Value of taking a spotting scope on safari?

Old Sep 20th, 2007, 06:13 AM
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Value of taking a spotting scope on safari?

Hi folks!

My husband and I have a terrific spotting scope that we're thinking of taking on safari with us in addition to binocs. It weighs 5 pounds and gives us a far better view of things in the distance than even the best binocs. We'll be on a Thomson private safari so our vehicle will have a pop top which will better facilitate the use of the scope with a bean bag. Has anyone has taken a spotting scope with them to use on safari?

We'd really like folks to weigh in on this for us.

Thanks bunches!

-doo

Ps. We don't think the 33lb. weight limit will be an issue for us as we're used to packing light for all travel.
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Old Sep 20th, 2007, 06:43 AM
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I can't speak to its value in East Africa, but in southern Africa it would be somewhat handy for birds, but the animals are usually so close its not an issue. I would not lug it along.
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Old Sep 20th, 2007, 06:56 AM
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aby
 
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Hi doohickey

Don't hesitate - take it!!!
did you mention where are you going?

anyhow, not only for birds,
but sometimes for examole, your only leopard-of-the- trip is on a far away tree . . .
Some animals, like small communal mongoose, are very shy & should be watched from afar...

sitting on the verandah of your lodge/camp; putting the scope on tripod
you'll enjoy it so much

aby
PS
since
A. you own one - it means sth about you
B. you do say you pack light
the conclusion is obvious
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Old Sep 20th, 2007, 07:02 AM
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If I owned one, and I could figure out how to get it there, I'd take it. Sounds like you've got it figured out--go for it!
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Old Sep 20th, 2007, 08:07 AM
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Thanks napamatt and aby for your replies!

We'll visit Arusha NP, Tarangire, Manyara, Ng. Crater the Serengeti and Zanzibar.

Regarding taking our tripod along...we're not so sure about that because it weighs a few more pounds. We could get a new lightweight one but my husband tells me they cost a couple a hundred bucks. We're not so sure we want to add that expediture to our budget. :- (

Additional comments/suggestions?

Thanks!
-doo
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Old Sep 20th, 2007, 08:25 AM
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You didn't say how strong the scope is ... if it's 20x you can sometimes use it off a bean bag from a jeep, 40x or stronger and you probably can't without a tripod.

I wouldn't bring it myself. Usually you can get pretty close to game, even birds ... close enough to view with the binocs.

Bill
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Old Sep 20th, 2007, 08:44 AM
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Hi Bill H,

Hmmmm, our scope is 80x though most useful using it at max 60x. Perhaps we'll need to take along our tripod. I hope it'll fit okay in the vehicle since it'll be just my husband and I and our driver/guide. I'd better communicate with Thomson about that.

Thanks for the tip!

-doo
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Old Sep 20th, 2007, 09:46 AM
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our scope is 80x though most useful using it at max 60x.

Wow! 80X! I'd just take a 3 lb brick instead of this 5 lb scope ... it will be about as useful but save you 2 lbs weight

Seriously, I think anything over 20x will be awfully difficult to set up on a bean bag in a jeep, where people are squirming around (even if just the three of you). We've been to Tarangire, Manyara, Ngorongoro and Serengeti (three safaris to northern Tz) and never once felt we needed a scope, but then we were mainly photographing (not birding) so we were looking for critters close to the jeep ... no shortage of those for the most part.

The time such a scope would come in handy is if you are a really serious birder trying to list as many species as possible and you could set up a tripod for viewing thru the scope, I feel. But it's your trip and your weight allowance ...

Bill
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Old Sep 20th, 2007, 12:31 PM
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I also would not take it. Too much magnification, remember you are in a vehicle most of the time (unless you plan a lot of walks) and people are constantly moving around in the vehicle so it will be very frustrating trying to use it.
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Old Sep 20th, 2007, 01:48 PM
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We are serious birders and have never needed a scope. Sure we have probably missed a couple of birds for not having it, but not enough to justify lugging it and a tripod around. Most of our bird watching is by binocular from vehicles and we are very successful, particularly because we have Roberts Birds of SA on our PDA which allows us to call shy birds into view.
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Old Sep 20th, 2007, 02:59 PM
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I have never seen a spotting scope on any safari. Once in a while a camp will have one set up for use on the property.

I'd do a trial run packing and if it can be conveniently carried, why not? But if it means you'd have to check stuff you'd rather not check, I'd leave it home with no regrets. I really don't think you'll need it.

Have a great trip and if you do take the scope, please tell us all about how it went.
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Old Sep 20th, 2007, 10:22 PM
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Hello,I have and 82mm KOWA (TSN-821) spotting scope with eye pieces 20-60x zoom and 30x.

I did take it to my Kenya safari in 2004 along with my tripod(i consider tripod a must for this scope,beanbag is not a good idea).
It was very nice to have it set at our campīs tent during the midday ours, but that was it. Some days we didnīt even use it beacause we where out all day.
In november i am going to my fifth safari and i have never even think to take it any again.

We take good binocs( one for each person,important) and a good birding guide.
As other people told you, you would not need the scope for mammals because many times they will be close to your vehicle but even birds are much more tame in Africa than in Europe.

Maibe you want to do like me,try the first year and then you can decided by yourself for the rest of your african trips.

Paco.
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Old Sep 21st, 2007, 08:22 AM
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Wow! Thanks everyone for your input; it has been very informative! At this time we're leaning towards taking our mini-behemoth 'cause, well, why not?

I'll definitely report back to the forum on it's usefulness. We don't leave until March 7th so, it'll be a while

Cheers!
-doo
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Old Sep 22nd, 2007, 01:42 AM
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aby
 
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Good question by Bill_H !
i reckoned we're talking about a birder's telescope (sth like 20X 30X qualitative lens). well, i don't really know to expect from a 80X scope

again - there's no mention of itinerary
(please add thisd info)
i use a scope on walks (and i'm ready to carry it through narrow rocky canyons etc') -
You can use a scope off-vehicle in Manyara from viewpoints in Tarangire & above the lakes in Arusha NP
observing from top of Kopjes in Serengeti
and off-course from the rim of Ngorongoro (i've followed a rhino on the caldera's floor from the rim using a telescope)

& i've mentioned the camps/lodges

aby
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Old Sep 22nd, 2007, 01:45 AM
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sorry = i missed on my editing
found the itinerary but forgot to erase some relevant remarks
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Old Sep 22nd, 2007, 05:34 AM
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Hi doo,
Are you planning on also taking a camera? If so what? You may be able to kill 2 birds, so to speak, with the magnification from your camera lens.

Although this will not be the same, I just can't imagine setting up a camera and your scope logistically in such a compact area.

It would also seem that whatever moving critter (particularly birds) you focus on, would be gone by the time you set up both.
I would imagine that the scope may benificial in the Serengeti to a degree b/c of the vast plains but not in the other areas.
Just my humble opinion.
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Old Sep 22nd, 2007, 06:28 AM
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Cybor and Aby have raised good questions so I hope to answer them fully and any other "unknowns" I might have left hanging

We're going with Thomson Safaris and, outside of Arusha, will be staying entirely in their Nyumbas - tented camps. It will be a private safari with just my husband and me and our driver/guide in the vehicle, a Land Rover Defender with pop-up roof.

March 8, Arusha - 1 night
March 9, quick visit to Arusha NP then on to Tarangire - 2 nights
March 11, visit Manyara NP then on to Ngorongoro Crater - 2 nights
March 13, Serengeti - 2 nights
March 15, Serengeti - 2 nights (different camp)
March 17, Zanzibar (Ras Nungwi) - 3 nights
March 20, depart for US via DAR

Equipment we'll take along (I've been able to confirm all the equipment particulars so the description of our scope is a little different than what I wrote before):
1 pair of Minolta binoculars, 10x50W wide angle.
1 pair compact Bushnell binocs, 7-15x25 (only half as good as the Minoltas)
1 Canon EOS 40D digital with multiple lenses - my husband's new "baby"
Optional - 1 Nikon spotting scope, 80mm objective, 20x-60x power zoom eyepiece.

I went on a Tanzania safari a while back. There were many times that I sorely wished I could see distant rhino and lions far better than I could. I had the Bushnells at that time but I know that the Minoltas would just be a tease. E.g...

Last summer we were able to see a distant mama bear with her two cubs in Yellowstone. They couldn't be seen with the naked eye. They were spots with the Minoltas but we could easily see them eating and frolicking with the scope on a tripod. Additionally, we were able to see a wolf at an elk kill really well with the scope and only teasingly so with the Minoltas. Aby, what you said about tracking a rhino from the crater rim is soooo exciting. We love our scope for that very reason.

I can just see it now...we get out on safari and my husband, when not taking photos, will want to hog the Minoltas. Taking the scope along - whether we leave it mounted at camp or take it in the vehicle - will give us (me!) more opportunity for great viewing.

I think maybe we should take the scope with us on a couple of outings before March to try it from our own vehicle with a beanbag. I also think I've read somewhere that over-window tripods are on the market. I think we'll look into this, too!

Thanks everyone for your advice. Keep it coming!!!

-doo
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