African Photographic Safaris – The Right Choice for You?
African Photographic Safaris, or “normal” African safaris? You have made up your mind… You are visiting Africa! Good start. Now you need to decide what type of safari is right for you…
The Swahili word safari simply means “long journey”… Normally it is used to refer to an overland trip to Africa, undertaken by tourists. But you knew that, right?
At a higher cost…
African Photographic Safaris are specialized trips to Africa, with wildlife photography in mind. These highly specialized trips are normally expensive. I guess this is due to a number of factors:
- Photographic safari operators normally make use of luxurious accommodation. I am not sure what the exact reason for this is… Maybe to accommodate those who don’t like camping, at the expense of the less wealthy?
- The cost of the services of the professional wildlife or nature photographer has to be recovered, in addition to all other costs — things like park fees, accommodation, transportation, food and beverages.
- To ensure everyone gets ample time and opportunities to photograph the wildlife that is encountered the groups are normally small. Sometimes as low as four people. This escalates costs. This also ensures that everyone on the safari has enough time to ask questions and receive instructions from the pro-photographer leading the safari.
- To ensure that there are sufficient opportunities to watch and photograph wildlife, these trips are to the most exotic of wildlife destinations. Obviously, visiting these amazing reserves and lodges cost more than your average weekend destination. Places such as the Chobe river, the Serengeti, or the Masai Mara feature regularly amongst the offerings.
So, is the higher premium worth it? Is it a good idea to go on an African photographic safari? The short answer is that only you can decide that. But I will try and enable you to make your decision…
Take my situation as an example… I grew up in Africa, in a family that loves the African Bush, and often spends time there. I own an off-road vehicle, and I like camping. My wife has been on more trips to the heart of the African bush than I have, and grew up in a family that undertook self-sufficient overland safaris at regular intervals.
All these factors makes it easy for me to get into my pickup and drive off into Botswana’s reserves where there’s no fuel, drinking water, usable toilets or showers, shops, restaurants, cellphone coverage or internet connections — and I go for as long 14 days at a time.
However, not everyone lives in Africa. I appreciate that… Not everyone gets the opportunity to visit one of Africa’s reserves two to three times per annum. And, therefore, those who visit Africa from abroad, maybe on a ‘once in a lifetime’, trip needs to make the absolute most of their time here.
I have personally never been on an African photographic safari, but I would be lying if I said I don’t want to go. Hopefully, early in 2011 I will get my chance.
As with any important decision, it’s a good thing to consider the pro’s and con’s. Below I list the advantages and disadvantages of African photographic safaris. Hopefully this will help you make up your mind. Below that, we’ll take a look at some of the recommended African photographic safari providers.
Advantages of African Photographic Safaris
I hope the items listed here does not sound repetitive or obvious. I guess I’m just trying to cover all bases.
- Photographic safaris are aimed at wildlife photographers. On such trips special attention is given to wildlife photography. Some of the more general safaris go on a quick hunt for sightings of the big five and maybe some scenery, with little or no consideration of photographers.
- As photography is the name of the game, there will be a strong focus on spending quality time with your subjects.
- You will be in the field at the right hours for photography. Decent lighting is what makes or breaks wildlife photographs.
- One of the main aims will be to find animals, so you will spend time with highly trained guides and trackers. This will add to your experience in a number of ways. Most notably, you will get a chance to learn more about animal behavior.
- Hopefully, all you will take back home from Africa is your photographs. On a photographic safari, your photographs will be of a much higher standard than those you took on a general safari. I guess this one is the deal closer for a serious nature photographer…
Disadvantages of African Photographic Safaris
If you are a serious nature or wildlife photographer, there are not too many reasons not to go on African photographic safaris. Here’s a couple.
- Photographic safaris are expensive. We covered the reasons for this above…
- You will be up and in the field before sunrise. In the mid afternoon you will start your sunset game drive. At night you will be listening to interesting stories around a camp fire and having a couple of drinks. You will also be comparing photos with your peers. During summer, siestas are not an option due to the high heat. Therefore, you will not be getting too much sleep. General safaris are sometimes conducted at a less-tiring pace.
Recommended African Photographic Safari Providers
As I mentioned above, I have never been on one of these photographic safaris. So, I list a couple of recommendations here based on the advice of others, and the reputation of the photographers involved. Please don’t just take my word for it, but do some reading and research before you depart.
Some of the providers listed here offer safaris all over the world, but they also do some awesome African ones.
C4 Images & Safaris
“All our tours are designed to provide you with the optimal photographic opportunities in the best locations during the best season. We pride ourselves on our knowledge of seasonal animal movements, migrations, dispersals and localised activity. This gives you the advantage of being in the right place at the right time- allowing for better photography.”
“We operate in Southern and east Africa and its islands. We are looking at other exciting locations in Africa as well as further afield to places such as Japan and even further in the future…”
David Rogers Workshops
David Rogers, a professional photographer for nearly two decades specializing in Africa and its wild places, leads small groups of photographers into Africa’s wild places.
He has been running Photographic Workshops since 2005, you can expect a kind and nurturing environment with like-minded people, his trips offer a great learning experience and also lots of fun, and the groups are always less than six people including the guide.
Suzi Eszterhas Tours
Suzi leads photographic tours for small groups of 4-10 people, offering some of the world’s best photo opportunities in wonderful locations.
Tours are comfortable, fun, educational and suitable for all levels of photographic experience. Tour itineraries are uniquely designed to maximize the photographic potential of the location and animal subject.
Suzi now also offers private, one on one photography workshops and digital workflow instruction.
Learn how to make the most of your safari pictures and time in the African bush and embark on this unique wildlife and nature photography course with professional wildlife photographer and expert safari guide Sean Pattrick.
The focus of this course is to provide a basic understanding of animal behaviour and the sensitivities of working with wildlife; to allow the photographer the best chance of capturing great wildlife photos.
This is an ideal pre-safari trip to make so that you can then use your newly learned skills and apply then to your safari.
An African photographic safari is the perfect solution for a serious amateur wildlife photographer who wants to rub shoulders with a professional wildlife photographer operating in Africa… And who has some serious money to invest.
If you choose the correct trip, you will also go back home with a decent African wildlife portfolio (although a truly professional portfolio only comes with years of hard work and patience…).
There are both pro’s and con’s to African Photographic Safaris — as you have seen. It is surely not for everyone, but if you do go on one of these trip, be sure to read up on it. Do your homework. If you do, you will surely not be disappointed.
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