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Photograph the Big 5 at the Sabi Sabi Game Reserve

Sabie Park, South Africa


Added by Lucas Pols

Sabi Sabi offers life changing experiences, giving you the unique opportunity to view animals in their intimate habitats. Get your camera ready for memorable photos of The Big 5: African Elephant, African Lion, Rhinoceros, Cape Buffalo, and African Leopard.

A South African Safari in the game reserve of Sabi Sabi, or most of the reserves in South Africa, is an incredible experience, which gives you the unique opportunity to see these stunning animals calm and relaxed in their natural environment.

To get to the reserves, adjacent to Kruger National Park, I would suggest flying from Cape Town or Jo'berg as the drive from either is extremely long and the more you can limit your driving in Africa the better.

When you get to the reserve a game ranger will come and get you and take you to the lodge that you are staying at. On all of the reserves you will have the opportunity to do safari’s twice a day and they will last about 3-4 hours.

During the summer if you are going to do both Safari’s every morning and night you will not be sleeping much. The animals are only active in the early morning, dusk, and nighttime which means that you’ll be up at five at going to bed at around ten or ten thirty.

On Safari in Sabi Sabi you will see an array of animals-- most notably the Big 5: Elephants, Rhinos, Lions, Leopards, and Buffalo. You will also have the opportunity to see zebras, impalas, hippos, various birds, hyenas and more elusive creatures such as the African Wildcat.

Travel Tips:
  • I wouldn't encourage doing more then five or six days of straight Safari. You can absolutely do two full weeks while in Africa, but have a break in between. It can be draining on your body to photograph for 8-10 hours a day in the African heat. That combined with sleeping extremely little can be challenging if you are going to do two straight weeks. 
  • Wear a hat and sunscreen. I was out for twelve days on Safari and on day ten myself and my guide had the fun burden of getting heat stroke.
  • Bring lens cleaning supplies with you when you're out on safari. If it hasn't rained in a few days there is a going to be a lot of dust around and you do not want to lose your perfect shot due to a dirty lens.
  • Make sure you bring a lens that can reach at least 300mm but I would recommend nothing less then 400mm!
Advanced Tips:
  • The largest challenge that you are going to have photographing these animals, besides finding them, is going to be with light. You will be following these animals in a Jeep which means that you will constantly be moving and during low light situations you'll end up playing the fun game of stop and go!
  • Tripods are challenging to use in cars and at high focal lengths any movement can blur your image. The work around can be to use sandbags or even blankets and jackets to rest the lens on the car to steady your shot.
  • It would be a lot easier if you had a 400mm ƒ2.8 lens but for traveling it is not a practical nor cost effective lens. What I did was grab a 2x teleconverter for my 70-200mm ƒ2.8 lens which unfortunately doubles my aperture but turns it into a ƒ5.6 140-400 which gave me the perfect range I needed while not sacrificing my ability to travel light.
  • The largest factor? Patience. A lot of photographers will follow the same animal for a week at a time to get to know the habits of that animals to be able to take the best possible shots. Even if you are just visiting the animal for the night stay with them for as long as possible.
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