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The 10 Best Animals to Photograph on a South African Safari

Lana Goodwin

Author: Lana Goodwin - 20 February 2024

Last Update: 24 April 2023

Part of the South Africa Trips & South African & African Safari Collection

Are you looking to capture the beauty of South Africa’s wild animals on your next safari? Then look no further. This guide will show you 10 of the most popular animals to spot on a South African safari, along with expert tips.

Elephants in South Africa.
Elephants in South Africa.

From lions and leopards to elephants and wildebeest, learn about each animal’s behavior so you can take beautiful photos that will last a lifetime. 

An introduction to photographing South Africa’s Wildlife

South Africa is a wildlife photographer’s paradise. From the “Big Five” (lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos, and buffalos) to the colorful birds and reptiles, the country boasts an impressive range of wildlife species. 

Southern double collard sunbird in South Africa.
Southern double collard sunbird in South Africa.

Photographers can also marvel at the incredible landscapes that serve as the backdrops for these magnificent creatures. Whether you’re a seasoned professional or an amateur adventurer, photographing South Africa’s wildlife will surely leave you with unforgettable images and experiences. With the right preparation and guidance, you can capture the beauty and essence of this incredible destination.

Lions

Lions are majestic creatures and capturing them on camera can be a thrilling experience. When photographing lions, it’s crucial to keep a safe distance and never provoke them.

Lions in South Africa.
Lions in South Africa.

Pay attention to lighting and composition, as this can make or break your lion photos. Experiment with different angles and try to capture their natural behavior, whether they’re lounging in the sun or hunting for prey. 

Leopards 

To capture these magnificent predators in your photographs, there are a few tips that can make a big difference. First, consider the lighting – early morning and late afternoon light can give your pictures a warm and dramatic feel.

Leopard in South Africa.
Leopard in South Africa.

Additionally, try to focus on the leopard’s eyes and face to capture their intense gaze. Another tip is to use a fast shutter speed to freeze the leopard’s movements and showcase their power and grace. 

Wildebeest 

Wildebeest are a popular subject for wildlife photographers. First and foremost, be patient and observant – take your time to watch their movements and behavior to anticipate the perfect shot. Secondly, consider the lighting – early morning and late afternoon provide the best natural lighting for photography.

Blue wildebeest in South Africa.
Blue wildebeest in South Africa.

Lastly, try to get down to the same level as the wildebeest for a more intimate and dramatic perspective on their journey. 

Elephants 

Elephants have a calm and deliberate energy, and taking the time to watch and understand their movements can lead to beautiful, natural shots.

Elephants in the Kruger National Park.
Elephants in the Kruger National Park.

They’re definitely one of the highlights of a South African safari. When framing your photos, consider the size and scale of the elephants – capturing them in their vast, natural environment can add depth and perspective to your shots. 

Rhinos 

Rhinos are fascinating creatures that have been capturing the imagination of wildlife photographers for decades. The key to successfully photographing rhinos is to be patient and observant.

Rhino and calf in the Kruger National Park.
Rhino and calf in the Kruger National Park.

Utilize the natural light to your advantage, and experiment with different angles for unique and striking shots. 

Giraffes 

Giraffes are one of the most majestic animals in South Africa. However, capturing a great photo of a giraffe can be a challenge.

A giraffe walking in the African savannah of Limpopo Province, South Africa.
A giraffe walking in the African savannah of Limpopo Province, South Africa.

You’ll want to consider the lighting and background of your shot, as well as the angle and composition of the image. 

Zebras 

Zebras are fascinating animals to photograph, with their striking stripes and graceful movements.

Zebra in Karoo National Park, South Africa.
Zebra in Karoo National Park, South Africa.

Make sure to focus on the zebra’s eyes – they’re the most expressive part of their face. Secondly, try framing them in interesting ways by using the surrounding environment or other animals in the scene. Experiment with different lighting conditions to create dramatic effects. 

Cheetahs 

Cheetahs are magnificent creatures that roam the African savannah with unparalleled speed and grace. Photographing these elusive cats can be a challenging yet rewarding experience for photographers.

Cheetahs near Ceres, South Africa.
Cheetahs near Ceres, South Africa.

You’ll want to be patient and observe their movements before attempting a shot. It’s also essential to use a fast camera shutter to capture their lightning-fast movements. 

Wild Dogs 

These dogs are social animals that travel and hunt together in large packs. Capturing the perfect shot of these animals can be quite challenging, but also very rewarding.

African wild dogs in the Kruger National Park.
African wild dogs in the Kruger National Park.

Use a zoom lens with a focal length of at least 300mm, so that you can capture your subjects from a safe distance. You should be prepared to move quickly, as wild dogs are known to be very agile.   

Hippos

Photographing a hippopotamus is a thrilling experience that requires skill and patience. These massive creatures can be quite unpredictable, so it’s important to keep a safe distance while still capturing their impressive size and power.

Hippo with an opened mouth.
Hippo with an opened mouth.

Look for interesting angles and perspectives, such as a close-up of their snouts or a shot from a low angle to emphasize their height. Keep in mind the lighting conditions – early morning or late afternoon can provide a warm, golden light that creates a dramatic effect.


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Copyright © Discover Africa Safaris | The 10 Best Animals to Photograph on a South African Safari | Last Updated: 20 February 2024