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What you should know before packing your drone for safari

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Vihann Van Wyk

Safari Travel Planner

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Vihann Van Wyk

Author: Vihann Van Wyk - 1 December 2017

Last Update: 10 May 2024

In recent years drone technology has been made available to the public and with it has come a tremendous amount of stunning global footage gathered by drone users from a multitude of destinations. Seeing the world from a bird’s eye view has never been easier, nor more convenient.

somalisa camp hwange national park zimbabwe drone safari footage game drive

Image: Somalisa Camp 

Drone photography safari is an emerging and exhilarating trend in aerial videography that is starting to take root in our lives. The costs of buying and maintaining a drone are also reducing due to rapid improvements in drone technology. It is therefore no surprise that we are getting more and more inquiries from our guests who would like to take their drones on safari.

african safari

Before you start packing up your drone, consider the rules and regulations that now govern drones in both public and private reserves:

1. Issues and Concerns

The primary concern of every game reserve in Africa is the wildlife they are protecting. Studies show that flying drones back and forth over animals’ heads can result in them becoming highly stressed. There have been several examples of such incidents.

In one of these instances, the inconsiderate use of drones over a herd of wildebeest made them panicky and as a result abandoned a necessary river crossing. There have also been recorded cases of protective elephants taking fleeing with their young in panic.

If you’ve never seen an elephant on the run, trust us, it’s both dangerous for the elephant and for those who end up in the way.

kruger national park safari south africa drone above elephant herds

The standard rule for a wonderful safari is this; your actions should never affect wildlife while you are observing them. While it can be agreed that drone videography and film make for some incredible material, your use of drones can have an adverse effect on the natural behavior of the very wildlife you wish to observe.

Another important consideration is that of your fellow guests. People travel across continents to be in the wild landscapes of Africa, and once they are there, the moment of a lifetime can be easily and quickly ruined by the monotonous buzzing of a drone.

A rare event or animal sighting on safari could be ruined for everyone in an instant. Moreover, questions about drones compromising one’s privacy are also points of contention.

2. Laws Concerning Drones on Safari

Generally, drones are not allowed in national parks. South Africa was the first country to ban the use of unmanned aerial vehicles in all their national parks. The consequences of breaking these no-fly zones are severe. One can be arrested and their equipment seized by authorities.

Botswana soon followed suit and made all their wildlife sanctuaries and game parks restricted fly zones. Nevertheless, it’s possible for tourists to apply for a permit that allows them to fly drones in some of Botswana’s parks.

A caveat to these grants is that if caught operating a drone in a manner that disturbs the natural behavior of animals, one could be fined up to $470.

In Kenya, permission by way of permit is required from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) before operating a drone and failure to do so can carry a fine of up to $490.

Other countries require you to get a permit before flying a drone by registering with the relevant authority.

3. Private Reserves

Some private parks and enterprises allow their clients to use drones for filming and photography. However, you will likely need to lease your own safari vehicle at an extra cost to ensure you do not get in the way of other safari goers.

When using your drone, you should carefully observe the natural behavior of the animal you are capturing.

Olonana camp masai mara kenya safari drone

If you really want to enjoy Africa’s landscape and wildlife from a bird’s eye view and drones are not permitted on the reserve you are visiting; you should consider taking a flight around the national park.

Flights offer spectacular views of these incredible landscapes and don’t add much to the total cost of your safari.

Travel tips:

  • Drones may not be flown near air traffic control bases, airports, highways, government buildings, prisons, or any other political institutions.
  • You may not fly a drone across a border post.
  • Drones may not fly higher than 150m from the ground.

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