5 Best Places for a Photo Safari in Africa

When it comes to photographic safaris, it doesn’t get much better than Africa. It boasts a wealth of wildlife and diverse settings. But with a large number of photo safaris on offer, it can be hard to choose the right one. To help you pick the right trip, here is an overview of some of the best places for a photo safari in Africa.

1. South Africa’s Sabi Sands: Big Five Heaven  

If it’s Big Five photography that you’re after, look no further than South Africa’s private game reserves; particularly the ones in the Greater Kruger area. In Sabi Sands and the Timbavati, both of which are collections of private reserves, you’ll spot these animals (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and buffalo) with ease.

best safari locations africa
Photo © Alan Hewitt

Apart from being frequent, the wildlife viewings you get are of a high quality: game drives, guided by expert guides and phenomenal trackers, will offer you unusually close encounters with animals such as big cats. Since these areas were some of the first in Africa to do game drives, and hunting has always been prohibited, the wildlife is exceptionally relaxed around game drive vehicles, allowing for unique sightings – and, of course, photographic opportunities.

It’s not unusual to have leopards roaming around your vehicle, or to observe lions kill their prey in front of you. You’re also guaranteed to have good views, as the reserves make sure that there are never more than three vehicles at one sighting, preventing the type of traffic build-ups you might experience in the neighbouring Kruger National Park.

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2. Kenya & Tanzania: the Masai Mara and the Serengeti 

Think classic African safari, and you’re probably picturing the Serengeti or the Masai Mara. An open savannah dotted with lions, elephants, and the occasional acacia tree. For once, the cliché lives up to its expectations.

With its stunning tableaus and great abundance of wildlife, this area is a perfect canvas for wildlife photography. You can expect a great variety of animals, too: big cats, elephants, buffalo, zebra, and a great range of antelope can all be easily be spotted in the open savannah.

best places for a safari in africa
Photo © Alan Hewitt

Undoubtably a highlight of the Mara and Serengeti is the annual Great Migration: a wildlife spectacle unlike any other. Every year, between July and October, over a million wildebeest, zebra, and antelope migrate over the plains in search of more lush vegetation. The sight of this mass movement is breathtaking, with thundering waves of animals moving past your vehicle.

Whilst there is safety in numbers, many predators take their opportunity by grabbing what they can. It’s an unforgettable sight that is rightly one of the most sought-after wildlife events by photographers.

3. Uganda: Home of the Endangered Mountain Gorilla 

Africa offers more than the “typical” photo safari experience, however. The continent is also home to the highly endangered mountain gorillas. About half of the remaining population of gorillas (roughly 880) are in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. This is a lush forest that’s only accessible by foot.

safari locations in africa
Photo © Shutterstock.com

Each day, the park offers a limited amount of tracking permits, which allows travellers to join local guides on a hike in search of the mountain gorillas. While the walk can be physically demanding, it is rewarded with a close encounter with these incredible animals, and a chance to photograph them in their stunning natural habitat.

It’s easy to combine a Mountain Gorilla experience in Uganda with other wildlife photography adventures, too. The country offers great opportunities for observing and photographing chimpanzees, as well as small primate species.

Whilst the country isn’t well known for its classic photo safaris, national parks such as the Queen Elizabeth National Park offer great viewings of lions, elephants, and many of the smaller African species.

4. Botswana: a True Wilderness Experience 

Blessed with an abundance of wildlife, spectacular scenery, and a very low human population, Botswana offers a truly exclusive safari experience. The natural settings the country offers are incredibly diverse, from the stark and vast stretches of the Kalahari Desert to the intricate water network of the Okavango Delta and the surreal-looking salt pans of Makgadikgadi. These undisturbed and unique areas act as stunning backdrops for wildlife photography and, given their remote locations, you might even have these wildlife viewings all to yourself.

Botswana rhino, safari
Photo © Alan Hewitt

Not surprisingly, the exclusivity of the safari experience in these places comes at a high cost; Botswana is one of the more expensive safari destinations on the African continent. However, there are some hidden gems that are more affordable, like the Tuli Block.

Tucked away in the very eastern part of the country, the Tuli Block offers a much more affordable, but still very worthwhile safari experience. While the Tuli Block isn’t home to leopards or rhinos, you can expect to photograph lions, large herds of elephants, hyenas, and wild dogs. With a striking backdrop, the area is marked by vast rocky landscapes that are broken up by huge tree-lined riverbeds.

5. Namibia: the Lure of the Desert 

Mostly known for its incredible landscape photography opportunities, Namibia is also an excellent destination for wildlife photography. The country’s highlight, wildlife-wise, is Ethosha National Park: a 20,000 square kilometre park in the north of the country.

best places for safari in africa
Photo © Emil von Maltitz

Like most of the rest of Namibia, Etosha is arid and desert-like, and it has a huge salt pan in its centre. Though the area is seemingly inhospitable, a string of water holes on the edge of the salt pan are a major attraction for wildlife, and animals visit them by the hundreds. This makes it exceptionally easy to find your photographic subjects: you can simply park by the waterholes and wildlife spotting is guaranteed. You can expect to see, and photograph, lions, elephants, springbok, zebra, and gemsbok, to name a few.

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