Staying healthy on safari trips

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You have saved up, booked the safari trip of your dreams, arrived at your destination and then two days later you get sick. I’m not saying that safari trips are inherently more likely to make you unwell, but just by virtue of being in a new environment your system will probably be affected and there are a lot of bugs that can bite and make you sick. So it makes sense to minimise the risk.

Do your research
Consult reputable websites and/or your local travel clinic to confirm which vaccinations you should have, and also make sure that you get them in the right timeframe (either together or spaced, depending on the advice). Don’t leave your booking at the travel clinic to the last minute!

Don’t get bitten!
Recent research has shown that malaria-carrying mosquitos are mainly active between dusk and dawn. So it’s important to be vigilant in the evenings and early mornings as well as during the day. Wear long tops/shirts/trousers/skirts/dresses when out in the evening and long sleeves. Apply insect repellent regularly and don’t forget the back of your neck and lower back; you may think you are covered but when sitting down your top may ride up. In fact, to make sure you’re protected it’s best to apply your insect repellent before you get dressed. Means you get less on your clothes and you can make sure that you are covering yourself properly. Oh, and wash your hands immediately after applying. You do NOT want to transfer it from your hands to your eyes/mouth/etc.!

Anti-malarials
Modern anti-malarials are pretty good and there tend to be fewer side effects but I still found that I got a bit jittery when taking mine, and had a ‘funny tummy’. To minimise side effects you should not only take your anti-malarials at mealtimes but smack bang in the middle of eating. And be rigorous about taking them at the same time each day. Once I started taking mine in the middle of my breakfast, I felt a lot better each day. Oh and don’t forget to complete the course, most require you to continue for seven days after you get back from your trip so a repeating reminder with an aleart set on your smartphone is a good idea.

Anti-bacterial gel
I am not a germophobe but it is practical to carry a small bottle of this with you. Toilet facillities are well-maintained in most game parks and reserves but soap is not always freshly stocked. Also, when picnicking in your vehicle you need to be able to clean your hands before eating your lunch.

Sun protection
Even sitting in a vehicle you will still catch the sun, particularly if you are out on an all day game drive. Reapply SPF lotion (at least SPF15, preferably SPF30) every couple of hours, wear a hat (a burnt scalp is very sore!) and wear long sleeves.

Teeth brushing
No matter how hard I tried I always used to forget to use bottled water when brushing my teeth. Or, I would remember while brushing my teeth, then rinse my brush using the tap thereby negating all previous caution taken! So now I not only keep a bottle of water by the sink purely for teeth brushing but I also hang a flannel over the taps to remind me not to use them.

Medicines
As well as any medication you usually take make sure you pack plasters, antiseptic cream, painkillers, bite relief, antihistamines and painkillers.

Disclaimer:
Please note that this article is intended to provide suggestions only and does not replace professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor before taking any medication.

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Five tips on how to get the most out of a safari trip

 

five tips safari – listicle pinterestSafaris are magical; I have been on two safari holidays now, in Botswana and Zambia, and Tanzania. And both were incredible. But I think I enjoyed the second trip a little more than the first because I knew what to expect.

And, let’s be honest, safari holidays are expensive. So you want to get the most out of the experience. So here are a few things to think about/prepare yourself for.

  1. Ironically, game drives can be quite boring. There may be days when you won’t see many of the ‘big five’ or other mammals, but you will always see lots of birds including raptors and wading birds so it’s good to get interested in the birds you are seeing too. After an hour without seeing lions or elephants, it’s amazing how excited you can get over a sighting of a Lilac Breasted Roller!
  2. Learn a few words of the local language e.g. hello, thank you, please, goodbye. It’s not only courteous but common in lodges for visitors to greet the staff in their local language.
  3. Remember to look up at night. We have forgotten what the night sky truly looks like, light pollution being what it is but the African night sky is a genuinely awe-inspiring sight. The memory of sitting out in the evening looking up at the stars while listening to a zebra munching away nearby and hippos grunting in the distance will stay with me forever.
  4. Pack well (see my article on packing) and follow luggage restrictions. Oh and pack ziplock bags. It can get pretty dusty out on safari and you don’t want dust getting into your smartphone, sunglasses case, etc.
  5. Be prepared. Lay out your clothes and pack your day pack the night before each game drives. Morning game drives can start pretty early and no-one is at their best at 5am! You don’t want to forget something because you weren’t fully awake.

Packing and clothing tips for a safari trip

img_0520When you think of a ‘safari wardrobe’, you probably have visions of people in head-to-toe khaki and that you need to shop at a safari outfitters store, but rest assured you don’t have to go out and buy a whole load of specialist clothes.

Pale (not white), earthy-tones cotton lightweight clothes that are comfortable to sit in for long periods of time are ideal. So before you hit the shops, go through your wardrobe with fresh eyes and collect up any suitable cotton tops, trousers, jumpers. Then work out what you need to get to supplement your haul.

Key pieces
There are some key items of clothing that you really do need for a safari trip:

  • Lightweight trousers
  • Shorts
  • Short sleeved tops/vests for layering
  • Long sleeved shirt
  • Long sleeved tops
  • Cotton jumper for the cool evenings
  • Hat (with broad brim preferably)
  • Scarf

And no bright colours – you may be on holiday and it’s sunny and hot so you may think that your usual holiday clothes will be perfect, but don’t wear your bright Hawaiian shirts or neon-coloured exercise clothes. They really do scare the animals!

Luggage restrictions
Many safari trips have luggage weight restrictions. This is because you may need to take a few light plane trips and large, bulky suitcases won’t fit in the luggage compartments. As every kilo counts, I suggest that you work out how many days you will be on safari, how many additional outfits you need (for dinner, non-safari activites) and then collect it all up and lay everything out on the bed. Then, remove anything that requires an additonal item e.g. a sheer blouse that needs a specific tank top/bra, a pair of trousers that only ‘go’ with one pair of shoes, etc. and see what you are left with. Essentially you want all the clothing to be multi-purpose and interchangeable, the tops you pack are the right length/fit for the trousers and the shorts, the jumper fits over the tops, etc.  I tend to pick a narrow colour range and stick to it. Much easier on safari!

Packing
Because you will be cramming things into every part of your luggage, use small bags to separate out your underwear from your clothes, to pack your shoes in, for your chargers. In fact use bags for everything. Much quicker when packing and unpacking at lodges and you are less likely to leave something behind.

Don’t pack anti-malarials and any other medication you may need in your checked luggage; put it in your hand luggage. Ditto car keys/house keys.

Power up
Check what travel adapters are required and pack a couple. Take spare batteries for your camera, and a portable charger for your smartphone/ebook reader. Keep all chargers and leads in one small bag in your hand luggage and try to always use the one power socket wherever you stay, preferably near your bag. I have lost count of the number of times I have left chargers in power sockets when leaving accommodation.

Day pack for game drives
You will be out on game drives for long periods of time so it’s good to get a good day pack together. Your bag should contain eye drops (dust?!), antibacterial gel, tissues, SPF lotion, ziplock bags (have I mentioned the dust?!), binoculars, camera, spare batteries, water, notepad and pencil, scarf, hat, jumper, sunglasses.

 

All Aboard! Part Two

Astrain ticket image promised, here is the next exciting installment of my ‘how to be a better train passenger’.

Last time I talked about the basic actions that should be undertaken by all to ensure a smooth seating procedure. This time I am going to talk about behaviour, specifically what NOT to do on a train. Disclaimer: all but one of the following have happened to me…

Don’t have super loud conversations
An oldie, but a goodie. Let’s get this straight. No-one, except the person on the other end of the ‘phone, is interested in Aunty Mabel’s gallstone operation, the deal you nailed, the boy who may (or may not) be that into you or the general minutae of your life. It sounds harsh, but it’s true. Keep it down, or even better, go out into the corridor. And god help you if you are in a quiet carriage with me and you attempt any of the above.

Don’t paint your nails
I love a painted nail as much as the next woman, but nail varnish stinks! Particularly in confined spaces. Have some consideration for your fellow passengers’ olfactory comfort.

Don’t bring your avian pets
It may be legal (although I do query that) but it is weird and it is extremely disconcerting to the person sitting opposite you. Placing a squawking budgie in a cage on the table and then checking it obsessively every five minutes because “…it seems a bit upset” is very disruptive to fellow passengers.

Don’t jam all your bags under the table
The racks are there for a reason; to enable you to quickly and effectively store and access your belongings whenever you want, while keeping people space clear. If you can’t lift it up there (although you all seem very able-bodied to me) then I can help you. Jamming your bags under either means that your legs and feet have to be in my personal space or your bags are in MY personal space. Neither are acceptable. Oh, and the corridor is not a luggage storage area. Large bags go in the very convenient luggage rack at either end of the carriage.

Don’t vomit
Or at the very least, don’t vomit at someone’s feet and ruin their brand new laptop bag. If you get on a train feeling unwell, make sure you take yourself off to the loo when nausea strikes.

Don’t talk to me
Sorry, but my headphones are in my ears and I am tapping away on my laptop for a reason. And that is not to have a chat with you. I am working. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy to exchange the time of day with you, agree to look after your stuff while you go to the loo and I will even help you identify your seat number or kick out the person squatting in your reserved seat (see my previous post: All Aboard! Part One) but I am not going to chat with you for the entire journey.

I appreciate that the above makes me sound like a moaning minnie; on the whole, I really don’t mind my three-hour train treks up and down the country and I really am a very positive person, but if even one person reads the above and changes their behaviour for the better we will all be happier travellers as a result.

Next time on All Aboard!: The pros and cons of cheap tickets and where to buy them

 

All aboard! Part One

train ticket imageI travel very regularly on the Cross Country train that runs between Oxford and Manchester Piccadilly. As I always pre-book my ticket (using thetrainline app which is brilliant!) and reserve my aisle seat at a table (I need to work on the train) you would think that I would find this trip an easy one but I do not. Because apparently there are very few members of the travelling public who know how to get on a train and find their seat with minimal disruption to themselves or others. And it drives me mad and I rant every week on Facebook to my friends, who are so amused by my rants that they have told me to write a blog post. So here it is, my advice for train travellers:

Set yourself up for success!
If you have a seat reserved, get on at the correct end of the carriage; there are very helpful signs at the entrance to either end of the carriage which tells you the seat numbering starting at that entrance. Don’t get on the ‘Seats 1-41’ end when your seat is number 53. You will cause chaos and mayhem as you force your way against the flow and hold people up.

1,5,3,6, 4…
Speaking of seat numbering, yes, I agree the seat numbering is confusing.  The seat numbering runs consecutively, it just zig zags back and forth from one side of the carriage to the other. Seat 51 is not particularly close to seat 53. Get over it.

A is for apple, not for aisle
I don’t know how many times that I have had someone insist that I am sitting in their seat because I am in the aisle seat because their seat number is 52A which must be the aisle seat as ‘a’ means ‘aisle’. Even though seat 51 is clearly labelled as the aisle seat. So I have to show them my seat reservation for ’51A’ and have the conversation for the umpteenth time that yes, it’s strange that ‘A’ doesn’t mean ‘aisle’.

Use your eyes
Reserved seats are clearly labeled by fancy little digital screens. They update from station to station as sometimes reservations are for only part of the journey; the display flags this accordingly e.g. ‘Reserved from Wolverhampton’ will be displayed at Manchester if the seat is not reserved until that station. Feel free to sit in that seat until Wolverhampton. But be prepared to move when the rightful ‘owner’ gets on at Wolverhampton. Available seats have the phrase ‘available’ displayed.  It’s that simple.

Sit in your reserved seat. PLEASE!
I don’t know how many times I have had argue the point with someone sitting in my seat that it isn’t my problem that someone is sitting in their reserved seat which is why they are in mine. Get out of my seat.

Excuses, excuses
Along with ‘but someone is in my seat’ I am also offered ‘Oh, but I wanted to sit with my friend, just go and sit in my seat’ [while vaguely gesturing at a non-table seat somewhere  behind them]. Or ‘I didn’t see the reserved sign’ (which apparently means my reservation doesn’t count). Or they are just arses and refuse to move.

Be mindful
I get on the same train back each week, for part of the journey it is a major commuter line. It is a VERY busy train with lots and lots of people getting on. Which is why I fail to understand why people think it is appropriate to block the carriage aisle for up to two minutes when they get on the train to take off their coat, take six items (one at a time) out of their bag, rearrange numerous bags, etc, etc. Get on, throw your bag(s) on rack or under seat, sit down and then, everyone is on and the train is moving, get up to sort yourself out at your leisure.

So there you go. In my next installment, what not to do while on a train…

Five things I love about living in Melbourne

In honour of Australia Day, here’s my top five favourite things about living in Melbourne:

city1. The weather
Even after 11 years here, as a Brit I never fail to get excited when I see the sun. It took me two years to restrain my natural instinct to dash outside whenever the sun was shining. And another two to stop walking on the sunny side of the street in 35C heat. I know the locals complain about four seasons in one day, but I love the changeability as it means it will never be too hot for too long.

footy2. The footy
I am not a sports nut but there is something strangely engaging about footy; the level of athleticism displayed, the feudalism of the teams, the passionate committed fans, I love it all. The sound of the opening siren at the MCG never fails to thrill.

 

laneway3. The lane ways
Compared to is brasher Sydney, Melbourne has a hidden charm and this is no better illustrated than by its lane ways. Bars, boutiques, bistros, can all be found in the lane ways. And some of Melbourne’s most beautiful buildings.

 

pop up bar4. The bars and restaurants
If there is a dish you are craving, you can find it here in Melbourne. Afghani, Vietnamese, French, Cuban; and you can eat it in pretty much any style of eatery – pop-up, diner, BYO, fine dining…

 

garden5. The parks
Melbourne has some beautiful green spaces where you can while away the hours: Treasury, Fitzroy, Parliament, Botanic, Carlton. Many host events including free summer concerts and open air plays.

Predictable list? Yes. Similar to other cities? Probably. But Melbourne really is a fabulous place to be! Even if I am biased.