Winter in the southern hemisphere is June, July and August and means pretty cold nights where temperatures can drop to or even below 0ºC. The days warm up again and temperatures can rise to about 20ºC. For the practical “what to wear” point of view that means, dress in layers, that you can adjust with rising and falling temperatures. But what does it mean for the African photographic safari from the photography point of view?
Winter is excellent for wildlife photography. The light is clear and sharp with almost no cloudy day, always sun. It doesn’t rain in winter, which means water is in demand, what leads the animals to the year round waterholes and therefore they can be found easily. Due to the lack of water the grass is low, which makes it easier to see and photograph the animals. And last but not least the colors are beautiful, the earthy brownish and reddish colors are stunning and give together with the light the images a golden glow.
However, bring gloves, a warm jacket and a warm hat. You will need it!
On your safari in Kruger Park your main activities will be game drives in the park, trying to spot the Big 5. However there are lots of different things that you can do to enrich your African safari tour.
It is nice to have bush walks. That will give you a completely different perspective on wildlife and the bush. You will be part of their hierarchy and some will run from you and others won’t.
In the vicinity of Kruger are two possibilities to have interaction with elephants. One is Elephant Whisperer and the other one Elephant Sanctuary. Both have educational value and both offer elephant rides. It is a nice way to get up close with these amazing animals.
Another way to learn about wildlife and conservation is the Endangered Species Centre in Hoedspruit. Their focus is helping rare and endangered wildlife. Cheetah conservation is one of their core disciplines.
For the cultural insights it is worth visiting the Shangana Cultural Village, hosting a show performed by the Shangaan people. The Shangaan are the local people of the region and you can find them usual as trackers on the private game reserves. They are outstanding trackers and often find you the leopard you were so desperate to see.
Still think a safari is boring with sitting on the game drive vehicle all day? Only think of all the wonderful photography opportunities!
Whenever you plan a trip you intuitively wish to create a flow, a noiselessly experience of awe and joy. Sometimes you get it right first time and sometimes you need a second attempt for the same region to get the feeling right. Especially when the destination is in a different part of the world with a completely new environment, you have no experience with, it can be hard to create the flow. A very good example is an African safari in South Africa with the extension Victoria Falls and Cape Town.
It turns out that the best routing for the noiselessness flow is the Kruger Park – Victoria Falls –Cape Town itinerary. Why? This is hard to say. First of all it is always good to start with the safari and move forward to cities or beaches. It just feels right, like one needs some kind of less intense time after the safari experience to let all the deep impressions settle. Second, the logistics make more sense and support the flow.
But all that only works when the lodge/camp and plane seat availabilities allow that. If they make the ideal routing impossible consider alternative dates and accommodations or do a complete change of mind and reset your expectations to avoid disappointment and frustration.
Experience taught that when an itinerary falls into place effortless, it is exactly what you need for the best experience. Don’t fight it and think you need to push through the impossible. The flow starts already while planning. Surrender and your intuition will choose the right itinerary although you haven’t been there before.
When you want to contribute to wildlife conservation while being on African safari holiday, you can consider several options.
An indirect affect on wildlife will have the choice of your lodge or camp. The more eco-friendly your safari accommodation is the better for the wildlife. Small camps and lodges have also less impact on the animals, as less people will invade their natural habitat.
You can also visit endangered species centers and the entrance fee you pay will contribute to the good work these centers are doing. They look after injured wild animals, release them when they are better and do research to help endangered species like cheetahs.
In Kenya are African safaris available that focus on saving the elephant. In cooperation with the Scheldrick Wildlife Trust the safari guests visit the elephant orphanage in Nairobi privately and follow the path of the young rescued elephants during their safari until the release camps in Tsavo East. For each safari guest an elephant will be adopted. The contribution helps the trust saving small elephant babies that have lost their mother through poaching or other tragedies.
A pretty spectacular way in taking part in conservation are the so called “African vet safaris”. You will stay at a private game reserve and take part in animal immobilizations for treatments. You will not do the darting, but you will give a hand in handling the animal during treatment. It is an incredible experience and your safari booking pays for the expensive procedure.
There are also volunteer programs you can join to make a difference. There is lots to do, there are lots of opportunities to come up close with wildlife and to help them to survive.
One of the most spectacular sights on African safari in Southern Africa are the Victoria Falls and with it the Zambezi River. Visiting the falls is not only going there, seeing a waterfall, taking a photo and that’s it, there are lots of activities available at and around the falls.
There are guided Victoria Falls tours to start with. You will walk the falls on a path and see them from different angles. Depending on the amount of water the falls are carrying, you will see more or less from the rocks they are falling from.
Another opportunity to see the falls is from a helicopter. There are flights available from 12 minutes, which is enough to get a good view of them. Photographers might prefer a flight in a cesna with the door removed for clear pictures.
The brave ones might enjoy the bungee jumping from the so often photographed bridge at the falls. And with low water levels you can also swim in Devil’s Pool, right at the top of the falls, really only accessible with low water, otherwise you get swept over the rim and down the falls.
More water born activities are fishing, sundowner cruises, rafting and canoeing. The Zambezi is a majestic river and very beautiful.
Activities on land are a visit to a village, to a market, to town and also game drives in the surrounding game reserves. There is no room for boredom at the Victoria Falls and there is something for everybody. And the most beautiful activity is actually sitting at the Zambezi and looking over the river into the setting sun.
Savvy travelers will know that it is of importance to have a travel insurance that covers medical aid around the world and you definitely should have that insurance when going on African safari. You will be in very remote areas right in the African bush and you should also check, if your safari tour offer includes emergency evacuation. The emergency evacuation will not cover the actual medical costs, but it will cover the costs to bring you to a hospital for proper medical aid. Most of the tour operators offer that as a standard, but just check, if it is part of the included services.
Provide your African safari tour operator with an emergency contact in case something happens to you. You might be unconscious and not able to let the people know whom to call to bring you home or to take care of your personal belongings. Make a little card that is in your wallet and a note in your phone whom to contact in case you are travelling self-drive without a guide, just in case you get found and people want to help, but don’t know how.
If you are taking medication, make sure your have a sufficient supply of your medication with you while travelling. You might not be able to get the specific medication at the remote places you are going to. Have information on you about your medical condition that paramedics are able to help properly.
One of the smaller emergency situations can be lost luggage. Keep some clothes with you in your hand luggage to help you through the first days, in case that situation occurs.
And in general don’t try to be brave or thrill seeking in the bush. That will keep you out of problems and ensures a great safari adventure.
When you hear that somebody goes on African safari you imagine immediately lion, leopard, cheetah, elephant and rhino and people in 4x4 safari vehicles snapping away with their cameras. But what about the desert?
Botswana and Namibia are home to amazing deserts, the Namib and the Kalahari. Wildlife sightings in the desert are slightly different from game drives in the bush. First of all you start looking different. There are lots of desert adapted animals, but they are often small and very well camouflaged. The bigger mammals are mostly not in great numbers, unless you go to the Makgadikgadi Pan in Botswana during green season. You got to look for them, but when you see an Oryx walking the sand dunes of Sossusvlei you cannot find a better photographic subject than that. Its magical.
But the desert offers more. As mentioned in an earlier post, stargazing is one of the activities. There is no distraction from the light from settlements, the air is clear and just by lying down on your back on the desert floor you can watch the whole universe. Another great activity is quad biking. It is great fun to explore the desert that way and you can cover big distances without getting too exhausted. Guided walks are also a very nice thing to do. Walk the desert with a guide from the local tribe and you will be surprised what the desert has to offer. You would have never saw it yourself. And on top of all that comes the balloon ride with a champagne breakfast at the landing spot. Go with the wind in the best early morning light and capture the breathtakingly beautiful landscape with your camera. It is an utterly amazing experience.
Ready to visit the desert? Happy desert photo snapping!