The photography essentials you'll need for your first safari
Planning an African safari is often the start of a trip of a lifetime and a dream come true for any keen photographer. The chance to get up close with incredible animals, in their natural habitat, with the backdrop of a Kenyan sunset or the big skies of Tanzania, offers tantalising opportunities for some great shots. However, as well as planning the list of must-see animals, travel insurance should be top of the list of things to sort out soon after you've booked your trip.
Whilst you may have considered holiday insurance, it may be easy to overlook the amount of gear you've got with you. A safari trip is all about the pictures, for a photographer and that means taking your best cameras and lenses along for the ride. But before you just slap on some extra accident damage cover with your standard insurance package, it's worth taking time to make sure you are covered for a safari and that your camera is covered too.
What photography gear should you bring on Safari?
Packing the right gear is one of the most important stages of a safari trip, especially for photographers. Of course, you're going to want to bring your DSLR and a few lenses, but if possible take two camera bodies. This means you can switch between landscape shots and those close wildlife shots without having to switch between lenses, running the risk of missing the moment. One of your camera bodies should have that photography staple, the telephoto lens, with a reach of at least 300mm. Also pack a wider to mid-range zoom as an alternative and preferably put it on a second body. This means you can just grab either camera depending on the shot, but it also means you don't have to change lenses and risk getting dust on your sensor.
Leave your tripod at home. Even if you do persuade the cabin crew to let you take it on as hand luggage, they're not very practical on a jeep. Beanbags are a much better option and can be fixed on open windows, door frames and the roof of the jeep, as support. Plus, they're easy to pack and most camps will fill them for you prior to your first game drive. However, many animals are more active in the early morning or towards sunset, when the light is low. In this case, a monopod could be a good addition.
Don't forget to pack those essential extras. Consider bringing a laptop or ultrabook to back up photos at the end of each day. That means you'll need a cable that goes from your camera to your computer. Pack plenty of memory cards, it's not unusual to take over 1,000 images on just one game drive and consider having a few smaller cards, rather than one big one, just in case and don't forget to charge and pack spare batteries. And if you're taking two cameras, bring two chargers. It's always good to have a spare anyway because you won't be able to buy one, once you're on site. African rain can be heavy, so pack a cover to protect your equipment, which will also keep the dust away. A polarising filter can also be useful to reduce glare, but also saturate the colours, for that deep blue sky and russet landscape look we all know and love.
Air travel with your camera
Always try to keep your expensive cameras and lenses in your hand luggage for aircraft travel. Use a soft camera case with lots of good padding and sections for everything you need. It's also a handy place to stuff in some spare underwear and socks, just in case your luggage goes missing at the other end. At least you'll be clean and ready to capture that shot. Check your airline's weight allowances and the cost for excess baggage and book the extra, rather than taking the risk. Don't forget to check for baggage allowance on any internal flights you're taking on smaller aircraft. But keep your most expensive gear in your hand luggage, wherever possible. Soft baggage is also a must, as it's easier to stuff into overhead lockers and onto jeeps, minimising the risk of it being held back to come out on the next plane.
Camera insurance for your safari
No matter how careful you are, riding with some very expensive gear in an open jeep, along rough roads, significantly increases the risks of an accident or bump against a window frame. High value items may not be covered with standard travel insurance policies, so check before you buy. You may be covered by your home insurance, but it's worth checking if you are actually covered for items away from home and specifically, a safari trip, which comes with added risk.
Remember to check for clauses, such as being able to report an item damaged or missing within 24-hours. This could be tricky, when you're out in the savanna for 10 days with no phone signal.
It's also important to consider the risk of lost luggage, so make sure you've got good cover in the event of your cases going astray or if you leave a bag behind. And don't forget to check the cover for the specific area you're travelling too, especially if it's not a standard safari destination with an established reputation, such as Kenya has.
Most people think it won't happen to them, but it's never worth taking the risk. Planning a safari is exciting and insurance may be the last thing on your mind, but it's worth booking it as soon as your trip is booked. This way you have the peace of mind that you're covered if you have to cancel or if any of your gear gets damaged or lost on the way to the airport. With the right insurance in place, you can travel with confidence and enjoy the trip of a lifetime.