Kruger Safari Accessories – 10 Absolute Essentials
Getting the best out of an African safari, whether self-drive or guided, means you’ll really need to give some prior thought to the accessories you have with you. It’s too late to be thinking about this when you’re in the middle of the action. This article will give you valuable tips to consider before you find yourself among the animals in Kruger. We used all of these essential Kruger safari accessories as we undertook our two month Kruger self-drive and they’ve been a winning combo for us.
Having bought our own Hilux 4×4 Bush Camper in South Africa, we started our Overlanding adventure in South Africa planning to travel as much of Africa as possible. This ex-safari vehicle is now our home and it has all we need to travel off-the-grid.
Take a look inside our bush camper here.
Our Top 10 Kruger Safari Accessories
Planning ahead for a Kruger South Africa safari by packing the essential safari accessories will pay dividends and ensure you make it the best experience you can. Really, you don’t need to kit yourself out with that much gear but we do consider all these to be the essential Kruger safari accessories. We use them all.
1. Modern Camera/ Lens Combination (for images and video)
Digital cameras are in abundance. With plenty of choice on the market, whether you choose to buy brand new or second hand, you shouldn’t have to re-mortgage for the purchase. Mobile phones do a pretty reasonable job too, especially for up-close footage but may fall short when you require extra resolution and/or depth of field.
Modern mobile phones are capable of capturing high quality images and videos
I shoot with a Sony a7III and Sony a6100 using an assortment of full-frame lenses. In Kruger National Park, ninety per cent of the time I keep the Sony 200-600mm FF lens on the a7III and find the a6100 mates well with my Sony 70-300mm FF for closer action.
During a game drive, my preferred method is to lie the Sony a7III + Sony 200-600 lens across my lap, keeping the Sony a6100 + Sony 70-300 lens either on the floor near my feet or lying ready in an open camera bag that sits partly on the armrest between the front seats. I keep both cameras powered on, in idle, and ready for action.
Cameras with lenses attached and ready for the draw
Why we like the Sony RX10IV
- A lightweight, weatherproof camera
- Does not require the changing of lenses
- Focal lengths with an equivalent 24mm to 600mm optical zoom
- 20MP, 1-inch sensor
- Blistering fast 0.03s auto-focus speed with 315 phase-detection autofocus points
- 24 frames per second
- Silent shooting
- Video quality is superb and 4K available
- Built-in stabilization
Why we like the Sony a7III
- 24MP full-frame sensor
- 693 phase detection auto focus points
- IBIS stabilisation
- 10 frames per second
- Silent shooting
- insane ISO range maxing out at 204,800
- 4K video
- 2 memory card slots
Why we like the Sony a6100 (APS-C camera)
- 24MP APS-C sensor
- Pocket-size camera
- 4K video
- 11 frames per second
- 425 phase-detection autofocus points
- Real-time Eye AF and Tracking
(Sony a6100 does not have in-body image stabilization but I get around this by using lenses that do have inbuilt image stabilization)
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African Wildlife Photography – Our Story so Far…
2. Camera and photographic accessories
It goes hand in hand that if you have a camera, you’ll likely have these too: 12V camera battery chargers; UV or ND camera lens filter and a tripod.
We always make a point of charging as many of our camera batteries during the night. Of course, during the day camera batteries discharge and need to be swapped out. To charge on the run, we only use 12V USB battery chargers meaning we can utilise the 12V charging capability using the cigarette lighter socket with a USB port (see more on the port below).
The Sony RX10iv and Sony a6100 share the same NP-FW50 battery so we have a few spares to fall back on, (actually 7 batteries in total). My trusty Sony a7III uses the NP-FZ100 of which I have a total of four.
12V battery chargers
Why did I include lens filters on the list? Here’s the thinking behind the decision. Our travel is planned to take us into the wilds of Africa, where camera repair/parts shops are few and far between. Scratching a lens is something I just don’t want to consider. To avoid scratched lenses, we’ve protected our lenses with filters: Hoya UV protective and Haida Circular Polarising filters (both are reputable brands). Damaged filters are easily replaced in the field, scratched lenses aren’t.
Although we each have a tripod, 99% of our time in Kruger we shoot hand-held on our self-drive safaris so the tripods have stayed in their cases.
This is really one of the non-negotiable Kruger safari accessories. You must pack binoculars. Whether you’re the type of person who is serious about photography or prefers to watch and soak it all in, binoculars are definitely your friend. There are many options with varied pricing, but before you make the best choice for your needs, you’ll need to understand the features first.
Not having owned binoculars before, I spent a fair amount of time on research to understand what was important before I purchased the Avalon 10×42 PRO HD model – a quality product. They have the best features for spotting wildlife and importantly, bought at a competitive price. I just want to mention that we have no affiliation with Avalon.
Avalon 10×42 Pro HD binoculars do a great job
These were the deciding factors as to why we chose these:
Magnification is represented by the number ‘10’ in the (10×42). The general agreement is a magnification of 8 to 10 for wildlife will do the trick. Going higher than x10 magnification makes it challenging to track moving animals due to the reduced field of view (discussed below).
It’s best to give an example from our Kruger safari to show the importance of binoculars.
In the below image, taken from the window of our 4×4 Hilux near Shingwedzi camp, can you spot the leopard?
This is typical of the view you have from a vehicle during a game drive when you aren’t using binoculars or a zoom lens. Ok, there’s a pair of elephants .. but is that all?
Think like a leopard…where would he prefer to be?
The leopard is really hard to spot with the eye
You’d miss this spectacular sight without binoculars/zoom lens
Shelley experienced this great magnification of our binoculars when she slowly backed away from this scary encounter: Conversation with a Leopard.
Objective Lens diameter
Shown as the number ‘42’ in the 10×42, this number is normally found on the inside circumference (in mm) of the objective lenses (the two lenses that aren’t placed on the eyes), and is representative of the amount of light that can pass through.
The greater the number, the greater the amount of light the binoculars allows. This transfers directly to a brighter image which is especially apparent in low light conditions. This greater lens size also means a larger physical size.
This allows a person wearing glasses to adjust the eyecups (what you look through) by twisting them in or out to ensure a good field of view. On the Avalon (my binoculars) this is rated at 15mm which is an average value. For those that don’t need to wear glasses, then eye relief won’t be a concern.
BAK-4 Roof Prism
BAK-4 is the glass-type (found in the Avalon binoculars) which is known for its well defined and brighter images. The Roof Prism acts as a mirror to reflect incoming light and works on a different light-gathering technique to the alternative Porro Prism (which may suffer from prisms being knocked out of alignment). Roof Prisms by design are small and light which makes for a perfect travel item.
You can check if you have BAK-4 glass by reversing the binoculars and looking at a light source through the exit pupils. You will see that the circular light pattern will be round and evenly lit.
Still undecided on binocular selection? Below is a video hosted by Orms, a photography wholesaler based in South Africa, which steps through the different features of binoculars and explanations on what the buyer should consider when buying.
Field of View
Field of View (FOV) is the angle of horizontal view you can see when keeping the binoculars still over a standard distance of 1000 yards. The FOV value is either measured in feet / 1000 yards or represented as an angle. In my case, the Avalon has a 283 feet FOV or 5.4° which falls into the typical range of values which are generally agreed to fall between 220 and 520 yards or the equivalent 5° to 10°.
Closest focusing distance
This the closest distance from the binoculars that an object can be properly focused. The Avalon is rated to 3m.
Waterproof and Fog proof
Weatherproof binoculars is another important consideration. Just because it’s foggy or raining doesn’t mean you won’t see wildlife. The Avalon binoculars score two ticks for both water and fog proofing.
This allows the focus to be adjusted on one of the eye-cups to compensate for the difference between your eyes. Another important feature especially when you share binoculars and the focus can be quickly adjusted just by tweaking the diopter adjustment.
Binoculars on the dash – pride of place
If you intend on sharing binoculars then they need to be comfortable for all especially someone with small hands. The Avalon is a comfortable 14.3 x 12.4cms, a perfect size for the wife and myself.
Lighter binoculars are easier to hold to the eyes for long periods and if you intend on hanging them around your neck, then the lighter the better. The Avalon weighs in at a comfortable 550g and is a good light-weight option.
Carrying Case, Lens Covers and Eye-cup covers
It is important to keep dust and debris off your equipment when you can and these features should form part of the overall purchase price and not available as an additional option. All included in the price of the Avalon binoculars.
4. Tablet or iPad (with GPS capability)
It’s great to see where you are located in Kruger National Park. If you are expecting network signal for your phone or tablet then think again. You’ll need to rely on offline maps. Make sure your device has built-in GPS capability. Personally, we use Tracks4Africa digital maps loaded via the app onto a Samsung tablet. We can see the different routes, campsites and a whole lot of extra useful travel information. Tracks4Africa also loads onto Apple devices. For a free offline map option, take a look at the Maps.Me app.
Instead of leaving our tablet to bounce around inside the cab, we mounted it on the dash using magnetic holders that have a 3M sticky backing. It works very well.
Magnetic holders are stuck to the surface
Magnets are good for phones and tablets
5. Camera Bean Bag
In Kruger National Park, most of the wildlife photography is done from the vehicle. It’s all about holding the camera steady and depending on the scene, this may be for a good length of time.
A bean bag is a good alternative to holding your camera/lens and it dampens any wobble. There are different types of bean bag, but the one with the ears that support the bag on each side on the window is the most stable.
We bought a couple of empty camera bean bags (as they pack down nicely when travelling) and simply filled them with rice once we reached our destination. The bean bag is great from the passenger seat but space is pretty restricted from the driver’s seat and because of this I (as designated driver) prefer to rest my arm on the open window sill when holding my camera and 200-600mm lens.
Camera bean bag overlaps the window sill
6. Wildlife and Map Reference Material
While there are many, many reference books on the fauna and flora of Kruger, a really comprehensive app for iPhone or Android is the KrugerExplorer. It includes info on Kruger campsites, flora, fauna, routes and maps; pretty much a one-stop-shop and the app is regularly updated. It a great one-stop wildlife reference for any photo safari.
We can honestly say that the KrugerExplorer app is a worthwhile investment (USD$9.99) at the time of writing this article, and an added bonus is that you can log your sightings.
Check out our comprehensive guide of everything you need to know for a Kruger National Park self-drive Safari here.
KrugerExplorer App … a great resource in the field
While we’re talking apps, we plan our safaris using the comprehensive Tracks4Africa which covers routes, campsites, fuel stops and a whole lot more valuable information for the traveller. Choose different Tracks4Africa products that load onto a laptop/tablet or pick the hard copy maps and traveller atlases. There are plenty of choices and everything is professionally finished.
This is applicable if you are using a camera. To choose the right memory card, you’ll need to know what your camera buffer size and the memory card write speed. Choose a memory card that equals or exceeds the write speed. Why?
Shooting fast action in a continuous long burst will fill the camera buffer which then needs to write to the memory card. A memory card with a slow write speed will slow the transfer of images from camera to card. This will limit how many extra images you can take whilst the buffer is trying to empty.
A memory card has important information on the card itself. Here you can read more about the different card specifications from a respected memory card manufacturer, Kingston. We’ve never had a memory card fail on us but buying reputable brands as outlined in this B&H article will give you stress-free shooting. We choose and place our faith in Sandisk memory cards.
Always choose a reputable brand of memory card
8. Waterproof Camera Bag
Having a water-proof camera bag or at least a bag that has an external ‘waterproof cover’ will protect your expensive gear. There are the back-pack type or the messenger bag. It all depends on how much equipment you are travelling with.
I have the Vanguard Alta Rise 48 which allows me to carry two cameras (Sony a7III, Sony a6100) plus the Sony 200-600mm, Sony 24-105mm and Tamron 70-180 plus filters, batteries, cleaning equipment and tablet. The camera bag is not just handy when hiking, but also when on safari in our Hilux, the bag sits open between the front seats where I can lie one or both of cameras inside.
The Alta Rise 48 also has waist securing straps for a comfortable fit
9. Gimbal for Mobile Phone
Hand-holding a phone when taking videos is ok but utilising a gimbal gives the end result a really slick and professional look to the footage. It removes the movements we induce like the steps we take when walking or the wobbles when holding a camera. There are many options but we chose the Benro 3XS Lite based on good reviews for long battery life, removable tripod and competitive price.
Benro 3XS Lite
10. 12V USB 3-Port Splitter
As mentioned earlier in this article, we’ve purposely chosen our equipment based on the ability to charge off 12V. That includes our tablets, gimbal, mobile phones and camera battery chargers for all three of our cameras. It’s been a super-handy and cheap investment allowing multiple devices to charge at the same time. Great, when you are out on safari the whole day. You can even find some guided safari vehicles that have accessible USB 12V ports.
USB Splitter, a very handy item
Kruger Safari Accessories – That’s a Wrap
Having spent over three months on safari in both Kruger and Greater Kruger, we’ve worked out which Kruger safari accessories really make a difference and work. They are practical and most importantly, we rely on them all, each and every day.
Sharing our success with these Kruger safari accessories has been the purpose of this article. I hope it has sparked some extra thought around what you will need before you head off on your own safari. I’d really be interested to hear if you swear by, or have had success with other accessories? Drop a comment below and thanks for dropping by.
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