13 October 2013

How can I do my African safari bookings?


How you do you African safari bookings depends on how you found your perfect safari holiday. It is one way to go via the Internet and find your safari tour operator there or the traditional way via the travel agent close to home. Lets focus on the online safari booking as it is what we do nowadays from our computer and in the future probably from our smart watch.

When you found your
African safari, talk to the tour operator how the procedure is and how you can pay. Use also the Internet to google a bit about the operator to see what else is on the net about them. When you intent to pay with credit card, ask for the transaction fees. They can be quite high depending on the payment facility provider. Rather go for wire transfer as it is safe and has only small transaction fees. Be kind and don’t let the other side pay your bank fees. They will have to pay their own to.

When the financial part is settled check your insurance. Do you have travel insurance and what does it cover? A medical cover is absolutely recommended and so is the cancellation cover. Many people have their travel insurance covered with their credit card. Check what conditions come with it and if you need to make at least a part of the safari payment with the card to have coverage.

Travelling to Africa requires vaccinations and precautions e.g. for malaria. Talk to your general practitioner for advice. Get yourself repellent to be protected when the bugs come out in the evening and make sure you have protection form the sun.

When all that is set and you have your voucher in your hand, it is time to focus on the more important things like what to wear on safari, what photo equipment to bring, what and how to pack and more of these essential questions. Now enjoy the fun of safari travel!

Happy wildlife photo snapping!

Ute Sonnenberg for

5 Options for African Safaris in Botswana


Botswana is a very popular African safari destination and one of the top-rated safari countries. The safari options range from the flood plains of the Okavango to the salt pans of the Makgadikgadi Pan in a country that mostly consists of desert, the Kalahari Desert.

The Kalahari Desert is one option for a great African photographic safari and at the same time a challenge for the photography enthusiast. One can think easily there is nothing to photograph in a desert, but there is, from the stunning landscape to sunsets and sunrise and animals that are well adapted to the desert life. It is absolutely worth planning a Botswana safari itinerary with a few days in the Kalahari.

The Makgadikgadi Pan is one of the largest salt flats in the world and what remains from Lake Makgadikgadi, a lake larger than Switzerland that dried out thousands of years ago. The salt pan is a fascinating safari destination with sleep outs on the pan enjoying the magical starry sky. It is heaven for all who love to watch and photograph stars.

The Okavango Delta is a must see African safari destination. This inland delta with its rich wildlife is for all safari guests a dream and for wildlife photography enthusiasts a heaven. The lush vegetation, the waterborne safari activities, the abundance of wildlife and the sometimes-adventurous game drives are the recipe for a great safari experience.

An evenly fabulous safari destination in Botswana is Savute. This area is further in the northeast of the country, spoiling the guests with a great abundance of wildlife and amazing sightings. It is worth it to have both, the Okacango Delta and Savute as part of the itinerary.

Going further east one comes to Chobe, famous for its huge elephant population and great boat cruises. Especially bird lovers and bird photographers will love the waterborne activities to get close to their favorite animals. Chobe is very close to the Victoria Falls and makes the right stepping stone between the Okavango Delta and the falls for the safari routing.

Although Botswana is mostly desert, it offers such a variety of safari options and fantastic places to see. It is more than worth going there and coming again and again and again. And for photography lovers Botswana provides one of the best lights a photographer can wish for to great fabulous images.

Happy safari travelling and wildlife snapping!

Ute Sonnenberg for

How much would it be to go on African photographic safari


It is great to make plans for an African photographic safaris, searching the Internet for destinations and images, getting excited about the wildlife one hopes to see, but at the end comes the crucial question, how much is it to go on African photo safari.

That depends on a number of factors. First, do you travel in a group? If the answer is yes, you can choose between budget big group tours or for the photographer more suitable small group travel of a maximum of 6 or 8 guests. Sharing the costs as a group makes a big difference.

The mode of travel has also substantial influence on the price. If you decide to do self-drive with a rooftop tent to stay on campsites, you will have a very good priced way of doing African safari travel. However, you should consider hiring a guide to make sure you see the wildlife you’d like to photograph. Road transfers in general are cheaper, if you do not travel solo. For solo travel look out for shuttles, that go for example to Kruger Park to reduce the costs. Fly-in safaris are great, because they offer another dimension by seeing the bush from bird view, but they have their costs. They also do save time and allow you to see a lot while not losing time with driving the huge distances in Africa.

The next factor is the safari accommodation. As explained in the blog post from yesterday they vary a lot and cover the price range from budget camping to 5 star lodges.

Last but not least are the seasons and the choice of destination that determine the price of a photographic safari. For example Botswana can be pricy as the Okavango Delta is a logistically difficult area to operate camps and lodges and the destination is also a top-rated wildlife area. However there are seasons and the rates can differ a lot between peak and low season. There are also more specials available in low season, which allow high-end safari quality for a good price.

All that in numbers means a photo safari can vary between a few hundred dollars up to thousands of dollars. Sort out first what is important to you and what you want to see, and then look what is available to meet your expectations.

Happy photo safari organizing and wildlife snapping!

Ute Sonnenberg for

How to find your perfect African safari accommodation


“I am pretty confused, there are tours coming out of my ears and I do not know where to start. I do not know why 1 tour is 3000 and another is 10000, when on paper they look similar.” (quote from an African safari inquiry)

Does that feel familiar? It can be indeed confusing and besides choosing the right African safari destination for what you would like to experience, the accommodation question can be really tough. Fortunately there is the Internet with photo galleries of all camps nowadays, which is a great help.

First of all create some kind of funnel to come to a decision for your African safari accommodation. Determine the safari country first. If the country offers more than one top-rated safari area get information on each area to know what you can expect to see there and if that is what you have in mind. Once the country and wildlife area is determined, look at the different kinds of accommodation available. They usually range from camping to five star camps and lodges. The five star lodges and camps have mostly the best spots with their private concessions. And interesting enough the public campsites are often also very good positioned. Their facilities differ in quality and it is good to get information on that beforehand. It is recommended to do camping, if you have already experience with that. Doing camping in the African bush adds to the normal camping that there are no fences and the campsites are in Big Five areas.

If you decide to stay at a lodge or camp, the search continues. What category should you choose? This is a very personal question. Some guests feel safer in a cottage and do not choose a tented camp. Others love to stay in a luxury-tented camp and prefer them rather than a lodge. However there are the different categories and the choice is not easy. The price can be a good criteria, yet there are still a lot of options. Now the photos come in very helpful.

Go to the websites of the lodges and camps and get a feeling for what you can expect there. Also the quality of the images gives already an idea of the spirit of the accommodation. Do they care for detail and quality or are they more casual with that. From now on only your gut feeling will be able to guide you to your final decision. Trust it. A photo says more than a thousand words and all statistics and rates sheets. Go for the accommodation you fall in love with.

Happy wildlife photo safari travelling!

Ute Sonnenberg for

5 African Photo Safari choices for Kruger Park


The Kruger National Park in South Africa is huge, about 2/3 the size of Belgium. It offers a great variety of options for African safaris and especially for photographic safaris.

First. Wildlife photography enthusiasts can create their own trip by renting a car, driving themselves around in the park and staying at one or more of the many available camp sites. To make sure you see some wildlife, read in advance about the park, get information from the park offices and maybe team up with local guides. Otherwise the trip can be unsatisfactory with regards to wildlife sightings and the missing great photos.

Second. Book yourself on a group safari that stays in an accommodation just outside the park, but has game drives in open 4x4 jeeps with professional guide inside the park. This can be a very affordable option, but keep in mind that the other guests have different ideas about what they want to see and how long they want to stay at a sighting and you as the photographer might be frustrated.

Third. Book yourself in at a safari lodge inside the Kruger Park. Considers taking a private vehicle as it will give you more freedom and the lodge might otherwise put up to 10 guests on one game drive vehicle. Be aware that game drives in the public part of Kruger Park mean that traffic jams at sightings are possible.

Fourth. Book a private game reserve in the Greater Kruger Park. Choose one that guarantees a maximum of 6 guests per vehicle. Taking a private vehicle can also here be a good idea, although it might be pricy. The private game reserve will make sure that you can go off road for cat sightings and no crowds of vehicles fill up the bush and roads. Some private game reserves offer even high end photographic equipment for rent. They are the best choice for photographers with regards to the quality of sightings and freedom as photographer. However, they have a price tag.

Fifth. Book yourself into the exclusivity of a walking safari. Great walking trails are available that bring the guests to off the beaten track places and the accommodations are in mobile tented camps in the middle of the bush. Their price is also very interesting. Their only disadvantage is the problem with cat sightings. When you see cats, you will not be able to sit or stand and photograph them. You are on foot and so are they.

Consider the different photographic safari options when you make your planning to make sure you get what you have in mind, photography wise and safari wise.

Happy wildlife snapping!

Ute Sonnenberg for

How to find my perfect African safari tour operator


Going on African safari is a different venture than visiting the Costa Del Sol or Paris. You will travel to wildlife areas where the Big Five roam free, the camps have no fences and different rules of survival apply than in the western world. This kind of travel requires an operator that understands what you are looking for and has also a feeling which mode of travel will suit you best. When you haven’t been to Africa you will not know how you will feel in the bush, with the climate, the animals and the accommodations. To avoid that you feel uncomfortable and unhappy during your African safari holiday, you should do efforts to find the perfect operator for your needs.

A starting point is Google search. About a million safari tour operators will roll out. Now have a look at their websites, also the ones on page 2 and 3. You will feel immediately if the website appeals to you or not. Dismiss the ones that don’t appeal to you and stick to the ones that do. Now read a bit on the websites what kind of tours they offer and where. If this is a match, send an email with the questions and ideas you have. Now wait for the reply. If that takes too long (more than 2 days), it might not be a good sign. When the response arrives look at it the same way as with the websites. You will feel rather than reason how the operator is a match for you. Trust your gut! Just like you do with people you meet in person. Ask to be called. Chat on the phone and ask your question. By doing that you will know even better how to decide.

You might end up booking your safari with the one that did not have the cheapest tour, but it feels right. And it usually proofs to be right.

And don’t forget your special interests like wildlife photography. Not all tour operators that say on their website they are great in photographic safaris, also are. Some only follow the fashion and demand of the market although they do not have the specific knowledge or experience to be the right partner.

However, no worries, trust your intuition and you will do great.

Happy photo safari snapping!

Ute Sonnenberg for

What should I know about health on African Safari tours


When you go on African safaris you should talk to your physician for advice with regards to malaria protection and necessary vaccinations. Pregnant women can go on safari even without vaccinations and malaria protection as long as they visit non yellow fever and malaria free areas.

Malaria protection is always a discussion issue as there is no guaranteed protection and the tablets available can have unpleasant side effects. Choosing the right travel time and using repellents can be just as good. It is a personal question and it is your personal decision what to do.

In most of the lodges and camps the water from the tap is no drinking water. You will be advised by he lodge. Use the bottled water provided by the lodges to avoid stomach problems that can spoil your safari. If you want to be absolutely sure you do not get in touch with the water, do eat only cooked vegetable.

Some guests take a sip of whisky in the morning for the stomach, but I’m not sure, if this is the only reason for having a drink.

However, being on safari is great and you should thoroughly enjoy it. The food is usually very good and plenty.

Happy wildlife photo safari snapping!

Ute Sonnenberg for