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Safari FAQ Page 1...
First things first, what about Ebola?
This is an easy question to answer because Ebola should not in any way be factored into your decision making process for any of the safaris or workshops that I am marketing. Why? Because Africa is a gigantic continent almost the size of North America and Europe combined. The Ebola outbreak is in Guinea and Sierra Leone (West Africa). The closest safari region to this is Kenya and just look at how far Kenya is from Sierra Leone here. East and Southern Africa have not had one single Ebola case in this epidemic but did you know that the USA has had 10 and Europe has had 14. Your chances of getting Ebola on safari are therefore negligible. For the latest see the BBC website here. Chances are that you are currently sitting closer to the Ebola virus right now than you will be on safari in Africa. For example, London is much closer to Ebola in Africa than Nairobi is (not to mention the two recent cases in the UK itself).
Ok, but what about terrorism?
Terrorism is truly a global issue and the only safari country regularly plagued by this is Kenya. Unfortunately for Kenya, the media has really done their tourism and wildlife a grave injustice by way of sensationalism. The terrorism in Kenya has been solely targeted towards the Kenyan citizens themselves. No tourist destinations have been hit. The few kidnapping cases, from years gone by, all occurred on the coast and we do not go near the coastline on safari. On the safaris that I list, we do not go into the Nairobi city centre at all. Our safari goes straight from the international airport out of town where we drive through Nairobi National Park to our overnight boutique lodge on the outskirts. To get to our safari destination we fly in and out of a small airport called Wilson, also on the outskirts of town. We do not do any shopping and we spend our time out in the bush on safari. The threat of terrorism is therefore negligible and sitting reading this wherever you are in the world, you are probably closer to a major terrorist threat than you will be in Africa. Please do not boycott Kenya as its wildlife needs you to come on safari. Tourism is the only future that wildlife has in Africa. In fact, the best time to travel to Kenya is now when the masses are avoiding it due to ignorance and false reporting.
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, 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 few clients that are very serious photographers and which solicit my services to lead them on private safaris (including one National Geographic photographer). But mostly I just have people who, like me, love nature and love photography. These people come on a pvt safari to get the most out of the experience and we have a good mixture of fun combined with serious photography. I also guide families from time to time which is great fun and I cater for all levels of photographers (except pink iPhone users).
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 some 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 $25 000 for a single photographer. On average they cost around $50 000 per person for a 3 week safari. Of course the cost will vary greatly, depending on the choice of camps and the duration of the safari. We always send an obligation free quotation and itinerary so don't be shy to get in touch. If you trying to keep the cost below $20 000 then join me on one of my advertised set departures which are exclusive African safaris in their own right.
I see that for private safaris you mention a lot of 'Best Of' safaris. Is there a reason for this?
The 'Best Of' concept is a wonderful and effective one. What I have found over the years is that photographers who sign up for private safaris are the kind who return to Africa more than once. They are the kind who want to extract the best photographically from the continent. So, instead of flitting about from one iconic destination to another, I designed the 'Best Of' concept. What this means is that we knock off one country at a time. The advantage of this is that you will get to shoot in the iconic locations but then also in the off the beaten track locations. If you think about it, if you only go on safari to the iconic destinations, these are the places every other photographer goes to, and so you will land up getting shots similar to others. The 'Best Of' safaris are usually longer (2-3 weeks) and if you stick to the 'best of' plan, you will get the best results from the continent. We have designed incredible 'best of' safaris fr almost every country so do get in touch via email here...
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 educational role 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 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 call the Masai Mara Predator tour a 'safari' is that due to the nature of photography in this ecosystem, we are generally out longer in the morning and afternoon, usually about 10 hours per 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. The lessons are not compulsory though and this trip, although sold as a workshop, guarantees exceptional predator and big game photographic opportunities. You will still go home with full memory cards but having improved your own personal photography and portfolio.
Why do you currently only sell a handful of 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 met. 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 Okavango Delta and South Luangwa, by way of example, 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 photographers, often traveling from far away and paying top dollar, will be able to fill their memory cards.
2. Secondly, we need to be based in a camp or lodge that allows quick and easy access to special photographic opportunities because, remember, it is all about the light.
3. We need freedom to be able to drive off road as much as possible.
4. We need to avoid other vehicles so that we can change positions and work a particular angle, 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. 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 factored in.
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, to be able to venture off the beaten track away from other tourists. You want to finish a safari with unique images that you can enter into the Winland Smith Nature's Best or NHM Wildlife Photographer of the Year competitions.
When you add all above points together, there are really only a handful of locations and camps to consider for serious photographers. I have visited almost all Africa's safari locations and I have photographed most of them extensively. At the end of the day, the safaris that I sell are the only ones 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, has 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 an advocate 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 photographic opportunities, not to the degree that I can in the Masai Mara or Mala Mala.
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 East Africa for 4 years and I have been following the migration in the Masai Mara for the last 14 consecutive years. During this time I have learnt how to not only 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 parks, 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 rhinoceros) 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?
Each one of my listed safaris and workshops are absolute 'must do' safaris, that is why I only list a handful. Each one it totally different but all 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. At the end of each of my online itineraries is a summary which can help you to make your decision. You can also read the 'Why this is the safari for you' segment at the top of each safari page. After living in Africa my entire life and working as a safari guide, then as a safari camp manager and now as a professional wildlife photographer, I have narrowed all my experiences down to just a handful of safaris, so you better believe that each is incredible.
The 'Great Rift Valley - Helicopter Safari' is not your usual type of photo safari - so this is for people specifically wanting something different. On this safari you get to experience Africa outside of a formally protected reserve or park. What is therefore on offer is 'real Africa' and a diversity that will exhilarate you. This undiscovered corner of Africa is one of my favourite places to be. It is as if the clock has been wound back in time, a hundred years back in fact! This safari offers a rare mix of culture, predators, research, and expansive landscapes. If you want to avoid cliched imagery, then this is the safari for you. Photographing Lake Natron, the largest breeding ground in the world for Lesser Flamingoes, from the helicopter - is always a major highlight of this safari.
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 with 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; I know each one personally and I have been working with them for many years now. Both are highly specialized companies that cater exclusively for photographers. By using agents, you can still benefit by having a working professional wildlife photographer as your personal safari guide, but you need not endure a substandard booking experience and please believe me, my administrative skills are substandard.
If you go through an 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 you if you had to 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 the safari yourself. 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 a 9 day safari will carry an average administration cost of around US$400. 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 as well as special luggage allowances, private vehicles, meet and greets etc. 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. The agent the builds my travel costs into the overall cost of the safari and I am booked into the camps as a pilot/guide which means I do not get charged the full tourist rate.
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 laptop 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 any 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 for the BBC Wildlife Magazine documenting the nocturnal lives of leopards. Low light action photography is my real 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 not be right. 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 photographs. 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 11 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 but I have been working permanently in the African safari industry for the last 22 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 my 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 cliched 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 create 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 award winning images. My trips have only three photographers per vehicle.
- As far as possible I try to place you in locations that allow off-road driving, as freedom and flexibility are key to creating powerful imagery. After years of safari travel, I have learnt 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 book project or for award winning images. See my book page here...
- 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 sell, I have been on many times before in my personal capacity and I am not using these safaris as a tool to travel to see new places.
- As a professional photographer I am totally willing to share my knowledge with you and 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 the 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, especially 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 in front of their computer. My ability to achieve results in-camera is what won me the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2013 where you have to submit your RAW files. My second published booked is even titled 'Getting It Right In Camera'.
- 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 their environment. You need to enjoy just being out there. My ultimate goal besides making sure that you finish your 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.
- Being a photographer myself I understand what a critical issue the safari truck and space is, and that is why I limit my safaris to just three photographers per vehicle and why I use open safari trucks where possible, so as to avoid you having to shoot from the roof, and getting a top down perspective on your subjects.
- I keep my tours small and usually limited to just one vehicle, so that you can receive one-on-one tuition, based on your skill level and aligned with your interests. I don't run big groups where you get bounced around from one photographer to the next.
- I understand that photographers want unique shots and I have learnt over the years to visit various ecosystems outside of the conventional times of year, so as not only to avoid traffic but to also avoid getting conventional photographic results. Very few photographers have the intimate knowledge that is required to do this.
Ok, hold on a second, you say you not there to shoot for yourself but do you take photographs?
Yes I do, and that is because I love photography. I have reached a point in my career where it is extremely difficult to obtain unique imagery for my African portfolio. I aim for just 6 new images a year for my portfolio from Africa and maybe another six that I am prepared to publish. To rectify this, I am branching out in my personal capacity and looking for projects outside of Africa, like bears in Finland and musk oxen in Norway. I am also seeking out new projects in Africa like the bat migration and Ethiopian wolves. Despite this, I always have my camera handy as one just never knows when a great shot will turn up.
On your safari, I will sit in the front of the safari vehicle where I work closely with the local driver guide to ensure that you are in the right position for each shoot so that you are be able to capture unique behavioral opportunities. By sitting next to the driver, I can use my experience of animal behaviour to make sure we move ahead of the action and that we are properly positioned. Buy having only 3 photographers on a vehicle we can all sit on the same side of the safari truck and I will make sure that you are lined up correctly for each shot.
Photographing for me is like driving a car and something I do everyday. Even if I am photographing, you will still be free to ask me any questions that you have and while I shoot, I will call out my camera settings for you. If of course you get stuck, I will put my camera down to help you. I believe that through me photographing, you benefit more from my skills as a professional wildlife photographer as while I photograph, I share with you my thoughts and I caution you regarding potential issues around exposure, depth of field, shutter speed, composition, focusing etc.
So you sit in front hey, is that not the best seat?
No, the front seat has a good angle and that is the only advantage. Sitting in front, you are unable to shoot out of the right side at all, as the driver is in your way. Shooting out the front is also difficult due to aerials, tracker seats, mirrors, rifles and windshields. In Mala Mala you have an aerial to the front right and the driver right next to you, making shooting very difficult. In East Africa, you have a windscreen blocking your entire front view and you do not have the option of shooting out the top. When sitting in the front there is also only room for one big lens and you cannot have your camera bag handy. In the new Land Rovers you can only fit a 400mm on your lap as anything longer hits the dashboard.
By sitting in front I am able to direct the driver which benefits your photography. To get the ultimate shot, you need to quickly assess a scene and move ahead of the action. If I sit on the back I need to shout to the driver whereas next to him I can often gesture with my hands. Sitting in front I can also hear the radio and liaise with the guide regarding how to rotate into sightings so that we get to the action in the best possible light. Having worked as a guide I know the tricks of the trade but I need to sit in front to execute them.
Obtaining award winning wildlife imagery entails far more than just having the correct camera settings. Knowledge of how wild animals behave and being positioned correctly are both of vital importance. I have the necessary wildlife and photographic experience to put you in the right place at the right time as often as possible, but to do this I need to sit in front so that I can direct the driver easily and quickly. Time is of the essence when working with wild animals and sitting in front I will make sure that the vehicle is optimally positioned to give you the best chance of getting that award winning shot.
My photographic safaris and workshops each only have 3 photographers per vehicle which means that you can shoot out the left and right. If you would prefer a lower angle, then simply shoot off a beanbag placed on the seat next to you. I run my safaris in remoter places with less vehicle traffic and whenever possible I will allow you to jump out of the truck and shoot from the ground (although this is not something I should advertise so please keep it our little secret).
Ok, so where do I sit?
For my safaris I only have 3 photographers per vehicle (unless otherwise specified) and what we do is each photographer sits on the left-hand side of the vehicle. This way I can line you all up easily and quickly for that award winning shot. Having your own row means you can also shoot out the right as there will be times when it is impossible to position the left-hand side of the truck to face the action. To keep it fair, we change seats for every safari drive and by moving one seat forward each time, you will get to shoot in each seat. When you get to the front, you then start at the back again. This way no one feels like they are always in the worst seat.
Please note that in Mashatu Game Reserve there is a tracker who sits on the back of the safari truck. This tracker helps us find photographic subjects and also directs the driver. When sitting in the back row, you will share that row with the tracker but this need not be a disadvantage as the tracker will always duck out of your way if you are shooting out the right-side. You can also get him to hold your spare camera and lens or even your flash. If you do not want the tracker to join us then please specify this to me before booking. In Londolozi, the tracker sits on the front of the bonnet and in big cat sightings will climb on the back but he will not be a hindrance. Other listed safari locations do not have trackers but if its a concern then please check in with us.
If you bring a non photographing spouse along then you two will need to share a row so as not to hinder the other photographers. If you a photographer concerned about non photographing partners joining then please specify this when booking so that we can make sure you on a tour with no non-photographing spouses. Most photographers travel alone or both shoot if they are a couple, and therefore each is booked as a photographer - meaning that they have there own row. So, non-photographing spouses are rarely an issue.
If you, for medical reasons, have to sit in a certain seat then you please need to book a private safari.
Some photographic safari companies claim that sitting in the back is the best way to lead a safari, what do you think?
Every photographic company has their own recipe and I cannot speak for other companies; I can only speak for myself and for my recipe, which is to only have three photographers on a vehicle so that each photographer can shoot out of the left and right side of the safari truck. I sit in front where I am not only out of your way but I am able to effectively communicate with the guide to not only spot potential photographic opportunities but to position the vehicle ahead of the action, and in the best position for the light. Don’t forget photography is all about the light.
Tell me more about your recipe again?
My recipe, like many chefs', is simple. When you go on a safari drive with me, you are going with a professional wildlife photographer and you will shoot like one too. We get out early and we stay out late for the light. On every safari drive, our main objective is to get the best wildlife images possible. By having your own row, with maximum freedom and flexibility to shoot out the left and the right, and having a seat open next to you to place your camera gear on, you have the best chance of getting that award winning shot. I believe that when it comes to photographic guiding, or any other type of guiding for that matter, it is best to lead from the front where critical decisions about animal behavior and light can be made as quickly and effectively as possible. Sitting in the front I am still available for questions and I give camera-setting recommendations. Before we go on a safari drive and back in camp I teach and help you with your camera settings and photographic concepts and principles. I travel with an entire workshop on my laptop computer. I am available and approachable. This is my recipe and after 10 years of photographic guiding I can say that it works. Please read my guest testimonial page here
You mention award winning photography but have any of your safari clients won awards from photos they took on your safaris?
Yes, I am happy to say that many of my safari clients have won awards in various local and international competitions from shots that they have taken on safari with me. I have had one repeat photographer who started out as a beginner and went on to win the mammals category (which is the largest category) in the most prestigious Russian competition. Also, most notably, I had a young photographer on one of my safaris who I taught to use flash and radial blur and he placed in the Wildlife Photographer Of The Year.
Sorry to be blunt, but what qualifies you to lead workshops as everyone these days seems to be an expert?
Over the last decade, I have spent thousands of hours in Africa photographing (read an interview here). You are quite correct that these days almost everyone seems to sell themselves as a wildlife photographic expert or professional. Many people leading photo safaris are indeed experts, but they are expert marketers or social media gurus. I like to think that my images are what qualify me to lead photographic safaris and workshops. I do not digitally manipulate my work and all my subjects have been photographed in free and wild conditions. Here is a link to a few of my images
I was also a nature conservationist long before I was a photographer and I have studied African wildlife in great detail. As a result, I am able to predict unique behaviour, which is a skill not often highlighted in the photographic safari industry. In the last two years I have seen 16 kills (actual take-downs). While lots of luck is involved, knowledge of animal behaviour also plays a major role. See a video of one here...
All fine and well but are you a professional photographer?
Yes, I have been commissioned by the National Geographic Channel as a photographer for the launch of their Great Migrations series in the Masai Mara in 2010. In the same year I hosted a solo exhibit for the National Geographic Society in London. The exhibit titled Africa sold out in its first month before being extended. I also regularly place in the most prestigious wildlife competitions in the world and I have been commissioned by the BBC Wildlife Magazine to compile a portfolio on African Leopards which was published in October of 2012 and I was commissioned by Geo Magazine for the same purpose in 2014. In short I have worked for the National Geographic and the BBC in both the areas that I sell safaris. You can see a small selection of my published work here and you can read my full bio here. I was awarded the most prestigious award in world wildlife photography when I was named the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2013. I have placed a total of 6 times in the top 100 of the same competition and most recently in 2017.
What is your teaching style?
I have set and structured workshop material on my laptop in the form of a PowerPoint presentation. While I come fully prepared, my teaching style is relaxed and less formal. I will tailor both the content and style of my teaching to suite your needs. Every photographer is unique, with unique passions, skill sets, experiences and frustrations. My aim is to treat and teach you as an individual, and to make sure that regardless of your current level, I help take your imagery to the next level.
Ok, this sounds heavy. Do you need to be a semi-professional to do one of your trips?
Not at all. I cater for everyone from beginners through to semi-professionals. I delight in taking your imagery to the next level, in getting you excited about your photography and getting you passionate about Africa. I am not concerned with skill levels or people’s perceptions thereof. There is far too much ego involved in photography.
If a group departure, how do you manage different experience levels amongst photographers?
I have learnt to do this over the years and it is not as hard as it sounds. When in the vehicle I will help the more novice photographers with camera settings and general advice. While I do this, the more experienced guys are shooting away. When back in camp, I will tailor my tutoring to cater for both. This means that a more experienced photographer might need to sit and listen to a topic which he already knows a lot about, but I believe that even us experienced guys need to be reminded of the basics from time to time. I will also always make sure I tailor the workshop component to the needs of the experienced guys as well, and usually a talk on flash really gets them going.
What if I do not really want a workshop type safari, I just need to enjoy some good photography and relax?
This is absolutely fine by me. Nothing on my trips is compulsory. The main overriding aim for me is that you enjoy and get out of the trip, exactly what you want. If you want me to just point you in the right direction in the field whilst on drive, and then relax in camp, that can certainly be arranged.
What about non photographing partners, friends and spouses? Can they join one of your Africa photo safaris?
Yes, bring them along! Although I designed my trips for photographers, photographers like to photograph exceptional wildlife right? Well, non-photographers also want to see exceptional wildlife so there is no conflict of interests there. The only catch is that if they want to join the morning safari drive, they will need to get up early (about half an hour before dawn). For the rest, the safari is similar to a non photographing safari as they do not need to sit in on classes unless they want to. Ok, there is a second catch: Photographers like to spend longer than usual at a sighting to extract as much out of a good sighting as possible. The non-photographing partners will therefore also need a good dollop of patience. Often though, patience in the wild is equally rewarding for everyone.
Side note: I am not only a wildlife photographer but I am also a safari guide and qualified Nature Conservationist and as such, non-photographers will get the full safari experience as I share interesting facts and insights concerning Africa's wildlife, people and ecosystems.
Ok, so non photographing partners can join, but will they enjoy the trip?
Yes! I have years and years of experience as a safari guide and I will make sure that even non-photographing partners get the full safari experience. They will take in beautiful sights and they will share in an adventure of a lifetime. They will also learn interesting things about animals and about Africa in general.
What is the accommodation like?
The Botswana and South Africa workshop is hosted in lodges with air conditioning and large spacious rooms. My Masai Mara and Serengeti migration safari is hosted in Meru-style 'walk-in' safari tents. It is incorrect to refer to these lodgings as 'tents', they are the size of large bedrooms with flush loos and hot water.
It is the new millennium, why the need for tents?
Well, an African safari would not be a safari without a spirit of adventure now would it? A traditional Hemingway safari involves penetrating the wilderness and then doing so in sure style. This is a tried and tested winning recipe, and I believe that the best way to experience Africa is to do so under canvas. What better than lying inside your comfortable bed, all snug and warm, listening to lions roar or buffalo graze outside. Another very important reason is that I only use camps in prime game viewing areas. Most times, these camps by law, need to be mobile as they must carry a lite footprint.
What if I do not like roughing it?
Then join me on safari! The camps I use have charm and you will be more than comfortable. Rustic elegance is a beautiful thing. If however you really cannot tolerate seeing an insect or not having a mini-bar, then please sign up for my Botswana and South Africa workshop or a private safari where we can wine and dine you.
You mention safari under canvas, so why do you use Mala Mala and Mashatu?
Mala Mala and Mashatu are an exception. They are such beautiful and exclusive pieces of Africa and the interaction that you have with predators and big game there, makes them a prime safari destination and hey if we have to 'slum' it in a lodge because that is where the best wildlife is, then so be it.
Lastly and most importantly, what do your previous guests that you have had on exclusive African safaris say?
Please read my guest testimonial page and I look forward to meeting you in Africa.
Ok hold on, one last last question, are you sure these are real testimonials?
I have heard that their are operators out there that write their own testimonials and the thought never ever occurred to me. If you would like to email any of my clients to verify a testimonial then drop me a line here.
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All text copyright Greg du Toit 2015
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