Can A Coup In Turkey Affect Your Travel Plans?

I am sure that everyone has seen the news reports of an attempted coup in Turkey and the temporary shut down of Istanbul’s airport.  The FAA has banned flights from Turkey landing in the USA until further notice.  Reports on Flyertalk show that Turkish Airlines has been very difficult to contact regarding upcoming flights.

Turkish Airlines is one of the members of Star Alliance and a popular redemption for people traveling between the USA or Australia via IST to Europe or Africa.  If you have an African safari booked and are depending on Turkish airlines to get you to your gateway airport you need to call your ticketing airline (UA, SQ, SA or ??)  immediately to see what the options are.  Award tickets issued by United are being rebooked on other airlines provided saver space is available.  If you are coming from the USA, try one of Ethiopian’s or South African’s USA flights or route through Europe on United, Lufthansa, Swiss or TAP.  Coming from Australia, try routing via Singapore or Bangkok to Africa and connecting to Ethiopian or South African.

This is a good example of why I always encourage people to build in a buffer day or even two before starting a prepaid Africa safari.  Travel insurance usually doesn’t cover “acts of war” and you could lose your prepaid safari if you can’t find other flights.

It’s impossible to predict world events that could affect your travel plans, especially if you are booking 11 months in advance to score those elusive award seats.  We are going to Africa next year and things I considered among routings and airline quality also included airline reliability and how they respond to emergency situations.  In the case of the FAA blocking TK from flying to the USA, you don’t even get the choice of using IST as a transit point should flights be restored.  Turkish Airlines has an excellent product and great in-flight service but their ground service and phone agent availability has been lacking.  In our case, we aren’t using a pre-booked safari and are arranging things independently but I still chose to go with Etihad to AUH (VA miles booked before devaluation), spend a couple buffer days in Dubai and use Kenya Airways (Flying Blue) to get to our first stop in Uganda.  If Etihad is delayed we just miss out on extra shopping in Dubai.  We arrive in Entebbe around noon and if this flight is delayed we would miss an afternoon of birding locally but we can still get to these locations the next day.

In this day and age, there are a lot of things to consider when choosing your flights so look at all the options and try to imagine the worst case scenario and what alternatives you would have if it happens.  Always build in a couple days buffer, especially if you have expensive prepaid travel arrangements like a safari or a cruise.

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park – Daytime Safari Experience Pictorial

This is doing the Kgalagadi safari the easy way – in our own rented sedan car just cruising down the main road which had TONS of wildlife!  Sit back, relax – it was a bumpier ride for us than it will be for you!


Secretary birds, Sociable Weavers, Bee-eaters, raptors & more!

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Lions, Wildebeest, Antelopes and even an oryx!

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About halfway between Twee Rivieren & Mata-MataIMG_0943 IMG_0944 IMG_0945

Doing At Least One Night Game Drive Is A Must At Kruger

Most restcamps offer several game drives with a Kruger park ranger throughout the day.  These allow you to experience the park at times outside normal hours which are usually sunrise to sunset.  This is a list of what is offered at Satara Restcamp.  A full list for all restcamps is found here.  Sunrise and sunset drives can be good too but sometimes frustrating for birders if the other people in your group aren’t as interested in birds.  With a night game drive leaving at 8pm. birds are pretty much off the table unless you find an owl so you can just relax and enjoy whatever happens along!


Since we are primarily birders, the timing of the night drive was perfect.  We had to be inside the camp by 6:30pm although we checked in around 6-ish and booked the game drive as we checked in.  Then we had enough time for a quick dinner and met the ranger just before 8pm.  We all piled into a large Land Rover with open sides and some people were given torches to spotlight the animals.

We were spotting nocturnal animals such as Civets, Genets & Jackals before we had reached the main road.  In the photos below, I have posted some unedited photos to show you just how dark it is, then the same photos with some editing and lightening to see the subjects better.

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The most exciting part was seeing a whole pride of lions dining on a kill, probably a wildebeest.  Our ranger/guide drover as close as possible.  The lions didn’t seem to care although a few of them were eyeing up the vehicle.  I was acutely aware that we had completely open sides, there was nothing to stop them from jumping in.  Apparently they don’t do this otherwise they wouldn’t be running the trips!

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This lioness is looking in our direction, looks like she is saying, “Hey guys, room service is here”!

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Hyena skulking in the bush waiting for the leftovers.  This was a big kill and there were several other scavengers including jackals patiently waiting their turn but some were too far to be photographed.

IMG_3898aI’ve done a few of these sunset and night game drives over the years and this one was by far the most exciting!

Orpen Gate To Satara Restcamp

Always allow a comfortable buffer to get from the entry gate to the restcamp as gates are very strict on when they open and close.  It’s for your safety and that of the animals in the park.  Officially, it takes 1:15 to get from Orpen Gate to Satara but I would allow at least 3 hours as there is a lot of game in this area not to mention all the birds!  Here is some of what we saw just on the 3 hours we took on this drive!

Just outside the park we saw this cool statue.

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Magpie Shrike, scroll down for better pics.




Helmeted Guinea-fowl

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Weaver nest


Even when you are looking up for birds, don’t forget to look down for turtles!


I think this partially obscured little guy is a Gorgeous Bush-shrike.

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Lilac-breasted Roller, I did get better pics further on.

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Grey Go-away bird

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Cape Glossy Starling

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This pond was on the left driving in and a real treasure trove of animals!

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Bathing Hippos

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Look how close we got!

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Finally reached the camp.