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Africa travel is like horseshoes and hand grenades--in a positive way

Africa travel is like horseshoes and hand grenades--in a positive way

Feb 7th, 2010, 07:29 AM
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Africa travel is like horseshoes and hand grenades--in a positive way

You've probably heard, "Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades." It also applies when planning a safari from my experience and what I've gleaned from others.

It is not necessary to hit a perfect ringer in order to have a fantastic vacation, which is a testament to the quality of typical African safari destinations, from the people/culture to the landscapes/scenery to the wildlife.

If you guess the rains wrong and get wet, you'll have a verdant landscape on which to photograph grazing herds and the predators they attract.

If you arrive during a drought, amidst the devastation that affects people, cattle, and animals, are scarce waterholes that attract a huge variety of wildlife. (This was recently the case in parts of Kenya that experienced the deaths of thousands of wildebeest and domestic livestock. I would never try to minimize these losses. But if responsible visitors continue to bring tourist dollars to the areas affected and not do foolish things like let their showers run on and on or demand daily baths with rose petals, the effects of nature's devastation can be mitigated, if only slightly.)

If you are not at the optimal spot for the migration, there will likely be sizeable straggling herds, resident herds, or other fantastic wildlife to occupy you.

If you choose a location that is out of season, with fewer animals, there will be fewer people as well, with the unique opportunity for interesting seasonal animal and bird behavior such as mating, birthing, or full plumage for the birds.

If something goes wrong logistically so that your time is allocated differently from the original plan, there will probably be some outstanding occurrence in the Plan B that will convince you it was Divine Providence.

If suddenly there is no room at the inn of accommodation #1 (which seems to happen more in Tanzania than other places), you may be upgraded to something nicer at accommodation #2 or find yourself with a bit of a refund in your pocket on the way home or a check in the mail a few weeks post-safari. (Getting money back usually takes some doing and documentation, but I've accomplished it on rare occasion when needed.)

When I've encountered people who have had problems that truly disrupted their trip, they have always been quick to complain in one breath but then dish out the accolades in the next breath. The final conclusion has always been, "This place is amazing!" I've never heard, "The trip has been totally ruined, " or "It has been a total waste of my time and money."

I recall my first trip and the things that went not according to plan.

Before leaving home for my first African safari, if a fortune teller had given me an enumeration of what would go wrong on that upcoming trip, I might have even tried to cancel. I never would have thought that despite the numerous snafus, my first trip to Africa would be the most outstanding travel experience to date (and I had been blessed with many previous trips to a variety of destinations.)

-Violence in Rwanda required that I remove the gorilla part of my trip that had been one of the main reasons for choosing Africa.

- There would be uncharacteristic heavy rains during my Kenya stay that required at least one game drive be removed.

-A freak outbreak of a deadly lion disease occurred a few months before my arrival and still had lingering and monumental effects in the Serengeti, diminishing lion sightings.

-Both my Kenyan and Tanzanian guide apologized for lackluster game viewing, compared to what they usually see. These were outstanding, enthusiastic guides who worked hard for our sightings.

-A severe problem with a vehicle-mate required ditching the entire family in the Serengeti (not on the savanna, we let them off in civilization).

-I had two vehicle breakdowns, one delaying a transfer between countries and the subsequent game activities; and one in the bush where the axel fell off the vehicle, resulting in an entire afternoon and evening being disrupted

-The camera I had borrowed from my husband would return home inoperable.

-I would find the expensive grand finale balloon ride unappealing (but not due to the balloon pilot, weather, ride itself, or what we saw). I just didn’t like the noise and the effect on the animals on the ground. Plus I had completely unrealistic expectations of unobtrusively swooping down at will over herds, prides, etc.

All this and it was a fabulous trip. I couldn’t wait to return. That has been the case ever since—regardless the disruptions, hiccups, or disappointments that may occur during the trip, Africa always comes through in a big way.
atravelynn is offline  
Feb 7th, 2010, 07:48 AM
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So true, Lynn, so true! Thanks for sharing and reminding us that "It is what it is!" I have a tendency to overplan and get nervous about changes on the ground, but they always work out. I always remind myself and my fellow travelers of the "3 C's" of foreign travel: Do not criticize, compare, or complain.
ShayTay is offline  
Feb 7th, 2010, 08:17 AM
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Thanks for a reminder on the Cs. We really do share a lot of similarities besides our fine dining evening wear! I often do the same thing you've described.

May I add some more Cs? No cussing, crying, comedic routines, caterwauling, continual camcorder narration, constant conversing, cackling, or calling out to the animals while in the vehicle with me. Back at camp I don't have a problem with any of these because I can get away if need be.

I'm waiting for some agents to chime in that such a strong destination also allows the unscrupulous operators into the market to prey on those who have done little preparation for the trip. As long as the tourists are shown an elephant, giraffe, lion, and jaguar (because some may not know or care there are no jaguars in Africa) they are happy campers.
atravelynn is offline  
Feb 7th, 2010, 08:25 AM
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No wonder Daniel couldn't find those jaguars for me!

Lynn, as my first time back on the board in what seems like weeks (very buried under other people's books this season) this was a lovely first-piece to read - THANKYOU! You truly do look at the glass half full & I like that.

I'd love to hear the story of the vehicle mates, sounds like a good one!
LyndaS is offline  
Feb 7th, 2010, 08:29 AM
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Thanks, Lynn. This is true of travel anywhere. I always try to plan for every situation I can imagine before we depart, so that I have plenty of time to enjoy those things that come along out of the blue. Plan B-C-D, have been some of our most amazing experience and the people along the way who help us out have become long standing friends. Its why we travel.

I read once that as humans we often strive to be "immortal" -- by this the author meant, that we strive to leave our mark on the world long after we're gone - to be remembered. Unfortunately, we set about to be memorable in the wrong way. We work ourselves into a tither trying to be perfect and make everything we do perfect. Its not the perfection in life that make the fondest memories, it is the imperfections. All the little things that go wrong are the stories we hold on to, laugh about, tell over and over again and that ulitmately get passed into family lore. The moral is --- give yourself permission to be imperfect -- and therefore memorable.
TC is offline  
Feb 7th, 2010, 09:46 AM
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Bravo Lynn. You always have such a wonderful way of saying things!
Lillipets is offline  
Feb 7th, 2010, 10:19 AM
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This is why you are so respected on this site and everyone wants to hear your thoughts. Well said. All of your c's should be posted in every lodge. (and every hotel room worldwide!)

christabir is offline  
Feb 7th, 2010, 10:41 AM
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Great post, Lynn. Thanks for the reminder. It's so easy to get caught up in trying to craft the perfect trip when there's just no such thing.

Is Lynn the Will Rogers of wildlife-focused travel? For some reason I thought of the quote, "People who fly into a rage always make a bad landing," when reading the c's you and ShayTay mentioned.
Leely2 is offline  
Feb 7th, 2010, 11:18 AM
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Well said Lynn. The horseshoes and handgrenades analogy extends to trips outside Africa (as do the 'C's ). I love to plan my little heart out, but once I land, I let go of my expectations, and take things as they come - or I try to anyway.

This way I get to enjoy the unexpected nuggets (like the spine-tingling, goose-bump causing, church choir composed of safari lodge staff), and the less delightful treats that weren't so bad in retrospect(fending off flies in the desert for a chance to meet the wacky, wild Rashaida tribe in Eritrea).

The key to my getting the most out of all my trips is 'Traveler, know thyself'. A fantastic vacation for my friends might be a nightmare for me and vice-versa.
Femi is offline  
Feb 7th, 2010, 05:48 PM
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All right! The 10 C's... I must update my list. Femi reminded me of one of my most fond memories of an unexpected moment in Africa. Coming down the tramway from Table Mountain in Cape Town, all the locals suddenly started singing. We were treated to an impromptu concert for the entire journey down. Think you'll ever experience that in the USA? Probably not...
ShayTay is offline  
Feb 7th, 2010, 05:58 PM
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And do tell us the vehicle mates story.
LAleslie is offline  
Feb 7th, 2010, 08:27 PM
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Thanks for all the kind responses.

Here is an excerpt from the vehicle mate problem. I was sharing a vehicle with a family of 4 in Tanzania.

By late afternoon it was time for me to zip the legs back onto my convertible pants. In a moving vehicle on bumpy roads, getting the zipper lined up proved to be tricky. I was having a bit of trouble with the task, but was entirely capable of attending to my own trousers.

The husband in the back seat did not think so. Without warning he stood up and reached over the seat and began grabbing at my partially zipped pants, claiming he was “helping” me. His wife, who was sitting next to me, appeared startled, but not as startled as I was. At first I politely declined his help and his wife encouraged him to sit down.

He ignored our requests and everything suddenly escalated. My objections grew to shouting as I shoved the weirdo away, his wife began pleading for him to stop, the grandfather in the front seat turned around and started issuing orders, and the son in the back next to his father seemed stunned into silent embarrassment. This melee lasted only a few seconds when Joma slammed on the brakes, whirled around, and shouted at the husband, “You stop now!” The husband sat down and we resumed our journey in an uncomfortable silence.

At Lobo Lodge I ate dinner separately from the family and the next morning Joma and I left early with breakfast and lunch boxes, and without the family.

The guy obviously had a terrible problem. I can only wonder what other behavior he had engaged in when there was not a whole carload of others to stop him. It was a silly tale in my case, but this was clearly a serious disorder.
atravelynn is offline  
Feb 7th, 2010, 09:20 PM
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A zipper-on-thigh fetish? You couldn't make it up, could you?

You won't be surprised that I like your post a lot, but am not sure what it has to do with horseshoes. (It's okay... no need to explain - I'll google it.)
kimburu is offline  
Feb 8th, 2010, 04:00 AM
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Thanks for the wonderful (wonderful in so many different ways) post, Lynn.
DonTopaz is offline  
Feb 8th, 2010, 05:12 AM
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Well said, Lynn. I especially liked the 10 c's. I hope I and my tripmates remember the no C's reminder during my upcoming trip to Tunisia. It will make for a better trip for all of us. Thanks for posting your well written and well thought out comments on how to be a considerate traveller.
shelleyk is offline  
Feb 8th, 2010, 06:11 AM
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In case the online horseshoe game rules don't make my metaphor obvious--when you throw horseshoes at a stake in the ground, the idea is to make the horsehoe loop around the stake. When it does, that is a "ringer" and you get a point. But if none of the horseshoes are a ringer, then whoever threw the horsehoe closest to the stake wins. So close counts in horsehoes.

I can't even remember all those C's, which is why the original 3 are probably good: Don't complain, compare, criticize.

One vehicle-mate of mine, who enjoyed performing in community theater, was so moved on the game drive that he belted out several lines from West Side Story. Who knows what all was scared off by his singing?

Adding another C--Community theater try-outs are banned in the vehicle.
atravelynn is offline  
Feb 8th, 2010, 08:03 AM
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Excellent musings! Having just returned from my first trip to Africa in almost a decade, this post really resonates with me. During my travels, I missed meals, was hit on by my driver, and was woken at 2 am by celebratory drumming and chanting. But none of these things could begin to take away from my amazement at seeing my first hippos or watching a group of immature Hamadryas baboons playing "king of the mountain" on a large termite mound.

Perhaps Africa always does come through. I wonder if it also attracts the type of traveler who is ready to go with the flow and enjoy the experience, no matter what...
Travel_monkey is offline  
Feb 8th, 2010, 09:24 AM
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As TC said , "This is true of travel anywhere." I would add it applies to that journey through life we take every day, but for me it is a bit easier to get it right during my African adventures.
GreenDrake is offline  
Feb 8th, 2010, 06:50 PM
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GreenDrake, I was wondering if anyone would expand this theoretically to the longest journey we take!

Good point, but like you, I find it works better in Africa.
atravelynn is offline  
Feb 28th, 2010, 01:21 AM
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I really loved reading this, all of it! Thanks.
tinydancer is offline  

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