LivingTravelTop tips for enjoying a night safari in Africa

Top tips for enjoying a night safari in Africa

After dark, the African bush becomes a place of heightened senses, where predators roam and the darkness reverberates with strange calls and inexplicable whispers. The animals that wake up to the moon are different from those seen during the day, and most of them are players in a fight for survival that lasts until morning. Night safaris offer a unique opportunity to explore this alternate world and experience first-hand the wild drama of life after sunset. To keep you safe and limit the disturbance of nocturnal wildlife, night tours throughout Africa are generally led by professional guides.

In this article, we take a look at some important tips to get the most out of your night driving experience.

Wildlife sighting

By definition, watching wildlife at night is a completely different ball game than looking for animals during the day. After darkness, the colors fade into a myriad of shades of gray and his vision reaches into the beam of his flashlight. The night-driving vehicles are equipped with spotlights, which the guide uses to scan the bushes and illuminate the passing animals. Sometimes the guides will allow you to bring your own flashlight. Get permission in advance and opt for a spotlight with a strong, focused beam.

Even if you cannot bring your own light, you can help the guide in his search. Follow the torch light carefully, making sure to scan up into the trees as well.

Educate yourself on the nocturnal animals in the area before your overnight trip so you know where to look and how to identify them when you see them. Be on the lookout for eyes that gleam in torchlight and for irregular or moving shadows. Don’t expect to witness the slaughter of a lion or see a leopard on the prowl on your first outing. Night safaris are often about smaller species that are rarely seen during the day, including hares, porcupines, bushbabies, genets, and small cats. For bird watchers, night safaris offer the opportunity to add nocturnal species to your life list.

In particular, watch out for owls, night jugs, night herons, and stout knees.

What Brig

Staying comfortable is key to enjoying your night driving experience. Be sure to soak up plenty of bug spray before departure, as mosquitoes tend to be most active in the evening. This is especially important if you are staying in an area affected by mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue. Dressing warmly is important, and a warm hat, gloves, and even blankets come in handy on a night safari. Don’t be fooled by the high daytime temperatures or the fact that most night safaris start before dark.

Once the sun goes down, most destinations cool down quickly. A coffee flask serves the dual purpose of keeping you warm and counteracting the drowsy effect of driving at night. Don’t forget to pack your binoculars and your camera if you have one.

Take photos at night

Taking photos at night is difficult and, in some cases, impossible. However, while the lack of natural light undoubtedly hampers your ability to get good shots, there are a few tricks that could make the task easier. A flash (either built-in or external) provides an obvious solution to the light problem, but in most cases, the use of the flash disturbs nocturnal animals and is not allowed. Instead, use your camera settings to take advantage of available light, be it torchlight, the light of a full moon, or the last touches of sunlight before dark.

If you are using a compact camera, be sure to select the built-in ‘night’ setting. You should keep the camera as still as possible to avoid blurry photos when shooting without a flash.

Tripods, monopods, and beanbags help reduce camera shake, but are only effective when the vehicle is stationary. If you’re shooting with a DSLR, set your camera to manual mode. Set the f-stop as low as possible to increase the size of the aperture and allow more light to reach the camera’s sensor. Longer shutter speeds also allow more light; however, the longer your exposure, the blurrier moving subjects will be. Often the best option when shooting at night is to raise your ISO.

The higher your ISO, the more grainy your photos will be, but this is your best chance of getting enough light to capture your night driving experiences on camera. If an animal approaches the vehicle, use the handler’s beam lighting to illuminate your shot.

And finally…

Night trips offer a completely different perspective than day safaris, and for many of us, they represent the best African adventure. As always, sightings cannot be guaranteed, but if you treat the experience as an opportunity to immerse yourself in the wild world of the bush after dark, any animals you see are simply an added bonus.

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