Storing photos for an African safari


Looks like you have already received a lot of good advice, so I will just chime in on my recent experience spending 3 weeks in Thailand and Cambodia.
Regarding wifi, even slow wifi allowed me to upload my daily photos to the cloud. In the end, I had 2,000 photos after deleting the obviously bad ones.
Regarding phone calls, I managed just fine with just wifi calling. Unless you truly need to maintain contact, no need to get cellular (focus on the moment). On the other hand, travel partners who changed their SIM cards had access to news and information at the moment (eg Ethiopian plane crash). Changing a SIM card is cheap and easy (don’t lose your original one!). Be sure your phone is unlocked - easier to do before departing. I may get a SIM card on my next trip, as a point of curiosity… and I may not, because being unplugged is awesome!

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It sounds like you have a healthy attitude re: balance between focusing (pun!) on your photography v. enjoying the moment and your companions.

As Joel Sartore says, “Sometimes you just gotta pet the whale!”

Don’t forget to pet the whale.

I look forward to lots of awesome photos that you’ll share here, but also your stories of how much you just enjoyed the experiences.

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I went to Africa several times and have several TB of photos from Uganda, Kenia, Rwanda, Botswana, Tanzania, Namibia, DRC, Malawi, etc.

  • get local SIM cards: very cheap, sold at the airport (only in Ethiopia geting one was a hassle), don’t expect them to work in the parks. But they go for $10-20.
  • forget WiFi: camps in the parks don’t have fiber-optic connections. Sometimes it’s just a 4G dongle on a WiFi router. IF WiFi works. Forget cloud backups.
  • I use cameras with dual card slots, so every photo is backed up in-camera. Cards are stored separately.
  • I have my MBP with with me: another backup and first review of photos
  • Take additional batteries with you.
  • Try to avoid huge cards. If one is corrupted, you won’t lose half the trip.
  • Backing up: depends on file size (RAW vs. JPG, how many MP?). My iPhone would be filled up quickly. :smiley:
  • Cards: depends on file size…
  • practice, practice, practice! A rule for nature photographers: “To get good images of cheetahs, practice with dogs”. :smiley: Especially focus modes. Nothing is worse than having something happening and not remembering how to change from single to servo AF.
  • lens: the bigger, the better. Depends on park, animal, situation, etc… For resting animals (lions 99% of the time): something up to 200~300 is good enough. Leopards, hunting cheetahs, etc: my main lens is a 600mm.
  • you already booked, but: I try to get the cheapest possible (tolerable) accomodation and spend money where it matters (own vehicle).
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Lots of people are mentioning corrupt cards, which is a potential risk. To minimise this, don’t delete photos (this advice may be outdated for modern cards, and is based on anecdotal evidence; experience in the past was things only went wrong when cameras tried to squeeze photos in gaps and mess up the file allocation table or something).

What is still relevant though is that if a card shows any weirdness, stop using it immediately and it is highly likely you’ll be able to recover everything back home with freely available recovery software. It’s not even worth worrying about.

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We’re doing the guided experience. Not our own vehicle. Maybe next time!


Check this out :slight_smile:


For all the talk of corrupted cards, let me just add that my SanDisk Extreme branded cards has never failed me once in more than 15 years of quite heavy usage. I do delete in camera for the obvious duds too.

I offload images onto the Mac using an external card reader, then reformat the card in the camera.

Anecdotal “evidence” for sure, but I really think that the quality of the big brands are solid these days. 64 GB cards sounds like a good value choice too.

I have lost far more images to soft focus and incorrect ISO settings (always user error) :grin:

Have a great trip!


Corrupt, as in: lost, broken, stolen, fell into the river, grabbed by monkey, misplaced, erroneously formatted, whatever.

That said, I photographed professionally for years, now it’s just a hobby. I had a dead card once, but that was in the age of 128MB CF cards. Last 10years…none.


Possible “corruptions”.

My MBP after 3 weeks in Namibia.

Repair invoice for one of my cameras (Nikon D800) by the local Nikon Service Point. It still is hanging in the repair shop. “Water damage by elephant”. This one could easily have killed the card if water shorted the camera during a write cycle. Wasn’t that bad in the end. Rear button panel and lens mount had to be replaced.



Haha reminds me of a ZA friend who had to convince his car insurance that his window really was broken by a rhino :rhinoceros:

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We took a trip to Africa 2 years ago,Greece last year and did exactly what Rose suggests—I downloaded the SD card to my iPad each evening. One large high speed card was more than enough, but take as many as you think you might need and then look at the higher resolution ones when you get home and relive the trip!

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FYI Thom Hogan is a Nikon camera maven, has written numerous Nikon camera guides, and has also hosted several photo safari trips in Africa. You might find some of these (somewhat older) articles to be useful.

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I think I have read every single word written by him a dozen times. And I bought every “Thom Hogan’s Complete Guide To …” for the camera bodies I own(ed). In fact, the original manuals went into the trash, his guides are what manuals should be like.


I realize I neglected to mention the HD version (both these WD models weigh one pound) - the My Passport Wireless Pro hard drive sells on amazon for $150 for the 1Tb version and $210 for the 4Tb model and claims these features:

  • SD 3.0 card reader for fast media offloads
  • Wireless 802.11ac to stream 4K videos and view photos with the My Cloud mobile app on iOS
  • All-day battery (up to 10 hours, based on streaming HD 720p, 3 Mbps video to one device over Wi-Fi 2.4 GHz single band only.)
  • Built-in power bank to charge phone, action camera etc (output up to 1.5A)
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I agree with everyone who says to buy extra cards, keep your photos on them and then also make backups. I’ve used the RavPower Filehub ( and a large thumb drive for backing up SD cards.


Really great thread! The only thing I would say is although difficult for this trip would be if in Europe or somewhere not as remote you could ship a hard drive loaded with photos back as an extra precaution. Though that would involve having two portable hard drives along with the SD or CF cards. I’d suggest 16gb or 32gb cards as losing 64gb sized or more cards would be brutal.

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I just got back from a 7 day National Geographic Expedition river cruise through parts of Europe.

I took my Canon 5D Mark III and 3 lenses. The Canon has two card slots (1 CF, 1 SD), where I shoot RAW images onto the CF and JPGs onto the SD card.

At the end of the day, the CF card acts as the backup and gets stored. The JPGs are transferred to my iPad via SD card adaptor where I can share them with friends (Shared Photostream, iMessage, etc.) and upload them to iCloud. This system is lightweight, inexpensive, and requires no purchase or carrying of additional gear.

I know I’ll get hazed for saying this, but too many people make backups way more complicated than they should. Our friend Katie Floyd was a prime example… she had so many backups that you could spend an entire weekend doing nothing else that updating backups. It’s nuts. For most sane people, 2 backups of photos or whatever is more than enough.


I agree to some extent; I feel some people do over complicate backing up.
However, I would also argue that a 5D Mark III with iPad is not an inexpensive solution that requires no purchase of additional gear (for the majority of people). Owning pro-oriented gear provides many benefits, reliability being high.

It is a wonderfully elegant solution. Your camera and iPad provide 3 hardware-based sources and your access to high-speed Internet provides another. Replicating that level offline with less outlay will require some level of complication.


You already got really good tips, I thought I’d give you my 2 cents. Feel free to give me back my change! :wink: It will be my 3rd trip to Africa in a few weeks. I’ll be in Botswana at the beginning of June. That would be funny if our paths crossed :slight_smile:

  1. Storage. If you want to geek it out… It’s a DIY project. See picture below (not showing the USB SD card reader). It is a 1TB external Drive with a Raspberry Pi computer in a Pelican waterproof/shock case.I found the software online. It was shared by an enthusiast photographer.


  • Simple. No iPad/iDevice needed. You boot it, you stick your card in it, and go for a drink and enjoy your evening. It shuts down when it’s done.
  • I run it with a separate USB power battery. You just need to make sure it can reliably run the HD. The battery is separate so you can technically stick your backup in your check-in luggage and keep the battery with you.
  • Fairly cheap.


  • Blind… If you don’t have anything to read the HD, then you don’t really know if you data is all there. You only rely on the fact that the system booted and then shutdown on its own. The HD and SD card reader lights will also provide feedback of transfer activities.
  • Drive not encrypted.
  • DIY project, at your own risk!
  • Having to learn basic Raspberry Pi OS stuff if you don’t know.

This is the best solution I found to minimize time wasted on vacation on backup. Let me know if you need more info, I’ll provide some links.

  1. Bring a long lens, 100-400mm is a good compromise. Very few times I needed more than 400mm. Even better if you use a crop sensor (1.6x)

  2. If you use a long lens, bring an extra camera handy on your belt… if an elephant or leopard pops up very close by, you’ll be happy to be able to whip out your second camera and catch the moment. I use a DXO camera (Dave’s old flame) 32mm but an iPhone is also good. Just have it handy.

  3. Forget Wifi. Especially if you are shooting RAW. Just seems like a big time sinkhole to upload files…

  4. Secure your gear when in a jeep. When guides are rushing to get you to some sightings, they often drive fast and it can be extremely bumpy.

  5. If you fly through Kenya (even for a short connection) you will need to pay for a visa upon landing. Waiting lines can be brutal… You can get an E-Visa before you go and shorten the waiting time (


I assume you mean “belt and braces”? Don’t get dragged into using Americanisms.

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