Gaze over Ngorongoro Crater and any photographer quickly finds both opportunity and challenge. This extinct volcano provides the iconic shape, with the odd passing elephant or zebra herd adding a focal point. Mist swirls through the crater and tampers with the light. Wildlife doesn't stand still but constantly moves along the crater rim before disappearing below. You quickly garner an introduction to landscape photography in Tanzania, and that's before your guide provides the trip's first lesson.
You'll land at Kilimanjaro International where you're greeted by a guide and transfer to nearby Arusha for a local flight to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Touch down, and your hotel is perched on the crater rim, offering a landscape photography challenge from your own verandah. A menagerie of wildlife roams this area, and you'll get first shots of a variety of animals, including large elephant bulls, waterbuck, and the ubiquitous zebra. Meet your wildlife photography guide and test out your skills in the lodge's grounds, where landscapes and local mammals providing contrasting focal points. As with all days on this safari, all meals and local drinks are included.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
This morning you photograph the crater floor, visited at dawn as the mist lays a blanket above the animals. The gray overhang makes the lighting challenging, even if flamingos illuminate the lake and lion manes flow on the morning breeze. An elephant bull roams past; two black rhino are spotted marching around, and the crater floor provides first photos of wildebeest, buffalo, and an assortment of antelopes. While the camera is always to hand, sometimes these first impressions cause you stop, remove your finger from the shutter, and bask in the raw beauty of wild Africa. You'll have six hours on the crater floor before returning to the lodge for lunch and a relaxed afternoon.
Ngorongoro Crater is an exceptional destination for testing out your camera skills in a variety of Tanzania's habitats and conditions. Open grasslands provide an introduction to what you'll see in the Serengeti. Acacia woodland brings compelling challenges regarding light. One lake is tinged pink while another is alive with the antics of hippos. Stretches of bush illustrate the need to look carefully and expose animals' camouflage, while high grasses are prime for a lion pride's ambush. More than anything, these contrasting habitats teach an important photography lesson about patience. Nothing is predictable with wildlife, so patience comes with a caveat. You don't just need to wait; you must wait with the camera ready to go, because when a lion pounces on a zebra, there're only a few seconds to capture a scene of pure drama.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
There's a classic photo of the Serengeti, one found in countless wildlife and travel magazines. It's of the grass plains that stretch beyond the horizon, usually placed into perspective by an ungulate herd or predatory cat perched on a rock. Southeastern Serengeti and the Ndutu area is where you find this quintessential scene, especially when you descend by car from Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Whereas Ngorongoro Crater can be gloomy, the Serengeti scenes are flooded with light and blue skies. Gaze at the landscape and you can immediately see a thousand potential photos. The inspiring challenge here is finding the angle that best illustrates the landscape's scale and detail.
Your guide knows of a few relatively secret places, where the grasslands roll out, and there's always a mammal in the foreground. These are places for an informative discussion about aperture choice for wildlife photography. But like always, a Tanzanian safari is about surprise, and you'll need to react to what's been discovered, like a cheetah nursing her calves, the spots flickering in and out of the grass. Or Thompson's gazelles that skip elegantly across the plains, their flight captured with a very fast shutter speed. This area also provides your first encounter with the really large herds; when there are over a thousand animals huddled together, it's easy to spend an hour focusing in on the exquisite details or zooming out to appreciate the scale. After a full day of photographic safari, you spend the night at a camp in the Ndutu area.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 4 - 5
Drive north, heading into the Central Serengeti, an area that delights in its ancient promise. Lion prides rest on kopjes, iconic clusters of rock that stand above the planes. Nomadic elephants and giraffe appear like silhouettes on the horizon. Wildebeest gather in their thousands, a single herd scattered around the safari vehicle. Zebras huddle tightly together, many pairs resting their heads on their partner's back. Hyenas snarl at the camera, then scurry along towards a flock of circling vultures. Pull the camera up and the grass plains stretch on for miles; look down and there's a lioness prowling around the back of the safari vehicle.
Regardless of the time of year, the Central Serengeti is a place of abundance. Animals are seemingly everywhere as the area provides a home for the full diversity of Serengeti species. It's a place where you always need to keep the camera on hand, especially when back at the camp. In this fenceless landscape the animals roam without inhibition, so antelopes regularly graze their way past your spacious verandah. You can hear them through the night, and you may open the door to a flurry of wildlife just before dawn. During siesta times, the herds will quietly approach; have your camera ready, and the intimate shots are outstanding; rush to the room to get your camera, and the animals will have already disappeared in the commotion.
Over these two days, you go on early-morning and late-afternoon game drives, maximizing the times when the Serengeti is most active. Of course, the lighting during these hours also makes them the best times for photography. Eclectic and unpredictable, this part of the Serengeti delivers a full range of photos. The focus will be on exploring and reacting to what you find, whether that's a leopard hiding in the grass or two male buffalo fighting at a waterhole. It could be a lonely wildebeest with melancholy eyes or a jackal scampering past the camera. The private wildlife photographer guide continues to give tips, and your driver is experienced in guiding photographers, ensuring you have plenty of time to get the right shot before continuing the adventure. Accommodation for these two nights is at a small luxury camp with wonderful views over the plains.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 6 - 7
Moving into the private Grumeti Reserve provides two days of close ups. In the main Serengeti National Park, you're unable to drive off the trails, meaning many animals must be photographed from a distance. In Grumeti you bounce across the grass, getting closer to the most revered of sights. For example, when a leopard is draped across acacia branches, you can park beneath the tree. If there's been a kill you can stop just a few meters from the carcass, photographing limbs getting ripped from the carcass. At the Grumeti River, you can stand on an elevated bank, waiting for the hippos to open their mouths and snapping the shot that's appeared on the front of various wildlife magazines.
Morning game drives are focused on these intimate encounters, and your guide will tailor on-the-go lessons about capturing the wildlife portraits. Dawn starts are essential on a photographer's safari, and you'll usually return to the camp towards the end of the morning. The sun is high now, and you have a two to three hours to enjoy lunch and relax, perhaps going through the camera roll or dropping off into an early-afternoon nap. In Grumeti, you have lodge-style accommodation, with a room that's perched high above the Serengeti. A spa continues the salubrious feel, and the experience is much less rugged than a camp in the heart of the bush.
In the afternoons, you savor another angle. Maasai warrior guides lead you through the grass plains on foot, each step bringing you closer to a range of antelope and other ungulates. On walking safaris, you're avoiding the big mammals, those that won't move out of the way when you approach in a vehicle. Instead, traveling on foot enables you to get very close to animals like zebra, wildebeest, gazelle, hartebeest, and buffalo. You're small and silent, so these mammals don't canter away. Take a few photos. Stop. Then step forward a few steps, maintaining the silence. A few more photos and then repeat. By moving slowly, you could be just five meters away.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 8 - 9
For the final two days, you're fully immersed in the surreal phenomenon of the great wildebeest migration. Mammals are everywhere, the wildebeest scattered across a wide area while the zebra clustered together as they scan the landscape for predators. Thompson's gazelles join the show, and the numbers are staggering. This is an event with a scale that every camera will struggle to capture; half a million animals simply don't fit into a single frame. Instead, the photography is about compiling a storyline, piecing together the different images that showcase the drama and charm of this remarkable show.
Some photos are about the herds and fitting thousands of mammals into a single shot. Others zoom in on the emotion cast across the individuals, perhaps a frightened young wildebeest or a loving zebra pair. Predators play an essential role, and there will be close ups with lions, leopards, cheetahs and hyenas. The really iconic photos are of the predators surveying their kingdom, the big cats in focus as the herds blur in the background. Or of the predators in full hunting mode, stalking the prey or devouring a carcass. You can easily take a thousand photos a day here so part of your guide's instruction will be centered around selecting the photos that create a compelling narrative. Can you reduce the camera roll into two-dozen shots that reflect the beauty and complexity of the migration?
Your mobile camp tracks the migration, providing front-row seats regardless of the month you visit. You'll arrive here by flight or game drive dependent on the season. When the main part of the migration is in the Maasai Mara from July to September, the camp will be located in far north Serengeti where hundreds of thousands of wildebeest graze and Mara River crossing can be photographed. Note that this camp only has limited electricity, unlike the other accommodation on this itinerary. However, your safari vehicle is fitted with electricity and it's possible to charge camera batteries and other appliances while on the game drives. The accommodation is simple yet spacious, with large tents that are fitted with hot showers, flushing Western-style toilets, and large comfortable beds. Fully immersing you in the Serengeti's wildness, it's an idyllic place to spend the last two nights of any safari.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
After eight days of photographic safari, this morning is very relaxed. Put down the camera, enjoy the views, go on a short game drive and savor all the scenes without thinking of your photos. In the early afternoon, you take a light aircraft from the Serengeti to Kilimanjaro International Airport where you connect onto your international departure.
The Serengeti is the safari destination that never seems real on photographs. Think thousands of wildebeests charging across a crocodile-dominated river, landscapes that extend like an optical illusion, and predatory cats half hidden by flourishing grass. It's a place of both scale and details, one that has you zooming out then refocusing on the emotion found in a single pair of eyes. While the Serengeti has a handful of unmissable and many photographable scenes, this wilderness area is far too big to have been completely documented. Every photographer will find their own collection of scenes, returning with photos that celebrate the authenticity of wild Africa.
An expert wildlife photographer leads this private safari and tailors the experiences according to your interests. Part of the safari is centered on specific shots, focusing on improving particular skills and getting prime photos of iconic scenes. Others parts of the itinerary require flexibility, and you quickly learn how to adapt to the conditions and movement of animals. Sometimes the experience is about patience, waiting silently for the split-second opportunity to get a revered photo. At other times, you need to think quickly and find the angle when a million things seem to be playing out beside the safari vehicle.
On this 10-day itinerary, you spend nine full days on safari, exploring different parts of the Tanzanian ecosystem. Ngorongoro Crater's variety of habitats makes a good introduction to the challenges of wildlife photography. With contrasting lighting conditions and a full range of animals, the crater gives you a strong foundation for the rest of the safari. You descend into the Ndutu area, where the iconic photo is of the grass plains stretching out for eternity. The following couple days are spent in the Central Serengeti, where an array of animals makes for intimate photographic encounters.
Grumeti is a private concession on the western edge of the Serengeti. Drivers can take you off the trail here, bringing a focus on close-ups and wildlife portraits. It's here that you can get astonishingly close to many of the predators. Walking safaris provide further enchantment and a rare Serengeti vantage point. Complete the safari at a mobile camp that tracks the great wildebeest migration. For these final two days, the animals engulf the camp. There are photographic opportunities everywhere, but it can be challenging here, with so much happening from all directions. After honing the skills over the previous seven days, following the migration is a chance to get those inspiring shots that could feature on a magazine cover. Part of the photography lesson is selecting a handful of photos that can truly reflect the subtleties of the migration.
$4495 per person (excluding international flights)
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