Preparing for the Okavango 2022

With only six weeks to go before heading off on another Okavango adventure, I asked my Facebook friends if it was too early to get my case out of the loft and start packing. It seems that my excitement had got the better of me, as it turned out that I had miscalculated and I had, in fact, seven weeks to go.

Well, that was then, and this is now, and I leave one week today. I have been laying out all the kit I need for a camping safari in the African wilderness. Thankfully, the tent, the food, the transport, and the guide. But even so, there is a lot to remember to ensure a successful expedition. Seven cameras for example.

Now seven cameras may seem extreme but, in my defence, they all have a vital role to play.

Doing the lion’s share of the work will be my SLR camera with a 500mm lens and my HD video camera.

For smooth video action footage I have a smaller video camera with a 3 axis gimble stabiliser. It can also do timelapse whilst panning and is good in low light.

My iPhone camera will be ideal for capturing panoramic shots and time lapse video.

To find out what comes sneaking around the tent during the night I have two wildlife camera traps. On previous trips the campsite has been visited by lions and hyenas through the night. There is a risk that the hyenas might eat the camera traps. They are extremely curious and have jaws that can crush most things to see if they are edible. So great care will be required as to where the camera traps are set up.

Finally, my iPad camera is there as a back up if required. But predominately the iPad is for downloading camera trap images onto, to see what any nocturnal visitors have been up to while we sleep.

As well as all of those gadgets, it is equally important to make sure that you have sufficient batteries to operate them, the correct cables to recharge the batteries, and lots of memory cards to store all your world beating wildlife images and films.

There is a distinct lack of street lighting in the Okavango Delta therefor a good head torch is a must. A head torch, whilst being a great asset, can also be an irresistible draw for the flying insects of the night. So, a powerful insect repellent is also a must have.

Some people choose to wear shorts when on safari, (after all, the daily temperature is expected to be around 30C) but I prefer long trousers as they help protect against the buzzing, biting bugs that are attracted to my legs. A good safari hat is essential to prevent scalp burn when you have as little hair up top as I have. Bare arms need the protection of a good sunscreen, but usually only for alternate arms on a day-to-day basis. If you sit on the left side of the safari vehicle your left arm is exposed to the sun whilst your right arm is mostly in the shade, and vice versa. So by alternating which side of the vehicle you sit on each day, you avoid returning home from the trip with one heavily tanned arm and one anaemic one.

It is also necessary to take along money to tip the guide and the camp staff. This usually equates to around US$10 a day for the guide and US$7.50 a day for each of the camp staff. This can amount to around US$275. The guests usually nominate a member of the group to collect all the money, split it into separate envelopes, make a little speech, and present the gratuities to the guides and staff. I was nominated on my first trip to the Okavango to do the honours. All was going well as each group member handed in their tip money at my tent for me to sort out. That is until, one chap turned up with his. and his wife’s share. He had anticipated tipping each day and whenever a member of the camp staff did something for them like getting them a drink. He had brought US$500 in one-dollar bills. Normal envelopes are not designed to cope with that volume of paper being stuffed into them. It was remarkable that we were able to come up with extra envelopes out there in the wilderness, but three different people had brought some to put their tips in. The eyes of the guide and camp staff lit up, thinking they had hit the jackpot, when they saw that they were going to get two bulging envelopes each.  However, I was careful to lower their expectations before handing them over.

Over the next seven days I will no doubt come up with other things to take… just in case, but I think I am just about there.

In the run up to this trip I have been in self imposed isolation. I know that cases of Covid 19 are reducing in the UK, but I have been waiting for two and a half years for this trip and I do not want that virus to rob me of the chance to go on this adventure.

All I have left to worry about is that British Airways do not cancel my flight down to Heathrow. Over the past few weeks there have been lots of short haul domestic flights cancelled at short notice due to staff shortages caused by Covid 19 illness.

Fingers crossed, mask on, and if I make it back in one piece, there will be a new series of Sunday Safari Blogs for you.

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