Photography Kit List for Safari Shutterbugs

You’ve done the hard work finding and booking your perfect photographic safari. Now you’re just starting to write that all-important packing list and wondering ‘what exactly do I need in my camera bag?’

We understand nobody wants to travel with more baggage than they really need, but likewise, you don’t want to miss out on that perfect shot because you were lacking that vital bit of kit.

Telephoto Lens

If you’ve booked onto dedicated a photographic safari, the chances are you already have an SLR camera, but do you have the right lenses? There is little point using the lens kit that comes with most SLRs as standard if you want to return home with beautifully pin-sharp wildlife images. A 400mm telephoto lens would be ideal, a 500mm even better and a 300mm would be a minimum requirement. It is also well worth carrying a wide angle lens in your bag too for those stunning ‘animals in their environment’ type shots.

Don’t panic – you don’t have to splash out thousands on a lens you may only use once or twice a year when you travel. We’ve partnered up with Lenses for Hire to offer all Exodus clients 10% off lens hire. This way you get all the benefits of having a professional level lens but at a fraction of the price it would cost to buy! Make sure you check the weight restrictions of hand baggage with your airline prior to hiring a lens – you don’t want to get to check-in only to have your photography hopes dashed because you are over the weight limit.

Camera and a telephoto lens for wildlife photography Camera and a telephoto lens for wildlife photography

Beanbag

A small beanbag cushion is the ideal accessory for photographers on game drives. It really helps with stability (and preventing damage) when propping up long lenses on jeep windows and rooftops, where it’s not practical to use a tripod.

Paul Goldstein leading a Photographic Safari (and using a beanbag!) Paul Goldstein leading a Photographic Safari (and using a beanbag!)

Polariser/UV Filter

Polarisers and filters are ideal when shooting in extremely bright, sunny conditions as they help to reduce glare and those dreaded, photo-spoiling sunspots. They’re also invaluable if you’re going to be shooting on and around water.

Tripod

Some photos just can’t be taken without the sturdy reassurance of a tripod. Like all of those beautiful waterfall shots you see where the white water looks silky smooth, or pictures of the night sky full of star trails – these types of photographs need to be captured with such a slow shutter speed that it is impossible to take them by hand. A remote shutter release also comes in handy for this type of photography as it removes the need to touch the camera or tripod during the shot.

Victoria Falls taken on a slow shutter speed Victoria Falls taken on a slow shutter speed

Memory Cards

Take plenty of memory cards – especially if you are shooting RAW images (and you should be), as these are huge files – around 20mb per image! If you’re not taking any other storage devices (laptop, tablet, hard drive) to dump your pictures on each day, you want to make sure you have enough memory for the whole trip.

Chargers & Spare Battery

Whatever you do – don’t forget your charger(s)! And if you have one, it’s always a good idea to carry a spare battery. Those long days out on the plains constantly snapping everything you pass will soon chew up battery power, especially if using a powerful telephoto lens. You’ll kick yourself if your one and only battery dies just before you witness a cheetah kill or a leopard emerging from behind an acacia with her cub in tow!

Hunting in action in the Masai Mara Hunting in action in the Masai Mara

Laptop / Tablet / Card Reader

If it is practical to do so, take a laptop or tablet with you so you can easily transfer your images each day and clear off your SD cards. This will also enable you to go through and delete the worst offenders, saving you the mammoth task of doing it all in one go after you’ve retuned home. If your computer doesn’t have a card reader, be sure to remember the lead that connects it to the camera! Or, if using an iPad or tablet, you’ll need a plug-in card reader with the right fitting for your device.

Wide-brimmed Hat

As those of you who have tried wearing sunglasses whilst behind the lens will know, it doesn’t work too well! A wide-brimmed hat will offer your face the shade it so desperately craves without coming between you and the viewfinder.

Check out Cotswold Outdoor for a great range of safari Tilley hats – plus all Exodus customers get a 15% discount!

Arctic Butterfly Cleaning Kit

When it gets in the wrong places (i.e not in the photo but in the camera itself), dust can be a safari photographer’s worst nightmare! Don’t let a grubby sensor leave you weeping over spoiled shots when you get home. Make sure your bag has a cleaning kit in it – our photography experts swear by the Arctic Butterfly. A pillowcase or cloth bag can act as a handy protection shield too!

Binoculars

You need to spot the wildlife before you stand a chance of photographing it! Make sure you have a decent pair of binoculars in your camera bag to ensure you’ve got all angles covered. Plus, it’s a great feeling to be the person that is the first to call out an interesting sighting – you’ll definitely be in the good books of your fellow travellers if you were to point out a leopard lounging on a branch or a Carmine Bee-eater fluttering between treetops.

Looking for other packing and travel tips? Check out our Top Tips for Seasoned Adventurers article, or if your heading off to cooler climes, our Polar Packing List may come in handy.

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