Answering the Call of the Wild: The Top African Safaris
East Africa: Masters Photo Safaris All safaris cater to some extent to photography because almost everyone wants to take pictures. If you're really serious about getting those once-in-a-lifetime shots, though, consider a specialized photo safari led by a recognized wildlife photographer. You spend more time in the field under the best shooting conditions (Especially in Africa, it's the light that makes the magic.)
Before choosing a photo tour, check the itinerary. Make sure that you'll be viewing the species you want to shoot. Determine the guest-to-guide ratio; it should be less than six to one.
Ask about equipment: Does the tour operator provide tripods and specialty lenses? Find out what you get for the price; photo tours are expensive and should include food, lodging, and all ground transportation.
Bring two, if not three, camera bodies to save time, avoid dust contamination, and eliminate the hassle of frequent lens changing.
A leading operator is Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris (Vashon Island, WA 206.463.5383. www.photosafaris.com). The Van Os photographer-guides are world-classand Joe personally leads many of the African trips. The company limits its number of photographers to three per vehicle.
Trips are scheduled to ensure the best conditions for wildlife viewing. Unfortunately, Van Os runs just one or two African photo safaris a year, so book early. The cost varies; a 16-day Kenya safari runs about $6,000 per person.
Another top agent, Voyagers International (Ithica, NY 800.633.0299. www.voyagers.com) offers specialized photo safaris in Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe. Founder Dave Blanton served in the Peace Corps in East Africa for two years and worked as a photographer-writer in Nairobi for five years.
Voyager's safaris are designed by and for photographers. Professional shooters lead the trips. Locations are scouted in advance and schedules coincide with major migrations. You aren't rushed from place to place, either; clients can spend long days in the field to capture the best light at dawn and in late afternoon.
A typical two-week photo safari ranges from about $4,000 to $5,000 per person.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication