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African safari talk...recommendations?

  
 
artsupreme
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · African safari talk...recommendations?


I'm cross posting this to the Canon and Sony forum and will also post this in the Nikon forum. I'm seeking recommendations for your favorite African safari locations and tour experiences. I started looking into it and there are so many different regions to choose from...and then to decide what time of the year is best to go? Photographic opportunities of the "big five" is the main priority, with the photography experience being more important than a luxury camp experience (but both would be ideal). I'm looking to be there for two weeks, during anytime of the year. I'm guessing a two week trip might include a few different camps.

I'm also looking for feedback on a two body setup at your favorite locations. I like shooting primes at large apertures but wondering if a zoom might be a better option for a safari. I'm a Canon shooter so that would mean two R5's with a 200-400 on one and a 70-200 2.8 on another (or maybe an R3). Most of the glass and zoom ranges carry over into each brand so with that said your feedback would be appreciated on the following. Basically, if you only had one more chance to go on a safari in your lifetime, which one would you choose, what time of year, and what gear would you bring?

1. Your favorite camps for shooting the big five and what time of the year to go? I really like big cats especially (not too interested in birds). I would also be interested in shooting the native people in their habitat. I would prefer a more expensive tour with less photographers in the vehicle assuming that's an option, or, is there enough room even in a "full" vehicle for everyone to shoot? Pros and Cons for going during the dry and wet seasons? I prefer the look of dry season photos over the greener wet season photos.
2. Two body FF camera setup - assuming the lenses will mostly be glued to each body. 200-400 and 70-200? Or, would you suggest a 500mm or 600mm instead of the 200-400? 100-500 would be much easier, but I like the larger apertures. I would also bring a wider option like a 24-70 on a 3rd body that I could give to the lady in case I need to shoot wide.
3. Do they allow drones?
4. Batteries and battery charging?
5. How not to over pack? What's the bare minimum you would bring to pack as light as possible. Safari clothing brand recommendations?
6. Inoculations, Malaria prevention, vaccines required?
7. Any contacts you have for booking and any travel tips.
8. If you are willing, please share the estimated cost per person of your ideal safari 2-week safari in USD. I'm assuming a really nice two week safari experience might cost 15-20k USD per person? Where's the best bang for the buck? I'm okay with an inferior camp if it gets me the best photography experience as long as the food is good


Please share your images, tips, and any other helpful information you have for someone headed to Africa for their first BBQ.



Dec 27, 2021 at 02:52 PM
Dave_E
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · African safari talk...recommendations?


Just before covid I took my two adult children on a two week nature toor to Tanzania. We were 15 people in three trucks so 5 per vehicle. We went the end of February for the start of the great migration. Flew to Kilimanjaro Airport and started in Arusha . First park Arusha N.P. then moved up to Tarangire N.P. then several days in Ngorongoro Conservation area then up to Ndutu then on up to Seengeti N.P. small plane back to Arusha. It was a fabulous trip. Lots of wonderfull photographs. I took two DSLR, (1) EF 500 F4 VII + TC1.4 (1) 100-400 zoom and (1) 24-105 F4 . My daughter took (1) DSLR + my EF 400 F4 DOII and a EF 28-135. 90 percent of my shots were with the 100-400. I used (1) Think tank airport back pack as you are really restricted for luggage in the small planes. Lots of memory cards back the cards up at night on a laptop and keep the cards on my person. Put a different lens on each body and don't change during the day due to the dust. I was given a tip to take a king size pillow case for each camera when not shooting to keep off the dust. (great tip). Charge up the batteries each night It was a fantastic trip and once covid is under control I will go back to a different area . Got home and printed a big beautiful photo book for myself and each child. They still talk about it all the time. This was my first trip to Africa

Dave



Dec 27, 2021 at 03:43 PM
dmahar
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · African safari talk...recommendations?


Your gear thoughts seem sound - 3 zooms covering wide angle to 500-600mm. With good guides you will get close enough to the big 5 for this range to do all you need. My 70-200 was glued to one body and my 200-400 (560) on the other. 24-70 used only for environmental/people shots. Take a good monopod with tilt/swivel head and/or a bean bag.

This company has the best range of safari lodges at a vast number of locations; www.andbeyond.com

It can get cold on night safaris so take a jacket, beanie and gloves.




Dec 27, 2021 at 04:21 PM
VKM2F
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · African safari talk...recommendations?


I've been on many safaris and am always planning my next one, so I'll try to give you some insights.

1) Most people's first safari usually takes them to the Serengeti in Tanzania (also typically includes visits to the Ngorongoro Crater and Tarangire) or the Maasai Mara in Kenya (perhaps including a stop in Lake Nakuru). The infrastructure is very good, there's lots of providers, and getting to the locations is simple. The big 5 are all present so with any luck you'll see lots (these parks are famous for a reason!). The main downside is that they are very busy in the high season and in the national parks you have to stick to the roads. So if you see a cheetah off in the distance, you can't approach if it means leaving an established road. In private reserves, conservancies, etc. you are typically allowed to approach respectfully.

So, if you are going to be in one of these national parks, reach is a priority when it comes to lens selection. I have the 200-400 on one body and the 70-200 on another. But you can easily make use of a 600mm prime. Reach is critical. I love the flexibility of the zooms and enjoy environmental portraiture but I still often find myself cropping photos taken in these parks.

My favourite park off the beaten path is South Luangwa NP in Zambia. Harder to get to but not busy, the wildlife is incredible, and you can go off road.

2) My #1 priority when booking a safari is ensuring the best guiding experience possible. If you book a tour off the shelf with any generic provider, you'll end up being grouped in the safari vehicle with other guests. This is my nightmare. If you end up with people who have different priorities than you, it can make for a terrible safari. If your priority is photography, patience is key. If you find a leopard, you don't leave! Sit with her, enjoy everything about the scene, and wait to see what she does. You may very well get that image of her coming down the tree and heading to a kill she has hidden somewhere else. Or maybe meeting up with cubs. If you're with a group that gets bored after 15 minutes and wants to move on, it's a recipe for disaster.

That said, I either book with a photo specific tour group so I know I'm with like minded people or I book a private guide. I'd rather stay at a comfortable but simple lodge/camp and spend the money on the guiding. That's what you're there for!

3) No drones allowed.

4) Camps are typically very good about catering to photographers and will have ways for you to charge your gear. Big lodges will have permanent power and smaller camps may run off a generator for a few hours a day so you have a window to charge all your gear.

5) Safari is not a fashion show, so don't over pack. More upscale lodges will have laundry service. Otherwise, pack neutral colours and don't feel you need a different outfit each day!

6) Each country has its own requirements for vaccines, so consult your local travel clinic and they'll get you sorted. You'll likely need malaria pills as well. Make sure you take them as directed and with food.

7) $15-20k USD per person can buy you a very high-end two week safari. You certainly don't have to spend that much, but if you're willing to, you will have many options. At that budget, you may want to also consider the Sabi Sands in South Africa. Very premium lodges/camps, private reserve so low density and ability to go off road, and lots of big cats.

I'll stop now as this has grown into quite a long post! If there's anything you'd like me to go into more detail on, let me know.



Dec 27, 2021 at 04:55 PM
artsupreme
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · African safari talk...recommendations?


This is off to a great start and it's the exact type of information I'm looking for. Thanks everyone.

VKM2F, your bullet point number 2 is exactly why I posted this thread. I don't want to book an expensive safari that turns out to be a typical vacation for the general public. I want a photography based tour where it's just me and a few other like minded photographers who are on the hunt all day to capture the best possible images.

I'm looking for scenes like the images I posted in the Nikon thread:
https://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/1734991

Good to know it's not as expensive as I thought. Now I'm thinking it might be 15K per person all in including flights from the US.

Don't be shy and post some of your safari images!





Dec 27, 2021 at 05:38 PM
Bobg657
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · African safari talk...recommendations?


I just returned from my 11th safari, and agree with what vkm2f said. Aside from any Covid concerns I usually recommend the Northern route in Tanzania as a first safari, you can visit a variety of topography and locations without flying as multiple parks are only a few hours drive apart. That might include Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengetti.

In TZ Iíve used www.goodearthtours.com several times, theyíre a decent sized local company in Arusha, TZ and have a USA representative. They can arrange everything for you and provide a guide and vehicle for the whole trip. That means you have your own vehicle and no other people to deal with. I would expect the cost to be much less than you mentioned. Since you canít go off road 600mm might be helpful, either zoom plus TC or prime.

Elsewhere I use www.expertafrica.com, they have specialists in each area that can help you.

As far as when to go the most popular times are June to August which is the dry season there, foliage is generally brown and more sparse making spotting easier, but I prefer the Green season from November to February which is less crowded and more beautiful. Times vary depending on location and change each year somewhat.

Feel free to pm any questions.

Bob



Dec 27, 2021 at 05:46 PM
artsupreme
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · African safari talk...recommendations?


Bobg657 wrote:
I just returned from my 11th safari, and agree with what vkm2f said. Aside from any Covid concerns I usually recommend the Northern route in Tanzania as a first safari, you can visit a variety of topography and locations without flying as multiple parks are only a few hours drive apart. That might include Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengetti.

In TZ Iíve used www.goodearthtours.com several times, theyíre a decent sized local company in Arusha, TZ and have a USA representative. They can arrange everything for you and provide a guide and vehicle for the whole trip. That means
...Show more

11th Safari!?!?! Nice Bob, you are doing it right. Checkout the images I posted in the Nikon thread and let me know if this is the type of stuff I would see in the places you mentioned above - Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengetti

Thanks and post some images considering you have 11 trips worth. Also mention where each image was taken if possible. Thanks again!



Dec 27, 2021 at 05:52 PM
Bobg657
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · African safari talk...recommendations?


Those can be taken in most safari locations, youíre welcome to look at my website if you like.

https://bobgreenberg9918.zenfolio.com/p84646910




Dec 27, 2021 at 06:02 PM
ReadyAF
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · African safari talk...recommendations?


Time of year can change how high and what color the grassland is (at least in South Africa, likely the rest as well). So it changes the how the pictures look and how much you can see if animals are short or lying down.

Separately Ö I took my vaccinations spaced out over time whereas my wife got all of the first doses on the same day. If you need a lot of them, you may want to spread out the vaccinations in time or be prepared to feel pretty off for a day.

Have a great trip - we look forward to seeing some amazing pics!



Dec 27, 2021 at 06:05 PM
1bwana1
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · African safari talk...recommendations?


For a first Safari nothing will beat the classic animals and scenery of East Africa. You can do Southern Kenya, Northern Tanzania, and even work in a side trip to the Chimpanzees and Gorillas.

There are many excellent camps, guides, and locations. From large crowded tourist camps and lodges, to private camping in private reserves. All available to fit just about any level of comfort from 5 star to sleeping on the ground.

For Northern Tanzania, and Southern Kenya, plan your trip around the great migration. Since you prefer the tawny colors, and the red earth of the dry season the animals will be easier to find. In the dry season they congregate around the water. In the wet season they disperse into the bush more. Travel is easier in the dry season, more difficult due to muddy roads in the we season. A well planned trip can get you a bit of both wet and dry. The migration follows the rain from North to South, then back up South to North. Dry season in one place is wet season in another. Like the animals, follow the rain.

You will get your big 5 with plenty of cats in East Africa for sure. Timed right you may get to witness and photograph a large migration crossing of the Mara River. Always a special event. Back in the day the migration was millions of animals. It is still tens or hundreds of thousands, and still a magnificent thing that should not be missed.

Sorry, I can't be much help with tourist operators. I usually go on my own or with a group of my local friends. We send a truck out with our camp and staff and meet them at various places.

Your camera choices of the R5 three zooms and TC sound like fine choices. African animals in the various parks, are big, well acclimated to people and easy to photograph. It is hard to take a bad shot of the East African landscape.

The vaccinations, testing, and procedures required due to Covid seem to always be in flux. I would monitor for current requirements as you approach you trip dates. In general you will only be required to have a Yellow Fever Vaccination and health card in East Africa. Get this well in advance. I would consult a Doctor with a travel medicine practice for a full set of recommendations of other vaccinations and precautions tailored to your own situation. You will also likely want a Malaria preventative pill. I have had malaria 6 times. Not fun.

-Steve-

Edited on Dec 27, 2021 at 06:18 PM · View previous versions



Dec 27, 2021 at 06:11 PM
 


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Bobg657
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · African safari talk...recommendations?


Another thought would be to look at Federico Veronisi, he is an award winning photog who leads photo tours.


Dec 27, 2021 at 06:12 PM
Bobg657
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · African safari talk...recommendations?


Btw, if you go to this page of my site youíll see the locations.

https://bobgreenberg9918.zenfolio.com/f210381201



Dec 27, 2021 at 06:28 PM
AZHeaven
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · African safari talk...recommendations?


artsupreme wrote:
I'm cross posting this to the Canon and Sony forum and will also post this in the Nikon forum. I'm seeking recommendations for your favorite African safari locations and tour experiences. I started looking into it and there are so many different regions to choose from...and then to decide what time of the year is best to go? Photographic opportunities of the "big five" is the main priority, with the photography experience being more important than a luxury camp experience (but both would be ideal). I'm looking to be there for two weeks, during anytime of the year. I'm guessing
...Show more

Roy Toft Photo Safaris. He's one of the best. And not $15-20K! And on his website he has recommendations for gear etc.



Dec 27, 2021 at 06:39 PM
artsupreme
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · African safari talk...recommendations?


Bobg657 wrote:
Btw, if you go to this page of my site youíll see the locations.

https://bobgreenberg9918.zenfolio.com/f210381201


Great stuff Bob, thanks again.



Dec 27, 2021 at 06:46 PM
dmahar
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · African safari talk...recommendations?


Regarding focal length, as I said earlier 200-400/560 and or 100-500 will do very nicely. The flexibility of an L-series zoom trumps the bulk and lack of flexibility of a large prime. I often found that heat and/or smoke haze made longer than 560mm less appealing than waiting for a better closer opportunity. Over the past decade with trips to all 7 continents I have learnt that waiting for the right opportunity is better than taking 20000 shots most of which end up being culled. There is a strong temptation to go - look there is a lion 300 yards away I must photograph it! In Africa you will have many opportunities so wait for the good ones - and simply take in the scenery/action at other times.


Dec 27, 2021 at 06:46 PM
artsupreme
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · African safari talk...recommendations?


AZHeaven wrote:
Roy Toft Photo Safaris. He's one of the best. And not $15-20K! And on his website he has recommendations for gear etc.


Great news, it just keeps getting cheaper by the minute



Dec 27, 2021 at 06:47 PM
AZHeaven
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · African safari talk...recommendations?


artsupreme wrote:
Great news, it just keeps getting cheaper by the minute

Roy is one of the best guides. I plan on going with him to Africa in 2023. I know him through mutual friends. He just did a 1:25 talk with the Mountain Lion Foundation. You can watch it here. Or you can go on Youtube and look it up.








Dec 27, 2021 at 07:47 PM
pluturi
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · African safari talk...recommendations?


Most of the others have already covered East Africa and Tanzania specifically as a good safari location. Getting in and out is easy through Arusha and getting from park to park is certainly drivable, if not for a few bumps in the road. For completeness, however, I'll just add that Botswana offers wonderful wildlife as well, but perhaps not in the numbers that you might see in Tanzania. While a bush plane flight is necessary to get the most out of it, the advantage to Botswana is private game reserves are common, so 1) you don't have to stay on the roads when on game drives and 2) as a result there may not be any other human beings present at any stop you decide to make. Camps and food were outstanding and guiding was top notch by local guides.

Given your interests, I would definitely spring for a private vehicle everyday. It isn't a lot more money, but gives you near-infinite freedom in executing your day. If you do go off-road, your primary lens selection is fine; no need for anything longer than 400mm unless you are birding because the animals are close! I highly recommend

http://www.safariadventuresworldwide.com

It is a family run operation with the parents in the US and the daughter on the ground in Africa making the arrangements.



Dec 27, 2021 at 08:38 PM
dentedcamera
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · African safari talk...recommendations?


artsupreme wrote:
This is off to a great start and it's the exact type of information I'm looking for. Thanks everyone.

VKM2F, your bullet point number 2 is exactly why I posted this thread. I don't want to book an expensive safari that turns out to be a typical vacation for the general public. I want a photography based tour where it's just me and a few other like minded photographers who are on the hunt all day to capture the best possible images.

I'm looking for scenes like the images I posted in the Nikon thread:
https://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/1734991

Good to know it's not as
...Show more

Always happy to share a few images from Africa! Your first safari is a special experience, and my guess is it will impact you more than you anticipated.




























Edited on Dec 27, 2021 at 09:37 PM · View previous versions



Dec 27, 2021 at 09:36 PM
EverLearning
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p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · African safari talk...recommendations?


I apologize in advance for not having the time to go into great detail, but I will make a bit of a comment here.

We did Tanzania back in October, 2017. It was my wife and I and our friends (another couple). Our guide was our driver too so there was five of us in the vehicle. Absolutely the way to go AOT the "buses". The tour greatly exceeded our expectations. We did pretty much what Dave_E described above.

We used (info taken from a 2017 email):

Access 2 Tanzania
TOLL FREE: 866-589-6116 x403
Direct: 651-204-3035
www.access2tanzania.com
www.facebook.com/access2tanzania

Our tour was customized to what we wanted and the guide was very flexible every day (and the guide was amazing).

Another company that we didn't use but looked great too (we had a heck of a time choosing between these two) was Africa Adventure Company. Speaking of that company, the president, Mark Nolting wrote an excellent book Called "Africa's Top Wildlife Countries"; 600 pages packed with good info on nine main African countries plus some info on six others.

I used two bodies and two lenses but it was the crop body with the 100-400 that took the vast majority of photos. I only wanted for more reach on small birds at a bit of distance. Note that it is difficult to use really long glass in Africa on large animals far away due to heat shimmer. But they do work well for smaller creatures not too far away.

Good luck!



Dec 27, 2021 at 09:36 PM
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