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Private viewing for photography?

Cypress, Texas
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Private viewing for photography?

My wife and I are planning a trip in September to Elephant Plains for 4 nights, Motswari for 4 nights and Kapama for 1 night. I'm a pro shooter and am interested in getting obviously the best shots I can. I understand sometimes they pack the vehicles with folks, which I would rather avoid of course. How much of an uncharge to try and go with private game drive should I expect? Any tips on how to get around the more expensive hiring private rangers/trackers to minimize other tourists? All tips appreciated in how to get the best experience possible. I will be using a two camera set up, one with large tele and the other with a med/wide lens. Thank you!

15 replies to this topic
New York
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1. Re: Private viewing for photography?

In my experience lodges charge a per day charge for a private vehicle and it is usually R6000 or more per day plus gratuities to the guide and tracker. Some lodges require that if you book a private vehicle that you do so for your entire stay. It's not always possible to book a private vehicle because some lodges/areas have a limit on the number of vehicles they can have traversing each day. Also some lodges have to bring in an extra vehicle and freelance guide depending on their level of occupancy at the time of your visit. In all cases when I booked a private vehicle I made the arrangements in advance. I either had my agent do it or I emailed the lodge.

No matter what communicate with the lodge in advance and let them know that you are a professional/serious photographer. Often you can ask not to have young children in your vehicle or to be with other photographers. Check the lodge's social media to see which guides are knowledgeable about photography and ask to be assigned to them. The lodges are used to dealing with serious photographers and will have suggestions for maximizing your opportunities.

Long Island, New...
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2. Re: Private viewing for photography?

Expect a full vehicle at Elephant Plains, maybe not completely full at Motswari. If not, consider it a bonus. You’re not going to get “pro” shots without a private vehicle and please be reasonable on your game drives as you’re not going to be able to get the best light, best position, best view on any group game drive. Your pictures will be for your own memories and use, not National Geographic.

If you choose to book a private vehicle and ranger, expect $300-$600 per drive. They’re not always available. Bush walks might be a good opportunity for some great shots and if you are doing Giraffe Nest, it will be beautiful. When you book reasonably priced lodges, one of the compromises is the number of people in the vehicles.

If you have the opportunity, a self drive in Kruger is great fun. No off reading but you can get best light and reasonable views on many sightings. Not professional as you can’t leave the vehicle and other cars will show up eventually.

Contact the lodges ahead of time.

3. Re: Private viewing for photography?

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Sydney, Australia
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4. Re: Private viewing for photography?

Hey mate,

I spent 4 nights at Motswari last year but found the scrub pretty thick which made game viewing anything but easy. The difficulty i also had was with a full car of people. Guides try to do their best but they can't please everyone every day.

Much better to book your own vehicle if you can.

I'll also be in Elephant Plains in Sept with Tusk Photo Safaris.

Tempe, Arizona
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for South Africa, Sabi Sand Game Reserve
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5. Re: Private viewing for photography?

Some good advice in those responses... You say you are 'planning a trip'.. I hope you mean that you have 'booked a trip'.

Speaking now to your desire for game drives with few, or no other guests... If the lodges have enough vehicles and guides to provide that to you - $500 per day would be a good round number to use as you calculate the cost.

But, as noted above, the lodges may not have an extra vehicle and guide to give you that option. The 3rd party suppliers mentioned might be able to do so.

New York
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6. Re: Private viewing for photography?

The OP is a professional photographer. As such, he is not likely to need the instruction and tips offered by the "photographic guides" provided by places like Tusk, WildEye and similar outfits. It is my understanding that those outfits do not provide the vehicle but instead use the vehicles, rangers and trackers of the lodge so to hire one of them as a photo guide is an added cost on top of hiring the private vehicle from the lodge. On their scheduled trips having a dedicated vehicle for only 3 photographers is part of the cost factored into the price.

Cumbria, United...
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7. Re: Private viewing for photography?

Look at Tusk safari website, they organise trips to EP and guarantee less people on the vehicle, have been to EP before but was thinking of returning with Tusk so asto have more space. Also look at Zimanga, it’s in KwaZulu-Natal but specialised for photographers so have a whole bench seat to yourself and specialist hides. The guides are great and really try to get you that special photo, have recently returned and it was wonderful.

Cypress, Texas
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8. Re: Private viewing for photography?

Yes sorry..."booked" a trip. Yes I realize that I may be in a vehicle with several folks, but was hoping for some "insider" tips on to try and get around the standard tour group. I will no doubt make the best of the situation. I'm there on holiday and not assignment so I'll just improvise, adapt and overcome! I was "spoiled" when I went to Tanzania a few years back, there were only 3 of us and we were all photogs. I just hope I have room to move around a bit with the big lens! From all I've read so far it's best to sit either next to the ranger or in the first row just behind. I'll be using a bean bag vs the monopod or clamp on gimbal head. I've already made requests through the various lodges for guides with experience dealing with photographers and to be placed in a vehicle with like minded guest if at all possible. Appreciate everyones advice and look forward to any previous experience tips on what works and of course what doesn't. Cheers!

New York
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9. Re: Private viewing for photography?

Unless you are sitting next to the ranger, the beanbag alone is not your best solution. Because of the open vehicle a monopod is easier to use to shoot anything that is on the same side of the vehicle as you are sitting. Many lodges have beanbags/pods on top of a superclamp that can be clamped to the bar in front of your seat and used if you are shooting across the vehicle.

Many rangers will also suggest that you not sit next to them when the vehicle is crowded because they are positioning for everyone to be able to see and the front passenger seat has additional obstacles of the tracker and antenna not to mention shooting across the ranger if the sighting is on the opposite side of the vehicle.

Tempe, Arizona
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for South Africa, Sabi Sand Game Reserve
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10. Re: Private viewing for photography?

I don't see a recommendation to sit on the back (top) row. I always go there, if possible.

I am NOT as advanced as the OP is in skills and experience. But 30 years of doing this has made me a fan of that elevated row on the Land Rover.

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