Do you love photography? Do you love wildlife? Then an African photo safari is probably on your bucket list. But where to go, who to book, and what to expect can make the trip seem overwhelming. Here are some pointers on what to look for to ensure the best photo safari for this once-in-a-lifetime trip.

First off, you need to decide where to go. I’ve chosen Tanzania for my trips because the wildlife is abundant, free-roaming, and um, hello, THE SERENGETI. Almost every documentary filmed about lions, zebras, giraffes, wildebeest, cheetahs, etc. takes place in the Serengeti ecosystem, of which 90% is in Tanzania. Almost 40% of Tanzania is a protected area, including 16 National Parks. So there are lots of options.

Once you’ve chosen a location, here are some things to look for in a photo safari. Lots of tourists are not photographers, so NOT JUST any safari will do, but you’ll want a photography-specific safari. As a photographer, your goal is to get the best pictures available, whether that is on the left or right side of the vehicle. Photography safaris give each photographer an entire row so they can easily move from one side of the vehicle to the other and still have easy access to their gear.

One thing I love about Tanzanian safaris is it’s the exact opposite of a zoo. The animals are free-roaming, and there are no fences, so you’re always on a game drive. No set-up spots like concrete “water holes” to entice the animals in. It’s actually watching the animals in their natural habitats, doing their natural behaviors.

Also, having guides who studied photography is a must. The guides I work with are not only trained wildlife specialists but also took photography classes in college to help photographers get the best shots. Often, when we come upon a leopard in a tree, we’ll get the sure shot and then he’ll move us around to the best light. Excellent guides will also be able to read the behavior of the animal and position you in the right spot to get the action that they anticipate with their experience and training.

Animals are most active in the morning and late afternoon. Make sure your safari company is leaving at or before sunrise to ensure the best pictures. Plus as photographers, we know the golden light makes for the best pictures. On my trips, we stay inside the parks to ensure we are the first ones out in the morning. (Plus, laying in bed listening to the distant calls between hunting lions and the night sounds of the Serengeti happening just outside your tent!)

Finally, what to expect on your Photo Safari… whether you’ve traveled the world or this is your first trip abroad be prepared for the best few weeks of your life!! My first trip to Tanzania was supposed to be my only trip to Tanzania. I’ve been back 2 more times and am planning yearly trips now.