June 2004
Southern Africa
Venus Transit & Southern Skies
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Updated 9/2003

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  Who are typical Twilight Tours participants?

Participants represent a wide range of individuals. Tour members have ranged from 7 to 80 years of age. Some participants have backgrounds in amateur astronomy, and others have no such experience.

Do I need to have a "rocket scientist" mentality to enjoy one of your tours?

No. Our itineraries are planned to provide a total, well-rounded experience for all tour members. While the centerpiece of each trip is the special astronomical event taking place, we make sure to include the high-profile tourist attractions that ensure that tour members get the most out of their expedition.

Aren't your tours more expensive than comparable trips that other tour agencies offer?

Somewhat. The main difference is that although we may travel to the same destinations that the big tour companies visit, our expeditions are planned to specifically include the astronomical event of interest. Thus, we incur greater costs for the provision of items such as viewing areas, ground transport to the observation site, and basic creature comforts (water, shade/temporary shelter, food, and bathroom facilities) that are virtually never on site, as a rule.

How does a transit compare with a total eclipse of the Sun?

Unquestionably, the Venusian Transit in 2004 won't compare to a total solar eclipse. If you did not know the transit was happening, you wouldn't notice anything unusual at all. The sky doesn't get dark, stars and planets don't come out, and there is no dramatic change in temperature, wind, or humidity. However, the event is so rare that it is worthwhile to expend the effort to go see it, nevertheless.

When was the last Transit of Venus?

Over 120 years ago. To be more exact, 121 years ago, back in 1882. This means that there is no person alive today that has seen a Transit of Venus. It also means that at the time of the last one, photography was in its infancy, telescopes and binoculars were not commonplace (as they are today), and transportation to where the transit was visible was long, and physically difficult.

What other activities are planned for the expedition?

The tour will visit Cape Town, Table Mountain, Kirstenboch Botanical Gardens, the Paarl Winelands outside Cape Town, the Cape of Good Hope, Etosha Game Reserve in Namibia, and Sousselevi Park and Sand Dunes, also in Namibia. Optional extensions to Victoria Falls, Mala Mala Game Reserve, and Botswana are available at additional cost to the participants. In addition, as weather and schedule permit, we will offer night time observing sessions, or "star parties", to view the unique objects of the Southern Celestial skies. An optional extension to a special "astronomical lodge" is also planned, for those wishing to conduct astrophotography of deep sky objects, from a very dark sky site.

What does the tour cost include?

The Transit Expedition price includes: all international air fare from the U.S., all intra-Africa flights on the tour, hotels, ground transportation, most meals, portage of travelers' luggage, use of our reserved transit observing site the day of the event, technical support regarding visual observation and photography of the event, and airport departure taxes. The tour price is per person, double occupancy basis of a two person room. A limited number of single supplement based, sole occupancy rooms are available at additional cost.

Items NOT included in the tour price: items of a personal nature, alcoholic beverages, laundry/dry cleaning service, personal souvenirs, any meals not already included in the tour price, and passport and/or visa application fees.

What are the baggage limits on the tour? How much luggage may I take?

Standard baggage limitation is a total of not more than two, checked pieces of personal luggage on any flight per person (one piece for small, commuter-type light aircraft flights in Namibia). Total luggage weight cannot exceed 45 kg, or 97 pounds. No one piece of baggage may exceed a total of 160 centimeters (63 inches) in combined dimensions of length, width, and girth (circumference). Baggage in excess of the above limits will be subject to overweight charges. Every effort shall be made to "pool" baggage for the group, but some sectors may preclude this effort.

What health precautions must I follow, should I decide to go on the Venus Transit Trip?

While there exist no mandatory vaccinations or medications as required by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, GA, we strongly recommend that all expedition members consider obtaining the following vaccinations as a precaution against the remote chance of contracting a serious disease while on the trip: a malaria prophylaxis regimen, yellow fever vaccination, diphtheria vaccination, and hepatitis A vaccination. Also, travelers should judiciously avoid such foods as raw, leafy vegetables, any meats of questionable origin or storage, and shellfish. While the water in South Africa and Namibia is perfectly safe to drink, we advise those with sensitive G.I. tracts to use only bottled water, as all tour participants are urged to do while we are in Zambia for the transit itself.

Is traveler's insurance available to tour participants?

Yes, optional traveler's insurance is available to all our expedition members. The form for the coverage can be obtained from Twilight Tours by request. The coverage is provided by M.H. Ross, an independent insurer located in Southern California. Twilight Tours derives no financial benefit from the sale of the insurance whatsoever. The basic insurance package costs approximately $100 for each $1000 of the total tour price, with some adjustment based on the traveler's age bracket. Additional, in-depth medical coverage is available at a nominal additional charge to travelers.

I am concerned about taking an international trip abroad, in light of the current world situation in a number of countries. Do you have similar concerns, and how can you assure participants' safety?

Without question, we live in a different world today, contrasted to just a few years ago. Travel is not as simple or free from concern as it once was. Notwithstanding, Twilight Tours has steadfastly held onto the policy that we will NEVER organize or operate a trip, if we believe that there is any type of tenable threat or danger to any of our expedition members. The venues that we have chosen to travel to, to witness past astronomical events, have consistently been selected with the personal safely of our customers in mind. We continue this proven operating philosophy today ---- we will not lead a tour into any region that we believe is unsafe, or that represents any threat to the personal safety of those who are on the trip.

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