Advice

Practical Advice

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The different regions of Africa and the period your going will define the list of equipment that you will take with you to take shots in the best conditions.

Essentials

  • Several batteries, at least 2-3 to recharge each evening
  • Multiple high speed SD memory cards
  • International charger and adapter depending on the country
  • Possibly a laptop for evening backups (<= 15 inches)
  • Simple backpack if you have a Bridge
  • Lowepro or Think Tank backpack for example if you have a Reflex / Hybrid (check with the length of your lens)

Climate

In all cases think of the sun hood supplied with all the cameras / lenses:

Lens Sun Hood
Sun Hood

Clip it on, whether it’s sunny or not and don’t think about it anymore. It helps prevent flare and if you don’t always have it with you, you will never think of it at the right time.

Rainy season

The rainy season is generally from November to May and the dry season lasts for the remaining months from June to October.

Of course this is not as clear, the rains are coming gradually.

If you start in June in Kenya the landscape will still be very green while if you start in early November in South Tanzania the landscape will be very dry.

When it’s very green you may not see an elephant right in front of you. You will be amazed at how well animals manage to blend into their environment.

A second difficulty is the fact that there is no shortage of water, so animals are less mobile and can stay hidden longer.

It is therefore more difficult for observation, but the green and flowering side will make your photos more alive.

It is also the ideal period for bird watching or enjoying a boat safari and allowing a unique experience.

Weather sealed lens and camera

To protect you from the rain, easy, a weather sealed camera / lens and possibly a special cover for your camera / lens if you leave in the middle of the rainy season in February / March.

Dry season

When the landscape is dry, you see better and especially the animals move more because the water points are becoming scarce. The combination of the two will generally allow you to see more animals.

Weather sealed required

In the dry season, your worst enemy is dust. There really can be a lot.

Nothing to do, you need a weather sealed lens to prevent particles from getting into your lens when you zoom in / zoom out. In general it is a tight seal which prevents particles from infiltrating.

No zoom is waterproof because it is necessary that the air can pass to balance the internal pressure when you zoom.

So that dust does not settle on the sensor, avoid if possible changing the lens during the day, if you have 2 lenses, bring 2 cameras.

If you cannot, I did a trip by changing lenses regularly under a jacket, it was all well and good but if you can do without it is better.

Blower

To avoid rubbing a cloth on your lens and risk scratching, bring an air blower, a Giotto Rocket Blower is effective.

It has the particularity compared to some more “cheap” not to suck the air from the side where it blows so as not to suck the dust that it has just evacuated.

Blower
Giotto Rocket Blower

In the evening you can gently clean your lens with this blower and a few microfiber cloths for possible fingerprints, that’s enough.

Note: The traces and dust on the outside glass of the lens have only a very limited impact on your photos, do not bother trying to have an impeccable lens, clean the big stuff and it will be fine. .


Confort

Depending on where you are or the formula chosen (reserve / parks / concession) and the region, you will not have the same type of vehicle.

If your lodge is located in a private concession or a park / reserve, you will often have an open vehicle which will be part of your formula 1 morning safari and 1 afternoon safari.

Do not hesitate to contact your travel agency or your lodge for information.

opened 4x4
These vehicles can be found in South Tanzania / Zambia / Zimbabwe
opened 4x4
These vehicles can be found in Botswana / South Africa

If you have planned a route, several parks with the same guide, you will often be in a closed vehicle and you will drive all day:

closed 4x4
These vehicles can be found in Kenya / Northern Tanzania / Namibia

Having tested them all, they all have their pros and cons.

In any case do not leave your device in the sun.

In some cases this can cause the oil (which serves as a lubricant for the zoom system) to flow onto an internal mirror, if so you there is nothing you can do until you return home to get it cleaned.

Closed vehicle

Closedvehicles allow you to see further with the roof open while standing in your seat.

If there are many of you, you can easily change your seat, and especially the tour of the vehicle provides ideal support for your camera.

In this case, a bean bag is the ideal companion if you have a DSLR / hybrid with a large telephoto lens:

bean bag
Bean bag

You can transport them empty and fill them with rice once there or buy a pre-filled one with polyester.

It’s very light, it just takes a little more space. Be careful not to open it and lose all the polyester balls.

In a closed vehicle, do not hesitate to open the windows and take photos from the bottom to avoid all your photos having the same view angle from the top, they will look more natural.

Open vehicle

In an open vehicle, you understand that changing seats is more complicated and there are no supports in general for placing a bean bag.

Some vehicles have special supports for the devices or you may be lucky that a metal structure bar passes in the right place but this is not always the case.

Some people recommend a monopodbut my best advice is to make sure that your lens is stabilized, because you will often be using arm strength.

Park / Reserve / Concession

As stated above, your vehicle will depend a lot on where you are going.

That said, it’s not just the type of vehicle that changes, but also the type of driving.

The parks

In general the parks have tracks / roads which must be respected and you cannot deviate from them.

I am thinking for example of Kenya and the North of Tanzania (Maasai Mara, Serengeti, Tarangire, Ngorongoro). Guides are generally very respectful of the rules because they do not want to have any troubles.

In addition, the flora and fauna are fragile, we cannot tolerate that all tourists do anything in places as crowded as the Serengeti for example.

Some are more flexible than others.

Depending on the period and if you haven’t seen anything on the day and a group of lion is behind a small hill of land 25m off road and there are not many people, they can quickly drive there. It depends on the guides.

Note that if these places are also famous it is because you have an impressive number of animals, even while staying on the road you will see fabulous scenes.

You can also have formulas with tented camps in parks like that found in South Tanzania at Ruaha (one of the most beautiful parks I have visited).

Very few tourists in Ruaha and the guides are much more flexible here as well because you see a lot less cars.

Reserves and Concessions

If you are in a reserve like Selous (South Tanzania) or in a concession (there are some around the Kruger for example) then you can go everywhere.

No rules and you will understand immediately the use of 4×4 to pass through the bushes.

What does this have to do with your equipment?

You understand that if you cannot get out of the road, your observations will generally be made from further away while in a reserve the guide will be able to approach as close as possible.

Who says distance says focal.

If you make a Serengeti / NGorongoro / Tarangire trio, you will appreciate having a big zoom (equivalent 600mm full format or more!)

In the Serengeti my best shots are all at 100m-120m.

If you do Hwange in Zimbabwe then you will be able to settle for less (300mm full format equivalent minimum anyway).

My shots in Ruaha or Zimbabwe in private reserve are all less than 30m-50m.

On the video below, I zoomed out to 100 mm with the XF100-400 to give you an idea of the distance at which the rhino is (around 500 m).

Although obtaining a sharp and detailed shot at this distance is impossible with my equipment, we can obtain a superb photo where the very marked black of the rhino contrasts with the landscape.

On this second video we are about twice as close as for the rhino, at 250 m and we already see a clear difference in terms of image quality. It remains a little soft in terms of photo.

Patience

Be PATIENT !

During my last trip I had the 4×4 and the guide for myself and I’m starting to know a little bit better the behavior of animals, my patience has paid I will say 8 times out of 10.

If you are patient, you can quickly see the cars passing by with people taking pictures to fill in boxes.

A cheetah, I take a picture, check, next.

Observe the behavior of the animals and be patient. When I say patient it is not 10min but rather 30-45min or 1h.

To remember

Remember that in Safari, the hardest part is finding:

  1. An animal you were looking for
  2. At a time of day when it’s not too hot yet
  3. In an interesting area (surrounded by water or other animals)
  4. Who is awake if possible

If you have all that, why go elsewhere, you may not get better for the next few hours.

I gave you examples of felines but know that birds fish, elephants take a shower, gazelles can fight with each other … Be PATIENT.

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