African landscape and Safari Experiences



Meet Kym Illman, an Australian photographer and author of an award-winning book “Africa On Safari,” with extensive knowledge of wildlife all over Africa. He joins us on this week’s  edition of the wisinomad Dialogue Series. Kym recalls his first safari trip to Kenya and Tanzania, to which he had reluctantly agreed to go after his wife had insisted.


He was captured by the experience that two weeks after he returned to Australia he decided to book another safari—this time for 8 weeks. And by then he had caught the safari bug, going on 14 more safaris in the ensuing two and a half years in 7 different African countries. He would go on to photograph for his book “Africa on Safari, “ released in October 2015 as an English version before being picked up by the German edition of National Geographic. Interestingly, photography is not his primary occupation, but he counts it as a worthwhile hobby. And as a result of this he has become an expert, spending more than 26 weeks, 8 hours every day trying to take the perfect shot for his book.


Kym’s photography techniques are very unique, something he is quick to discount as being revolutionary only for the time before he published his book. Using a remote controlled buggy, he was able to manoeuvre his camera in front of animals and get up-close pictures. Hence the stunning pictures, like the picture of hippo looking directly at the camera, with the underbelly visible. Such clarity on wildlife pictures are unique and rare, and is the basis of the iconic cover on his book.


“He does rank the Maasai Mara in Kenya as the most marvelous place to see every animal, as the wildlife is very concentrated.”


Walking with the elephants in Mana Pools, Zimbabwe


As a seasoned safari photographer, Kym struggles immensely when asked to choose his favourite wildlife destination, but quickly details his experience at Mana Pools in Zimbabwe, where visitors get to walk with elephants. Since this is the only walking safari with beautiful light streaming through, it offers an exhilarating experience for safari-goers.

And this was the only time he really felt threatened on his many safari expeditions, but he still managed to get a photo of a pride of lions despite one charging at them out of the blue. He does rank the Maasai Mara in Kenya as the most marvelous place to see every animal, as the wildlife is very concentrated. A big drawback however is the fact that there are usually plenty of people there, but still a great experience. Kym does find it a great place to get pictures during the offseason.


The Big Five in Africa


Africa is a great place to view the Big Five, which Kym explains are the lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant and buffalo. They are so-called because of their danger to human beings or for big game hunters refer to the most difficult animals in Africa to hunt on foot.

Probably the most gruesome scene Kym has witnessed was that of seeing two young cubs tussling and admiring how cute they were, only to return at a later time when a lion was the same spot, evidently eating the young cubs. Wildlife enthusiasts know that when a new lion enters a pride it will kill infants resulting in their mothers becoming quickly fertile again, increasing the chance of the new males having offspring.

Tech Gear to go on safari


Despite such scenes, Kym delights in the beauty of nature, and has engaged new technology to get even more innovative pictures. He has used drones in the past , but national parks are apt to restrict the use of drones so he sticks to drone usage only when in private parks. He does still have advice on what equipment to bring when taking wildlife photographs.

While budget is a major determinant, he suggests bringing a 7D Canon, 100-400mm lens. On a much heftier budget he suggests bringing as many lens with different exposures. He does highlight that some of the best opportunities to get pictures are often with unorthodox means. A GoPro near a freshly dead carcass yielded some of the most stunning footage he has ever gotten.


And for a packing list, chocolate is at the top of Kym’s. He does emphasize bringing lots of memory cards and a tripod, and to never bring valuables along. Similarly, for safari goers to stay away from crowded periods and peak periods as wildlife might be spooked by big groups and one may not get the best experience. Kym emphatically urges photographers to spend the extra money to stay as close to the park as possible in order to maximize viewing times.


With regard to the best times to go on safari, animals always migrate so it depends what part if the circuit animals are on. But migrations are very chaotic and a sight to see.

There is a lot of diversity in the type of safaris one can experience all across Africa. But before one discounts safaris as being merely touristy, Kym notes that tourists give a reason to keep national parks intact. There becomes a justification to keep nature reserves in operation as derived revenue goes into the economy and supports efforts aimed at conservation.

wisinomad participants get a chance to go on safari to enjoy African wildlife, and to experience some of the scenes Kym details in this episode.

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