semester in botswana - any tips?

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Jan 2nd, 2005, 11:44 PM
  #1
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semester in botswana - any tips?

i will be spending next semester (late january - early june) on a study abroad program in botswana.

for the first month or so, we will be living in a rural village approx. 30 km from gaborone; the next month-ish, we will be in a medium-sized village in the east; and the last two or three months will be spent in gaborone itself. we will also be going on side trips, at least one of which will take us to the north for wildlife viewing, etc.

at every stop, we will be living with host families, so lodging will not be an issue.

i was wondering if anyone who has had experience with botswana (i'm not sure if i'll be able to make it to any neighboring countries...) has any advice-

* is there anything that you wouldn't go to botswana without? (fyi: i have a headlamp and hat; water filters aren't necessary for the program i'm going on)
* any places i should make sure to visit? (fyi: i will definitely be on a budget for personal excursions)
* any places i should avoid? (tourist traps?)

any tips, no matter how small, will be gladly accepted!
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Jan 3rd, 2005, 03:26 AM
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Go-Siame

I would recommend that you see your GP or a doctor at a Travel Clinic for advice about how to best handle the malaria issue: I think (but am not sure) that your trip may be too long to be able to take a regular anti-malarial/ prophylactic but it's worth checking whether any are suitable for longer periods. If you can't take anything you will still want to make sure you use some effective insect repellent - highly concentrated DEET (50%) solutions are good.

It might be worth checking whether you need to take a personal mosquito net with you or whether these will be provided. Even if they are provided you might prefer to take your own as it's not unknown to be provided with nets that have enough rips and tears in them to allow the mossies to get straight through.

If you are thinking of taking things as gifts you might want to find out in advance what would be most useful - school supplies, clothing items or something else - and how best to give them - directly to a school, to your individual hosts etc.

It would probably be fun for you to take a small photo album with photos and postcards about your own area to share with the new friends you make. You might also want to get some inexpensive business cards printed (vistaprint or such) with your email address (and postal too if you wish) to give out to friends you make along the way.

Hope this is of some help,
Kavey
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Jan 3rd, 2005, 07:12 AM
  #3
 
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go_siame,

Good to hear that you are travelling to such a wonderful part of the world. Botswana as you hav probably gathered is a destination for safari lovers, or maybe diamond hunters. I was just going to address you 'visiting agenda'.

Unfortunately, for somebody on a budget, it is not that great a place to visit. I am sure that you have already seen that the prices for lodges are incredibly high around the delta, southern Chobe, and surrounding private concessions. So if you cant spend that type of money you could do like my son on his gap year. Lucky for him we were there at the same time to take him else where too. The main tourist trap is definately the chobe riverfront in kasane. I call it a tourist trap as im used to private concessions where your vehicle is the only one for hundreds of square miles. Compared to Kruger and Kenya, it is rather quiet and a good place to visit. There are lots of elephants, sorry, thousands of elephants to view. THe chobe safari lodge is very cheap in comparison to most lodges. Though it is clean and the near safari rooms are very good. The other option is to do a 4x4, though not having done that im unsure of the route and cost etc.

KAsane is not only accessable on the cheap, air botswana rather than private charter, but is also in the position to let you adventure out. It is very close to Vic falls, i would advise the Zambian side. I asked stuart and he recommened a hostel called fawlty towers. There you can see the falls and do other adventure activities. I enjoyed the rafting and microlighting.

Gaborone is very close to South AFrica. So for game viewing, this another potnetial option. THe waterberg is only over the boarder. THere are a number of smaller reserves that excellent value and in more of a wild setting than IHMO, stage managed kruger. Take a look at lapalala wilderness or maybe touchstone game reserve, stuart worked at the first and has been to the second. Lapalala is a the largest private reserve in south africa and is a black rhino breeding centre too.

If you give us a better idea of what you are willing to spend, then i am sure you can be helped. For more of a backpacker type trip, you maybe better looking at lonely planets thorn tree forum. This site mainly dicusses accommodation where the prices start at $450pppn. Botswana is a great country to explore. The salt pans, central kalahari, delta and chobe will all give you a different experience. If you can afford it, selinda is an excellent reserve up near the linyanti.

www.linyanti.con

Regards




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Jan 3rd, 2005, 07:41 AM
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Hello go_siame,

Agree with the advice you have received so far.

Suggest you look up the weather on a website such as Weather Underground or similar. Keep in mind that, while the winters are not severe compared with those in much of North America, houses in Southern Africa are not as well insulated and heated as most in North America. So I would advise that you take something fairly warm in which to sleep towards the end of your stay (pajamas, jogging suit, whatever), a couple of sweaters, and a jacket (a jacket that would be suitable for spring / fall in North America would be okay -- perhaps something like the Lands' End Squall Parka).

To figure out your packing list, I suggest you consult the Universal Packing List:

http://upl.codeq.info/index.jsp

and the One Bag website:

http://onebag.oratory.com/home.html

and

Travelite FAQ:

http://www.travelite.org/

After addressing your health needs (malaria prevention, etc.), the next most useful thing you could take with you would be a Leatherman tool. I like the Juice C2, CS4 or XE6 model. I don't know what your budget for host/hostess gifts is, and Leatherman tools are expensive, but in my experience the Wave model makes a great host gift.

http://www.leatherman.com/products/tools/juice.asp

I highly recommend the Ekit communication services for travellers:

www.ekit.com

Hope that helps.
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Jan 3rd, 2005, 10:48 AM
  #5
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thanks to everyone for their great advice!

as for the malaria issue... since most of the nation is below the tropic of capricorn, malaria is not an issue for most of my trip. the only time we will be at risk will be when we are spending time in the north. the program is providing us with a prophylactic manufactured in south africa called maloprim.

* does anyone have experience with maloprim? *

as for the mosquito nets and bug repellant - they are definitely high on my list.

excellent suggestions, all, on gift ideas. i haven't figured out what i am going to give to the families, but i will take your advice seriously.

i'm going to definitely bring some business cards - that's a great idea!

photoholic - since i'm not sure how much free time i will have, i'll be sure to print off your post and bring it with me for advice once i'm there. however, i will be on a backpacker's budget, so i probably won't be able to go to most of the tourist centers in the north. my total budget for spending money for the semester is around $500, so i'll be checking out the thorn tree as well.

judy_in_calgary - i will definitely be utilizing the links you sent me, especially the packing ones. it's so hard to plan for five months in a country, continent, and hemisphere one has never been to before! the leathermen tools look to be great presents... i'll definitely check them out the next time i'm at r.e.i.


everyone, thanks again for your excellent advice.
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Jan 3rd, 2005, 01:24 PM
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You're welcome! Sounds like a fun trip - how did it come about?
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Jan 3rd, 2005, 03:24 PM
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Hello go_siame,

When it comes to anti-malarial meds, I think you should consult a physician who is competent in tropical diseases.

I took Maloprim with no side effects, but that was a long time ago. Anti-malarial meds have continued to be developed over the years.

Here's a website about Maloprim:

http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/medicines/100001575.html

The website says it's not supposed to be taken alone, but rather in combination with Chloroquine. However, when I took it way back when, I took it alone. Another point to note is that CDC -- see below -- states that Chloroquine is not effective in preventing malaria, but maybe CDC is referring to Chloroquine taken alone.

If you decide to accept the Maloprim that the program dispenses, you should take it for a week before you enter the malaria-risk area, while you're in the malaria-risk area, and for 4 weeks after you've left the malaria-risk area. (This time frame is outlined in the above mentioned website.)

Note from the website that Maloprim has several possible side effects, one of which is psychosis. I'm sure the majority of people take it without incident, but just be aware of the existence of side effects.

Of course malaria is a very nasty disease, so a possible side effect of failing to take anti-malarial meds is that you could die. I don't want to be too melodramatic, but when I was a young adult I lost a friend to this disease. I contracted the disease myself when I was a toddler, and I'm told I had a temperature in excess of 106 deg F, was delirious, and was considered to be on death's door.

Have a look at what the National Center for Infectious Diseases (a division of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta) has to say about malaria prevention in Southern Africa:

http://www.cdc.gov/travel/regionalmalaria/safrica.htm

One of the drugs that CDC recommends is Atovaquone/proguanil (brand name: Malarone™). Quite a few Fodorites have taken Malarone.

Another anti-malarial drug that has produced unwelcome side effects in some people, including psychosis, is Mefloquine (brand name: Lariam™).

But I am not a health professional. Please consult an appropriate expert before you leave home.

Also, if you encounter any health problems after your return, be sure to tell your doctor that you have been to Africa. If my friend who died from malaria had told her London, UK doctor that she'd returned from Africa, he might have been able to intervene with appropriate treatment sooner, and he might have been able to save her life.

Again, this is not to be melodramatic. Many people travel to Africa without incident. These are just things to keep in the back of your mind, in case.
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Jan 4th, 2005, 08:59 PM
  #8
tod
 
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Hello Go_Siam:
Likewise advice as from Judy_in_Calgary about Malaria prevention.

We were in the Kruger National Park again this year but went right up north to the Zimbabwe/Mozambique borders so consulted our doctor about malaria tablets. He perscribed MALANIL 250mg. One tablet taken before you enter area and one everyday. Thereafter one tablet for a week after returning.
As you are there for quite some time I don't know if the dosage would be the same. All I can say is that the mosquito encountered nowadays delivers a FATAL bloodsucking dose of malaria that attacks the brain. Maybe some medical person can give you the correct name of it. I have been told that sometimes the symptoms of malaria are disquised by some older type drugs themselves and long after you get back from holiday Malaria makes an appearance.
You should also take a broad spectrum anti-biotic. We were given BEXTRA 40mg which deals with anything from an ingrown toenail to a sore throat. As I had a grumbling tooth(old root canal) I had to take CLINDAHEXAL 150mg incase it started up again.
Take loads of care with yourself & pack tummy-bug stuff like Imodium. We always take enough to give others.
Botswana I am told is very beautiful so I am sure you will love being there.
BON VOYAGE!
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