A Comprehensive Guide to African Wildlife Photography

Are you a Photographer and planning for an African safari but you don’t know when is the best time and places to go for African wildlife photography? Read this article to know where and when to go to Africa for your African wildlife photography. At the end of this article, you will be able to plan your African Wildlife photography trip perfectly.

Africa has become one of the most favorite destinations for wildlife and photography lovers. The open grassland, beautiful landscapes, and the abundance of wildlife are what make this continent the perfect place for getting beautiful Wildlife Photography.

Each year, many tourists visit this beautiful continent to experience the beauty of its nature and wildlife. Of course, most of them expect to get the best photos! Unfortunately, getting the best photography is not easy, especially if you don’t have a proper plan.

This guide will give you the best travel tips for getting the best African Wildlife Photography. It covers all aspects of where you should go for African wildlife photography, which equipment you should pack, types of vehicles that you should consider, and more useful information.

What is African Wildlife Photography?

Before we get into knowing these tips, it’s important for anyone to know what African Wildlife Photography is.

The term “photography” is the art or practice of taking and processing photographs. So African Wildlife Photography is a process of bringing a photographer closer to wildlife and landscapes, so that they can capture the best and unique photos.

What about “a Photographic Safari”?

In African tourism, the term “Photographic Safari” is very popular and we think it is good for travelers to understand what it means so they can put a proper plan. Photographic Safari is an adventurous journey or expedition that is tailored to bring a photographer closer to wildlife and landscapes, so that they get good photos. This is quite different from a conventional safari as it has special requirements as discussed below.

Why go to Africa for Wildlife Photography?

Africa provides top-class destinations for photography, from exceptionally beautiful landscapes, rift valleys, lakes, and game reserves to national parks. The increase in population and modern technology caused many wildlife species in many parts of the world to disappear. The only place which has most of its natural environment undisturbed is the continent of Africa. Africa boasts a plethora of wildlife than any other continent in the world. Large groups of animals such as Elephants, Buffalos, Lions, Wildebeests, Zebras, to mention a few, still roam freely on the continent. In other words, Africa is the only place where millions of tourists go to see and experience wildlife in their natural environment.

Being the continent with exceptionally great abundance and diversity of wildlife including avian species, Africa has attracted many world travelers and wildlife photographers. It is easier to capture beautiful shots of predators in action, from big cats like Lions, Leopards, Cheetahs, or Hyenas to relatively smaller cats like Serval, Caracals, African Golden Cats, African Wildcats, Sand cats, Jungle cats, and the African black-footed cats. Choices of what to capture are always yours. Whether you want still images, footage, or a documentary, Africa is at your disposal.

A combination of photographic skills, jaw–dropping landscapes, and the African sunsets or sunrises will make your Africa Safari extraordinary – another big reason for a trip to Africa. When it comes to wildlife photography, Africa is always a place to be as it provides unlimited choices to even amateur photographers!

Have you ever heard of the Great Wildebeest Migration in the Serengeti? This is the greatest spectacle in the natural world that counts as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa. Other Wonders in that list are Ngorongoro Crater, Mount Kilimanjaro, Okavango Delta, Sahara Desert, Nile River, and the Red Sea Reef. To most wildlife photographers, this spectacular event is another great reason they go to Africa for wildlife photography.

Where to go for Best African Wildlife Photography

Again, this depends on what you want to achieve on your photographic project. This is because African Wildlife photography has different options like Predators’ Photography, Bird Photography, Landscape Photography, Big Five Animal Photography, Great Migration Photography, to mention a few.

African is a huge continent. Going for Africa Wildlife photography needs a careful and proper plan of where you should go for your wildlife photography project. For new visitors to the continent, one should know that wildlife cannot be found everywhere in Africa. When planning to see wildlife in Africa, the southern and eastern parts of Africa should be the areas of considerations.

Below are the top 16 destinations that you should consider visiting for your next African Wildlife Photography.

  • Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
  • Masai Mara, Kenya
  • Okavango Delta, Botswana
  • Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda
  • Tarangire National Park, Tanzania
  • Amboseli National Reserve, Kenya
  • Sabi Sands, South Africa
  • Etosha National Park, Namibia
  • Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
  • Chobe National Park, Botswana
  • Kafue national park, Zambia
  • Ruaha National Park, Tanzania
  • Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe
  • Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda
  • Kruger National Park, South Africa
  • Atsinanana Rainforest, Madagascar

When is the Best Time for African Wildlife Photography?

Anytime is the best time for Wildlife Photography in Africa. The selection of time depends on what you want to achieve on your African Safari or your overall life schedule. Photographers always want to achieve beautiful photos and this can be accomplished by considering the perfect timing of weather and crowding in the places expected to be visited and so forth.

Africa is a huge continent with, currently, 54 countries. Planning a vacation to Africa depends on your interests as the continent has a lot of vacation and adventure spots to choose from. For wildlife lovers, the best places to go for wildlife safaris are the Eastern and Southern parts of the continent. The Eastern parts include countries such as Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi. Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, Angola, and South Africa are countries that are in the Southern parts of Africa.

This guide will highlight the best time for African Wildlife Photography in Eastern and Southern Africa:

Best time for African Wildlife Safari in Eastern Africa

Most of Eastern Africa’s famous destinations are accessible almost all year round. If you prefer a mix of clear sky and fewer tourists, February to July can be the perfect time for taking amazing shots/footages. Again, this depends on your interests and the type of shots that you want to take. December to April is the heavy rain season but the best parks like Serengeti and Masai Mara are accessible and they are less visited at this time. Being the rainy season does not mean that your photographic activities will be obstructed as these rains are so much localized. The only traditional rainy month that had so much rain was April but presently things are changing and this appears to be another best time for wildlife photography. The best place to be for wildlife photographic safari would be Serengeti and Masai Mara.

February to April is the best time for calving season photography in the southern parts of Serengeti/Ndutu. A large number of predators gather in this area for easy prey from the migratory animals (mostly Wildebeests, Zebra, and Gazelles). Photographers can get the best shots or footage of the wildebeest giving birth or even predators hunting. May, June, and July are also the best time as it is a dry season and the migration is on the way to the north through the central and western parts of Serengeti. But if you prefer fewer crowds, maybe this would not be your best time as from July to September parks receive many tourists. Alternatively, your itinerary can be sculptured in a way that will reduce the impacts of tourist crowds.

Best time for African Wildlife Safari in Southern Africa

Weather seasons in Southern Africa have no much difference compared to that of Eastern Africa. The only difference is that some of the areas/parks on this part become more flooded during the rainy season and this makes the area to be inaccessible. The best time for viewing wildlife is in October and November during the dry season. The dry season starts in July and grasses are short, which provides a convenient way of viewing wildlife, if you prefer less crowd, this time could be the best for some photographers.

November and December are the best months for predators – if you choose your destination carefully it is possible to get fantastic and unique shots. December to March is the heavy rainy season and some of the areas are completely not accessible. April and May are also wet seasons but the temperature is cool and the sky is clear. We also not recommend these months as the grasses are still very tall and some areas are too wet and thus render inaccessibility

Recommended Equipment for Wildlife Photography

Getting the best African Wildlife Photographs is determined by the equipment that you are going to use. You just can’t take random equipment without a proper plan and expecting the best shots!

The first piece of equipment that everybody knows as ‘a must-have’ is a camera. But camera revolutions have come a long way, so choosing the right camera might be tricky, especially for “beginner photographers”. The type of camera that you should consider is a digital SLR Camera. We recommend two DSLR camera bodies. This might look like an overkill of your budget or overpack of your luggage, but this will help you in case of any failure of one camera. Two camera bodies also might be useful when there is suddenly observed animal in a closer or distant range as it saves time for replacing lenses. Every photographer knows the feeling of missing an essential and very unique action or scene due to equipment failure, we feel this should not happen to you as it might be your first and last time in Africa. Two cameras also will help you with an easy switch in case of any quick capture. You should also never worry about which brand you should consider, just choose any brand as long as it is a DSLR and it can be perfect.

The most recommended lenses for African Wildlife Photography are those that can capture long-range and mid-range objects. Here we mean the telephoto lenses with a focal length of 300mm plus, for long-range capture and mid-range zoom lenses for medium-length captures. The combination of these two lenses with two camera bodies can be very useful during switching lenses for capturing long-range and short-range objects. This combination will help you get all scenes, especially when there is an immediate need of switching lenses. In addition to lenses, you should also consider short-range lenses for shooting a very closer object or if you are planning to shoot landscapes. In the case of landscape photographs, you should also consider Filters for the better composition of your images.

Another important piece of equipment that you should take is the Camera support. We highly recommend Bean Bags in most of our photographic safaris. Bean bags are extremely effective in supporting your lenses. They can help you to smoothly rest your lenses on window frames, door sills, and on the roof of the safari vehicle.

Storing Images & Footages

If you are going to visit parks like Serengeti, expect to get more than 700 images per day. Considering where you should save your images is very important. We recommend bringing two or more memory cards, 32GB each, or bigger-sized memory cards. This might sound like too much size, but we want to ensure you are well equipped for getting more photos, especially when there is the best opportunity. One of our best alternative options is to bring 1 pair of 64GB of memory card, a small and portable laptop, and an external hard drive.

What should be on your Packing List?

After highlighting some of the equipment that you should consider in the above section, knowing what to pack on your African Wildlife Photography is very important. In this case, we talk about your personal items. The weather in Africa ranges from hot in the afternoon and cold in the morning and evening. Long sleeves and collar shirts can give better protection to your arms and necks in different environments. Packing a windproof jacket or warm fleece can be very useful especially for wearing on a cool morning and evening. Also, consider bringing plenty of sunscreens and a roundish hat.

Being on safari in most African National Parks can be very dusty. Protecting and cleaning your equipment that we have talked about in the above section is extremely important. Taking two or more pieces of smooth clothes can be useful for cleaning cameras and lenses.

Your hand luggage

Cameras and their lenses tend to be very costly. Protecting these valuable items is highly recommended. We recommend packing all your cameras and their lenses in your hand luggage for better protection and avoiding unnecessary damages. Your bag for packing your equipment should be big enough to arrange all your equipment, and small enough to fit into all flight’s cabin limits.

Other Items

Don’t forget, your camera, laptop and smartphone need to be charged. Make sure you don’t forget chargers for each piece of equipment that you are going to use on your trip. Also, consider bringing extra batteries for your camera. You can also add your preferred additional items that you think are very important to bring, depending on your preference.

If you are going to visit Tanzania, this article; ‘What to pack for Tanzania Safari‘ can give you more details about personal items that you should pack for your visit.

What types of vehicles you should consider?

Going for African Wildlife Safari needs proper vehicle arrangement. In order to get great and inspirational photos, your comfortability on your safari vehicle is very important. Avoid using a minivan on your African Wildlife Photography, this is because it can limit you from reaching some of the spectacular remote areas of the park for photography. The best vehicle for African Wildlife photography is a 4×4 open-sided with pop-up roof Toyota Land – Cruiser and Land Rover. The pop-up roof should be removable so it can give you a 360-degree shooting angle. Other Land – cruisers’ make, have removable lids on the top and this makes it even easier. In addition, your safari vehicle needs to have a shade-net to cover you from the sun during hot days.

We also recommend a maximum number of 2 – 3 people per vehicle. The fewer number of people per safari vehicle will facilitate easy movement inside a vehicle by creating more space – this will smoothen your wildlife photographing.

Consider the best photo-friendly accommodation

When it comes to accommodations on your African Safari, one can have a number of choices, from beautiful tented camps, lodges, or hotels. We all know comfortability in your overnight stay is very crucial, but for wildlife photography, it might not be the only matter! The best accommodation that can be friendly to your African Wildlife Photography trip is the one that will be closer to the best wildlife areas. We highly recommend mobile camps or tented camps as they always deliver the best game viewing experience.

To make it simple, your African Wildlife Photography trip should consider a mobile or tented camp that is capable of offering the following services;

  • It should be closer to wildlife
  • It should provide the best meal that could allow photography schedule accordingly
  • Offer the best comfortability
  • Centralized to different wildlife areas to allow easy access to the park in general.

A Safari Company and the Guide

There are dozens of safari companies in Africa; all tend to sell African Photographic Safari Packages. In order to have the best African Wildlife Photography experience, you need to choose a safari company that has the best safari itineraries, especially those that would not require you to travel a long distance in search of wildlife areas. Also, a safari company should have itineraries that can bring you to the middle of the best photographic scenes or events.

What about a Safari Guide?

A Safari Guide is the one who plays a major role in the success of your African Wildlife Photography trip. When selecting a safari guide for your photography project, find the best guide who knows the requirement of an African Wildlife Photographer. The guide also must have enough skills/knowledge of the area on how to schedule the best photographic timing. Make sure you request your preferred safari company to schedule your photographic trip with the best-skilled safari guide who will always know what a photographer wants.

Safari Add-ons

Apart from being in the middle of the best wildlife areas where you can get beautiful shots, we also recommend mixing your trip with a Hot Air Balloon. Make sure you have chosen a safari company that can advise you about the best places and time to go for a balloon safari in Africa. A Hot Air Balloon Safari is another best way to experience wildlife and can help you take unique photos from different dimensions.

Are you ready for an Amazing African Wildlife Photography?

We are an African Safari Company that is photographer friendly. Unlike the conventional African Safaris, our company sets photographic programs in a way that give our clients ample time out as long as it takes to maximize game viewing opportunities and get off – the – beaten track for professional safari photos, often leaving early in the morning and staying out as late as possible. Early mornings and late afternoons are the best times for African Wildlife Photography. We let our clients use the hours in the middle of the day out in the bush for exhilarating wildlife photographic opportunities. All these depend on areas of operations, seasons and the opportunities available for great photos  – most places, in the dry season animals are even more active at water holes during the middle of the day! We also take into account time to rest, for our clients on safari, and this will be liaised between our guides and clients themselves.

If you are planning for an African Wildlife Photographic Safari, Maasai Magic Safaris can help organize this extraordinary trip of your lifetime. Feel free to contact us anytime!