Picture an Africa safari and you’ll see a 4 x 4 Jeep rumbling over a sunlit savannah tracking for lion, cheetah, elephants, rhinos, and more. But now imagine a different sort of adventure, one where the sun has set and the heat of the day has been replaced by a cool breeze on the darkening landscape. The night sounds of big cats, birds, and the splashing grunts of a hippo cut the thick air. Then out of nowhere, a set of flashing eyes peer out from the inky dark. This is the drama of a night safari.
Night safaris are an increasingly popular way to experience Africa’s wildlife when the plains become alive with a new and sometimes more active array of animals not seen during the day.
The Night Life
You might set out on your nighttime game drive after a relaxing sundowner – a late afternoon cocktail enjoyed in the field – or perhaps after dinner at your safari lodge. Either way, you’ll pile into your 4 x 4 vehicle with a warm jacket, thermos, insect repellent, binoculars, and camera.
Your experienced driver/guide knows the best spots to find the wildlife that’s most active when the sun goes down. While you might see a lion napping out in the warm fields during the day, nighttime is when the pride often sets out on their hunt. Same for the famously nocturnal leopard who you may spot overhead scanning the horizon for its prey.
Can Nighttime Wildlife be Photographed?
Here are some camera settings that will enhance your nighttime images – increase the sensitivity of your camera to an ISO of at least 1600. If you can, open the camera’s aperture to the maximum, like 2.8. Finally, slow the shutter speed to 1/40.
The final adjustments will happen on your computer’s photo editing program. Here you can further brighten the image and remove any red tint with a color adjustment.
So Where Can I Go on a Night Safari?
Most national parks don’t allow night safaris but there are still plenty of options throughout Kenya where can go game driving after hours. Ol Pejeta Conservancy is a private wildlife refuge that not only harbors all of Africa’s “Big Five” game but also offers unique activities like bicycle and horseback safaris… and nighttime game drives.
Wildlife love salt and nighttime foragers are attracted to the saltlicks at the private Taita Hills Wildlife Conservancy. Don’t be surprised to spot elephants, Cape buffalo, black rhinos, and even giant forest hogs stepping from the dark into the softly lit saltlick.
Further south near the great Masai Mara National Reserve a host of smaller surrounding private conservancies present the opportunity for nighttime exploration and some even offer overnight camping in the bush with an experienced guide. Check out the Mara North, Olare Motorogi, Mara Naboisho, Ol Kinyei, and Mara Triangle Conservancies for a nocturnal safari adventure few are lucky enough to experience.