Photographic safaris seem pretty expensive on first sight, especially when one hasn’t been on safari yet. They are completely different from other holidays and there are good reasons to be careful in choosing the right photo safari adventure.
Besides the utterly remote location of the lodges and camps with the logistic challenges of operating them, a main factor that influences the quality and with it the price of the trip are the game drives. It makes a big difference if the game drives are operated with 4x4 vehicles or with mini vans. Mini vans get in difficulties when it starts raining and in sand. There are many areas they cannot go or only with big risk. 4x4 vehicles instead can easily go off road and that means they can for example follow a leopard through the bush, where a mini van has to drive around and most likely lose sight of the leopard. A 4x4 vehicle is safer and it offers the better conditions for wildlife photography. Ideal is an open jeep where the photographer can easily move around and photograph on all sides.
But there is more that influences the quality of game drives. Some lodges and camps put up to 10 guests on a vehicle, which gives no space for photography and even without photography, this is very disturbing for the safari experience.
Another important criteria is the driver/guide. Only a qualified professional driver/guide will be able to find the animals and to take you to the best places. Private game reserves in South Africa have even trackers. They sit right in front of the vehicle on an extra seat to look for tracks. They work closely with the rangers (driver/guide) to provide outstanding game drives with fantastic photographic opportunities.
Game drives make or break your safari. Choose them carefully. Their quality matters for all wildlife photographers and safari guests.