Visiting Tanzania

Visiting Tanzania by Carl Nielsen (Webpage | Tanzania homepage | Facebook | Panoramio | 500px):


Half a year ago, my 25 year old daughter asked me: what if we climbed the Kilimanjaro together. Yes of course and we combined the trip with a visit to some of the beautiful national parks in the northern part of Tanzania. We went there in the dry season July, beginning of August, when the weather is more stable, it is easy to drive on the roads – less muddy, and there is still plenty of animals. Tanzania has done a lot to preserve large areas (like Yellow Stone NP). Because of that, you have to pay a large entrance fee. For me it is OK, because I believe that it helps protect the animals.

The national parks like Serengeti are big areas almost untouched by humans where the animals can live their life as they have done for thousands of years. What about a tourist like me? Yes we are interfering by being there, but in general, if we stay in the car, most of the time, and behave, - don’t feed the animals, don’t throw any garbage etc. then the animals simply do not care about our presence. That is good.

Most animals simply act as you do not exist, and you can therefore watch the lions hunt or just enjoy the hippos while they are mating.

Photo equipment: I brought a D800 and a D300 (for my daughter) and of course different lenses from a 14mm f/2.8, 16-35mm f/4, 70-200mm f/4 and a Tamron 150 to 600mm. On the safari, I used the 70-200 or 150-600mm for more than 90% of all pictures. My favorite is the 70-200 f/4 because of the low weight and the sharpness.
Zebra_1541 Zebra_9158
Zebra_9163 Zebra_9178_cut
Lion_0227 Lion_1413
lion_9749 lion_9772
hippo_0255 Hippo_9896
Hyena_9802 hyena_9867
Jozani_Freja_0634 CN8_9576


We wanted to get as close to nature as possible and decided to sleep in tents, - you get very close, one night a 6000 kg male elephant passed through the campground, between all the tents seeking for water, and at another camp, hyenas visited at night, looking for any leftovers from dinner.  If you like experiences like that, I can strongly recommend to sleep out at the open areas in a tent – it is amazing to look at the milky way as the last thing you do before you close your eyes and fall asleep.

If you go on a safari as a photographer, don’t be more than four people, that way you can control exactly where to stop, where the light is exactly right etc. If you are joining a bigger group it is difficult to ask the driver to move the car back and forth until your camera is in the right spot, and do that twenty times a day. If you only want to watch the animals, bigger groups are OK.

Freja descends from Kilimanjaro_0493 Kilimanjaro_0339
Kilimanjaro_Freja_Carl_0390 Kilimanjaro_machame_0333

Climbing the Kilimanjaro

For the Kilimanjaro climb, I brought the D800, an extra battery, the 14mm for night photos, and the 16-35mm for all other daily photos. Above 4000m (12000feet) you can feel the extra 4kg (9 pound)  of weight that you need to carry in your personal daily back, (camera lenses and tripod). Tanzania is located close to the equator, so you will have 12 hours of light and 12 hours in complete darkness. If you are lucky with the weather and the moon phase, you can take beautiful night photos, and you will have plenty of time to do so.

On the way to the summit, you are passing through different climate zones, starting out in the rain forest and ending up in the high Alpine zone walking in -10 to -20degC (14deg F to -4 deg F). We were only my daughter and me, but most groups are 4 to 10 climbers. Remember that it is important to listen to your body, drink a lot of water, and enjoy every day on the mountain.

I hope that you get inspired by some of these pictures, and go out in our beautiful nature, while we still have it.


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  • Nilanjan

    Lovely photologue, Carl. I really like your animalscapes and wide angle shots.

    • Carl Nielsen

      thanks for the nice words, it was a wonderful trip that I want to try again

  • santarock

    Carl really nice pictures…how did the Tamron 150 600 performed?

    • Carl Nielsen

      Hi and thank you, the Tamron 150 – 600
      is sharp if using at f8, and that was what I tried to do, the VR work fine
      together with D800. I tried to avoid using it above 500mm, but a few times the
      lions ware so far away that it was better to reduce the optical resolution and keep
      the number of pix. If you compare the price and optical quality, I will
      strongly recommend the lens.

  • RobinEriksson

    Great photos man! Would love to do a similar trip one day. And also visit neighbouring country Mocambique at the same time. Please share more like this admin 🙂

    • Carl Nielsen

      thanks for the nice words, some of the photos I printed in large formats, and it’s good memories,
      I want to come back during winter

  • Patrick O’Connor

    “…enjoy the hippos while they are mating.”
    Maybe this could have been worded differently!? 😉

    • Carl Nielsen

      Hi regarding the hippos, maybe the wording could be different,
      what I meant was that I enjoyed being
      able to be so close to the animals

      • Patrick O’Connor

        Of course I knew that. I was just kidding. 🙂

  • Nikita

    you did get close and you did record some interesting animals, but honestly, the shots aren’t all that artistic, more like snaps. I know how this will sound, but I have a few stunners from Tanzania with dramatic lighting, though I didn’t always get as close as you did.

    • Carl Nielsen

      Hi there, I agree, but it is not always possible to wait for the best light and the animals are in the right place. I would love to come back at a season where nature has more dramatic colors.

  • Beautiful pictures of Tanzania!

  • RPoinvil

    I went to Tanzania in 2010. We stayed out all day, every day on Safari. It was just my wife and I with our guide in a land cruiser. It really helps to have a guide who is also a photographer (by hobby). He knew all the prime vantage points. I think I asked him to move the truck a few feet, twice in 8 days! Our mainstays were the Nikon 200-400 and 70-200, sometimes used with a 1.4 TC. I only wish in camera video was as good back then as it is now.

    Oh and Tanzania is a dusty place but any good camera can handle it.

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