and said YES ' BOOK IT!! By this time I had done quite a bit of research on the type of safaris available (independent/private/group) etc., as well as some of the options of the companies we could use. Jim and I decided that we wanted to go with a group, as we are very social 'animals' and love to be with and meet new people, as opposed to going with just ourselves and a private guide. Also, I wanted a break from the 'nitty gritty' of planning logistics (I get enough of that in my day job). I wanted a company that would hand-hold us from start to finish ' I turn over my credit card for a pre-determined amount and they in turn hand over a well-run, smooth-as-ice, hassle-free 3 week safari. And, as I by this time knew every word by heart in the Micato brochure, it was hands down Micato.
We booked MICATO'S Stanley Wing Safari, as it would give us a good variety of parks in Kenya and Tanzania; and the Zanzibar extension that they offer. I booked direct through the email with Fran, the NY Micato representative, that had been patiently answering my endless questions on the safari since Sept 2003.
As you all know, I had quite a time with this one. In April, a huge box from Micato arrived. In it was a well-made, huge, green duffle bag for each of us to use; a wonderful flashlight; an 'America Shares' bag, luggage tags and a personalized detailed safari destination/itinerary book for us.
The America Shares bag is a program that Micato runs separately. They support an orphanage in the Mukuru slums in Nairobi. They send the bag out to those who request it ' we in turn fill it full of stuff that they need (a list is sent with the bag), such as kids and babies clothing, toys, school supplies, medicines, toiletries, etc. ' pretty well anything kids will need, new or used, or whatever. We then take it with us on the plane as one piece of our checked baggage, store it in the Nairobi Hotel while we are on safari, and then take it to the orphanage after we get back to Nairobi from the safari. More details on that will be in my report as it was a very moving experience.
My problem though was with packing our one duffle bag each. The well-made very heavy zippered bag in itself weighed 8 lbs. See the thread below for details of what I took:
So, that left 25 lbs. each, and that very exciting day of 'oh my gosh, we are going to Africa today!' was spent weighing and re-weighing each article of clothing or item to see what would go and what wouldn't as we were both SERIOUSLY overweight. I started this at 7 am on the morning we were to leave (at 8 pm that night), by noon, I was pretty well in tears wondering how I could cut it down anymore when Fran (Micato representative) phoned to wish us Bon Voyage. 'Don't worry', she said as I sobbed the overweight blues to her, 'take what I think we will need, it will all work out'. A voice from heaven I thought! My bag weighed 40 lbs., Jim's weighed 41 lbs., and that is what we went with.
All of the clothes that I listed went (they weighed 13lbs), but in the 'things' list, I cut things here and there to cut down on the weight. As you can all imagine, the ultra tiny coffee maker and coffee did NOT go. (Yes, Dennis, the tiny stapler and the tiny tape did go- more on that later!)
WHAT WORKED & WHAT DIDN'T ON THE PACKING LIST:
Here is a good place I think to tell everyone a few highlights of what I thought worked and didn't work on my packing list ( I promise, I'll TRY to be brief!)
I LIVED in the convertible pants. I had two pair, but only took one. I probably should have given something else up and taken both pair. Those convertibles owe me nothing ' I bought them brand new for this trip over the internet. They are a smokey/olive green kind of colour which was ideal to hide the red dust/clay/coffee spots/food slops/etc. I literally wore them every day; they started out as pants every morning and usually ended up as shorts in the afternoon, to become pants again at night. Every two or three days (at the most, I promise') I would rinse them out in the sink with the Magellan's concentrated Sink Wash, hang them on my wonderful 'stretchy-no-clothes-peg-twist clothes line' from Magellan's, and they would, without fail be dry and wrinkle free the next morning as they are almost like a nylon. They don't look like nylon, but when I went to iron a new 'hem' down before I left, the material burnt like nylon. (lucky it was just on the old hem which I didn't need).
I had enough tops, I felt I took the right number (4 t-shirts, 2 short sleeve shirts and 1 long sleeved shirt). The Tide-To-Go pen was a life saver here as I am slop. We sent our shirts out at least two or three times each for laundering at the lodges, it was cheap enough.
The Tilley safari vest was incredible too ' it is light weight, not too many pockets so I didn't feel like a marine in the field. I wore it every day, it was invaluable. I carried film (yes, I still use film), an extra camera battery, my point-and-shoot camera, my field notebook, a pen, sunglasses, a roll of Magellan's toilet paper-to-go, some packets of sani-wipes, a very small first-aid kit (Imodium, After-bite, Neosporin and band-aids), 'Off' wipes and a small bottle of sunscreen. I wore a hidden wasitpouch for the money, an Amex card, a MC, a Visa and a bank card. I could have left the Amex at home, I didn't use it, same with the Visa.
I didn't use my Tilley hat ' Jim used his all the time, but I liked the green 'Micato' issued hat (it's like a Tilley), I used it instead.
I used the fleece hoodie on a few occasions ' Ngorongoro crater for the game run in the morning, as well as the evenings on the crater, the Mara in the morning for the balloon ride and one of the evenings in the Mara.
The packable rain/wind jacket that folds into its own pocket came in VERY handy in Zanzibar when it rained for 2 ' days solid. Tropical rains at that ' it poured. Things sure are green there'
I wore the capris in Zanzibar ' they were great especially when we were slopping through the mangrove swamp in the pouring rain, or walking through the open market in the pouring rain - no pant legs to get mucky! The shorts could have stayed at home ' I didn't wear them.
The 'slippers' (they are really Clarkes slip-on sandals) were invaluable when I had to wash my Mephisto walking sandals out which I wore every day. Three times I had to give my Mephisto's a shower ' once after visiting the Maasai village ' it was authentic I could tell by the cow dung; once after trekking through the fish & live chicken market in Zanzibar; and once after slopping through the Mangrove forest in Zanzibar. Without those Clarke's I would have been sunk as they took many hours to dry.
I should have left the Rockport closed in shoes, as well as the socks, at home ' only saw the light of day for the Mara balloon ride and in retrospect the Mephisto sandals would have been fine. It really wasn't that cold. I didn't used the gloves either for the balloon ride, could have left them at home.
The 4 pair of quick dry underwear was a little tight ' 6 pair would have been better, I felt like a scullerymaid washing underwear out every 2nd or 3rd night. The throw-away-undies worked great for the travel there and back days ' a godsend.
I wish I would have had time to use the bathing suit and cover up, but I didn't. I'd still bring it next time though.
The PJ's were great ' they were quick-dry from Magellan's and they really did dry quick.
As for the THINGS (non-clothes):
Toiletries ' the small wash cloth (many places didn't have), hair conditioner, body wash & facial cleanser were needed, not needed was shampoo as all of the lodges & tents supplied this at least. Some places had conditioner and body wash, others didn't.
OTC drug stuff ' Contac C is all gone ' Jim ended up with a cold that tried to start. Chapstick, band-aids, Neosporin and some antihistamine were used. Didn't need the Visine, gravol, throat lozenges or Imodium.
Sun & Bug stuff ' We only used the 'off-wipes', the Afterbite, the anti-itch cream (Benadryl brand) and the sunscreen ' didn't use anything else.
Bush Loo stuff ' used one toilet paper dispenser toll (Magellans), and lots of Sani-wipes.
Laundry stuff- used the clothes line, the laundry sack, the tube of SinkWash and the Tide-To-Go pens extensively ' invaluable.
Books & Writing stuff ' used the animal field guide once but didn't really need, 1 paperback book (not much time for reading), field notebook (my own), small tape, tiny stapler, white-out, small note cards for driver tips, small FX calculator and the plastic file pouch. Didn't use anything else on my list.
Security stuff ' used the colourful zap straps, the wire cutters to cut the straps extensively, the waist money pouch and the zippable document money holder, and the luggage locks for the camps/lodges. I'll revist this subject later in my report'..
Comfort- Jim used his Magellan's comfort 'touche cushion' extensively for the bumpy roads, I didn't use mine at all.
Camera stuff ' used it all ' Jim took 2700 images on the Nikon ' he said he would upload a select 'few' to the Kodak Gallery soon ' but I'd give him a month to do this as there is so many!
Miscellaneous ' used the Kleenex, binoculars, travel alarm clock, the converter, the adaptor plug and the multi plug outlet, lots of ziplocks, all of the 'bubble wrap' I brought, lots of extra batteries, the duct tape, the Micato flashlight, and the small basic sewing kit. Didn't use, or didn't bring (ditched before going) anything else on my list in that category.
The 'candy result' was a surprise to me ' well, I did eat some, but I just didn't have the craving to eat much of it - it was either too hot, or I was too busy, or just plain too full to eat those wine gums ' could really have left that at home after all! And, never bring chocolate ' I threw a bar in at the last moment and two weeks later discovered it melted all over the bottom of my carry-on bag! What a mess'.
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'IT IS SAID THAT GOD DOES NOT SUBTRACT FROM ONE'S ALLOTTED TIME, THOSE DAYS SPENT ON SAFARI'