an elephant raises its trunk as it walks across the savanna

My Favorite Photography Accessories for an African Safari

It takes a lot of prep work to put an African photographic safari together, from the flights, to the perfect photo itinerary, to logistics, and then there comes the packing…

Whether you have an advanced point and shoot camera or a camera with interchangeable lenses, these camera accessories tend to be rather universal.  They will help elevate your photography game no matter what camera you have and no matter how much experience you have with wildlife photography.

Let’s get right into it…

lighting is perfect on two species of african plains game in kenya

Pack Towel

When I say a “pack towel” I really am referring to the small hand-towel-size towels you can get at outdoor stores, which are rather light and durable.  But frankly, just about any hand towel will do.  If you don’t have one of those, a bandana or even an old t-shirt will also do the trick.


The reason, though, is the key thing here. Everyone talks about stabilizers and camera bean bags, and things to help you brace your camera while on wildlife drives, and these can get pretty expensive and cumbersome.  However, you know what gets you about 95% there and is multi-purpose, way smaller, way less expensive, and super easy? A pack towel.

The gist is that for long-distance shots, or if you just really need a little extra stabilization, it helps to to brace your camera on the truck railing, a window, or a seat in front of you to help stabilize it.  However, often these will be bare wooden or metal railings, which means you’ll have your metal (or plastic) lens braced on metal or wood.  This doesn’t create a soft connection and might even pick up on the small bit of vibration if you move or shift your weight inside the vehicle.

female lions prowl around a safari vehicle in Botswana

The simplest trick is to drape a small towel over the railing, or tie the towel around the front of your lens and use that part to brace on the edge you’re using.  Voila!  You have a very portable, very easy way to brace your camera without all the fuss of larger stabilizers that might cause you to lose the shot.  And again, wrapping a bandana around your lens does just as well.

The towel is nice, though, because if you get a short rain shower in the very photogenic green season of Africa, you can dry it off.  Or, you can throw the towel over your camera while driving to protect it from dust.

Dry Bag

Although a towel can protect your camera from dust, I find a lightweight dry bag works best and takes up almost no room in your pack.

Simply place your camera in a dry bag (I like the 8 liter size for my camera, even with a big lens, but you’ll have to measure for your own) and you have top notch protection.  You don’t even have to close it up…just simply having the bag over will remove dust from the equation.

a set of dry bags of all sizes

The dry bag also helps as an extra layer of protection if you get caught in more rain than you expected, or if part of your photo safari itinerary includes places like Victoria Falls.

Small Travel Tripod

You can get some epic blue hour and night scenes while you’re on safari.  However, they don’t necessarily require a big tripod, and frankly due to safari luggage limits you usually don’t have space for a big tripod in the first place.  Thus, a small travel tripod, capable of holding your camera and wide angle lens, is fantastic.

In addition to great photos of evenings around the campfire, or meal time, photographing the tents or safari lodge as the light fades can give you some really amazing travel photos.  Because these all require something like a 0.5 to 4 second exposure, you really don’t want to be hand held or else you’ll get a blurry shot.

a blue hour photo of little kulala lodge at dinner time

I personally like the gorilla pod, as it’s quite versatile and very lightweight.  However, there are so many to choose from these days, just think about the size and weight of your camera, make sure the small tripod can hold it securely, and then go as small as you possibly can go.

Think of this tripod as an x-factor for getting a handful of shots in the trip that might turn out to be some of your very favorite of the entire photo expedition.

the cool blue of post-sunset silhouettes the baobabs of madagascar

Lens Pen

Microfiber cleaning cloths are great, and I think we all have a dozen of them by now.  However, if you are going to Africa, a lens pen does wonders if you end up getting more than just smudges on your camera lens, as dusty conditions are just part of the deal.  Rubbing dust off your lens, or off of your camera body, with a cloth stands to just rub it into the lens and could cause scratching. A lens pen has a soft brush that allows you to sweep the dirt away so that you can then use a cloth to clean as you’d like.

a lens pen for cleaning cameras

Extra Memory Cards

This one might be a no brainer, but I’m still going to say it.  Just when you think you have enough, get another 256gb card.  It’s amazing how many photos you’ll take when you’re on a quality photographic safari, and if you shoot on a fast frame rate (that is, multiple photos per second) you could go through hundreds of gigabytes in just one day.  I’ve never known anyone to have regretted picking up another memory card.

a 64gb memory card

And a pro-tip here, pay attention to the transfer rate of these cards.  The cheaper cards may be slower, such that you can’t capture multiple photos in a short window.  In other words, having a fast transfer rate (we refer to this cards as U3 cards) will allow you to take 20, 30, or more photos, even on big cameras, without skipping a beat.

larger elephants walk and protect a small young elephant in samburu kenya

If I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again—Africa is going to be amongst, if not the, highlight of your photographic career.  Make sure you have the right camera, make sure you’re on a great photographic safari itinerary, and make sure you have the accessories to keep your camera stable, safe, and functional.

Until next time, go forward and give it a shot!

Court Whelan Signature