Four Best African Photo Safari Reserves

A successful African photo safari depends on many factors but two of the most important are the probability of finding wildlife subjects (time of year is important here) and the ability to photograph them once you have found them (dense undergrowth makes this difficult).

The following list of the best African photo safari areas was set up with that in mind and based on my own forty years plus of safari experience, forum suggestions, magazines and web based trip reports.

These are my top four recommendations where you will be able to find awe inspiring wildlife photo opportunities...

  • Kruger National Park and Sabi Sands in South Africa

    I list these two together as they form part of the same wildlife area, with the major difference being that the Kruger Park is owned and managed by the state while Sabi Sands is privately owned.

    The Kruger Park is an excellent safari photography destination due to the diversity of animals and the fact that its possible to do self drive safaris there, which makes it one of the most cost-effective safari areas in Africa.

    Lower safari cost means you can spend more time in the park and that means more opportunities to gather outstanding photos. That's why going on a self drive safari is the number one tip to improve your safari photography.

    Because Sabi Sands is privately owned, self drive safaris aren't allowed there (unlike Kruger) so you will have to go on a guided safari, which is more expensive at the end of the day, but well worth the money.

    Your chances of finding and photographing the big cats, rhino and elephant are excellent here because this game reserve shares a boundary with the Kruger National Park and the animals are able to move at will because there is no boundary fence between them.

    The Sand and Sabi rivers that run through the reserve provide essential drinking water for the wildlife during the dry winter season and good grazing all year round so the area is rich in animals.

    Another thing counting in Sabi Sands' favour photographically speaking is that vehicles are allowed to go off road unlike many of the other national parks and reserves in Africa which means you can follow and get very close to the game.

    And as if that wasn't enough the lodges employ a special tracker who can read the signs the animals make on the ground in addition to the game guide driver so your chances of finding game are very good.

    Last but not least this reserve is pretty exclusive so you will have most of the sighting all to yourself and won't have to crop out other safari vehicles that have intruded into your lion photo.

  • Etosha in Namibia

    Wouldn't it be great that in place of having to drive around for miles trying to find wildlife to photograph, they came looking for you instead?

    This is exactly what happens at Etosha National Park, in a manner of speaking. The dry season is so dry that there are only a few waterholes in the park left for animals to drink at so if you await them there they eventually come to you.

    There is a waterhole situated right next to the Okaukeujo camp which is also floodlit at night attracting all the usual subjects like lion, hyena, cheetah and elephant. A number of lion hunts have been seen at this waterhole too.

    The climate also ensures that you will have unrestricted views for excellent African photo safari opportunities.

  • Serengeti in Tanzania

    When the Serengeti puts on a wildlife display, have your camera ready because you will capture images unlike any other.

    The best times for an African photo safari here is during the wildebeest migration and particularly the wildebeest birthing season in January/February every year.

    When there is an abundance of grazers such as during the migration (1.5 million wildebeest) and the birthing season (approximately 8000 new wildebeest calves a day) the predators also increase in activity and visibility so you will get some great shots of lion, leopard, cheetah and hyena to name but a few.

    The terrain is also perfect for photography being mostly flat and devoid of dense undergrowth and because of the wide open spaces you also have a measure of photographic privacy.

    Two disadvantages here is that off-road driving is not allowed and a self drive safari is not much cheaper than a guided one.

  • Masai Mara in Kenya

  • The Mara comes in at number four for an African photo safari only because of the fact that it's pretty much overrun with safari tourists and you will often find half a dozen vehicles jostling for the best position at a big cat sighting.

    But there is a reason why so many people visit here and it's because the wildlife sightings potential is excellent (especially lion) and the wide open plains provide glorious un-obscured views which is of like manna from heaven for wildlife photographers.

    There is nothing as frustrating as finally finding a leopard on an African photo safari only to see that when you look through the viewfinder his head is concealed behind a bush or shrub. No such problem here.

    Off road driving is allowed for 4x4 vehicles. Self drive is also not a cheap option here and not the easiest to pull off due to the condition of the roads and park infrastructure.