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Safari FAQ Page 2...
What about food on safari?
Both East and much of Southern Africa were once under British rule and as such, you can expect that type of cuisine. The breakfasts usually consist of cereals and a hot English breakfast. Lunches are usually light with a variety of salads and always a meat option. Dinners are traditional English affairs usually with a soup starter and freshly baked camp bread. The main course will usually be a roast of sorts, with vegetables. Dessert is usually a simple affair consisting of a baked pudding. You will not go hungry!
(A side note to mention is that between meals there are often not snacks readily available and breakfast is often only later in the morning. You might want to bring a few snacks or energy bars if you have a problem keeping your sugar levels up)
Can I drink water and eat fresh produce on safari?
I advise that you only drink bottled water, which is always available in camps. Avoid ice as this is often made from local water which although is generally safe to drink, your foreign tummies might disagree with. It is safe to eat fresh produce.
What about allergies?
Most safari camps are able to handle common food allergies but not with the degree of skill that five star hotels in cities do. The best way to handle an intolerance, is to simply avoid eating that particular food as the menus in camp are quite diverse. If you have a more uncommon allergy, like being allergic to eggs, and you know of a solution (like a powder substitute), then bring it along on safari. If you have a deadly allergy, then be sure to travel with your own medication and request in camp that that ingredient be removed from the kitchen altogether. Vegetarians, dairy or wheat intolerance's are common and can be managed individually. However, if you suffer from a combination of these allergies then we need to let the camps know in advance so that they can prepare.
Side note: It is helpful to remember that many safari camps have to fly produce in or truck it in, over hundreds of miles. If you assist the camp in managing your allergy, it will be greatly appreciated.
What about medicine, diseases and vaccinations?
Please check in with your local travel clinic or doctor for advice. From my personal experience, a yellow fever, hepatitis and rabies vaccination is a must, while the plethora of others are optional. If traveling between African countries you WILL be asked for your yellow fever certificate by customs officials. My safaris are mostly conducted in low risk malarial areas or at low risk times but for your own peace of mind, I recommend that you take a prophylactic. Malerone (although expensive) is excellent, and I have had no clients display any serious side effects while on this medication.
In areas where you get tsetse flies in East Africa, humans are not the primary disease carries, and contracting Tryps is very rare. There is nothing you can do about these flies except to dress appropriately (keep reading) and to apply Mosie-Guard. None of my current safari destinations carry tsetse fly except the Serengeti and Mahale safaris.
The camps do have medicine kits and there is an evacuation plan but please take out your own comprehensive travel insurance and travel with a copy of it. I find it practical to travel through Africa with the following medical items:
- Immodium (keep this handy when in transit)
- Buscopan (for tummy cramps)
- Pain killers (that contain both paracetamol and a muscle relaxant)
- Antihistamine cream and tablets for any insect bites or allergic reactions
- Melatonin to help speedy recovery from jet lag
- Any medicine or ointments that you would normally take at home
- Mosquito repellant
- A product called Mosie-Guard for areas where Tsetse Flies occur (manufactured in the Uk and all natural as deet does not work)
- Tweezers for any thorns or splinters
- Re-hydrant sachets (very important)
- Disinfectant or antibiotic cream (just for nicks, cuts or grazes)
- Plasters (to cover nicks, cuts or grazes)
- Lots of high (30+) factor sunblock
- A broad spectrum antibiotic is seldom needed but does offer peace of mind for any major tummy issues or cold/flu infections and can also be used for toothache. Speak to your doctor about this.
- On the South Africa and Botswana Predator Workshop there is an option to sleep out and ear plugs can come in handy to block out snoring.
What about clothing and weather?
This will vary slightly from safari to safari, but a safe bet is to expect cool conditions in the mornings (trousers and a jumper). By mid-morning it is already hot and the heat builds until the late afternoon. There might be a thunder shower in the afternoon and the nights are pleasant. The best advice I can give is to layer! Expect temperatures to range between 32 F – 97 F (that is 0 – 36 degrees Celsius) on any given day. The Selous Game Reserve and Mahale are exceptions; these reserves are very tropical in temperature, so only short and cool clothing is needed for both the day and the night. Try to avoid light coloured clothes on any safari and especially avoid white clothing if you will be conducting a walking safari. If in an area with tsetse flies, avoid wearing solid colours and especially blacks and blues. Stripy clothing works well for tsetse flies.
Always bring lots of sunblock (factor 30+) and after-sun as well as hats (although these often blow off). Shades are advised and if you are particular about your eyes, bring clear night shades for the evening time, to avoid any flying insects or midges when returning to camp after dark (more applicable if traveling between Oct-March in Southern Africa).
In the hotter part of the day, it is fine to wear short pants and even sandals in camp (although watch out for acacia thorns). Dress comfortably and layer (repeated just for added effect). I find that a jumper and a light wind-breaker are ideal for the colder part of the day and then shorts and t-shirts for the rest of the day. The camps will have rain coats or as we like to call them ‘five second ponchos’.
There is not much of a dress code in camp so rather focus on being comfortable. I find that most foreigners tend to wrap themselves up in long clothing, even in the heat of the day, but this need not be the case.
Bring a costume on safari as they are light, wash easily and you never know when or where you might be able to take a dip. On a Mahale or Selous safari, a costume is a must but in the Mara it is not necessary. Also in Southern Africa between May and August it is a bit too cold to swim.
A special warning applies for the Botswana and South Africa Predator Workshop where during the months of June and July temperatures can, due to windchill on the safari truck, drop below freezing for the first hour of the day. A jacket, gloves and a beanie are a must. If you have signed up for the Meerkat extension then temperatures can drop as far as -16 degrees C or 3.2 degrees F during May-August so bring those thermals, down jackets and gortex shells.
I am afraid of flying?
For most of your trip there will only be short legs of flying. If you are totally not up for it, I can arrange that we drive between safari legs. For some safaris it works fine to drive but generally driving can involve long detours on bumpy dusty roads. Something to remember is that small airplanes can land anywhere and the most risky flight you take, is probably the one to get to Africa. A short internal flight is worth the safari experience of a lifetime that is waiting on the other end, and it is statistically probably safer than driving.
I get airsick?
So do I. From my experience, the best thing to do is to nibble on something salty during the flight and to keep your eyes closed. Let your ears do all the balancing. You can get patches to stick on your neck but please do not touch the patch and then touch your eyes as this causes your pupils to dilate for days afterwards resulting in blurred vision. Try sit in the middle or towards the front the plane as this can help. A new trick I have discovered is to take one Valoid the night before traveling and then another one as soon as I wake up on the actual day of traveling. This works a treat and is also handy for great white shark photography.
What about Visas?
This depends on your country of origin and please check with the embassy in your home country. Your visas, vaccinations and travel insurance need to be taken care of by yourself and prior to your departure. Please note that some countries will require to see your yellow fever certificate upon applying for a visa.
What about Travel Insurance?
I will require you to take out your own comprehensive travel insurance and to send the agent the relevant details.
What currency should I travel with?
I advise that when on a safari in Africa, you travel with US Dollars and make sure that they are notes post 2006. Once you land, you can exchange for local currency. To avoid traveling with loads of cash, you can also draw money on your Visa/Master card at ATM machines which are now readily available in African cities. Visa and Master cards seem to work best in Africa.
You can settle some accounts by credit card but not all. There is often a 5% surcharge on credit cards and a 10% surcharge on traveler’s checks (although these are largely not used anymore). It is always better to settle with cash and to ask the camp manager to keep your cash and valuables safe when you get to your destination. Avoid traveling with loads of cash as all you will need cash for, is to maybe settle a drinks tab, buy curios and leave a gratuity (keep reading for more on these).
What about tips and gratuities?
When on safari to Africa you do not need to tip everyone you come into contact with. Usually you tip someone for helping carry or deliver luggage at the international airport or hotel. Once you leave your hotel and head out on safari, you do not tip for any services until the end. If you are traveling with me, I will take care of the airport porters as this just adds stress to your travel and at a time when you are tired.
Once in a safari camp, you only tip at the end of your stay, upon departure. It is safari tradition to tip your driver guide $20 per person per day on safari. This can be given to your driver guide in person at the airstrip prior to final departure. Most camps then also have a general tip box, for all the back of house staff. It is customary to also leave a $20 tip per person per day on safari for the general tip box. As such, traditionally you factor in $40 per day you spend in a safari camp.
Please note that tipping is always optional and that the above is only a guide. You are free to tip more or less, and of course not at all unless you are satisfied with your stay.
What is included and excluded in the cost of your safaris?
I try to make my safaris as inclusive as possible so that once you land in Africa, you can relax. Your accommodation and all transfer costs, local flights and airport taxes are included. Safari drives, exclusive vehicle fee and park fees are also included. Drinks are usually included except premium brands (e.g. champagne and cognacs). Mala Mala and Mashatu are an exception whereby all drinks are excluded. Please check each individual itinerary for a list of included and excluded items. Bottled water is always included.
Excluded are visas, purchases of a personal nature (e.g. curios), gratuities, personal travel and medical insurance, international flights and special activities not listed in the itinerary (e.g. balloon flights).
In terms of African culture is there any behavior that can offend when on an African photo tour?
Africans are friendly people and the best way to approach anyone is by being polite and friendly. This will almost always be reciprocated. Being rude and demanding is not the way to go in Africa as it will generally just get you even more frustrated. In Africa people are almost never in a rush and two perfect strangers will almost always stop to speak to each other. This is very far removed from the rushed 1st World, so try to slow down a bit.
A general word of advice, to ensure that you enjoy your safari as much as possible, is to remember that Africa is 3rd World and therefore things do not work like clockwork and nor do they always make sense. This can either frustrate you or you can go with the flow and let it add to the charm. My advice is generally to relax and to pack your sense of humour. Slow down as Africa is not in a rush and remember that the safari camp staff have a very rural background, that is miles away and removed from your world. Sometimes you might want to jump in and fix some simple service issue, but remember that the staff take pride in their work and they do not have the privileged and educated background that many of us have.
You say be friendly right, but what about being scammed when on an African photo tour?
My advice is, when you are in transit (e.g. in cities, airports, hotels or park/reserve entrances), remain polite but firm. In these environments there is no need whatsoever to have conversations with strangers, as they invariably are wanting something from you. When vendors approach you, you just need to say "Sorry, not for me today" and shake your head and raise a hand in protest (as they often will not understand your accent). You might need to repeat this over and over as they are often (or rather always) persistent. Try to avoid loosing your patience and also avoid being lulled into conversation. These guys are experts at starting conversation so they will often pick up on your accent and guess where you are from and get you talking. I know this answer might contradict the previous one, but while Africa is a friendly place, a little bit of 'street smarts' goes a long way.
I offer exclusive Africa travel so I try to avoid the above situations as much as possible and I am always around to assist you!
What about buying curios from local vendors when on safari in Africa?
My suggestion is to work out the price of the item in your own currency and decide what you are prepared to pay for it. You might need to pay slightly more but be prepared to make a final offer, and walk away. If you do not barter you will get ripped off.
What are the general safari dos and don'ts?
- Never stand up on a safari vehicle as this breaks the outline and the animals suddenly see a human form, which could upset them and even evoke a charge.
- Never run from a wild animal (even if in camp). They are so much quicker anyway and when you run you act as prey!
- Do not photograph people without asking your driver guide's consent. Always remember how you would feel if you were at home and a foreigner drove past and snapped your picture without asking.
- Do not walk outside your tent at night and always zip your tent closed. If you do, you are perfectly safe from any wild animal.
- Do not use your cellular phone on a safari drive or in a public area of the camp. Most people are trying to get away from the rat race.
- Resist the urge to say "Psssst" to the wild animals or to say something like "Here Kitty" and snap your fingers, or to do anything else to draw their attention. These are wild animals and we need to respect them as such. Invariably your attempt to manipulate their behaviour will fail and you will be left looking sheepish.
- ALWAYS ask to stop if you see something of interest or that you want to photograph. This trip is about you, and don’t be shy as we are super flexible here in Africa. Sometimes it is hard to hear in the front, over the engine noise, so if we do not hear you the first time, shout "STOP" even louder. We love to reverse or back-up in Africa!
- There is no such thing as a stupid question in Africa. Trust me, we have heard them all, so please ask away.
- Never be shy to ask a photography question. Even if you temporarily forget where to turn the camera on, please ask and I promise to help you and not to laugh.
Will I have internet connectivity or cell phone coverage when on safari to Africa?
The cellular industry in Africa is pretty good and if your phone is on roaming you will get signal (even if patchy) in most locations. In Mashatu there is patchy cellular signal but there is very slow unreliable WiFi in camp. Mala Mala has no cellular network but does also offer slow complimentary WiFi. Your room in Mala Mala has its own landline and this is still an effective and reliable way of communication. The Masai Mara has great cellular coverage. Mahale has no communications except for emergencies and the Serengeti has no cell signal but does have WiFi in camp as does Londolozi. Remote locations will have no communications except for emergencies but you can enquire about this when booking. In Africa we go by the saying "no news is good news" so advise loved ones of this before you depart and enjoy the break.
Any reading to do before the trip?
I get asked this a lot and my answer is "No", unfortunately there is not, EXCEPT for your camera manual! It is important that you know your camera and practice with your pets before coming out to Africa. Please also bring your manuals with.
You can read or watch the following movies to get you in the mood though:
Out of Africa (Kenya, Tanzania)
I dreamed of Africa (Kenya, Tanzania)
Ghosts in the Darkness (Kenya)
Jock of the Bushveld (South Africa)
Gorillas in the Mist (Rwanda)
Hotel Rwanda (Rwanda)
Disney's African Cats (Masai Mara)
What equipment do you use?
I am a Nikon user but I know the Canon system almost better from the many safari clients I have that shoot Canon. I know both flash systems well and can help you master your flash and use it in such a way that it solves issues of dynamic range without being obviously visible in your end result. I shoot with a Nikon D850 and D500 exclusively. My 'go-to' lens is the 80-400mm F5.6 simply for its versatility and weight. I have owned the 600mm, 500mm and 180-400mm. I use a Tamrac G32 backpack to fit all my gear. I then also travel with a 16-35mm F4 for my wide angle work.
What camera equipment should I bring?
This is one of the most commonly asked questions when preparing to go on an Africa photo safari. In an ideal world we would take everything we own but the realities of traveling in Africa are that there are weight restrictions. These restrictions vary somewhat between the various countries and locations, but an average of 15kg or 33lbs TOTAL allowance, usually applies. This is an alarming figure for wildlife photographers; usually our camera kit weighs more than this on its own. If you opt to not photograph in the nude, then the reality is that you will need to reduce the weight of your camera luggage. If you refuse to compromise on weight, then a very real solution is to book yourself an extra plane ticket for your internal African flights. This then doubles your allowance to 30kg or 66lbs, which is what most international carriers allow anyway. Considering the total cost of your safari, an extra internal seat does not equate to an exorbitant amount. If you absolutely do not want to be bothered with weight, you can also charter a plane. We can handle all of these arrangements for you. For most of my trips I book a freight seat (included in the cost) to increase our luggage allowance so please check when booking.
Being a seasoned African traveler and not always having the luxury of booking an extra seat, I have learned to pack as sensibly as possible. I feel that having too much equipment can stifle creativity in that, instead of working on creative techniques, one is constantly fumbling with equipment.
As a side note, remember that most safari camps wash clothes daily so you only need two changes and because the climate is moderate, you can pack very lightly. As a side note remember that in East Africa, for cultural reasons, females underwear is not washed by camp staff. Washing powder is provided for this, but ladies - you might want to bring an extra pair or two of underwear. In Southern Africa all items of clothes are washed so there is not a problem with underwear.
Below is a list of equipment that I recommend for an African photo safari. Please note that the list is intended to simplify matters and therefore I am not going into detail about which lens is better than another or which camera body out performs another. The Internet is full of such information (click here). The list below is intended to give you a quick guide, in terms of what equipment is needed to capture award-winning imagery on your safari of a lifetime. It is intended to be a guideline and not everything on the list is mandatory, nor is the list an exhaustive guide to equipment that is needed for wildlife photography. Rather, it is a practical guide and one that I have compiled after guiding and hosting hundreds of safaris and African photographic workshops. It is a general guide purposed to find solutions for all kinds of photographers traveling on all kinds of safaris in any African country.
1. One long focal length lens of at least 400mm or longer is highly recommended:
Both Nikon's 180-400mm and Canon's 200–400mm F4 are great safari lenses as they are versatile and sharp and with a convertor built in, they really are a 'one lens' solution. If your budget does not allow for the above, then don't despair as the Nikon 80-400mm and Canon 100-400mm respectively are incredible safari lenses. Their light weight and general versatility more than make up for any other short falls when comparing their performance to other more expensive lenses.
Canon or Nikon's 500mm F4's are both great options for safari lenses, they are fast and great in low-light. A 600mm F4 is a bit too long for my liking unless you into birds, then this is the lens to bring. Forget the older versions of this lens as they just too heavy for safari photography. A 400mm F2.8 is an increasingly popular lens as the new ones are lighter and can be coupled with converters giving excellent results. If you don't own one, you can rent one for your safari. An 800mm F5.6 is a bit of an overkill for a safari and especially in Africa where the heat shimmer begins as early as 8am, making sharp results difficult to achieve.
For those of you not wanting to break the bank account, Canon's 100-400mm or Nikon's 80-400mmm lenses, both offer good all-round compromises. These lenses are slower focusing, perform less well in low light and are not as sharp as some prime or fixed focal length lenses (although they are coming dangerously close). They are however small and incredibly versatile, allowing you to shoot wide and then zoom in. They are very practical lenses for African travel and still produce very publishable results. If you shooting Nikon I would recommend rather hiring an 80-400mm lens as this lens is not sufficiently sealed against dust, so if you bring your own - you will need to get it serviced when you get home. Either of these two lenses paired with a cropped sensor camera body, means that you will seldom need another lens when on safari. Nikon's D500 pairs well with the 80-400mm and especially for ladies who, with smaller hands, want a versatile system. The lens when attached to a cropped sensor body offers an effective 120-600mm. Very handy to say the least!
A 70-300mm F5.6 lens is your next best option for large mammals and predators. Make sure you have the VR (Nikon) or IS (Canon) versions. Birds will be mostly out of your reach though.
2. A mid-range zoom for close-up action or portraits is also highly recommended:
A 70-200mm F2.8 is a legendary lens, and indeed the benchmark for this type of work. If you have the money available, just buy one. This lens is pin sharp, fast and maneuverable. This is the lens you will use when we are on top of the action as well as to shoot your cultural portraits.
Canon shooters can check out the 70-200mm F4 lens, for a more cost effective option; although lacking in IS, this lens is small and light.
Another option for cultural work is to use your macro lens to double up as a portraiture lens, the 105mm focal length is ideal.
Nikon's 300mm F4 is superbly small and light and is a very serious contender to be included in my own camera bag.
3. A wide-angle lens of sorts for landscapes and to show your subjects in their environment is essential:
These lenses are small and light! I advocate a wide-angle lens with zoom functionality as these lenses are sharp enough and you cannot value their zoom functionality enough. One problem we have with wildlife is not getting close enough for a wide angle lens and therefore a 24-70mm is an ideal lens to have in your bag as realistically, when shooting a wild animal, you will seldom need a wider lens than 35mm. The problem I have is that the 24-70mm is too heavy so I prefer to use use a 16-35mm F4 lens as it is both sharp and light in weight.
Due to the nature of my safaris, we are usually miles away from light pollution so if you would like to shoot star trails or galaxy shots then a true wide angle lens is needed. At least 16mm wide for full frame cameras and 12mm wide for cropped sensor cameras. Lenses with an aperture of 2.8 are also best. These lenses are seldom used for wildlife as they are simply too wide. Don't forget a tripod and ball-head if you wanting to shoot stars and also check in with me regarding the moon phase to see whether astro-photograophy will be possible.
4. A 1,4 teleconverter is also recommended:
I am not a fan of teleconverters but sometimes the action is just that little bit out of reach. A 2x converter is too much of a compromise in quality for my liking (unless coupled with very expensive glass like the 400mm F2.8). Make sure your lens is of course compatible with a converter and that both focusing and image stabilization works with it attached. The new canon prime lenses work very well with converters. Nikon shooters can consider a 1.7x convertor but I gave mine back.
Summary: Travel with three lenses. One long lens of 400mm or longer, one mid range zoom lens ranging from 70-200mm and one wider angle lens. Bring a 1.4 converter and voila!
- Two camera bodies are preferable, one with both a good ISO performance and a high frame rate. Action cameras like the Canon 1DX and 1DX Mk ll or Nikon D5 or D500 are great for this. The other camera body should offer exceptional full-frame image quality and good ISO performance like the Canon 5dMk4 or Nikon D850. If you have two bodies, you can avoid changing lenses and missing the action. Also, you can avoid dust getting in and onto your sensor, which is a concern in Africa. With two bodies you can still shoot should, heaven forbid, one of your cameras pack up.
If you are not in the market for two camera bodies then go with the later and just buy one body with exceptional full frame quality and good ISO performance. Buy a battery pack to boost the frame rate and these cameras are then usually good enough for safaris. The Nikon D850 and Canon 5dMk4 are great examples of a one camera solution.
If you are only interested in wildlife action, as apposed to any type of landscape or portraiture work, then you might want to bring two identical bodies that offer high frame rates and good ISO performance. Two identical bodies will allow you to switch seamlessly between lenses and in the middle of the action.
Side note: There are of course many other superb cameras and a cropped sensor can come in very handy in Africa, especially if you do not have a long prime lens. The Nikon D500 is superb and the Canon 7dMk2 is a very popular safari camera. But, try bring two bodies if you can as should one be faulty you will need the other. Remember you can rent a body for your trip. If you cannot, then just buy the best body you can afford and bring it along. We will make it work!
Mirror-less cameras are knocking on the door but currently their autofocus is too slow. Watch this space!
- Camera support is a constant challenge when on safari as each safari camp’s vehicles will be configured slightly differently. Your biggest ally in this regard is the humble monopod. Purchase a monopod that can collapse short enough to be propped on the seat between your legs and then regardless of the vehicle configuration, you will always be ok. Monopods are small, light and easy to pack.
If you are a landscaper then a tripod is a must. Due to weight restrictions, the carbon fiber tripods are the way to go. Gitzo’s are good tripods and Benro’s offer a similar product but are more affordable. Really Right Stuff make incredible gear.
- Then, you will need a decent head to screw onto your monopod or tripod. There are dozens of heads out there and here again, weight becomes a critical factor (I really like the Kirk ball heads). Due to this, large fluid heads are generally not recommended. A medium-size ball head can do the trick for both your landscape and wildlife work. When shopping for a ball head, make sure that it can take the weight of your heaviest lens. It is very important that you test your longest lens on the head of your choice and please test your rigging before the safari. Depending on your brand of head, you will need matching lens plates attached to your lenses’ feet or camera bodies. When ordering or purchasing a head, ask them to send the relevant plates for as many lenses as you will want to attach to the head, and attach these before the safari, to avoid having missing screws and needing Allen-wrenches out in the field (although I always travel with a set).
If you have a large prime lens (500mm or longer), then gimbal heads are excellent but a bit heavy - so you will need to compromise somewhere else. These screw onto your monopod or tripod and allow you to pan effortlessly. Perhaps the best solution for wildlife photography is the Mongoose tripod head. This product is difficult to find outside of the USA but it is similar to a Wimberly gimbal, but HALF the weight. You can find a Mongoose head here. The Jobu gimbal heads (made in Canada) are also an excellent and lightweight choice.
A Manfrotto super clamp is a very handy device if you are shooting from a vehicle that has a bar to clamp on to. If you bring a super clamp, make sure you have the studs and again check the rigging at home. See here... to order your super clamp.
Lastly, the humble beanbag can often save the day. ALWAYS bring an empty beanbag and if needed, you can fill it when on safari. With a beanbag, monopod and a ball or gimbal head you can always make a plan in any vehicle or on any surface.
See here for great beanbag options.
Side note: A ball head is needed for landscape work so please bring one along especially on the South Africa and Botswana Predator Workshop where we shoot milky-way galaxy shots at an ancient baobab tree.
- A flash is small and light. I always recommend packing it, especially since it comes in very handy when light conditions are less than favourable. When buying a flash, just buy the latest professional flash from Canon or Nikon. They are not expensive when compared to cameras/lenses and as wildlife photographers we need all the functionality of the latest models. Flashes are durable and last a long time so don’t skimp buy buying cheaper or 3rd party flashes. If you want to photograph wildlife in very low light then an off camera flash bracket is essential, to avoid getting green eyes (you can correct this in post production but I prefer a bracket for a natural look).
See here for the correct bracket option and if shooting with a gimbal head you can purchase an extra arm that slides over your gimbal here. Also purchase your off camera cord, needed for the bracket to be of any use. The type of cord will depend on the type of body that you are shooting with and avoid 3rd party cords. Remember to check the rigging before you go on safari. Canon users, please bring two cords in case one rattles loose from vibrations on the truck. Nikon shooters, I prefer the SC28 cord to the SC29.
-For those of you who, like me, take your lowlight action photography seriously - a flash battery back is essential to help your flash match your camera's high frame rate. Purchase an awesome one here.
- Extra camera batteries are a must as in Africa faulty generators are a reality. Good rechargeable batteries are needed for your flash.
- Card reader, to download your memory cards.
- Storage device (laptop or other) and back up device (passport hard-drive or other). I like to back up onto my laptop and then again onto a small passport hard drive. When traveling, keep your hard drive and laptop separate.
- Raincoat for camera or at least plastic bags.
- Sufficient memory cards. I shoot with Lexar cards and I favour large cards, 64 gigs and up. Download every day though. If you run out of memory on your laptop or storage, which is very possible on my safaris, memory cards can save the day.
- If you into landscapes then don’t forget Lee or Singh Ray Split ND filters, Polarizer and cable release.
- A Headlamp in your camera bag is a must for when we return or leave in the dark (which is always).
- Cleaning cloth and dust blower.
- A shower cap and a zip-lock bag can go a long way in Africa to help keep the dust at bay.
- Please bring a couple of bungee cords along. These come in very handy to strap your bag down in the safari truck so that your camera bags do not bounce off the seat when we following wild dogs on the hunt or other similar action.
- To help with the strict luggage restrictions (20kg or 44lbs total per person) when flying internally, I suggest a large photographic vest or rather a vest with LARGE pockets. You can pack all your cameras and lenses into these pockets so they don't get weighed. I use a DOMKE vest although some airport officials are wising up to these vests.
Oh my word, I do not have all that equipment and I only have one camera?
Sorry, I did not mean to give you a heart attack. If you do not have all the equipment on the above list, don't stress. As a professional photographer, I live by the rule ‘do what you can with what you got’. Before I became sponsored I also only had one camera body so I will gladly help you.
What about power supply?
There will always be a way to charge camera batteries and laptops. Most of the time this will be done in your tent but for mobile camps, there is often a central charging station in the camp dining area, and it is often restricted by generator times. Flexibility and 'to be prepared' is key when photographing in Africa, and I suggest you definitely bring additional spare camera batteries and make sure you have a long-lasting laptop battery. A simple solution is also to bring lots of big memory cards.
Remember to bring your international adapter (the camps don't always have these). In East Africa the plugs are UK style (3 square pins) and South Africa and Botswana have a strange large round three-pin configuration.
Bring a strip so that you can charge all our devices at once.
How does seating on the safari work?
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.
I sit in front with the driver guide to direct him. For detailed reasons as to why I sit in front, please see my FAQ page 1.
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 beforehand. 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 so that we can make sure you on a tour with no non-photographing spouses. Most of my safari clients travel alone so this is rarely an issue.
If you for medical reasons have to sit in a certain seat then you please need to book a private safari.
If I left out any of your questions please email here.
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