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Two Safari questions--one photography and one about gratuities

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Hi, Boston Harbor here, normally of the Asia board.

I am heading to South Africa and Botswana (Mala Mala and Mashatu) for a nine day photo journey on August 31. Flying Delta out of Atlanta non stop to JNB. Miles ticket in business class--very happy girl.

My questions.

First (esoteric camera-nut) question: Are there any photographers in the Fodors who have taking an infrared modified camera on safari? I am already taking two full frame camera bodies and three Nikkor lenses and I'm vacillating on taking another camera body. However, if anyone in Fodors who is a camera fanatic, has traveled with their IR camera and has advice on IR photography and african animals, I would love to hear from you. (for those who haven't heard of IR, it captures "invisible" light and you need a modified sensor in your camera body. Green grass looks white/yellow-ish and objects look dreamy) Here is a great example: )

Second question : I have scoured the forums for this answer, but have come up short. I am on a private safari (just me) which includes a private vehicle every day at both camps. (note: my trip didn't start out as a private safari, I was made an offer that I couldn't refuse). I've seen suggested tips of $10-15/day per person for drivers and $5-10 trackers--or vice versa--can't remember . (I'm all set,with what I'm tipping my photography guide) Since I am the only person in the 4X4, what is a fair/good daily gratuity for the driver and tracker? I'm a generous tipper normally, but I'm just not sure what is expected/normal in this instance. Is the expected tip 4X the "normal" per-person tip since I'm one person where normally there would 4-6 in the vehicle, or something in between? Any advice from those singles or couples who have hired a private vechicle in camps would be greatly appreciated.

This is my first safari. I have been lurking in the forum and found invaluable information, so thanks to all of you who have shared so generously. I'm an avid photographer and having the opportunity for a private safari is something I never dreamed of. I'm pretty excited.

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    Mashatu is one of my favorite places. Great combo.

    As for tipping, I tip USD20 for ranger (I'm guessing what you are referring to as driver), USD10 for trackers and others like mokoro guides, USD5-10 for staff plus extra for great service. All per person per day. The current exchange is about 12.5 Rand/USD, so do the exchange to tip in Rand. I get Rand at an atm in JNB before we go to our first camp (tell your bank you will be traveling to S Africa!) and bring thank you notes for giving tips. We have been alone (by chance) on quite a few game drives and chose to tip extra - I would ask your safari agent. Either way, I would choose to be generous, assuming great service. At Mashatu, we did a great walk - if you want to, arrange it before you go. There is extra training involved, so it is not uncommon for many rangers to not have the training. Your private ranger might not. They also have bike and horse safaris if you are interested - great stuff! I also believe the hides need to be arranged ahead as well. You might be able to do hides during the day between game drives.

    That's a lot of photography equipment. Can you meet the luggage weight requirements for the flights? Many have very low allowances - unless you buy an extra seat. On charters, that can add up. Double check before you make final decisions. A few solo travelers here have been known to wear a safari vest and stuff every pocket with whatever they can in order to meet the luggage allowance. :) They don't weigh you, just the luggage!

    Have fun! Report back, please.

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    christabir, thanks so much, that's exactly the information I needed on tipping! Thanks for the correction on the description of "ranger". I've never been on a safari so knowing the right titles is helpful.

    I also appreciate your suggestion to bring along thank you notes! I would have not done that and would have been kicking myself. I will also get plenty of Rand at the airport for tips. I know I would have forgotten that too.

    I do, in fact, have a photo/travel vest and will make sure to pack it well. I'll look like i'm from an old "I love Lucy" episode getting on the airplane, lol. I know I'm taking a lot of equipment, but I really need the three lenses, as this is an intensive photography trip and I'm a fairly "advanced-enthusiast" photographer. I've checked the weight limits on all my flights and the limits are all 20kg. All my gear right now, including my IR camera, batteries etc, weighs a total of 9.0 kg. My camera bag itself around 1.0kg. My clothing duffel bag weighs 1.2 kg. So, I need to keep my clothing to around 6-7kg to stay within the limits. I've requested extra weight allowance--we'll see what happens. My So. African photographer guide and I are traveling together out of JNB the first day, and he said we'll organize my gear between the two of us. My guess is he travels pretty light clothes-wise.

    I'm so happy to hear that you loved Mashatu. I have two hide sessions already booked, so I'm good on that front. A walking safari would great as well. I'll check on that.

    Again, thanks for the great information.

    I feel so fortunate to have this opportunity with a top wild life photographer as my guide. I'm seriously over the moon. I'm hoping to get some unique images. Fingers crossed. I will definitely report back.

    Thanks again.

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    Happy to help. I sometimes go overboard with info, so I'm glad the extras were so helpful. It really sounds like a wonderful opportunity, but be careful. Africa gets into your heart and won't let go. You'll be planning your return trip before you land at home.

    About clothes - take less. It's pretty cold in September sometimes, so take a fleece jacket and a sweater and/or long sleeved tee (layers - it gets hot during the day!). I always take gloves and ear muffs. The game drives can be very cold in an open vehicle going thirty miles an hour. Anyway, they do your laundry at both of those camps for free or a very small fee. Just take a little soap (or use the shampoo provided) for "smalls" - underwear - which they don't do. I wash those in the sink every couple of days so they have time to dry before we pack up. I don't wear beige (it's just a thing), so I take grey and olive green. I make sure everything matches each other and then take enough for three days. That's it. I take trail sneakers and another comfortable shoe (wear the heavy ones on your flights) and my travel slippers. Both camps will have bug spray and most toiletries. We take as little as possible, even on a three week trip we only took carry-on. My husband takes two lenses and all that goes with that and I take binoculars and still just take a regulation duffel, so I can squish it into any small space, and small backpack each. It does help a lot that there are two of us.

    I tip more than most - but I figure if I can afford the trip I can afford to be generous. I was horrified at Mashatu when another customer was thrilled about one of the staff fixing her bag - it had ripped on her travels - and I asked if she would tip her for the great service and her reply was something like "No, why would I? It's her job." I think that's above and beyond and learned to tip according to our own comfort level. Many suggest tips at half the rate that I do. My first agent, on a high end safari like yours, suggested USD20/10/5 and am comfortable with that. We now stay at much less expensive lodges and continue to tip at that rate. Just wanted to put that out there.

    Some prefer guide instead of ranger. I use them interchangeably, but find many rangers prefer ranger. Try to get to know your ranger and tracker a bit. They live interesting lives and I find it fascinating to learn about them. If you get the chance, I also like to learn about other staff members too. They all usually are living away from their families, so really enjoy talking about them. Hopefully you will find fellow travelers from other countries besides the US. I find it disappointing sometimes when we go all the way to S Africa and only meet fellow Americans. I don't know about dining at Mala Mala or Mashatu Main (we were at tented). Many camps do communal dining, which we enjoy. If you prefer it, you may invite other diners to join you and tell the staff who will arrange tables for you. We always invite solos and some couples to eat with us when communal dining isn't offered - and some do, some don't. It's all personal choice. But just know your ranger will likely join you for some meals - not sure about the arrangements you've made with your personal photo guide.

    As you can see, we enjoy southern Africans a lot and love Southern Africa.

    Have a great time! You will love it.

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    Boston Harbor,

    This sounds like a wonderful trip. I can't add anything to christabir's great advice, except that we brought enough money for the daily recommended tips as advised, and then brought half as much more because we did tip higher depending on the service etc. Note paper and envelopes were a great suggestion that I saw here before we went.

    We were in SA in early to mid-September and I wore a shirt, fleece, and jacket in the morning, gradually taking off layers as the day warmed up. And did the reverse in the evening. We always were one of the latest people back at dinnertime, and there was no need or time to change clothes.

    Make sure any clothes to be laundered are okay for washing and air drying. I had mostly cotton and a pair of nylon pants that I washed out myself and they were always dry the next morning.

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    christabir, OMG, you have been SO helpful! I just discovered that the small plane from Mala Mala to Mashatu is fully booked on the day I'm flying, so no extra allowance for me no matter what I'm willing to pay. With your advice, however, I'm going to pack very lightly with clothes, as the lenses and cameras are just too important to me--they make the first cut and whatever's left goes to clothes. I wasn't going to bring a fleece as I thought the first week of September was warmer. However, fleeces are light, so I'll toss one in. Gloves are easy and, of course, I have that travel vest that I am going to pack and look like the Michelin man. I've got a new attitude towards my weight allowances, and decided to make packing a personal challenge rather than an annoyance : ) I travel a lot, so have plenty of light pants and shirts. Fortunately I'm not going anywhere else but these two camps, so I don't need any dressier clothes at a all. I'm taking a black top, black pants, and a few lightweight scarves to change the look for dinners where I feel like dressing up a bit.

    I had no idea they would have bug spray. That's great. That's a couple more ounces saved. I'm counting every ounce right now, as 55+% of my allowance is already taken by my cameras and lenses. But I'm only going for images, so everything else is expendable.

    I feel very fortunate that I can take this safari, It's nice to hear that people will invite "solos" to their tables. I've travelled alone a lot, so I'm super comfortable with meeting new people--I love it. I believe Mashatu has communal dining, not sure about Mala Mala. My photo guide used to work as the full time photo guide at Mashatu, so I'm sure that it will be a fun place to be with him--he should certainly know every nook and cranny.

    Thanks for your tip advice--I think it sounds perfect. And, thanks again for all your tips. You have made a lot of my decisions very easy!

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    And, cw, thanks for the reinforcement on the bringing the fleece. I seriously wasn't going to and it now sounds like mornings and evenings would have been uncomfortable to say the least. I have a great super lightweight fleece that I'll bring. I think I'm going to be in good shape. Fodors community is so great!

    Many thanks! I'll post my images and safari thoughts upon my return.

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    In early September at our camps in SA it was in the 50s in the early morning. So riding in the open vehicle was cold. I think our vehicles did have blankets though on those coolish mornings. I didn't have a scarf, and could have used the extra neck warmth. I didn't wear gloves.

    I think your guide dines with you at Mala Mala from what I've read before. But most people are friendly and want to talk about their sightings that day. I found the "personality" of the camp would change depending upon the mix of guests. We had lovely travelers at two of the three camps we visited.

    Our luggage was never weighed on our flights from JNB to the camp and between the other camps. It was squished into the hold (soft-sided duffles), and you can probably carry a small bag on your lap. They really want to discourage the tourists who think they have to travel with 26 inch wheeled suitcases.

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    Happy to help.

    Ask your agent and/or photo guide about preferred tip currency at Mashatu. It's in Botswana but you won't have an opportunity to get pula anywhere. I'm not sure if they prefer tips in Rand or USD. We used to do all USD, but then realized that they lose a lot in the exchange. It used to be preferred usd in Bots, not sure about now - it's on the SA border. Ask before you take a whole bunch of Rand out at an atm before leaving the airport. Tips are really your only expense - everything else can go on credit cards (your best bet for the best exchange and you don't have to worry about a lot of cash) - so definitely figure that out before you go. I'm thinking usd. Rand at MM. Tell your bank at least twice that you will be traveling to SA - they have a terrible banking reputation. We have had problems with using credit cards and atm cards because one call was not enough, I guess. Now I call twice and once from the airport before we leave just to make sure.

    So it seems you will be traveling at MM and Mashatu with some of the same people. I don't have to tell you to be nice, but try not to let anyone drive you crazy - you might see them again! I don't find a lot of empty seats on any planes lately. We flew non-stop ATL to JNB last time and there was not a single empty seat on either flight - and it's like 13 hours!! But a full charter from mm to Mashatu sounds nuts. I'm glad to hear more people are visiting Mashatu, though. Just know there aren't any rhinos (my current obsession) or buffalo. But I still love it. You'll see them both at mm.

    I've never "dressed" for dinner, and we've stayed in some pretty nice places. I almost always wear my fleece because I'm always cold, so no need. It's not really practical to wear black on safari (too hot during the day and gets so dusty). I would bring nice beige or grey pants (I have a pair of loose cotton dressy pants that I take in case I need them. Haven't yet) instead so you can wear them anywhere and any time.

    If it's cold, they will provide hot water bottles. So nice. If you think you'll be cold on any game drive, request a hot water bottle and a blanket if not already on the vehicle. Your ranger will be the one to ask for that stuff. If you have an unusual drink you prefer outside of wine, beer, gin/vodka tonic, Coke Light (Diet), request ahead and they might be able to get it. Sundowners (drinks) are special out in the bush. Try the amarula! My favorite. If you are a wine drinker, you will be very pleasantly surprised by the great SA wines.

    The staff at Mashatu was one of our favorites. Hopefully your guide will have insider info. Sounds like fun. Try to find time for the San Art.

    Don't just go for images!! The experience is SO much more than just the photos. Enjoy, no, relish, every minute. And don't spend all your time looking through your camera. You will miss so much.

    Have fun. I just showed my elderly mother the viral video of the baby elephant chasing birds in Kruger. It made her want to go back. I always want to go back. You might catch the bug too. We are trying to go next year for Botswana's 50th anniversary in September. Holding thumbs! We are going to try a less fancy camp near Mashatu on the same reserve, I think, plus a few more. I'm just not sure I can visit SA and skip Kruger. Ugh. I need to play lotto so maybe I can win. :)

    cw - I totally agree that the guests make a huge difference. Sorry to hear one wasn't so great. We've had those experiences too. But never with S Africans!! We now visit less luxurious lodges and find mostly locals. It works for us. Plus, spending less, we get to return more often!

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    christabir and cw, Im enjoying an "embarrassment of riches" of priceless information. Christabir, I agree with you about the flight between Mala Mala and Mashatu being full. I think they are blowing smoke and just wanted to shut me up asking about additional weight allowance. I bet there are just a couple people on the airplane. From all I've read, there are never more than a four people on the airplane between the camps. I wrote to Mala Mala and inquired in an innocent way about the flight. I'll see if I hear back.

    I've weighed most of my stuff and bought an ultra light camera bag (to match my ultra light clothes duffel) and I think I can actually deal with the restrictions even with all my camera gear.

    I will heed your advice about not just being behind my camera. I remember times best when traveling is when I put my camera down.

    Oh, and that baby elephant chasing birds video is too adorable for words.

    thanks again!

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    You're going to have a great time. You have the perfect outlook. Stuff will happen. If you are flying biz, you can carry on both of your bags. Coach, no. Don't check ANYTHING you really need or is valuable. I don't trust the airlines not to lose everything I check. I even prefer gate checks. Many airlines have an app you can use to track your bags to make sure they make it so you can make arrangements if needed (like buy underwear at the airport!)

    The charter between MM and Mashatu only holds 10 people (it's probably a caravan, one of the safest planes ever built). Even if they don't have 10 passengers, and you are 2, they also take cargo between the camps as well as workers if they need to. So it may not be sold out, but it could be full in theory, or they plan to make sure they can take extras. Take Dramamine if you may be affected (effected - I'm not sure. Don't tell my English teachers!). It's interesting landscape - look out the window. There are power plants, gold mines, open space, including Blyde River Canyon, water, towns.

    If you have time on the way back to JNB to get a driver instead of the flights, I highly recommend it. I know, it's already paid for and arranged, but if you can, driving through that beautiful country is quite an experience. Funny - a town is not really a town unless it has a kfc. A few, the ones with a stop sign or two, have one on each end! Driving really gives you a different perspective. We flew from Mashatu to Polokwane on a two seater charter (loved it!) and then commercial from Polokwane to JNB. It took at least as long as it would have taken to drive.

    I think that video went viral in part because we needed a happy thing from Africa. It was a tough week, for good reason.

    Have a great time. Let us know how it went when you get home - and tell us when you'll be going back!

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    christabir & cw have given you some great advice so I don't have much more to add but have been green with envy reading about your plans!

    You haven't said if you're at Mashatu Tented or Main.

    I was at Mashatu Tented (my absolute fav!) and MalaMala in 2013 as a solo and was amazed at the animal sightings at both. They really raised the bar for future safaris that's for sure! Tons of leopard at both but sadly no cheetah and not many lions. They say that when there's lots of lion & cheetah then the leopard is elusive and vice versa.

    We sat in the midst of a herd of 80 eles in Mashatu, an experience I'll never forget.

    Open vehicles means no doors, no windows & no windscreen so it can be cold. Check my avatar taken at MM in mid June. That was my start of day look at both camps. Layer, layer, layer - just so you can unlayer as the temps get warmer, the reverse in the evenings.

    At Mashatu we all ate together and sat wherever we wanted. At Mala Mala my ranger sat with me, altho a nice guy I did sometimes feel sorry for him having to always be "on" and sometimes I would have preferred eating on my own.

    At MM they're very strict about escorting you back to your room but that was when the Rattrays (previous owners) were living on site, not sure if they still are so it may have loosened up a bit since then.

    Try to sit behind the pilot on the flight between the two. Wonderful!

    Please report back!

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    Hey KathBC -

    I'm glad you chimed in - I remember you did that trip, too, as a solo. I'm pretty sure BH is going to Main Camp.

    It's so funny how everyone has entirely different experiences. Every game drive is special. It always surprises me when people choose to skip a drive. Not me, no matter the weather.

    Rangers work such long hours and never seem to have much time to themselves. We had the great experience of other English speaking staff dine with us at Mashatu to give our ranger a break. It is odd that unless we tell them not to, someone dines with guests. I'll have to remember to speak up and give them a break.

    The Rattray's don't own MM any more!? I thought their kids took over, but I know they are/were having a heck of a court fight over the property being "taken" during apartheid. Not sure how that panned out. Last I heard was More community involvement, but I don't know.

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    BostonHarbor - I'm already looking forward to the pictures and you haven't even left. Have a great trip, I'm sure you will! I was in Botswana years ago visiting my godfather in Gabarone but I've never been on safari there. 'm afraid seeing the photos you post could be very expensive for us if it moves Botswana higher up on our list!

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    Hi there christabir! :)

    Always like to chime in on some of my favourite spots!

    Here's what was scheduled to happen in 2013 with the SA gov't purchasing back MM at an exorbitant price. Wasn't able to find anything recent online as to how that all went or if indeed it did.

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    Christabir, Yes, the airplane between the camps is a 10 passenger Caravan. I actually wrote to Mala Mala and discovered that the plane was not full at all; that a group "had not been able to commit" and cancelled. Who know where the truth lies? Anyway, to get any extra weight I would have to buy a seat to the tune of (hold on to your hat) $640 one way. Um, I think not. I'm weighing my camera gear first and then whatever is left goes to clothes. However, now I know that my photo guide and I might be the only ones on the airplane and he knows all the players having worked at Mashatu, so I'm not going to worry about a kg or two. Besides, I have my "Michelin man" vest ; ) I've also been told that I can carry a handbag as a personal item that doesn't get weighed, (is this true?) and I think I might be able to slip one of my big lenses in it. It will be fine between my vest and my purse.

    I am flying biz Delta from Atlanta to JNB, and I'm trying to carry everything on board. My duffel might be a bit too big. We'll see if my "trying" works.

    KathBC. What fun you were on my exact trip! I burst out laughing at your avatar. The weather should be a bit warmer the first week in September, but based on everyone's advice, I'm taking warm clothing and a multi use pashmina. I'm staying at Main camps at both MM and Mashatu. Can't wait! 25 days from today.

    Welltraveledbrit, you are such a gracious fan of my photography. : ) I'm hoping to get some great shots. My photography guide is a well known SA photographer named Mike Dexter . I'm mad for his work, and the chance to have his expertise all to myself for nine days is beyond amazing. I've shared some of my photography with him so he'd have a sense of my work. After reviewing my photos, he asked me if I would like, since we will have our own vehicle and there are just two of us, to do things like get out and lie on the ground outside the 4X4 to get some unique shots and do star photography. Um, yes. please. He's arranged for a tripod for me at Mashatu which is so great. I'm super psyched and feel this is a photography and adventure chance of a lifetime. I can't wait to share my images with those of you who have been so helpful.

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    Thanks KathBC - I haven't heard anything lately either. I thought they agreed to a community share, but I can't find anything either. the SA govt passed a doozy of a law this year - foreigners can't own over xxx hectares (I can't remember the exact figure). I misread it originally and interpreted "property" to mean any property, not "land". Apparently Phinda is getting caught in the battle as &Beyond is not an SA company and Phinda is huge. It bummed me out because we would like to buy a retirement home in KZN. Since we aren't buying Phinda, I think we'll be ok. :)

    wtb - Botswana is a fantastic country. They seem to be doing things right. If you ever get to visit again, the Khama Rhino Sanctuary is nearby Gabs. We are planning a visit next year for the 50th independence anniversary. We may also visit the Mashatu area at a smaller self catering lodge, but the same wildlife.

    BH - you'll be fine. We brought home a 40 lb carved wooden hippo in biz a few years ago. They never checked the weight. Just make sure you can squish the duffel into the size they require - but they usually don't even check. We used that flight last year in coach. Ugh. Long and my 6'4" husband hates me for it. But it was free, or less than $50, with miles. We had to use our limited DL miles before they changed the rules this year. Any time I can travel in SA for a couple of weeks for less than a domestic trip, I'll take it!

    I have a very vivid picture in my head of you in your Michelin vest. :))

    Do you have a bean bag? If not, just take a few ziplock bags and ask for dry rice when you get there. Many people use it on the metal bars on the vehicles to steady their cameras. Very effective.

    Those charter flights are ridiculous! They are scheduled, not arranged special for you. I guess it's all profit for any number of passengers after the two minimum. They do the same to the camps near Kruger. But with more money than time, it makes sense.

    25 days!

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    Hi Christabir, Yes, I'm taking a beanbag for the 4X4 and hides, and they have filler (beans/rice) at the camps. Mike Dexter has also arranged a tripod for me at Mashatu, which is SO fabulous--the last thing I needed was to drag along a tripod, but you can't do proper landscapes and stars without one.

    Relative to Mala Mala, the Rattray's do still own it. They sold back two pieces of the reserve bordering Kruger and are now leasing it back (and made a killing on the deal) . It was a pretty good deal for the Rattrays--they have their cake and are eating it too. Here's the final settlement story:

    Thanks again for everyone's impeccable and useful information. I know i can do it now : ) I'll take a picture of me in my vest getting on the bush plane, lol. It will be something to behold.

    24 days!

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    BH - keep an eye out for the President of Botswana at Mashatu Main Camp - he flew himself in when I was at tented, goes there several times a year I was told.

    Thanks for the info on MM but we'll look forward to an update on that situation after you've been and found out more for us. I'm curious as to how it's all going. The elder Rattrays take their meals with the guests most days and Mr likes to schmooz during pre-dinner cocktails.

    I just about had to pay for 2 seats on that little charter as no one else was booked to fly on the same day as me. $1600 for a short trip like that is way over my budget! I was assured someone would eventually also book it, which they did but I still had a few months of nail biting on that one!! :-o

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    KathBC, I certainly will keep my eye out for the president of Botswana! : ) I'll get the inside scoop on the Rattrays and MM as well.

    I did read where there was a minimum of 2 seats required for the flight. Glad someone else showed up and you didn't have to shell out that cash. I am indeed already paying for two seats as I have my own photography guide for the entire trip. It was having to purchase the 3rd seat that made me chafe. That being said, I have figured out how to stay at 20kg, even with all my equipment. My cameras, lenses, camera bag, computer, binoculars, and supporting paraphernalia all come to 10.5 kg. My clothes duffel weights 0.82 kg (Eagle creek no matter what M) leaving me with around 8kg/17lbs of clothes. I can offload a couple kilos in my vest, so I'm good. If I need something else, I'll buy it in the gift shop at MM and wear it on the plane in my African version of looking like the Michelin man.

    Going on safari is amusing in what it does to you relative to packing. I look at absolutely everything these days as weight. Toothpaste? Hummm, what do you weigh? Batteries? Damn, you are heavy little critters.

    They probably won't weigh anything. LOL.

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    BH - you crack me up. They aren't going to weigh a thing and your photo companion will have a little tiny bag. But you'll look like the Michelin man just in case! I saw today that Uzbekistan Air is now weighing their passengers and bags and immediately thought of you!

    Make sure you have a car charger for your camera battery(s) if possible. You might be out for long stretches and you don't want to miss that shot. We learned the hard way when we were out all day on our own in Kruger and the camera died and the backup battery didn't hold a charge. Another time a lens died (I have no idea what happened, not my thing) and we stopped at a camera shop in Hoedspruit between camps for a new one.

    I don't weigh things in my head anymore. We are really good lightweight packers now. Nope, now every time I turn up the heat or get in the car unnecessarily, I think we won't be able to afford our next safari. It's gotten to be a running joke in our house. Bad.

    What is it now? 19 days? So fun. That's about how long I have to wait to start trying to get availability in Kgalagadi NP next year. Holding thumbs (S African for fingers crossed).

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    christabir, Goodness, I could never fly Uzbekistan Air! Dear God, my over-loaded vest would have me thrown off the airplane! Thanks for the suggestion of a car charger. I do have one, and I would have not taken it. Excellent advice, only weighs about 2 oz, so I'm good ;)

    I'm going to be fine, I know. I am so excited. I travel a lot, and I don't think I've looked forward to a trip more than this. This is my first completely solo journey too. Lot's of firsts!

    Thanks again!

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    Hi BostonHarbor
    I no longer go to MalaMala but have been many times when I was gameviewing. My understanding is that the Rattrays do not own the property but they do the management of the property and that article seems to say that. I no longer know who works there but at one stage it was Mrs Rattray's daughter at MM and her son at Mashatu, but that may have changed. I doubt much has changed since I was last there and I have been there many many times as a single person. The ranger did eat with guests breakfast, lunch and dinner. Dinner is eaten as a group in the Boma or ranger tables if elsewhere while breakfast and lunch is ranger tables or if by yourself in the vehicle, then it would be your, your photographer and the ranger.
    I agree with Christabir that you need to be on the generous side of tipping if it just you in the vehicle as a private vehicle means not the 4 to 6 guests contributing towards a tip, just one!
    Wildlife viewing is exceptional at MM and very good at Mashatu, but I found the animals at Mashatu to be a bit more nervous especially the leopard but that may have changed now. Have seen cheetah at MM but my stays were considerably longer so that may be more difficult. Regardless, there is so much to see there that as long as you don't focus of "the Big 5" you will have plenty of subjects to take photos of I am sure!
    Don't ever remember having to worry about baggage weight but that may well be a new issue. Also like someone else mentioned, dressing up at dinner never happened as they mainly eat outside and it is cold, staying warm in my priority. Don't underestimate how cold it is going to be as early morning and late afternoon, without the warmth of the sun, can be freezing, and nothing is more uncomfortable than being cold. Also being cooler, you will be able to stay out most of the day and make use of the private vehicle. In summer, it really is too hot to be out all day and the animals are normally too hot to be moving about.
    I hope they are still strict about walking you back to your room, as they have leopard and lion walking through the camp at night.
    You will have a great trip! I still go twice a year, once to South Africa and once to Zimbabwe but these days I volunteer with animals, so much more rewarding for me! Though am going to manage to get my 3rd visit with gorillas in 2017!
    Kind regards

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    KayeN - great to see you here! My husband and I are hoping to move (sooner than later!) to SA to hopefully make a difference. Thank you for what you do. I will be inviting all of our Fodor's friends at any time. You will always be welcome. Please share your Zim work. It must be difficult these days. Mugabe has really mucked things up.

    We had surprisingly good cheetah at Mashatu, very few in/around Kruger. Lots of leopard and lion at both. Amazing rhino - lots of babies! - even with the troubles, in Kruger. Still hoping for good dogs someday, but so far, not to be.

    I remember our first safari - we planned for hot and hotter. I was not prepared for close to 0 C. Linen and cotton.It's hard to wrap your head around it until you've been there. Cashmere, gloves and earmuffs, along with a hot water bottle at night, are my best friends.

    Please share your gorilla experience when you get back. Hopefully when we are SADC residents we will get to do it, too!! It's a dream trip for us

    BH - I expect a thorough trip report and your plans for the next time when you go back.

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    Hi Christabir

    Have not been here for ages as busy at home usually as look after wildlife here as well. But currently getting over a frozen shoulder so taking the rest of the year off before heading back to South Africa to volunteer at a rhino centre near Nelspruit. Thanks, but I really love what I do over there and it is terribly rewarding most of the time, sad sometimes as looking after animals anywhere in the world can be.
    I love the place I go to in Zimbabwe, called Twala Animal Sanctuary Trust, just outside Harare. Here they take any animal in need, domestic or wild, and it is difficult to be sure. The lady who owns Twala, Sarah Carter is absolutely devoted to her animals and nothing is too much trouble. She is an absolute joy to work for and a pleasure to be helping her help those poor animals. Her husband is a vet and they do local clinic every Wednesday where they feed, give injections and have a list of animals that are slowly being desexed, which is vital for these local areas as most can barely feed themselves let alone their dogs. A lot of people have mucked things up big time, but Zimbabwe has good animal poaching laws in place, it is just getting them enforced and to get people to serve jail time. The biggest poaching is pangolins and that is devastating as they are such gentle and sweet animals. Sarah and I speak a lot about different animal projects and the pros and cons and she has a lot of information about some of them. Luckily we agree on these issues so have much to talk about always.
    No doubt in my 12 odd years of gameviewing with the majority at MalaMala where I would often stay 4 to 5 weeks, I have been exceptionally lucky and it helps that I love all the little things sometimes a lot more than the Big 5, maybe not leopard! Very lucky with the little things at MM like pangolin, honey badgers, Sable Antelope and a lot of unique sightings that I realise how lucky I was to see that.
    I have also been to MM in September and 40 degrees Celsius when we arrived then did not see the sun for another 7 days, absolutely freezing. We were wearing everything we had each day and Dad was wearing socks on his hands, luckily they were leopard socks, so only looked mildly ridiculous!
    I am also very lucky to have seen the gorillas for 6 days visits and you absolutely must go and see them. To be on foot and that close, is something I will always remember, also I feel very gentle animals who could do us harm but seem to understand we are there for 60 minutes each day, so they will tolerate us! I figure I can do it once more physically as it is quite demanding for me, especially when I do 3 days in a row, as I have rheumatoid arthritis, but worth the pain! :)

    Kind regards

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    Thank you for all the great info, Kaye! I can't tell you much I admire what you do. It can't be easy. Yes, someday we will get to do a gorilla trek - we hope soon, as neither of us are getting any younger. It's amazing that the pangolin is being being poached so much everywhere it's found. We all want to see one (and usually fail) and poachers find them in large numbers. We all understand when elephants, rhinos and lions are in trouble, but the small animals are in trouble too. And usually poached for the same myths.

    One creature we have been incredibly lucky with is honey badgers. On one trip to Kruger NP, we were "chasing down" a rhino who was on a mission - probably a lady nearby - and when we made a turn to hopefully be able to follow him, we came upon two honey badgers who entertained us (no other cars) for about a half hour. Saw our first dung beetle last year on horseback in KZN. I love the little things, too.

    Sorry about your health issues. I recently discovered I have RA (and a few other autoimmune diseases which keep popping up), too. I find if I keep moving (a body at rest....) the stiffness doesn't set in. But gee, even sitting at a restaurant for dinner is long enough to really feel it. I'm starting to get the itch to do everything asap!

    Please pop in occassionally! Love to see your input. Feel better. Frozen shoulder can be tricky from what I understand.

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    Kaye and Christabir--what a wonderful thread this has turned into. I feel I have already visited Mala Mala and Mashatu and am so far better prepared. I have everything pretty much organized clothes-wise and am prepared for the cold as well as the heat. Well over 50% of my allowed weight is going to camera equipment, but that is why I'm going, so my normal "glamor girl" persona is staying in Boston.

    Kaye, I appreciate your efforts to keep Africa wild and strong. Christabir, I hope you get to SA soon. Your energy will be a great asset at whatever you do.

    And, yes indeed, I will report my trip, along with more images than you would ever want to see. :)

    I leave two weeks from tomorrow. Counting down the days.

    Thanks again to all of you for your kind and generous help.

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    Hi Chrisabir,
    No it is not easy, but as I love it, it makes it still a joy to do and I am grateful that I get the opportunity to work for such wonderful people and with all these different animals that deserve all I can do and more!
    My health issues have been around about 25 years, so like everyone I have my good days, my great days and my not so good days, but it is what it is, so you deal with it. Many times, if I don't feel my best, my first animal interaction and my day becomes a great day! Yep, I am also on the move all day to keep all joints moving, best idea! And the shoulder is coming good, so that is a relief as well!
    I love the little things and it never fails to amaze me when people have been gameviewing for 3 nights and they come back and have seen "everything" which of course is normally 5 animals! They don't even know what they are missing out on!!!

    Hi BostonHarbor
    I never need worry about the "glamor girl" persona! :) While my camera stuff takes some of my luggage allowance, most of mine is usually animal stuff I am taking over, last time it included 2 lion balls and 12 swings for the monkeys, and they take up a fair bit of space! Last trip think it came to about 68kgs! So I am thinking camera equipment and a few clothes would be pretty easy!

    You cannot but help have a great time as really the best gameviewing I have experienced is at MalaMala! During my long stays, I would easily see 20 to 30 different leopards and while I sometimes I had the vehicle to myself, never paid to have it privately, so of course, every few days we were rushing around looking for rhino and buffalo for the new people, so at least you will be spared that!

    Hope I remember to look back in a while, and see how you fared!

    I will do a very short stint at Kirkmans Kamp at the end of my next volunteering time in South Africa and they also have had some great gameviewing recently with cheetah and dog, so also very lucky!

    Kind regards

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    This is such a pleasant thread. Thanks to everyone who has popped in and given such good and kind input. Sometimes they can get a bit "off track". This one has, but in the nicest way. Every time I check in, someone else has had such nice things.

    KayN - you crack me up! Lion balls and monkey swings! Where else would that sentence make sense except from you! Have a nice time at Kirkmans, and keep up the good fight.

    BW - I think you are ready! Leave glamor girl at home and become another safari girl. It's getting to be a bigger group.

    I am trying to plan a pretty adventurous trip (at least for us) next year. A week or more in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in a fully kitted out Land Rover. I don't camp - I never have - so we won't be roughing it, but we will be doing BBQ meals (braai in SA) in unfenced rest camps. I'm not quite sure how that works. We've cooked in fenced camps in Kruger and were visited by baboons (I hate to say bad things about them, but....) and a hyena. I don't really want to be visited by lions or hyena in the dark in an unfenced camp! Fewer people get hurt by lions in SA than by bison in Yellowstone, so our chances are good. (Darwinism at its finest - taking selfies with bison).

    After KTP, we plan to visit KwaZulu Natal and find our future neighborhood to retire to. We want to do volunteer work in Zululand Rhino Reserve and Tembe Elephant Park when we retire, so why not move close? We can't decide if we want to live in/very near a wildlife reserve near the ocean or oceanfront near a wildlife reserve. We are leaning toward oceanfront, but still undecided. We also want to start a program to help girls to go to school in rural KZN. After finding a house (ha ha!!) we will spend a few days in ZRR so we can take it easy and enjoy some game drives with a ranger and see rhinos, eles and wild dog (if our luck changes!) which are not in KTP.

    But the reason for us going at all is to be in Gaborone, Botswana for their 50th anniversary!! We've been planning that for 10 years since we were there our first time. It should be quite a party. It's a very special country.

    Oops. Off track again. Looking forward to your trip report.

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    Woo Hoo! I'm off on my safari on Monday! From BOS to ATL and then on the non stop ATL-JNB.

    KayeN and Christabir, looks like I'll be getting a little "weather" in Mala Mala with rain and clouds this week, but the weather will also be cooling down (it was 102 f on Saturday) into the 60's and 70's during the day, so I'm not sad about the clouds. Besides for photography, a cloud cover can be great--none of those harsh shadows under my subject's eyes ((P)) :)

    I'm SO excited. Unlike you expert African travelers, I'm a newbie when it comes to safaris--this is my first. I'm glad I'm going solo and I can't wait to spend day after day capturing images. I have my luggage/camera weight under control (heavy on cameras, light on clothing) and everything else is set.

    I've arranged to do star trails photography at Mashatu. The moon phase and weather look highly promising for great night stars. I'll do about 90 or so 30-second (shutter) images and then layer them together. I've never done star photography and I'm pretty excited about this opportunity. . I have a "intervalometer" gizmo that triggers all the images for me. I just have to set it up, push a button, get a cocktail, and sit in the Land Rover until it's finished :) Technology is a beautiful thing.

    Thanks again for all your generous and amazingly useful help. I have a diary and pen in my camera bag and will write a trip report and post images upon my return. I'll toast my Fodor friends during one of my sundowners ((D))

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    I was wondering about when you leave. Have a great time. I'm not surprised about the weather - spring is starting, so it is all over the place. You will have mostly gorgeius weather, so take advantage of any clouds!! They add interest. That star thing sounds great! The Southern Hemisphere stars are so different - and just wait until you see the Milky Way in Botswana with no light pollution! I'm on the east coast, too. We don't get to see it often.

    We were at an outdoor concert last week (Joan Jett - she was great) and used our "sundowner" tin cups. Just makes me smile. In addition to a sundowner (or two!) add a coffee with Amarula on a morning game drive. Yummy - especially with a good rusk. I also like it a lot (any time of day) over ice. It's an SA drink made from the marula fruit. You'll see many marula trees - look out for drunk elephants and baboons. :)

    If you want to add a little extra touch, especially in Botswana, when you shake hands cradle your right elbow with your left hand. It's their custom.

    Call your bank and credit card co to remind them. Most of all, have a fantastic time - and don't forget to put down the camera once in a while. Safe travels!! I am so excited for you.

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    Boston Harbour, I hope you have an amazing time, though it's a dangerous trip - safaris can become an expensive habit.

    <my normal "glamor girl" persona is staying in Boston> do bring a bit of the glamour girl with you too!

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    Actually Welltraveledbrit, I am taking a pair of black skinny pants, a long black Kurta top from India, and some black sandals, along with a few long colorful printed light chiffon scarves and a black pashmina--I can look different every night. I'm planning on buying some locally made necklaces as well, so all should be fine on the "glamour girl" front. @};- I really couldn't go ALL casual. The "glamour" clother weigh only a few ounces (everything is ounces to me these days) and I simply could not do cocktails in safari clothes every night ((d)) You know me well, lol.

    However, I'm still, after 12KG of camera equipment at exactly 20kg. And, that's doesn't count my Michelin man vest that I can load up.

    I laughed at your comment about a dangerous trip. Yes, indeed, I'm sure it will become a very expensive habit.

    Cristabir, thanks for the tip on the handshake. I know those small gestures are important. And, I will get stills of the Milky way as well. I'm SO happy the moon is cooperating when I am there (i.e.: staying out of the way until after 1AM)

    I'll be in the air tomorrow at this time!

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    OMG, I got my "check in " notice from Delta and, rather than my Business Elite seat 7D, I was in 25F in Economy!!!! (the "flyer talk" people said that 7A and 7D are the best seats on the 777 200LR and I listen to frequent flyers : ) Seriously? I don't think I will be in economy. I paid for business class! What the hell? So raced to the website and saw that although I wasn't in economy, I was now in seat 10C that is directly opposite from the main toilet door in business. 16.5 hours in a toilet door seat? I don't think so. This is crazy. Check in notice says one thing, the website says another and I've had 7D for four months (until this morning) . What is going on?

    I will spare you the conversation I had with Delta, other than the customer service woman (actually) said "they changed equipment from a Airbus 319 to a 777LR. Well, it had ALWAYS been a 777LR since it is the *only* Delta equipment that can fly 10,000 miles. There had been NO equipment change. I said to the woman "if we were on an airbus 319 we would have not gotten much further than the coast of Cuba" before needing to land or crash. I received no response.

    So, after about 30 minutes of getting nowhere with the woman on the phone (who put my on hold 3 times to "speak to my supervisor"), I said "why don't we make this easier for you, patch me to your supervisor."

    Within 20 seconds, the supervisor gave me my seat back. 7D. The one I had had for four months.

    Geez. So absurd.

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    It doesn't have to be an expensive habit (addiction). We go often and cheap. The retirement homes we are looking at may be costly...

    When we checked in the day before my flight last year they had no record of my reservation. I used DL miles on Virgin through LHR. It took all day, just what we needed to be doing on the day before we left, but we got seats on the flight you are taking for the days we needed. We were in the last two seats on the plane, which normally I would hate sitting by the restroom (in coach!), but they are also the only two across seats. It was fine. Three across in the 20th row was worse on the way back.

    I'm sorry they made you crazy, but at least you got what you paid for. I really wish they would not lie when they screw up. Just admit the screw up and move on.

    We have also experienced a flight cancellation in LHR on BA (AA miles in biz), so in order to get to JNB the same day, we flew in center seats, six rows apart. I was fine. My husband is 6'4". He was a pretzel, but it's "only" a 10 hour flight, maybe less. Such a disappointment, but we got there.

    Biz is so much nicer than coach, but we don't accumulate as many miles as we used to. We just found non stops to Buenos Aires in coach for 40,000 miles rt, $80. It might be too good to pass up. It's a city we are considering for retirement if SA doesn't work out. Any place with an international airport. :)

    Have fun! One favor - blow a kiss to a rhino you see at MM for me.

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    Have a wonderful trip Boston Harbor. You will be glamorous no matter what the clothes! Glad the flight stuff got straightened out.

    Because of this wonderful thread, I've been looking at sites for our second trip. We did go to Phinda our first time. I loved it, the people, our guide, the lodging, and everything they are doing there. So a second visit there may be a requirement.

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    Hey cw - definitely a great time to book. Check what currency the lodges quote in. The Rand is currently at R13.3/uSD, the best (in USD) ever. Phinda and Kirkmans would be great, although there are many others. We have fallen for Rhino River Lodge in Zululand Rhino Reserve, a relatively new reserve created with help from WWF to increase the black rhino numbers. It's "around the corner" from Phinda and just released wild dogs early this year. We did a rhino conservation project there that may have been our best day ever. At the current exchange rate, it is ridiculously affordable and such a great cause at this dire time for the rhinos. Tembe Elephant Park is pretty great, too. It's community owned and provides jobs in an area that otherwise would not be available. I'm nuts about the entire area around iSimangaliso Wetland Park, Phinda is a small part of it, and hope everyone gets to experience some of it. Share when you decide.

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    christabir, thanks for the added information. Right now I'm all over the place. Husband would like to be able to have some opportunities for walking, so I was looking at Zambia as well. Last time we went to Phinda, Londolozi, and Ngala Tented. That was in the last months of &Beyond's control of Londolozi. I think that impacted our experience there. The game drives were wonderful as they are in Sabi Sands though. Ngala was fun because you had to search a little more for sightings, and there was a great group of people staying when we were there.

    But Phinda does call to us, so incorporating that into the itinerary is a temptation. We did do the optional trip to Sodwana Bay and after flying over the area, I can see why this area is attractive to you. I will definitely update plans here. Thanks!

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    I enjoy meeting fellow travelers, too. They sure can make a big difference.

    You don't have to go to Zambia for excellent walking safaris. They are available more and more. The ones in Hluhluwe-imFolozi NP, a short distance from Phinda, get rave reviews. The guides are excellent and the experiences are unforgettable. Here's all of their available walking safaris:

    The short, higher end one looks perfect for me some day. My only problem is I don't camp. Maybe after 2022 when we move there. I'm a big fan of Hluhluwe-imFolozi. Without the rangers there, we would likely have lost the rhino many years ago. They single handedly saved the two African species when we tried to exterminate them the first time. They have also researched, and experimented with, the safest means to transport African animals to keep the gene pools more varied than they would be these days with limited area for them to live.

    There are also walking safaris in the Zululand Rhino Reserve:

    Thula Thula near Phinda does morning walks. Africa on Foot in Timbavati has an excellent reputation for great rangers and they do walking safaris in the morning. Kruger does overnight safaris. Rhino Post has a great reputation. Pafuri, too. Phinda used to have a rhino tracking walk, but I'm not sure if they do it anymore. If you can find it (I can't! They probably discontinued it) there is/was a walking safari that went between a few high end lodges in Sabi Sand. That would be great fun. If you contact lodges, they can arrange walking safaris - we've done AM game walks at Mashatu, Shindzela, ZRR and Entabeni. They just have to make sure they have a ranger with the correct training on hand to do it, so you have to arrange in advance, generally. Just be sure you are going out in the bush, not just a quick walk around the lodge. We rode horses with Impala, wildebeest and zebra in iSimangaliso where I saw my first dung beetle. So fun. We also golfed on unfenced courses at Skukuza in Kruger and Entabeni.

    Ours scariest "walk" was at a spot in Kruger (on our own, no ranger) where there is a plaque to commemorate a SANParks ranger. It was in perfect leopard territory - trees, rocks, in a rocky hilly spot. The parking lot was dirt, so we checked the footprints. Cats, large antelope, birds, little cats, little antelope.... So we decided for some reason to take the chance and go check it out. When a pair of steenbok (I think - they were startled by us and took off too fast to see much, and I was more startled than them!) jumped down a rock in front of us, all I could think was they were being stalked by a leopard. I quickly high-tailed it back to the car, making as much noise as I could to scare off that leopard. Of course, it was fine - my husband took a pic of the plaque, a pic of the gorgeous view of the park from the high spot we were on and laughed at me for days.

    Anyway, sorry to get off track again! Zambia is no longer the only place to get a great walking safari experience. There are overnight, multiple night and very short options. And some of them don't require camping!

    Last time I looked, there was a special with "free" air between Phinda and Kirkmans. We love a Kruger/Sabi Sand/Timbavati, drive through Swaziland to Zululand (and iSimangaliso WP) combo, if a self drive interests you at all. It's easy, and how many of us have a Swaziland stamp?

    Have fun planning. I'm hoping to get to Kgalagadi NP and Botswana (just Gaborone and Khama Rhino Sanctuary) next year for Botswana's 50th anniversary. Hoping for a big, fun party.

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    Thanks so much for the additional information and links. I (we) have a lot to think about. But I do most of the planning. Someday I would like to do a self-drive but I'm not sure of how much time we will have next year. I forgot about Africa on Foot. I had looked at them a few years ago.

    That's classic about the possible leopard. I would have gone back to the car too.

    I know Phinda used to have a 4 or 5 day camping/walking program but I haven't seen that either.

    I have a lot to research. And that is fun!

    Thank you again.

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    Hi cw, christibir, KayeN, KathBC, Welltraveledbrit.... and everyone.....

    I'm back from Mala Mala and Mashatu and I had a fabulous time. Being on private safari with my own photography pro was really amazing. We were able to stay with animals for hours rather than moving from place to place. I am now working on not eating. You failed to mention that all you do when not photographing is eat. : ) Mala Mala food was fine, but they have a new food manager at Mashatu recruited from Mombo camp about six months ago (Steve) and the food is so good, it's downright dangerous to your waistline to stay very long.

    The weather was cool and cloudy--which I loved. The rooms were great and the staff at both places was great. I saw lions while eating breakfast, lots of babies, and was able to stop and savor the animals--for hours on end.

    I took bush planes to and from and between camps and was so glad I did. They have a non stop flight from Mashatu (Limpopo Valley Airfield) to JNB now, and it's fabulous. Limpopo is an international airport (which makes you smile--only a flower bed separates "arrivals" from "departures" ; ), so you get checked out of Botswana and 90 minutes later you are in Joburg.

    I am going to write a full trip report on its own thread and post a large selection of my images.....

    .....but in the meantime, if you have a Facebook account, you can see some of my images here:

    (Note: my Facebook is fully public to anyone with a Facebook page)

    I am going through my images now. I have at least 4000, so it is taking a bit of time. From lions and leopards and ellies, and baby everything, I'm happy with what I captured. I'll be back shortly with a trip report and photo album.

    Thanks for everyone's help in planning. You were invaluable in making my trip fun and worry free. I stayed within my 20kg limit and still had an outfit for dinner : ) Love having laundry done everyday. The airplanes were never full, so they never weighed anything anyway.

    Oh, and I completely agree with all of you......I think I have taken on an expensive habit : )

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    Welcome home! Oops forgot to tell you about eating. The food is great, isn't it? You were warned about it becoming a habit. Off to look at FB and looking forward to your report.

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    I'm so glad you had a fantastic time!! I'm looking forward to your trip report, in the mean time I will check out your Facebook. It's really great, isn't it!? We had over 8000 images our first time, but that doesn't change the more you go. We have a few (more than a few) framed and hung all over the house. Digital is easy to take too many. Lots of babies? It was a little early - good for you! I love the whole ele family dynamic - I hope you got the chance to spend some time with them.

    You don't have to spend a fortune every time you go. If we get to go next year, it will be well under $7000 (closer to $5000) for two weeks for two, including international coach flights, tips, food, gas, etc. Our first safari was silly expensive and each one has gotten progressively less expensive and as exciting, or more so, each time. Next year is big cats, wild dogs and brown hyenas, along with my beloved rhinos and deciding on a town to retire to.

    Mashatu will have to market the Mombo food guy. Mombo is famous for its food (and price). It must have been wonderful. I haven't been to a higher end camp in a while, so I forgot about the constant food. Kind of like a cruise. And you can't try to be good and take a walk! Lion food...

    You weren't planning your return on your home flight? I'm disappointed. The weather is beautiful - enjoy it before it gets cold. The pix can wait.

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    Christabir, I was planning my second safari on my second day of my first safari! On my second day I captured an image of a baby giraffe (still with umbilical cord) engaging with a bird (a forked-tailed Drongo). It may be just about the best image I have ever taken in my life--not the most dramatic or colorful, but the most engaging.

    Again, I'm organizing my images and report as a separate post, but I think you will agree that this baby was just too damn cute--and she made my trip. I give you (in my humble opinion : ) The cutest giraffe ever:

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    Welcome back Boston! Really looking forward to the trip report and will check out FB tonight when home.

    Ooooooh I like the news of a direct flight between Mashatu & Jo'burg! In 2013 it took me the better part of a day to get there via flight to Polokwane then vehicle to border, hand off to Mashatu ranger and then another land transfer. A direct flight will be so much easier!

    Took a photo of the departure/arrival gate at Limpopo International - it cracked me up!!

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    BH - too f'ing cute for words!! Thank you. I can't wait to go back! I'm relieved to hear that you were planning early.

    If interested, I am trying to find 4-6 people to do Djuma with us (in Sabi Sand) for a few days. R14,000 per night (not per person! That's for the whole place!) There are only two lodges in the Djuma reserve. I am intrigued by the possibility. We can't afford to travel high end, but Djuma is high end at an affordable price if the cost is shared and the exchange rate is ridiculously good like now.

    Enjoy organizing your photos. It's so fun to remember everything through them.

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    Christabir, cw, and KathBC, I just posted my trip report and an album last night here in the forums. "My Magical Southern African Photography Safari: A Trip Report"

    Thanks again for ALL your help! You made a huge difference in the success of my trip, and yes, I'm now addicted to Africa.

    I suggested a couple other things that I think one should bring along on the trip as well in my report.

    WelllTraveledBrit, I think you'll enjoy the images : )

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