By: Anna-Mart Kruger from iCapture Photo Safaris
If you’re a wildlife photographer, I’m sure Africa is at the top of your bucket list. Africa is home to more than 800 species of animals, some of which won’t be found naturally anywhere else in the world. Imagine a lion’s roar, a cheetah’s fluid grace, thousands of zebras migrating across emerald grasslands, flocks of flamingos creating a field of colour across a shining lagoon, a leopard silently stalking its prey.
These are faces synonymous with Africa. Now imagine yourself; camera in hand, capturing these moments with precision and guidance to get that perfect shot.
Here are seven tips for planning your perfect African photo safari:
1. Choose your outfitter
Planning a safari requires the services of qualified team. You will pay more for an exclusive safari but it may just be the better option if getting the best shots is your priority.
Exclusive safaris… usually have less people and help to make sure that each photographer has their own row of seats in the safari vehicle, giving you more opportunities to get the shots. Often these types of safaris ensure each photographer gets individualised attention, not only getting the shots, but also understanding why they used the settings in that specific scenario. They usually also organise ground transport for photography gear, since small aircrafts in Africa have weight restrictions of a maximum of 20kg per person and they may provide beanbags for the safari vehicles and tripods in the photography hides. An outfitter dedicated to photo safaris will also be able to provide you with information on renting proper equipment for each trip and give you expert knowledge of the area, the species as well as the people and the culture.
2. Choose a destination
A photography safari must be chosen according to your interests as photographer. Animals have their own plan where to be and where to move, but there are certain destinations that guarantee great sightings and fantastic photographic opportunities.
Safari countries can be divided roughly into three regions: Southern Africa includes Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. East Africa means essentially Kenya and Tanzania. Central includes Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire), Rwanda, and Uganda.
3. What to bring along
A crucial consideration is to pack wisely, ensuring not to over-pack. So how do you decide what is essential? It is important that you check out the local climate and weather conditions before you embark on a safari. This is another reason to make use of a qualified company that has the knowledge and experience to provide you with the necessary information.
Wearing neutral-coloured clothing will help you blend in with the surroundings while you are admiring the wildlife and will also reflect the sun, keeping you cooler. You may also want to bring along a warm jacket for cool nights.
Boots or field shoes are a necessity as a safari can often include bush walks where you will walk with your tracker on foot looking for animals and learning about the smaller things like plants and insects. Wearing just flip-flops or sneakers will not work for this purpose.
Packing list for your camera gear:
-A primary DSLR body plus another one as back-up.
-Lenses – you’ll need a long telephoto lens, wide-angle, and a macro lens if you are into close-up photography.
-A GoPro if you have one. This can add value and make it easy to capture video or images in-between official shoots.
-At least two spare batteries to last one long day in the field.
-Most camps have electricity but make sure you have the correct plug accessory.
-Microfibre cloths, a lens pen and a rocket blaster is amazingly useful to quickly brush off road dust.
-At least two 32GB memory cards.
-A laptop and/or portable hard drive.
-Beanbags for your safari drive (you can fill it at your destination).
-A light and sturdy tripod.
-Zipper bags. It will be dusty, so bring these along.
4. Staying healthy
Safaris can be physically strenuous and mentally taxing. You might be at risk of dehydration while on safari; your body may not be accustomed to the hot sun and dry air of the bush and you may not even realise that you’re becoming dehydrated. Drink lots of water!
5. Staying safe
Always listen your photography guide with regards to animal behaviour. Wild animals rarely attack humans, but individuals routinely fall victim due to a lack of respect or knowledge.
One of the most common reasons for injury abroad is automobile accidents. Be sure to familiarise yourself with the local driving culture, road signs, speed limits and local police vehicles before attempting to drive.
Pack a medical kit with painkillers, bug repellants, anti-diarrhea pills, bandages and antiseptics for yourself and anyone travelling with you. Also ensure that your insurance coverage is adequate in case you become sick or injured abroad. Your booking agent can help with recommendations.
6. Sun protection
Regardless of the time of year you visit Africa, the sun’s heat will be significant during the day. High SPF sunscreen and lip balm are a must, as well as a hat and sunglasses.
7. Remember to always have fun!
What is a trip without fun after all. Enjoy all of the wonders that Africa has to offer along with your unforgettable shots.