The Photographer’s Guide to Visiting AfricaAugust 5, 2017
There’s a good reason why Africa is often at the top of any photographer’s bucket list. After all, where else can you experience unique wildlife up-close in their own environment?
As you can imagine, there’s a wealth of information out there about Africa, but how can photographers in particular plan the perfect trip to the destination? What are the must-see sights and locations that they need to visit with their camera in-tow?
Thankfully, we’ve compiled all of this helpful information into the one article, to help you maximize your time spent in Africa as a photographer.
Let’s get started!
Why Will Photographers Love Visiting Africa?
If being able to see exotic wildlife in incredible landscapes (with your camera in-hand) is your idea of fun, then Africa is the destination for you! Not only does it offer a variety of up-close experiences with wildlife that you can’t find elsewhere, but its large array of different countries and ecosystems will certainly keep you on your toes.
In Africa, it seems as though everywhere you look there is something to photograph, whether you go on a safari tour, visit the iconic salt flats in Botswana, witness the desert oasis in Morocco, or venture into one of the many national parks on offer.
There are also plenty of photography-related events and attractions within the region, including museums, festivals, and other establishments dedicated to the medium.
While those planning a trip to the region will no doubt have their own list of must-see destinations, we thought we’d also include some of our very own below for additional ideas.
You may not have heard or thought about some of these places within Africa, but we can guarantee that they’re all a photographer’s delight to visit!
The Sossusvlei Dunes in Namibia
Located in the Namib-Naukluft National Park of Namibia, in the southern part of the Namib Desert, photographers will find a special destination known as the Sossusvlei Dunes. It’s a salt and clay pan (otherwise known as a dry lake) surrounded by high red sand dunes, and is one of the major visitor attractions of Namibia.
Not only will this unique red landscape have you feeling as though you’ve landed on another planet, but just imagine having this stunning destination as the focus of your photos. It’s certainly a place you’ll never forget!
The Mountain Gorillas of the Rwandan Rainforest
Animal and wildlife photographers take note! If you’re thinking of visiting this region anytime soon, you can’t pass-up an opportunity to witness the gorgeous mountain gorillas of the Rwandan Rainforest up-close.
There are numerous tour groups and services running within this area for tourists to take part in. Pack your camera equipment and get ready for a once-in-a-lifetime experience with these gorgeous animals.
Draa Valley in Morocco
For photographers visiting Morocco in Africa, they won’t want to miss visiting this stunning oasis. The Draa Valley covers a region from the city of Ouarzazate into the Sahara Desert.
Once photographers step foot into Draa Valley, they’ll think they’ve been transported back in time. Houses are built from clay and inhabitants still ride donkeys for transportation. This region is most famous for its appearance, however, as it can be described as a green oasis in a dry, rocky landscape. You’ll find palm trees amongst a backdrop of rolling, rugged desert hills. It’ll take your breath away!
Nxia Pan National Park in Botswana
For those traveling to or near the region of Botswana, they won’t want to pass-up the opportunity to visit Nxia Pan National Park. What makes this destination so unique is that it’s one of the largest salt pans in the world also offering unique safari experiences. Where else can you see white, salt-covered ground and herds of giraffe, lion, leopards, and cheetahs walking among it?
Other animals such as elephants, zebras, impala, and ostrich can also be spotted in the national park.
Lake Malawi National Park
Not only is the beautiful Lake Malawi National Park a UNESCO World Heritage site, but it’s also the world’s first freshwater park. Additionally, it contains more tropical fish than any other lake in the world – a diverse 1,300 species to be exact!
As well as being one of the largest lakes in the world, it’s also one of the most beautiful, and photographers will be impressed to hear that it’s been nicknamed the “Lake of Stars” by Dr. David Livingstone after he visited the region over a century and a half ago.
If stunning waterscapes and intriguing marine life are things you enjoy capturing with your camera, then this place will have you in awe. Other picturesque and photo-worthy attractions at this site include a giant baobab tree (reported to be over 800 years old) and colonies of baboons.
The Flamingos at Lake Nakuru National Park in Kenya
Lake Nakuru National Park is home to one million resident flamingos, making it one of Kenya’s biggest must-see attractions. There’s nothing quite like gazing out at a flamingo-crowded lake, bathed in bright pink. Just imagine the photos you’ll be able to capture!
Additionally, the national park is also home to many other intriguing species of animals, such as rhinos, zebras, lions, and various monkeys, making it a wildlife photographer’s dream destination. It’s not to be missed!
The Rhinos at Solio Reserve in Kenya
Both black and white rhino are becoming incredibly rare, but one region within Africa that you can spot plenty of them is the Solio Reserve in Kenya, which is home to over 250 rhinos.
You’ll find the reserve located between Mount Kenya and the Aberdare Mountains, so expect to witness a stunning landscape of dramatic mountainous peaks and rolling hills as far as the eye can see.
Photography-Related Events and Attractions
There are also some photography-dedicated attractions and establishments within the region, including museums, festivals, and more. If photographers find themselves near any of these events or buildings during their stay, they certainly won’t want to miss out on experiencing them with their very own eyes!
Iziko South African Museum
Despite mainly being a scientific and historic museum, the Iziko South African Museum also houses a Photography and New Media Collection for guests to enjoy.
Since introducing the collection, the museum has noticed its growing success, cementing photography (particularly documentary photography) as a celebrated medium and art form within South Africa.
The museum explains: “While today our Photography Collection is still relatively small, it is growing rapidly. Funding remains limited, but between 2009 and 2011 purchases of photographs exceeded 40% of all artworks acquired by the Gallery. This reflects the strength of South African photography nationally and internationally, the growing production of lens-based work by artists, especially in relation to performance, and the emphasis on redress: the imperative to grow a Photography Collection that is fully representative of all its practitioners, including emerging young photographers.”
Iziko Museums of South Africa actually operates 11 national museums, so visitors have plenty of options and variety when it comes to planning a trip to one of these. More information about their locations can be found on the Iziko website.
2017 marks the eighth edition of the annual LagosPhoto Festival, taking place in Lagos, Nigeria, from October 21 – November 20. This year’s theme is Regimes of Truth, which “examines the search for and the presentation of truth in contemporary society by drawing on inspiration from the works of nineteenth and twentieth century thinkers, writers and philosophers who offered insights into our contemporary society’s information overload and truth quagmire.”
The LagosPhoto Festival is the first and only international arts festival of photography in Nigeria, making it a must-attend event for anyone visiting the region between late October and November.
LagosPhoto is organized by the not-for-profit organization, African Artists’ Foundation. The group was established in 2007 and launched the popular photography festival in 2010 to further foster a thriving community of contemporary photographers.
LagosPhoto also organizes many photography-related events throughout the year (such as a Summer School and photographer showcase), so even if travelers can’t make it to the annual festival, they may have luck with another event from the organization.
Photography tours and workshops
As you can imagine, there are numerous companies offering photography-related tours and workshops throughout Africa and South Africa, particularly ones dedicated to safari trips.
You’ll find everything from private tours run by fellow professional photographers, to ones run by well-known companies such as National Geographic, and some operated by tour groups. It all depends on what you’re hoping to gain from the photography tour / workshop, as well as what your budget allows.
You’ll also want to combine photographic skills and knowledge with a tour that offers insight and education into your African surrounds, including the region, wildlife, and more. Make this a photography tour experience that you’ll cherish forever!
What to Pack
Because your number one activity will probably be capturing plenty of amazing photographs, you’ll want to pack a small variety of lenses suitable to various shooting conditions. For example, while on safari, you may use a telephoto lens and a wide-angle lens in order to capture both the rolling landscape and animals from further away.
You may even benefit from packing a tripod for capturing crisper and clearer images, plus you’ll need the basics, such as extra batteries, additional storage devices, and memory cards.
You’ll also need a proper camera storage bag for carrying your camera and lenses around on-the-go, particularly when you’re on safari or a similar fast-paced photography tour / workshop.
The African landscape can be very dry and dusty, so don’t forget to bring a lens cloth or unscented lens cleaning tissues to keep those pesky specks of dust away from your photos!
You’ll also want to dress for the season that you’ll be visiting Africa, as well as the particular regions, so be sure to bring comfortable clothing and practical footwear for your action-packed photography trip. Hats and sunscreen are also two necessities to protect you from that burning sun when you’re enjoying the great outdoors, so don’t forget to bring these too!
For More Information
There are also some articles online from photographers who have traveled to Africa before, and these offer additional advice and recommendations from fellow professionals.
To assist you with your trip, we’ve included the best of these articles below.
- The Photographer’s Guide to Preparing for an African Safari by Peter West Carey
- Top 10 African Wildlife Photography Tips by Asilia Africa
- A Photographer’s Guide to The Safari Experience: An On Location Guide is a hard-copy book written by award-winning photographer Todd Gustafson that may also prove to be very helpful.
There you have it – our photographer’s guide to visiting Africa! Are you planning on visiting the unique location any time soon? If so, we hope you’ve gained some valuable tips and information about the region after reading this article.