The elephant did not like us closing in on him to get a better picture and started to charge. Luckily he stopped after we put the car in reverse and backed up.
Despite the angry elephant I consider a photo safari in Africa one of the most awe inspiring activities. The following list summarizes the experiences I gathered on my trips to Africa to help you take better pictures on your own safari.
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Understand how wild animals react
For your own safety you need to inform yourself before the safari how the animals react on your presence. The best option is to ask a ranger in the park. A short and incomplete list of the most important advices:
- Never leave your car
Well, I did anyway to shoot the zebra :-)
- Do not tease a buffalo, it will pull a charge through. Lucky me, elephants only seldom do.
Unless you are in a private park, nobody can guarantee the sighting of a specific animal. I clearly remember getting up at five in the morning just to see not a single animal on the morning drive. Then, on other ocassions they seem to be waiting just around every corner.
Always remember, these are wild animals and you need to be lucky to get a good shot. Lions usually do not kill their prey right next to the dirt road you are driving on.
All resorts in the african national parks offer game drives throughout the day. And it all sounds so simple: Your guide knows the best places to find animals, he will get you there and provide insights on the wildlife or local history. You can fully concentrate on the surroundings and take your pictures.
Well, unless you can afford a private driver you will give up flexibility which is essential for taking good pictures. Just a few examples.
- The other people will spoil at least some of your pictures. Not intentionally, but I bet they will block your view in the moment you want to take the perfect picture.
- Moving the car just a few meters might give you a better angle. Do you really want to ask the driver every single time the car stops?
Use a long lense
A good camera does not guarantee good pictures they say. A short lens on the other hand will ensure boring pictures from your safari. Personally I use a Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM and would not go below 300 mm on a full format sensor.
Turn off your engine
Always turn off your engine when taking pictures. Besides eliminating vibrations this also allows you to better listen to the sound of nature. You will be surprised how much there is going on.
Depending on your personal preferences you might consider to buy a car window tripod mount.
Choose dry season
The best time to go on safari is the dry season. Due to scarcity of water, the annimals gather at the water holes and are easier to find. Check the climate table of your destination to identify the best time in year. Time of year and duration of the dry season differs significantly across Africa.
Consider private parks
The national parks in Africa cover several ten thousand square kilometeres. They offer a great experience but also plenty of opportunities for the animals to hide. Here, a private park gives you an almost 100% chance to see a specific species.
The downside: Private parks are a commercial venture and intend to earn money. So please do some research before choosing your private park. Not all of them treate their animals well.
Personally I think the Düstenbrook guest farm
in Namibia offers a good compromise. Two Leopards and two Cheetas are kept in very large enclousers. The income Düstenbrook generates with feeding them during game drives, compensates for the loss of cattle caused by Leopards and Cheetas living freely on the farm land.
In addition you can explore the farm land on foot or by car, visit the Hippos living at the dam or just enjoy the scenery.