African Safari Photo Gear: a Beginners Guide

I can’t hide my excitement – I’m going on my first wildlife safari! My biggest travel dream is about to come true: an African Safari.

I’m already daydreaming with those gorgeous sabana sunsets, spotting the big 5 and of course, snapping a million pictures to remember this once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

My African Safari Trip

  • Travel Dates: Mid August
  • Location: remote areas in Tanzania
  • Safari company: Bespoke Getaway

What to expect

If you haven’t been to a safari before, there’s a few things you need to know::

Game Drives

Safaris are known as “game drives” in Africa and they happen twice a day: during sunrise and right before sunset.

In these light conditions the ideal equipment would be a full frame camera and lenses with a bright maximum aperture. As a beginner, however, you still can get pretty decent results with a non-professional photo gear.

Beware that even with the best equipment, it’s not likely that you will end up with a National Geographic perfect portrait of a lion, but you can still take beautiful pictures you’ll be proud of. Animals are often closer than you expected!

Baggage Allowance

If you have to take a charter flight to get to the reserve, check your luggage restrictions and baggage allowance as they usually allow only 15kg including hand luggage. Your camera gear, clothes, toiletries… all has to fit those 15kg with no exceptions.

Besides, you need to carry a soft shell bag that can be squeezed into the plane and on the jeep after. Duffel bags are a great alternative.

Remember: double check your baggage allowance and carry a soft duffel bag.

Essential Photo Gear

If you wanted to invest on a new camera or upgrade your photo gear, a safari can be the best excuse for doing it. Don’t get too excited and remember that you will need to pack light for the trip and more importantly, don’t buy anything you’re not likely to use anymore.

10 things you need to add to your safari photo gear:

A light camera

For this trip I’m testing the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III, a solid Micro 4/3 Mirrorless camera.

Why to choose this camera:

  • Clear, blur-free images
  • Crisp handheld 4k videos
  • Compact and beautiful vintage design
  • 5 axis image stabilisation
  • Easy to use
  • Light weight: only 362g
  • High speed focus: an essential!
  • WiFi, allowing using the smartphone as a remote and quick editing.

You can buy it here.

The right lenses

A zoom lens is a safari essential. If you don’t have one yet, this is a great opportunity to invest on it. However, if you don’t think you’ll ever use it again then the most convenient option should be renting it for the trip.

The lenses I’ve chosen for my safari are versatile and more importantly, light and small enough to fit on my favorite camera bag.

  • 9-18 mm a wide angle lens for landscape photos
  • 40-150 mm a versatile zoom lens for all types of shooting
  • 75-300 mm a zoom lens for shooting further animals

Extra Batteries

Do not rely in just one battery. You will probably need extra, especially if due to electricity cuts you’re unable to fully charge your battery.

Olympus extra batteries.

Memory cards

I bet you’ll take thousands of pictures in burst mode as I love to do. My recommendation is always using a SD card with enough space to shoot thousands of pictures in RAW. That’s why I always travel with this 128GB SD card that I can totally recommend.

iPhone/Smartphone

iPhone makes taking photos always easier, and I love it especially for shooting slo-mo videos with my gimbal. I’ve just upgraded to Iphone 8 Plus which gets outstanding pictures even in low-light conditions (that’s one reason why iPhones are that expensive!).

If you’re planning to upgrade your phone, do it before the trip – it’ll be totally worth it.

Power Bank

The lodges and camps are usually off the grid, using only solar power and battery inverters. Weather related interruptions are common so expect electricity cuts.

I’ve been using this power bank for more than 1 year and I can’t recommend it enough. It lasts for days!

Gimbal

If you’re planning to shoot video with your phone a gimbal is essential for avoiding bumpy footage during game drives.

I used to have the DJI Osmo Mobile and I just upgraded to its newer version, the DJI Osmo Mobile 2, whose battery lasts for longer (up to 15h) and it makes it easier to shoot vertical videos for Instagram Stories or IGTV.

Buy it now and thank me later! 

Plug Adapters

In Tanzania the electrical outlet used is the UK standard 3 pins 220-240 V known as Type G.

I brought a plug adapter that allowed me to charge up to 4 gadgets via USB.

Binoculars

Some people would say that a safari can’t be fully enjoyed without binoculars. Truth is you may not need to actually use them if you already have zoom lenses, but they can be handy in certain moments and also as a photography prop!

Click here to shop my recommended binoculars.

Camera Bag

I usually travel with my favorite Gatta Camera bag that fits the camera, lenses, power bank and iPhone I’m recommending you on this post.

Travel Insurance

Don’t forget to add your photo gear to your travel insurance!

And if you liked this post, pin it for later!

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This post has been written in partnership with Olympus.

2 Comments

  1. 15 August, 2018 / 5:22 pm

    I’ve been on a safari in Africa last year and it was a mesmerizing experience. Hence, I can say with certainty that this is the best guide everyone planning to undergo this adventure should read!

    • dianamiaus
      Author
      15 August, 2018 / 5:38 pm

      Oh Agness thank you so much! My wish is to help anyone getting ready for this big trip. I’m glad to see that you found it useful!

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