| Most safari-goers bring some kind of camera, and a safari offers many opportunities
to capture animals, scenery etc on film or memory card.
Unless you're a skilled photographer, you should consider your pictures memories from
your safari only. Don't expect to shoot prize-winning wildlife pictures, because that
usually requires plenty of time, skills and a safari planned especially for this. Spend
your safari looking mainly through your binoculars, not your camera.
If you don't usually take pictures when travelling, you don't have to bring a camera
at all. Should you want some pictures for a memory of the tour, you may buy a nice book
with lots of professional safari pictures.
Film or digital?
There may be two reasons for bringing the classic type of camera that uses film: you
know exactly what you are doing, or you've already got such a camera and see no reason
to buy a new one.
Otherwise, bring a digital camera.
Your camera needs/competence
Settle for a camera that you know how to handle. Advanced features are of no use to
you unless you know how to use them. If you usually use automatic settings, you will
benefit more from a camera with good lens quality than from a camera with settings for
manually controlling exposure etc.
Also consider weight. To take safari photography seriously, you need to carry all photo
equipment at all times. Single lens reflex cameras, used by true photographers, are
versatile and can produce very good pictures, but are considerably heavier than compact
and bridge cameras.
The African morning and evening light is lovely in pictures. Daylight is hard and flat,
though, and automatic settings often result in dull pictures.
Safaris are dusty. Keep your camera covered when not in use, to save if from unnecessary
exposure to dust. Dust may soil the lense, and even get into and damage the camera.
If you are going to buy a new camera, we suggest a digital camera. There is a multitude
of such cameras on the market to choose from, in different price ranges.
Digital cameras have features that make them more usable than traditional cameras with
film. You can review your pictures right after shooting them, and you can erase pictures
you're not happy with. This is very handy for safari use; when you find a trophy animal,
such as a leopard, you may shoot any number of pictures until you've got a really good
one, and delete the rest. Many cameras can also shoot video, and the price of memory
cards keeps going down and down, which means that the cost per picture is fairly low.
There is much to read about specific cameras on the web. We suggest you do some reading
there, or visit your photo dealer. Below, we describe the three main types of digital
cameras from a safari point of view.
Compact cameras, 3X4X zoom
The compact cameras are small enough to fit into a pocket. If you make it a rule to
always bring the camera in a specific pocket, at all times, you'll be ready to shoot
any events or action during the safari. The picture quality is good enough for holiday
pictures and private use.
The main disadvantage is the limited zoom, enlarging your subject up to three or four
times; animal portraits are possible only when you are quite close to the animal. You
usually get a good number of such portrait opportunities during a safari, though, but
some rare species, such as leopards and rhinos, are rarely seen that close, so you need
luck to get good pictures of them without a more powerful zoom.
A nice side effect of lacking zoom capacity is that many of your pictures probably will
show the surrounding nature and landscape.
Bridge cameras, 10X18X zoom
The bridge cameras are, simply speaking, big compact cameras with powerful zooms. They
may also have more manual settings than compact cameras. Many have a strong and adjustable
built-in flash. These features make the bridge camera quite usable for safari use.
Bridge cameras aren't more difficult to use than compact cameras, as there are also
automatic settings. The main disadvantage is size; bridge cameras require you to carry
a bag. The powerful zoom is an advantage, but beware! When zooming in 15X, you don't
only enlarge the subject fifteen times, but also any shaking. The better bridge cameras
have an electronic stabilizer, but you may also want to use for example a bean
bag to support the camera when zooming. Otherwise, you may not get the sharp pictures
that you want.
Most bridge cameras save pictures in JPEG format only, but some can also save in professional
From our experience, bridge cameras in general are not made for rough outdoor environments.
They are quite sensitive to dust and rain.
Single lens reflex cameras (DSLR)
Like compact and bridge cameras, digital single lens reflex cameras have come down in
price. If you bring such a camera on your safari, and know how to use it, you will probably
shoot some really good pictures.
This type of camera usually has better resolution and light sensitivity, but don't buy
one unless you have some knowledge in photography and are prepared to work for picture
quality. You also have to carry more and heavier equipment.
DSLRs may save the pictures in RAW format, which is the best if you want to process
them with software afterwards. The format requires a lot of memory, so many users bring
a portable hard drive to which they transfer their pictures from the camera memory card.
With a DSLR, you may want at least a 200 mm tele lens for general safari use. For bird
photography, you may want a longer lens.
have wall outlets for British 3-pin plugs with rectangular pins. Most rooms in hotels
and tents in some tented
camps, have wall outlets. If there are none, you may charge batteries in the
bar or reception. The voltage in Kenya and Tanzania is 220240 V, 50 Hz.
With most cameras, a 1 gigabyte memory card has room for a few hundred pictures, which
is probably enough if you shoot holiday pictures only and take time now and then to
delete poor pictures. The memory cards aren't very expensive any more, so you may choose
to bring extra memory. This also allows you to bring some video files home, which can
Classic camera using film
There may be two reasons to bring the classic type of camera that uses film: you know
exactly what you are doing, or you've already got such a camera and see no reason to
buy a new one.
You may use some 10 rolls of film for holiday pictures during a normal 7-day safari.
200 ASA film is fine for all-round use. For serious photography, you will probably use
a lot more, and will probably go for 50400 ASA.
Film is sold in lodges and shops, but you can never tell how the film has been stored,
handled etc. Mainly standard film is sold. It's better to bring enough film from home.
Bean bags for sharp pictures
A bean bag is a bag filled with beans (rice can be used, too), used as a stable support
for a camera (or telescope) in the safari vehicle. You put the bag on the roof or in
an open window, and then the camera on top. You don't really need such a support for
compact cameras, but for using tele lenses and zooming with bridge cameras, the bean
bag makes a big difference.
You can device a simple bean bag yourself. Use a fabric bag, a big sock etc (anything
goes, as long as it's not airtight), fill it with 1 kg/2 lb of beans, and
tie it up with as string or strong rubber band. If you don't want to bring the extra
weight on the flight to East Africa, you may bring an empty bag and buy beans or rice
in a market after arriving, or even use sand to fill it.
Tripods can't be used in safari vehicles, as there isn't room enough between the seats,
co-passengers etc. A bean bag is more useful in the vehicle.
A tripod may be used on lodges, camps and observation points, or during walks. It's
one more thing to carry around, though, and on normal safaris, most safari-goers have
no use of one.