Photo safari site guides, location guides or park guides as they are called, all serve the same purpose – to provide guidance and advice when planning your safari and while on safari.
You purchase the Photo safari site guides either as a hard copy book or as a downloadable eBook. In 2011 Amazon's eBook sales overtook those of hard copy books and they now sell about 114 electronic books for every 100 printed ones so most site guides tend to be PDFs.
Amazon's stats are just for their sales and a wider survey done by the Institute for Publishing Research shows printed books still outsell eBooks but eBook sales are catching up to those of printed books.
There are a number of reasons for the popularity of eBooks as the following graph shows...
Being able to get a book quickly - this is a big plus! I wanted to buy a few books this year and I was told by the book store that they will order the book from the USA and I could expect delivery in about 2-3 months! Who wants to wait that long for a book?
Reading books while travelling - this is a big plus for African safaris as you can bring as many eBooks as you like on your laptop, Kindle or other reading device with no hassle.
Having a wide selection to choose from - many publishers abused their power and were biased against some would-be authors in order to protect their existing authors. With eBooks their power is no more as authors can now publish their own eBooks. When we were compiling the Photographer's Guide to the Pilanesberg one of the large publishers in Cape Town expressed an interest and asked for a meeting, sample images, book draft and eventually told us that our book would compete with one of their existing authors! We knew there was a market for the book so went ahead with our existing eBook with no regrets that it was not printed.
Let’s now look at these Kruger-2-Kalahari ‘Photographer’s Guide’ series – they are Photo safari site guides, or eBooks, for visitors to Southern African national parks, that provide details about the parks specifically for photographers. They have been written by photographers who have spent years photographing in the parks, so you are in effect buying their collective years of experience.
The Photo safari site guides include details such as lodge and waterhole maps, what time of day to visit each waterhole, what animals you are most likely to see at or around each waterhole, what photographic equipment and techniques will be most effective, best drives in each area and various photographic lessons.
If you take a travel guide for the city of Paris for example, the map will show you various points of interest such as the Eiffel Tower and when you get to the spot, the tower is guaranteed to be there. The variable, however, will be the weather and people – it may be sunny, overcast or raining and there may be no people or many people, so you will have to adapt your photographic style to the situation.
Just like the tourist guide books, the Photo safari site guides show you exactly where the waterholes and other points of interest are but the variables are the animals and the weather.
So in order to get great photographs you must take the following three steps:
The Photo safari site guides provide you with specific advice on points 2 and 3 and an indication of animal hot-spots. Most animals need water daily so the waterholes tend to act like magnets, attracting herbivores that are the predator’s food-source but even so, predators are territorial, so they patrol large areas of land looking for food, marking the territories and looking for mates.
If you cannot find the animals there is nothing to photograph, so it is important that a visitor gets this first part right and this is where combining intelligence comes into play.
The visitor, after reading the site guide, will have an idea of where certain animals could be but you should then combine this with current data, so you should be reading the sighting books or sighting boards that can be found in all the camps that show daily sightings and/or you should be talking to other visitors and staff members to find out what they saw where.
By doing this, you will build an accurate picture of what area the predators are in today and then, that afternoon and/or the next day, you will know what area to patrol on your game drive in order to find the animal.
Site guides are great for self-drive visitors and also for visitors on guided safaris. The site guides provide detailed information on routes, waterholes and view-points, which will benefit self-drive visitors (and maybe even some safari guides!) but they also provide great information on photographing from within the camps (by day and night) and tips on photographing from different safari vehicles on night drives or day drives.
We have also found a trend where visitors are combining safaris - they will mix a self-drive safari with some guided game drives thereby getting the best of both worlds and so the site guides will provide a double benefit to these people.
So when buying the Photo safari site guides you need to have the right expectations and some people get it, but some don’t. Take this story from Hennie:
“I used your Photographer’s Guide to Etosha National Park while in Etosha this year and it was great! It really helped us to find and photograph the different animals in two ways:
The only animal we did not get to see on the trip was the cheetah and on the one day we were travelling on the detour road from Halali towards Okaukuejo looking for cheetahs and as we drove past a foreign couple we stopped to ask if they had any sightings. 'NO' was the answer.
They guy then elaborated and said he bought this Photographer’s Guide to Etosha eBook but the book is rubbish! The book said you can find Cheetah on this detour road, but he’s been up and down this road four times and there are no Cheetahs! I really had to hold it together not to start laughing! I told him that this is Africa, where you should take nothing for granted and every sighting as a blessing!"
The above story boils down to false expectations from the couple from Europe. Maybe they thought that Etosha is a big zoo where visitors could drive to each waterhole and find the animals waiting for them. There is very little excitement at a zoo and the wilderness offers the anticipation and thrill of the unexpected!
The photo safari site guides are just that – guides and not guarantees. So if you use these Photo safari site guides with this in mind it should provide you with most of what you want to see and maybe even some extras that you did not expect to find!
"It's 764 pages of the most amazing information. It consists of, well, everything really. Photography info...area info...hidden roads..special places....what they have seen almost road by road. Where to stay just outside the Park...camp information. It takes quite a lot to impress me but I really feel that this book, which was 7 years in the making, is exceptional." - Janey Coetzee, South Africa
"Having a passion for the region itself and having to know about all dynamics, water holes and ideal roads for a period of 6 years - I wish I had this guide on my first trip already!" - Morkel Erasmus, Secunda, South Africa
"Mario and Jenny take you to places that are not always visited, and their descriptions of the more remote camps will allow you to make an informed decision without wasting time and money" - Bob & Sherry Shepardson, DeBary, Florida, USA
"Your time and money are valuable and the information in this book will help you save both." - Don Stilton, Florida, USA
"I highly recommend the book to anyone visiting Etosha National Park to photograph the animals - or anyone considering an African photography safari in the future." - Anne Darling, Cognac, France
"As a photographer and someone who has visited and taken photographs in the Pilanesberg National Park, I can safely say that with the knowledge gained from this eBook, your experiences and photographs will be much more memorable." - Alastair Stewart, BC, Canada
"This work is so much more than an eBook, because it is also a guide, a tutorial, an inspiration and a must-have for anyone interested in wildlife photography" - Findtripinfo.com, USA