I talk about packing camera gear for safari, the safari do's and don'ts, the best lens for safari, the best camera for safari and general photography safari tips.
Both East and Southern Africa were once under British rule and as such you can expect English cuisine on your African wildlife photography safari. The breakfasts usually consist of cereals and a hot English breakfast. Lunches are usually a variety of salads and there is always a meat option. Dinners are traditional English dinner affairs usually with a soup starter and freshly baked bread. The main course will usually be a roast of sorts, with accompanying vegetables. Dessert is usually a simple affair consisting of a baked pudding. You will not go hungry on an African wildlife photography safari and the biggest complaint about food is usually that there is too much!
(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, especially for the early morning).
I advise that you only drink bottled or filtered water which is always available in camps. Avoid ice as this is often made from local water which although is generally safe to drink, foreign tummies might disagree with. It is safe to eat fresh produce. Although it is washed by tap water, this water usually comes from an underground well and is safe. If you are suspect, then simply ask the camp where they get their water from and if it is underground then it is generally fine to eat the fresh produce on your African wildlife photography safari.
Most safari camps are able to handle common food allergies. The best way to handle an ‘intolerance’ is to simply avoid eating that particular food as there is almost always too much food in camp. If you have an allergy that is uncommon, like being allergic to eggs, and you know of a substitute, like a powder, 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 and wheat intolerances are common and can be managed easily, provided the camps are told ahead of time about these. If you suffer from a combination of these allergies then you especially need to let the camps know in advance so that they can prepare as there is no supermarket down the road for them. When booking any of my photo safaris and workshops, simply mention your food allergies and they will be sent to the camps.
(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 by forewarning them or bringing your own substitute, it will be greatly appreciated).
Please check in with your local travel clinic or doctor for advice. Personally I am vaccinated against yellow fever, hepatitis A and B, tetanus, meningitis and rabies, 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. 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 itineraries carry tsetse fly warnings.
The camps do have medicine kits and they do have evacuation plans 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 this Africa photo safari in the form of a predator workshop, there is an option to sleep out and earplugs can come in handy to block out snoring.
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 keeps building 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 on your African wildlife photography safari! Expect temperatures range between 32 F – 97 F (that is 0 – 36 degrees Celsius) on any given day. Always pack a beanie! The above applies to my signature Kenya photo safari and my Okavango Delta safari. My big cat photography workshop takes place in the middle of winter so the mornings can be freezing cold so pack gloves, beanies, good socks and thermals. But again you must layer as the days are warm and pleasant and the nights only moderately cold.
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+) on your African wildlife photography safari 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, a light wind-breaker and beanie 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 swimsuit on your safari as they are light, wash easily and you never know when or where you might be able to take a dip. 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 photo safari 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.
For most of your trip there will only be short legs of flying (under 1 hour each). If you are totally not up for it, we 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 African wildlife photography safari experience of a lifetime and it is statistically safer to fly than drive.
So do I. From my experience, the best thing to do on an African wildlife photography safari 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 of the plane as this helps a lot. One Valoid tablet the night before traveling and one when you wake up on the actual day of traveling, is a trusted recipe but makes you drowsy. Drink Ginger tea or chew candy ginger. Flights are short (less than 1 hour) and worst case scenario is you have to use the sick bag. An African wildlife photography safari is worth being uncomfortable for a short flight.
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 so check what you need to bring along to the application and avoid being turned around.
You are required to take out your own comprehensive travel insurance and to send the agent the relevant details once you have filled in the booking form.
It is best to travel with US Dollars (other major currencies can work but are not as popular). Make sure that your US$ notes are post 2006. You can tip in dollars and buy curios in dollars too. Once you land, you can exchange for local currency if you prefer and 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 and in safari camps cash works better. There is often a 5% surcharge on credit cards. 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 settle a drinks tab, buy curios or to leave a gratuity (keep reading for more on these). My photo safaris and workshops are all inclusive so the cash required is really just your ‘pocket money’.
When on safari 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 and hotel. However, once you leave your hotel and head out on safari, you do not tip for any services until the end of your stay at a camp. 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 and 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 full 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.
I try to make my safaris as all inclusive as possible so that once you land in Africa you can relax. Your accommodation, all transfer costs and local flights 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). Please check each individual itinerary for a list of included and excluded items. Bottled water is always included.
Excluded are your 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).
Africans are friendly people and the best way to deal with 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 and 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 largely 3rd World and things do not work like clockwork, nor do they always make logical 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, one that is miles away and removed from your world. Sometimes you might want to jump in and fix a 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. Africa is a colourful quirky place, let it be this to you on your African wildlife photography safari.
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’ also 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!
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.
– Never stand up on a safari truck 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 on an African wildlife photography safari.
– 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 African wildlife photography safari is about you, so don’t be shy. We are super flexible here in Africa and 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 so that you can see and photograph what you want to.
– 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 (ok, I might laugh a little).
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. On my Mashatu photo safari there is patchy cellular signal but there is very slow WiFi in camp. The Mala Mala photo safari portion has no cellular network but does also offer slow complimentary WiFi. My Masai Mara photo safari has good cellular coverage. The Okavango Delta photo safari is very remote with hardly any cell signal. Remote locations will have no communications and 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. If being out of communication is absolutely not an option then a satellite phone is the only true solution or you can book a private African photography safari and stay at only high end properties.
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 photo safari)
I dreamed of Africa (Northern Kenya photo safari)
Ghosts in the Darkness (Best Amboseli photo safari)
Jock of the Bushveld (South Africa photo safari)
Gorillas in the Mist (Mountain Gorilla photo safari)
Hotel Rwanda (Rwanda gorilla photography tours)
Disney’s African Cats (Masai Mara photo safari)
This is one of the most commonly asked questions when preparing to go on an African wildlife photography 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 (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 on your African wildlife photography safari. 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 my photo safaris and workshops I book a freight seat (included in the cost of each tour) to increase our luggage allowance to 32,5kg (72lbs). Your camera bag for any African wildlife photography safari should weigh about 17kg (37,5lbs).
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 because instead of working on creative techniques, you are constantly fumbling with equipment.
Safari photography tip: Remember that most safari camps wash clothes daily so you only need two changes of clothes and because the climate is moderate, you can pack very lightly. As an extra 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 general list of equipment that I recommend for an African wildlife photography safari. Please note that the list is intended to simplify matters and to communicate general principles. I am therefore 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 African wildlife photography safaris. It is a general guide purposed to find solutions for all kinds of photographers traveling on all kinds of safaris and in any African country. Use the below principles when packing and not as a camera gear shopping list.
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, sharp and with a convertor built in, they really are a ‘one lens’ solution to your African wildlife photography safari needs. If your budget does not allow for the above, then don’t despair as the Nikon 80-400mm and Canon or Sony’s 100-400mm lenses (or their other similar long range zoom lenses) 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.
A 500mm F4 is a great option for a safari lens, it is fast and great in low-light. A 600mm F4 is a bit too long for my liking when on an African wildlife photography safari. 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 completely, 100-400mm, 80-400mm, 200-500mm and 200-600mm lenses (or similar) offer good all-round compromises. These lenses are slower focusing and perform less well in extreme low light than some fixed focal length lenses (although they are coming dangerously close to competing). They are smaller and incredibly versatile, allowing you to shoot wider 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. Nikon’s 80-400mm lens 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. This lens when attached to a cropped sensor body offers an effective 120-600mm. Very handy to say the least!
If the above is still out of your budget then a 70-300mm F5.6 lens is your next best option for large mammals and predators. 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 mid-range and close proximity work in general. If you have the money available, just buy one as this lens is used across multiple genres. It is pin sharp, fast and manoeuvrable. This is the lens you will use when we are on top of the action, which happens often on my Botswana and South Africa predator workshop and on this Masai Mara predator safari.
Canon and Sony shooters can check out the 70-200mm F4 lens as we seldom shoot at F2.8 on an African wildlife photography safari. This lens is small and perfect for a mid-range reach on any safari.
Nikon’s 300mm F4 PF is superbly small and light and a great choice for safari especially if you are also bringing a longer prime lens.
3. A wide-angle lens of sorts for landscapes and to show your subjects in their environment:
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 (or similar) is an ideal lens to have in your bag as realistically, when shooting a wild animal, you will seldom need a wider lens.
Due to the nature of my African wildlife photography 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.
(Side note: 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 newer Canon prime lenses work very well with converters. Nikon shooters can consider a 1.7x convertor but I gave mine back.)
Best lens for safari summary:
All you need is 3 lenses on your African wildlife photography safari:
1. A long lens with a reach of 400mm or longer.
2. A mid-range zoom lens ranging from 70-200mm (or similar)
3. A wider angle lens of 24-70mm (or similar).
Camera technology is changing so fast that if I give the specs of the current ‘best camera for safari’, by the time you read this that camera will be obsolete. I kid you not! So what we really need to look at here is the basic principles of what camera you need on a safari and this will depend on how much you wanting to spend:
A sensible and reasonable budget: What you are looking for is a camera with a decent size sensor (24 megs or thereabouts) and decent frame rate (10-20 frames per second) and good ISO performance (up to ISO 6400 with clean results) and good focusing. The good news is that almost any entry-level professional camera body these days can give you this. The cost of these cameras is in the region of US$3000. Any Nikon, Sony, Olympus, or Canon camera with these specs will be good enough for your African wildlife photography safari. I always recommend traveling with two cameras as swapping lenses wastes time and there are dust issues in Africa. Also, if one breaks, you have another. If your budget does not allow for two camera bodies then just bring one, I have done many safaris with just one camera!
A no-compromise budget: If you this kind if shooter then you know that you are and you want the very best camera. You want the most megs, the best frame rate and ISO performance. You want stacked sensors, fast electronic and mechanical shutters, high res viewfinders and decent flash sync speeds. Canon, Sony, Olympus and Nikon all have these flagship cameras and they easy to spot because they cost double what the above mentioned entry-level cameras cost, upwards of $6000.
If I had to go into all the specs of each brand and model, I would need an entire new website to house all the content. My simple and practical advice is therefore to buy the best camera you can afford. Stick to the big brands like Nikon, Canon, Olympus and Sony and buy lenses of the same brand as your camera. Then join me on an Africa photo safari or workshop and I promise you that the ‘best camera for safari’ will be the one in your hand, and it will be good enough. On all my photo safaris I teach principles that include camera settings but I also talk about other photographic principles and elements that have been around long before digital cameras, and which will outlive all the current newest spec cameras. See my other FAQ page about African photographic safaris to learn more about my philosophy and recipe for my photo safaris.
Safari photography tip: Before the current technology reached its new heights, I used to advocate shooting with two different camera bodies – one for action and one for insane quality. But these days all cameras offer insane quality while others offer insaner quality. I therefore recommend shooting with two identical bodies based on your budget and fanaticism. Having two cameras avoids changing lenses and ensures you don’t miss a shot and that you have a back up camera if necessary when out on an African wildlife photography safari. As mentioned, if you only have one camera then it is not a deal breaker as I have done many safaris with only one camera.
– Camera support is a constant challenge when on safari as each safari camp’s trucks will be configured slightly differently. The good news however is that optical stabilisation is getting better and better, so if you able to manage the weight of your camera and longest lens, then additional support is not needed. For this reason I am a real fan of the longer zoom lenses (100-400mm or equivalent). But if you cannot handhold your longest lens then 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. I suggest you practice this at home, sitting on a chair. 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.
– 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 and 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. 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.
– 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 and a monopod with a ball or gimbal head you can always make a plan in any vehicle or on any surface.
Safari photography tip: A ball head and tripod is needed for landscape work so please bring one along if you want to shoot Milky Way galaxy shots.
– One of the best African wildlife photography safari tips is to pack a flash. A flash is small and light so I always recommend it when packing camera gear for safari, 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 the same brand as your camera. They are not expensive when compared to cameras or lenses and as wildlife photographers we need all the functionality of the latest and best models. Flashes are durable and last a long time so don’t skimp by 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. 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 camera 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 as it is more robust.
– Good batteries are essential for a flash so buy the best rechargeable batteries you can find. Click here
Safari photography tip: If you 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.
The following items are recommended when packing camera gear for safari.
– Extra camera batteries are a must as are good rechargeable batteries for your flash.
– Card reader to download your memory cards.
– Storage device (laptop) and back up device (portable hard drive or other). I like to back up onto my laptop and then again onto a small portable hard drive.
Safari Photography Tip: When traveling keep your hard drive and laptop separate.
– Raincoat for camera or at least plastic bags. I like Storm Jacket Camera Covers.
– 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 photo safaris and workshops, 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 on an African wildlife photography safari).
– Cleaning cloth and dust blower. A chamois cloth is best to wipe raindrops.
– A shower cap, zip-lock bag and dustbin liner can go a long way in Africa to help keep the dust at bay.
Safari photography tip: 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 an Okavango delta photo safari or following a leopard off road on this Africa photo safari in the form of a predator workshop.
Sorry, I did not mean to give you a heart attack. If you do not have all the equipment on the above list, please don’t stress. As a professional photographer, I live by the rule ‘do what you can with what you got’. Before I became a sponsored photographer I also only had one camera body and one lens fro years. The real secret behind African wildlife photography is getting to the right location at the right time and in the right light. When you do this, all you need is one camera and lens!
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. It is sometimes restricted by generator times or solar energy. Flexibility and ‘to be prepared’ is key when photographing in Africa so I suggest you definitely bring additional spare camera batteries and make sure you have a long-lasting laptop battery. A simple solution (although expensive) is also to bring lots of big memory cards.
Remember to bring your international adapter as the camps don’t always have these. In East Africa and many other parts, like on my Masai Mara photo safari and best Amboseli photo safari extension, the plugs are UK style and for my Botswana and South Africa predator workshop they are mostly a large round three-pin configuration.
Safari Photography Tip: Bring a plug strip so that you can charge all our devices at once.
For all my African wildlife photography safaris I only have 3 photographers per vehicle 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 row, 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 pre-booking FAQs.
Please note that on a Mashatu photo safari 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. The Mala Mala photo safari leg has no trackers. On my leopard photo safari 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. s do not have trackers but if its a concern then please check in with me when booking your Africa photo safari.
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 partners. Most of my safari clients travel alone so this is rarely an issue.
Safari Photography Tip: If you for medical reasons have to sit in a certain seat then please book a private African photography safari.