Sunday, June 1, 2008


Top outfitters share safari planning tips to help you focus on the best opportunities for the trip of a lifetime

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Lion Pale chanting goshawk, Masai Mara National Reserve
Name Your Big 5
The big five was originally identified as the most dangerous by hunters—lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino, leopard—but what are other big five camera favorites?

David Anderson
1. Cheetah: The fastest land animal, the cheetah hunts by day, providing a variety of photo opportunities. Photographing a cheetah running toward you at 60 mph can be a challenge for the most skilled photographer.
2. Wild Dogs: Although rare, they've been seen in the last few years in Lake Nakuru National Park and the Masai Mara Game Reserve. They're the most successful of the predators and live in packs with clearly defined roles.
3. Leopard: They're usually found in heavily wooded brush, and can be uncannily silent and appear without warning.
4. Elephant: They're large, but graceful. We could learn much from observing their social structure.
5. Bat-Eared Fox: Who couldn't love those ears! They live in dens and mostly come out at night, so when you find one during the day, it's a special treat.

Joe McDonald
1. Leopard: There's a magic to this spotted cat that's unique; even lying on a branch, a cheetah is a compelling subject.
2. African Elephant: They're rarely static and quite playful, especially if you find them at a mud hole or bathing.
3. African Birds Of Prey: You're likely to see at least four different species of eagles on a safari. Their accessibility always comes as a surprise. The martial eagle is the most dynamic, capable of taking small antelopes and monkeys.
4. Cheetah: Everyone hopes to witness a hunt or kill, and that's most easily accomplished by spending time with cheetahs that often feed daily. Since they frequent open areas, it's possible to witness an entire hunt, from the stalk to the chase and knockdown. Keep your distance so as to not interfere.
5. African Lion: They typically spend 20 hours of every day sleeping, but when they're active, generally in the early-morning hours, they can be dynamic subjects. Patience is required. Put in the time, and you'll be rewarded with all sorts of interactions with this, the only social cat.

Elly Gathungu
1. Tribal cultures 2. Elephant 3. Cheetah 4. Lion 5. Birdlife

Top 5 “Surprise” Wildlife
Tourists come to see and photograph the major animals, but what animals are an unexpected surprise?

Joe McDonald
1. Spotted Hyena: While hyenas have a vile and unjustified reputation, photographers often are surprised at the opportunities they present, especially around a den site or at a kill.
2. Bat-Eared Fox: With its huge ears and otherwise dainty proportions, the bat-eared fox quickly becomes a favorite. While most foxes are shy, some at den sites are very habituated; the interactions between adults and pups are precious.
3. Vulture: Another animal with a maligned reputation, vultures in flight are graceful and enticing. You can shoot multiple gigabytes as dozens of vultures swoop down to a kill. Capturing the ultimate flight shot is always a challenge.
4. Pied Kingfisher: The pied kingfisher is the only one to hover in one spot before diving for a fish or frog. You can locate favorite fishing spots, which the birds will routinely visit.
5. Impala: This is not only the most abundant antelope, but also the one to offer the most opportunity for action shots. Males congregate in bachelor groups where individuals test one another in play fights that can appear quite violent.

David Anderson
1. Ground hornbill 2. Dung beetle 3. Lilac-breasted roller 4. Rock hyrax 5. Secretary bird

Elly Gathungu
1. Secretary bird 2. Lilac-breasted roller 3. Sunrise and sundown 4. Serval cat 5. Flowers

Just Can't Miss
You haven't been to Kenya if you don't see or photograph this...

David Anderson
The proud Masai people, but tourist visits to villages need to be handled with appropriate sensitivity and arrangements. A knowledgeable outfitter can negotiate a monetary compensation and set the ground rules for interaction and the possible purchase of trinkets.

Joe McDonald
The one event that everyone hopes to see is a wildebeest river crossing. This is seasonal, but we've had crossings along the Mara River from July through December. They don't happen daily, and hours may be required in waiting, as even the gnus can be fickle, waffling until they finally decide to cross.

Elly Gathungu
The Mara and its lions
The flamingos at Lake Nakuru

David Anderson Safari Consultants
(800) 927-4647
McDonald Wildlife Photography
(717) 543-6423
Wild Images Africa
(+254) 722-385248

Large Scarf (Kanga Or Kikoi): On my first trip to East Africa, our guide passed out kangas or kikois—African sarongs—which are large squares of cotton cloth that are handy for a multiple of uses: shielding dust from a camera lying at the ready in your lap, hung over a vehicle window to block the sun, held over your face in dusty conditions, etc. About as versatile as the cowboy bandanna.

ACCO Clips: These binder clips, used in offices, can perform a variety of tasks—to pin open or hold together a tent door, window flap or mosquito netting or to hang a flashlight, etc. On safari, there's always something that needs mending, pinning or binding.

Headlamp: Morning game drives start early and end late. You'll often find yourself dressing and gathering gear in the dark (morning) or returning to a dark tent (evening). A small headlight allows you to see while both hands are free. Also useful for peering into a camera bag or seeing camera settings in the predawn.

Electric Inverter: Useful for plugging into a safari vehicle's cigarette lighter to charge a camera battery or power a laptop. Many camps and lodges turn off their power at night, so it's not always convenient to get a full charge when you need one. Some very small inverters are available (try Xantrex Technologies XPower Micro 175-Watt Inverter, available on amazon.com).

Binoculars: This should be obvious, but it's essential to spot before you shoot. Much of the fun of game drives is spotting game, and the odds are increased if all eyes are outfitted (8X is good, 10X is better).

Ziploc® Bags: Handy as see-through containers to carry, separate and store items in your suitcase or camera bag.

Avon Ski So Soft: For some reason, it's a tse tse fly repellent in a way that mosquito repellent is not.

Lens Caps: Carry at least an extra complete set. They're easy to lose, but important for protection.

Synthetic Shirts, Pants, Socks: This pertains to photography because they're easy to wash and dry overnight, making it possible to carry less clothing and more photo gear.

Graduated Neutral-Density Filter: Spectacular skies are a big part of the experience, and these will help you to balance exposures between sunset skies and landscape foregrounds.


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