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Exclusive African Safaris FAQ
by professional wildlife photographer GREG DU TOIT
View my upcoming Africa Photo Safaris here!
In the question and answers listed below I address all your safari questions and concerns. I explain the reasons why you need to book your exclusive African safari through me and I talk about what equipment to bring. I also give you the general safari do's and don'ts. An African safari is expensive and you need to know that you are getting the best safari and photographic experience possible! Grab a cup of coffee or tea and let me put your mind at ease...
What makes a photographic safari different to any other?
A photographic safari is a safari specifically designed and executed with photographers in mind. This plays out in many different ways, keep reading.
Do you offer private safaris over and above the safaris advertised on your website?
Yes, I certainly do but I do not advertise my private safaris as each is custom designed. If you would like to travel alone or with a friend or spouse or your own group, I can arrange a private safari for you. In this case we will rework a costing depending on your group size and we can also tailor an itinerary. We can look at different dates if need be or you can book the same set departure dates as advertised on my website but just have it run as a private safari. I have a client base of very serious photographers that hirer me to lead them on private safaris (including one National Geographic photographer), so that they can elevate their imagery to new heights. I also guide families and I cater for all levels of photographers (except pink IPhone users). See my private photo safari page for more information on private safaris.
How would I go about booking a private safari?
You can email me here... Questions I am going to ask you will range from what country or countries you are interested in to what wildlife you are wanting to see or photograph. For suggestions, see my private photo safari page. I insist on only offering my clients the best wildlife experience and as such, the time of year that you travel will be very important in trying to assess where we should go. Please therefore let me know what time of year you prefer to travel. When you email me also kindly give me an outline of your expectations in terms of the accommodation, wildlife and photography. The more you tell me about your expectations the better I can tailor a safari that will exceed these expectations! I will then use my knowledge of both the continent, its camps/lodges and wildlife to make recommendations. Another vital bit of information that I will need to know is if you are traveling on your own or with a partner or in a group? This affects charter flight costs as well as the cost of securing an exclusive safari truck. Once we agree on a basic outline you will receive a fully customized itinerary and this is all done without you needing to commit in any way. Only when you are entirely satisfied that we have the right product for you, will the booking process begin.
Ok, what does a private safari cost?
My private safaris cost upwards of $12 000 per person per safari. The cost will depend on the length of your safari and the number of people in your group. If you trying to keep the cost below $12 000 then join me on one of my advertised set departures which are exclusive African safaris in their own right.
I see you advertise a photo safari and a workshop. What is the difference between a safari and a workshop?
Traditionally, a photo safari does not have a formal time set aside for a presentation or a lesson. A photo safari is therefore more about being out in the field and photographing. A workshop however, is traditionally more focused on teaching photography and techniques. The actual taking of photos then takes on a more subdued form whereby it becomes a mere tool to teach and explain as apposed to actually capturing award winning imagery.
A few years ago I asked the simple question “Why can't you have both”? As a result, each one of my safaris and workshops are now a combination of both a safari and a workshop! I tailor the trip to your exact needs. Some of you would really like to learn and improve your photography and as such you require me to engage with you in a more formal time of learning. For others, going on a safari is more about capturing that special image and as such, I make it my duty to place you in the correct position to capture the action and the beauty of each special moment. Still others require a combination of both and this I also facilitate seamlessly.
Ok, so there are elements of both a safari and a workshop in each of your products but why the distinction then?
The reason I have called the Masai Mara Migration trip a 'safari' is that due to the nature of photography in this ecosystem, we are generally out longer in the morning and quite often we are out all day. Therefore, there is often no time to have a formal type of lesson or feedback session in camp. On this trip, the photographic tuition takes on a more fluid and dynamic form taking place mostly in the field and hence the reason for me marketing it as a 'safari' and not a 'workshop'.
The driving distances for my Botswana and South Africa predator workshop are shorter than in the Masai Mara and on this trip there is usually an hour or two free after lunch. This time lends itself beautifully to me teaching a practically relevant lesson on photography. During this time I can also give you feedback using my own images as well as your own. None of the lessons are compulsory though and this trip, although sold as a workshop, guarantees exceptional predator and big game opportunities. You will go home with full memory cards and this is in reality the best 'big game' safari you can do in Africa!
Why do you currently only sell 2 different trips for the whole of Africa?
Over the last decade I have lead safaris across the African continent and I have hosted dozens upon dozens of photographers from different countries and backgrounds, each with his or her own level of experience and photographic aspirations. One thing I have come to realize is what photographers want and in short, photographers want photographs! But, not just any photographs, they want AWESOME photographs! In order for me to be able to guarantee my clients this awesome imagery, there are very special criteria that need to be meet. Let me list just a few of them:
1. There simply needs to be a plethora of wildlife and this immediately excludes most ecosystems. The Selous, Okavango Delta and South Luangwa might be wonderful wilderness areas that have been cleverly marketed as wildlife meccas, but they simply do not support the concentration of wildlife that is needed to guarantee that avid photographers, traveling from far away and paying top dollar, are happy.
2. Secondly, we need to be based in a camp or lodge that allows quick and easy access to special photographic opportunities.
3. We need freedom to be able to drive off road.
4. We need to avoid other vehicles so that we can change positions and work a scene or sighting.
5. We need to see action!
6. If you are traveling all the way to Africa on a photo safari, you want to leave with dynamic photographs of all the predators and big game right? This means that we need to be able to not only find these creatures, but as photographers, we also need to get close to them. It does not help seeing a leopard a mile away!
7. Being in the right area is not enough, the time of year is also critical.
8. The vehicles and driver guides are an essential component of a successful photographic safari and these all important factors need to be carefully managed.
9. As wildlife photographers, we do not want to photograph in contrived circumstances. We want to photograph in Africa's largest ecosystems where the animals roam wild and free!
10. Photographers do not want to shoot cliched imagery and as such we need freedom to explore and to seek out unique opportunities, off the beaten track and away form the maddening crowds. You want to finish a safari with unique images that you can enter into the Nature's Best or BBC Wildlife competitions.
When you add all these points together, there are really only a handful of locations and camps to consider for serious photographers. I have visited them all and I have photographed them all extensively. At the end of the day, the two safaris that I sell are the only two that I feel will satisfy any and every kind of nature photographer.
You mentioned that the Okavango Delta and South Luangwa in Zambia are not good for photography. Please elaborate?
I am a massive fan of the African wilderness but living in Africa permanently, I have the one thing that you do not, and that is TIME. I have the time to spend months and even years in Africa's wilderness areas and in these areas time is exactly what you need, to capture great images. The problem with places like the Okavango Delta and South Luangwa are that both have been marketed as wildlife meccas but what you do not realize is that the footage and images that you see of these places, have been painstakingly collected over many years. When you come to Africa on safari, you only have about 10 days usually, to capture all your images! Like I said, I am a big fan of these wild and more remote parks and I will gladly take you on an exclusive private safari to the Okavango Delta or anywhere else (see my private photo safaris page). But, I CANNOT guarantee you a plethora of solid photographic opportunities, not to the degree that I can in the Masai Mara or Mala Mala. I can also not promise that you will finish your safari with exceptional photographs in the bag.
Ok, but are the Masai Mara and Mala Mala not very touristy?
Like so many places in Africa, it is local knowledge and insight that will determine the outcome of your experience. I have lived in Kenya for two years and I have been following the migration in the Masai Mara for the last 10 consecutive years. During this time I have learned how to offer the full migration experience but how also to get away from the crowds. I do this by carefully selecting my camps and by knowing which areas are busy and where we can get away from the traffic and photograph in peace. The camps I use offer us quick access to the major points of action (for example river crossings) but each also affords us the opportunity to get away from the heavy traffic. The Masai Mara is 1500 square kilometers big and I know how to take you to the far flung corners, to places where the photo opportunities are excellent. This is also why I use a camp in a private concession. The Masai Mara is the wildlife mecca of Africa and one should not avoid it but rather learn how to operate successfully in what is Africa's best ecosystem for wildlife photography! The location of the camps I use and the intimate knowledge I have of the reserve are what make this an authentic safari experience. The only time you are forced to see lots of vehicles is at river crossings but other than that we can get away from the worst of the traffic.
Mala Mala is in no way touristy. Yes you get a 'big five certificate' but that is about where the touristy bit ends and at least you are guaranteed of seeing the Big Five roaming wild and free, which is hard to do anywhere else. At Mala Mala you will only ever have at the most two other vehicles on a sighting. In reality you will often be alone at a sighting as Mala Mala is private land and no other safari vehicles from other camps are allowed to drive in the reserve. It is also the largest piece of private land in the area which means we can go exploring without seeing anyone else. Mala Mala forms part of one of Africa's largest ecosystems, double the size of the Serengeti National Park! With only 16 vehicles out in the bush even when all the camps are full you will have 1 vehicle per 1000ha! Where else in Africa can you be guaranteed of seeing the big five (including the endangered rhino) and also be guaranteed of not seeing more than two other vehicles at any one sighting? Mala Mala is one of the very few locations in Africa that is both a wilderness and a photographer's mecca!
Which safari is for me?
Both of the trips that I am selling are absolute 'must do' safaris. Each one it totally different but both will offer you the best and most awesome photographic opportunities available in Africa. The time of year is different for each so depending on when you plan on traveling this can help you decide. Beyond that, I am afraid I cannot make the decision for you but here is a brief summary:
If you want to see the great migration and river crossings as well as loads of cheetah and plains game, then the Masai Mara is the one for you. You just HAVE to see one of the last large mammal migrations left on the planet and I can assure you that the great migration does not disappoint! Do you want to experience what it is like to be amongst an elephant herd and to literally stare into an elephant's toe nail? Do you want to photograph more leopards than you have ever seen in your life, as well see the prehistoric and endangered rhinoceros and all the rest of Africa's big game? If so, then the Botswana and South Africa workshop is for you.
Ultimately, you need to do both in your lifetime as both are completely different and both offer you incredible photographic opportunities. After living in Africa my entire life and working as a safari guide, safari camp manager and now as a professional wildlife photographer, I have narrowed all my experiences down to just two safaris, so you better believe that each is incredible! If you plan on doing both, then the Botswana and South Africa predator workshop is the one to do first. This exclusive African safari allows for more formal time for you to learn all you need to, in order to be able to shoot wildlife action like a professional! You will also learn and practice in very lowlight conditions which will place you in good stead for any future photography trips.
Ok, I am sold how does the booking process work?
You simply email me here... and once we have figured out which trip is for you (if you don't already know), I will introduce you to my agent who will handle the bookings and the logistics of the safari. When you land in Africa, I will then be there to greet you and from that point on I will be your personal host, guide and photographic tutor until the safari ends.
Um, so you don't actually book the safari but you work through an agent. Why?
As a working professional wildlife photographer, I am out the office more than I am in the office and in order for me to offer you a truly professional service, I have chosen to work through agents. But, it must be said that I do not just work through any agent! Currently I work only through two agents depending on the location of the safari. These agents act as ground-handlers and I know each one personally and I have been working with them for years now! Both are highly specialized companies that cater exclusively for photographers. By using agents, you can still be guided by a working professional wildlife photographer but you need not endure a substandard booking experience and please believe me, my administration skills are sub-standard!
Ok, if you go through and agent does this not hike the cost of the safari?
Working through my agents does not add to the cost of your safari because the agents I use do not add a fee on top of what the safari camps charge if you book privately. Each agent rather collects a commission from the camps/lodges. It is standard practice, that safari camps will offer agents between 10-20% commission on bookings and this is where the agents make their money. This means that you are paying the same rate per person per night at a safari camp or lodge that you would even if you booked privately! The only catch is that each of my agents charge a flat administration fee for handling the booking and logistics of your safari. Depending on the length of your safari this fee will vary but an average 9 day exclusive African safari will carry an administration cost of US$400 and this is a once off fee for your entire safari. For this administration fee you get all the logistics taken care of, including the booking of all internal transfers and flights. You also get peace of mind which allows you to relax and enjoy your safari knowing everything is taken care of and should something go wrong, you have a 'go to person' on the ground in Africa!
You say you give photographic 'lessons' as a part of the workshop experience. How is this facilitated?
I travel with an entire workshop on my macbook and during the trip, I will monitor your progress and I will present topics that will challenge and motivate you to take your imagery to the next level. I will also address the problem areas that you might have, as well as give you feedback on your own images. This is all done in a relaxed manner and usually in the library or a quiet corner of the camp or lodge. I find that a good time to meet is a couple hours before the afternoon safari drive. I like to assess your images early on, to make sure that we iron out any major problems, so that you can be sure to capture great images on your trip. By the end of the workshop I will have taught you everything you need to know to take images like a professional wildlife photographer! While on safari drive I will share my settings with you but I will not at any stage force you to shoot the way I do. I will also teach you how to use your flash and how to shoot in low light conditions. I recently completed a three year project on leopards for the BBC Wildlife Magazine documenting the nocturnal lives of leopards. Low light action photography is therefore my specialty. On a safari or workshop I will teach you to shoot the kind of images that I do. You can see some of my work here...
Why do you try to combine a safari with a workshop?
Well my answer to this is simple! An African safari is not cheap in anyone’s language or currency. For you to travel all this way to learn how to shoot would not be fair. Likewise, for you to travel all this way, only to take images that are no good would also be an atrocity. My aim, is for you to travel all this way and to not only learn more about photography but to also go home with a portfolio of wonderful, dynamic and powerful images. I have the experience to facilitate both and therefore, I offer both.
What makes a Greg du Toit exclusive photo safari different?
First and foremost, I am an African. Not only was I born in Africa but my family has been here for eight generations! Africa is my home, and when you travel with me, you are a guest in my home. I delight in showing and sharing my home with you, and each of my exclusive African safaris are a personalized and hospitable experience. As we say in Swahili, “Karibu Sana” which means “You are very welcome”!
Secondly, not only have I been running around Africa my entire life (can you believe that I have never touched snow), but I have been working permanently in the African safari industry for the last 17 years. I started out as a safari guide before meeting my wife, Claire. We then teamed up to manage safari camps in South Africa, Botswana, Kenya and Tanzania. During this time, I gleaned valuable insight into geographic locations and safari camps, which I have used to design exclusive African safari itineraries.
Thirdly, all my itineraries are designed by myself personally, and specifically with photographers in mind! But, and this is where I differentiate from the competition, my aim is to place my clients in locations and positions where they are able to shoot award winning images as apposed to cliche type shots! As a result, I only sell a small handful of select exclusive African safaris and each promises to place you in the very best locations on the continent for wildlife photography so that you can capture unique and powerful imagery.
That all sounded quite philosophical, give me a point for point answer as to why your safaris in Africa are different?
Ok, for the left-brained of you:
- My photo safaris take you to the VERY best ecosystems in Africa for photography. This sounds logical right, but you will be surprised how many famous ecosystems in Africa actually produce very few solid photographic opportunities.
- We visit these ecosystems at the optimum time of year for photography. This knowledge has been collected over many years of getting it wrong as a professional wildlife photographer, in my personal capacity. You cannot afford to get it wrong on your trip of a lifetime!
- For my exclusive African safaris, I only use safari camps that are located in the heart of the wildlife action. This is an all too often neglected point, as one really needs to know an area well, before one is able to identify where the best wildlife photography occurs. You will again be surprised how many camps are NOT located in the heart of the action.
- On my safaris, you will have exclusive use of a vehicle as this is essential to being able to capture dynamic images. All my trips have only three photographers per vehicle.
- As far as possible, I try to place us in locations that allow off-road driving, as freedom and flexibility are key to creating powerful imagery. After years of safari travel, I have learned where off-road driving is allowed or ‘tolerated’.
- My private African safaris take you to the exact locations that I travel to in my personal capacity as a professional wildlife photographer, when I am shooting for a project or for award winning images.
- When on safari, I place you in positions where you can shoot the same type of wildlife imagery that I do. See my latest images here...
- The exclusive African safaris I run, I have been on many times before in my personal capacity and I am not using these safaris as a tool to see places and to get my own photographs. Again you will be surprised how many exclusive African safari companies and operators are doing just that.
- As a professional photographer, I am totally willing to share my knowledge with you and again, since we are in my backyard, I am not trying to shoot for myself. I am there to make sure you finish your safari with exceptional images!
- The secret to my work, is that I get it right in the field and in-camera! I know about light and animal behaviour and as such, I know how to achieve winning results in-camera! This is my philosophy and believe it or not, it is a different approach, in a world where photographers are shooting on as many auto settings as possible, and then focusing most of their attention on post processing techniques back home in front of their computer.
- While photography is the focus of my safaris, I believe that to be a great wildlife photographer, you need to be passionate about your subjects and you need to enjoy just being out there. My ultimate goal besides making sure that you finish the trip with wonderful images, is to respect nature and to share my passion with you for the great outdoors and for Africa's splendid creatures.
Continue reading FAQ questions and answers here...
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