Photography Holidays – 8 Tips for choosing the best photo safari

February 10th 2021  |   Photography Safaris, Travel, Experiences  |  by   Richard Smith
photography holidays

Stunning locations. Inspiring tuition. The handpicked destinations featured in our photography holidays are all rather photogenic and whether you are exploring the African wilderness or capturing your favourite wildlife subject on camera, a photographic safari is an unforgettable experience. Choose from a variety of photography safaris led by highly experienced guides to learn, improve and experiment with photography. Here are our tips to ensure you pick the right components:

  1. Photographic safari vehicles

Choose camps that have dedicated photographic vehicles; spacious, open roof Land Cruisers or Landrovers with recharging facilities on board. These safari specific 4x4s can have custom lens platforms, gimbal supports with clamps, and beanbags to stabilise photographic shots ensuring safari photos are sharp and crisp.

There are top of the range C4 photographic vehicles at Jaci’s Safari Lodge in South Africa and Mashatu in Botswana.

Photographic vehicles offer extra support for your long lenses, Mashatu

Photographic vehicles offer extra support for your long lenses, Mashatu

  1. Flexible safari drives.

A flexible agenda means you can spend time in optimal positions for sightings for river crossings and known ambush spots favoured by carnivores.

Lewa Wilderness cheetahs on a game drive

A great guide will know where the carnivores frequent, Lewa Wilderness

  1. Private vehicle.

Having your own vehicle means you can decide whether to take a picnic breakfast or lunch and maximise your time in the wilderness, increasing your opportunities for capturing animals on camera.

Photography holidays - Kicheche safari drive

Private vehicle at Kicheche

Kicheche offers sole use safari vehicles at an extra charge for couples, but includes them for families or groups of four or more.

  1. Exclusive wildlife locations

Private conservancies offer exclusive access to wildlife-rich areas without other safari vehicles crowding in on intimate wildlife moments.

There are several private areas alongside the Serengeti including Singita’s huge Grumeti conservancy. Another superb lodge, Chem Chem Lodge, has its own private concession between Tarangire and Lake Manyara National Parks.

Teaming with wildlife at Forest Chem Chem's private concession

Teaming with wildlife at Forest Chem Chem’s private concession

  1. Hides

Photographic hides set up around waterholes or near birding sites at the camps can offer photos with natural behaviour and close up shots of animals bathing and drinking.

  1. Expert wildlife guide /photographers

Pick guides that are experienced and will patiently guide photographers. Ideally choose those who are knowledgeable about their subjects and areas. This allows them to select optimal positions at sightings; for low level sunrise and sunset shots, night photography and the best times for animal behaviour and action shots.

Some guides are highly knowledgeable about individual animals, prides and herds with regular circuits and routes in specific parks and areas. This experience is more intimate, much more like game tracking rather than driving through the park and receiving tip offs on the radio.

Edward Selfe is based at various Robin Pope Safaris camps in the South Luangwa, Zambia and Mana Pools, Zimbabwe.

Elephant in the woods, South Luangwa, Zambia by Ed Selfe

Elephant in the munga woods, South Luangwa, Zambia by Ed Selfe

“We spent over two hours with a single pride of lions as they played and as we waited for the perfect lighting for pictures. No one else in sight. Truly a wonderful experience” – Scott and Dan – on a photo safari with Edward Selfe

Mwamba pride of lions, Lion Camp, Ed Selfe

Mwamba pride of lions, Lion Camp, Ed Selfe

  1. Travel with award winning wildlife photographers

Travel on safari for specific annual wildlife events like the great wildebeest migration or the Kasanka bat migration or with your favourite ‘celebrity’ photographer (they’d probably hate that description).

Specialist safaris offer hands on tuition and photo editing sessions to enhance your wildlife images captured on safari. Either travel as part of a small group of four to six on a fixed departure date or book an exclusive safari for private tuition and complete flexibility. You can opt for an in-camp photographic tutor or go on a mobile safari for a unique adventure. Some examples of set photographic safaris include:

Greg du Toit offers photography workshops flying to the Great Rift Valley in Kenya with private charter flights and helicopter flights for aerial photography.

Lake Natron, Kenya, Greg du Toit

Lake Natron, Kenya, Greg du Toit

David Rogers offers trips to South Luangwa National Park, Zambia in the dry and green seasons, flower and landscape photography in the Cape and West Coast, the great migration in the Masai Mara, elephants in Chobe, Botswana and kids photographic workshops.

Sunset in the South Luangwa, Zambia, David Rogers

Sunset in the South Luangwa, Zambia, David Rogers

Penny Robartes offers photographic holidays to capture the wildebeest migration in the Masai Mara, and Savute and Khwai in Botswana.

Charismatic hyena cubs, Penny Robartes

Charismatic hyena cubs, Penny Robartes

Warren Samuels takes guests to the Masai Mara, Kenya for photographing the wildebeest crossing at the Mara River and big cats he has worked with before in BBC Big Cat Diaries.

Leopard in the bushveld, Warren Samuels

Leopard in the bushveld, Warren Samuels

Matt Armstrong is a photographic safari guide who can take guests to South Africa and South Luangwa, Zambia.

Birds at sunset, Matt Armstrong-Ford

Birds at sunset, Matt Armstrong-Ford

David Murray operates photo safaris in Selinda, Botswana and Kenya.

Black and white group of four zebra, David Murray

Black and white group of four zebra, David Murray

  1. Bonus Tip

You can also rent photographic equipment for your safari. This might include; DSLR camera bodies, lenses, GoPros, tripods etc. Renting makes top end equipment affordable.

Some equipment is complimentary with your stay at safari camps such as Zarafa Camp and Mara Plains Camp.

What next?

We would be delighted to help you plan a holiday, or answer any questions about photography holidays. Our team of experts have travelled widely throughout Africa. They can offer expert advice on every type of safari from family and beach holidays to riding and primate safaris.  If you would like to talk to someone who has been there and done it, please just send us an email or give us a call.

2 responses to “Photography Holidays – 8 Tips for choosing the best photo safari”

  1. Phyllis Plotkin says:

    Hello aardvarksafari,

    I want to go on a photo safari, for at least part of my trip to Africa. I’m interested in photographing wild dogs, and (although I know they are even harder to find/see)..bat eared foxes, hyenas, jackals, civets, honey badgers and bush babies which will mean that in part, I need some of the camps to include night drives. And I would like to see lions, leopards, cheetahs and elephants. Some of the places in the north I’m considering are Moremi camp, Lagoon and or Splash camps, Linyati or Selinda areas. And then, although that might be all I can afford, I would really like to include Mashatu private reserve, and maybe Jaci’s camp at Madikwe. I’d like to go to Sabi Sands as well, but that’s probably best saved for another trip.
    I do realize that traveling solo will be expensive, so maybe there would be a photography group I could join for part of the trip? I’m confused about when to travel, because both green and high season have their advantages and disadvantages. Because of cost, I might not be able to go high season anyway. I could do a little mobile camping, but that’s not primarily the way I want to travel. I’m waiting for a covid vaccine in order to travel safely. Thanks for any information.


    • Richard Smith says:

      Hi Phyllis
      Thanks for getting in touch. I will ask one of the team to reply by email and cover:
      – Travelling affordably as a solo traveller
      – The best areas for photography of the species you’re keen on
      – Where night drives are possible
      We travel a lot and will be able to talk first hand about the various areas you’ve mentioned, allowing you to choose the best ones for your trip.

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