20 October 2013

5 Top-Rated African Safari Destinations in Kenya


Kenya is mostly known for the Masai Mara and the Great Migration of the wildebeest. The Masai Mara is definitely a top-rated African safari destination and not only for Kenya, but for entire safari Africa. The Great Plains of the Masai Mara are the northern tip of the Serengeti and host to the probably most spectacular event on the African safari calendar, the Mara River crossing of the big herds.

A wonderful
African photographic safari destination is also Amboseli National Park. Amboseli lies on the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro and is home to a big elephant population. The arid moon like landscape with its swamps and as backdrop Mt. Kilimanjaro is fantastic for photography.

From Amboseli it is only a short drive to Tsavo West National Park, a volcano landscape with stunning views on Mt. Kilimanjaro, intense colors of the soil, wide open views and awesome wildlife. The volcano ground and mountains create the special character of Tsavo West and it can be very hot, making one feel like being in an oven.

Divided only by the road Nairobi – Mombasa, Tsavo East is even bigger and a great home for the wildlife. Tsavo East does not have many roads and the wildlife has therefore plenty of undisturbed space. That does not mean that the sightings are not good, they are, as the park is wildlife rich and the roads that are there are just enough. Tsavo East is also the location where the elephant orphans from the Scheldrick Elephant Orphanage in Nairobi are released into the wild.

Another top-rated safari destination in Kenya is Samburu, far away from Tsavo in the northern part of Kenya. Samburu is also host to a big elephant population and a breathtakingly beautiful landscape. Due to its location north of the equator, it has several species of wildlife that are not found south of the equator. Samburu is fascinating and intensely beautiful, however it can also be an intense and tough safari experience.

All mentioned safari destinations are ideal for wildlife photography, offering great sightings and stunning landscapes. At least one of them should be part of every Kenyan safari itinerary.

Happy wildlife snapping!

Ute Sonnenberg for

How is food in African safari lodges


Food can be of a concern for safari travellers as it could cause a health problem. But in general the food at safari lodges and camps is very good and of international standard, sometimes with an African theme. Many lodges offer buffet breakfast, lunch and dinner with a great variety of choices. Often per day changing specialties like pancake for dessert or a dinner with on demand-grilled meat, fish and vegetables are offered. Efforts are done to provide balanced meals and a variety of food. Most camps and lodges also accommodate pretty much all dietary requirements, except kosher meals. They can only be provided when the camp or lodge is not too far away from a city with the necessary facilities.

Many guests don’t dare to eat raw salad to avoid stomach problems or others take a zip of whisky in the morning to avoid the same problem. Eating raw food can be anywhere a risk, but on
African safaris the water can be the cause of the problem. Do not drink tap water unless otherwise advised, also don’t use it to brush your teeth.

In general be prepared that the food is great and that you are in real danger of gaining weight, because of sitting on the game vehicle all the time, getting appetite by being outdoors and therefore eating a lot.

Happy safari travel!

Ute Sonnenberg for

What makes a perfect African sfari


Finding or creating your perfect African safari is challenging and not because they are hard to find, but because the most difficult part is to determine what makes them perfect for you. There is an overwhelming number of perfect African safari holidays available, however they are perfect for just the same overwhelming number of different people and now find yours.

Here some general features that make a safari perfect, just as cornerstones of your own safari creation.

The quality of wildlife sightings and game drives should be on top of the list. The wildlife density of an area is very important to make you happy on safari. Next on the list is the comfort you need to feel good on holiday. This is very personal. Some like rough camping with shared facilities and others need the safe comfort of a bed with a neat duvet. Don’t think you need to push yourself to camping, if you usually don’t like it, your safari would be terrible and you would not enjoy a moment. Basic needs should be met. The mode of transport is the third important factor to make your safari perfect. If you have ten days and want to see a lot, do a fly-in safari. Otherwise you will be constantly driving with only few time for the actual safari or sight.

Last but not least the people. When you travel in a group, make sure you know each other well enough to go on such an adventure. If you travel solo, a safari is a great opportunity to meet new people and to make new friends.

Make a list for yourself with all what you need to feel good when travelling and then put together your perfect African safari tour.

Happy wildlife photographic safari planning!

Ute Sonnenberg for

African Safari Travel Ideas for Photography Lovers


Isn’t an African safari already a great travel idea for photography lovers? Yes it is. However there are plenty of different safari destinations that offer entirely different photography experiences. Here a few African photographic safari ideas for inspiration and useful travel planning.

The gorillas of Uganda. Gorilla tracking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is probably one of the most amazing African photography tours one can do. It is physically demanding to track the animals in the high altitude rain forest with tropical climate and a heavy camera on your shoulder, but its so worth it. Coming visa vie with these incredible animals, sensing their proximity and being able to capture these moments forever with your camera are just an unforgettable experience.
The calving of the wildebeest. There has been so much said about the Great Migration in the Masai Mara, but not that much about the calving of the very same wildebeest one photographs crossing the Mara River when they are about six months old. The calving of thousands of wildebeest happens between the end of January up until March every year in the Southern Serengeti. A spectacle worth photographing and enjoying to be right in the middle of it.

Lion hunting buffalo. There is a place called Duba Plains in the Okavango Delta in Botswana where the lion are specialized in hunting buffalos. The island has lots of water and muddy areas what makes the hunt very spectacular. Lion usually don’t really like water, but they have to on that island in order to get their food. It is incredibly interesting to witness the strategy of both parties, how the buffalo play with the lion and vise versa. As the island is an open plain, visiting photographers stand a good chances to see it all and to get fantastic photographs of hunting lion.

African safari travel ideas are in particular of interest for wildlife photography enthusiasts, but also very exciting for safari travellers that just want to enjoy the sighting. All three have in common that there are not many accommodations, as they are some how specialized and also want to protect the wildlife from the crowds.

Gear up for the special moment!

Happy wildlife photo safari snapping!

Ute Sonnenberg for

Image: courtesy of Sanctuary Retreats in Bwindi, Uganda

How is transport on African photographic safaris


Travelling in Africa means covering large distances and the choice of transportation can be essential for your African safari itinerary.

If you choose road transfer, be prepared for long drives. In South Africa road transfers use good roads, however the distances are still huge. But in other countries the drives go often on dirt roads, which slows down travelling a lot. Plan more time for getting around and it can be nice to even do self-drive and explore the countries your own way.

The best way of getting around and not loosing time is flying. Fly-in
African safari tours make efficient use of your time and bring you exactly where you want to be, right at the lodge or camp. The aircrafts used are small. They fly right to the bush camps and need to be able to land on the short bush runways. For guests that love flying these light aircraft flights are great, as they hop from lodge to lodge and make as many stops as they have to drop off and pick up guests. People who don’t like take off and landing, this can be a bit of a challenge, but it is actually really great.

Two other ways of transport should be mentioned, although they are not used for getting around in the country or between countries. They are walking and horse or camel riding. Walking safaris and horseback safaris add a new dimension to an African safari holiday. One is part of the bush throughout the stay, a very different experience from being on a vehicle. Mobile horse safaris and walking trails focus on a certain route they make within a certain area. They are not suitable to cover big distances.

And there is also public transport. This can be an adventurous way of getting around and should be thought through carefully before doing it. The so called taxis or matatus are used by the locals to get around and are a very affordable way of travelling. Also coaches are available on scheduled routes to cover big distances in the countries and between countries. Their fares are very reasonable.

Be always time and safety conscious when choosing your mode of transport to make sure your safari is a success.

Happy wildlife safari photo snapping!

Ute Sonnenberg for

How to find top-rated African safari destinations


That might sound like a silly question in times of Internet, but it might not. How do you know what makes an African safari destination top-rated?

There is Trip Advisor as a source of information where people post their feedback on accommodations, overall travel experiences and tourist attractions. The feedback you find there can give you an idea about the quality of the accommodation, but also about the overall experience on the game drives. People often share what animals they saw and when you see that most of the guests had great wildlife sightings, it should be a good safari destination.

Another valuable source of information are books and travel guides. Professional travel writers write them with lots of experience in all parts of Africa and make them a reliable recourse for your travel planning.

You can also search blogs for information on African safari destinations and you will find professional and hobby travel writers with useful information and loads of images.

Last but not least talk to people. Find people that have been to Africa and also talk to your tour operator. Safari tour operators have the insider knowledge and experience to be good advisors. Have also a look at their websites for guest feedback. It will give you an idea what safaris were favored and loved by the guests.

When you taped into all these different resources and all talk in praise about the same destinations, then you know what the top-rated
African safari destinations are and you can be assured of a great photographic safari.

Happy wildlife photo safari planning!

Ute Sonnenberg for

How are African safari accommodations electricity wise


African safari accommodations in general have electricity, but not necessarily in the tent. Usually the rooms in lodges have power sockets in the rooms, but not all tents in tented camps have. Some tented camps, even luxury-tented camps, have power sockets in the lounge area where the guests can recharge their electrical devices. Mostly there are enough sockets to have always access to electricity, but it demands a bit of planning. When you for example want to charge the battery of your camera for the next morning game drive, bring the charger with you for dinner and let it there for the night. It is very interesting how used we are to the power coming out of the wall, everywhere and any time, but when you are in the bush, you realize power needs to be generated and in many camps this still happens with their own generator or solar power.

Check also before you go what adapters you need to recharge your devices. Some lodges and camps provide adapters, but not all.

When you go on
African photographic safaris you should be prepared for all this. When you go on mobile safaris it is even useful to have an inverter to recharge while driving.

All set? Now go and have fun!

Happy safari wildlife snapping!

Ute Sonnenberg for