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Wildlife photography is a highly specialised niche and can be fairly intimidating for those just starting out. Fortunately, there are countless online resources to help and, by adhering to a few small tips and tricks you’ll be able to return home with some impressive images from your safari, regardless of previous experience or quality of camera gear.
“The biggest trick is to be in the right place, at the right time. This applies to pros and beginners alike. To make that happen you need to travel to the right destination with the most experienced guides. Here then, are a handful of places to photograph some of Africa’s most iconic animals…”
The iconic pachyderm is the largest land mammal in the world. Now, you could go to the Lewa Conservancy in Kenya and get some spectacular wide-angled images of elephants with Mount Kenya in the background or, head to South Africa’s Kruger National Park and get pictures of some impressive tuskers.
For something unique, we however recommend Namibia. Namibia is famed for its desert-adapted elephants and rhinos. The range of dramatic, pulled-back landscape images and close-up options (with elephants as the main subject) are near endless in the mountainous desert of Damaraland . One thing to remember when photographing game is that you want to get that little ‘glint’ in the eye – it’s what separates average photos from proper images. To catch the light in an elephant’s eye can be super tricky because their eyes are so small (and eyelashes big). For that you want at least a 300mm lens, or a 70-200mm with a 2x converter. We recommend a range of lenses to make the most of capturing the drama of the elephants in the thirstlands though. A wide zoom (24-105mm) and wide angle (16mm or less) will be invaluable.
WILDEBEEST (AND ZEBRA): TANZANIA
The world’s most famous wildlife migration takes place each year on a cyclical pattern through Tanzania’s Serengeti. It can be a challenge to capture the scope of just what is going on during the migration (there is so much going on!). But, each part of it, during a different season, offers something unique.
From July to October, one of our favourite locations is Lamai Serengeti. The spectacular lodge sits nestled amongst the rocks of Kogakuria Kopje (‘kopje is a small mountain) and is only a few short miles from where the wildebeest cross the Mara River – a photographic opportunity any photographer worth his shutter needs to tick off the list, at least once.
Itinerary: 14 Days Tanzania Beach & Bush (Jul-Oct 21)
WHALE SHARKS: MOZAMBIQUE
The whale shark is the largest living fish in the world, reaching lengths in excess of 14 metres (46 feet plus). Despite its name and size, whale sharks are peaceful, harmless giants. It is an endangered species and special protocols exist around free diving with them.
These protocols exist because these creatures are easy to observe closely and you do not require any kind of dive qualification to swim with them. You need a camera with a water-housing or a waterproof action camera to get those iconic images and you want to head to Vilanculos in the Mozambican province of Inhambane.
This is a resort town which serves as a great base for exploring the idyllic islands of the Bazaruto Archipelago. Whale sharks congregate in the Bazaruto Archipelago between October and April.
The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest on the slopes of the Virunga Volcanoes mountain range is a UNESCO world heritage site and home to over half of the world’s total gorilla population. These highly social creatures are supremely photogenic with entertaining facial expressions and interactions. A gorilla trek experience is undertaken in such a way as to impact least on the animals. This includes tracking them down on foot. The hike requires a reasonable amount of fitness and is led by expert guides and trackers. It is possible to do gorilla treks year-round, although the drier months (December to February and June to July) offer the easiest tracking (and walking). No camera flashes are allowed around the gorillas and it is recommended to have a good zoom range (24 -105mm will) so that you can make the most of various photographic opportunities and get close-ups as well as wider angled images.
Itinerary: Gorilla Yoga Retreat 2021/22
LEOPARDS: SABI SANDS
If there is a better place to photograph leopards, we are yet to find it.
The legacy of the famed leopards of the Sabi Sands goes back to the early 1980s when co-founder John Varty of Londolozi and incredible naturalist Elmon Mhlongo started making films about particular animals in the reserve, which forms part of the Sabi Sand Game Reserve a collection of private land that has been incorporated into the ‘Greater Kruger National Park’.
Since then, much has been learnt about leopard behaviour and the animals have become habituated to game-viewing vehicles.
It is this nuance, and the sheer size of the leopard population in the Sabi Sand – that makes for the most incredible leopard sightings and experiences on Londolozi, Dulini and Savanna, among others.
The leopard is a spectacularly photogenic animal and some photographers have made a career out of photographing only them. Because of the nature of the close-up encounters at Londolozi a 70-200m lens is more than adequate.
Itinerary: 7 Nights Cape Town & Kruger Park