Seniors on Safari
Game drives on the veldt, rescued elephants and a 47th anniversary in a Botswanian honeymoon tent
Each year, as my husband Don and I get older and more seasoned as travelers, planning a trip that is different from our past 35-years’ venues becomes a real challenge. We’ve tried cruises on small ships to areas unreachable by large ships, often going ashore in Zodiacs. We’ve visited places off the usual tourist track including Copper Canyon, Mexico; Tierra del Fuego, Patagonia, Argentina; Morocco; Greenland; Iceland; the Faroe Islands and the Orkney Islands. 2005 year was the Year of the Safari. To keep my narrative of our African trip to a reasonable length, I concentrated on the six days that we spent on Safari, and only touched on the other wonderful experiences we had during the rest of our 17-day trip.
Do we Safari?
We’ve always talked about visiting South Africa and maybe going on a safari, but as our senior status advanced, we weren’t sure that this was a wise decision. Our family and friends thought that we were crazy to travel to a continent where so many diseases were rampant: the inhabitants were unfriendly; there were dangerous wild animals and snakes; and the flights to and within Africa were long and arduous.
But we decided to pursue the idea of seeing the Cape of Good Hope, Table Mountain, Victoria Falls and, of course, the African wildlife once we discovered that one of our favorite travel companies, Tauck World Tours, had several African tours available. We made an appointment with the owner of our local travel agency who has been to Africa many times, including taking numerous safaris. He told us that actually safaris are not really strenuous affairs, since all of the game drives involve sitting in a Range Rover for three to four hours at a time and viewing from your car seat. “Bush walks” are optional.
He discussed his experiences with health issues and gave us advice on what to bring on safari. As for the long, arduous plane rides, we could get a discount on Business Class with South African Airlines by booking with Tauck. SAA’s Sky Bed seat becomes a six foot bed, with a duvet to cover you while sleeping. And, of course, drinks, snacks and gourmet meals come with the package. Also, you can relax between flights in the SAA Business Lounges. So last September, we booked Tauck's 11-day, 10-night South African tour.
This tour included a two day safari in a private preserve in South Africa. Don thought that this would be sufficient to satisfy our craving for viewing wild animals, but I convinced him that, after spending a great deal of money, and coming such a long distance, that we should stay longer than 11 days. I really wanted a safari experience longer than two days. Since Tauck offered a 5-day 4-night unescorted Botswana excursion following our visit to Victoria Falls that included visiting two remote safari camps for two nights each, (see http://www.tauck.com/docs/bl_f.htm) we booked this tour, also. The camps were in different parts of Botswana and offered unique terrains and wildlife. We also, opted to arrive a day early in Cape Town to settle our jet lag and to visit some areas that were not on the tour.
Psyching and Prep Time
Even though we weren’t leaving for Africa until June 4, 2005, following the holidays we got busy on the Internet researching our trip venues as well as ordering a few books to get us better acquainted with the countries we were about to visit. We made lists of what we needed to pack, and watched the CDC’s website for current health alerts in South Africa, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. We also renewed our passports, since they would expire within the six months following our trip in June and for Zimbabwe we needed a visa, but Tauck would get this for us as we arrived at Victoria Falls.
We began ordering our clothing and supplies that would go with us, especially on safari. June 21 is the beginning of the winter season in Africa and, although the temperatures are mild during the day (50’s to 70’s or 80’s), the mornings and evenings can get down to the high 40’s. Layering was definitely the name of the clothing game. In Botswana, winter is the dry season and although there is water, there is almost no rain. One (slow-loading) website offered us great travel tips for SA on clothing and packing, luggage, weather, elevation, health and activities, passport and travel documents, electrical current, currency exchange and suggested reading lists.
The big buzz in travel wear these days is Buzz Off™ clothing and accessories. These items are treated with an insect repellent that lasts for many washings. Don bought several shirts and a pair of pants and we both bought socks and bandanas. We were told that since we would be out in the bush for seven to eight hours a day, we needed to have a day bag or pockets to hold everything we might need (water, insect repellant, sunscreen, tissues, hand sanitizer, camera, film, extra battery, binoculars, scarf, sunglasses, hat, rain poncho, etc.). Don already owned a photographer’s vest (which looked just like a safari vest to me). I decided to order one for myself. What a mistake! I had to send back two vests for bad fit or style. Then, after I finally found one I liked, I realized that it would consume too much of my weight limit for the safaris. My new light weight Polar Tec jacket for cool mornings and evenings had inside and outside pockets that would accommodate quite a few items. Don had a good pair of small binoculars, but I wanted to have my own so we didn’t have to pass them back and forth, changing settings and maybe missing the target.
Since we had visited Australia in 2003, we both still had our Outback clothes which also look a lot like safari clothes. My ventilated straw hat trimmed with an aboriginal design was just perfect for Africa. Midway through the trip both my new binoculars and my hat had disappeared. I replaced the hat in Johannesburg, since you really need a broad brimmed hat that covers your eyes and your neck when you go out in the African sun.
We both wanted to take our own pictures. Sometimes we aren’t together when a photo opportunity presents itself and I am tired of only seeing me in his pictures. And I like to take photos that can be put in the trip albums I create when we come home. Some of our friends are computer-phobic so I send them a picture. Don likes to use his new digital camera, but printing out the digital photos from the computer is time consuming and expensive. In all on this trip, I used fifteen rolls of print film and Don took about six hundred digital shots. All in all, we got many beautiful and inspiring scenery and wildlife shots as well as pictures of our traveling companions.
But bad luck still pursued my possessions. My reliable camera finally breathed its last breath in the middle of the Sabi Sabi safari and I have no photos from that point until I replaced it with a new smaller, lighter, and cheaper model in Johannesburg.
©2005 Joan James Rapp for Seniorwomen.com