How to plan a Big Cat African photographic safari


The African Big Cats are lion, leopard and cheetah, world famous from the BBC’s Big Cat Diaries series, filmed in the so called marsh in the Masai Mara in Kenya. TV series are a good source to prepare for an African photographic safari, but should not be overestimated. There are more areas with great cat sightings that are not part of TV series.

Do some research on wildlife density and predator density before you choose your
African safari destination. Great areas for cat sightings are the Masai Mara in Kenya, the Sabi Sand (Kruger Park) in South Africa and Moremi in the Okavango Delta in Botswana. Another important question is the possibility of off road driving during game drives. It can be crucial to be able to follow the animal for a day to get the pictures you want. But a leopard does not care about roads and moves fast. Off road driving will be necessary to not loose sight of the cat.

If the funds are available choose for a private vehicle. That will give you the freedom to stay out in the bush as long as you want and to stay with an animal or move on when something new comes up. When more people are on the vehicle more opinions and wishes are to be taken in consideration. When doing wildlife photography that can be frustrating, for both sides.

Rather go in winter than in summer, talking about southern African winter and summer. In winter the light is stunning, the grass short and the animals gathering around waterholes. They are easier to find and you will get a better view with less grass between the lens and the face of a lion.

The choice of your safari accommodation should depend on the game drive quality the lodge or camp is providing. Always ask how many guests they have on a vehicle and the off road options. A great adventurous African safari tour for Big Cat photography can be a camping safari with a private driver and 4x4 vehicle. That will provide great freedom of movement and flexibility throughout the days.

However, do your research and prepare yourself for the trip. Don’t have too high expectations, even in outstanding wildlife areas. It is nature and the animals are wild. They have their own agenda. Being part of their world, doing efforts to find them and working sometimes hard to get great images is incredibly rewarding and provides exceptional wildlife experiences.

Happy safari wildlife snapping!

Ute Sonnenberg for