Wildlife photography in Tanzania: where to go and top tips for getting that great shot

Vervet monkey, Lake Manyara National Park, Tanzania, (photo by Ariadne Van Zandbergen)
Vervet monkey, Lake Manyara National Park, Tanzania

One of our photographers, Ariadne Van Zandbergen, tells us why she loves taking photos in Tanzania and gives some top tips for taking great shots of wildlife on your trip.

Tanzania is hard to beat as a destination for wildlife photography enthusiasts. Because of this, I keep on coming back and I have visited the country over 10 times. I love visiting new places, but every safari is a fresh experience because of the unpredictability of the sightings. Every season is different too, and Tanzania’s parks are so vast that there are always new corners to discover or visit for the first time.

Sleeping leopard in a tree


Where to go to take photographs

I love the diversity of Tanzania’s parks. Especially the Northern Safari Circuit, which comprises the Serengeti, Tarangire and Lake Manyara National Parks, as well as the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The Serengeti is best for photographing predators such as cheetah, lion and leopard. Tarangire offers amazing elephant photography, while Lake Manyara is a scenic delight, with the Rift Valley escarpment towering over the shallow lake filled with flamingos and other birds. Best of all is the Ngorongoro Crater, whose forested walls forms a stunning backdrop for wildlife photography. 

Patas monkey, Serengeti National Park

 Blue monkey, Lake Manyara National Park
















Off the beaten track

These are top destinations, but I also enjoy getting more off the beaten track. The Southern Safari Circuit is less frequently visited but it offers some amazing photographic opportunities. One of my highlights is a boat ride down the Selous Game Reserve's Rufiji River to Stiegler’s Gorge. The landscape is breathtaking and I have possibly never seen such a number of huge crocodiles on one stretch of river. Getting close enough on the boat in low light conditions to get a good shot was a challenge, but in the end my efforts were rewarded.

Ruaha National Park has an interesting landscape, dotted with big baobab trees that make a great setting for wildlife photography. Here I like to focus on some of the more unusual antelope species like the stately greater kudu.

Mikumi is considered a bit of an overnight stop on the way to Ruaha, but although it lacks a bit in wilderness appeal, it doesn’t lack photographic opportunities. The waterholes attract a constant stream of animals. I especially loved photographing a big herd of buffalo kicking up dust as it nervously hurried in to drink and then disappeared back into the bush in a matter of minutes.

Buffalo with oxpeckers


Planning your trip

Booking a safari taking in these and other fantastic wildlife destinations is easy. So is equipping yourself with decent photographic gear, though this doesn’t guarantee great photos. The key to good wildlife photography is patience and anticipation. Sitting at a waterhole for an afternoon is a great way to get a feel for what it is all about.

Before heading off on safari, make sure to get to grips with all your camera settings, especially the relationship between shutter speed and aperture. Setting these variables should be automatic and you will curse yourself if you miss a great opportunity while you fumble around setting the camera.

I would also recommend spending a longer time in fewer places over rushing around from park to park or even country to country. It often takes a few days to get familiar with a place in order to plan some special shots or to be able to return to a den or bird colony at a better time of the day.

Elephants taking a dip


Top tips for wildlife photography

- Freeze the action by choosing a fast enough shutter speed. The actual settings required depend on the speed of your subject, but 1/1000s is a good starting point for action photography.

- Choose a large aperture (small f number) to blur the background for portraits. Pro lenses are larger and have larger apertures than amateur lenses.

- Focus on photography early in the morning and in the late afternoon when animals are more active and the light is more beautiful.

- Use adequate support for large wildlife lenses in the form of a beanbag, tripod or monopod.



Text and photographs by Ariadne Van Zandbergen


Inspired to go? Read more about Tanzania here, or visit the blog throughout December for great articles on what to see and do.