As a young lad, my favourite shows were Johnny Quest, Hercules, and Tarzan.
My dream quickly became a trip to Africa to see first hand what these amazing animals looked like face to face. At 49 years old, I packed in my business of contracting in 2008 and went full time as a wildlife photographer, and the plan was in place!
Hosting workshops locally and around the world is a full time business now, which affords me the option to plan programs anywhere in the world. I connected to a great fellow Nas Mfinanga, so he lead our first tour.
Tanzania is a special place. Wildlife has no boundaries. Each species finds their own “safe zone” as they co-exist with the people and the environment. I have been to several of the National Parks and still have not seen a fence.
Elephants follow their ancient migratory patterns as they have for centuries. Wildebeests too, a trail of rainfall that keeps their feeding grounds lush. The trees are full of fruits, and nourishment for the monkeys, giraffes, and over 1000 bird species! The jackals follow the lions, the cheetah stalks and pursues, the leopard sleeps. We have seen it all.
Once in a while, we catch a day full of surprises. Things just seem to “click”, so to speak. Starting our adventure before sunrise, we will follow one stunning episode after another, engaging in wildlife photography that would surprise even the most experienced of photographers… a pair of black rhinos facing off, a pair of hippos in a scuttle! A family of cheetahs on the trail of the migration of wildebeests, and even some spectacular Lilac-breasted roller imaging!
Then to cap off this day, a sunset that would melt your heart. We work in several different park locations, covering a wide range of environments, and species. Each place has something special. Our guides are amazing, as they lead us to some amazing opportunities.
Flamingos, kingfishers, buzzards, vultures on a kill, huge families of elephants, zebra, falcons, goshawks, and hyenas are almost guaranteed. Even the baglafecht weaver is an easy find!
Equipment for your tour? A fleece sweater for the mornings, as it does get cool over night, hiking shoes, and long slacks… shorts are not wise with the brush being rough and snarly. 2 camera bodies, a full frame and a crop camera if possible, at least 400mm , a 70-200, and a wide angle zoom. My 200-400 it a perfect fit for Tanzania, with a 1.4 tc when I need some reach… this is the ultimate set of lenses.
Pack as light as you can., chargers, batteries, accessories can add up, so clothing is secondary! You will need a laptop to transfer your cards to external usb hard drive (2), if possible. Large cards make life easy, but be sure to bring a reliable brand. I recommend you plan for 2 x 16 gb for each day. Also, note that Tanzania has 220 vac systems, with the large 3 prong sockets. Most equipment made these days will work on both voltages, but bring a converter so you can plug in to their sockets.
Dust and rain protection! Very important to bring some sort of rain-gear for your camera and lenses. I use the plastic sleeves that slide over your kit, with a grip string to close down and secure it on your lens hood. A towel for covering your kit while traveling is a great idea. I have heard how bad dust can be in Africa, but Tanzania is not that bad. When passing other trucks, just close your windows quickly and you will be fine.
Tripods? Unless you plan to do a lot of landscape shooting, you will not really need a tripod. We shoot off of beanbags provided by our guiding service. The early morning and late afternoon shooting can get tricky, so higher iso’s are use, and everyone needs to be still!
Patience! We all need to reach for a lens, change a battery, get another card, so movement in the safari truck is an issues. We explain that we all will need to make a move and we all need to be patient, and courteous. On my tours, we allow no more than 3 photographers in a six seat safari vehicle, so one seat for your camera gear is always open.
Lastly… Be ready! Always be ready for the flight shot… or speedy animal movement. Things happen fast out there. You do not want to miss something amazing. Lots of times we will drive up to a scene and have an hour to photograph it. Great fun! Other times, you have a split second to catch a shot. Practice here at home and learn the skills needed to track moving subjects with busy environment. When you have these skills and your ready. You will go home a very happy person!
We are usually smiling for the entire ride home on the plane…Even when we are asleep!