If you’re a keen wildlife photographer eager for adventure, a South African photography safari could be just what you’re looking for.
With beautiful scenery, a sense of adventure and the ability to spot rare and majestic animals in their natural habitat, it’s little wonder that African safaris are a feature on many people’s wish list. But if you are serious about photography you are more likely to get those killer shots you are after on a dedicated photography safari.
Over the last 20 years or so, the cost of cameras has reduced and the range of equipment has increased. This, along with the convenience and accessibility of digital images, has led to photography becoming one of the fastest growing hobbies – and more and more people are looking to combine their passion with a once in a lifetime safari holiday.
What can you expect from a South Africa photography safari?
Unlike standard safaris, which are often trying to satisfy the priorities of several groups of people, photography safaris are catered specifically around photographers and their desire to get the perfect shot.
Specific services differ from provider to provider, but a good photography safari should be guided by someone who is either a photographer themselves, or who understands the principles of photography, so that they can help provide the optimum perspective and conditions to get a great picture. Most importantly, they should be happy to give you the time to just sit and wait, rather than rushing from site to site.
Your vehicle is also important. An open-top, open-sided vehicle will give you maximum visibility of your surroundings. It should also have plenty of room and unrestricted views so that you are not jostling and fighting with your fellow photographers for the best view.
Some providers also offer photography talks or workshops to help you develop your skills and really get the most out of the experience.
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Where to go?
Kruger Park is the most famous of the South African safari reserves, and with its high quality accommodation, experienced guides and excellent game-viewing, it’s easy to see why. Having said that, South Africa has many other great safari parks which shouldn’t be discounted. Sabi Sands, Phinda Game Reserve and Hluhluwe-Imfolozi all offer great opportunities to spot the ‘Big 5’ – and Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, with its desert landscape and red sand dunes, offers a striking backdrop for wildlife photography as well as great opportunities for predator sightings.
When to visit?
The best time to go on a photography safari is during the dry season as animals tend to congregate around rivers and watering holes, giving you a better chance of getting some great photographs. In Kruger and the other national parks in South Africa, the dry season runs from May to September. This time of the year also has the advantage of being the low season for tourism so the parks are less crowded. The weather is also pleasant with sunny skies and little or no rain.
Preparing for your trip
When preparing for a safari, the first thing many people want to know is what they need to pack. For a photography safari, cameras and other photographic equipment are obviously a prime concern. What camera and lenses you choose to use is of course down to personal preference, but given the nature of safaris, it’s a good idea to keep your equipment as light and streamlined as possible. South African safaris tend to get pretty close to the wildlife, so a really long distance lens is not always necessary – a good quality telephoto lens with stabilisation is perfect. If you are taking a larger lens, however, you will need a tripod or monopod. A bean bag can also be useful when photographing from a vehicle. Find out as much as you can about the conditions you’ll be photographing in. If you are heading out in the early morning or evening, when light levels are low you will want a lens with as wide an aperture as possible.
When it comes to clothing, there a few key things you should consider. First up is comfort – you will be spending a lot of time climbing into and riding around in jeeps so you need to make sure you’re comfortable. You should also wear clothes in neutral shades such as grey and khaki, as brighter colours could attract the animals’ attention. Lastly, layer up – early morning trips can be pretty chilly so make sure you’re wearing enough layers to feel comfortable.
For most people, a photography safari is a once in a lifetime trip – and the last thing you want is something unexpected spoiling the holiday you’ve been planning for years. Most safaris need to be paid for well in advance, and a last minute cancellation could prove costly. Make sure you’re protected with a good worldwide travel insurance policy, from the moment you book, that covers you for all eventualities such as the one offered by Avanti Travel Insurance.
With proper planning and preparation, a safari can be a hugely rewarding experience. And by combining it with your passion for photography, you can ensure you come home with some lasting mementoes of your safari adventure.
Author: Laura Reeve, Marketing Executive, Avanti Travel Insurance.
Disclosure: brought to you in association with Avanti Travel Insurance, a specialist in travel insurance for those with pre-existing medical conditions, and are one of very few that have no upper age limit on their policies.