As you may have read in my bio, I have a degree in animal behaviour and I started my careers working as a safari tour-guide in Africa. For you to get maximum bang for the buck, here are my top advice for viewing animals in the wild. Dont forget that animals have right-of-way. You are a visitor in the animals habitat, you stay out of the way. You may not think of it, but every little thing the animals have do extra, because of you, is an energy expense for them. So if the animals need to move themselves out of the way for you, that is a potential serious energy cost for them. Don’t block their way either.
Keep it down
Most animals have very acute senses. Their hearing is many times better than ours, and we humans are of a very noisy species! So when you are viewing animals; keep voices low and movement slow. This will also give you better opportunity to see the animal’s natural behaviour unfolding before your very eyes.
Watching wildlife is not like on TV! BBC’s magnificent nature programmes have taken years to produce and what you see on TV is a condensed version of events. In reality you will have to be patient to see the most interesting behaviours. But taking the time will give you deeper and closer experiences when watching. Remember most animals will take a while to adapt to your presence before they return to doing their thing.
Get serious, get a camera
While taking photos with your smartphone is easy and fun, the photos taken this way will likely not be able to capture the best of the wildlife that you are watching. Most of the time you will have to keep a distance both for practical purposes (keeping on designated tracks to not disturb the plants ect) and for not disturbing the wildlife too much. Having a zoom to bring you up-close for great pictures, is really a good investment.
Bring your binoculars
For the same reasons as the camera, bringing binoculars is a must. Using binoculars you will get much more details in your observations of wildlife. Further binoculars are really great for scouting other photo opportunities near by. And lastly if you care the least for watching birds – you need those binoculars!
Get a guide
Whether its a real life guide, or a guide book. Having access to knowledge about what you see will give you a fuller and deeper wildlife viewing experience.
A local knowledgeable guide will be able take you to the best spots and thereby increase your chances of great sightings.
Bringing a guide-book will help you identify the species you see, and give you more information about the behaviour and ecology of the animal.
As a biologist I started my career as a safari tour guide in Tanzania and Kenya. Later I worked for the UN a couple of times, and and lately for a sustainability NGO.
I love to travel both professionally and with my family.