There’s no point going on a once-in-a-lifetime safari in Africa, only to come home with a bunch of blurry, over-lit, too-far-away photos to remember it by. This is why if you’re at all serious about photography, you should consider going on a specialist photo safari.
These trips are led by experts who not only know how to track and find animals, but can also provide personalized advice on how best to photograph game and what equipment is required to do the job.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of just some of the hundreds of photo safaris available on Africa, which let you come home with a camera full of stunning high-quality images (and videos) that will impress your friends and family, and relive the experience in vivid technicolor every time you look at them.
James Suter is a safari guide and photographer based in Cape Town, South Africa. He worked for several years for the world-renowned Singita Game Reserves before becoming a freelance guide in 2012. He now leads custom-tailored, multi-country photo safaris for visitors from around the world, and pioneered the concept of the “video safari,” where clients’ adventures are captured on film. “Having a skilled photographic guide is the most important thing for getting the best pictures,” says James. “Wildlife photography is all about being able to read animal behavior.”
Zimanga Private Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Experienced wildlife photographers Andrew Aveley (a Canon Pro-photographer) and Brendon Jennings (the head guide at Zimanga) lead a five-day photographic safari course which offers unparalleled opportunities for both field practice and classroom learning. During early morning and late-afternoon game drives visitors can shoot from the purpose-built photographic “hides,” and during down-time they learn theory and techniques in small workshops.
Pangolin Photo Safaris
Pangolin bills its trips as “African safaris designed by photographers for photographers.” They offer eight different courses of varying durations, most in Chobe National Park, the Okavango Delta, and Victoria Falls. Visitors are taken out on photo expeditions in either their custom-built photo-boat on the Chobe River, or in their unique “Unimog” safari vehicle, which allows access to even the most remote pieces of bush in the wettest and sandiest of terrain. Tours are led by the colorfully-named Gerhard “Guts” Swanepoel, who has been running guided photo safaris around southern Africa since 2002.
Africa Adventure Consultants
In addition to conventional safaris, Africa Adventure Consultants also offers photo safaris in Botswana, Tanzania and Zambia. Botswana trips are led by professional safari photographer Blaine Harrington, one of the world’s foremost professional wildlife and landscape photographers. Tanzania trips are led by Paul Joynson-Hicks, and Zambia tours are led by C4 Photo Safaris and Albie Vente. Guests learn by watching and through live demonstrations, and if time permits, through informal critique sessions in the evenings or while shooting. All guests have window seats while on game drives to maximize opportunities for best photos.
AAC also offers online photography webinars (led by Harrington) for those who want to hone their skills but can’t actually make a trip to Africa.
Acacia Africa/Getting Stamped
Safari specialist Acacia Africa has joined forces with the Getting Stamped blog team to create an exciting overland camping journey focused on photography. The 18-day “Mountain Gorillas To the Mara” itinerary covers gorilla viewing in Uganda, Big Five game drives in the Masai Mara, and flamingo sightings at Lake Nakuru in Kenya. This year’s trip starts in May 2015 so it’s a bit late to join, but stay tuned for future trips.
Andy Biggs Photo Safaris
Well-known guide and photographer Grant Aktinson leads groups of photographers every September to Kenya, to see the Great Migration as it moves through the Masai Mara. This luxury safari combines some of Africa’s finest wildlife photography experiences, superb accommodation, and expert guiding. Guides have the ability to drive off-road in order to get the best angles possible of lions, cheetahs and hyenas hunting their prey.
Andy Biggs Photo Safaris also offers photo tours to Botswana, Uganda, and Rwanda.
At Close Quarters
This South Africa-based company offers a five-day “big cat safari” at Djuma in Sabi Sand Game Reserve, one of the best places in the world to see leopards. Sabi Sand makes up part of the greater Kruger National Park, which covers more than 2.3 million hectares (5.6 million acres) of virgin African bush. Guest numbers are limited to a maximum of 6 people per vehicle, giving each person space for camera equipment and the comfort to move freely and get the best possible angle at each sighting. Limited traversing rights at Djuma means each vehicle gets to spend more time at each sighting.