How to Stream “Out of Africa” While in Africa

For the past two weeks I’ve been in Africa—Kenya, to be exact. I set a streaming goal that I wanted to watch the movie Out of Africa while traveling through Africa. Actually, I wanted to know how to stream my movies and music while outside the U.S. Throughout Kenya, all hotels and safari camps had Wi-Fi but the speed and reliability were often spotty. The country has surprisingly good 3G, 4G, and LTE cell coverage in even the most remote areas. I was able to get online and text in the middle of the Masai Mara savannah while watching a lion eat its kill. (I got online for the sake of testing the connection, but spent most of the time watching the lion.) Still, data plans are limited and would anyone really want to stream a movie knowing it could cost $40 in overage fees? Ultimately, the solution to watching the Streep/Redford classic was to download my movies and music to external storage and bring them with me.

Wi-Fi was available everywhere I stayed but in most hotels and hotel/camps, Wi-Fi was limited and there wasn’t enough bandwidth to stream if more than a couple of guests were online. At one extreme, I was surprised to find any Wi-Fi at all at a tented camp in the middle of the Mara savannah. I could receive email and texts but other online access was sparse. At the other extreme was Richard Branson’s luxury camp/resort, Mahale Mzuri. Internet service there was high speed and adequate to stream a movie, as it needs to be: the 3-year old resort periodically streams live video of lions that live nearby. -

The problem with streaming was more than limited Wi-Fi access. The issue was whether or not I could access my U.S. streaming accounts in another country. Kenya is one of the countries where Netflix turned on their service last month. While I was able to bring up my Netflix account on my iPhone, when I chose a movie or original series, I received a message that “the title isn’t available in this country.”

Upon returning home, I contacted the Netflix PR team and was assured in an email that “Your account is available globally and you will be able to view the local content library of the country you are visiting.” They suggested that I reboot the Netflix app. Rebooting requires deleting and reinstalling the app. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to try it out.

Another way to stream when out of the country is to use a VPN (virtual private network) that masks your location so you don’t have issues with watching content that isn’t available outside the U.S. Many countries are cracking down on VPNs so video can’t be streamed where rights haven’t been licensed. Another traveler in our group was unsuccessful in his attempt to use a VPN to watch ESPN.

Prior to leaving on my trip, I purchased an international cellular data plan that allotted 300 MB of data. In the first two days, I had used 120 MB so video streaming over my cell was out of the question.

Having anticipated difficulties in online streaming, I also downloaded content before I left home. Bringing content with me created another problem, though: how play it. Airlines and the private charter in Africa restricted the weight and size of my luggage, which meant I was approaching the weight limit because of my heavy camera equipment. Solutions for storage and streaming had to be lightweight and small.

I wanted noise-cancelling headphones for my 20-plus hours of flights from the west coast. I didn’t want a large over-ear model. Audio Technica’s in-ear noise canceling earbuds (ATH-ANC40BT) were feather weight and fit in a pouch in my carry-on. These bluetooth in-ear speakers sounded great when listening to Deezer, yet did not perform as well when I played tunes from Spotify or Apple Music. The battery for the active noise canceling lasted throughout my 36-hours of travel without needing to be recharged.

Because I have a Deezer subscription, I was able to download Hi-Res music and albums to my phone. This took up a lot of my phone’s memory. Downloading movies to my phone would have used up most of my phone’s remaining memory leaving me with little room to shoot videos of my trip. The solution was to save the videos on a SanDisk Connect Wireless USB stick. A direct wireless connection allows smartphones and tablets to connect to the stick to stream videos, music, and share photos. Up to three devices can simultaneously access or stream from the stick. This newest model of the Connect Wireless Stick has been improved from the original version. With the new model, a charge lasts long enough to view a few movies and it reliably connects to mobile devices.

There was an issue, however, where full-sized videos never loaded on the SanDisk iPhone or iPad app. Videos had to be converted to a file type and size that was faster for streaming to mobile devices. I used Any Video Converter for simple transcoding to a mobile 1080 format. The converted videos could be streamed easily without hesitation (and I could send them to a Amazon Fire TV Stick had I brought one and there was a TV to watch).

My other solution for storing without adding bulk or weight is a fantastic little SSD external hard drive, the SanDisk Extreme 500. Almost completely flat, it’s smaller than the palm of my hand and rugged. Water and dust resistant, it is rugged enough to be hung from a backpack (which might be a good idea as it’s small enough to be forgotten in a pocket). Because it is an SSD drive, it’s incredibly fast at transferring data and comes in models up to 480 GB. This drive served as a backup for my photos as well as storing several movies and my whole iTunes library.

Ultimately, it was the downloaded copy of Out of Africa on the SanDisk Extreme 500 that was connected to my laptop where I could achieve my goal of watching the movie while visiting Africa. Yes, streaming is available outside the U.S., but you may want to plan to bring some downloaded content with you.

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