Answering Your Safari Travel Questions & What I Brought Back From Kenya

I’ve received a lot of questions via emails and comments about the recent trip I took to Africa. Today I thought I’d take time to answer some of those and to make this post a bit more fun so it’s not just a bunch of words, I’m including pictures of the souvenirs I brought back, along with some of the little gifts I received during my stay at Mahali Mzuri and Giraffe Manor.

Please Note: The captions under each picture explain what they are and for whom they were purchased. Tip: Hit Ctrl+ a few times, if you have trouble reading the captions. Once done, hit Ctrl 0 (zero) to return to normal.)

It would take me a while to go back and find each question in the comments so I’ll just paraphrase them in this post. If you have a question, leave it in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer it.

Giraffe Straw Tote Made in Kenya

HAND-MADE LEATHER & STRAW TOTE, MADE IN KENYA AND PURCHASED IN THE GIRAFFE MANOR GIFT SHOP

 

The number one, most frequently asked question that I’ve gotten from BNOTP readers, friends and fellow travelers I met during my trip to Africa was:

Q: Did you travel alone? Weren’t you afraid?” Those questions were usually followed by statements about how brave they thought I was to travel alone and how they didn’t think they could do that.

A: I’m never exactly sure how to answer this because I honestly never felt the slightest bit afraid or anxious about traveling alone. That probably makes me weird, but I never did.

Now, if I had just booked myself a flight to Nairobi and planned to wing it and fly by the seat of my pants once there, then I would have had some concerns. That would have been outright crazy! But that wasn’t how this trip was set up. This trip was very well planned by the agency I used, along with plenty of input from me.  (You’ll find a link to the agency I used to book my trip at the end of this post: Africa Bound: A Fantasy Trip to Mahali Mzuri and Giraffe Manor.)

Safari Bowl from Kenya

SOUVENIR FOR MY OFFICE: HAND-CARVED BOWL FROM KENYA WITH HAND-CARVED ANIMALS AROUND THE RIM: LION, ZEBRA, HIPPO, LEOPARD, RHINO & GIRAFFE

 

I’m pretty used to being independent. I kinda grew up as an “only” child because my sister and brother were much older and were both grown and out of the house by the time I was around 6-7 years old. I usually make friends pretty easily and I was fairly positive there would be other people staying at Mahali Mzuri and going out on safari each day, and there were. I also suspected there would be other folks staying at Giraffe Manor, and there were.

Hand-Carved Wood Animals from Africa

HAND-CARVED WOOD ANIMALS FOR MY GRANDSON: RHINO, LEOPARD, ELEPHANT, LION, GIRAFFE AND ZEBRA

 

I met some fun travelers the night we dined at Giraffe Manor around this beautiful table. (See more photos of this table here: Dining by Candlelight in Giraffe Manor.) It was amazing to hear how far folks had come to go on safari! Many of the people I met were from Great Britain and Australia.

Giraffe Manor Candlelit Dining Room

 

During my stay at Mahali Mzuri, I met some wonderful folks including Jill and Scott who were staying at Richard Branson’s safari camp for two of the three days I was there. This photo was taken when our guide pulled over and stopped so we could enjoy the sunset and sip the sundowners Scott made for us.

For each safari outing, the staff at Mahali Mzuri would ask what we wanted to take along. They supplied the ingredients and Scott put together our sundowner for the evening. One thing you must know before going on safari is that sipping sundowers while watching the sun set, is a tried and true tradition, not to be missed. lol I read about that even before I left for the trip.

Friends on Safari

HAVING A SUNDOWNER WITH FRIENDS, SCOTT AND JILL, WHILE ENJOYING A BEAUTIFUL SUNSET WHILE OUT ON SAFARI.

 

This was the sunset we enjoyed that evening. I think those are African Buffalo silhouetted against that gorgeous evening sky.

Beautiful Sunset in Kenya, Africa_wm

 

But back to the question about traveling alone…there seems to be this bonding thing that kind of naturally happens when you meet people who have the same interests in travel that you do. We already had something in common to talk about, like our mutual love for travel and for animals, so I never felt alone. Heck, I was too busy doing stuff to ever feel alone! lol

Breakfast with Daisy at Giraffe Manor, Kenya

 

Maybe part of my not being afraid to travel alone comes from the type of work I’ve done in the past where I had to deal with complex issues and the unknown on a daily basis.

 

Eight years working as Case Manager investigating abuse, neglect and exploitation of the elderly prepares you for just about anything. Every day in that job I found myself confronted with difficult and often dangerous situations. So, yeah…it takes a lot to shock me, and I’m pretty fast on my feet when I find myself in a difficult or stressful situation.

Feeding a Giraffe at Giraffe Manor in Kenya

 

Sorry if this answer is a bit long, but truth be told, I’m not exactly sure why I haven’t been afraid or worried about traveling alone. I think just the excitement of traveling and the dream of adventure outweighs any doubts or fears that could possibly creep in.

 

My only real concern before I left was that a flight would be canceled or significantly delayed. That would have broken my heart since my time in Africa was so limited.

Giraffe Wine Glasses

GIRAFFE WINE GLASSES FROM THE GIFT SHOP AT GIRAFFE MANOR

Amazingly, everything went exactly according to schedule, no delays at all. This actually just dawned on me today, that nothing went wrong. With all the flights I had, that’s probably nothing short of a miracle. I know things won’t always go so smoothly when I travel, but this time they did, and for that I’m grateful!

Giraffe Wine Glass

EACH GLASS SHOWS A GIRAFFE IN A DIFFERENT POSITION

 

Update on 5-12-16: You’ll find a Safari-themed table setting using these glasses here: On Safari: An African Safari-Themed Tablescape

Giraffe Stemware

THERE’S AN UMBRELLA TREE ON THE BACK OF EACH GLASS, THOUGHT THAT WAS SO CUTE!

 

Q: How did I manage phone communication while in Africa?

A: That’s an easy one to answer, I put my mobile phone on Airplane Mode in the Atlanta airport and never took it off until I got back home. I called Verizon before I left to ask about buying a plan that would cover me while in Kenya, and the Verizon employee I spoke with said they had zero coverage in Africa.

About two days before I left, I visited the Verizon store that’s about 2 miles from my home and once again asked what were my choices. The employee I talked with GREATLY discouraged me from buying a third-party sim card and putting it in my phone. He said they have folks coming in the store all the time with messed up phones after trips to Italy and other places where they’ve swapped out their SIM card for another one, and now they can’t get their phone to work with their old SIM card back in place. It was right about that point when I decided if someone needed to reach me, they would just have to email or text me–or call the places I was staying.

Mahali Mzuri Beaded Bracelet, Masai Duck and Beaded Lady Bug

GIFTS FROM MAHALI MZURI: A WELCOME BRACELET MADE BY LOCAL MAASAI LADIES, RUBBER DUCKY DRESSEDIN MAASAI DRESS AND A BEADED LADY BUG MADE BY LOCAL MAASAI.

 

One thing I did learn before leaving for this trip is that you can have the WiFi turned on full-time on a cell phone while it’s in Airplane Mode. I had the wifi on pretty much all the time, so it worked fine in the airports, at Mahali Mzuri and at Giraffe Manor. So did my computer. I didn’t use my computer in airports…just at Mahali Mzuri and Giraffe Manor.

Africa T-Shirt

A  T-SHIRT FOR MY GRANDSON, BOUGHT IN THE GIRAFFE MANOR GIFT SHOP

 

Q: What did you do when you needed to go to the bathroom while out on safari?

A: I’m one of those folks who can go a long, long time between bathroom breaks. Safari excursions were usually around 3 hours long so normally it wasn’t a problem. When folks did need to go, I was told early on that it’s called “checking the tires.” lol

A few times we stopped near the woods or a big bush and the person needing to “check the tires” would get out and go back behind the safari vehicle where it was completely private. As you can see in this photo from the Mahali Mzuri website, the back is solid so no one can see out the back of the vehicle.

On Safari at Mahali Mzuri in Africa

 

The only time I had to “check the tires” was when we spent an entire day in the Mara on safari. A bush came in handy for that and I had a nice view of hippos on the Mara River to keep me company. We all carried Kleenex or tissue, too.

Crocodiles and Hippos on the Mara River

CROCOLDILES AND HIPPOS ON THE MARA RIVER, NOTICE THE BABY HIPPO NEAR ITS MOTHER.

 

Q: Some folks asked about the small purse I took on this trip and how it worked. I took this one since I was limited to 33 lbs on my bags. I knew I wouldn’t be checking a bag and would be carrying two bags onto the planes: my Pendleton bag with clothing and my camera/laptop bag.

Travelon Anti-Theft Neck Wallet

 

A: This bag was perfect for this trip except for one thing: even though the strap is adjustable, when I shortened it, it never stayed shortened. I always found it had lengthened back out. I think it was because I was lugging two very heavy bags crossbody over my shoulders and body, and they were probably tugging down on the strap the whole time, extending it back out. By the end of the week on my last day of travel, the strap was starting to tear away from the bag, perhaps due to the heavier bags tugging on it so much.

Another thing that may have caused the strap to start tearing away from the bag, was the design of the bag and how the strap connects to the bag. The strap connects down inside the back pocket of the bag, and that’s where I kept my cell phone throughout the trip. I was continually getting my phone in and out to take photos all throughout this trip, so that may have put stress on that area where it connects to the bag. I’m just not sure.

Travelon Wallet Bag for Travel

 

If I went on another trip where I couldn’t take a normal size purse with me, I’d buy another one of these bags in a heartbeat because I really liked it a lot. It worked just as I had hoped. I would just be more careful with it and probably wouldn’t store my cell in the back pocket, just in case.

Travelon Anti-Theft Neck Wallet

 

I’m very glad that my luggage requirements will be completely different on the Italy trip I have coming up. They’ll be no flying on small planes like there was on the Kenya trip. This was the plane that took us out into the bush. We landed on a grass strip and I was met by a guide from Mahali Mzuri for the 45 minute to 1 hour drive back to camp.

Airplane_wm

 

So I can check a full size bag and take this small rolling bag with me on the plane. What a luxury it will be to roll my bag instead of carry it this time!

Travel Carry-on Rolling Bag With J Travel Pillow_wm

 

I’ll also be using my bigger Travelon purse for the Italy trip. That trip should be a breeze to pack for compared to what I had to do for the Africa trip. (That bag is available here: Travelon Anti-Theft Cross Body Bag)

Travelon Crossbody Travel Bag with RFID Block

 

 

Q: Several folks asked what lens I used and how close we were to the animals in some of the close up shots I shared on Instagram.

This exotic fellow is the Southern Ground Hornbill and he’s the largest species of hornbill in the world! When he flies, he has white underneath his wings and the combination of the black, red and white is beautiful!

SOUTHERN GROUND HORNBILL

Southern Ground Hornbill

 

A: The guides are able to get us fairly close. Most animals just glance over and then continue on about their business. They don’t seem to care one bit about the safari vehicles.

Lions in Kenya, Seen on Safari

 

The lens I used was a $200 refurbished, Nikon 55-300mm lens I purchased from Adorama a few weeks before I left for the trip. Their refurbished lenses are often their demos. They are refurbished at the Nikon factory and come with a warranty, so it’s a good way to save a little when buying a lens.

This Agama Lizard was amazing, he appeared almost iridescent in person!

Iridescent Agama Lizard in Kenya

 

Banana Republic Vest Update: Thanks for convincing me to take it!

Remember the safari style vest that I was trying to decide if I should take along on this trip when I was planning my packing strategy? I had purchased the vest in Banana Republic around 30 years ago when that was the type of clothing they sold.

Packing for Safari_wm

 

Well, I took your recommendation and I did take it on the trip. I wore it out on safari a few times and loved it. The pockets came in handy for carrying chap stick and other necessities.

Giraffe Kisses at the Giraffe Center in Nairobi

 

A week or two before I left, I searched online to see if I could find one of those old Banana Republic catalogs from around the time I would have purchased the vest. I found two on eBay and purchased them to see if my vest was in them since they were from 1986-1987 time frame. It was!

1987 Banana Republic Catalog

 

This was the other Banana Republic catalog I purchased. I loved the fun picture on the cover. Banana Republic used to have the best catalogs with wonderful drawings and stories throughout. I’m not surprised someone saved them all these years. So glad I could find a couple of them on eBay for old times sake.

Don’t you love this picture! I love the giraffe munching on the Christmas tree. Then there’s the zebra curled up on the floor with a monkey beside him. Of course, there’s a sweet kitty in the chair. This was their holiday catalog back in 1986.  Banana Republic still sells safari style clothing under the “Heritage” section on their website, something I learned from watching a YouTube interview with the original founder a few weeks ago.

1986 Banana Republic Holiday Catalog

 

Oh, before I forget, I want to share a wonderful site Peg shared with me in the comments on yesterday’s post. (Thanks, Peg!)  It’s a site where the authors take you on a live safari every day! Check it out here: Wild Safari Live.  It’s a good way to see if you would enjoy going on a real safari one day.  You just get to skip the bumpy roads part. 😉

 

Update: If you are considering a trip to Africa, especially to enjoy a safari and see the famous migration of the Wildebeest, do some research to make sure where the migration will be during the time you’re visiting and what the weather will be like. Africa has a “short rainy season” and a “long rainy season.” Every season has it’s advantages and disadvantages. The rains move around, as do the Wildebeest, so do a bit of research OR consult a good travel company to ensure you’re not dealing with rain all day, every day.




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Comments

  1. Susan, your trip sounds lovelier every time I hear about it! I love the treasures you brought home, and so will your grandson. I’m very excited to hear about your preparations for and your upcoming trip to Italy. My husband and I hope to go there before too much more time passes.

  2. I love the wooden animals that you got for Court. That will be something for him to treasure for years and maybe pass on to his children. They are beautifully carved. I love the Girrafe etched wine glasses. Those are beautiful. Can’t wait to see a table set with those glasses. Thanks for all of the details about your journey. Love the Banana Republic catalog.

  3. Susan, this was a fun post. Laughed at the “kick the tires”, but I like the practical tips that no one talks about.

    I think there may be a problem with the live safari link.

  4. Thanks for sharing your adventure with us – I’m loving it! But I do have a question … considering how tightly you were packed, how did you manage to bring home the items you purchased? The wood bowl, animals, glasses, etc.,
    must have taken quite a bit of space.

    • Well, that turned into a bit of an adventure. I should have shared THAT in the post. lol For the trip back, I decided to check my duffel style Pendleton bag. I wouldn’t have been happy if it had vanished BUT, the safari was over so it wouldn’t have been the end of the world if my clothes never showed up in Atlanta.

      So that meant my two carry on pieces were my camera/laptop bag and my new Giraffe tote which was filled with my binoculars and my 6 giraffe glasses all wrapped in bubble wrap. I had tucked my beaded lady bug and duck into the camera bag on top of the lenses. In another small plastic bag, I had my 6 carved, wood animals and my wood bowl. I was hoping they would just let that go since it was a very small bag.

      Well, the folks at KLM, the airline I was flying back on, would have none of that. They insisted I check my little plastic bag of wood animals and wood bowl. At first they were going to put it in a box but they ended up wrapping it a million times around with this plastic, saran-like stuff. They created sort of a handle for it with the saran wrap…and charged me $8 for that bizarre little package. I should have taken a picture of it, it looked truly strange.

      Miraculously, my Pendleton bag and my bizarre, saran-wrapped package showed up on the luggage carousel in Atlanta, but the officials there would NOT let me leave until it was opened up and every single thing inside examined. Somewhere along the way, somebody had marked some green sheet that said I was bringing back food. I had no food, just my little wood animals. lol

      Anyway, I had to go to this special room at the Atlanta airport where they make you go if you have a “green” sheet. It took the nice officer about 20 minutes to slice through all that saran wrap…and get them all out. One of the little animals had popped off my bowl somewhere along the way, but fortunately it didn’t break.

      He scrutinized every single animal for insect holes and found none. I had purchased them in a reputable shop so I didn’t expect any of this.

      Anyway, he gave me a new plastic bag so I could re-bag all my critters and they finally let me leave. What an ordeal! I’m not sure I would have bought those wood pieces for my grandson or the bowl for me if I’d known it was going to be such a nightmare dealing with them at both airports (Nairobi and Atlanta).

      • Ahhh, thanks for the explanation. At first I thought perhaps you’d had everything wrapped and shipped home, but I didn’t think it could have
        arrived so quickly. Glad it all worked out OK even if it was a bit of a hassle !

        • I almost did but they estimated that the shipping charges for just the glasses was going to be around $40-50. So I decided to take the risk of checking the small Pendleton bag and carry them back myself. Thanks, Winnie! I tell ya, the folks at the Atlanta airport do not trust wood things coming from Africa. I thanked him for doing his job and keeping us safe…and I truly meant it. We don’t want someone bringing back some bug or insect that can cause an issue.

  5. What a superb post-safari post, including the “practical tips.” The gifts for your grandson are sure to be treasured forever. You must do the giraffe glass tablescape soon. And I especially love how you point out the baby hippo near its mom, but what I see is the baby hippo very near the croc’s mouth!!

    • I know, that bothered me! We saw crocs and hippos together in several places so I guess they have a mutual “leave me alone” understanding. Maybe that croc is afraid of what Mom would do if he even thought about messing with her baby.

  6. Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful trip. It is on my bucket list. So surprised to see the crocodiles and hippos together, and with that sweet baby within eating distance!

    • I know…that worried me. Those crocs will take out a wildebeest in a second. I guess they don’t bother hippos…so strange. I will have to Google and read about that, why they hang together like they do.

  7. Were your ears ringing today Susan? I had lunch with a friend and the conversation turned to travel. When she learned I went to Bali alone she said ‘you’re brave’. I then told her about you. Like you, I don’t think of it as being brave really. I’ve never really understood people who don’t do anything unless they’re 100% comfortable. Where’s the fun in that?!

    Now about that picture of the lions…looks like a whole bunch of poop right next to them. lol

    • lol I know! I was thinking that would have been a good one to frame if they hadn’t laid down right by a pile of elephant poop. I guess that’s what it is. Think I can photoshop that out? lol

  8. Jane Franks says:

    I love travelling alone (like having people with me,too!); but when I do I’m never afraid, and often find I get more involved with my surroundings and meeting new people. In fact, some very wonderful unexpected things have happened, and I’ve made new friends I still keep in touch with. I think some people are just wired this way. The key, for me, is “well prepared”, and you obviously were! Like you say, you are so caught up in experiencing new things and meeting kindred spirits there’s no time to feel alone! Heck, I’d go anywhere alone! It’s always an adventure! So glad to have caught up with you — another kindred spirit!! All of this has been terribly fascinating!!

    • Jane, I so agree! I think other folks are much more willing to speak to you if you’re alone. Also, it’s kind of a conversation starter. I had several folks start up conversations with me asking if I was traveling alone. They are just so surprised, I guess. lol
      Exactly! I actually enjoyed having some alone time in my tent at Mahali Mzuri and in my room at Giraffe Manor. It gave me some time to regroup and relax a little.
      Thanks, Jane, nice to meet another kindred spirit! 🙂

      • Jane Franks says:

        Yes, being a writer, I like that time to contemplate and reflect and write in my journal. I can only imagine how special it was to be in that setting looking out of your tent across the savannah. Nice to meet you, too, Susan.

  9. Jane Franks says:

    One more thing, Susan. I loved the “old” Banana Republic, didn’t you? I still have a khaki skirt and shirt I bought in the 1980’s! I love them. Their khaki clothes were so well made. Thank you for including that memory in your post!!

    • I did, I miss it! I didn’t know they sold anything from their old line until I saw an interview on YouTube…and he mentioned it’s under the “heritage” category on their website. He also mentioned another site someone started called “Abandoned Republic.”
      You can actually find some of the original clothing on there to buy. Here’s the link for it: http://scottcadams.com/bananarepublic/

      Maybe someone will start a safari clothing store back up. I can’t find that video on youtube now where they interviewed the founder, but it was fascinating listening to how they started. They were going around and buying up old army surplus clothing and some of it was in terrible shape. They would mend it and fix it up and sell it!

  10. What wonderful souvenirs from trip and how clever you were regarding
    getting them home. Their recipients will be grateful for time to come; maybe generations of them. Like you, I feel traveling alone is not nearly as daunting as it may sound. Beats staying home any day of the week for lack
    of a travel partner.
    BTW….what are the ingredients in a sundowner. I have a picture of my SIL who went on safari a few yrs ago….took her son and family. It shows her
    drinking champagne at sunset ..everyone standing in about two feet of water, including the bar. Don’t know what that was about but did wonder.

    • I think a sundowner can be anything you wish, it’s just normally alcoholic.
      Here’s what Wikipedia says: “A Sundowner, in colloquial British English, is an alcoholic drink taken after completing the day’s work, usually at sundown.”
      I wish I could remember the name of the drink Scott fixed. It was good and reminded me of a mojito. That would be fun to drink standing in water, as long as it wasn’t water without crocs. lol

  11. Cyndi Raines says:

    Hi Susan. Glad you explained how you were able to get everything home, I too thought you might have shipped them. Pleased that the glasses arrived in good condition. Eager to see your table scape with them in it. I have 3 hand carved elephants from India that I cherish. They were a wedding present to me from my grandmother who purchased them from our church’s retired Missionary to India. (She still had connections to the orphanage). We loved hearing her stories and seeing all of her items she would display for Missions Week. Seeing your hand carved wooden animals reminded me of my elephants. 🙂

  12. Susan, I think you are the bomb! Go forth and lead us by example! I used to do anything I wanted and never had a fear for a second. It was a lot of fun to be like that. Maybe one day, I will find the ‘Tawanda” in me again. I am referencing the character in Fried Green Tomatoes movie. : )

  13. We bought hand carved wooden animals when we were on Safari in South Africa. Although wooden they are fragile. Even if they are knocked over on the shelf when dusting they can break at the leg areas. Just be a little cautious.
    Loved seeing your Souvenir picks.
    PS- I love to travel with my husband and our sons, or with girlfriends, but I’ve traveled many times by myself. Even at my age now of 56 years. Good for YOU on your trip to Kenya.

  14. Susan, it’s fun to see what you took and what souvenirs you brought home. Great choices with the carved wooden animals and the giraffe glasses.
    I used to save my Banana Republic catalogs as well as the J. Petterman catalogs. I always thought they looked like they would be collectable. ‘-)

  15. Sherry Stuifbergen says:

    Loved reading about your safari trip! Loved looking at your souvenirs. It was like a “neighbor” sharing treasures from a trip, reading what you wrote was like “listening” to the excitement to retell their adventure. Thank you for the “experience.” Look forward to MORE as you explore and travel….Sherry

  16. I have a friend traveling to Africa this winter and I am recommending your posts to her – both before and after your trip – as you’ve been very thorough. You were anxious planning for the Italy trip when it was going to be your first trip abroad. What made you decide to go to Africa first, and how did it happen so quickly? I’m sure you will now join the ranks of traveling women who number in the tens of thousands!

    • Thanks, Barbara! I started researching more about Giraffe Manor hoping to one day go there. The more I read reviews and info at Trip Advisor and other sites, I realized that most folks stay at Giraffe Manor for a day or two as part of a safari trip to Africa. So then I started researching safari trips and found that there’s kind of a “best time to go window” when you’re not caught in the “short rains” or the “long rains.” The short rains start in November, I believe. Also, the migration is still happening in the Mara plains during this time. So, if I hadn’t gone now, I would have had to wait to around this time next year to avoid the rains and to see the migration in the Masai Mara. I didn’t want to wait that long, so it was a timing issue with the rains and the migration. You can see a bit about the weather at the graphic at this page. http://www.go2africa.com/location/6494/when-to-go I wouldn’t mind going sometime during the short rainy season to just experience it, but for my first trip there, I didn’t want to deal with the rain and the vehicle getting stuck which does happen during the rainy seasons.

  17. Mary from Virginia says:

    I am glad you explained the gifts you brought back home. That was going to be my question, how did you get them home in one piece!! They are all beautiful. I hope your grandson enjoys those lovely wooden animals.

    We had an ordeal leaving Aruba. They do customs BEFORE you leave the island. I had an apple in my purse that I was going to eat at the airport since we would be on a flight with no food. They took me out of line and I had to talk to official people about the apple; I told them I could have eaten it by the time they did all this, anyway they took my apple!

    I guess your trip to Italy is right around the corner?

  18. That picture where you give a piece of food to the giraffe and how he carefully takes it from you with his tongue: just LOVE it! So touching!

  19. The photo of the giraffe poking her head through the window is absolutely amazing. I love it.

  20. I Susan—I know you bought a new camera for the trip, yet you said you practically wore out your purse taking your iphone in and out. I love taking pictures and have a Canon G16. I wear it around my neck all the time just to avoid having to dig for a camera in a purse. I found out on a couple of trips that I can hold an umbrella over me and still take pictures with one hand using my camera as it is secure around my neck.

    I know I “look dorky”, but being able to raise up my camera and take a quick picture with one hand is well worth it to me. Did you use your Sony much, and did you ever wear it around your neck? Just curious.

    • I’m taking the Sony camera on my Italy trip, since I don’t want to be burdened down with a heavy camera. I needed a bigger zoom for this trip, so I took my Nikon D7000. I didn’t buy a camera for the Africa trip, already had the D7000, I just bought a better zoom lens…a 300mm…for the animal shots. A heavy camera was fine for this trip since we spent all our time inside the safari vehicle, not walking around. I just can’t see lugging a big camera all over Italy so I’m looking forward to using my Sony for that trip.
      That’s good to know about being able to steady your hand, even while holding an umbrella! I hope I don’t have to test that theory in Italy. 🙂

      Yeah, I just updated my cell phone about two weeks before the trip. I went with a Samsung Galaxy Edge 6+ and the camera is AMAZING! It’s 16 mp and the lens is like a wide angle. I used it for almost every single picture I took at Giraffe Manor and for most of the pictures I took at Mahali Mzuri because I could capture so much with the wide angle lens on the phone. It’s the BEST camera phone I’ve ever experienced or had. My D7000 was used for all the birding/animal photos since I needed the 300mm zoom for those.
      I could literally write an entire post about how the camera situation worked out in Africa. I never dreamed I’d use my camera phone so much. I also used it a lot for sharing on Instagram, so I had it out constantly, it seemed like.

      • Thanks Susan for your input. I’m 74 yrs old and never had a smart phone so I don’t know how to use a phone camera. I think I’ve read that the newest ones have stabilizers in them. At my age shaky hands are a problem. Believe me, if I do ever get a smart phone it will be a Samsung. I just bought the new Galaxy S2 and I’m loving it.

        I carried a very small fold up umbrella so I could stick it in my purse between showers. It is so light I could easily hold it with one hand and use the other for my camera. I love all the good tips you pass on to your readers and really enjoy your blog.

      • AuburnCathy says:

        I’d love to read a post on how your used your new Samsung phone camera!

        • Cathy, I used it sooo much. All the animal pics on safari that I shared on Instagram were taken with my Nikon D7000 and the zoom lens, but I used the camera phone for almost everything else because it had such a nice wide angle lens. I loved it! Definitely recommend the Samsung Edge 6+. I don’t know what the camera is like on the Edge 6 but the one on the Edge 6+ is absolutely awesome!

    • Oh, and I also used the camera phone for much of the video I shot because again, that wide angle lens on the phone was awesome!

  21. Eileen Jalet says:

    Susan,

    Thank you so much for taking us along on your “safari” how wonderful for you!. Next is Italy? I have been there 3 times now and I am looking to return next year. How’s your Italian? do yourself a favor and learn a little. Italy in is many parts is beautiful. When will you be going?

  22. This was a good read. Love that wood piece and the stemware you brought back!

  23. Susan…………thank you for sharing all your pictures of the animals and the things you brought back with you. I too, wondered how you got them back. Although there was a small problem at the airport with your wooden bowl and animals…….it was worth it to bring them back. I work as an RN investigating adult abuse, neglect and exploitation cases. This type of job DOES prepare you for almost anything. I am retiring in 13 days. Yay me! Again……….enjoying your blog!

  24. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about your Africa trip and safari! So glad it went well and you enjoyed it. I am a TERRIBLE traveler: I have a huge fear of flying so don’t travel much at all. I have one question; how do you get your pictures from your phone onto your computer? I would like to share some photos I take on Instagram in my blog but have no idea how to get them onto my computer:):)

    • Pinky, I have Dropbox on my phone, my laptop and on my home computer. So whenever I take a photo with my cellphone, it automatically goes into Dropbox, too. Then I can open Dropbox on my computer at home or on my laptop and drag them out to the computer. Sometimes there’s a slight delay, it might take Dropbox a few minutes to eventually sync and realize there are new pics on my phone, but it works pretty well.

  25. FYI – You can make calls through Facebook with a wi-fi connection. My daughter called us from Spain whenever she had wi-fi. I have Facebook on my phone so the call would come through there. It worked perfectly.

  26. Susan, Your safari sounds great. Love all the pictures and details what you brought back and what worked.
    I have read your thoughts on your Italy trip and I have to disagree with those saying you needed to take your own hairdryer. I traveled with Insight Tours and we stayed in nice hotels and all the hairdryers worked great. We went to Rome, Venice, Florence, Sorrento and Assisi and all were adequate. I am so glad I didn’t take mine because they take up valuable space and you need adaptors. My hair is thick and long and all their dryers worked well. I traveled to three regions in France last year and all the hotel hair dryers worked great.

    • Bonnie, that’s good to know. I just got my detailed itinerary showing exactly which hotels we are staying in, so I think I’ll check further into whether they already have them.

  27. Thanks for such helpful information, Susan. ……And your photos are GORGEOUS!

    I am a regular overseas traveler, but I’m afraid to travel to Africa for several reasons (maybe you can help me with some of this anxiety LOL):

    First: lawlessness and violence seem to plague Africa as a whole, and it seems to me Americans would have targets on their backs re: terrorists, criminal kidnapper gangs, etc.

    Second: the diseases you can catch there are mind-numbing, even with vaccinations. That scares me.

    Third: I am unusually paranoid about biting insects and I think of Africa as swarming with mosquitoes, biting flies and gnats. Am I overreacting in this regard?

    Thanks again for this great post, Susan. Have a wonderful day.

    • Well, I can’t speak for all of Africa but when you fly into Nairobi for a safari, normally you are only there overnight, if you arrive late in the day, you are there for just a few hours as you leave almost immediately for the camp where you’ll be staying. I wouldn’t hang around in Nairobi because there’s likely to be more opportunities for crime. Folks who go for safari leave that area and head to camp right away so they can start their safari, and the camps I read about never had any issues with crime.
      Do some research of the various camps, then go to Trip Advisor and read the reviews for that camp.
      The camps, from what I’ve heard and read, are safe, otherwise they would all go out of business. Folks don’t go to the areas where there’s trouble, just like if someone visited the U.S., they wouldn’t head to the dangerous parts of town where crime is an issue.
      If you get vaccinated for all the diseases that the travel clinics recommend AND you stay at a really nice camp like I did where the water is safe, you shouldn’t have any problems. I only saw one mosquito the entire time I was there and I never got bit a single time. We had some annoying flies flying around out head when we passed through Acacaia forests, but that lasted only a few seconds and none of us ever got bit or anything.
      I don’t know what the statistics are but I know a lot of people go on safari in Africa every year. My dentist has been several times. He just got back from climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. If it was that dangerous, I don’t think all those folks would be going. If travelers were getting sick or dying after visiting Africa, it would be all over the news.
      I wouldn’t go without getting the vaccines, but you just have to decide if the experience of going is worth the hassle of getting the vaccines. Nowhere is totally safe. When I was at the travel clinic getting my vaccines, I was hesitating on the typhoid vaccine thinking I wouldn’t need it. The travel nurse told me that was a vaccine I should have no matter what country I traveled to, including Italy. So, there’s always risks no matter what you do or where you go.
      Before I left, I signed up at the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (https://step.state.gov/step/) at the recommendation of a BNOTP reader. They will alert you to any issues if one pops up in the area where you wish to go. I also purchased the kind of Travel Insurance that paid if I canceled my trip for ANY reason, not just a health issue. So, if something had come up and I didn’t feel safe going, I could have canceled. I got a few alerts from STEP but they were all very small things and nothing in the area where I was going.
      I can’t promise you that you will go and be completely safe from crime or disease. But if you get the required vaccines and have a professional travel company set up your tour so that you are always in the accompaniment of a driver or in a safe environment, then you should not have any problems. I may do a post explaining where I was and how it all worked when I first arrived. It was an interesting experience and it may give you a better perspective of what it’s like.

  28. Marlene Stephenson says:

    I hope it’s okay but i read the post where someone asked how you got all you treasures home with you,very interesting,cause i was wondering that myself. I know your grandson will be happy with his animals. My parents went to Africa and brought back native drums for my sons and that was 35 yrs ago and they still have them. Thank you so much for this fun adventure you sharing with us.

  29. Maryann Marshall says:

    Love reading of your travels to Africa, since I will probably never be able to visit (I am almost 80), it was wonderful to experience vicariously your wonderful trip. Looking forward to your trip to Italy, we have been there 3 times, and will be able to relive our memories. Love your blog,

    • Thanks, Maryann! I’m really looking forward to Italy. That’s wonderful that you’ve been 3 times! I bet it takes several trips to even begin to see all the different regions.

  30. I love what you chose to bring back Susan, the carved animals are simply stunning! thanks for sharing so many details, the whole adventure is fascinating to me!

  31. AuburnCathy says:

    Susan, what fun it’s been to hear all about your adventures in Kenya. You have inspired me to buy a Tilley hat…I have battled some melanoma on my face recently (thankful that I am all clear now) and I MUST wear a good sun hat BUT I have loads of hair and an enormous head…so I have never been able to buy a hat “off the rack”…well when I read your post about the Tilley hat you took on safari, I thought that might be a good choice for me! It’s on its way…when I looked up how to measure for a Tilley hat, I found this hilarious story that I thought you might enjoy…glad your hat didn’t have this adventure!
    http://www.tilley.com/us_en/from-the-lions-mouth/

    • That picture is priceless! Thanks for sharing that link, Cathy. I may be buying a new hat myself. When I got on the plane to France, I put my hat in the overhead bin atop a suitcase that was in there. When I left, a nice guy on the plane got my bag down, but apparently he didn’t see the hat and I forgot about it. I was having to haul so much stuff by hand, since I couldn’t take any wheeled luggage, I had a hard time keeping up with my stuff. Anyway, I sat in the Paris airport for 2-3 hours waiting on my next flight to Nairobi and about 10 minutes before we were supposed to board, I remembered it, but it was too late to go look for it.
      Tilley hats come with instructions recommending you write your name and phone number inside on a little label designed just for that…and I had done that. I was hoping someone would call me. When I returned back home and had cell service again, I had a phone call from France. I called them back and it was an employee who had found my hat. I asked her if they could use the $20 I had hidden in the secret pocket that’s inside the very top of the hat to mail it back to me. She said she would have to check with her supervisor. That was about 3 days ago and I’ve heard nothing since. So I don’t know if I’ll get my Tilley hat back or not. The good thing is, if I don’t, Tilley has a warranty where they will sell you the same hat again at 50% cost. I think I’ll try to call that number in France again tomorrow and see what they decided. Be sure and write your name and phone number in your hat when it comes. I’ll let you know if I ever get mine back.:)

      • AuburnCathy says:

        I’m so glad you told me about the Tilley warranty because that makes it even smarter to get a good hat like that. I do hope yours shows up soon…it might…my husband just received his iPad back from an airline…he travels all the time but interrupted his ‘normal routine’ when he was packing up to deplane..and the iPad didn’t make it into his briefcase! Again..thanks for taking us along with you! Can’t wait to read about your trip to Italy…know it will be fun to0!

  32. This was wonderful Susan, I thoroughly enjoyed all your packing and travel tip and seeing your souvenirs! I’m a white-knuckle flyer so there is no way I would travel alone so I do think you are brave. Looking forward to seeing your wonderful glasses in a tablescape soon 🙂

  33. I had Africa on the mind when I came across this blog, but these pictures, I gotta say, are pretty amazing! After taking a look at that giraffe pic, I think that pretty much secures it. I’m definitely going to have to book my flight sooner than later! Thanks…

  34. Hi Susan,

    I have so enjoyed your blog for such a long time and just love how you’ve shared your African safari with all of us. The pictures were wonderful and I feel like you packed me right along with you. I do have a question though. How did you get all your purchases home since you were very limited in what you could carry on the plane? Did you ship them?

    Have a blessed weekend!
    Trish

    • Thanks so much, Trish! Well, what I ended up doing was checking the Pendleton bag, taking a chance that it would actually show up back in Atlanta. I didn’t want to check it going because I would have been in big trouble if it hadn’t gotten lost on the way to Africa, but coming back I decided to take a chance. I took the glasses (that were all wrapped in bubble wrap) back in the straw giraffe bag. So my carry-ons this time were the straw bag and my camera/laptop bag. I had the wood bowl and wood animals in a very small plastic shopping bag but they wouldn’t let me take them on the plane in Nairobi. They ended up wrapping them up in this weird looking saran wrap kind of stuff and made me check those, too. Fortunately, the Pendleton Bag and the Saran-Wrapped bag with the wood bowls and animals were both on the carousel when I made it up to baggage claim in ATL. The other little items (gifts from Mahali Mzuri) fit into the top of my camera bag. I managed to get my grandson’s tshirt and a polo shirt I bought for me from Giraffe Manor, into the Pendleton bag. So, I managed to get it all back. I would have shipped the glasses but they estimated it would be around $40-50 to ship those, so I decided to hand–carry them back with me to save that expense.
      Scroll up a bit in the comments and you can read what happened to my little weird saran-wrapped package at the Atlanta airport. lol They didn’t trust it and thought I had brought back food from Africa. For a while I didn’t think I was going to make it home with them.

  35. Gray Matthews says:

    Glad you had a safe and fun trip….since I don’t fly or float it is enjoyable reading what others do….but I am impressed and extremely thankful that for a period of time the elderly and helpless had someone like you on their side…God bless

  36. Hi SuSan ~

    Thank you sharing you travel and love seeing all your wonderful treasures, how neat is that bowl !??!! pretty neat !!

    I am with you, I would travel alone if need be. I know some women that would not even go out to eat by themselves. Are you going to Italy alone? I can’t wait to see your pictures, I would love to go there someday!!

    Be safe,
    Paula
    IN

    • Thanks, Paula! Yep, but I’ll be part of a group of around 34 so I won’t really be alone. I hope you get to go, Paula. I’ve been talking and dreaming about it for years, so I’m excited to finally be going.

  37. Susan, I was nosing around eBay this morning and came across these napkin rings. They looked familiar to me and then it dawned on me that they greatly resemble the wooden animals you pictured above. I kind of think they were made for the table you are yet to create with your zebra glassware! Check these out: This is way too much information, I know, but you can use the description to get to them on eBay.

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/6-Wooden-Africa-Safari-Animal-Napkin-Rings-Carved-Elephant-Giraffe-Zebra-Lion/321905473923?_trksid=p3693.c100102.m2452&_trkparms=aid%3D333008%26algo%3DRIC.MBE%26ao%3D1%26asc%3D20140212121249%26meid%3D4b100953510248a096b318acf206ed08%26pid%3D100102%26rk%3D3%26rkt%3D4%26sd%3D181898216173

    • Martha, I can’t remember if I emailed you or not, but I ended up buying some very similar napkin rings. I found some on Amazon. Thanks so much for that link…love those!

  38. Looks like I need to get to Africa too. That giraffe picture was awesome.

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