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crosscheck Aug 13th, 2010 09:39 PM

Mr. Carry-on and Family Go on Safari: A Porini Migration Adventure
Two adults (one a luggage nazi) and two boys, 16 and 19. We are grateful that our kids still want to vacation with us, especially as we become more and more eccentric. We have the annoying habit of organizing distant, complicated journeys at the last minute, causing stress to everyone involved. We are very fortunate to have now visited six continents as a family, shockingly without owning decent binoculars. This was our first time in Africa (other than Egypt for me), and our only previous safari was at a game park in Sonoma County.

(Organized by Gamewatchers)
2 nights Nairobi - Macushla House - Fadhili Cottage
3 nights Amboseli Porini - Selenkay Conservancy (by road, then onward by plane)
3 nights Porini Lion - Olare Orok Conservancy (by plane)
1 night Mara Intrepids – (wanted four nights in the Mara and Porini Lion was booked)

Amboseli Porini: Kili views, all-day walking safari, private village visit, hundreds of elephants, cool night drives
Porini Lion: Lions mating, two cheetah kills, wildebeest stampede, zebra crossing, wildebeest crossing, hippo fight, school visit

LAX-BOS-LHR-NBO-LHR-JFK-LAX (long layovers at LHR and JFK on the return)
Mr. Crosscheck has a strict rule requiring us to use mileage on all big vacations…a true challenge for this trip because we didn't start planning until mid-May. To complicate things even more, we had to change our dates for work reasons a week after we booked. We ended up setting a new record: Utilized all classes of travel and all methods of payment. We flew on three separate tickets - First and Economy on AA, Business and Premium Economy on BA. Transatlantic segment were award tickets, US domestic legs were purchased with AA vouchers. One upgrade was achieved with miles/status, the other with cash.

In May, some very generous friends invited me to join them in July on their posh Tanzanian safari - Sasakwa, Katavi, etc. with a famous guide and a chartered plane. Our friends pitied me because for years Mr. Crosscheck has been saying that he had no interest in going to Africa, and it was no secret that I wanted to see the Great Migration somewhere other than on 60 Minutes. But when I told Mr. C about my opportunity of a lifetime, he suddenly changed his tune and suggested that we go as a family instead.

His parameters:
1) Twelve days max...and, of course, we would have to use mileage for part of the trip (traveling through Europe during peak travel season).
2) Boys would have to rearrange their summer jobs, programs and internships.
3) No Afro-chic/nothing over the top – he imposed a budget that was less for the four of us than many safari-goers spend for one.

Add to the above list my requirements:
1) Remote tented camps; excellent guides; a private, open vehicle; cultural encounters and a way to give back to the local community.
2) Had to get the migration to arrive a month early.

Somehow we pulled it off - a spectacular, authentic, classic first-time safari as a family. And the wildebeest cooperated with our time constraints.


live_aloha Aug 14th, 2010 12:45 AM

OMG, crosscheck--you are too funny! I cannot wait to hear about the rest of this adventure...

Although I am sure you have a wonderful relationship, I can't help thinking about how much I love my dogs!

Great to know Amboseli was a highlight...I will be there in about a week (10 days to be exact). Read about the drought and associated conditions last year before booking it, but decided to go with my gut instinct and glad I did.

Can't wait hearing about the "packing stress", since this is what I'll be doing this weekend.

BTW, how COLD was it? Should I accept my friends offer on gloves and warm socks? (I'm in Hawaii and get cold when the temp dips below 70)!

Leely2 Aug 14th, 2010 08:38 AM

Very funny and I can't wait to read more!

one2travel2 Aug 14th, 2010 08:54 AM

Hilarous~ Love it... I leave in a month for South Africa and am looking forward to the packing stress story. I can't say I'm as bad as your mister but I'm traveling with a friend (safari newbie) who wants to take EVERYTHING!!!

BTW, elizabethj...I always take gloves and warm socks. I don't care if it is 100 degrees at noon, at 5:30AM I freeze!

crosscheck Aug 14th, 2010 03:10 PM

I forgot to thank all of you for your expert help. When Mr. C. approved the trip, I had a very short window in which to book everything, for fear that he would suddenly change his mind. My queries here quickly confirmed that the Porini Camps were the right choice for us, and I really am grateful for everyone's assistance.

elizabeth, It was not what I would call "cold," just a little chilly before 8am and after 8pm. We live in LA and I, too, am a wuss (sp?) about temperatures below 70 (although I grew up in NY). I would say the climate was exactly like LA in the winter - a range between 50-75F, although here we are not accustomed to taking drives through the savanna in open vehicles before dawn.

Because the Porini camps provided fabulous ponchos lined with blankets in their vehicles, the gloves and gortex rain jacket I brought were not necessary, but warm socks were a must. My routine layered outfit was a tee, thin cashmere and fleece...and I usually wore the poncho for the first 30-90 minutes of the morning game drives. By mid-morning I had removed one of the outer layers, and by afternoon, just needed the tee. Then in the evenings I wore a long-sleeved top and the fleece.

one2travel2 - Tell your friend that it very liberating having virtually no choices about to wear, although I'm not sure I would have felt that way if I were dining out in Capetown. I will post info about the packing stress drama soon.

doohickey Aug 14th, 2010 08:00 PM

Looking forward to hearing about more of your trip!

crosscheck Aug 15th, 2010 02:10 PM

We are not normally neurotic about packing. We usually throw things into a suitcase the evening before we leave. And, thanks to another one of Mr. C’s rules, we always carry on – even for three-climate holidays. We have used our not-so-compact 22” rolling Travelpros all over the world, and so far nobody has made us gate check.

On this trip, our three separate tickets practically guaranteed lost luggage, so even I, who once packed two raincoats just to annoy Mr. C, agreed that carry-on was mandatory. This meant new bags for us because a)the safari plane guys, who don’t care about seat belts or cell phones, supposedly strictly enforce their 33 lb. max, soft-sided luggage rule, and b) we heard that BA routinely sends all LHR in-transit passengers whose dimensions are 1” too large to a three-hour line on the other side of security.

So we spent about several weeks ordering – and rejecting – every 21.5” wheeled duffel on the market.

During this period, Mr. C went off the deep end. He bought a handheld luggage scale, and then some worthless locks that a ten-year old could rip off of our bags effortlessly. Then he actually drove to LAX to test the bags we were considering in the BA sizer…not once, but THREE times. (Okay, I admit that I accompanied him twice.) The first time the BA desk was closed. The second, our new wheeled duffel was at least 4” too wide (I have kept this bag and have traveled with it to NY without incident). Then the third prospect got stuck in the sizer, and it took three security guys and one beefy passenger to get it out.

We ended traveling with four different non-wheeled duffels, each no larger than a gym bag (an Eagle Creek, an Eddie Bauer, a discontinued Travelpro, and a retro canvas and leather tote that Karen Blixen would have used for makeup). As soon as I figure out how to work flickr, I will post photos.

I wish I could report that all of our meticulous carry-on preparations paid off. But nowhere did the authorities weigh, measure, or even glance at any of our luggage. And...on all of our flights (including the safari planes) we noticed multiple passengers with hard-sided, heavy-wheeled Travelpros.


twaffle Aug 15th, 2010 07:45 PM

Really enjoying this, very funny! I wish I could say the same about my flights as regards weighing and checking luggage. Mine has been weighed and checked at every transit point, so now I'm just really, really careful.

moremiles Aug 16th, 2010 07:51 AM

Great start crosscheck-can't wait to read more! Your baggage concerns beat all others I have read about or experienced myself but it does seems if one is overly concerned, it does pay off.

crosscheck Aug 16th, 2010 08:19 AM

Thanks, twaffle and moremiles,

Maybe the airline personnel felt sorry for us...Poor guys going on a vacation halfway around the world with just gym bags - We will just have to repeat our trip with normal luggage and see what happens.

crosscheck Aug 16th, 2010 08:29 AM

This forum is very helpful for itinerary advice, but it was slightly intimidating when it came to packing for a safari. Although we were going to be near the equator in Africa, we were told to expect arctic temperatures in the mornings and evenings.

And, except for our Costa Rican Buzz-off wardrobe, none of us had anything in our closets in the appropriate colors, except Mr. C, who always looks as if he’s on safari. I own all sorts of fleeces, but all of them are black, just like the rest of my wardrobe. And my boys tend to favor white or bright tee shirts with the names of colleges and rock bands.

Here are the colors you are not supposed to bring on safari:
NAVY – attracts tses tses
BLACK – ditto about the tse tses, and also gets dusty (although we have been to other dusty places in black without consequence)
WHITE – attract deadly spiders
BRIGHT COLORS – attract male predators
PASTELS – attract female predators
PRINTS – attract reticulated pythons
CAMOFLAGE – illegal, punishable by seven years in prison (not an exaggeration)

The color grey seems to fall into a grey area. I do own one grey top, but it’s the exact shade of an elephant. And my favorite pajamas are a leopard print – those obviously wouldn’t work, even with warriors guarding my tent. So, I had to order new clothes for me and the boys in various shades of khaki, olive, taupe, sage and shitaki – and soon, we were the Earth Tone Family. I also bought very pricy quick-dry underwear, but then I read about a certain kind of East African fly that lays eggs in your clothes as they’re drying. Then when the eggs hatch, it burrows its way into your skin. Better to just pack enough underwear.

There was also a bizarre collection of incidentals to gather together. Several lists on this board suggested that we would need items like thank you notes and duct tape. When I asked Mr. C if our kids’ sunglasses were polarized, that was the final straw. He pointed out that I hadn’t been concerned about polarization in Spain or the Australian outback…or, for that matter, here in sunny Southern California. Besides, the boys never even wear their sunglasses.

Living dangerously, I had dared to pack two black tops to use Nairobi and London. When I got to Kenya, I discovered, in horror, that one of those shirts was actually navy…I would have to hide it at the bottom of my duffel in case the tses tses noticed it through the screen in my tent.

I also risked bringing a pair of earrings, even though the guidebooks said not to travel with even costume jewelry because it could be mistaken for precious gems. I went the opposite route, and packed something expensive that looked cheap – some 18k white gold hoops that potential thieves would mistake for junky silverplate.

Eventually we moved on to other obsessions, like whether the immodiun we had left over was fast or slow-acting. In fact, by the time it came to the truly important decisions about which binoculars and cameras to pack, we were burnt out. We ordered a camera without research, threw in all sorts of converters and some Silly Bandz for the school kids, and we were good to go.

Like our luggage concerns, our packing nightmares were all for naught. On our first day at Amboseli Porini, we met – and, in spite of our wardrobe differences, bonded with -- a fascinating crowd of international fellow guests, including a family from Nairobi. They showed up for a game drive in (I kid you not) black, navy, tangerine and a sequined ethnic top. They even wore (gasp) open-toed sandals on our all-day hike. And we discovered that the Masai tribespeople, who live right next door to packs of hungry predators, routinely dress in bright red, purple and elaborate prints. Could this whole khaki custom be a conspiracy started by LL Bean?

When we got to the Mara, travelers were more on board, in Ex-Officio convertible pants and Tilly hats, and we even spotted a gentleman in a pith helmet. But we were especially shocked to meet two Czech guys in head-to-toe camouflage. Luckily, as far as I know, they managed to escape arrest or extradition.


one2travel2 Aug 16th, 2010 10:02 AM

Keep it coming. I haven't laughed so much in a long time.

janev Aug 16th, 2010 10:07 AM

Love your report, and how you overcame so many worries :)

As we waited at the airport to board our plane to south africa (we were headed to Kruger)I saw a couple who must have also had these same dilemmas, they both had matching khaki costumes and looked like they were headed for a safari drive right there..... or perhaps had packed light and these were their main outfits. I worried we might be wrongly dressed, but our ordinary clothes seemed quite the norm in Kruger!

Look forward to your next report!

moremiles Aug 16th, 2010 10:17 AM

So far, this is living up to your Asia report!

Leely2 Aug 16th, 2010 06:15 PM

<i>Living dangerously, I had dared to pack two black tops to use Nairobi and London. When I got to Kenya, I discovered, in horror, that one of those shirts was actually navy…I would have to hide it at the bottom of my duffel in case the tses tses noticed it through the screen in my tent. </i>

Oh my god, don't you know they can see through luggage too?

I used my duct tape this last trip to tape the cover of my book back together. Handy.

atravelynn Aug 16th, 2010 08:19 PM

The Earthtone family on safari--this is hilarious.

stamiya Aug 16th, 2010 08:49 PM

too funny! we're just getting in to the whole packing thing and I refuse to go buy more stuff that I'll never wear again. I hate shopping anyway! Can't wait to hear if the Tsetses raided your tent in search of the forbidden blue.

twaffle Aug 17th, 2010 01:10 AM

Crosscheck, you have highlighted the shear stupidity of the packing … colour … style debate. Go with what is comfortable that you already own. The tsetse flies will find you if they want, bright colours in vehicles is neither here nor there, in fact the myths perpetuated by safari travellers are amazing in their variety and silliness. The one reason I would (and do) wear khaki and neutral colours is because they don't show the dirt. I don't wear black because it is too hot in the sun. Other than that, good hat, good sunblock, good guide.

Most locals out on safari don't fuss themselves with the things we tourists do.

Loving your writing, so funny I'm chuckling out loud (much to the consternation of everyone else!). :)

SB_Travlr Aug 17th, 2010 09:36 AM

Great post, great trip -- thanks for posting! Maybe I'll get to safari some day, but this year our Big Deal is 8 weeks to Australia and New Zealand. There's still plenty of packing angst, however. And I realise I have no idea what colors all those nasty biters in Oz might like... maybe I'm trying to avoid the information? At least it's one less thing to obsess about!

This made me LOL:
PRINTS – attract reticulated pythons

sandi Aug 17th, 2010 03:12 PM

SB-Travlr -

One thing you might want to consider packing for OZ, especially if you'll be in the red center of Alice and Uluru... lots and lots of flies... one of those hats with hanging corks would be de riguer! :)

You do know that swatting flies from around and on you is the official wave of Australia (even in Sydney). I didn't have the corks but did use one of those "no-seeum" nets that fit over my hat! Yeh, I looked like a bee-keeper, but kept the critters away!

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