Big game roams freely throughout Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve, situated in the Sabie Game Reserve in the South-Western section of the Greater Kruger National Park. The diverse habitat is home to spectacular wildlife including The Big Five – lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo and elephant – as well as cheetah, wild dog and some 200 other animal species indigenous to the area. A wildlife oasis, where you can observe at close quarters the age-old natural relationship between predator and prey. We’ve put together a list of recommended photography gear and accessories, setting suggestions and tips for your next trip.

Sabi Sabi Lodge

Recommended Gear

You get so close to the wildlife at Sabi Sabi that even with a good compact camera you’ll achieve fantastic shots. However, if you’re looking to take print-worthy shots, you’re going to need the flexibility of a good quality DSLR or mirrorless camera body.

Since you’re going to get so close to the wildlife, it’s not necessary to pack a huge lens. A zoom lens is your best option and offers a lot of flexibility. Fast lenses with an aperture of f/4 through to f/2.8 are best. Great all-purpose lenses in this range are the 70-200mm f/2.8, 200-400 f/4 and 100-400 f/5.6 lenses. With any one of these lenses, you’ll have enough speed to capture your subject beautifully sharp. Most camera kits come with a standard lens, but other than that, a lens with a 24-70mm range would be ideal to take landscape shots and general travel/people shots.

You can also look at prime lenses starting from 300mm and going up to 600mm. These lenses work wonderfully in low light conditions, are fast and offer shallow depth of field, giving your wildlife shot that sharp, focussed look with a beautifully blurred background. 

It’s worth having a 1.4 or 2x converter. This gives your lens a little more zoom when you need it –  especially when it comes to bird photography.

Sabi Sabi Lilac Breasted Roller


To get that perfect image, you will need to make sure your camera and lens are as stable as possible and you are shooting as fast as you can in the light offered.

Although a tripod isn’t practical on a safari vehicle, it’s a nice to have accessory in and around the lodge. A monopod is a popular choice for use on the open safari vehicle. Gimbal heads allow you to capture the action in all directions while giving you stability. Our top choice though is the simple bean bag – easy to travel with and offers support and mobility.

The African bush is a dusty place and it’s a good idea to keep your camera and lens in a protective bag. Tip: Don’t change lenses while out on safari. This can cause your camera sensor to become contaminated with dust particles, that you can’t see until it’s too late. 

To make memories, you’re going to need memory – a few memory cards and a hard drive is a must. The more you shoot the more your chances are of getting that prized shot after all!

Sabi Sabi Elephant
Sabi Sabi Leopard


Upon arrival, let the guides know that you enjoy photography and would like to take some nice photographs. The rangers are usually well trained in the art of photography. By letting them know, they’ll try to assist you as much as possible. On an open safari vehicle, there are three rows of seats, with each row a little higher than the one before. Try taking the front row or even the seat next to the ranger as you want to be as low to the ground as possible. You’ll either be shooting over the bonnet or the side of the vehicle so set yourself up accordingly.

Camera settings

If you understand a little more about photography and you’re confident with your camera here are a few tips.

  • Always shoot in RAW – this is so important! It uses more memory but this could just be the shot of a lifetime. Shooting on RAW, you’ll have more flexibility when it comes to the processing of the shot. 
  • For portrait and landscape shots, use Aperture Priority. This camera setting lets you choose the aperture and the camera automatically selects the camera speed for you. By doing this, you take control of the depth of field. In general, keep the aperture on f/6.3 and f/7.1. This ensures your entire photo is in focus. Make sure you get enough speed, especially when the light starts to fade. Remember the more speed you can get the better chance of the image being sharp.

If you plan to shoot lots of action shots then Shutter Priority might come in handy. To freeze an action shot you’ll need a shutter speed of at least 1/1600 sec and up, the camera will automatically adjust your aperture. Be aware that your aperture isn’t falling too low if it is pushing up your ISO again. Here you would probably leave the camera on ISO 800 all the time. This also ensures a lot of speed.


Most of the newer cameras allow you to move your focus sensor square around manually on the frame. Make sure you place the sensor on the eye of the animal where possible. A sharp eye gives the image a much sharper look. (You always want sharp eyes!)

Something to remember

In photography, the rule of thirds is a type of composition in which an image is divided evenly into thirds, both horizontally and vertically, and the subject of the image is placed at the intersection of those dividing lines, or along one of the lines itself. The rule of thirds places your subject on the left-third or right-third of the frame, creating a pleasing composition.

While portrait shots with animals that fill the screen are great, having an animal surrounded in its natural environment is sometimes even better. Try positioning the animal in the bottom corner of the image and make sure that the animal is looking into the frame. This is called the principle of thirds. So the idea is to put your subject in one-third of the frame normally the outside third. Try it – you’ll be amazed at the results.

Other than that, just have fun and shoot a lot of photos. Don’t be shy to fiddle around with your settings. Often you can transform a standard image into something very special.

Shop from a range of Sigma telephoto lenses and stand a chance to WIN a weekend away at the luxurious Bush Lodge at Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve.

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