The short answer is to wear comfortable neutral coloured clothing suitable for warm to hot weather. The harshest part of the day is spent indoor – every morning and every evening the game drives encounter cooler weather. It is recommended that you wear thinner layers of clothing rather than one big heavy piece. Over time, I have seen (as experienced) some peculiarities on the back of a safari vehicle and I caution against them by listing them out below.

#1: Avoid ‘Out of Africa’ movie type clothing

#2: Squinting causes wrinkles – remember good eye-wear to protect your eyes from the sun and wind.

#3: Being brave in the sun without a hat is only pleasant the first few minutes – take a good, solid sun proof hat that stays on while travelling on an open vehicle

#4: You are on safari to see animals, not to be seen – avoid Miami style bright clothing and stick to khaki or olive green colors

#5: A thin T-shirt may be ideal at midday but at 6am, its not going to keep you warm – pack a jersey or better a safari jacket

#6: Knee-high boots or deep soled boots belong in Hollywood – sneakers, safari shoes or sports sandals are advisable

#7: You cannot be seen in the same outfit twice – most lodges have laundry facilities so pack light; a pair or two of jeans, short and long sleeve tops (total 6) and a top or two see #4

#8: Getting dressed to the nines for dinner – most places have a smart relaxed code of dress

The decision of which lenses to use depends greatly on the aspirations of the photographer and the style of photography practiced. Also of consideration is the openness of the landscape. Wide open plains invite longer lenses because the range is so much longer and broader.

If you are taking images for documentary purposes, I would suggest going wider rather than longer – use a lens in a 16 – 70mm range for the purpose. This allows you to get a great shot of the subject and the context in which that subject is taken. A photograph of a leopard in this case would not only show the leopard (the subject) but also the surroundings – trees, grass, open plains. Images of this nature are often referred to as animalscapes.

If you are into getting ‘portrait’ type shots of an animal or if you are an avian photographer, then the longer the better. Long lenses – from 300mm to 800mm – bring your subject up close, a must for taking images of birds either in flight or perched. A long lens is also useful to get a shot of a wild animal – no one wants to be up close and personal with a Hippopotamus – as it gets the subject close to you and has the capability of separating the subject and the environment. These are also fantastic to get a soft background (bookeh).

Dust can be (often is!) a challenge for you in the safari parks and most certainly in the desert. Even at very moderate speeds, vehicles on the sand roads throw up dust which somehow manages to find its way onto a sensor at the mere thought of you changing lenses. If at all possible, I would suggest carrying 2 bodies (useful in case one get the zigg and stops working temporarily) and the lenses suitable to your style.

When on safari I have the following equipment always close at hand. By default I mate the 20o – 400 with the 1Dx and and the 16 – 35 on the 5DMk III.

  • EF Canon 200-400 f/4 1.4x
  • EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM
  • EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II
  • EF Macro Lens 100mm f/2.8 IS USM
  • EF1.4x III Tele Converter

This way I have maximum flexibility with both far and near subjects and do not rely on changing lenses in the field. If it becomes necessary, I do and then rely on the cleaning kit back at the lodge to get rid on any uninvited specks of dust resting peacefully on my sensor.

I deal later with the buy vs rent conundrum for lenses and cameras.