- Getting ready before you go
- While on Safari
It is coming to prime safari season in India, so I here are my trips to anyone heading out into the wilds to get the best of your time. At first I thought that this would be a short post, but it turned out to be longer than I expected and I have now decided to split it into two parts. This is the second part which is orientated to tips whilst you are actively on the safari.
II. While on Safari
In Part I of this post, getting ready to go, I covered some tips for getting ready before you are actually on Safari. This section contains advice of what to do while you are out. I hope it helps, and if you have another bits of advice I've neglected to mention, let me know in the comments. :) What do you do to make the most of your safaris?
I am going to start with what I think is the more import part of an safari. It is what i call, jungle karma. If you go into the jungle with expectations of, lets say seeing a tiger, and all you are focusing on is a tiger, unless you see a tiger, you will be disappointed. More over, even if you see a tiger, it might not be as good a sighting as you want, and again you might be disappointed. This narrow minded focus also means you will miss a lot of other fantastic sightings that might occur. So, for me, I go into the jungle to enjoy the jungle, and I feel that if I enjoy everything the jungle has to offer, it will offer more things for me to enjoy. I am a scientist by training and have no evidence to back this up, but at the least I find it keeps me in a good frame of mind to enjoy the jungle in its entirety, and you will get to discover other hidden gems people miss. This can lead to some unique images.
Prepare to be spontaneous
Don't stress about your plans, they probably won't pan out anyway, so you need to be prepared for any possible eventuality. Pay attention to light changes and change your settings accordingly, I have seen many people miss shots because they were not ready! Read more about this here.
The vehicle does not matter
No matter if you are in a private jeep, or crammed into a canter style bus, there is no such thing as the 'best' car when it comes to sightings. It comes down to luck and the skills of the naturalist and driver. One of my favorite vehicles in Kabini, is the canter bus... Why? Well let me explain the pros and cons of each type of vehicle.
- Quieter and you feel closer to nature
- Quicker and more nimble which is good for getting to sightings
- Low, so you can get down to eye level
- If you can get the front seats, you can rest your lens on the roof of the cab (with a bean bag)
- Often cramped, not much room for your extra gear if busy
- Once you are sat, you can move much
- Because you can't move too much, it is pure luck if you get the good angle or not
- Not great when it rains... :)
Open bus / Canter
- More comfortable seats (generally)
- More space means you can bring more gear with you
- You can move from left/right, front/back to get more unobstructed angle
- Being higher up is great for leopard-up-a-tree shot, as you get closer to eye level (hence why I like it for Kabini)
- Weather is less of an issue. :)
- Noise... it can be load
- More people means more chance of chatter that can get annoying. But then again, this is really random chance
- Being higher up is not so great for low angle shots
- It is harder to feel in nature when in a tank!
There is no point stressing about being in that jeep or that canter... be happy to be on safari and remember, luck plays a big part in sightings... :) So don't stress about it, and relax... The same also applies to seating.... it does not really matter where you sit either.
Be polite to the naturalists and drivers
These guys spend their lives working to show us the best possible sightings, so be polite. If you are not, they won't feel as motivated to give it their best... So appreciate their efforts, it is not there fault that we don't see anything, it is just bad luck.
Trust that they know their forest better than you, as they probably do. They are the ones that make a real difference, they know the terrain and animal behaviors.
You will learn a lot from them, and they are all nice chaps, so talk to them when you have the opportunity.
At the end of a safari with them, tip them, especially if it was not a good safari regarding sightings, as they would have worked a lot harder in that one. It does not have to be a big tip, but show them that you appreciate the hard work and effort that they do!
We are guests in the forest, so be quite and enjoy the noises of the forest. It is also very important that the naturalist and others can listen to the forest for signs of wildlife. One of the best ways of tracking cats is to listen to warning calls that come from their prey. This can only be done if you are quite. On another note, I love just listening to the sounds of the jungle too, and sometimes you have to quite for a while before the noises of the wildlife resume. :)
Don't hog the spot
This is basic safari etiquette. If you have the best line of sight, take your shots, and move on. Next time you might not be the lucky ones and will be grateful for others being fair and giving you a chance. This is not only in terms of jostling with other vehicles to get the position, but also within your vehicle too!
It is also a matter of respect for the subject. We are in their home, so don't crowd them and let the have their space. If you are always crowding them and trying to get closer, everyone else will be fighting for space too and everyone will loose!
So, don't hog the spot, be mindful of your fellow humans and fauna alike!
Talk to other people and learn as much as you can. Everyone works and co-ordinates together to track and find the best sightings, so be a part of it. You will learn more from getting involved! If you see something speak up... false alarms are fine, missing a sighting is less so! :)
Don't be competitive
Sometimes you get the sightings, and sometimes you don't. Try not to feel annoyed if other had a great sighting and you did not... it will always happen, and if you let it get to you, it is you who will suffer. So be happy with other peoples sightings too, and know, eventually, it will be you who has the amazing sighting!
Being on an Indian safari is a great networking opportunity! Not only to connect to the people on your vehicle, but also in the dead time between and safaris and in the evenings. Share your stories and tips, and a few drinks too maybe.... I've met many a great and life-long friend this way (you know who you are). I can not tell you how many times the friends I have met on Safari have led me on some great adventures, or at the least provided some great stories!
Don't forget the 'little' things
You have your shot list, but don't get too focused on it. it is there to remind you of what you want, that is all, so keep an eye out for other things to shoot. Use the time in between sightings to hone your skills on any subject; this way you will be prepared when there is a great opportunity. It will mean you don't get complacent, you will always get images, and you are documenting the entire place and not 'just' the tiger/bear/leopard/elephant etc...
I have also found some great sightings when waiting for the tiger/leopard/bear... These butterflies were overhead, and I only noticed them because we had stopped listening to some warning calls.
Put your camera down and enjoy the forest. the noises, the animals the opportunities. We love nature, that is why we take pictures of it in the first place... So don't forget to just enjoy the moments, as well as photographing them! :)
If you want more tips, check out my FREE eBook with advice to improve your wildlife and nature photography!