Storing photos for an African safari

My wife and I are traveling for 25 days in June, on an African safari to Botswana and Namibia.


I just bought a spiffy new camera – my first SLR; I’ve used iPhones for photography exclusively for the past 12 years. The camera of course stores photos on an SD Card.

I’ll be traveling without a laptop. I’ll just have my iPhone and 2018 non-Pro iPad.

How do I store all the photos I take in Africa, until I’m home? I’m thinking (1) Buy a half-dozen 128-gig SD Cards. Will that even be enough? I know that depends on how many photos I take, but what do people typically need for several weeks of photo-friendly vacation? (2) Get an SD Card to Lightning adapter, load the photos onto the iPhone, and then let them upload to iCloud. I expect to have WiFi access daily or at least several times a week – but will that upload take so long that I’ll effectively be stuck in one place waiting for the upload to finish?

BTW, I think international roaming charges may be $10/day, which would be $200 for my trip, so it might make more sense to get a local SIM. But I’ve never done a SIM swap and don’t know how practical that will be.

Any advice?

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What’s your tech budget? Six SanDisk 128GB Extreme SDXC cards will run $150, which is both the simples and cheapest option, albeit with no backup.

Another option is buying a 1Tb drive with Wi-Fi, and transferring files to the drive (while retaining, or reusing, the SD card[s]). These come at varying prices for HD or SSD. Western Digital’s My Passport Wireless SSD has a built-in SD card reader, for instance, but the 1Tb version is $500.


Good options!

I talked it over with a colleague who is an avid photographer. He pointed out that SD cards are relatively cheap, suggested use those with cloud backup. He said drives can be heavy – a problem, because we’re weight constrained on our luggage (something like 46 pounds IIRC).

He said he’s not a “bulk shooter.” I am a bulk shooter, but I anticipate I’ll have plenty of opportunities to sit with the camera and delete crappy photos. So maybe I’ll shoot hundreds every day but only want to keep a half dozen or a dozen.

I know a successful pro photographer who buys his CF/SD cards in bulk, then literally files them after copying them to his RAID, never deleting a thing. I think he’s nuts, since good data asset management (including off-site/online backup) is cheaper and easily duplicable than retaining those cards.

For travel, I’d probably just use multiple SD cards and hope there’s no data corruption or theft before I return home. A portable HD drive is small and not heavy, though.

Last thing I’d consider doing is uploading to the cloud hundreds of photos at a time while on vacation.

When you get home, my recommendation is to edit.



I’d pretty much mirror what @bowline said, although (presuming you have budget for it) I’d suggest you have a stack of SD cards, change them frequently but don’t re-use them AND back up each of the cards to an external disk. The other external HDD to consider would the LaCie DJI copilot, it’s quite similar in features to the Western Digital one.
To be honest, I’ve no personal experience with these external drives, when I travel I always take the laptop and then backed up the SD cards to the laptop and a usb stick. If you haven’t got a laptop or are really trying to save weight for the flights I can understand if that’s not an option though. I’m not sure I’d depend on Wifi, I’ve heard out in Africa, sometimes it can be quite good, other times shocking or just outright not working at all. (I guess that’s true of where-ever you travel though, even locally).

The only other key bit of advice I’d have is to spend quite a bit of time with your new DSLR before you go. Get to know it’s features and how to access them / use it quickly. Perhaps even worth doing a workshop with a pro wildlife photographer if you can squeeze one in before you go & get them to give you a leg up. Biggest grumble I hear from photo-workshop leaders I’ve listened to on podcasts etc is people who turn up and miss loads of shots because they’re too busy fumbling about with unfamiliar camera gear. Perhaps have a couple of days out at a local nature reserve or park to get familiar with it.

If you’re going to use a HDD such as those suggested, again, practice with it and get to know the process.

Travel photography / Safari’s are a recurring topic on some of the photography podcasts I listen to, I had a quick scan back, these might be of interest to you:

Hope you have a fantastic trip! :slight_smile:


I glossed over that part. Yesssss! Get to know your camera, because DSLRs can be complex beasts, with varying exposure modes, focus modes, flash modes, etc. Check out YouTube as you’ll probably find some free instructional videos about your specific model. And if you have any questions each major camera brand/line has an active discussion forum over on dpreview and reddit.


This is all excellent advice and I am spending time with the DSLR and will learn as much as I can before I go.

However, my primary focus is on having the experience and not on the photography. The photography is just one of the things I’m doing there. So if I miss a few photos and my wife and I have an excellent second honeymoon otherwise, well, I’ll consider the trip a success!

Lately, as I go out and about and see everybody taking photos with their cameraphones, i’ve been thinking about the value of having the unrecorded experience.

However, I will look into external drives, and consider their bulk and weight. And I do appreciate the suggestions. More please!


Oh, and if you do have photos on both SD cards and an external disk, keep your external disk separate to your camera gear. If you’re camera gear gets lost / stolen, you don’t want your backup disk with all your images going missing with it. You’ll be fine…! :flushed: :wink:

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Excellent philosophy! :slight_smile:

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Back in the day (3rd quarter of the 20th century) standard practice was to make backups (ie shoot the event, etc. with 2 or more cameras) then ship the film out on separate days, and by separate carriers if possible. That way if something happened in transit, you had a good chance at least half your shots would survive.

Others have made some excellent suggestions. Mine would be to consider if you might want to FedEx some of your SD cards back home every few days just in case.


I’ve been a birder for years and had a great (short) safari last year. In that time, I really have learned to enjoy the experience. Whilst my bird photos are used as desktops etc and I love them, my fondest memories are the occasions when I didn’t lift up my camera (eg seeing a fish owl swoop in to its nest, or a kingfisher oblivious to us flitting around a sunny creek).
My biggest regret was only half seeing a leopard catch prey on safari because I tried to capture it on camera (although I only did that as I was trying to capture it for students).

Another thing I have learned is to avoid taking time looking at photos during the trip, either during the day for review or in the evening to delete. I do it from time to time, but any time I spend looking at my camera or photos is time I’m not engaged with my wife on the trip. My exception is to quickly grab about 5 highlights of the day (not necessarily the best shot of a moment, but a decent representative one) and sharing these with my wife over dinner or something.

So…lots of SD cards. I shot only in JPG on safari as light is great and it makes life easier. I shoot JPG normally in a rainforest where it’s dark, but if I’m in a one-in-a-lifetime, dark location is use raw.

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I’m still waiting for iPad Pro to handle external storage properly. Handles photos (SD card reader) but not video, nor anything else.

Also still waiting for 2.0.

In the meantime, if you’re trying to get by with iPad (and nothing else), then wifi hard drive is the way to go. Fastest may be: WD 4TB My Passport Wireless Pro Portable.

Beware: On some safaris (tents) you do not always have electricity 24x7, but just for a few hours at night. So all computer work has to be done in brief period. Ditto recharging. FYI.

Other than that… MacBook Pro (or Air).

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Get a hand full of memory cards.
Avoid the super big ones, not only for the expense but for the risk of loosing a lot of images if something goes wrong with that big card holding multiple day’s of your vacation.

Get familiar with your SLR!!!
Shoot RAW only. Pointless to shoot RAW + JPEG it only takes unnecessary space.

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… one more thing bedsides the storage advices of which excellent ones have already been given: We have done several trips to Africa with various safaris and the first two we have done without zoom lenses and then added a zoom lenses to our DSLR and that really made a change on the pictures! I know it is something else to carry, having some weight and not cheap - but is worth every penny for trips including wild life photography. I am using for Africa a 2.8/70-300 and it is a blast for great pictures also during early morning or evening.

You‘re gonna love it and it will be an exciting joint experience !


An old Africa hand! I am particularly happy to hear from you on this thread.

What do you recommend for power in Botswana and Namibia, and brief hotel stays in Johannesburg? I believe all three use M plugs, except for a couple of bits of Botswana that use the British plug. My Apple gear will only require the adapter and not a converter, correct? Is that true for anything labeled as a dual voltage?

And occurs to me given your name but you may not be American and therefore not fully of assistance in these questions, but I thought I’d give it a shot.

UPDATED: Yup, Germany. Well, maybe you can help anyway.

Most chargers take a wide voltage range from 90 - 250Volts. Of course verify this by reading the back of the charger. Get a spare charger just in case your main one goes out. Try to get one that also takes 12V from a cigarette lighter so you can charge from a vehicle battery if needed.

Bring a short extension cord with surge protection and a universal travel adapter so you can plug it into all sorts of outlets. This will also help when there are not enough outlets in your hotel room or when they are located in inconvenient places.

This is also very handy to charge your devices when there are not enough plugs in the Airport lounge. You can share one plug with a couple of other people :wink:


I hope you really enjoy the African Experience. One side note of warning, make sure you know your new camera inside out before you take the journey. I once bought a simple video camera for my (one and only) trip to South Sudan and recorded everything using the removable drives. In a spirit if generosity I gave the camera to one of my hosts as I prepared to leave, not realising that I had omitted an important step in completing the recording. (I think I was meant to tell the camera to finish the current disc).
Got home with my discs intact, and was only able to retrieve a few sections of my videos after hours of manipulation.
Learn how the spiffy new camera works before travelling.
Have a good trip.


Personally I’d do belt and suspenders: Take lots of SD cards, don’t delete anything from them, and regularly copy new photos to one or more of your devices with an SD card reader. This sounds to me like an amazing once in a lifetime opportunity, make sure you keep those photos safe!

While you can sit there every evening deleting bad photos, it can also be fun to wait until you get home - that picture you accidentally took of a tree might have something interesting in that you don’t notice on the tiny screen, or it might just be a photo worth keeping digitally as a prompt for the story when you didn’t notice the elephants walking up behind you :wink:


Everybody gave you good advices.

I’d add a suggestion: if your DSLR has 2 card slots it probably have a backup function: If you don’t want to add the cost / weight of and external HDD for backup you can use half of your sd cards for backup purposes, so that you have 2 copies of each photo into different cards.
For occasional review / online sharing and such you can easily go with the iPad and the lightning card reader.

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FYI I just read on another site that one of Amazon’s Daily Deals is “the SanDisk 2TB Extreme Portable External SSD . This pocket-sized drive is not only water and dust resistant, but it offers high-speed transfers with up to 550MB/s read speeds for accessing photos, videos and more. On sale for $279.99 after a 60 percent price drop , this daily deal beats the lowest price we’ve seen by $50.”

If you could mate it with a hub and (or integrates) SD card reader that’s a powerful, portable, fairly affordable solution.

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