Capturing Africa’s wildlife – the growth of photographic safaris

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By Kylie Granat

The growing demand for photographic safaris has been realised by the tourism industry, with many tapping into this trend by offering niche, tailor-made photography safari experiences.

Emily Leuner, GM of Tintswalo Safari Lodge, believes that photographic safaris are on the rise.

Elaborating, Leuner says photographic safaris, since gaining popularity have grown more and more, as she has noted an increase in guests having proper SLR/digital cameras, as opposed to the more affordable point-and-shoot camera or mobile phone cameras. Leuner says Tintswalo Safari Lodge, situated in the Manyeleti Private Game Reserve, sharing an unfenced boundary with the Kruger National Park, receives at least one to two international couples who are avid photographers in search of the perfect wildlife shots per month.

The sentiment was shared by James Robb, aha Hotels & Lodges International Sales Manager, who says photographic safaris have grown tremendously, especially in South Africa and Botswana. “At specific lodges we’ve seen numbers increase from two FIT bookings per annum to 10 bookings in a space of a year.”

He says groups generally tend to travel with a professional photographer as well, and their entire aim of the holiday is to improve their photographic skills.

Nik Lloyd-Roberts, Federal Airlines (Fedair) Commercial Manager, too, has noted an increase in demand, especially for tourism into neighbouring African countries, such as Zimbabwe, Zambia and further afield like Rwanda and other East African destinations.

“The experiential traveller seeks unique experiences (such as photographic safaris) within the same time as traditional itineraries. This has resulted in an increase in the regional charter flight requests, as they enable point-to-point travel, thus creating more time for guests to enjoy their holiday,” he says. 

Photography enthusiasts on safari seek a lodge that is flexible in terms of game drive times and the general running of the lodge, says Robb. “They require very different game drive experiences and generally want to spend more time to get the perfect pictures. It is also important that lodges provide these guests with expert trackers and rangers that seek out the best experiences and that are patient, as these guests are often out in the bush for hours on end looking for the perfect shot.”

Leuner says all Tintswalo Lodges’ guides are avid photographers themselves. “They’re adept at positioning the vehicles in good proximity to the wildlife, but with respect to its personal space and comfort.

“Most travellers want to capture the elusive leopard and elephant interactions,” says Leuner. “Giraffes are also as popular, as they really are iconic of Africa.” Some photographers take an interest in Tintswalo’s conservation projects, going so far as to donate to its Rhino Fund.

Robb says photography enthusiasts typically have conservation at heart. “They are generally nature enthusiasts and believe in conserving nature as it should be.” Nic Griffin, CEO of Thornybush Luxury Game Lodge Collection, agrees that guests who are keen photographers generally have a keen interest in the wellbeing, development and safety of wildlife, along with recording species for memory and sharing their shots with others on the return home.

Tintswalo Safari Lodge has a Photo Hub specifically catering for photographers’ needs. It is equipped with a Mac Computer set up with a Canon Canvas Printer, an Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop Programmes – guests can download their own images of their safari experience, edit them and print them on canvas in A2 or A3 sizes. 

“We offer tutorials for guests so they can learn to edit their own images. We also print the guides’ photos if guests want to purchase their images. In addition, we roll the canvas print into a tube so guests can take them home.” – Tourism Update

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