There is so much to share about this subject, especially with those who are unfamiliar with Africa and her wildlife. First off, let me say that going the self-drive, camping route (which this article is based on) has benefits beyond measure. I read some life skills advice in a magazine recently – that engaging in physical adventure and varying degrees of risk-taking (depending on your inherent propensity for this) is a powerful way to exercise courage and enhance other areas of your life, such as the emotional side.
Speaking of life skills, Martha Beck shares profound insight in her post Zero Attachment, Zero Anxiety: Insight from Martha. She suggests getting in touch with the feeling we have when watching a beautiful sunrise, to help steer away from yearning and grasping after goals. “You may experience awe and intense gratitude,” she writes, “but you will not be thunderstruck, amazed or hysterical. A sunrise is glorious, but it is normal.” The idea is to apply that feeling of normalcy to our dreams, encouraging them to simply materialize – rather than imagining that we must attract them, which implies a sense of separation.
This imagery transported me immediately to the African bush, and the countless sunrises we’ve watched from our tent, steaming coffee in hand, surrounded by sounds of the wildlife waking up and crisp, clean air filling our lungs. If you decide to take the plunge, here are some more tips that you may find useful:
• Pack a proper first aid kit, including antibiotics. We needed them once when Dave almost lost the end of his finger. Fortunately we had a surgeon friend on hand, but I’ll spare you the gory details.
• Check whether you’re allowed to gather firewood at your destination, and if so a mini-chainsaw is worth its weight in gold – as long you keep your fingers out of the way!
• Weapons may not be carried across the Botswana border, but a solid knife comes in really handy.
• You may not take meat across the border either, or various other checkpoints in the country, particularly when they have outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease in their cattle. You could take a chance and pack some at the bottom of your fridge, but don’t say we said that, and don’t blame us if it’s confiscated. There are places along the main road where you can buy meat once there.
• Traveling in Africa would not be the same without a stash of biltong (unless you’re vegetarian). By all means buy sliced, but also include some whole pieces, so that you have a reason to use your knife 🙂
• Apply thought to your menu and pack your food with care, stuffing spare spaces with dish cloths or towels, so that you don’t end up with handfuls of broken biscuits, as the tracks are rough.
• A fridge/freezer is essential. Nothing refreshes better than an ice-cold drink in 40 degree heat. It adds a whole new meaning to the concept of gratitude.
• Plan your fridge/freezer strategy. For example, freeze meat and bread rolls and store fresh fruit and vegetables in a separate cooler box. This can be kept cold with frozen bottles of drinking water, which you can refill and refreeze as you drink them.
• A second, mini fridge is also useful, to keep drinks cold and have with you on game drives.
• Don’t wait for the last town en route to fill your water tanks, but do it in a place with reliable drinking water. We fill up at home, our clean water more than compensating for the extra towing weight.
• Try to minimise packaging waste when you plan food for your trip. It’s astonishing how much rubbish we can gather in a few days. Obviously don’t leave any there, but bring it back to civilization with you.
• Take strong rubbish bags as well as a rope to hoist them into a tree – out of the reach of potentially roving hyenas, especially at night.
• Pack things away when you go on game drives, just in case animals investigate your food supplies. Admittedly, this is a bigger concern in areas like the Okavango Delta, where there are lots of baboons.
• Make sure that your vehicle is fitted with a spare, deep-cycle battery for added peace of mind and extra charging power.
• Keep a fire extinguisher with you at all times. We’ve seen the burnt remains of vehicles before, and a friend had a close call when grass got stuck in his driveshaft and caught alight against the exhaust pipe.
• A grass catcher net fitted over the front of your engine could save it from overheating. This is particularly important on less-travelled roads, where the grass between the tracks has grown really tall.
• Determine and sort out your electrical requirements before you go, i.e. whether you need a generator and adaptor plugs for charging your fridge and photographic equipment, for example.
• If it suits you, minimise effort by selecting one camp site and setting up once. Then you can leave your trailer/rooftop tent or caravan and drive around at your leisure, exploring and game viewing.
• Always, always take a camera – or not. Being wildlife photographers we’re rather biased . . .
Now for a final tip: If you’re not a snake handler, DON’T PLAY WITH SNAKES! Here’s Dave demonstrating what not to do, unless you already have a well-developed propensity for risk taking 😀
(I shot this in the Waterberg, SA – hence the stream which you won’t find in the Central Kalahari.)