In my still fairly young career as a guide at Londolozi, I’ve been witness to some incredible moments in nature. When looking back, it’s often the beauty in the finer details that stands out most for me. Sometimes this kind of beauty is only visible once you magnify or zoom in to what you are looking at. Having a pair of binoculars with you will so simply, yet so effectively enhance your safari experience.
As humans, we essentially perceive the world around us with our eyes. Roughly 80% of all sensory impressions we perceive are with our sight. Having said this, our vision is undeniably our most important physical sense.
Ranger Kevin Power taking a moment to get a closer look at some birds flitting about in the red bushwillows.
Binoculars narrow down your field of view, eliminating unwanted objects and ’empty space’ that your eyes are adjusting for. This means that your now magnified subject gets the full attention of your eyes, making it appear brighter, clearer and more vivid. This is especially true when it comes to birds and smaller animals. Years ago, I did not think it was necessary to have binoculars for a safari. Now, owning a pair, which I take with me almost everywhere, has opened up a whole new world to me in terms of wildlife viewing. So much so that birding has become one of my prime interests out in the Londolozi bush.
Only by zooming in can you really grasp the extent of teh detail on many things, this Secretarybird being one of them.
Elephants have got so much texture and small detail across their enormous bodies.
A close-up of the loose wrinkly skin of an elephant. The fluted and fissured look of the skin with the dappled light coming through creates some beautiful detail and contrast. It is interesting to watch how the skin shifts around and distorts as the body parts move beneath it.
A few weeks ago I saw the Ximungwe Female leopard leap up into a marula tree to go and feed on an impala kill she had made the day before. Ahead of her settling to feed on the carcass, she paused briefly, gazing into the distance at something that had caught her attention. I lifted up my binoculars to have a better look at her. Immediately I saw new layers of beauty. Now zoomed in, I could see the bright glow of her golden eyes as the sunlight filtered through them. I watched how the faint dappled shade from the leaves gently danced across her spotty face. And how her whiskers became tiny fluorescent spindles as they came into contact with the light. It’s fascinating to observe how the sum of all the microelements that usually go on unnoticed, actually form the ‘macro’ picture we become so familiar with.
The Ximungwe female leopard looks into the distance, alert and focused. Not quite the same angle I had through my binoculars, but a similar scene nonetheless.
If you’ve ever been interested in astronomy, the first thing that comes to mind is a big telescope. I actually prefer binoculars here – a good pair can show you a great variety of the night sky’s best features. They’ll help to intensify the colour of stars, and you’ll even be able to spot very distant objects such as a few of Jupiter’s moons. Or start off by observing our moon, and then work your way towards exploring the complex lattice of celestial bodies that make up the Milky Way.
The Full Moon – The best time to observe the moon is during the twilight hours as there isn’t so much glare coming off of it. You will see more detail this way.
Wildlife photographers know the value of being able to showcase clear close-up images of animals and birds. It essentially portrays a scale of the world we hardly ever see. It’s been quite a number of times that I’ve heard “Wow!”, “Oh my word!” or “Would you look at that!” coming from my guests when they see something close up through binoculars for the first time. So I thought it would be fitting to place a little more emphasis on their importance out in the bush.
Lilac-breasted roller about to consume a grasshopper. These birds have exceptional eyesight. Even if you’re armed with a pair of Swarovski binoculars, this bird will out-gun you at spotting insects – which make up the bulk of their food source.
So next time you’re about to head off into the wilderness, make sure to take binoculars with you. There is a high chance that you already have a pair lying around at home somewhere. You’ll start to appreciate the small details in the larger subjects, as well as get a glimpse into the world of the smaller animals. Your overall viewing experience on a game drive will be just that much better.