A safari in Africa is the adventure of a lifetime. Sitting for a few hours with a pride of lions or a coalition of cheetahs (yeah, that's their collective noun) is a humbling and grounding experience. It's also a great way to hone your photographic skills and come home with some stunning photos. Here are some of my favorite photos from our trips to Botswana, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Rwanda and Zambia along with the gear I used most, our favorite guides, and the camps we loved.
Each of these capture a moment in an hours long mini adventure. One example: our guide followed some lion tracks for an hour or so until we spotted them walking along a dry creek bed. He knew of a point further up the creek where they were likely to cross so he took us to that location and ensured we were positioned just right for the light. We patiently waited as the sun began to set. Sure enough, the lions popped out of the brush and briefly stood together before they crossed and were gone.
Of all the camera packs I've tried over the years, these two stand out in a big way. The Everyday Pack is just awesome for daily use as well as business and adventure travel. I keep my Leica M10 with a few lenses handy in this pack along with my laptop, iPad, charging cables, batteries and camera cleaning kit. Meanwhile the Peter McKinnon pack is a workhorse for bigger cameras and large lenses. It's well organized, thoughtfully designed and built like a tank. Perfect for a safari.
If you're going to travel all the way to Africa to take photos, it's important to take multiple cameras. If one camera breaks (it's happened to me), you've got a backup. More importantly, things can get pretty hectic with animals moving around quickly so I put the 400mm lens on the D850, the 70-200mm on the D5 and the 35mm or 21mm on my M10 giving me quick focal range options without time consuming, dusty lens changes. Also the D5 is great for low light and the M10 is awesome in camp.
Good lenses are key. You can rent or purchase them, new or used. If I had to take just one lens with me it would be the 70-200mm with the 2X teleconverter. More than half of my favorite photos above were taken with this setup. That said the Nikon 400mm is AMAZING. Pair it with a 2X converter and you'll come back with photos that would have been impossible otherwise. I used the 35mm and 21mm lenses on my trusty M10 for landscapes and in camp.
This is all critical stuff you'll want to have with you pretty much all the time. Things get super dusty out there so lens and sensor cleaning will become routine. Also don't skimp on SD cards. I've had one go bad before and it's no fun. The larger cards can help act as a backup after you've imported your photos. A large external hard drive for backups is also very comforting.
These are all truly amazing camps. In fact, these are more than camps... they're life experiences. The people, the meals, the environments, the animals and the tents will blow you away. Each camp is unique with its own vibe so try to stay in two or three camps over the course of your trip if you can.