4 things we should have packed
Across our group of six, here are things that someone on our trip wishes they'd packed, and the advice we have for our friends...Okay, and actually, I guess there are 5 things! We're lucky we were traveling with a group of friends, and could borrow/loan!
1. Bring a wildlife reference book. We had lots of questions about the birds, animals and plants that we saw each day. Our guide knew a lot, but no one knows everything. After spending all day on a game drive, we often found ourselves wanting to know more about the animals and birds we were seeing. Thank goodness one person in our group had the sense to bring a reference book - Wildlife of East Africa (Princeton Illustrated Checklists)!
You can see an image of the book below. It's nice, as it's not too big either. (Disclaimer - this is an Amazon affiliate link, so if you purchase by clicking on this link, we will get a small referral fee. If you found this site useful, we'd love if you make your Amazon purchases with this link - as it will also help support this site.) By day three, we were all diligently reading that book.
Added bonus - if you have the book, you can mark off the animals and birds as you see them - a great reference/reminder even after the trip, of what you've seen. (We only thought of this around Day 5 or so.)
The African Safari Journal also got huge kudos from folks we know, and seems worth checking out. We kept our own journal, in a regular notebook, which is what I usually do. But I would rather have brought this journal instead.
I'm one of those people who just doesn't like binoculars. I read a lot of forums and reviews, and every single one said to bring good binoculars. I ignored them, because I don't like binoculars. I don't like squinting through them, and I couldn't imagine myself squinting through these binoculars on a game drive. So, feeling slightly guilty, but not wanting to waste space in my luggage, I brought a teeny, tiny pair (12x25 binoculars). These are the super cheap type; they cost less than $25 when you buy them on Amazon. Another person on the trip had the same idea and brought the cheap binoculars... and he regretted it as well. The cheap binoculars were better than nothing...but, still! (Not one of my smarter ideas.)
One person on our trip (the same person who brought the book) was a whole lot smarter than me. She bought a good pair of binoculars (see Nikon 7223 Action 16 X 50mm Binoculars below). And they were fantastic! I borrowed them every now and then. And the amazing thing was that I didn't have to squint, and they didn't hurt my eyes. Actually, EVERYONE on our trip borrowed those at some time or another. Even my husband, who was the last holdout, eventually borrowed the nice binoculars so he could more clearly check out the pack of hyenas and lion further off in the distance.
If / When we get the chance to go again, we would each bring a nice pair of binoculars! One nice pair of binoculars, shared by six people, just isn't enough!
When buying binoculars, you'll typically see them represented with two numbers like: Nikon 7223 Action 16 X 50mm Binoculars . The first number, in this example 16, is the magnification - objects will appear 16x closer than with the naked eye. The second number, in this example 50, is the diameter of the front of the binocular (also known as the objective lens). A larger objective lens means more light will be let in allowing for a larger field of view but a larger lens means a heavier pair of binoculars to carry. Full sized binoculars have objective lenses of around 42mm or larger, mid-sized binoculars have objective lenses of around 32mm to 36mm, and compact binoculars have objective lenses between 21mm and 28mm. If you're planning many hikes, a mid-sized one is probably the ideal compromise for carrying around. However, if you're going to be in a vehicle for most of the time you'll be using the binoculars, a full sized one produces a noticeably higher view quality.
The Nikon 7223 Action 16 X 50mm Binoculars is a great value balancing magnification, viewing quality, and cost. If you can afford to splurge or if you'd rather spend more on binoculars than a camera, try binoculars that have Image Stabilization technology built in like the below Canon 10x30 IS . The Nikon 7540 Monarch 3 is a fantastic birding binocular and the Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 10x 42mm was awarded best binocular of 2012 by Binoculars.com. (These can all be found at Amazon using the links below.)
4. Bring a complete copy of your itinerary and emails. There were a few mix-ups with our tour operator. For example, our guide thought we had not yet paid for the visit to the Masai village; we had to show him a printout of our emails to demonstrate that we had, in fact, paid. Another time, our guide (and tour operator) thought we hadn't paid for the final night's meals. We didn't have the printouts for this one, so it took a couple hours, off and on, to sort this out...until finally, someone found the email confirmations. Make your own life simpler - print out copies of your itinerary and emails.
5. A bonus item...an Apple iPad Camera Connector I didn't have this connector on safari, but I've since taken it on other trips and I've realized how absolutely fantastic it is. (Of course, if it's going to be at all useful, you need to have an iPad as well!) The kit comes with two connectors, but what I really love is the SD card reader. This thing is tiny! When I'm trying to pack light, the last thing I want is to weigh myself down with yet more stuff to carry. This thing easily fits into my pocket! Second, it's super-simple to use. I recently traveled with a friend, and we both love it. You plug it into your iPad, stick in the memory card, and you're good to go! (There are actually two connectors that come with the kit, but the one I like is the card reader - not the USB cable connector..)
6. And one more bonus item...a bandana Only one person brought a bandana, but we all clearly wished we had it. It got really dusty out there at times. But I say we clearly all wished we had a bandana, because at a certain point in the trip, all of us who didn't have bandanas...were tying long sleeve shirts around our mouths/noses!
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