Quick answers to frequently asked questions about wildlife photo safaris
When is the best time to go on a photo safari?
All of our scheduled safari dates take into consideration temperatures, expected weather for the season, and the concentration of photogenic wildlife. We intentionally choose our schedule so you have the best chance of seeing wildlife everywhere we go.
Most of our African Big 5 safaris take place between April and October, when temperatures are mild and the risk of rain is low. Winter is the dry season (May, June, July) and foliage is minimal. Animals congregate near waterholes and are easy to spot and photograph. August, September and October are spring, and the bush is bursting with new life as trees bud out and grass begins to grow. Lots of babies are being born during December and January, and you have a great chance of seeing births. Late December through February is hot, and it’s also rainy season, so we only offer private custom safaris during these months. You’ll see a lot of young animals, but run the risk of game drives in the rain. That can make for dramatic photography, and it’s low season—without crowds—for the hard-core photographers. March through May is fall. It’s still green, and the weather is cooler. Wildlife is active. No matter when you go, you’ll be glad you went!
In the Southern Hemisphere, October – February is summer. It’s the best time to go to Antarctica or Peru. Our Antarctica trips are scheduled after penguins have molted, chicks are hatching, and whales have arrived. Too early and there’s not much happening, too late and you’re walking in penguin poop watching gawky youngsters. We want cuteness and pristine snow for the best experience.
October – April are the best time to go to Egypt and Jordan to avoid extreme heat.
June, July and August are the best time to see Polar Bears and Walrus harems, plus whales and birds in the Arctic.
Let us know what you really want to see and experience, and we’ll recommend the best safari for your goals.
Why should I choose Eagle Eye Safaris?
Ernest, Karen, or both of us personally lead every Eagle Eye Safaris trip. You’ll get one-on-one attention to ensure you have the right settings and angles for the photo. We want you have a fantastic, memorable, fun safari experience. We love sharing the treasures of Africa–our wildlife–with our guests, and teaching you how to take home photos that will make you proud. Be sure to check out our reviews on Facebook and Trip Advisor! You can learn more about Ernest and Karen HERE.
What sets you apart from other safari companies?
Our customer service skills and our personally led safaris! We’re here to answer questions, help you with logistics, let you know what to bring and wear, advise you about camera gear, and suggest gratuity guidelines for staff. It’s your vacation, and it’s our job to make it as stress-free as possible. We take that seriously and we strive to do our very best for every client. We welcome everyone. By that, we mean EVERYONE. We are about the friendliest people you will ever meet.
Ernest and Karen are award-winning, published wildlife photographers with a passion for teaching. Photography coaching, camera instruction, and Lightroom/Photoshop instruction are included on almost all of our safaris. The exception is Antarctica and the Arctic, where our photography/editing workshops are optional at an additional cost. On safaris where we don’t have breaks during the day, we offer personal coaching and camera instruction, and if time allows, we’ll help you with Lightroom/Photoshop. Ernest and/or Karen personally lead all of our safaris.
We try to keep our groups small, with extra space on the vehicles for your camera gear, as much as possible. Most safari companies stuff 10 people into the vehicle to maximize profit. We always try to limit the number of people per vehicle, leaving seats empty for gear.
We are happy to offer as much advice about your trip as possible. Ernest and Karen can chat with you via Skype, WhatsApp, or phone calls to discuss your plans, and we answer emails quickly.
What’s the “Big 5?” Will we see them?
The Big 5 are: Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Rhino, and African Buffalo. Our trackers will do their best to find the wildlife you want to see, but we can never guarantee an animal will cooperate and allow itself to be seen. We operate in areas with high concentrations of leopards, the hardest of the Big 5 to spot, and we see them frequently–sometimes 2 or 3 a day! The Game Reserves are open to the Kruger National Park, and we have our own anti-poaching teams, so we often see rhino, the most endangered animal of the Big 5. We frequently see cheetah and wild dogs, both of which are endangered. We will see lots of other wildlife too, such as hippo, zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, and more. So far, almost every Big 5 Safari group has seen the Big 5, and we hope to continue that success long into the future. We don’t operate where animals are GPS-collared. We operate in truly wild reserves, where animals live completely free, unmanaged lives.
Do I need vaccinations?
Please check your country’s travel recommendations for additional health recommendations, and definitely talk to your doctor about your travel plans. We highly recommend discussing a current tetanus booster with your doctor.
Is the water safe to drink?
Bottled water will always be provided when tap water is not safe to drink, and we will make sure that you know.
Is the food safe to eat?
Yes, everything served at the Lodge has been cooked properly. Vegetables and salads have been washed with clean water and are safe to consume, whether cooked or uncooked. We can accommodate all dietary needs and choices with adequate notice.
Do you have a bar? Can I bring my own alcohol?
We do have bars at the Lodges, on the cruise ships, and at the hotels! If you have special requests, please give us a few weeks’ notice so that we can try our best to be sure your choice is stocked. There is a corking fee if you bring your own alcohol.
Can I pay for things with Credit Cards? What about ATMs?
When traveling, American Express is not widely accepted on the continent of Africa, so plan to use MasterCard or VISA. We recommend leaving debit cards at home, and arranging with your bank to have a PIN associated with your credit card for cash withdrawals from ATMs. Credit cards are accepted at most of the Lodges for personal purchases, spa services, and gratuities. We’ll let you know well ahead of your trip if any of our accommodations don’t accept cards. You’ll want cash for craft markets and small purchases, and we will suggest a reasonable amount to withdraw based on the length of your trip. You can see our complete Travel Tips HERE.
Is it safe to travel?
We do everything we can to help you ensure your safety when you travel. We recommend common-sense precautions—don’t travel with large sums of money, leave expensive or sentimental jewelry at home, don’t show off your camera equipment, don’t walk alone at night, and don’t wander away from tourist areas. We have dedicated drivers to pick you up and drop you off at the airports for our trips, plus instructions of what to do and who to call if they are not there when you arrive–it’s rare, and we always have a contingency plan in place. The Lodges and Guest Houses that we use are known for being safe, friendly, family-owned businesses. For our South African Safaris, opting for our Big 5 Ground Transportation Package takes the guesswork out of your lodging and your travel to and from the Lodges.
We recommend getting Travel and Medical Evacuation Insurance no matter where you travel in the world. Your credit card and homeowner’s or health insurance may offer short-term policies, and you can Google to compare rates with public companies. We will cancel a trip if there is political or civil unrest in any location to which we go, or if we feel it is unsafe for any other reason (see our Terms & Conditions).
Why should I book your Big 5 Ground Transportation Package for my South African Safari?
Our Ground Transportation Package for our South Africa Big 5 Safaris is a convenience to minimize stress during your vacation. The drive to the Lodges averages 7-8 hours and half of it is not on highways. Getting up at 4am, driving straight through to the Lodge, then jumping onto a safari vehicle for a 3-hour game drive is a long, exhausting day for most people. You are here to enjoy your trip. Our package includes a B&B night in Johannesburg so you can get a good night’s sleep after your long flight to Africa, a B&B night in Nelspruit so you can start safari fresh the next day, all ground transportation, the 2pm tour of Chimp Eden the day before safari, and round-trip ground transportation to the Safari Lodge. (see our GTP for inclusions/exclusions). You’ll just have to book the flight to Nelspruit, and we’ll tell you which flights to book.
You can make your own arrangements to get to the Lodge, too. Our GTP is an option for your convenience, should you want our assistance with travel arrangements. It is not necessary to book our GTP to go on safari with us. Other options include renting a car and driving, or flying via SAA Airlink charters (around R 12,000).
What should I wear?
We recommend colors that are not too bright, and avoid white. Khaki, brown, black, and softer tones of other colors are appropriate. Safaris are casual. You’ll want good walking shoes such as tennis shoes for bush walks and game drives, flip-flops or sandals for around the camp, and a pair of slippers for nighttime comfort. We wear hiking pants that convert to shorts. Bring layers: short sleeved, long sleeved, a hoodie or sweatshirt, and a rain jacket. You’ll need a safari hat and sunglasses! Our Travel Tips and Packing List (click HERE) have a detailed list and good suggestions. We’ll let you know about a week before you travel what the expected weather will be so you can edit your packing list.
How far will I have to walk?
For Big 5 Safaris, our Lodges have level pathways with a minimum of steps into buildings (2-4). Bush walks are on moderately level ground, mildly strenuous, and are slow paced. Anyone over the age of 14 of average fitness can participate (Age 65+ must bring a doctor’s note of fitness). We are looking at tracks, markings, and learning about plants that are useful to the local people. There are some shallow washes and logs when we get off the road, but we can remain on the road if our group includes people who need a less strenuous walk.
Under 14 or over 65? You won’t be left out. We can do a mini-walk right around the Lodge, and we will stop during the game drive to see many of the interesting things seen on bush walks.
Gorilla & Chimpanzee Treks are strenuous and you need a moderate level of fitness. We will be hiking on steep terrain that may be slippery, through jungles. You will hire a porter, and your porter’s job is to ensure that you get to see the Gorillas, even if they have to lift you up and carry you. Some of our Lodges are built on hillsides and in those Lodges, there are quite a few steps to your bungalow. Definitely plan to spend time hiking or at the gym prior to a Gorilla & Chimpanzee Trek–and it will be worth it!
We’ll do a lot of walking in Egypt and Jordan, and hiking in Galapagos.
You can contact us at info@EagleEyeSafaris.com to ask the specifics about any of our trips. We want you to enjoy your trip with us without surprises!
I want to bring my family on dates different than your published dates, or on a private safari.
With enough notice, we can create a private, custom safari for you and your family or friends. With 4 or more people, prices are about the same as our published safaris. Just email us at info@EagleEyeSafaris.com and we can get started on a quote for you.
Can we bring our children?
Well-behaved children are welcome on our safaris. However, children under 7 cannot go on game drives, and under 14 cannot trek Gorillas or Chimpanzees. Your child should be able to take direction from other adults, to not scream when excited, to sit quietly around animals for an extended time while people are photographing them, and to be able to sit on the Game Vehicle for 3 hours morning and evening. Please fairly assess your child’s level of interest and ability, and bring them when they are at an age where they will enjoy and remember this amazing experience. Baby-sitting is available at the Lodge for an additional expense.
We want something special for our Honeymoon/Anniversary/Special Birthday/Marriage Proposal.
Karen and Ernest will work with you to make your special occasion memorable, whether it’s a private candle-lit bush dinner, champagne and roses on the safari vehicle for your proposal at a beautiful spot, or a decadent birthday cake complete with candles! Karen LOVES to assist with surprises and celebrations. This is YOUR trip—we are here to make it incredible!
I’m not a photographer. Will I be bored?
Absolutely not! Going on safari with photographers means that you will be in the middle of action as much as possible. We don’t want to photograph sleeping lions…we want to see something happening, and we need to be in the best possible position to photograph it. We’ve seen some insane videos and really good photos taken by our guests with cell phone and tablet cameras!
I don’t have an expensive camera or big lens. Can I rent one?
We can arrange reasonably priced rentals for you in South Africa so that you don’t have to bring equipment with you, and we will teach you how to use it. For our other trips, you can usually rent gear from your local camera shop or online, and get a homeowner’s or renter’s insurance rider to cover it.
I’m a beginner photographer. Am I out of my league?
Not at all–that’s what we are here for! If you want to learn, we will teach you! It’s a good idea to read the manual and learn where the buttons are on your camera before you come on safari, and we will teach you what they do, how they work, and when to use them. You’ll go home with the skills and knowledge to set your own settings, plus some cool tricks, too!
Do I need a laptop?
Having a laptop with Adobe Lightroom Classic/Photoshop CC (the $9.95/month subscription) is the best way to learn how to process your photos. We’ll teach you how to download, organize, and edit your photos, following our wildlife workflow process. Please pre-load the programs-WiFi in South Africa is too slow to download the programs. Please download Lightroom CLASSIC, not “CC.”
I’m a little scared of wildlife. Are we ever in danger?
Our Rangers and Trackers are highly trained, and work around wildlife daily. Their job is to read the animal’s behavior, and we never put an animal in a position of stress. We can often get close, but only as close as the animal indicates is comfortable. Sometimes we are right next to an animal, and sometimes we must stay quite far away. As much as we want to see an animal, if we ever think that the animal feels stressed or threatened, we will leave and find something else to watch. Conservation and safety are our first priorities, always.
Do I need travel or medical insurance?
We strongly recommend purchasing insurance to cover your trip. Life happens, and a little preparation goes a long way. Once we are within 60 days, we can’t refund much of your money, as we have already paid vendors and it’s too late to fill your spot, regardless of your circumstances. Trip insurance will cover that, medical insurance will cover costs if you get sick on your trip. When choosing an insurance company, PLEASE read the fine print! That will help you choose the best company for your insurance needs. Antarctica and Arctic trips require evacuation insurance; please read the trip descriptions as amounts may vary.
Don’t see an answer to your question? Email us at info@EagleEyeSafaris.com !