September 26, 2013
We spend a lot of time making sure travelers have everything they’ll need on a safari or a trek, but what about the things they won’t need? If you’re really looking to get the most out of your experience in Africa, feel free to leave behind the…
Perhaps unsurprisingly, countries like Tanzania just don’t have the kind of internet infrastructure westerners are used to. Where there is internet access, it’s often slow, unreliable, and intermittent.
And then there’s those vast swaths of wilderness where there just isn’t internet access.
Beyond the question of whether or not you’ll be able to get your Facebook to refresh, there’s the issue of keeping your laptop safe, charged up (our charging stations are equipped for smaller devices like cameras), and free from the safari dust blowing around the plains.
We recommend that travelers always carry expensive electronics with them for safety; consider whether you want to be saddled with a (mostly non-functional) computer when your guide finally spots that elusive animal you’ve been waiting to see.
Our Recommendation: Unless you absolutely have to be in contact for work, leave the laptop at home (and welcome the opportunity to let an out-of-office autoreply answer emails for you).
Instead, Bring Your: Kindle. The long battery life means that charging won’t be an issue, and the single-functionality will help you focus on the beauties all around you during your trip, while still having a fun way to spend your down time.
There is cellular service in Tanzania.
Just not EVERYWHERE in Tanzania.
For a western traveler, the charges for using your phone while on safari will be high, your calls may be dropped, and if you thought your internet connection was slow, wait until you see it on a cellphone…
Satellite phones are available for travelers who have to stay in constant contact, but the average safari-goer won’t need to use his or her cell phone during the trip. And don’t worry: if anything were ever to go wrong while you’re out on a drive, your guides, drivers, or camp staff will be able to place a call for you.
Our Recommendation: Due to the high expense and unreliability of service, it’s probably better to turn your phone off during your trip.
Instead, Bring Your: Camera. It’s amazing how much more you’ll take in when you’re looking for a great shot, and not looking to see if anyone has played you in Words With Friends!
There are some things you’ll want to think about seriously before hauling them halfway across the world, but one thing you shouldn’t even consider packing is your hair dryer.
Not because you shouldn’t look your best on safari (although most people will probably be more interested in the wildlife than your wild locks): because it won’t work.
On a Thomson safari (as on most tented camp or camping safaris), electrical outlets in your room just aren’t an option. Solar-power will light your room and the dining tent, but it won’t be enough to run your hair dryer (or charge a laptop or cell phone, in case you were wondering). In our signature Nyumba tented camps, you won’t even see an outlet!
Our Recommendation: Save space and weight in your luggage and don’t haul around an ultimately useless appliance.
Instead, Bring Your: Safari hat and a bandanna. You’ll need the former to keep the sun off your face, neck, and shoulders, anyway (which might undo all your hair drying magic, anyway), and the latter can act as a dust-guard during wildlife drives…or a rustic hair tie! And don’t worry – that slightly unkempt look is integral to safari chic, anyway.
Kiera Knightley shows off some serious bedhead with her safari look.
Photo: Lattelisa (Lisa Hjalt)
September 25, 2013
We’ll admit it, we’re fans of Toto’s anthem “Africa,” too…which is why we wanted to help them get their facts straight:
September 24, 2013
You’ve probably heard that a zebra can’t change its stripes (probably when someone was acting predictably badly), but for the actual zebra, that cliché takes on a whole new meaning.
That’s because a zebra’s stripes are like a fingerprint; each animal’s pattern is unique, and, to other members of the herd, identifiable. New hairdo, better hoof maintenance, doing something different with his tail—none of that would matter to a zebra, who would still be able to recognize an old friend by his or her specific coat pattern.
Even among zebras, the one pictured below would be hard to forget!
And those herds look out for one another, in more ways than one.
Zebra herds are made up of a number of different families. Maybe we should say “different” families; the basic social unit for zebras is the harem…which means exactly the same thing as it does for people.
When a filly reaches mating age, she’ll be abducted by a stallion and added to his harem, where she’ll be relegated to the lowest position on the zebra sister-wife totem pole, at least until the harem grows again.
At first, the other zebra wives might treat the new girl with open hostility, but over time, the group bonds, and will defend one another fiercely. Zebras are very aware of when a herd member goes missing, and they will make efforts to find any lost members, calling out and hunting for them. This protectiveness of the family unit works well; zebras lose significantly fewer herd members to predators than either wildebeest or hartebeest, comparably sized (and therefore comparably predated) species.
The fierce emphasis on family, and the strangeness of the family unit, makes the life of a zebra look something like a wildlife cross between The Sopranos and Big Love.
So if HBO calls, tell them we have a GREAT idea for a new series. Working title: Black and White.
September 19, 2013
A lot has changed since the earliest explorations of Africa, and safari fashion is no exception. But while some of the formerly de rigueur items are no longer on the average packing list (you won’t need an elephant rifle, for example, or bolts of cloth for the tribal elders), the safari-goers of old might have been more fashion-forward than you’d expect…
From the early days of exploration well into the 20th century, there was one safari staple any conscientious traveler couldn’t be without: his pith helmet.
Left: Infamous 19th-century explorer Henry Morton Stanley (“Dr. Livingstone,
I presume?”) in his signature pith helmet.
Right: Well into the 1920s, when Edward VIII traveled on safari with this natty topper,
the pith helmet was still standard-issue.
Photo: Historic Royal Palaces UK
Fashioned from pith or cork, and covered in fabric (usually lightweight cotton), was thought to be a necessary sunshield for Westerners braving the unrelenting rays near the equator. In 1948, the British Army finally got rid of the pith helmet in its standard-issue uniforms, but the image of a hard-hatted safari-goer has endured, and revivals of the style occur predictably every few years.
This “authentic” pith helmet from a 1986 Banana Republic catalog is a dead ringer for Edward’s 20s-era helmet
These days, though, safari hats are generally cooler, easier to pack, and have broader brims for added sun protection. After all, a pith helmet may look dapper, but tomato-red sunburnt shoulders…not so much.
Function has become more important than form for safari headgear
From Thomson Safaris safari and Kilimanjaro store
Shirts & Pants
Quick, when were these safari coats made:
Alright, for Hemingway fans, that last one might have been a BIT of a gimme, but the span of ‘looks’ here—dating from the early 20s for the full outfit (which is more of Edward VIII’s safari gear) to the present day (you can buy the coat in the first image through National Geographic’s safari store), with stop-offs at the 40s (the second jacket) and 50s (Hemingway)—covers a ton of years, but it doesn’t cover much shift in style. Detachable sleeves? Already around in the early 20th century. Khaki? Always been a staple. Four cargo pockets on your jacket front? Nothing new in the safari world. Safari gear: the original trend-proof look.
While we wouldn’t recommend our travelers put on these vintage kicks, there’s something distinctly stylish about the old-school safari boot…
Above: Henry Morton Stanley, in chic over-the-knee boots
Below: Edward VIII’s safari boots alongside his pith helmet.
Photo: Historic Royal Palaces, UK
Though Stanley’s boots might be more suited to women’s wear these days, either of these shoes could easily be spotted stalking runways (if not lions).
Of course we recommend modern safari-goers wear something more practical (and comfortable; 3 feet of leather gets a bit muggy).
Functional footwear is the order of the (modern) day
From Thomson Safaris safari and Kilimanjaro store
But if you want to turn your hunt for big cats into a catwalk…well, you’d be in good company.
September 18, 2013
Hans Meyer was the first European to reach the summit of Kili, in 1889, but he certainly wasn’t the first to try. Before his successful summit, a string of daring adventurers attempted the climb, starting with:
Baron Karl Claus von der Decken (1862) When Johannes Rebmann wrote of a snow-covered mountain near the equator in 1848, the only real response from the international community was derisive laughter. But some 14 years later, Baron Karl Claus von der Decken confirmed Rebmann’s sighting, and attempted a climb. He made it to about 14,000 feet before a snowstorm forced him to turn back.
Of course there could have been other reasons for his failure; the Baron reportedly worked his way through the magnum of champagne he’d intended for the summit early on, and given his reputation as a bit of a roué, it’s unlikely that was the only adult beverage he tucked away—and into—during the climb.
While he didn’t successfully summit, von der Decken’s trek finally confirmed the existence, and nature, of Kilimanjaro to the Royal Geographical Society.
Baron Karl Claus von der Decken didn’t make it to the top of Kili, but he celebrated anyway
Charles New (1871): In the Africa of the 19th century, there were two types of westerners: intrepid explorers and missionaries. New was of the latter variety, and his dedication to Kilimanjaro was as unflagging as his attempts to spread his religion (which lasted for several years, and ended in his premature death).
That dedication managed to get him to the snow line, around 14,500 feet at the time, but not to the summit. As he ascended higher and higher, his guides left him one by one, the last memorably telling New that “the ascent of this mountain is nothing to me, but I do not want you to be beaten.”
A lovely, but ultimately ineffectual, sentiment.
New’s book “Life, Wandering, and Labours in Eastern Africa” details his time there, including his attempted climb
Joseph Thomson (1883): A lifelong wanderer, Joseph Thomson went on to make a name for himself as the first outsider to cross Maasailand (a journey he details quite interestingly in his book, Through Masailand).
On Kili, though, he didn’t even make it past 9,000 feet before the effects of altitude forced him to turn back “picking up at intervals [his] broken-down followers.” Apparently he’d been trying to run up as much of the mountain as he could in as short a time as possible. If only he’d had a porter to remind him to go pole, pole.
Roguish dandy? Check. Kili? Not so much.
Count Samuel Teleki von Szek (1887): At the urging of his close personal friend, Crown Prince Rudolph (son of His Imperal Majesty Franz-Joseph I, Emperor of Austria), this Hungarian count set out to explore the lands Thomson had recently written about, accompanied by Czech naval officer Ludwig von Höhnel.
While there, the pair impulsively decided to “take in” Kili. While camping on the Saddle (between Kibo and Mawenzi), they worked their way through a good amount of red wine. That might explain why the following day, after reaching an altitude of 17,387 feet, less than 2,000 feet from the summit, Teleki von Szek decided he felt too sleepy to do anything but return to camp.
After a brief stop there for more wine, he and von Höhnel continued down the mountain.
Live fast, explore hard