Saturday, 31 January 2009
This is a 2 part review of the photo safari I've just completed in Tanzania with Andy Biggs. The reason for the two parts: first the photography bit with Andy and second the general safari bit organised by Thomson Safaris who handled booking and Andy's logistics in Tanzania.
The safari I took was the Andy Biggs' photographic safari in Tanzania, booked through Thomson. It covered 10 days incorporating the Serengeti, Ngorogoro and Lake Manyara - a classic Tanzanian itinerary but specifically set-up for photography and the needs of photographers.
Part 1: How nice is Andy?
A really nice guy. easy-going, friendly, helpful. Patient in helping teach people about their cameras and photography. At every level he had useful material to improve the quality of your pictures.
But the important stuff is behind the scenes - picking camp locations that offer the best access to wildlife. Setting a schedule that maximises good photographic opportunities, including times and locations. Working with the guides to determine the best chances of success. Ensuring power is available on camp (for charging batteries, running laptops etc). Making sure the vehicles are photgrapher friendly - size, layout, power, viewing platform.
A schedule that allows time at any interesting sighting is also perfect. Sometimes it takes 90 minutes - 2 hours to wait for things to happen. When they do, it is always worth the wait. This may seem like you get less viewing, quite the opposite. High quality wildlife viewing like that is far better than breezing by lots of stuff without time to fully appreciate it.
I will definitely contemplate taking another trip with him.
Part 2: How good are Thomson Safaris?
In a word: excellent. Logistics went without a hitch, from the initial contact for booking to final departure to the airport. Pre-trip they keep you informed, respond to email quickly, send out lots of high quality information. From the time of arrival at Kilimanjaro Airport through the trip to departure everything was smooth. Using their own staff, vehicles, camps makes for a better trip. This is not camping in any way I know it - more akin to a canvas-walled hotel. Food was excellent throughout.
The guides were all friendly and knowledgeable scouts. If your guide doesn't know about and can't find the wildlife, it wouldn't be much of a safari. As it was they were able to spot stuff from miles off, get us in the best positions with an eye to photography and let us know what was going on.
It's been a great trip and one I'd fully recommend for those so inclined. Expect to see more from me about safari and the trip in future posts.