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kaitlyn2004
20th of March 2010 (Sat), 14:17
I'm 23 years old and for years have wanted to go on a safari in Africa. I'm hoping I can make that a reality in the near future, which will hopefully turn into the first of many trips there in my lifetime! :) Unfortunately I've only ever planned one trip myself and am overwhelmed/unsure on a number of things. I also do not personally know anyone who has gone on a safari before, unfortunately.

1. What time of the year did you go? What time of year is "best"?
2. How many places did you consider going? Where did you end up and how did you choose it?
3. Did you go wanting to see something specific? What? (scenic, birds, cats, big 5, etc.)
4. Did you go to a hotel who arranges a safari, or pick lodging+tour guide separately?
5. How long did you go for, and how much did the trip cost, in USD?
6. What lens(es) did you bring, and which ended up being most useful/effective?
7. What were the overall high and low points for you?
8. Anything else I'm missing? :)

Thank you SO much! :)

P.S. Feel free to be MORE detailed rather than to the point :P

matman1975
20th of March 2010 (Sat), 18:29
Answering to all these questions in detail might require a whole book to be written...that's why I'm about to recommend one book to you where you will find all the information you seek.
The author is called Christofer Weston ( a well known British wildlife photographer) and the book's title is... "African safari photography" available on Amazon and other book retail stores as well.
The author covers in this book every single question you asked. Where to go, when to go, what to do in order to find a good tour operator, what photo gear to bring with and countless more hints and tips on how to successfuly organize a safari trip in Africa!

Regards
Teo

PS: If you have decided that Kenya, Tanzania or Zambia will be your first safari destination I'm in a position to provide you detailed information on what to do. I travel to these countries since 2005

kaitlyn2004
21st of March 2010 (Sun), 14:21
matman - the problem is just that... I haven't decided a location and I'm not sure how to actually go about choosing one over the other...

kdvincent
22nd of March 2010 (Mon), 13:40
Kaitlyn,
It's easy to pick one over another. just pick one. Either this is a once in a life time trip and all are great. or, one is first and the others will follow.
How can somebody else, who doesn't know what I like to shoot or how I like to travel, can pick a destination for me....????
Some trip might be better for the season you will travel, however, no one knows better than you.

Or

Throw a dart.....


Keith

Shawn_BS
1st of April 2010 (Thu), 01:22
Check out Botswana too, ive heard its AMAZING there... im 25 and im eventually planning on going to africa as well

riyazi
27th of April 2010 (Tue), 10:10
Lots of good advice by Theo and Keith here but I will try to answer your questions based on my recent trip to Kenya

1. What time of the year did you go? What time of year is "best"?
We went in Mid April which is the off season - the ideal season for Kenya is late July and August which would be the peak of the migration. However, it also means higher accommodation costs! But you get to see a lot more. During our trip, we saw plenty of lions, elephants, cheetahs, rhinos, hippos and various other animals but we found it hard to find the leopard, big cat hunting and their kills etc.

2. How many places did you consider going? Where did you end up and how did you choose it?
There are only 3 places that we really wanted to go in Africa - South Africa, Kenya and Rwanda (Gorillas). We were initially planning to go to South Africa but during our research Kenya seemed more appealing so we went for that. Rwanda was out of the question for just a couple to go due to security and South Africa was out because we couldn't get enough information about the Safaris.

3. Did you go wanting to see something specific? What? (scenic, birds, cats, big 5, etc.)
Mostly for the big cats (especially for the leopard - ironically we didn't get a proper view of even 1!), but also for the big 5 and birds.

4. Did you go to a hotel who arranges a safari, or pick lodging+tour guide separately?
We did quite a bit of research on photography sites (POTN and couple of others) and travel sites (tripadvisor) looking for a tour operator to do the whole safari. A hotel will be more expensive than a tour operator IMO. If you do your research, you can find a good operator whose driver/guide specialises in or has experience with photographers. Also, they will provide a vehicle which is suited for photography.

5. How long did you go for, and how much did the trip cost, in USD?
We went for 12 days (10 days of Safari) and it cost us a total of $5,000 for both of us excluding tips and personal expenses ie: accommodation, food, park fees, vehicle, fuel, etc all included.

6. What lens(es) did you bring, and which ended up being most useful/effective?
I took my 150-500mm OS which was the one that I used the most (almost 80% of the time). I also switched on to my 24-70mm to get some wide shots of the animals with the landscape, trees, etc. You can live with those 2 lenses for the whole trip. My wife had a 70-200mm on a 40D but it was way too short most of the time. You might want to pack in a prime like a 50mm or 85mm to take some good portraits of the tribal people. If you are into macros and insect photography, you can pack a macro lens as well - lots of insects in some of the places we stayed

7. What were the overall high and low points for you?
High points were photographing lions just arms length from our vehicle, lions feeding on a hippo kill, a bloody rhino fight which went on for hours, a cheetah tracking her prey for half hour (no kill), a fast paced cheetah hunt (unsuccessful and short) and plenty of birds we really wanted to see - hoopoe, secretary bird, kori bustards, etc etc.
Low point was seeing only the tail of a leopard (very far and through tree branches) and not being able to see a successful cheetah or lion hunt.

8. Anything else I'm missing?
Yes - go back to what Theo and Keith said. Your search is too wide at the moment - you need to identify what you would like to see and photography and how much of a budget you can afford. Then you can start making plans for where, when and how you are going to do it.

One word of advice though - be prepared to plan on another trip as soon as you get back - we started planning our 2nd trip while we were still there!!! :D

hollis_f
28th of April 2010 (Wed), 05:45
Rwanda was out of the question for just a couple to go due to security

Not sure where you got your info about Rwanda from, but it's very out of date. Even looking at the news over the last year, Rwanda seems safer for tourists than either Kenya or South Africa. When it was first suggested we went to see the gorillas I was a bit apprehensive. But a bit of research soon made me feel a lot better. But the research still didn't stop me from being surprised at just what an amazing place it is. Have a read of my thoughts and see some of my photos here (http://www.frankhollis.com/galleries/Rwanda_2007/). And, for anybody thinking of visiting, here's the site (http://www.primatesafaris-rwanda.com/) for Primate Safaris, the guys that took care of us.

OregonRebel
28th of April 2010 (Wed), 06:06
Since you guys mentioned both gorillas and safety, that brings to mind how several co-workers from Intel (a previous job) went to Uganda to see gorillas and were attacked by rebels from a neighboring country. One couple slipped out the back of their tent and successfully hid in the bush, but the other couple were caught and eventually macheted and killed. There are some news stories about this on the Internet if you search; it happened a decade or so ago. Anyhow, the moral of this story is to keep on your toes and be alert.

As for season, winter (summer in the northern hemisphere) is supposed to be best for seeing wildlife in South Africa since the animals congregate around the watering holes. I was there in March and just had so-so luck (some, but not all, of the big five). You need at least a 400 mm lens on a crop body to do the trip right.

Edit: Here's a link to a Time story about that incident: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,990484,00.html

riyazi
28th of April 2010 (Wed), 06:15
Thanks for the links Frank.
To be honest, we really had not done extensive research on Rwanda. We had heard that it was less developed than Kenya/South Africa and had more risk of crime. Glad to know it is safer - we were concerned about travelling as just a "couple" - if we had a few more friends joining us, we would have definitely considered it more.

How long did you stay and what was the cost?

hollis_f
28th of April 2010 (Wed), 06:52
How long did you stay and what was the cost?

Unfortunately we were only there for three days - arrive Kigali and visit the Genocide Museum then drive to Ruhengeri; next day was visit the gorillas; final day was back to Kigali and fly on to Zanzibar. I can't say how much that individual bit cost as it was part of a three country (Kenya, Rwanda, Zanzibar) trip.

Actually, one reason for going when we did was because it was before the elections in Kenya, which sparked off some terrible violence.

biswasg
28th of April 2010 (Wed), 08:41
Since we are on the "safari survey"- based on my three trips to the Masai Mara, I can recommend Freeman Safaris run by Brian Freeman, a keen photographer and guide himself. My wife and I did a 7 days safari with him last August and were very impressed. There is a website www.freemansafaris.com where you can get more information.

condyk
2nd of May 2010 (Sun), 01:45
I'm 23 years old and for years have wanted to go on a safari in Africa. I'm hoping I can make that a reality in the near future, which will hopefully turn into the first of many trips there in my lifetime! :) Unfortunately I've only ever planned one trip myself and am overwhelmed/unsure on a number of things. I also do not personally know anyone who has gone on a safari before, unfortunately.

1. What time of the year did you go? What time of year is "best"?
2. How many places did you consider going? Where did you end up and how did you choose it?
3. Did you go wanting to see something specific? What? (scenic, birds, cats, big 5, etc.)
4. Did you go to a hotel who arranges a safari, or pick lodging+tour guide separately?
5. How long did you go for, and how much did the trip cost, in USD?
6. What lens(es) did you bring, and which ended up being most useful/effective?
7. What were the overall high and low points for you?
8. Anything else I'm missing? :)

Thank you SO much! :)

P.S. Feel free to be MORE detailed rather than to the point :P

For a first safari I would go to Kruger in South Africa and do it self-drive. Easy to book accommodation, fairly cheap, don't need a 4x4, lots of photo opportunities in varied environments, good camps and facilities, easy fly in and out of JHB, etc. This will give some valuable experience researching and planning a trip and this can be used for more 'wilderness' type safari's later on. July-September is a good time to go as very dry and so easier to see animals. I've been on lots of safari's and really the answers to many of your questions come from yourself: how adventurous you are, whether you like every done for you or prefer to do it your self, how willing you are to camp or not, whether you want to go alone or with others, what you want to see as a priority, etc. If you oprefer everything organised for you then there are many package tours to East Africa, Botswana, South Africa, etc. But you will pay a lot more than self organised. Even if you organise yourself you can still book guided game drives in parks if you want a change from driving yourself. Well worth doing.