As my friends and the readers of this web site already know, I am ready to leave for a photo safari in Kenya. In such a trip, the question of what you need to bring with you is always an important one. As a matter of fact, you cannot (or don’t want to) be loaded like a beast of bruden, but it would be a pity to travel 10,000 km to discover that you forgot an important part of your photo equipment or that you are taking an unexpected risk.
If my bag description can be considered representative or useful (I still try to make it as simple as possible), I invite you to check it with me.
First things, first: I need to consider what photo equipment to bring with me (keeping in mind that I am now defintely a digital photographer despite my previous life with argentic films).
- A bag (Lowepro or similar) or a case: I am not sure that I can definitely choose between them; For a long time, I used a metal case that was the perfect protection but is so heavy that I tend to leave it behind; Now, I prefer a flexible shoulder bag or a good backpack with fair protection (like my new Lowepro Mini Trekker AW).
- An SLR body: my Konica-Minolta Dynax 7D, of course.
- Possibly a spare SLR body: But only if this is not too much weight and too much money drain (you can never protect you against all the risks, anyway).
- Tele-lens: You’re going to photo-hunt animals, so you need a long tele (like my old faithful Sigma 400mm f/5.6) even if the diaphragm aperture is not very large which should not be much of a problem in a sunny country like Kenya.
- Tele-lens: in some case, light will be more limited than the possibility to approach the animals; Maybe not in Kenya, but photo in the dawn or at sunset could be more difficult without a good large aperture tele-lens like my Minolta 200mm f/2.8 ApoG; It will come with me.
- A trans-standard zoom: Think about landscapes too (a nice little postcard as a souvenir of the trip is not something you will want to avoid; traveling is also a matter of keeping image of nice countries).
- A flash, preferably a powerful one since it will only be used in wide wild spaces when you will try to add a touch of light to a photo at the end of the day; I bring the Minolta 5600HS D (A powerful cobra flash that is quite compact).
- Memory cards: 2 Flash cards of 1GB capacity (think redundancy).
- A portable disk drive to empty the Flash cards: The Compact Drive PD70X (60 GB version) that you saw described here for the few last months (fast, compact, operating from standard LR6/AA batteries).
- Spare batteries: It weights nearly nothing and it would be awful to wait for a full charge of the battery before being able to go back to your (not so) patient animal models.
- polarizing filter,
- supplementary macro lens for the random macro photo,
The traditional bag
Of course, we are not only photographers, we are mere travellers. There, the good advice of our mothers or families are welcome as they were the first time we left our homes:
- Bring clothes chosen according to the local climate and weather (your agent will give you sound advice, of course). For Kenya, remember that it is a hot country (light clothes, soft trousers, bermudas or jean and T-shirts), that the sun is high in the sky around the equator (a hat or a cap and prefer long sleeves), but that it may be cold or humid at night (a pull over and a K-Way or a poncho will be going to the bottom of the bag).
- Bring the battery cahrgers, preferably checking what kind of plugs are needed (either 12V plug in a car, or 100-245V main local power with adaptation plugs).
I think that a few other things may be useful and it is not always easy to remember about them:
- Some cash: for the tips (or backshish’s in some countries), without forgetting that the Euro is becoming more and more indentified in the world, but that the US dollar language is still understood everywhere around the globe.
- Your vacine shots should be up-to-date and you need to bring the adequate malaria/paludism drugs: In France, the Institut Pasteur (English pages) will tell you all about these and could even be where you will get your vaccines; Beware! This is something too many tourists tend to forget. The cost of the shots and drugs is very significant and there is usually a minimum delay between the shots and the beginning of the trip.
- An insect repllent: Critically important in geographical zones submitted to the risk of malaria where a repellent associated to long sleeves and a night mosquito net are still the best protection against this dangerous endemic sickness.
- Your passport possibly with the needed visa: Always check early at the embassy of the country you want to got to (and also of the countries you may have to stop into during a plane stop-over); This is not always as difficult as with the United States of America where regulations are toughened every year, but a missing visa may be ruining your travel and leaving you at home (without any possible solution).
- Last but not least, do not forget the plane ticket and other tickets or documents provided by your travel agent.
To conclude these lists, I would like to point that, even if most of these ideas are coming from my own thinking and research, I want to thank Objectif Nature which provided a very good way to check all this with its own travel checklist (Objectif Nature is also the agent I use to plan and organize my own Kenya photo safari in 2006).