In preparing for a photographic wildlife safari in Eastern Africa there are several things to consider when organizing and packing your gear. First it is very important that your clothing should be in neutral colors. Light brown and khaki are the most popular followed by dark green.
When viewing wildlife you do not want to attract an animal’s attention with your bright red or yellow shirts. Blending in is the way to go. You want to view and photograph animals in their natural environment doing their own thing, not paying attention to your movements.
Out of the Bush
The same goes for waving your arms or calling out to wildlife to get them to look at you for a portrait. Respect for wildlife should be your number one goal before capturing an image. You are not in a zoo environment and every animal needs all their strength and energies just to survive.
So you want to dress comfortably in non restrictive, lightweight clothing. You need protection from the sun during the day and from mosquitoes especially at night. Most safari guides request that you do not wear any type of military clothing.
Some in town restaurants do require more formal clothes however I found that casual was the mainstay wherever I went. When I attended several business meetings in Arusha safari casual was still very acceptable. I guess they expected me to be coming in from the bush.
Khaki shorts and lightweight hiking boots or sneakers are popular everywhere. Tee shirts and a long sleeved shirt are quite acceptable just watch the colors you take. A light weight jacket or rain coat is necessary. Weather changes and evenings can get chilly especially at elevation.
Bull Elephant Tarangeri National Park
Many of the main safari lodges have swimming pools so a bathing suit is a good idea. For me I spent all my daylight hours being jostled around on dirt roads seeking and observing wildlife never making it poolside. It just depends on your preferences.
Socks, undies a belt and a sun hat make up the jest of required clothing. Packing light makes travel easier and with modern synthetic materials you can always wash your things out in your room at night.
Small bottles of sunscreen, shampoo, lotions and repellents will cut down on space and weight. A small flashlight, sunglasses, binoculars, batteries, shaving kit and eyeglass cleaners should find their way into your duffle.
Keep your medications and travel papers in your carryon bag along with your camera equipment and laptop if you take one.
Wildebeest on the Sarengeti
Luggage choice is another important item to consider. Most safari operators have restrictions on hard sided luggage. Keep you gear down to one duffle styled pack plus your personal carryon bag. Major international airlines and especially the smaller charter carriers have restrictions and it is important to check with them before you leave home.
First remember that for most people on safari it is a once in a life time experience of seeing wild animals in their natural habitat along with unique cultures and exotic environments. You want to make sure you have enough film or compact flash cards. Both are hard to find and are very expensive on location. Extra batteries and a charger with the proper converter are also essential.
If you can afford it take two camera bodies and a minimum of a 300mm, 70mm to 210mm zoom and a wide angle complement of lenses. Changing lenses in a dusty environment or when an animal sets the action takes precious seconds. You always need to be ready for the unexpected.
Maasai Men in red sukas - Kisura
Tripods are next to impossible to use from a Land Rover so a bean bag is recommended for camera stability. Hang onto all your gear you don’t want to get out of your vehicle with a pride of lions outside your door to pick up a filter or lens brush.
Clean and check your equipment each night. Dust gets into everything. I kept everything in plastic zip bags. I noticed other photographers on the road had their entire camera bag in a trash bag because of the dust potential. They also help with protection from rain and condensation from air conditioned rooms.
If you decide to purchase new equipment before you go get it a few weeks beforehand and study the manuals and use the gear so that you are familiar with it and won’t fumble when an elephant rushes at your vehicle. A little practice will make a big difference.
So this covers the basics of safari preparation. Always inquire about other specifics from your safari operator when you book your adventure. Be adaptable and patient, two main travel essentials.
Photographs used in this post are copyrighted by Wayne Scherr, Range of Vision Photography, 2010, All Rights Reserved. Reproduction in any manner is prohibited without the written permission of Wayne Scherr, Range of Vision Photography. My image catalog can be viewed at http://www.rangeofvisionphotos.com. You can contact me through this blog or through email at: email@example.com
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