What’s Thom Been Up To?

I said I was taking a break, but in reality, I was on a Three Safaris and a Wedding tour. 

In Africa.

In a country most of you have probably heard is the source of the Omicron variant of COVID. It isn’t. It’s just that Botswana's testing is extensive and excellent; they caught and sequenced the new variant faster than the US ever would have. That’s a long story on its own, but Botswana so far is being diplomatic in not pointing out that it was four foreign diplomats from non-African countries who tested positive and were found to have the new variant when they exited the country.

That’s right. Almost immediately after the Omicron variant was found I got on a plane headed to South Africa, then boarded another to get to Botswana. That’s not as insane as it you might think. I’m vax boosted, I’m cautious in airports and crowds, and most of my trip was going to be, well, with only two other people in an open vehicle in the middle of nowhere, both of whom were also vaccinated. At least until that wedding part (though the wedding was also outdoors where it was easy to socially distance). Moreover, Botswana not only requires testing prior to entry, they test again at entry, as well (and exit, too). I was tested four times in four days getting to my destination, and twice again leaving.

Caution: requirements change rapidly. However, as I write this, the current testing policies for the trip I made are:

Botswana: negative PCR test within 72 hours of arriving in Botswana, plus a rapid test upon arrival. Test required upon exit.

South Africa: negative PCR test within 72 hours of departing for South Africa.

United States: negative test day prior to departure for the US. Can be antigen test that’s verified.

But COVID is not the real story. I just need to get you past that to talk about what I was really doing.

Previous to the latest outbreak, I had politely asked Nikon if I could do an extensive test of a pre-production Z9. To my surprise, they said yes. I already had plans to attend my good and long time friend’s wedding, and had scheduled the trip so that I could take in three new locations I hadn’t been to in the Okavango Delta (for the record, the Chitabe, Vimbura, and Jao areas). 

The pre-production Z9’s availability to me was almost perfectly aligned with this planned trip. Indeed, the Z9 arrived the day before I departed. 

Thus, I’ve been putting the Z9 to a pretty tough test. Because I was traveling near solo and moving locations every few days, I kept my camera kit to a minimum. Basically Z9, Z7 II, Z50, and the 70-200mm, 500mm PF, and 18-140mm lenses. I also had the 2x extender with me, so it wasn’t just the Z9 I was testing. Technically, I was testing the Z9, the 18-140mm, and the 2x teleconverter. Obvously, I’ll have a lot more to say about that soon. 

Final tally for the safari portion of the trip was 12 different leopards, 18 different lions, 15 wild dogs, and a raft of everything else, including a hyena family at their den. 

So what’s next?

Well, I’ll be finishing my review of the 2x teleconverter and 18-140mm, I’ll be presenting a Zoom-based discussion of how the Z9 fared in Africa, and providing much more commentary about everything I learned on the trip. 

Of course, it’s Christmas week now, so I’ll probably save some of my thoughts for early in January, when everyone starts paying attention again ;~).

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