Morocco, Casablance and the Sahara

Morocco, Casablance and the Sahara

Duration: 10 days, 9 nights
Location: Morocco, Africa
Budget: $1750
Miles Travelled: 1970KM

Days: 10
Dates: 22nd March 2018 to 31 March 2018
Tour Company: Morocco Round Trips
Currency: Dirham (10.7:1 exchange rate)
Time Zone Difference : None
Morocco Driving Distance : 1970KM approx

 

Day 1 – SHANNON – STANSTED

We took an evening flight from Shannon to Stansted with Ryanair. Departure time was 21:15 and we arrived around 22:40 and collected our bags. We got a 3 pound shuttle to the airport hotel, checked in and got to bed around midnight. The shuttle took approximately 5 minutes to get the to hotel and left every 30 minutes .

Day 2 – STANSTED – MARRAKESH

Up at 03:00 to get the 04:00 shuttle back to the airport. This was the first shuttle of the morning. We checked in our bags and proceeded to the gate. No problems with bags or luggage thankfully. Flight time was three hours 30 minutes to Marrakesh. We arrived around 09:45 and went through passport control and got our luggage. Customs checked our bags for drones etc so be sure not to bring any. There is a nice little app called Airmap that you can download for iOS and Android that will tell you the rules and regulation of a country you are planning to visit and if it is allowed to bring a drone with you. We got outside and waited for our collection. The tour operators cannot go inside the airport so you need to exit in order to get collected by your company. Our company was late so we called them and eventually got collected and driven to the Riad in the old town or Medina. We checked in to the Riad Anika around noon and left our bags there. We put the batteries on charge and headed out for a tour of the city with a local guide at 14:00 hours.

Everyone talks about TIA – This is Africa – re timing etc so be prepared to wait around for drivers or guides or tours to run on time according to their website. The weather was nice and warm today so we met our guide at 14:00 and started a tour of the old city – the Medina – in Marrakesh – which is known as the “Red City”. Marrakesh is a former imperial city in western Morocco, a major economic center and home to mosques, palaces and gardens. The medina is a densely packed, walled medieval city dating to the Berber Empire, with mazelike alleys where thriving souks (marketplaces) sell traditional textiles, pottery and jewelry. We visited several main attractions in our afternoon including :

    • The Koutoubia Mosque, which is an old monument built under the reign of the Almohad Caliph Yaqub al-Mansur (1184 to 1199). A symbol of the city, and visible for miles, is this Moorish minaret of the 12th-century. This monument inspired other buildings such as the Giralda in Seville in Spain and the Hassan Tower in Rabat.
    • The Bahia Palace was next on our list. This Palace was built in the late 19th century and was intended to capture the essence of the Islamic and Moroccan style.
    • Madrasa Ben Youssef. This Coranic school is named after the Almoravid Sultan Ali Ibn Yusuf (reigned 1106–1142). Madrasa Ben Youssef is the largest in all of Morocco.
    • The Saadian tombs, which is a site that dates back to the time of the sultan Ahmad al-Mansur (1578-1603). The tombs were discovered in 1917 and were restored by the Beaux-arts service :
    • The world famous Jema El Fna Square where we enjoyed amazing performance of traditional activities by storytellers, snake charmers, peddlers of traditional medicines and the markets. Beware the hawkers and snake charmers – they will give you the snakes to take pictures with and then ask for 200 DH (approx 20 euro) or if they see you taking pictures of other people with the snakes they will harass you for money because you took a picture or video.

After this, we got some dinner, had a drink in the glacier bar overlooking the Jema El Fna square as the sun set and then made our way back to the Riad – approximately 15 minutes walk or 1 mile away.

Day 3: MARRAKECH – CASABLANCA – RABAT (330KM)

After a good nights sleep we got collected around 08:00 and started out on the three hour driver to Casablanca (245KM due North). The roads were good and the weather was nice. One thing that we noticed and were a little surprised by was that everything was so green outside. We stopped for a coffee half way and the lads had a nice crepe and Nutella to keep the hunger at bay. Arrived in Casablanca around 11:15 We visited the famous and the biggest Mosque in Africa, Hassan II, which was built between 1987 and 1993. It is very impressive and vast. We spent an hour here walking around and taking pictures. The last tour at the museum started at 11:00 so we missed this. The tour of the Mosque was not until the afternoon. Check the times before you arrive if you are interested in partaking in either. We then headed to Ricks Cafe – from the movie Casablanca – and got some lunch before driving to Rabat, the capital of Morocco. It took just over an hour to get to Rabat and meet our local guide, Mohamed.

We visited the Royal Gates built in 1864, and enjoy the charming garden of Chellah, surrounded by walls and beautiful defensive gates, built between 1310 and 1330. Later we stopped at Mohamed V Museum built in 1972, and then visited the tombs of Moroccan kings Mohammed V, who died in 1962, Hassan II who died in 1999, the tomb of Moulay Abdullah the uncle of Mohammed VI and Hassan Tower which was built in 12th century. We explored the Oudaya Kasbah which was built in 12th century and served as a military base for the Almorabits army in their defence against the Spanish army. The roof of the Kasbah allows a stunning view of the surrounding area. We also saw the 240km long Abi-Regrag river, located in western Morocco between Rabat and Sala. Overnight in Rabat at the Riad Dar Dar. We had to walk down a few streets and back track a little before we found the Riad – nestled away down some narrow alley and walkway. It was nice inside and we were greeted with the standard Moroccan Tea welcome before checking in.

We got dinner in the Riad and walked around the city’s market streets and bought some trinkets before retiring for the night.

Accommodation : Rabat :www.riaddardar.com

Day 4: RABAT – CHEFCHAOUEN (300KM)

After breakfast we will drive to Chefchaouen, the blue city, through the cities of Khnetra, stopping in Ouazzane, passing by spectacular scenery with cedar, oak and almond trees. We arrived in Chefchaouen around lunch. The day was wet and damp all the way to Chefchaouen. The road had a lot of switch backs, twists and turns and narrow sections and there was a lot of climbing and descending. It is worth taking your time and stopping often to get some air and not get sick. The travel time was around 5 hours from Rabat – including stops.

In the afternoon, we looked around the Blue City. We had lunch in the Aladdin Restaurant in one of the main squares before exploring some more. The rain cleared off but the clouds remained and the temperature was lower than Rabat so we had a jumper and jacket on us for the walk around. Set against a wide valley and nestled between two peaks in the stunning Rif Mountains, the isolated town of Chefchaouen is a surprising delight. Much of Chefchaouen was recreated by Andalusian refugees escaping the Reconquistia, so its striking blue and whitewashed houses, red-tiled roofs and artistic doorways give it the feel of the Spanish hills. We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the sights, sounds, and smells of the medina, the shops in the square selling woven goods and small sweets, and the town’s famous goat’s cheese. Herds of goats wander the sparse hillsides that surround Chefchaouen, and their cheese is sold in great fresh rounds in the street markets. Within the plaza is the walled fortress of the Kasbah – where you can wander through the tranquil gardens inside, visit the ethnographic museum, and soak in wonderful views from the rooftop. Around 18:00 we visited the Ras el-ma, where the city’s fresh water springs from the mountain. There is a path up the mountain here to give you a panoramic view of the city.

We returned to our accommodation for the night, got some dinner and watched a movie before preparing for the drive South towards the desert the following day.

Day 5: CHEFCHAOUEN – VOLUBILIS – FES (250KM)

We got up around 06:30 and did an early morning sunrise walk around the Blue City and saw it come to life. After breakfast we descended from the hills and traveled south through the centre of the peninsula towards the sacred pilgrimage town of Moulay Idriss (approximately 3 hours). From here it’s a short journey out to the World Heritage site of Volubilis – meaning Morning Glory. The remains of this Roman city make an undeniably impressive sight as they came into view on the edge of a long, high plateau. We took a 45 minute tour around the arches, basilicas, and superb mosaics along the Decumanus Maximus, many of which remain intact. We then drove onto Fes, arriving there around 14:30. Fes is the spiritual heart of Morocco.

We collected our guide at the Blue gate and started our tour immediately. We started in the Medina – one of the world’s largest walled-in cities.  In the south west wall of the medieval Medina is a beautiful looking entry, the Bab Bou Jeloud. It gives excess to narrow streets that are lined up with little stores that sell fresh fruits, spices, woven Berber carpets etc.  This medina is very large, approximately 3 km and therefore one of the largest medina´s of the world.   We visited the El Qaraouiyyin Mosque, a traditional school, the place Nejjarine and the tanneries. At the tanneries you can watch locals work on skins of goat, lamp, camel and cow, in small clay pits. Sheep is cheap is the famous saying from the tanneries re the hides etc. We saw the Royal gates and had a nice panoramic view of the city before checking into our Riad. There was a problem with the sleeping situation in the Riad and the owner was not very accommodation. We had booked a twin bed and they only had a double available – according to them. Then dinner in Cafe Clock near the Blue gate and walked back to the Riad and slept.

Day 6: FES – MIDELT – ZIZ VALLEY – MERZOUGA (420 KM)

Today was a long day with a lot to see and do. After breakfast in the Riad, we drove south to Ifrane and Azrou through the Middle Atlas Mountains. The air was crisp, clean and fresh. You can feel the altitude when stepping out of the van. The Berber name of Ifrane means caves and it is nicknamed in Morocco as a little Switzerland since it is a very green town and is a ski resort in the Middle Atlas region of Morocco because of its high altitude at 1665 meters. Ifrane is famously known for the Brotherhood Private University, established in 1997 by The King of Morocco Hassan II and the King of Saudi Arabia Fahd – where all classes are taught in English. It is an international university. After Ifrane, we stopped at the cedar forest where we saw the Barbarian Apes in their natural habitat. Then we drove through the Tizi Ntalghamt pass to Midelt. Midelt is in the Middle Atlas and is called “the apple capital”. We got lunch here before traveling along the magnificent Ziz Valley oasis carved through volcanic rock. The Middle- Atlas offers some beautiful views. . Upon approaching Errachidia we saw the scenery change to a dessert environment. Onward we traveled through Erfoud, Rissani and we ended our drive in Merzouga . We arrived here around 17:30 that day.

In Merzouga, we mounted our camels and headed off into the Sahara for a spectacular sunset at the Erg Chebbi Sand dunes.  Merzouga is the hometown of the Alaouist dynasty, where Moulay Ali sheriff started to unify Morocco under his red flag in the beginning of the 17th century. The camels brought us to a camp in  the middle of the Erg Chebbi Sand Dunes. These are the highest sand dunes in North Africa. The camel trek to the camp takes about 60-90 minutes depending on your schedule. Some tour companies get you to camp within 60 minutes and let you climb the closest dunes to see the sun set whereas others will stop en-route and allow you to dismount and enjoy the sunset away from camp.  Here, in the middle of the desert we experienced a magnificent sunset and afterwards the sky came alive with stars. .We spent the night in the camp with dinner and live music in the middle of the Sahara.

Day 7: MERZOUGA – RISSANI – ERFOUD – TODGHA GORGES – DADES (280 KM )

We got up for sunrise in the Dunes followed by breakfast and some sand boarding. Then we drove some quad bikes for an hour to get back to town before heading towards Dades. We left Merzouga and headed for Rissini – approximately 30 minutes drive. This silent town was once the ancient capital of Tafilalet and its location is at a crossroads between north and south Morocco. It brought the city to an important status of a former major caravan center. Up to now Rissani remains a major commercial center in the region, with a large souk, particularly lively on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sunday. It was noted for its leather and goat skin trading in ancient ages. The souk is busy on the other days also and worth a walk around to experience the environment and setting.

After this we traveled to Erfoud. Fossils are a major industry in Erfoud – some 350 million years ago the region around Erfoud was a part of the huge ocean. We got a tour of the facilities and saw how they mine and shape the fossils once they are excavated. On the way to the Todgha Gorges we passed the palm trees groves approx 127 km from Rissini. The great canyons of Morocco  – the Todgha Gorges – are situated beyond the central high Atlas Mountains. Here, the contrasting landscapes remind visitors of the Colorado, with its high plateau, its gorges and great canyons, and its peaks sometimes splintered by erosion. Several peaks in this area exceed 4000 m, with Jbel Saghro 2500 m and Jbel Mgoun at 4068 m being the highest peak in this part of the High Atlas. If you look up, you might see climbers scaling the different peaks. The area is populated by Berbers. In the Todgha Gorge we walked through the area and took some pictures before getting back on the road to the next stop. Finally we drove to the Boumalne Dades where we spent the night. Dinner was included this evening – a buffet affair – followed by a walk around the grounds before retiring for the night.

 

Day 8: DADES VALLEY – OUARZAZATE – AIT BEN HADDOU – MARRAKECH ( 350 KM )

We got up and had breakfast and were back on the road for 09:00. We drove along the road of 1000 kasbahs, since there are enormous Kasbahs on both sides of the road. Some of those old fortified houses are restored but unfortunately a lot of them are in ruins. We drove first to the Dades gorge & valley. Here you saw the rock formations “human bodies, fingers of monkeys “. After a stroll through the impressive Dades Gorge, we’ll drove on to Ouarzazate passing by the valley of the Roses. This valley provides some of the most spectacular scenery of the south, this is where a large part of Morocco’s rose and rose water production occurs. We stopped for a coffee and bought some curios in the local shops. This valley gave birth to a rose from which locals produce different cosmetic products like soap, perfumes and skin creams. Locals here celebrate this rose by organizing a national festival at the end of April every year. We continued along the road of thousand Kasbah to the oasis of Skoura to visit the Kasbah of Amredil. Our trip continued to the city of Ouarzazate, a city of vibrant culture and artistic traditions.

We stopped here for some lunch. First we visited the museum with cinema props and sets from the Hollywood movies. Entry cost for the visit was 30 DH per person. Ouarzazate (Hollywood of Africa, Noiselessly town, The door of the desert), is a city situated in the middle of a bare plateau, south of the High Atlas Mountains. It is mainly inhabited by Berbers, who constructed many of the prominent kasbahs and building for which the area is known.

 

After lunch we visited the fortified city of Aït Benhaddou, built in the 11th century. Once up on a time this Kasbah was the former caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakesh. It is situated on a hill along the Ounila River and has some beautiful examples of kasbahs, which unfortunately sustained damage during each rainstorm and windstorms. Most of the town’s inhabitants now live in a more modern village at the other side of the river; however, around five families are still living within this Kasbah.

Aït Benhaddou Kasbah has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987 and several films have been shot there, including Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Time Bandits (1981), The Jewel of the Nile (1985), Kundun (1997), Gladiator (2000) and Alexander (2004). From this beautiful fortified house we went west to the city of Marrakech. It is called the “Homeland of God in Berber”. The ramparts of the town are nearly 30 kilometers long. Then we drove through the Atlas Mountains and saw amazing views. The roads were windy and rough in places so the going was slow and easy for the most part. After driving back over the winding Tizi-n-Tichka pass we arrived back to Marrakech around 21:00. We were staying in the same accommodation as the first night.

 

Day 9: MARRAKECH – ESSAOUIRA- MARRAKECH (400 KM)

We contacted a tour company earlier in the week and booked a day trip to Essaouira for our last day. The company was late in starting, late getting to the destination and thankfully left on time to get us back home. We drove for nearly four hours with all the stops and getting out of the city. We arrived in Essaouira at 13:00 after stopping for a coffee, a photo of the famous goats in the Argan trees and the shop showing the Argan nuts being ground and made into oils and creams. We went surfing for an hour first – you definitely need a wetsuit if you are going in to the water – and then got some lunch and looked around the Medina before coming back to the bus and departing at 16:00. The area is nice and there are a lot of wind and kite surfers visiting and staying locally. We stopped for coffee on the way back around 17:15 and arrived back in Marrakech around 19:00. We got dropped off in the Jema El Fna square and walked a very similar route to the first days tour before heading back to the Riad for dinner and repacking.

 

Day 10 MARRAKECH – STANSTED – SHANNON

We got an email from Ryanair re coming to the airport an hour earlier in order to get through security so we left the Riad at 07:30 and arrived at the airport for 08:00. The first queue was to get into the departure section . All bags were scanned and we had to show a boarding pass. Then we proceeded to queue at the desks and drop the bags before heading to the Security check for the next queue. Once through here we went through the biggest queue for passport control and then into the Gate area where we got a coffee and chatted before heading to our gate for the final queue to head home. All in all we needed to be at the airport 3 hours before the flight due to the queues and security checks.

The flight was delayed leaving Marrakesh but we got into Stansted around 15:30 and got our bags by 16:00. We said good luck to Garry and then headed through the bag drop section and security again. We got into the departure section around 18:00, got some food and headed to the gate before getting the flight home to Shannon at 19:55. It was wet and cold in Stansted and Shannon.

Recent Travels

Be sure to check out our recent reports from the other trips that we have done around the world.

Morocco, Casablance and the Sahara

Morocco, Casablance and the Sahara

Duration: 10 days, 9 nights Location: Morocco, Africa Budget: $1750 Miles Travelled: 1970KMDays: 10Dates: 22nd March 2018 to 31 March 2018Tour Company: Morocco Round TripsCurrency: Dirham (10.7:1 exchange rate)Time Zone Difference : NoneMorocco Driving Distance :...

Tunisia

Tunisia

So this trip came about because the Tokyo marathon and Japan excursion was cancelled due to the Covid-19 or Corona Virus pandemic. We got notice approximately two weeks before we were due to travel that the marathon was cancelled so we set about looking planning an alternative destination – and that destination was Tunisia.

Jedi Transition – aka Rainbow Canyon 2015

Jedi Transition – aka Rainbow Canyon 2015

The Jedi Transition starts just west of Owens Lake at 36.403047,-118.01239. From here aircraft hug the desert floor and pull up just before the canyon to clear higher levels. From there they enter the Canyon at Father Crowley Point, and continue through the Valley and exit the valley 3 miles from Father Crowley point.

Tunisia

Tunis, Sfax, El Jem and Matmata

Duration: 8 days, 7 nights
Location: Tunis, Tunisia
Budget: €1500
Miles Travelled: 1,200

Departed Ireland for Tunis via London on the first day. Tour around the Medina – old town – followed by a visit to Carthage in the afternoon. Next we head to Monastir – Life of Brian – and the moloseum of Bour ge habib. On to Sousse and then Kairouan.

Highlights today was El Jem followed by Sfax. On the road then to Matmata to see the troglodyte homes. Next day we saw Lars homestead from the Star Wars movie – Hotel Sidi Idriss – and then on to Tozeur. After Tozeur we head to Moss Eisly or Tatouine from the Star Wars movies. Then it was on the road to Nafta and around 10km outside there is Lukes hut from the Star Wars movies.

The last section sees us take in Chebiki, Gafsa and back to Kairouan . Dougga settlement is the last big stop before heading back to Tunis for the night and heading home again.

Trip Itinerary

Please click on the sections below to look over a brief report of where to went each day and the stops involved. Be sure to check out the gallery for the images for each part of the trip.

Lukes Hut

Luke’s Hut

Located just outside the town of Naftah (Nefta) in the Eastern part of the country, the small dome represents the entrance to a below-ground-level home.

First constructed in 1976 when the film crew for Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope arrived in Tunisia, after serving its purpose Lars Homestead was left to decay in the middle of the desert.

Salt Flats

Salt Flats

Chott el Djerid (also known as Chott El-Jerid, and several other variations of spelling) is a great salt lake located in the Tunisian part of the Sahara desert. It’s known to be the largest salt lake in the Sahara, and depending on your sources, it’s also the largest salt lake on the African continent. With a surface area of more than 2,700 square miles, Chott el Djerid is over 1.5 times larger than the Great Salt Lake of Utah.

 

Chebiki

Chebiki

Chebika (الشبيكة) is a mountain oasis in western Tunisia, in Tozeur Governorate.

Chebika lies at the foot of the mountains of the Djebel el Negueb and, because of its exposure to the sun, it is known as قصر الشمس Qasr el-Shams (“Palace of the Sun” in Arabic).

In antiquity it was a Roman outpost known as Ad Speculum and later a mountain refuge of the Berber people.

 

Dougga

Before the Roman annexation of Numidia, the town of Thugga, built on an elevated site overlooking a fertile plain, was the capital of an important Libyco-Punic state. It flourished under Roman and Byzantine rule, but declined in the Islamic period. The impressive ruins that are visible today give some idea of the resources of a small Roman town on the fringes of the empire.

El Jem

The impressive ruins of the largest colosseum in North Africa, a huge amphitheatre which could hold up to 35,000 spectators, are found in the small village of El Jem. This 3rd-century monument illustrates the grandeur and extent of Imperial Rome.

Kairouan

Founded in 670, Kairouan flourished under the Aghlabid dynasty in the 9th century. Despite the transfer of the political capital to Tunis in the 12th century, Kairouan remained the Maghreb’s principal holy city. Its rich architectural heritage includes the Great Mosque, with its marble and porphyry columns, and the 9th-century Mosque of the Three Gates.

Trip Itinerary

Please click on the sections below to look over a brief report of where to went each day and the stops involved. Be sure to check out the gallery for the images for each part of the trip.

Saturday 29th February - Day 01

So this trip came about because the Tokyo marathon and Japan excursion was cancelled due to the Covid-19 or Corona Virus pandemic. We got notice approximately two weeks before we were due to travel that the marathon was cancelled so we set about looking planning an alternative destination – and that destination was Tunisia.

I got up at 04:00 and left home around 05:00 and collect Mike and Pa is Abbeyleix and we were back on the road for 06:30. We got to the car park for 07:30 and dropped off the car. Then we headed to Terminal 2 for our Aer Lingus flight to London at 09:50. Checkin was fine and the security was quick and easy. We met Derek and got some breakfast. Then boarded and headed off to London to meet up with Masai McNulty and grab an onward flight to Tunisia with Tunis Air at 17:00. The cost of the flights was around 500 euro total – with a checked bag on each leg. 90 minutes flight time to London and 3 hours to Tunis- Carthage International Airport with Tunis Air.
Arrived at the airport, got through security ok and without any delays and transferred to the hotel in around 20 minutes. Grabbed some food and went to bed.

Sunday 1st March - Day 02

Up at 08:00 and got some breakfast – plain affair of eggs and bread, tea and coffee. We met out guide at 09:00 and headed to the Bardo museum and looked at all the different mosaics here from all over Tunisia. Then we walked through the old town – Medina – at the shops and stalls before exiting at another gate. Then we headed to the coast for some lunch before heading out towards Carthage and the ancient ruins here. We spent some time walking around the area and then headed back to Tunis for dinner and bed.

Monday 2nd March - Day 03

We got up, packed up and checked out of the hotel . Then we were on the road towards the coast towards Monastir- Life of Brian was shot here – as well as the moloseum of Bour ge habib- president that changed everything for Tunisia back in the 1960s. Then we got some lunch and headed onto Sousse. From here we changed some money and then we drove over to Kairouan- 4th holy city in the world. It started to rain once we got into the hotel. We checked in after a short walking tour around the city. Dinner and bed. Stayed in the Kasbah hotel tonight.

Tuesday 3rd March - Day 04

Today we headed to El Jem – roman structure. We looked around the area in the morning and did a short walking tour in and around the ruins. Then we headed Sfax for an hour – money capital of Tunisia . Short walking tour here and then we were on the road to Matmata – to see the homestead of the troglodytes- houses built into the rock/caves. We stayed in a troglodyte hotel here tonight and got some local Tunisian cuisine for dinner – soup, brik and then chicken cooked in rosemary herb and thyme/sage.

Wednesday 4th March - Day 05

Got up and headed to Lars homestead – hotel Sidi Idriss. Sidi means saint. It was only 5 minutes down the road from where we stayed the night before. Looked around and checked in online before heading on towards Tozeur. We headed off down the road to the Salt Flats – 90km long – on the way in to Tozeur. We got into there around 14:30 and got collected by a 4×4 and headed out to Camel Mountain – location in the desert where the English Patient was filmed.

We stopped here for a pano view and then we were on the way again mobbing the sand dunes on the way to Moss Eisly- Tatouine in the Star Wars movies. We looked around the set here and then headed out of Nafta and on the Lukes hut from the movies. The original was destroyed over the years but a petition was launched online that raised 10,000$ to restore the homestead and in 2011 it was rebuilt. We stopped here and got some photos – it is around 10km outside of Nafta. We headed back to our hotel in Tozeur – had dinner and walked back to the hotel and went to sleep.

Thursday 5th March - Day 06

Up and had breakfast and then headed to Chebiki. Did a short tour around the mountain loops and came back through the oasis. Then we went to a pano view point overlooking the vista and the Algerian border – only 20km away. We then headed to Gafsa for some lunch and then we got some ice cream and headed North to Kairouan for another nights sleep.

Friday 7th March - Day 08

Up for some breakfast and then we checked out of the hotel . On today to see the 160 acre area that is the ancient Roman settlement of Dougga. We did a walk around the ruins – saw the temple of Jupiter and other gods and explored the amphitheatre before departing. Place was very quiet. Then we headed to get some lunch before heading back to Tunis. We got in there around 16:00. We got some water at the shopping centre before it closed, got some dinner and watched a movie and went to bed.

Saturday 8th March - Day 09

 Today was the last day. We chilled out around the hotel and repacked the bags. Then headed to the airport at 11:00. Took around 20 minutes. Check in was easy enough and we got some food and spent the rest of our Dinar. Once you go through the security checkin they only accept euro and dollars. We ate outside and then headed in.

Flight was delayed from taking off by nearly 2 hours. Got to London around 17:05 local time – made up some time in the air. Got the bags and went to get the train back to T2. Train broke down on the track kept us in place for nearly 30 minutes. We decided to get a cab over to T2 and got there around 18:30. Checked in really quick – dropped the bags – and legged it through Security to get to our gate just as they were starting to board.Just about made it home that night.

Recent Travels

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Antarctica – Photo Gear

So if you are lucky enough to be going to Antarctica then all I can say is “Well done” as I know that it is a place that few people will get to travel to in their lifetime. It is an expensive excursion and one that few people will attempt to take on. In fairness, there are easier ways to spend 10-15K USD right.

But enough of that – you are here because you are thinking “How much camera gear do I take with me” or “What camera gear do I take with me” on this Epic Trip 😉

Well I was lucky enough to get out here in December 2013 with my brother and all I can say it that we were really blessed with weather, travel locations and ship routes etc. I will fill you in on what I took on the trip and will hopefully write another article on the actual trip itself in due course.

So I am going to make a few assumptions here before going any further – namely that you are a Semi-Pro or Professional photographer or a budding up and coming photographer with a lot of gear and cant decide on what to take.

I found another article online this morning that relates to the bag that I took – a Guru Gear 32L bag. There is more information here on the bag and what is included in it. Nice light reading.

PDF Document on Equipment and Gear

 I created a document that I spliced together from several different sources on the Internet and books on what gear to bring. I was also fortunate enough to have some friends that headed out there in January 2013 – a main reason that we headed out there in December actually.

So what did I bring and what did I leave behind and what did I regret taking/not taking on the trip.

Camera Bodies

  • Canon 1D-X
  • Canon 1D Mark IV
  • Fuji Finepix X100
  • Go Pro Hero 3+

Lenses:

  • Canon 500mm f4 IS USM Mark I
  • Canon 70-200 f2.8 IS USM Mark II
  • Canon 24-70 f2.8 Mark I
  • Canon 16-35 f2.8 Mark II

Accessories:

  • Battery Chargers ( 1D-X/Mark IV, Fuji Finepix & GoPro)
  • Power Cables and adapters
  • Spare batteries
  • Memory Cards
  • External Hard drives x2
  • CIR Polarising filters (77mm)
  • Card Reader
  • Lee Filters – ND Grad
  • 10 Stop BnW Filter
  • Tripod
  • Monopod
  • Wimberly Gimbal Head (for 500mm)
  • Rain Covers for 500mm and 70-200mm lenses
  • and other bits and pieces

 

The majority of this gear went into the Guru Gear bag – as seen above. It all packed away nice and neatly and there was no problem anytime getting the bag into any of the overhead storage units on any of the flights. Weight wise it was probably coming in around 14-15kg in weight but I took a chance and hoped that it was not going to be weighed. If I had to pay at the airport I was willing to do that – safer than checking it in.

I did have another small padded day bag that I used when in the cities and walking around the place for sightseeing in Buenos Aires and Ushuaia. I put some of the cables and battery chargers in here and checked those in as they were safe enough and I would be ok if they did not make it down for a few days.

So here are some questions that I think might be of interest to people that are traveling and hopefully the answers will help you decide on what to bring and what to leave behind. Again this is just my opinion and what worked for me at the end of the day – it is not necessarily the best or worst idea out there – it is just an opinion.

Q: Do you really need a tripod? 
A: I think that a light one is useful. There was two of us and we shared the use of it between us. On the boat I got a bit more use out of it that I thought. I used it a lot with the GoPro to just shoot timelapse or footage from different angles and aspects of the boat. We also camped so we got to use it then and also in Ushuaia. Dont bring a big heavy tripod – take some travel worthy and light and it should come in handy.

Q: Did you use the rain covers ? 
A: I did use them at the start a lot – just being cautious. We were really lucky with the weather. I took off the covers after a day or two as I did not need them any more. I also had a neoprene cover for the camera body but never used it. It is a good idea but the battery life is really good in the 1D models so I did not need it. It also makes adjusting settings a lot more awkward and if there is a humpback whale or leopard seal or penguin active near you – the last thing you want it try to change aperture or ISO setting through a cover and protective layer and then with gloves on. Pack them – have them there just in case but use sparingly. If the weather is nice then you are good. If there is snow out then take it with you.

Q: How many memory cards did you take with you?
A: Me personally I think I had nearly 200GB of memory cards, 4x32GB, 4x16GB and some 8GB SD cards and several 4GB cards. All worked fine for me for the trip and I probably shot close to 130GB of images or 5100 odd images in the space of the two weeks that we were away. We had a laptop with us, so we backed up the cards each evening to our external HD’s and left the cards with the images also so we had a secondary backup just in case. Then on the last day we copied all the folders to the other persons HD so there was a third backup – just in case. All worked out nicely now thankfully.

Q:Do you really need a laptop?
A: I personally think it is a good idea. First you can use it to backup your images when you want. I know there are computers on the boat but they are in use a lot of time so access can be restricted. It is nice to be able to backup your data when you want. It is also a good idea to have some TV Shows or Movies with you to look at in case you need to pass the time on the Drake Passage or something – you might be under the weather and need something to take your mind off things.

Q:Did you use a CIR Polariser a lot ? 
A: Once we got down to continental Antarctica itself I did put it on the 70-200 and the 24-70 and used it for shots of the ice, water reflection and landscape shots. I think that it is no real weight to carry and it does come in handy when you are down there so take it and use it .