100-400mm ONLY in the Botswana’s Okavango Delta

The 100-400mm focal range has to be one of the most popular, versatile and accessible focal ranges to buy into. Whether you shoot Canon DSLR (100-400mm) Mirrorless (100-500mm RF), Nikon (80-400mm or 200-400mm) or prefer to use third party lenses like Sigma (150-600mm) on your choice of camera brand, the chances are that you have this focal range in your camera bag.

But is it enough, and in this particular instance, is it enough for a photographic safari to Botswana's Okavango Delta?

Flying into the Okavango Delta in a small aircraft (iPhone)

When considering your choice of focal length you'll need to take a couple of variables into account. Things like the type of vegetation (open grassland versus mixed woodland), the ability to venture off road and get closer to your sightings or not, weight restrictions on internal flights (usually very strict and limited to between 15 and 20kg's per person inclusive of hand luggage.

For the purposes of this blog I'll be sharing images and my experience from a recent 7 night trip to Chitabe Camp in the South Eastern reaches of the Okavango Delta. Chitabe is a camp which i have been visiting for more than 10 years now and is one of three camps in the Okavango Delta which we include in our 9 Night Botswana Wilderness Safari itinerary.

Chitabe is in a private concession and not in a National Park/Game Reserve which means that we are able to venture off road. This makes a massive difference for a photographer and impacts the quality and duration of sightings as well as the ability to re-position and get closer to the action. It is important to keep this in mind with regards to focal length as you'd be likely to need a greater focal length if you were not able to venture off road and get closer to a sighting.

100-400mm in Botswana
The Tsame Pride on the move. Captured at 100mm and F10.

For this particular trip I was carrying quite a bit of gear for the guests joining me which they had rented. This included:

  • Canon 400mm F2.8 MKIII + 2X and 1.4X Converters
  • Canon 300mm F2.8 MKII + 1.4X Converter
  • Canon 200-400mm F4.0 with built in 1.4 x Converter

Quite a bit to carry as you can imagine (don't ask how I managed all of this) so when deciding on what gear I was going to shoot with I kept it simple and compact. The canon 1DX MKIII paired with the 100-400mm MKII.

This combo feels like an extension of me. It's light, compact and very versatile. We don't do a lot of night drives in the delta so the maximum aperture of F4.5 rather than 2.8 on something like the 70-200mm F2.8 didn't worry me to much. If I wanted to shoot a bit wider than 100mm and capture more of the scene I could easily shoot a couple of portrait images and stitch them together in Lightroom - easy peasy.

In terms of extra reach, there will always be times where you want to get a bit tighter but, for the most part, a slight crop will make all the difference. Something to keep in mind when reviewing this gallery is that the 1DXMKIII is a a 20.1 MP camera so, if i have cropped slightly to get to the final image, its not like I'm "cheating" and showing you what can be achieved with the 100-400mm on something like the 45MP Eos R5.

Canon 1DX MKIII and 100-400mm EF MKII at 400mm
Canon 1DX MKIII and Canon 100-400mm EF MKII at 400mm
Canon 1DX MKIII and Canon 100-400mm EF MKII at 400mm
Canon 1DX MKIII and Canon 100-400mm EF MKII at 400mm
Canon 1DX MKIII and Canon 100-400mm EF MKII at 400mm
Canon 1DX MKIII and Canon 100-400mm EF MKII at 400mm
Canon 1DX MKIII and Canon 100-400mm EF MKII at 360mm
Canon 1DX MKIII and Canon 100-400mm EF MKII at 106mm
Canon 1DX MKIII and Canon 100-400mm EF MKII at 140mm, Panorama Stitched in Lightroom.
Canon 1DX MKIII and Canon 100-400mm EF MKII at 400mm
Canon 1DX MKIII and Canon 100-400mm EF MKII at 400mm
Canon 1DX MKIII and Canon 100-400mm EF MKII at 400mm
Canon 1DX MKIII and Canon 100-400mm EF MKII at 400mm

So, whilst the 100-400mm focal range may be a bit short for the big open plains and expanses in East Africa where you may want a bit of extra reach, it certainly can be put to good use and capture a wide range of images in the Okavango Delta - and many other destinations.

Add to that the fact that weight restrictions on internal flights between camps in the Okavango delta limit you to just 20kgs' in TOTAL and you'd be hard pressed to find a better contender when it comes to size, weight and focal range. Oh, and if you're wondering how we get away with just 20kg's when the average camera bag weighs just about that, our scheduled departures to Botswana always include an additional freight seat which bumps up the total luggage allowance to just over 30kg's per guest.

Is 100-400mm enough in Botswana's Okavango Delta?


Andrew Beck

Travel to Botswana's Okavango Delta with Wild Eye

The Best of Botswana

Botswana's Okavango Delta is arguably one of the most diverse and game rich wilderness areas in Africa.

Combining four unique parks, this tour will expose guests to some of the most diverse game viewing and scenery that Botswana has to offer. From crystal clear waters found in the Okavango Delta, to the dry and harsh conditions of Savute and finally ending off on the Chobe River, this adventure is one for all wildlife enthusiasts.

Mobile camping allows for ultimate freedom and flexibility whilst providing the opportunity to be exposed to multiple wilderness ecosystems in the most authentic way possible. The experience ends off with a bit of luxury aboard the Chobe Princess houseboat, a delightful way to end our camping adventure.

Botswana Wilderness Safari

The Botswana Wilderness Safari combines 3 of Wilderness Safaris’ camps in various parts of the Okavango Delta with the aim of exposing our small group of only 4 guests to the full range of habitats and environments that the Okavango Delta has to offer. In terms of the timing, we are right on the shoulder of high season in the delta and have been able to take advantage of the significantly discounted rates without compromising on our game viewing and photographic safari experience!

The Okavango Delta beckons to be seen & enjoyed. In itself it is a marvel of nature & a haven to wildlife. It’s an oasis in the Kalahari Desert and provides for a game viewing experience second to none

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