Technology and the Bush by Emma Summers

Technology has become so ingrained into our everyday lives that most of us question how it is possible to live without it. It has helped us keep in contact with the people we love during the recent worldwide lockdowns. Whilst you are traveling it allows you to capture memories, share your experiences and reflect on your adventures when you get home.

Whilst you are in the African bush, however; all that technology you rely on every day back home can become surplus to requirement or distract you from experiencing everything the bush has to offer. Whilst you are in the bush embrace technology but also remember to use it wisely, don’t let it distract, and learn when to put it down.

Here are a few things to consider when deciding what technology to bring with you on your EcoTraining adventure.

Technology and the Bush by Emma Summers - Technology cover
Photograph © Christoff Els

Travel insurance

Travel insurance is essential on all overseas trips. Make sure that you are not just covered for medical emergencies but also make sure that any tech you bring with you is covered as well.  If it isn’t consider upgrading your insurance or covering your devices separately, after all, you never know what will happen in the middle of the bush and if your valuables get damaged or lost, it’s great peace of mind knowing that they are covered.

Mobile phones

Before you leave home make sure you have downloaded all the apps you will need for your time with us. The data signal in the bush can be hit and miss and I’ve seen many students getting frustrated trying to download things like birding apps while they are in camp.

Consider unlocking your phone, so it can accept other networks, and when you get to South Africa look at buying a South African SIM card at the airport. MTN normally has a better signal in the camps. Just remember that changing your sim card may cause problems if you need to do things like resetting internet passwords and your home mobile number is used as your primary way to verify your accounts – to get around this just plan ahead and make sure that any accounts/apps you use are set to verify your identity using a different method. If you don’t want to do that chat to your mobile carrier to find out if they do overseas packages that won’t cost you a fortune.

Technology and the Bush by Emma Summers - Technology cover
Photograph © Scott Ramsay

Due to the patchy signals don’t forget to warn your friends and family that you probably won’t be able to keep in contact with them as much as you do at home. While it’s tempting to share your stories while they are happening remember to leave some to tell them when you get home.

Laptop or tablet

Unless you are going to be using them to edit photos or you will need something with a keyboard/bigger screen, consider leaving these items at home.  Many a time students bring these items with them and they end up just staying in their bags or locked in the office cupboards until they leave.

If you are bringing a laptop remember to bring a portable hard drive with you. Chances are you will not be able to upload things to an online storage account.

Camera

This is a must. Students bring everything from smartphones with great cameras to DSLRs with them. Bring plenty of memory cards with you. Also, look at bringing spare batteries with you so you will never miss out on that perfect photo opportunity.

In order to protect our endangered species like Rhinos, please disable the GPS function on your camera, don’t post any photos of species like Rhino on social media for at least 4 weeks after leaving a camp, and don’t tag the reserves in the photos. Poachers are getting tech-savvy and they can use the GPS information embedded in a photo to help them track and poach our valuable wildlife.

Technology and the Bush by Emma Summers
Photograph © Christoff Els

Portable power bank

Electricity is limited in the bush. None of our camps are connected to the national power grid, relying instead on solar and generator power. Rather than putting your phone onto charge rather plug in a power bank. They normally charge faster and depending on the power bank you will get multiple charges. If you are looking at getting one specifically for your trip then look at getting one that can be charged by both solar and USB.

Power Adaptors

Be sure to bring a plug travel adaptor with you. South Africa typically uses Type M and Type C plugs. Bring a spare USB cable with you as well. That way if a monkey steals one you will always be prepared with a spare.

Back up

Don’t forget before you travel to make sure that you have backed-up all your data before you leave home. Also make sure that you have digital copies of your important documents, somewhere you can easily access them should you need them.

Remember while you are in the African bush, find some time to disconnect from your devices, take this time to connect with your ancient selves, to rediscover what has been lost, enjoy the silence, be present at the moment, connect with nature and ultimately connect with yourself.

About the Author: 

Emma Summers is an EcoTraining Camp Manager at Selati Game Reserve.