New Frontiers.

I've had a busy year, hence the lack of regular posts and updates here on Top Travel Gear, and my feet have been itching to make another epic trip to some far off land.

Photo by Burrard-Lucas Photography 
(hope I manage to get some shots like this!)

My head is always filled with countless ideas and places to visit, and while doing a little web browsing I came across an organisation called Frontier, a non profit organisation that specializes in Conservation and Development projects all around the world.

Being non profit, they rely on volunteer's to help fund and work alongside their staff team in research and conservation  projects in developing countries, to not only preserve the animals and habitat but also to educate the local community to help preserve it too!

Their track record is very impressive, 22 years worth of research data has led to many new conservation areas being built, and many rare species being saved, but as we all know.......that is just the tip of the iceberg!

For quite some time now, I have had this feeling that I should be doing something more worthwhile, so when I saw this one particular Frontier project, it had "me" written all over it!

The South African Wildlife Conservation Volunteer project involves;

Rehabilitation work
Fence patrols
Game capture (in season)
Eradication of invasive plant species
Assist with tourist safaris

The rehabilitation work involves most of the big cat species and many other plains game including elephant, an unmissable chance to get up close and personal with some of Africa's most endearing creatures. 
Ever since watching "Born Free" when I was a small boy, it has been a dream to work with such majestic animals, and now I'm getting the chance as my volunteer application has been accepted for 1 month as from the 6th February 2012. :-)

To be honest (and people who know me will say the same) I can't believe I haven't done this sooner, I guess life's journey has a different plan to the one you want and dream for, but as long as you get there in the end, eh?

My flights are booked, thanks to Trailfinders, I decided to pay them a visit as I got a great deal on my round the world trip a few years ago, and was having a little trouble booking online as my flight plan was not your normal "round trip"
Flying to Port Elizabeth and returning from Cape Town with a few weeks after my placement for some exploring.

Trip Gear

In good Top Travel Gear fashion, I intend to take some new equipment and gadgets with me to test along the way, weight limits permitting that is, as airlines are restricting the amount we take at every turn!

I have already been approached by a company called Haeleum, and asked to test and write about an item from their Insect Protective Clothing line.
They sent me one of their Braedan-carbon shirts with Insect Shield which should come in very handy in South Africa, as the chance of coming into contact with mosquitoes, ticks, flies and other flying insects is quite high, and I'm not a big fan of covering myself with Deet!

Insect repelling Tee T-shirt - Mens | carbon

It's November right now in Blighty, and not so many insects around, so a full test of it's effectiveness will have to wait. 
It is a well made garment though, and quite ingenious how they bond the Insect Shield into the weave, which is odorless, invisible, quite harmless to people of course and can withstand over 70 washes!....Amazing!

I can see this being an ideal garment to wear on those cool African evenings around camp, and after watching the Haeleum promotional videos, where mozzies and other flying insects just don't even want to go near it, I think I will make many new friends who will want to sit close and get protection also, lol!!

An excellent head torch, one of the brightest your likely to come across(170 Lumens up to 180m) with 90 degree swiveling Lamp head, Advanced Speed Focus System and dimmer switch, which saves battery life and blinding yourself when working on anything close at hand!


As far as cameras go, it looks like my trusty Fuji HS10 and F550EXR will be traveling with me, of course, there have been many new and exciting models emerge this year, and especially one which has caught my eye, but I'm not sure it will be released before I go!

The new Fuji X-S1 is a full sized bridge camera with the same 2/3” EXR CMOS sensor found in the acclaimed X10, but features a 26x, 24-624mm equivalent F2.8-5.6 zoom lens, a little shorter than it's HS10/20 siblings  (30x) but should also be brighter and faster coupled with the larger sensor, and lo and behold, a larger and brighter EVF.....(hurrah!!)

Release date has not been set and some suggest March or even later, alas, it was not meant to be, I'm sure I would have put it to good use in SA, but sure I'll be fine with what I have! (unless anyone would like me to take and test something else......hint hint!!)


Fujifilm X-S1 key features
  • High quality Fujinon 26x optical zoom covering 24-624mm (35mm equivalent) with Intelligent Digital Zoom boosting range up to 1248mm
  • Superb build quality and finish with rubberised coating and metal dials
  • 12 megapixel EXR CMOS sensor
  • Up to 10 frames-per-second shooting
  • Large EVF with 1.44 million pixels and 26 degree viewing angle (at last!)
  • Tiltable three-inch rear LCD with Sunny Day mode
  • Full HD video
  • PASM modes
  • Raw file format
  • Film simulation modes
  • Macro focusing down to 1cm
  • Lithium battery providing up to 500 shots per charge
  • Optical image stabilisation
  • 360° Motion Panorama mode
  • Manual focus and smooth (manual) zooming during video
  • Connections for wired remote and external microphone


UK release in February (still too late!) with a price tag of £699..........that's quite a sum, but if it delivers like the X10 seems to be doing, this could be just what the discerning wildlife/birding/traveler photographer has been wishing for for a very long time!  


With all the pictures I'll be taking I'm in a quandary about how to save them. I have been looking at Tablets for a while now, and as you know, they do not have large memories. Starting at 8gb going up through 16, 32 and in some cases 64gb, the reason they are small compared to laptops/netbooks is they use quite expensive flash or SSD (Solid State Drives)

There is the Archos G9 (101 & 80) which has the option of a standard 250gb hard drive, but there have been problems and delays releasing those models with the full advertised specs.

The only other model that has looked promising (to me) is the new 
Asus Transformer Prime due out just in time for the festive season.

The Prime has an optional dock/keyboard which houses an extra battery, USB and HDMI ports plus a full sized SDHC slot.

Like most of the competition the tablet has a mini-HDMI output and micro SD, but the similarities end there, housed in a new 8.3mm-thick case, a 1280 x 800, Super IPS+ Gorilla Glass display with a 178-degree viewing angle ( ASUS claims a 30 percent boost in color enhancement over competing tabs) 1GB of RAM, GPS, a gyroscope, 1.2 megapixel front-facing camera, and an 8MP shooter with an auto-focusing f/2.4 lens with a back-illuminated CMOS sensor that captures 1080p video. (Wow!)

Battery life was initially 14.5-hour runtime with dock, but ASUS is now saying the tablet alone can squeeze out 12 hours thanks to a 22Wh battery, and that the new dock will add an additional six hours!

All this and the promise of Ice Cream Sandwich by the end of the year, if not sooner. Not to mention, it'll pack NVIDIA's hot-off-the-press Tegra 3 SoC, making it the first-ever quad-core tablet!

I still have questions and doubts as to whether tablets work well with portable hard drives, I'd rather take a large capacity one and keep everything on that (although I do hear you all shouting "don't put all your eggs in one basket!)
The problems are to do with the USB ports, and whether they allow files to be accessed both ways, like backing up photos from SD cards to hard drives and vice versa.

I have heard mixed findings in the forums, some do, some don't, and there have been a few ingenious work-arounds to get the job done, I guess that's half the fun, but to be honest, I'd like to know before I part with my cash!

One solution would be to keep a few usb sticks (32gb. 64 and even 128gb are still way too expensive!) handy, or even more expensive Micro SD cards, but I can't help feel that this is asking for even more trouble than a single portable drive, as being quite small they could easily get lost, something that is unthinkable after a trip of a lifetime!!

WiFi and Internet

To stay in touch when I travel, the plan is to tether my tablet through my Smartphone. I have a Samsung Galaxy S  which has served me well over the last year, and connecting my laptop/tablet (or a friends) is simple, all I need to do is buy a local sim with data when I arrive at my destination.
Don't even think about doing this with your home sim set for roaming, it will cost an arm and a leg!

Of course there will be times when I can connect to WiFi hotspots, but I seriously doubt the middle of the South African bush will be one of them, and I intend to write a daily blog/diary to keep all my friends up to date with my progress!

TeckNet Yoobao Series - Dual-Port 11200mAh External Battery Pack

A compact and powerful battery backup for your Phone/Tablet/Camera/Mp3 players
Has 2 USB ports, one DC 5.3V @ 1000mA for mobile phones/Mp3 players and small cameras, and the other is DC 5.2V @ 2000mA for Tablets and larger cameras (check your equipment's manual just to be on the safe side!)
Comes with a collection of 8 changeable connectors for most popular digital equipment, and even has a small but handy LED torch!


I am always trying out new Android apps for my phone, so much so, that I must have had nearly 200 before I recently upgraded my firmware to Gingerbread 2.3.4.
It was a good excuse to have a clean out and start again (firmware upgrades wipe the phone clean) and only a select few were re-downloaded.

Here are a few that might be helpful while traveling;

Compass Free
A handy tool to have as a backup, in case you left your real one behind, also useful when Geo-caching. 

Google Sky Map Free
All time favorite, learn about the stars and planets, and check out what you are looking at in the night sky! 

Dropbox Free
Keep all your pics, movies, docs and files in one secure place, accessed from any PC/tablet/Smartphone, from wherever you are! 

Shazam Encore Free
A must have if you like music (and who doesn't?) and don't know what your listening to on the radio, at the shops or down a club!
Lost count of the times I wish I had this in the past, can't live without it now!

Trip Journal $2.99
Not really used this much in anger yet, it's one of the very few apps I've actually paid for, and supposed to be one of the best even though is does eat up juice mainly due to it needing to use the phones GPS constantly.

Quickpic Free
A new one to the list, can bring together all your photos and movies from your phones memory and various sites like Flickr, Facebook, Picassa, Bing, Google etc, and put then into pleasing to look at albums, includes some basic editing tools. I really like this app, works very well!

Kindle for Android Free
No explanation needed here, keep and read all your Amazon e-books, magazines and newspapers from your phone/tablet.
I have bought a few books recently;
Microstock Photography: How to Make Money from Your Digital Images,  
Digital Landscape Photography
and the Collins Complete Photography Course
To be honest, I haven't finished any of them yet, reading them on a 4" screen is not a problem and they are always with me just in case I have some time on my hands, but I can't help but feel the experience will be much better on a tablet!

Alarm Clock Xtreme Free
During the firmware upgrading affair, the standard alarm clock started acting funny, for my friends Galaxy S too, so I decided to change it for this one.
Better than the original, you can choose how you want it to wake you and keep you from going back to sleep. I like to doze a bit (not a morning person!) so have set it to play the "Bird Song Intro" by Florence + Machine, and give me 3 - 10 minute snoozes, each stopping when I shake the phone!
If your a really heavy sleeper, then you can set it to ask you maths questions before it will turn off, "that should do it!!"

Super aTool Box  Free
Last but not least, an app to keep your phone in tip top shape after you've had your fun with all these other apps.
Android has a habit of not completely closing down apps when your finished with them, this slows down the phone and drains the battery quicker than you can say "Ice Cream Sandwich" so this app does it for you with a few clicks....simple!
It can also clean caches, boost Memory/Cpu, install/uninstall apps, move them to SD card (some apps won't let you do this!) act as a file manager and safeguard your phone, a must have!

More to come before I depart I'm sure, but for now, hope you enjoy, and have a great festive season! :-)

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1 comment:

Heather said...

Love the site David!!!

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