YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED BY OUR PANEL OF EXPERTS

Surrounded by hippos on the Zambezi River

We are a reasonably fit couple in our early 50s and want to take our two daughters, aged 21 and 19, on safari in Africa over Easter 2000 for two weeks. Where will be the best place to see the best selection of animals, what will the weather be like and which companies would be the best to travel with? We can spend pounds 2,000 per head.

Mel Mackay

Cambridge

Jill Crawshaw replies: If you are first-timers on safari, I would recommend Zimbabwe, one of the safest countries for tourists in Africa. Service and accommodation standards are high and prices extremely modest.

At Easter, the weather is likely to be changing as it moves into the dry season. You may experience some rain, but it is likely to be in sharp bursts and unlikely to cause much disruption to your activities. At pounds 2,000 a head you can afford to take a tailor-made safari planned especially for you. Zimbabwe is particularly suitable for this as it has very little mass tourism.

You will arrive on a direct flight to Harare and will probably fly straight out to Victoria Falls - a splendid spot to get over the night flight. Apart from the Falls themselves (where there is bungey jumping and rafting), you'll see animals right away - there is a National Park on the doorstep, and if you take a boat trip on the Zambezi, you'll be surrounded by hippos.

From there I suggest you fly into Hwange National Park, which is packed with wildlife and miraculously uncrowded - you could expect to see plenty of elephants, lions, giraffes, baboons, antelope and, if you take a walking safari led by an armed guide, there is a chance of spotting black rhino, leopards and wild dogs.

There are a variety of lodges to stay in. One of the most comfortable is Makololo with boarded walkways (which suit first-timers), and efficient and clean showers and loos in each tent. Most safaris are in open-topped Landrovers, but after a day or so, you may want to take a walking trip.

From Hwange you could fly on (by private plane) to Lake Kariba where you could stay in a house or waterside lodge, taking trips into the wild mountainous and beautiful Matusadona National Park for a taste of a more rugged and remote Africa. Or head south (also by plane) to Bulawayo and the Matobo Hills and National Park, now a World Heritage site and a 200- square-mile natural art gallery of 10,000-year-old Bushman rock paintings. The local Matabele people call the area the "place of spirit", and Cecil Rhodes chose to be buried there in what is often also called the "World in a View". The game you'll spot includes leopard, giraffe, baboon, wart hog, and a profusion of eland, kudu, klipspringer and impala. There are also 50 white and 10 black rhinos (two of the most endangered species in the world).

Just a few words about the National Parks I've suggested; these are vast areas of thousands of square miles, wild and in no way "cultured". They just make it possible for you to see game, and most importantly, they help to prevent poachers from killing the animals to extinction.

The largest tour operator to Zimbabwe is Africa Exclusive (tel: 01604 628979), which will be able to tailor-make a safari for you and your family. Spend a long time discussing your wishes and needs to find just the right formula for all of you. Other companies you might care to contact include Africa Connection (tel: 01244 355330) and Sunvil Africa (tel: 0181-232 9777).

Jill Crawshaw is a travel expert, writer and broadcaster.

Check the star factor on your suntan lotions

For several years now my husband and I have used a sun protection liquid called P20 made in Denmark by Reimann & Co. It is a thin, clear liquid, applied once a day, which gives a protection factor of 20, 90 minutes after application. While using P20 we have never suffered from sunburn despite long periods of hill walking in Greece during August. This product does not seem to be available in UK shops and we usually buy it in the duty-free shop at the airport. It seems to have a unique action and I am unsure whether there is a problem with this product being sold in the UK. I would appreciate your comments.

Ann Halton

Stockport

Dr Larry Goodyer replies: I have occasionally been asked about suntan preparations which people purchase outside the UK and find to be superior to those obtained in this country. From the formula you sent me, it appears the lotion you use contains the fairly standard ingredients of a suntan lotion.

One word of caution, though, is that while it may give a protection factor of P20 to UVB radiation, you do not state whether it offers any protection against UVA, which is normally indicated by a star rating. Although it is the UVB radiation that causes sun burn, it is known that UVA can cause skin aging and the combination of both types can contribute to skin cancer. So it is important to check the star rating as well as the protection factor. To get the most out of your sun blocks, re-apply them frequently and don't be miserly.

It goes without saying that you should use other methods of avoiding the sun such as wearing a wide- brimmed hat and covering your arms and legs when appropriate.

Dr Larry Goodyer is a lecturer in clinical pharmacy at King's College, London. Contact the Nomad Travel Health Helpline (tel: 0891 63344; calls cost 50p per minute).

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Write to: the Travel Editor, Independent on Sunday, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL. Fax: 0171-293 2043. E-mail: sunday travel@ independent.co.uk

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