Tswalu Kalahari is known as one of the prime photographic destinations in Africa. This vast reserve, which is the largest privately owned game reserve in Africa plays home to a variety of different species, most of which are rare and endangered.
But what lenses would maximise your photographic opportunities during your time here?
Firstly it is not only important to understand what images you would like to create, but also understand the variety of photographic opportunities that are available to you at Tswalu and the images that are possible at this incredible destination.
Tswalu is very unique in the fact that not all your photographic opportunities are conducted from a vehicle. There are some species which you could photograph on foot, which could often give you that much sought after low angle.
Instead of travelling with every single lens available to you, I would like to narrow down the recommended lenses by breaking it down into three categories namely main prime lens, main zoom lens and wide angle.
Main Prime Lens
If you have used prime lenses before I am sure that you will agree that the quality from these lenses are simply incredible and hard to match.
My go-to prime lens for Tswalu would be a 400mm 2.8 lens. This not only gives you enough reach to photograph close portraits of Meerkats, but also of the other sought after species such as Cheetah, Wild Dogs and Lions, baring in mind that off roading is permitted on Tswalu.
With a maximum aperture of 2.8 this lens also give you incredible performance in low light, which becomes vital when photographing predators during the early morning or late afternoon. This is also very helpful when photographing some of the rare and nocturnal species that Tswalu is so well known for such as Aardvark and Pangolin.
I would always have a second body and lens with me just to help with some versatility. This is where a lens like a 70-200mm 2.8 will come in very helpful in addition to your 400mm lens.
The down side to Prime lenses firstly is the cost. Prime lenses are considerably more expensive than zoom lenses, but there is a good reason for this, as I mentioned.
The other obvious down side to carrying a prime lens is the weight, although the newer technology that has become available has seen a considerable cut in the weight of the lenses. Still, for walking and shooting handheld, it can be a bit harder than the smaller, more compact zoom lenses.
Main Zoom lens
Although the image quality in prime lenses are unmatchable, it does come at quite a premium. For the majority of photographers, a zoom lens would also always be in the camera bag, purely from an affordability point of view, but also from a versatility point of view.
My go to zoom lens for Tswalu would be a 100-400 or equivalent lens. This gives you the ability to get the close up portraits that you would with the prime lens, but also give you some versatility to create some more animal in environment type images being able to zoom out to 100mm.
From a video point of view I simply love this lens. Not only does it offer fantastic focal range, but it is also relatively light to carry around, especially when on foot at Tswalu.
The down side of this zoom lens, although possessing great focal range, is that it limits you a bit more from a low light perspective as the majority of these lenses have a maximum aperture of 5.6 at 400mm.
Wide angle lens
For a lot of destinations a wide angle lens is not necessarily a must, but I would highly recommend making space for one if you go to Tswalu.
The most obvious reason for taking a wide angle lens is to capture the breathtaking night skies of Africa, and Tswalu is no different. Being in the Kalahari with no sign of any human settlements to be seen, the skies are simply unbelievable.
One of the other major reasons why a wide angle lens would come in especially handy as Tswalu are the meerkats. Being able to get within a meter of two from these inquisitive little creatures, a wide angle lens gives you a very interesting perspective, especially when you have some clouds that can add to the drama of your image.
The two wide angle lenses which I would recommend is a 16-35mm 2.8 or equivalent, or a 24-70mm 2.8.
So to sum it up, preferably a prime lens with a focal length of 400mm, combined with a second body and 70-200mm lens. If a prime lens is not possible then a zoom lens such as a 100-400mm lens or equivalent would work perfectly. To create breathtaking images of the African night sky and the very popular Meerkat colonies, a 16-35mm 2.8 or 24-70mm 2.8 lens would be ideal.
I hope this helps you in selecting your camera gear for you next visit to Tswalu, and always please do not hesitate to get in touch should you have any questions.
Till next time...