Embarking on a photo safari in Africa is surely every professional and amateur photographer’s dream. The type of trip on offer can differ depending on your photography level and budget, but there are a great range of options out there for those who know exactly what they’re after.
As with every type of African safari, the time of year you wish to travel has a huge impact on the experience you can expect, the animals you can photograph and the price you will have to pay. Do your homework on where you want to go and when and sum up whether or not this presents the photo opportunities that you seek. Be realistic – if you want to head to Kenya’s Masai Mara in the hopes of capturing the Great Migration, you can expect to pay a premium for the privilege. But, if your aim is to get the best possible shots, you need to be in these areas when an abundance of wildlife is most likely to be seen, and so prices will naturally be high.
You might be wondering why it is necessary to pay a specific fee for a photography trip, when you could just bring your camera along on a standard budget safari. The answer is, it is not necessary and if your budget is tight, you could opt for a self-drive safari and snap away from your car. But there is a reason serious photographers are willing to pay a premium. Booking your trip via a specialist safari travel operator means the company you go with will have specialist local knowledge and specific safari trucks that offer photographers the best chances of coming away with some amazing images.
Look for companies that cater to small groups of photographers, ideally with a vehicle that fits up to 10 people that can be used between 3 – 4 of you. This will ensure you each have the required space and range to compose and snap your shots. Check whether the vehicles have roof hatches that allow you to stand up and photograph through, as well as side windows so you can snap away whilst seated.
If you’re worried about not getting close enough to your subjects, ask before you book if your park or reserve offer off-road driving. Some parks also have deals with local big cat sanctuaries where photographers can spend a few days getting close-up shots as part of their package.
The sky is the limit when it comes to how your trip pans out – if you’re going all out, you could fly between several destinations over a 2 or 3 week itinerary, live it up in luxury lodges and pay upwards of $12,000. With a standard specialist trip you might bag a bargain deal for around $3000or, if times are really tough, just stick to a self-drive with cheap camping accommodation.
Before you head out on your first drive, it is worth brushing up on your safari van etiquette. Every photographer has the same aim: to get the best possible shots. You won’t want someone nudging you or getting in the way of your shot at the last minute, and equally, you won’t want to be the one to ruin someone else’s’ money shot. Have a word with your guide or your group about seat rotation, elbow room and general van behaviour to ensure you all get off on the right foot.
Top Photo Safari Destinations
Photographers can embark on a photography safari anywhere in Africa – where there’s game, there is a prime photo opportunity. However, some regions offer an abundance of wildlife at certain times of the year and these are highlighted below.
South Africa’s Kruger National Park has been the location for some of the best game photos ever to come out of Africa, and has a great variety of game for photographers to aim their lenses at. If you’re specifically interested in elephants, it is work heading to Addo Elephant National Park in the Eastern Cape to capture some up close.
In Namibia, the Caprivi Strip and Etosha Pan offer great game viewing, while the Okavango Delta is Botswana’s main pick.
The Masai Mara in Kenya comes to life with the Great Migration between August and October.
Tanzania features less on the popular photo safari trail but is still worth visiting, particularly for those with an interest in the chimpanzees that reside in the Mahale Mountains National Park. If you head up north to the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater you could also witness the Great Migration begin with the calving season around February / March.
Photo Safari Tips
- Consider the equipment you want to take with you before you go and leave behind anything that isn’t a necessity. How much you can take will depend on the nature of your trip, but if you’re moving around a lot, or taking internal flights, you will be restricted to what you can bring.
- Pack plenty of memory cards and spare batteries to ensure you don’t miss out due to an avoidable equipment failure!
- Check what electricity access you will have before you go to ensure you can charge your cameras at night.
- You probably won’t be able to pack a tripod, but invest in an alternative like a bean bag that is easy to carry and can be perched on a window or other surface to ensure a steady shot.
- Keep your kit to hand, fired up and ready to shoot as soon as game comes into view.
- Beware of the dreaded African dust, which not only irritates eyes, but can irritate precious and expensive equipment as well! Keep your lens caps on and bags closed at all times when not in use.
- Check out our tips on taking the perfect safari photo and you’re all set!
More Photo Safari Resources
- WILD4 offer some amazing trips under the guidance of a professional photographer at a variety of African locations.
- Photo Snap Shot is filled with essential photo safari tips and tricks for those in the photography safari planning stages.
- Greg Du Toit offer advice on planning, tips on specific locations and action packed itineraries.