Tanzania Safari, Rwanda Gorillas + Madagascar Honeymoon Lens advice needed!

Started Aug 10, 2011 | Discussions
Commando_Cotman
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Tanzania Safari, Rwanda Gorillas + Madagascar Honeymoon Lens advice needed!
Aug 10, 2011

Hi there

I know this is an often-discussed topic, but I would love some advice for what gear to get/bring for an upcoming honeymoon in October...

Parameters:

  • the two of us will be gone for about a month, including 1.5 weeks on private safari in Kenya and Tanzania, a few days gorilla and monkey trekking in Rwanda and a brief stop in Madagascar to see lemurs

  • luggage limit is 15kg each as we are catching small plane internal flights

  • this is a honeymoon so we need a bit more luggage space for nicer clothes

  • currently have at our disposal: D90, D80, D40x, 16-85 VR, 70-200 VR I, 200-400 VR I, 50 1.4 AF-S, tripod

  • wife-to-be is also a keen photographer so we need two bodies

Current thinking is as follows:

  • Definitely bringing D90 and 200-400 VR I, for safari part

  • for safari, the two of us need to be able to see far. One of us can use the 200-400, for the other: i) buy a Bigma OS (50-500) - but this adds a lot of bulk and weight ii) upgrade the 70-200 to a VR II and get a TC-20EIII or iii) get a pair of binoculars - in which case we only have one camera with the necessary length for most safari shots, whilst the other can see them but will have a 70-200 on their camera for closer animals

  • Definitely bringing 70-200 VR I, for gorillas in low light

  • Bring 16-85 VR for multi-purpose/landscapes

  • Perhaps purchase second hand D700 (hopefully will be cheap when/if D800 gets announced)

  • wondering whether to bring tripod. will definitely be bringing a beanbag for safari

The biggest question here is the three options outlined above for the second person on safari.

Can anyone offer some advice?

Thanks very much!

Zuman
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Re: Tanzania Safari, Rwanda Gorillas + Madagascar Honeymoon Lens advice needed!
In reply to Commando_Cotman, Aug 11, 2011

I've done all of those several times...and learned the hard way! I'm a professional conservationist, so I'm fortunate to have the opportunity to keep going back, hopefully learning a bit each time.

You might want to take a look here and see the lens I used for any photos you like:
http://www.pbase.com/zuman/wtwp

For Tanzania, concentrate on getting good stuff, not just record shots. I love the 200-400, and it'll do just about everything you need. Same in Madagascar, although you'll be on foot a lot and the forest canopy is much heavier, so you may need to crank the ISO with an f/4 a bit.
For Rwanda, please listen to me, because I've done it more than a dozen times...
You want a 24-70mm f/2.8 OR FASTER! A 50mm f/1.4 or f/1.8 will be useful.

Look at the focal length and ISO on my gorilla shots and you'll see what I mean. Find somewhere safe to leave the 200-400 because it will be useless...until you go for the golden monkeys!

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Commando_Cotman
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Re: Tanzania Safari, Rwanda Gorillas + Madagascar Honeymoon Lens advice needed!
In reply to Zuman, Aug 11, 2011

Thanks Zuman your photos are great!

So is there even any point in bringing the 70-200mm then? Or should I just buy/bring a 24-70 2.8 instead?

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Leonard Shepherd
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Re: Tanzania Safari, Rwanda Gorillas + Madagascar Honeymoon Lens advice needed!
In reply to Commando_Cotman, Aug 11, 2011

Commando_Cotman wrote:

  • luggage limit is 15kg each as we are catching small plane internal flights

It is usually possible to pay extra for more than 15 kg limit.

The trip is probably costing well over $20,000 - why not start by finding out how much an increased allowance costs?

As to "nicer clothes" where you are going washing is dried on a clothes line and washing machines and detergents are rare. Good but "serviceable" is what I suggest.
--
Leonard Shepherd

With decent equipment, when looking for excuses, usually you won't be able to blame anyone but yourself.

 Leonard Shepherd's gear list:Leonard Shepherd's gear list
Nikon D800 Nikon D7100 Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED VR Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 12-24mm f/4G ED-IF Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR +18 more
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Friedrich von Hrsten
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Re: Tanzania Safari, Rwanda Gorillas + Madagascar Honeymoon Lens advice needed!
In reply to Leonard Shepherd, Aug 11, 2011

Hi

Remember firstly: YOU = ON HONEYMOON!
Spend more time with your wife than the animals!

I did DRC with 2 gorilla treks in January, and would advise VERY STRONGLY that you DO NOT LEAVE THE 70-200 AT HOME!

Get yourself a Nikon D7000, and NOT the D700 -- you get 1.5x factor included, and can comfortably shoot on auto ISo up to 3200! The wide-angle zoom is very important, because those animals suddenly move up to you and right past you -- fixed focal is not the best idea for such moves!

Forget about the big Sigma lens -- you are wasting extra space and kg. Just use your wonderful 200-400 (add a 1.4 tc and stop down half a stop) and the 70-200 on a D7000, that way it is a 105-300 f2.8, which will cover all the bigger animals, and often the smaller ones too.

Do tell us how the trip went when you get back! Lucky guy!

God bless,

Friedrich von Hörsten (South Africa)
http://www.vonhorstencollection.com

 Friedrich von Hrsten's gear list:Friedrich von Hrsten's gear list
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-400mm f/4G ED-IF VR +2 more
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Commando_Cotman
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Re: Tanzania Safari, Rwanda Gorillas + Madagascar Honeymoon Lens advice needed!
In reply to Friedrich von Hrsten, Aug 11, 2011

Leonard - thanks for the suggestion, can't believe I never thought of that before! I'll email the air carrier and see if they'll let me get more luggage allowance. As for the "nicer" clothes - we're spending a couple of weeks in nice resorts in Mauritius so I'll need at least one "nice" polo top or something! But I'm trying to budget down clothes as much as possible. One for negotiations with the fiancee.

Friedrich - Of course! But you must also realise, my fiancee is 97% as much into photography as I am so good photography = good marriage! Oh and of course I'll budget in time to talk to the wife and share moments together too. Just not when there's good photo opportunities around

Is the 1.4 TC ok with the 200-400? I'm not a big fan of teleconverters so if I don't need the extra reach then I wouldn't get one...

The initial reasoning behind the D700 is that it's good for low light conditions (such as in Rwanda, Madagascar).

So current thinking is:

Kenya/Tanzania: Me: D90 + 200-400, Wife: Binoculars (Steiner 10.5x28) and D700+ 70-200 (for closer, bigger animals)

Rwanda/Madagascar: Me: D700 + 24-70, Wife: D90 + 70-200 (She would get too scared to get too close to animals intentionally)

How does that sound? Any need for the 16-85, 1.4TC, 50 1.4? Even any need for a flash?

Cheers guys, you guys are super helpful!

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Apollo18
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Re: Tanzania Safari, Rwanda Gorillas + Madagascar Honeymoon Lens advice needed!
In reply to Commando_Cotman, Aug 11, 2011

Wont that blow your weight budget, once you factor in about 5kg extra for camera bags, multiple spare batteries and multiple chargers (two of each kind for redundancy. a broken charger or battery = end of pictures with that camera unless you have a backup), plug adaptors, cleaning equipment, memory cards (lots and lots), any filters etc?

You can save a lot of weight by taking cameras that use. the same memory and batteries/chargers. How about a second hand d300 instead of the d90 for that reason. Can be sold on after the holiday for pretty much the same price that you paid for it.

Another way to save weight is to leave the 70-200mm at home in favour of something like a 28-300mm.

Commando_Cotman wrote:

Leonard - thanks for the suggestion, can't believe I never thought of that before! I'll email the air carrier and see if they'll let me get more luggage allowance. As for the "nicer" clothes - we're spending a couple of weeks in nice resorts in Mauritius so I'll need at least one "nice" polo top or something! But I'm trying to budget down clothes as much as possible. One for negotiations with the fiancee.

Friedrich - Of course! But you must also realise, my fiancee is 97% as much into photography as I am so good photography = good marriage! Oh and of course I'll budget in time to talk to the wife and share moments together too. Just not when there's good photo opportunities around

Is the 1.4 TC ok with the 200-400? I'm not a big fan of teleconverters so if I don't need the extra reach then I wouldn't get one...

The initial reasoning behind the D700 is that it's good for low light conditions (such as in Rwanda, Madagascar).

So current thinking is:

Kenya/Tanzania: Me: D90 + 200-400, Wife: Binoculars (Steiner 10.5x28) and D700+ 70-200 (for closer, bigger animals)

Rwanda/Madagascar: Me: D700 + 24-70, Wife: D90 + 70-200 (She would get too scared to get too close to animals intentionally)

How does that sound? Any need for the 16-85, 1.4TC, 50 1.4? Even any need for a flash?

Cheers guys, you guys are super helpful!

 Apollo18's gear list:Apollo18's gear list
Nikon D800 Fujifilm X-E1 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G Nikon AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/2.8G ED-IF VR Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E II +7 more
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Friedrich von Hrsten
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Re: Tanzania Safari, Rwanda Gorillas + Madagascar Honeymoon Lens advice needed!
In reply to Apollo18, Aug 11, 2011

Hi Commando_cotman

Please look at the following TR from Kruger Park in Dec last year: http://www.sanparks.org/forums/viewtopic.php?style=2&f=27&t=50662&start=60

scroll down to the leopard close-up staring straight at the camera -- remember now this is a very low res version -- it was shot with the 200-400 plus 1.4 tc on the D7000 stopped down slightly -- I can't really see any difference between it and the plain shots without tc -- obviously very stationery subject etc.

I wish you would bother to try a D7000 out for a day or two -- don't be afraid to shoot up to ISO 3200! I did a wedding for friends in very low light, and the best pic that they like most of the whole wedding (including those done by the professional photographer) was enlarged on canvas to A1 size -- shot @ ISO 2800 by accident when I forgot auto ISO on -- slight grain, but still amazing results.

Please do NOT leave your 70-200mm at home (especially not for a 28-300), you will be sorry!

Enjoy

Friedrich von Hörsten

 Friedrich von Hrsten's gear list:Friedrich von Hrsten's gear list
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-400mm f/4G ED-IF VR +2 more
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Apollo18
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Re: Tanzania Safari, Rwanda Gorillas + Madagascar Honeymoon Lens advice needed!
In reply to Friedrich von Hrsten, Aug 11, 2011

Please do NOT leave your 70-200mm at home (especially not for a 28-300), you will be sorry!

Why?

 Apollo18's gear list:Apollo18's gear list
Nikon D800 Fujifilm X-E1 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G Nikon AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/2.8G ED-IF VR Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E II +7 more
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Arthur
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Re: Tanzania Safari, Rwanda Gorillas + Madagascar Honeymoon Lens advice needed!
In reply to Commando_Cotman, Aug 11, 2011

I will be VERY keen to hear how you get on organising extra cabin baggage allowance to take cameras and lenses - specifically to Madagascar - since I hope to go there in 2012 and thus far most of my enquiries about taking a 200-400, 70-200, 35-70 and 2 bodies have tended to be met with blank "the cabin baggage allowance is 10Kg on regional and 5Kg on internal flights and we can not go above that". I can get as far as JNB OK - but from there to Tana and then to Morondava is not seeming as easy as I would have hoped. Arthur

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Friedrich von Hrsten
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Re: Tanzania Safari, Rwanda Gorillas + Madagascar Honeymoon Lens advice needed!
In reply to Apollo18, Aug 12, 2011

The 70-200mm has a maximum aperture of f2.8, which your other zoom can never get near too (f5.6) -- that makes a HUGE difference in low light in forests!

I don't think anybody who is serious about sharp images is going to seriously think he will get the same resolution from a 28-300 @ the telephoto settings as from a 70-200mm at 200mm setting, especially wide open!

I was advised to use the Nikon 70-300mm instead of a 70-200 (had sold it by then), and when I look at my gorilla pics, I regret doing this!

Thanks and God bless,

Friedrich

 Friedrich von Hrsten's gear list:Friedrich von Hrsten's gear list
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Commando_Cotman
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Re: Tanzania Safari, Rwanda Gorillas + Madagascar Honeymoon Lens advice needed!
In reply to Friedrich von Hrsten, Aug 12, 2011

Yes, well seeing as I already own the 70-200 but not a 28-300, I think I'll stick with the 70-200!

Apollo - D7000 uses different battery and charger to all others so it makes no difference for weight etc. Although only using SD cards (rather than CF) would be helpful.

Arthur - I'm flying into Tana via Air Mauritius and I dont think their baggage allowance is restrictive. It's more the Serengeti regional flight which has 15kg limit.

Friedrich - IQ aside, is the extra 1.4x length of the TC going to be useful on the 200-400? Otherwise it's a fair amount of extra money to spend...

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Waldo_O
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Re: Tanzania Safari, Rwanda Gorillas + Madagascar Honeymoon Lens advice needed!
In reply to Commando_Cotman, Aug 12, 2011

Commando_Cotman wrote:

Yes, well seeing as I already own the 70-200 but not a 28-300, I think I'll stick with the 70-200!

Apollo - D7000 uses different battery and charger to all others so it makes no difference for weight etc. Although only using SD cards (rather than CF) would be helpful.

Arthur - I'm flying into Tana via Air Mauritius and I dont think their baggage allowance is restrictive. It's more the Serengeti regional flight which has 15kg limit.

Friedrich - IQ aside, is the extra 1.4x length of the TC going to be useful on the 200-400? Otherwise it's a fair amount of extra money to spend...

I don't know anything about the 200-400 or how it works with a TC, but I think it might be my first choice (plus 70-200) along with both a DX and an FX camera. And I'd be trying out both a D7000 and a D300 with the 70-200 / 200-400 if possible too, but that's just me. Opportunities like yours don't come around often for someone such as myself, if at all. And you can always rent the TCs to see how they do with your lenses/cameras.

Either lens has to be an improvement on the 70-300 VR at 300mm although it's not as bad as some make it out to be. Gorillas sure are amazing creatures, sometimes I think those in captivity are as curious about us as we are them.

Have fun!

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Apollo18
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Re: Tanzania Safari, Rwanda Gorillas + Madagascar Honeymoon Lens advice needed!
In reply to Commando_Cotman, Aug 12, 2011

Commando_Cotman wrote:

Yes, well seeing as I already own the 70-200 but not a 28-300, I think I'll stick with the 70-200!

Apollo - D7000 uses different battery and charger to all others so it makes no difference for weight etc. Although only using SD cards (rather than CF) would be helpful.

Thats why I suggest to take a D300 instead. D300 and your D700 use same batteries, chargers and cards.

Arthur - I'm flying into Tana via Air Mauritius and I dont think their baggage allowance is restrictive. It's more the Serengeti regional flight which has 15kg limit.

Friedrich - IQ aside, is the extra 1.4x length of the TC going to be useful on the 200-400? Otherwise it's a fair amount of extra money to spend...

 Apollo18's gear list:Apollo18's gear list
Nikon D800 Fujifilm X-E1 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G Nikon AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/2.8G ED-IF VR Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E II +7 more
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Apollo18
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Re: Tanzania Safari, Rwanda Gorillas + Madagascar Honeymoon Lens advice needed!
In reply to Friedrich von Hrsten, Aug 12, 2011

From a practical point of view though, if there is a weight limit it is worth considering that a zoom like the 28-300mm weighs less than half as much as the 70-200mm. Also, for the non gorilla part, where there is lots of light, a 28-300 will be more versatile and may even enable one to leave the wide angle and mid range zoom at home, saving even more weight. Making room for the 200-400mm and two heavy camera bodies + binoculars is the priority IMO.

I dont think you can just dismiss this option out of hand. Bear in mind he is not just traveling to see gorillas, there is a safari too. If the weight limit cannot be circumvented, then taking everything will not be an option.

By the way, as an owner of both these lenses (70-200 vr2, 28-300mm) I can report the sharpness of the latter compares well with the 70-200mm + a 1.4x TC. Center sharpness actually better on the 28-300mm. Corners slightly worse. As for usingthe 70-200 with a tc20e iii, it turns out the 28-300mm is far superior to this combo at all overlapping focal lengths.

Friedrich von Hrsten wrote:

The 70-200mm has a maximum aperture of f2.8, which your other zoom can never get near too (f5.6) -- that makes a HUGE difference in low light in forests!

I don't think anybody who is serious about sharp images is going to seriously think he will get the same resolution from a 28-300 @ the telephoto settings as from a 70-200mm at 200mm setting, especially wide open!

I was advised to use the Nikon 70-300mm instead of a 70-200 (had sold it by then), and when I look at my gorilla pics, I regret doing this!

Thanks and God bless,

Friedrich

 Apollo18's gear list:Apollo18's gear list
Nikon D800 Fujifilm X-E1 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G Nikon AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/2.8G ED-IF VR Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E II +7 more
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Apollo18
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Re: Tanzania Safari, Rwanda Gorillas + Madagascar Honeymoon Lens advice needed!
In reply to Commando_Cotman, Aug 12, 2011

Commando_Cotman wrote:

Yes, well seeing as I already own the 70-200 but not a 28-300, I think I'll stick with the 70-200!

Apollo - D7000 uses different battery and charger to all others so it makes no difference for weight etc. Although only using SD cards (rather than CF) would be helpful.

Arthur - I'm flying into Tana via Air Mauritius and I dont think their baggage allowance is restrictive. It's more the Serengeti regional flight which has 15kg limit.

It may be possible to leave some stuff in a locker at the airport before you get on this flight. That might help.

I recomend you think practically and not get mesmerised by all the kit specs. Bottom line is you probably cant take everything everywhere.

Friedrich - IQ aside, is the extra 1.4x length of the TC going to be useful on the 200-400? Otherwise it's a fair amount of extra money to spend...

 Apollo18's gear list:Apollo18's gear list
Nikon D800 Fujifilm X-E1 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G Nikon AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/2.8G ED-IF VR Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E II +7 more
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Oscarroos
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Re: Tanzania Safari, Rwanda Gorillas + Madagascar Honeymoon Lens advice needed!
In reply to Arthur, Aug 12, 2011

Cotman, there has been some great advise on cameras and lens so I will only say - similar memory cards, especially batteries, is very important. My choice would be 24-70/70-200/200-400 with both a D300/D300s and a D700. Still heavy, forgot to check WHERE you live but don't forget adapters for electric power (Tanzania uses british plugs. Don't forget power at many camps is only on a few ghours a day so two chargers with adapters is something to consider.

I was there on business Dar in Tanzania recently and used Coastal Travel (Caravan 208's) to visit Zanzibar and Ngorongoro Crater (highly recommended) and I carried a Lowepro AW Plus with all of my lens and a D700 on board but saw many check their bags and pay extra. Might be something to check by sending them an email and keeping a copy with you.

Another GOOD option, if bulky in small airplanes, is I sometimes carried by D700 with 70-200 attached on a Black Rapid Strap which takes the weight OUT of the bag....something to consider.

Where in Tanzania you going? It is a great location (country) with great people. But long lens, 200-400 is critical because you are NOT allowed to leave roads like in private places in South Africa.

Gorrilas is a special trip but will be dark and wet. 24-70/70-200 f 2.8 on D700 would be my choice.

Oh, take a photo vest another way to take weight out of bags.

Have fun!!!!!!!!!!!
--

http://www.flickr.com/photos/22388579@N08/

 Oscarroos's gear list:Oscarroos's gear list
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devenh
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Weight restrictions
In reply to Commando_Cotman, Aug 12, 2011

Having recently traveled in Africa and elsewhere on small planes with a lot of camera gear, here is some info.

At the airport your luggage and carry ons will be weighed (occasionally yourself as well). Sometimes if your luggage exceeds the weight limit and the plane is not full, then no problem. If you have made arrangements for extra luggage ahead of time, then you are okay although there is a risk that the luggage will have to go on a later flight if your flight is full. Finally, if you haven't made arrangements, then you're likely to get charged at the terminal.

Your travel agent or tour operator should be able to arrange for extra luggage. This is a very common situation for photographers and should be easily handled with advanced planning.

Deven

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MikeCov
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Re: Tanzania Safari, Rwanda Gorillas + Madagascar Honeymoon Lens advice needed!
In reply to Commando_Cotman, Aug 12, 2011

The 15 Kg limit for internal flights is for bags which are stowed on the flight. My wife and I just used the bags provided for clothes and toiletries and I took my Nikon D3X with the 200-400mm lens and carried it on board with no problems. My wife carried my D700 with the 70-200 mm lens on board. The rest of my photo equipment I stuffed into my photo vest and into our pockets.

For Tanzania I would recommend these two lenses for wildlife. If you want a small 50mm lens for landscapes is useful and light. A must is a couple of empty bean bags which you can fill when you arrive in Tanzania. Will cost you about $5 for beans at the local market. Just empty them before you get on the internal flight back. As for clothes just take casual stuff which can be rinsed through at night. A few packets of detergent is invaluable. Nobody wears fancy clothes even in the evening. Have a great time,
Mike

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Commando_Cotman
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Re: Tanzania Safari, Rwanda Gorillas + Madagascar Honeymoon Lens advice needed!
In reply to MikeCov, Aug 15, 2011

hey guys thanks again for your advice!

I probably won't be shelling out for a D300/300s as I think the D90 will suffice as a secondary DX body. And it can still share the same batteries with the D700.

Apollo, I appreciate your points re the 28-300 but you need to remember that there's two of us, and we both like taking photos, so we both need a lens each!

I went shooting with the 200-400 yesterday and I think I'll pass on the 1.4tc as I find it hard enough keeping still enough (even with VR) at 400mm and f4, let alone 580mm at f5.6!

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