Day #289 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…3 days and counting…Are we worried about exposure while traveling?…

Beautiful statue at the beach in Pondicherry.

Today’s photos are a continuation of those we posted during our first few months in India on tour, in today’s case on March 27, 2020, See the post here. We’ll continue on this path, sharing more tour photos until it’s time for us to hopefully depart on January 11, 2021. From there, God willing, it will be an entirely new world!

We can’t believe we’re three days from departure and still, our flight remains in place. We can’t totally relax at this point, after our experience of being turned away at the airport on March 20, 2020, to then begin this awfully long lockdown in a hotel room in Mumbai, India.

A church we visited in Pondicherry. 

Peace of mind will only come once we’re in the air on the flight from Dubai to Johannesburg on January 12th. From there, an overnight stay in Joburg and then on to our flight to the Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger Airport, where we’ll pick up our rental car, to commence the one hour drive in daylight hours to Marloth Park.

The journey will consist of considerable exposure to people, at airports, hotels, and planes. Are we worried about the added exposure to Covid-19 compared to minimal exposure all these months in the hotel in Mumbai? We’d be foolish to say we’re not concerned.

The stunning interior of Our Lady of Angels Catholic Church in Pondicherry.

No doubt, Emirates Airlines have instituted extensive measures to protect its passengers while flying. We have less concern about being on the plane, other than if we have to use the restroom. We plan to be careful with our fluid consumption while traveling. Of course, we won’t partake in their complimentary cocktails during the two flights, only drinking minimal amounts of water as needed.

Our bigger concern is for safety at the airports, waiting in queues, and at the two hotels where we’ll be staying along the way, one in Dubai, the next in Joburg. At this point, we have no idea as to where and when we will eat along the way. Most likely, I won’t eat anything on the flights since they won’t have anything suitable for me.

Entrance to the cemetery in the French Quarter in Pondicherry.

Our current hotel chef stated he’d have breakfast delivered to our room on departure morning. We need to allow three hours at the airport for our 10:25 am flight, which is only a 3¼ hour flight until we reach Dubai. We won’t need to eat again until we’re at the hotel in Dubai near the airport. I looked up the menu and they have beef!

I’m certain Tom will order a burger and fries. I’ll order two beef patties without the bun with lettuce and cheese. Most likely, we won’t dine in the restaurant which may be packed with travelers and may be less safe than dining in our room. We’ll play that by ear. But, all of these factors are important to consider.

This morning, we packed and weighed our bags. We are within 2 kg of the maximum weight of 40 kg each. With Emirates Airlines, the total weight is the issue, not the number of bags. We have three checked bags between us and one carry-on we’d like to check, leaving us with the laptop bag for Tom and the yellow Costco bag and handbag for me.

A shrine on the interior of a temple in Pondicherry.

If for some reason, we are over on the weight, we’ll take the small purple bag with us as an additional carry-on which contains our heavy jeans, pants, and shorts. All we have left to do is pack the clothes we’re wearing, the laptops, cords, adapters, power strips, and the final batch of the few toiletries we’ll be using over the next few days and a few odds and ends.

I wish I could say we’re excited at this point, but until we get to Marloth Park and enough time passes when we’re at ease that we didn’t contract the virus during our two travel days, it’s only then we can fully relax and embrace our glorious surroundings in the bush.

Thank you to so many of you who continue to write and send well wishes for our departure and safety. It means the world to us, as all of you do as well.

Stay safe.

Photo from one year ago today, January 8, 2020:

This was the photo we posted, one year ago today. When we visited friends Kathy and Don in Pretoria, South Africa, two years ago, we visited this monument, the Voortrekker Monument, which is an unusual-looking structure located in Pretoria, South Africa. At the time I walked up all these steps (not all steps we tackled are shown in the photo) without getting out of breath or having any health issues. It was a little over a month later, I had open-heart surgery with three main arteries 100% blocked. Who knew? For more photos from this date, one year ago, please click here.

 

 

Day #279 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Yikes!…Our flight got canceled!…

Simple, yet lovely.

There are no photos from a prior post to share today other than the above from this date in 2016 while in Penguin, Tasmania, Australia due to other “fish to fry” today as you’ll see below. Please click here for the post.

Yesterday, afternoon, while settling in for our lazy second half of the day, I noticed an email from Emirates Airlines. Our flight scheduled for January 12, 2021, has been canceled. No explanation. No refund included. Just canceled. We spent the remainder of the afternoon searching for and booking another flight.

Fortunately, we were able to book another flight on Emirates Airlines one day earlier. However, this new flight, on January 11th, not the 12th, includes a 16-hour layover in Dubai. There were no other shorter-flight options. Frustrated and fearing this will happen again, last night I stayed up late to listen to Cyril Ramphosa, president of South Africa, speech about re-instituted Level 3 lockdown measures.

Much to our relief, at this point, South Africa’s borders won’t be closing, hopefully, not over the next few weeks anyway. However, this doesn’t mean this new flight won’t also get canceled. Based on fewer tourists and business flyers traveling at this time, these airlines will cancel flights if they aren’t full enough.

While booking the January 11th flight, we noticed that the business class was sold out. This might be a good sign that this flight may be more fully occupied, increasing the odds that it will stay in place. We’d considered upgrading to business class at one point, but the extra cost of US $2000, INR 146741, per person wasn’t worth it.

The only good part of this flight is that we won’t have to leave this hotel in the middle of the night. By 7:00 am, we’ll head for the nearby Mumbai Airport for the 10:30 am flight. The hotel has rescheduled our COVID-19 test for January 9th since it takes a full 24-hours for the results. We couldn’t risk having the test on the 10th for this reason.

Based on the new flight details, our overnight stay in Johannesburg still works out along with the flight on January 13th from Johannesburg Tambo Airport to Nelspruit/Mpumulanga/Kruger Airport and the booking for our pre-arranged rental car. All said and done, we’ll arrive in Marloth Park on the same day and time on January 13th, after a two-day travel period.

Thank goodness, we’ll have the overnight in Johannesburg and be able to catch up on some sleep and food. But, alas, much to our dismay, President Ramaphosa banned all alcohol sales in South Africa until January 14th or perhaps longer. “No, worries,” says dear friend Louise last night amid the madness. She’s got wine and brandy for the night we arrive. That’s our Louise and Danie!!!

We aren’t “lushes” by any means, having had no problem going without drinks the past 10 months, but settling in with a big steak and a glass of red wine for me and brandy for Tom was definitely in our minds as part of our arrival festivities. In more news today’s, I’ve been reading that the alcohol ban may be overturned since it severely impacts South Africa’s economy and jobs. We shall see how that goes.

To top it off, we took a peek at India’s visa status and the previous statement that all foreign travelers visas would automatically be provided with an extension if they leave within 30 days of the re-opening of all International flights has been reversed. Well, that went away and now, much to our chagrin, we have to apply for an extension after all.

You wouldn’t believe how complicated this process is! That’s why I haven’t included more photos today and am wrapping up this post as quickly as possible. There’s a 14-day window to accomplish this and when our flight changed from the 12th to the 11th, this places us on the 13th day today. As soon as I wrap this up, we’ll start the process which, most likely will take the remainder of the day.

Needless to say, I won’t be finishing my walks today and will be sitting at my computer filling out forms for the remainder of the day. Lots of small-sized documents have to be attached so I will have to make adjustments accordingly. Oh, good grief. Kind of stressful.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, December 29, 2019:

We often encountered beautiful flowers when we walked the neighborhood in Pacific Harbor, Fiji on this date in 2015. For more on the year-ago post, please click here.

 

 

Day #250 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Our 2013 hotel criteria…Has it changed?…

Out for a drive in Maui, we stopped to walk along the beach.

Today’s photos are from the post on this date in 2014 while we were staying at Maalaea Beach, Maui. For more photos and details, please click here.

As the long days and nights continue in this long-term confinement, we tend to dream about places we’ve visited in the past and places we’d like to visit in the future. Have our criteria changed much over the years? From this post on November 11, 2013, we had outlined our criteria for staying in hotel rooms throughout the world.

Maui has one beautiful beach after another.

Now, on day #250 of living in a hotel room, we thought it would be interesting to see if our criteria have changed in the past seven years since we originally uploaded this post. Here they are:

  • Free WiFi
  • Laundry options in the room or in the building
  • A sofa in the room (it’s tough to sit on the bed typing on my laptop for hours posting photos and writing)
  • Convenient location: to our next destination (when possible), for sightseeing, (if time allows), and for local modes of transportation for dining out, grocery shopping, etc. (Not applicable now).
  • Kitchenette or full kitchen for longer stays (Not applicable now)
  • Reasonable cost (in most cities a decent hotel room will run from US $175, INR 12941, to US $200, 14790, per night or more with city taxes and fees. (Prices have increased in the past seven years from this original amount as mentioned)
  • Air conditioning (we seldom, if ever, will travel in cold climates)
  • A safe in the room
  • Good view. For us, this is important. If we’re to pay US $200 a night, we want a good, if not great view. (Not applicable now)
  • Great reviews from recent guests for a 4.0 rating or higher. Tom will read from 30 to 50 recent reviews to satisfy our objectives.
    Many beaches are left in a natural state with vegetation growing along the shoreline.

Newly added to this list based on our past and recent experiences include:

  • Complimentary breakfast
  • Complimentary coffee and tea
  • Complimentary bottled water
  • Comfortable bed
  • Sufficient plug-ins for our equipment
    The colors in these hills look more like a painting than real life.

At this point, we feel we’ve had enough hotel experience to last us a lifetime but, not knowing when we can depart Mumbai, staying put in this hotel provides us with the fulfillment of most of the above criteria. Going forward, if and when we’re able to freely travel in the future, these same criteria will be applicable and to our standards.

For the time being, we have booked this hotel room until January 3, 2021, when by happenstance, we checked for future pricing and found, on our site at Hotels.com to discover this hotel was selling rooms for US $50, INR 3698 per night for the bulk of December and US $57, INR 4215 per night for the balance of December, all the way to January 3, 2021. We couldn’t get these prices booked quickly enough.

In a matter of minutes, the clouds began to disperse for a better view of the mountaintop. Notice the buildings at the top of the mountain.

Now, we continue to watch prices to extend our reservations further as needed as we wait this out. As always, especially lately, we’ll play it by ear.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, November 28, 2019:

Upon arrival in Mombasa on Thanksgiving Day in 2013, we took this photo from the ferry, as another ferry was taking off. Notice the crowds. For more photos from that day in 2013,  please click here. For more of the year-ago post, please click here.

 

 

 

 

 

Day #245 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Golfing for travelers…

 

A manmade pond on the Kahili Golf Course in Maui, Hawaii, created a pretty scene.

Today’s photos are from the post on this date in 2014 while living in Maui, Hawaii. Please see here for more details.

Neither of us ever took up the sport of golf mainly due to the fact neither of us is very good at it. After a few tries over the years, each separately, the frustration factor was simply too much to overcome, nor did either of us have enough interest in the sport to take lessons.

In a way, when we began traveling the world, we were glad we had no interest in playing golf. Hauling clubs all over the world made little sense considering how much we travel. The added costs for flying with two sets of golf clubs, plus fees and expenses would have far surpassed our budget, requiring we sacrifice something more important to us such as quality holiday homes, rental cars, and dining out.

The lush lawns at the Kahili Golf Club in Maui were similar to the gorgeous lawns at our condo in Maalaea Beach

Many avid golfer travelers rent clubs as they travel but then again, that may have been for a few trips a year, not non-stop world travel. Nonetheless, we’ve enjoyed the beauty of many golf courses throughout the world and have either driven through them to revel in their carpet-like lawns and at times, dine in the clubhouse.

In Princeville, Kauai in 2015, where we lived for four months, we acquired a social membership to the Makai Golf Course which allowed us access to the pool, fitness center, dining, and social activities. We certainly took advantage of that membership at US $250, INR 18,547, per month for the two of us. In reviewing their site, we weren’t able to determine the cost of that same social membership now, particularly in light of COVID-19, when everything has changed.

A gazebo and footbridge on the course with the ocean at a distance.

It’s difficult to determine costs for any travel-related expenses at this time when so much has changed due to COVID-19, but in reviewing costs to travel with golf clubs, the added cost will vary from airline to airline, depending upon their included and extra baggage fees. It could range from US $35, INR 2595, to US $150, INR 11122, per bag or more.

Adding the cost of greens fees, cart, taxes, tips, and beverages can easily be as much as US $1000, INR INR 74139 for two players at an upscale course, and 30% this amount at a modestly priced course. If we were golfers, hauling our bags with us, we’d feel committed to playing at each new location, spending thousands more each year.

We were tempted to try either of these buffets offered at the Kahili Golf Course. But, as usual, buffets in the US seem to offer less acceptable options for my way of eating.

No, doubt, for an avid golfer with ample funds allocated for the sport, golfing throughout the world would be quite an adventurous and fun experience, especially if done so as a couple, avoiding the necessity of finding others to play with at each location, who may not suit your level of play.

As mentioned in the above-posted link for today’s photos, we both were literally addicted to playing Wii Golf in our old lives, eventually resulting in what our family doctor referred to as “Wiinjuries,” injured incurred due to excessive play of the very fun video game, played on a flat-screen TV. Of course, this was nothing like playing “real” golf but certainly was fun until we both had to quit due to shoulder injuries acquired from playing this “small” version of golf.

Although there was a road sign warning of “crossing by the Nene birds (Hawaiian geese), only these Cattle Egrets ran back and forth across the road.

For those interested in traveling with their golf clubs, here are some tips from the PGA’s website here:

  • Try to get a non-stop flight, if possible. The fewer times baggage handlers need to move your clubs from plane to plane in a short amount of time, the better.
  • Get a durable, well-made travel bag. Hardshell bags are more expensive and the best will run around $250. But Schmidt said they’ll give you more protection if you want that peace of mind.
  • If you use a soft-sided bag, don’t forget to pack a golf club protection device. It looks like an adjustable aluminum crutch that’s taller than your driver and keeps your shafts from being damaged in case the bag is dropped upside down.
  • Don’t forget that golf bags are considered “oversized check-in”. If you don’t know where to find check-in or pick up at a particular airport, Schmidt said make sure you ask someone as soon as you get there. And if you’re unsure about the cost or weight allowance, check with the airline or your travel agent. Be aware that some airports will send your golf bag through the regular baggage belt (with all of the other luggage) but others (such as Atlanta Hartsfield) will leave at a different location for oversized bags.
  • Add some personal ID marking to your bag. Miller said adding some bright-colored string or a pom-pom will help you identify it quickly. Many bags have places for business cards as well. Don’t forget to include your cell phone number. If possible, include the name of the hotel where you’re staying.

 

This lush greenery outlined the entrance to the golf tunnel. What a beautiful way to mask an otherwise less appealing entrance and exit!

PGA.COM COURSE FINDER: Locate a course near you by distance, price, or type

  • Don’t wind up with more luggage than you need. “Never travel with more bags than you can manage alone,” Miller said.
  • Think about a cab or car service (or ride to the airport). Drops you off closer to the gate than parking, which means a long haul at times with a large bag to roll.
  • Pack your clubs so they won’t move around in the travel bag. “If you’re going to Scotland or Ireland, it’s easy because you’re going to be throwing extra sweaters or a windbreaker in there to give it extra protection,” Schmidt said.
  • Tip: Use your travel bag for additional storage. “You can put gifts and other things you’re bringing back home in that golf bag,” Schmidt said.
  • Don’t leave your expensive electronics in your golf bag. Rangefinder? GPS? Treat it just like your computer – carry it on with you.
  • If you’re still leery of putting your equipment on a plane, do use a shipping service. “It’s not necessarily the most affordable way to transport them,” Schmidt said. “But if you want the peace of mind, they do a good job with that.”
    As we ended our visit to the golf course, one more panoramic view was in order.

Well, at this point in lockdown, 245 days later, simply walking through or dining at a golf course would be delightful. Even, if we could play Wii now, that would also be a good way to spend time in this hotel room.

At the moment, Tom is watching yesterday’s Minnesota Viking football game on his laptop. I didn’t care to see it since I accidentally stumbled (no pun intended) across the outcome.

Otherwise, all is fine. Another day…

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, November 23, 2019:

One year ago on this date, I’d forgotten to take photos while visiting family in Minnesota. Instead, I posted this photo from this same date in Maui in 2014 which we’ve highlighted above. For the story from one year ago, please click here.

Day #243 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…New but vague information for India travelers!…How much are we spending to live in this hotel?…

We drove past friends Kathy and Don’s home yesterday and their front garden was filled with kudus and impalas. See more photos from this scene below.

Today’s photos are from our post on this date in 2018 while living in a bush home in Marloth Park, South Africa. For more details, please click here.

Tom stays up much later than I. Usually, by 11:00 pm, I settle into my comfy spot on my left side and am making ZZZZs while Tom is fast and furiously clicking away on his laptop, reading news, Facebook, and Ancestry.com. Often, in the morning, I’ll have an email message about a topic he knows I’d like to read the next day.

Waterbucks are much larger than they appear.  We rarely see them up close to grasp their actual size.  From this site: “This is a large, robust antelope. Bulls have a shoulder height of 1.4 meters and can weigh up to 260 Kg. (551 pounds)  Cows are smaller than bulls. Waterbucks have a brownish-gray shaggy coat. The eyes and nose are patched with white, and there is a white-collar under the throat. The rump has a characteristic white ring. The large rounded ears are a prominent feature. Only the bulls have long, forward-curved horns. Both sexes emit a, not unpleasant, musky smell which normally lingers at resting sites.”

This morning, from Tom, I opened this article from this site, figuring it would be of interest to me, to us. Upon seeing the topic in the headline, I see why he sent it.

Bougainvillea has begun blooming in the park.

The article states:

“India is predicting a return to pre-COVID passenger levels by the end of the year or early 2021. Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri noted the impressive recovery of the domestic market and said he expects huge growth in the Indian aviation industry. India recently hit a post-COVID passenger record during Diwali.

Full recovery

At a press conference covered by Business Insider, India’s Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said that he expects air travel to make a full recovery by 31st December or early January 2021. This would mean reaching pre-pandemic levels across the board, a significant feat just months after flights resumed.

He added that domestic flights have now reached 70% capacity and there are talks about increasing the cap to 80% sometime soon. India currently has both capacity and fare caps for domestic flights. Passenger numbers have grown exponentially since May, rising from 30,000 daily travelers to over 225,000 during Diwali last week.

While domestic flights might be recovering, international flights remain considerably lower than pre-COVID levels. This is primarily due to border closures globally and India’s ban on scheduled international flights, limiting the total number of flights. Until a vaccine finds widespread use, India’s recovery will remain restricted to the domestic market.

Currently, only Air India operates flights to the US from India. However, more Indian airlines could be joining the route in the coming years.

For now, India can expect a significant domestic recovery in the coming months. International flights could take a while before recovering. However, news of a successful vaccine has many hopeful of a larger aviation recovery next year.”

Proud mom showing her youngster the ways of the bush.

There is nothing in this article that gives us any new hope or newly formed expectations as to when international flights will resume in India, other than those we mentioned in yesterday’s post here. Yes, there are flights to the US from India, which have been available for many months, but after 1,000,000 new cases of COVID-19 in less than a week, we see no benefit in heading to the US now or anytime soon.

If we have to be stuck inside, I’d rather stay put here for roughly 40% lower cost than staying in a holiday home or hotel in the US, where they are much more expensive than most other countries. If we were able to find an affordable holiday home, then we’d have to add a car, groceries, and US health insurance, upwards of several thousand dollars per month more than what we’re paying now.

Mom and young giraffe.

At this point, we’re spending approximately US $130, INR 9641 per night with meals, staying in a nice hotel close to the airport. Although we have encountered some annoying minor issues, overall, it’s been a very good experience and definitely, as safe as possible.

With more and more lockdowns resuming in the US based on these latest numbers, it makes no sense for us to trade this situation for another. None, whatsoever.

This mom or matriarch may be babysitting. These two young ones appear a few months apart in age.

And so, we remain, tentatively hopeful while currently in an even emotional holding pattern, knowing full-well, someday we’ll get out of here.

Have a good weekend, wherever you may be.

Photo from one year ago today, November 21, 2019:

We stayed with dear friends, Karen and Rich when we visited Minnesota last year. The four of us were ready for dinner at the fabulous Gianni’s Steakhouse in Wayzata Minnesota. For more photos, please click here.

 

 

 

 

Day #242 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Where else could we go?…Favorite Costa Rica photos…

 

View of Atenas from our veranda in Atenas, Costa Rica.

Today’s photos are from our post on this date in 2017 while living in a gorgeous home in Atenas, Costa Rica. For more details, please click here.

While reviewing photos from past posts on this date, I stopped looking when I found these from 2017 while we spent four months at the luxurious villa, La Perla, in the sleepy little town of Atenas, Costa Rica. The still-active listing for this fabulous holiday home may be found here.

This is a Rufous-naped Wren sitting atop the African Tulip Tree, captured from the veranda.

Recently, we contacted our friends, the owners, Bev and Sam out of sheer curiosity. Could we return to this property for 90 days to wait while more borders opened up, allowing us to continue on our travels thereafter? Surely, it would be a much better situation than we’re in now!

Unfortunately, it’s impossible for us to commit to a property at this point when we have no idea when we’d be able to fly out of India when international flights out of here limited to only a few locations, all of which, at this point are other locations in India and a few countries we aren’t interested in visiting. That doesn’t do us any good.

Frog visitor on the bumper of the rental car while at Supermercado Coopeatenas.

From this news story, flights that are available at this time, are as follows:

“India has entered into “bilateral air bubble agreements” with 18 countries. Under these agreements, two countries agree to operate direct passenger flights both ways in order to operate normal flights between them once things get back to normal after the pandemic.

Giant iguana at Zoo Ave.

The list of countries India has a travel bubble with is the US, the UK, Germany, France, the UAE, Maldives, Canada, Japan, Bahrain, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Qatar, Iraq, Oman, Bhutan, Kenya, Bangladesh, and Ukraine.

Traveling to Afghanistan from India can be done by Afghan nationals, Indian and foreign nationals with valid visas and passports, and the same for those traveling to India as mentioned by guidelines under the MHA. Similar criteria lie for Bahrain, Kenya, and Bhutan, Iraq, Japan, Maldives, Qatar, UK, USA, and Oman. The airline will have to finally ensure that there are no other travel restrictions for the people traveling under the particular visa permit before issuing their tickets and boarding passes.”

Stunning blooms, Pine Cone Ginger.

We could travel to Kenya but medical care there is horrific, making it unrealistic for us to return during the pandemic. We considered the Maldives but it wasn’t a good possibility due to poor medical care, only 30-day visas, and also very high prices for hotels and holiday homes, far beyond our budget.

The other countries don’t appeal to us due to political unrest, massive cases of COVID-19, poor medical care, and/or a lack of availability of the type of holiday homes we’d be interested in renting. We aren’t interested in traveling to Afghanistan, Iraq, Qatar, Oman, Bhutan, and Bahrain.

An Owl Butterfly we spotted in the courtyard with what appears to be a large eye to scare off predators.

We have three cruises booked in and around Japan in 2022 and would prefer to wait until that time when we’ll visit various ports of call and possibly stay in a holiday home for a period of time. Hopefully, by that time, we’ll be able to cruise again and the pandemic will be under control.

Mom and calf in the neighborhood.

This is the way that it is. We wait.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, November 20, 2019:

While in Minnesota last year, we stayed with friends Karen and Rich when their beautiful property was listed for sale and has since sold. They are moving to a warmer climate. For more photos, please click here.

 

 

 

Day #233 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Costa Rica?…Is it a possibility, just in case?…

On a rainy day in the town of Zarcero at the Senor Scissorhands Topiary Garden.

Today’s photos are from this date while living in Atenas, Costa Rica in 2017 for almost four months. For the story and more photos from this date, please click here.

It’s difficult to relate to the fact that it was only three years ago we were living in Atenas, Costa Rica in a fabulous house with more rooms and space than we could ever use. We spent our days in the pool and hot tub, dined at the massive dining room table, and spent our evenings in the well-equipped “viewing room.” We went sightseeing, on tours and took thousands of photos, mainly of exotic birds.

Another of Tom’s wonderful bird photos, in this case, a small Green Parrot.

Oh, what I’d give to be back at that house, to swim in that pool, to cook in that exceptional kitchen and dine at the big dining room table. The nearby market was well stocked with everything we could want or need, with lots of grass-fed meat, free-range chickens and eggs, locally grown coffee, and fabulous imported cheeses.

Recently, I contacted our old friends, Barb and Sam, the lovely owners of that wonderful villa, and they’d happily make it work for us if we were to return. When looking at their listing online, found here, we see there is availability in the off-season which works well for us. Would we consider traveling there in the near future, in the event South Africa doesn’t open its borders by a certain date, yet to be determined?

It was fun to walk under the topiary arches.

We would. Unfortunately, getting there is tricky from India requiring 33 hours of travel time, lots of plane changes, COVID-19 checks, and endless requirements to be allowed into the country, which surely will be the case anywhere we go in the world. As it turns out, most future flights out of India, required leaving the hotel for the Mumbai airport three to four hours before the first flight, always in the middle of the night. Subsequently, we’ll have two nights without sleep. This isn’t easy, by no means.

Our best bet would be to fly business class which has seats that lay down into full-length beds with adequate pillows and blankets. Realistically, this would be the only way of making such a long trip that would work for us. We can manage not sleeping for one 24-hour period, but not for two nights in a row.

The door to Senor Scissorhands Topiary Garden.

When we flew from South Africa to Ireland in May 2019, three months after I’d had open-heart surgery, we booked a business class flight for me, while Tom stayed in the coach section. The extra cost to upgrade is about US $2000, INR 148,500 per person. It may be worth it to us when we try to get out of here, in any case, with travel times to anywhere we’d like to go (airport to airport) in excess of 24 hours.

Since we haven’t been on cruises or rented any cars since October 2019, this added expense fits into our annual budget. Knowing we’ll do this, if possible, gives me considerable peace of mind, regardless of where we travel to from here. Of course, there are many conditions we need to investigate to be able to leave Mumbai such as; can we use our ability to fly to the USA now, as a means of us flying to such countries as Costa Rica? After all, right now, if we wanted to we could fly to Dallas and grab a flight from Dallas to Costa Rica if necessary.

Basilica Nuestra Senora de las Piedades in Naranjo, Costa Rica.

Have we set a timeline to leave India, if South Africa’s borders don’t open? Not yet. We’re still holding onto the hope to go to South Africa, before anywhere else in the world. We have a certain degree of apprehension about flying to so many airports and on so many flights, in light of COVID-19.

Can we last, holding out here, until February or March? March is only four months away. We both think we can hold out. At this point, based on our routine, time seems to be passing quickly. But, March will be one year we’ve been in this hotel room. That’s a little hard to digest.

When we think about spending the upcoming holidays in this hotel room, we cringe a little. But we know we can handle it. We’ve been through worse situations in the past. We’re safe, feeling well, and always working on our total well-being, physically, mentally, and spiritually. We’re OK.

We hope you are OK, too!

Photo from one year ago today, November 11, 2019:

Out to dinner at Stella’s Fish House with son Greg; and DIL Camille’s family, charming granddaughter, Maisie sat next to me. Please scroll down for more the year ago grandchildren photos. For more, please click here.

 

Introspective grandson Miles wasn’t interested in fish and had a burger instead.
Always-smiling Madighan was loving being with her family and eating seafood along with a taste of Grandpa’s barbeque ribs (who like Miles, didn’t eat fish). 

 

 

 

Day #222 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Today is our 8 year world travel anniversary…Happy Halloween!!!

This affectionate camel leaned on his owner’s shoulder when I approached.

Today’s photos are from the post on this date in 2013 while living in Diani Beach, Kenya when we embarked on a mini-vacation to celebrate our then, one-year anniversary of world travel. See the link here.

Here we are, eight years from the date we first left Minnesota to begin our years-long journey to see the world. Most years, we’ve celebrated this anniversary with more enthusiasm than we ever celebrated our wedding anniversary or the day we met in 1991.

Camels walking along the beach along the Indian Ocean.

For us, this anniversary lumps the other anniversaries into one special day on Halloween, October 31, wherever we may be in the world at the time. That’s not to say we ignore our other anniversaries, but this one signifies our “freedom” in retirement, to see the world on our terms, visiting those places that most appeal to our senses, rather than some preconceived notion of where one “should” go while touring the world.

And we’ve continued to experience life on our terms with the exception of the past 7½ months when we’ve been in lockdown in Mumbai, India, waiting for international flights to resume. Hopefully, soon that will change and we’ll be able to be on our way once again. As for any potential celebration of today’s anniversary, life will continue as it has over the past months. There isn’t a lot more we can do.

Tom spotted them coming and alerted me to grab the camera. I ran like crazy to catch up with them to take these photos. The cost for a ride, up for negotiation, was Kenya Shillings $2000 each, US $23.56 for two. 

Sure, we could have dinner in the dining room, but the menu is still the same and we wouldn’t order anything different from what we’ve been eating. Tom, like me, is trying to lose the weight he’s gained and neither of us sees a reason to change for a day.

Nor are we interested in drinking alcohol when we haven’t had a drink in over seven months, which would most likely result in not feeling so well. When we move to our next location and have a chance to socialize, we can ease our way back into a happy hour event, here again on our own terms.

The pristine beach, the fine, clean sand of the Indian Ocean made for a pleasant walk on the beach after 4:00 pm yesterday, as the day cooled.

We are allowed to leave the hotel now, but with the streets packed with people not wearing masks and social distancing, and with India in the #2 spot in the world with the most COVID-19, behind the USA, we feel it’s too risky. Mumbai has the highest number of cases anywhere in the entire country. Also, the smog and the traffic are unbearable, typical for big cities in India.

I suppose I should have zoomed in as he did when taking mine. You can see my shadow as I’m taking the photo.

I must admit I experienced some angst going out to the two ATMs, two weeks ago today, to get cash to pay for the package we finally received after a three-month delay. Tom has a hard time understanding the Indian accent with his hearing loss from years on the railroad. I always handle all communications with the people of India who do possess a strong accent, some of whom speak little English.

So, today? Nothing special other than our commitment to each other, to waiting out the time international flights resume, to our dedication to improving our health through regular exercise, healthy eating, good sleep, and positive thoughts, and our unstoppable passion for continuing on in our travels, for hopefully, years to come.

Walking on the beach on the day of our one year travel anniversary in 2013. Tom shot this appearing footless photo of me. Actually, I was wearing those ugly water shoes, grateful they were hidden in the surf. Gosh, it would be nice to be tan now, getting regular doses of Vitamin D. Instead, we take supplements.

Happy Halloween to those who celebrate and good day to all!

Photo from one year ago today, October 31, 2019:

 With no photos of us on our travel anniversary in the past few years, we posted this photo from October 31, 2017, which was our five year anniversary of traveling the world, taken on the veranda at the villa in Atenas, Costa Rica. For more photos from that date, please click here.

 

 

 

Medical Issues for World Travelers…A Comprehensive Synopsis…

 

This exquisite bloom which was the size of a soccer ball.
This exquisite bloom which was the size of a soccer ball.

Traveling for extended periods always raises concerns over medical issues for world travelers. Particularly, seniors and those with existing health conditions, regardless of age, have asked themselves if traveling for months or years makes sense when at any time, especially in remote locations, a flare-up of any underlying condition or injury can elicit worry, concern over a life-altering illness, or even death, let alone panic in some situations.

Today’s 2000 word post entitled, “Medical Issues for World Travelers” will include suggestions as to how we’ve managed such circumstances, as world travelers for the past eight years. Below are the most commonly asked questions when discussing medical issues for world travelers for those considering long-term world travel:

  1. How will I receive my prescription refills and also, for some, “store insulin and other medications that require refrigeration?”
  2. What do I do if I run out of medication while traveling?
  3. How will I be able to receive my necessary prescriptions?
  4. What immunizations/vaccines will I need in order to travel the world?
  5. How do I handle everyday aches, pains, injuries, and illnesses, that in my old life, may have prompted me to visit my doctor?
  6. What do I do about dental care, colonoscopies, mammograms, and other recurring medical tests?
  7. What shall I do for medical travel insurance?
  8. How often should I seek a physical exam if my health is good and I’m feeling well?
  9. What do I do if a serious illness or injury occurs while I’m traveling? Do I return to my home country for surgery or treatment?
  10. How will I handle my personal protection in avoiding contracting COVID-19 and other such viruses that may be or become prevalent while I’m traveling?

During our past years of world travel, each of the above questions has been forefront in our minds at one point, or another. Today, following in the above questions as highlighted headings below, we will address each of these questions. As time passes, some of our suggestions along with solutions for our own personal situations may change as more and more travelers consider long-term travel, once COVID-19 is more under control.

Regardless of our past experiences and observations, it’s imperative to discuss your health conditions or potential age-related conditions with your physician and/or medical professionals before embarking on any trip, if for a week, a month, a year, or longer.

We also suggest you assign a family member or close friend as your medical advocate, in the event you as an individual or a couple are in an accident that may leave you unable to manage your care during serious medical treatment and recovery. It makes sense for couples to leave easily accessible notes on a smartphone with any medical particulars that may be crucial in their partner’s care (such as allergies, medications, conditions, etc.).

It’s surprising how often a spouse, companion, or partner may be totally oblivious to the health issues of their traveling companion. This may be one of the most important medical issues of world travelers. So, let’s start working our way through the above 10 questions. If, at any time, you have questions on topics we haven’t covered, please feel free to comment at the end of any post. You may do so anonymously if you’d prefer. Here we go:

How will I receive my prescription refills and also, for some, “store insulin and other medications that require refrigeration?”

One of the most frequent medical issues for world travelers is the ability to not only carry sufficient supplies of necessary prescription medicine but also in getting prescriptions refilled in other countries. Of course, the ideal scenario is to determine how long you’ll be gone and carry all of those prescriptions with you in a secure carry-on bag with copies of the prescriptions from your doctor.

Unfortunately, many traveler’s health plans do not allow a prescription for longer than three months. The workaround that we chose when we first left the US, was to pay for the prescriptions ourselves without making a claim on our insurance. We’d even be able to negotiate the costs of my three prescriptions from a few pharmacies, who were happy to give us a year’s supply at negotiated rates. We’d asked our doctor to write the three non-narcotic prescriptions for one year each.

As it turned out, our cost of the prescriptions was compared to the co-pays we’d have paid for the medications using our health plan. However, even if it had required more money out of pocket, we’d been willing to pay considering the convenience. If you plan to return to your home country for a visit, once a year, you can repeat the same process. Since we didn’t return to the US more frequently than once every two years, we had to come up with another plan.

At the beginning of our travels, while in Belize, we met a couple and the wife suggested we contact ProgressiveRX, a company we’ve worked with these past eight years, except for those times, we could purchase my medication at a pharmacy without a prescription, which is possible in many countries. This information is available online. For example, here in India, where many US medications are manufactured, we don’t need a prescription for any non-narcotic drugs, none of which we use. One needs only to write down their medication, dose, and quantity they’d like to receive for most prescription medications.

As for storing medications that require refrigeration, the most logical solution is to carry a long-lasting cooler block and a small cooler bag to keep the medication cold during long flights. Since most hotels and holiday homes include a refrigerator, it shouldn’t be a problem. It’s imperative, regardless of the medication, not to leave them in your checked baggage. We have what we call a carry-on “pill bag” which includes copies of original or recent prescriptions and pills in their original packaging which we don’t let out of our sight.

What do I do if I run out of medication while traveling?

First off, if you plan ahead, you can avoid this situation while on longer trips by ensuring you have an adequate supply of medications you’ll need, including a few weeks of extra doses in the event of unforeseen delays. If you’re traveling for years as opposed to weeks or months, it is imperative you decide on how you will renew your prescriptions when most countries that require prescriptions will not allow you to use your home country physician’s prescriptions. It’s important to check this information in advance of traveling.

In the worst-case scenario, which we’ve accepted as a part of our travel responsibilities, is to make an appointment with a local doctor, bringing along your existing prescriptions and/or containers, and ask the doctor to write new prescriptions for you, for at least six months, a year if possible. Doing so is not as inconvenient as you may think.

Ask your landlord or hotel staff for the name and number of a local clinic to arrange your appointment and subsequent filling of your new prescription. Keep in mind, in many countries prescription drugs are named differently than in your home country. Sure, this becomes a part of medical Issues for world travelers but doesn’t usually require more than a few hours of your time.

If you are on a cruise ship (hopefully possible again in the future), the ship’s doctor generally has the most common medications on hand. However, the cost to see her/him can be expensive. Being prepared before embarking on a cruise is imperative.

How will I be able to receive my necessary prescriptions?

Using such prescription services as ProgressiveRX may end up taking months to receive in regular mail. If you are staying in one location for many months, this may be possible. Also in some countries, depending on mail services available you can request expedited service in some countries for an additional fee. This may be the case for most online pharmacies that are willing to use an old prescription as proof. In no cases, will narcotic drugs be mailed in any country?

For those with chronic pain issues, traveling long term may be a part of substantial medical Issues for world travelers. The only way you’d be able to receive such medications would be from a visit to a hospital, urgent care facility of a doctor with you providing accompanying paperwork from your home physician describing your condition in detail, and your need for narcotic medication. Since we don’t use pain medications, other than those over-the-counter, that’s our best suggestion.

What immunizations/vaccines will I need in order to travel the world?

One of the many concerns over medical issues for world travelers is the necessity of immunizations before embarking on a journey that will include countries where certain diseases are rampant. Most medical clinics or groups have a travel clinic you can visit. It’s imperative to bring a list of the countries you’ll be visiting, illnesses, medications, allergies, and previous inoculations to your first appointment.

From there, a nurse practitioner along with a doctor will determine what immunizations are recommended for your upcoming travel. We arranged for this appointment a few months before we left to ensure there was ample time for any necessary spacing of the inoculations. In all, we each had about 15 immunizations in total. I won’t mention them here simply based on the fact your locations and personal health may be entirely different than ours. Also, the fact we planned to be gone for years, not months, we needed additional inoculations.

The travel clinic will know exactly what you need, but it’s your final decision as to which, if any, you are willing to accept. We accepted all recommendations. While in South Africa in 2018, we presented our immunization record to our local Dr. Theo and we had boosters as needed. Our only reactions were from the yellow fever vaccine, leaving me feeling flu-ish for a few hours and Tom, lightly, over a weekend.

It is during this appointment, you may choose to get prescriptions for malaria pills. There are two types of these. The more expensive have fewer side effects. See your doctor for recommendations.

How do I handle everyday aches, pains, injuries, and illnesses, that in my old life, may have prompted me to visit my doctor?

Another major concern over medical issues for world travelers is for those who may have visited their family practitioner on a regular basis, often monthly, for blood tests, exams, medications, and treatment protocols. If this process has been prevalent in your personal care, long term travel may not be ideal for you. Perhaps, shorter trips would be more appropriate.

Otherwise, we have learned to self-treat minor injuries, aches, and pains with ice and hot packs and over the counter medication. We’ve had flu, bad coughs, and viruses throughout this period, but in most cases, managed on our own. This may not be appropriate for many travelers, requiring visits to local doctors. I’ve had a few injuries become infected. In those cases, we sought medical care.

What do I do about dental care, colonoscopies, mammograms, and other recurring medical tests?

In the beginning, before we left the US we had many medical tests to ensure we were good to go. Once we started traveling, it was almost 2½ years before either of us made an appointment for a check-up and blood tests. Contrary to most medical advice, we decided to forgo colonoscopies, instead, conducting the home fecal monitoring tests checked by a lab. I haven’t had a mammogram since we left, but do self-exams regularly.

As for dental appointments, in our old lives, we each had our teeth cleaned every six months. Now, we’re lucky to have this done every two years. Not every country is suitable for dental appointments. Of course, normally in the case of an infection or abscess, dental care would be necessary.

Based on having had emergency major open-heart surgery in South Africa in February 2019, dental care was ill-advised during the 12 months after the surgery. Once we return to South Africa, we will visit our favorite dentist in Komatipoort for cleaning and other dental care as needed.

While we were in Minnesota in November 2019, I visited a highly regarded cardiac facility to be checked after heart surgery. It was recommended I return next time we visit the US which I’ll surely do. Of course, if any heart-related issues presented I’d immediately seek appropriate medical care.

What shall I do for medical travel insurance?

Overall, the most frequent question regarding medical issues for world travelers is travel insurance. We have written dozens of posts on this topic which can easily be accessed by typing “travel insurance” in our search field on our home page. For purposes here today, I’ll briefly review our experiences.

When we began our world travels, we signed up with a worldwide travel insurance company, Healthcare International, based in London.  As typically the case, worldwide travel insurance doesn’t cover the traveler while in their home country unless willing to pay a much higher rate.

We had opted out of Medicare Part B since it nor its supplemental policies at the time covered medical issues for world travelers, like us. There was no point in paying for Medicare Part B or a supplement, as much as an additional several hundred dollars more each month, to cover us outside the US or even while in the US, when we were visiting for such short periods. If we needed medical care while in the US, which we have on a few occasions, we paid out of pocket.

We paid US $4000, INR 291,844, per year for the policy and never made a claim until in February 2019 while in South Africa, I had to have emergency triple coronary by-pass surgery. To make a long story short, the insurance company refused to pay and we had no choice but to pay out-of-pocket for the expensive four surgeries, including three weeks in the hospital, that was ultimately necessary.

They claimed I had a preexisting condition. I had no idea I had heart disease. But to force them to pay would have required years of legal expenses and time, with the possibility of losing the case. We had no desire to make our lives all about a lawsuit, especially if we could lose the case.

From there we researched online for a US company and found UnitedHealthcareGlobal that has no pre-existing conditions policy other than no major medical treatment in the past six months, for which we qualified by the time we purchased the policy. There are more nuances of the policy, but I won’t get into that here. Click this link for more details. (Due to COVID-19, one must call for a quote, but recently, from here in India, we were able to renew our policy without a problem.

Since we travel full time, our needs are different from short-term travel policies. Also, now as time has passed, there are supplemental travel policies available to US citizens, but not applicable to us since we don’t have Medicare other than Part A.

Often, your travel agency, cruise company, or other travel-related businesses offer short term travel policies. In light of COVID-19, we encourage you to do your own research for such policies for short term travel. Plus, many of the travel business policies are more expensive than you may find on your own.

How often should I seek a physical exam if my health is good and I’m feeling well?

It is important to discuss your medical issues for world travelers with your physician before embarking on a year’s long journey. They will recommend, based on your current conditions, or lack thereof, how often you should arrange a check-up from a qualified medical professional in the countries you will be visiting. Also, they may suggest tests that are important for your state of health.

For us, every few years has prompted us to have a basic exam. It was only in South Africa that I had jaw pain precipitating an additional visit to Dr. Theo, whom we had already seen for exams and vaccination boosters, which under normal circumstances would never have predicted my cardiovascular issues when I had a normal EKG and heart sounds during the basic exam.

It was months later that I visited Dr. Theo, who suggested I have an exercise stress test when I was experiencing weird jaw pain. If he hadn’t done that test on me, I may not be here today to tell the story. It was his determination that sent me to a cardiologist and thoracic surgeon only days later for immediate open-heart surgery. We are so grateful to him for “catching this.”

What do I do if a serious illness or injury occurs while I’m traveling? Do I return to my home country for surgery or treatment?

This is a common concern and medical issues for world travelers. I suppose my case was a perfect example. There was no time for me to return to the US for emergency surgery, nor would it have been safe for me to fly back to the US in my dire condition.

Also, if we returned to the US, the cost of the four procedures would have been around the US $1,000,000, INR 72,961,200. Medicare would only have paid a portion and we’d have been left with much more out-of-pocket expense than the entire bill we’ve had to pay in South Africa. In the end, it all worked out for the best.

However, many less serious conditions can make a traveler worried and stressed as to appropriate action for a travel-related illness or injury, not requiring urgent medical care that may be available by quality professionals in some, not all countries. One must access the situation carefully and make a determination as to the safety of treatment in their current condition.

If anyone would have asked me if I could have recovered from open-heart surgery and three other procedures, for three months in a holiday home in the bush in South Africa with no air-con in the living areas with temperatures in the 104F, 40C range, day after day, I would have said emphatically “NO!!!” But, with Tom’s attentive and loving care, we made it through. One never knows their strength and resiliency until faced with situations beyond their control. I wasn’t allowed to travel for three months and could not have returned to the US to recover.

How will I handle my personal protection in avoiding contracting COVID-19 and other such viruses that may be or become prevalent while I’m traveling?

There are monumental medical issues for world travelers in today’s world is COVID-19. What do I do if I become infected while traveling? Based on the infectious nature of COVID-19, returning to one’s home country would be impossible and risky for others if somehow you managed to get through the priority checking procedures at most airports.

If one becomes infected, it is imperative to immediately arrange for a test to confirm infection and to contact the local health authorities for contact tracing if you are indeed positive. At that point, you’ll be advised as to treatment based on the severity of your symptoms. If you are only a carrier without symptoms or very mild symptoms, you will be required to quarantine for a definite period of time, most often for two weeks.

Some countries may require quarantine at a specific location, although the majority will allow quarantine to transpire at a holiday home or hotel, never leaving the facility during the required period. If symptoms are escalating, a hospital or urgent care visit may be necessary. The local health authorities will advise you in either case.

It’s important to notify the property manager so the holiday home can be properly sanitized after you leave if leaving immediately after the quarantine ends. If you are staying for an additional, extended period, it may be possible for you to sanitize the location upon full recovery since the virus only lives so long after the infection has ended.

Here again, investigate this with the health authorities and the property owner. Hotels do this type of cleaning after quarantined parties are able to vacate. We see the special cleaners in the corridors every day, although we aren’t aware of any cases in this hotel.  But, it is imperative you let them know once you discover you are infected so they can commence proper protection for their staff and other guests.

Taking a test after recovery is equally important to ensure you are no longer infectious. In some cases, a positive test may be present longer than the two week period. As always, wearing an appropriate face mask, social distancing, and washing hands frequently always remain good safety measures.

In conclusion, regarding medical issues for world travelers…

It would be possible to write an entire book on this topic. I have well surpassed the 2000 word requirement at well over 3500 words. In each case, we suggest you contact your doctor(s), your pharmacist, and a family member as an advocate before embarking on a years-long world journey.

Even those, in the seemingly best of health, may fall prey to a serious, and often life-threatening condition while traveling, especially for those in later years. No one is exempt from such issues, regardless of great health at the beginning of their travels.

Of course, living a healthful life while traveling, although no guarantee of avoidance of medical issues for world travelers, it certainly is an important adjunct in predictive outcome in many cases.

Avoiding worry and concern is certainly an important aspect of enjoying world travel. Being educated on all of these topics, carrying appropriate medical information for health and prescriptions, and researching medical care in each country before visiting can play a vital role in ensuring a safe outcome in the event of an unforeseen injury or illness while traveling.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, October 13, 2019:

Shirenewton, Chepstow, Wales, the holiday property
In Shirenewton, Chepstow, Wales, the holiday property, we rented is called The Studio, but is larger than a studio apartment. The main floor consists of a living room, kitchen, dining area, and bathroom. The master bedroom is upstairs on a mezzanine level, a small loft room with a futon bed. For more photos, please click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Travel Tips for Wildlife Photographers around the World….

Maasai Mara in Kenya
How did we get so close, so lucky to get this shot?  We ended up calling it “safari luck” when we saw the Big Five in the first 10 hours on safari. The photo was taken in the Maasai Mara in Kenya.

Note: Today’s lengthy post is #4 of 5 required for SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

Today’s post is not intended to be a photographic instruction piece. Your personal equipment isn’t a point of discussion for our purposes here. Also, I will preface that I am not a photographic expert, by any means. Preparing 3000 posts over these past years has been our primary focus. As much as we’ve loved sharing our photos, becoming experts in photo-taking simply wasn’t a goal of ours. Others may say it should have been.

But, our worldwide journey has been wrapped around our goal of doing and being whoever we chose to be, at any given time, as we’ve scoured the world, not necessarily doing and being what is expected of us. Sure, great skills in photography would have been an asset, Somehow, my interest in acquiring those skills has not been at the forefront of my mind. We are merely typical travelers, who happen to hold a camera in our hands, excited to share what we see through our eyes, not a perfect, perhaps edited version of what treasures we behold.

More so, our somewhat simple goal has been to share with our family/readers/friends inspirations that which we’ve gleaned from our eight years of non-stop world travel (barring the over six months we’ve been stuck in a hotel room in Mumbai, India while in lockdown, due to COVID-19). Thus, our topic of travel tips for wildlife photographers around the world is more about the “where,” the “what,” and the “when” to take photos of wildlife, as opposed to the instructive mode of “how.”

older elephant resting his trunk on his tusk
In most cases, we were within 25 feet of any of the animals in our photos. Notice, this older elephant resting his trunk on his tusk. Our guide assumed this old male to be around 60 years old, close to his life expectancy. The photo was taken in the Maasai Mara in Kenya.

No doubt, some of today’s travel tips for wildlife photographers around the world will include a portion of the “how” when positioning yourself and your subject for the ideal shot, not necessarily the perfect shot. It may be a shot that bespeaks your passion, as it has with us, for animals in the wild and then, those that may not be in the wild which are equally fascinating and photo-worthy.

Why write travel tips for wildlife photographers around the world?…

Unable to take photos these past many months, we’d decided early on in this confinement to take advantage of the thousands of photos we’ve posted throughout the past eight years and share them once again. This provided us with fodder for our daily uploads while fulfilling the expectation of our years-long reader throughout the world. Only early on in our journey in 2012, we failed to post photos, a time when we had virtually no experience in using a camera and little interest in learning to do so.

No more than a few days into our journey, we realized, a few shots here and there, taken using our phones, just wasn’t going to be sufficient. We purchased a small-sized Samsung point and shoot when I thought it was kind of “cute” since the exterior was pink. Over the years, we purchased a few upgrades from the first purchase we made while at a port of call on our first cruise at a Walmart store in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. .Oh, good grief! We had no clue how to use it!

Oxpeckers can dig into the flesh of animals to extract parasites
Oxpeckers can dig into the flesh of animals to extract parasites, ticks, and other insects that may burrow under their skin as is the case of this kudu. Sadly once the insect is extracted, the oxpecker may continue to peck at the injured site, making matters worse. The photo was taken in Marloth Park, South Africa.

Had other world travelers written such a post describing travel tips for wildlife photographers around the world, we may have checked it out. But, in 2012, there were few people online doing what we have been doing; traveling the world for years to come, without a home, without storage, with only the items in our then overweight luggage (we’ve since improved that scenario), intent on finding appropriate wildlife subjects in most countries in their itinerary.

Had we discovered such a site that emphatically stated we had to learn all the features of a camera and how to use them, I may have looked the other way, Tom included. Comparable to our lack of interest in bungee jumping, learning the nuances of a camera wasn’t in our wheelhouse. We just weren’t interested.

So, today, for the first time ever in almost 3000 posts, which we’ll achieve in less than 30 days, (within two days of our eight-year travel anniversary), we’ll be delighted to share what we’ve learned for the where, the what, and the when, of taking photos that may not be perfect, but will hopefully fill your hearts with blissful memories of places you’ve been and wildlife you’ve been blessed to see and experience, both in the wild and elsewhere.

wildlife photographers around the world
Finding the rarely seen Colobus Monkey put me on a photo-taking frenzy. The photo was taken in Diani Beach, Kenya.

The “where” of travel tips for wildlife photographers around the world?

It’s been these very photos, that prompted us to write travel tips for wildlife photographers around the world, that may include the more experienced photographer and also those, who, like us at one point, could barely figure out how to use the flash or the zoom, let alone more complicated settings.

When we decided to travel the world early in 2012, ten months later we were ready to go, having sold every worldly possession while booking two years into the future to provide us with peace of mind in knowing we had a place to live wherever we traveled. In the process, we kept in mind our preferences, not only in regard to the type of life we wanted to live, the type of property we wanted to live in, but also the surroundings we craved.

wildlife photographer in Kruger National Park, South Africa
We waited patiently and mom stood while the baby sat up on her/his hind end, nose touching mom. The photo was taken in Kruger National Park, South Africa.

What appealed most to our tastes and desires were a few vital factors:

  1. Beautiful surroundings and scenery, when possible
  2. An abundance of nature within easy reach
  3. Access to experiencing wildlife and other animals on a daily basis, if possible
    wildlife photographer in Princeville, Kauai, Hawaii
    This Laysan Albatross parent and chick sit close to one another until the chick becomes more confident and the parents feel more at ease. In time, the chick will be left behind on its own to fledge, most likely five to six months later. At five years of age, they will return with a mate and begin the life cycle all over again. The photo was taken in Princeville, Kauai, Hawaii.

Utmost in our travels, access to wildlife became more and more important to us, as time continued on. We’d seen all the historic buildings, churches, and structures, to satisfy a lifetime. We’d dined in excellent restaurants befitting my way of eating. We shopped in unique local markets, adapting to available foods and resources, We experienced the nuances of cultural differences from that which we’d known in our old lives and met countless people everywhere we traveled.

But, as far as travel tips for wildlife photographers around the world, where one chooses to go is of the utmost importance. In Dubai, we were disappointed with little wildlife, other than camels, available for photo-taking, as well as in Morocco. We went wild with delight over the vast array of birds in Costa Rica. We loved shepherding sheep on a farm in England. And, we giggled at a pig farm in Tasmania, Australia.

wildlife photographer in New Plymouth New Zealand
Alpacas are excellent photo subjects. The photo was taken on an alpaca farm in New Plymouth New Zealand.

In Madeira, Portugal, we saw dolphins and whales while on a catamaran tour out to sea. In Hawaii, the birds, whales, and other sea creatures were in abundance. In Antarctica, we were in heaven with the sheer numbers of penguins, killer whales, elephant seals, and birds, let alone the scenery beyond our wildest dreams.

It all boils down to what you’d like to accomplish in your travels. If wildlife is your top priority, it’s important to conduct research to determine if the location you’re hoping to visit has an abundance of wildlife. Many countries we’d assumed would be rife with wild animals were not necessarily the case when the only means of taking photos of very elusive animals was while on a planned safari.

No doubt, we’ve been on safari no less than 100 times over the past years; some guided tours, some with a private guide, and many of our own as “self-drives” through national parks. In each of these cases, one must be prepared to be patient and accept the reality that, at times, you may not be able to take a single photo of the more elusive animals and only see the usual plentiful antelopes and birds.

wildlife photographer in the Maasai Mara in Kenya
We were in a Toyota Land Cruiser with open sides, 25 feet from the lion. Much to our surprise we never felt frightened or at risk at close-range to any of these big animals, including this massive male lion who gave us a great show. In the background in the carcass of a zebra, this lion savored for lunch. The photo was taken in the Maasai Mara in Kenya.

For birdwatching enthusiasts, almost every country has a plethora of birds presenting countless photo ops. Taking photos of birds in flight requires definitive camera skills, not every amateur photographer possesses as has been the case for me in most scenarios. However, some of our favorite photos are of the Laysan Albatross in Kauai, Hawaii, and of course, in the millions of penguins in Antarctica, a photographer’s dream come true.

In researching possible destinations, important travel tips for wildlife photographers around the world is to determine how important multitudes of photos are to you or if a select number will satisfy your needs and curiosity. For us, with our daily posts, taking tens of thousands of photos each year, the numbers of decent shots are important. For the average traveler, returning home with 100 good shots may be totally fulfilling. It’s important to decide where you are on the spectrum.

The “what” of travel tips for wildlife photographers around the world?

Amid all the decisions in deciding on locations, one must define what is most important for you to see and photograph. If lions are at the top of your list, Africa is by far, the most opportune continent to visit, especially if choosing to stay for a while. But, not every country in Africa is safe to visit, nor is there an abundance of lions easily accessed in some countries in Africa.

wildlife photographer in Atenas, Costa Rica
Tom’s photo. What a shot of the classic “Froot Loops” cereal (per Tom) Toucan, technically known as the Rainbow-billed Toucan, aka the Keel-billed Toucan. The photo was taken in Atenas, Costa Rica.

We chose Kenya and South Africa as one of our many goals in seeing lions. When it came to tigers we knew India was our best option. We were never disappointed in each of these countries. There are 13 countries where tigers may be spotted, but for us, India proved to have the best opportunities to encounter them in the wild.

At this point, we should mention, animals in zoos and wildlife facilities do not fulfill our objectives. If that were the case, one could simply visit a zoo in their hometown or home country. For us, the wild aspect has been a top priority when we have distinct opinions we won’t share here today about wild animals locked in cages or small enclosures.

That’s not to say, many rehabilitation centers throughout the world may have excellent open spaces for wildlife with the intent of eventually releasing them back into the wild, when possible. We have visited many of these, some of which we’ve found rewarding, providing excellent photo ops as shown in our past posts.

wildlife photographer in Kruger National Park
Impalas have exquisite markings on their faces and bodies. The photo was taken in Kruger National Park.

We’d never have seen a Tasmanian Devil in Tasmania if we hadn’t visited a rehab center, other than the sad roadkill we observed in the mornings. We’ve yet to see one of the more elusive nocturnal animals in the wild, the endangered pangolin. Hopefully, someday we’ll have that opportunity.

Each traveler(s) must decide for themselves, “the what” is most befitting their goals and objectives when returning home, or in continuing on a year’s long journey such as ours with a litany of photos exciting and memorable to savor over the years to come.

The “when” of travel tips for wildlife photographers around the world…

There are three important questions one may ask themselves in regard to the “when” of taking photos of wildlife. For most, they include:

  1. When is the best time in life to embark on such a journey? Only each individual, couple, or family can make that determination based on specific lifestyle, travel budget, work constraints, and worthy of mention, general health. It’s important to note, that embarking on a safari for hours at a time on bumpy dirt roads with potholes, with fast unanticipated turns could be difficult for some. Also, climbing in and out of the jeep-type vehicles may be extremely challenging for those with certain physical conditions, advanced age, or lack of mobility. This is not an experience for those who could become distressed during a “rough and tumble” experience. Also, individuals with severe back or neck problems could find a safari unbearable. If time is limited, the experience may equally be limited. Many choose a one or two-day safari, as part of a bigger trip and find themselves disappointed, unable to have seen, and taken photos of some of their personal favorites.
  2. When is the best time of the year to see and photograph wildlife? This varies by the area of each country you choose to visit. Research is imperative to determine the best seasons for viewing wildlife. Often rainy seasons are less desirable. Most often the best seasons are during the heat of the hottest time of the year. This is important to know if you are sensitive to the thought of sitting in an open-air vehicle while on safari. Although, there are many safari companies that have enclosed air-conditioned vehicles that may be more suitable for those individuals, although taking photos will be restricted in such vehicles. If you’re interested in the Great Migration in Kenya and Tanzania, that eventful experience only occurs in the fall months and must be timed perfectly to witness the five million animals traversing the Serengeti and the Mara River over and over again. Here again, research is imperative.
  3. When is the best time to snap the shot to acquire the best possible photo? When it comes to taking photos of wildlife, timing is everything. This has been an area we both feel we have found most rewarding, as our skills increased over the years. Patience and perseverance are the keys to this aspect. At times, we’ve sat still quietly for 20 or 30 minutes to acquire the best photo. Also, being aware of when to click the shutter is vital for the best possible photo of your chosen subject.
    the pellet crumbs on the nose of this adorable bushbuck
    Notice the pellet crumbs on the nose of this adorable bushbuck. The photo was taken in Marloth Park, South Africa.

In conclusion…

Many of our photos posted here today will illustrate, in part, our use of travel tips for wildlife photographers around the world. They aren’t perfect, but for us, they have fulfilled our desire to create a memory that will easily endure through our lifetime and for those that follow us, for theirs.

If as a photographer, you’ve been able to learn and develop comprehensive photographic skills, it will only add to your pleasure and fulfillment. Perhaps, in time we may choose to fine-tune our skills, but for now, the spontaneous and heartfelt representations of those animals we’ve discovered in the wild, on farms, and in rescue facilities, has provided us both with exactly that which we hoped to achieve as we traveled the world over the past eight years.

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Photo from one year ago today, October 7, 2019:

ocean in Torquay, Devon
It was wonderful to see the ocean once again in Torquay, Devon. For more photos, please click here.