Lens Choices for Photography on the Chobe River

Andrew Beck Andrew, Lens Recommendations Leave a Comment

The Chobe River. A destination renowned for its spectacular wildlife sightings and sunsets and a firm favourite amongst photographers for a number of reasons. These include the quality of light, the reflection of light off of the river, the fact that game approaches the photographer head on, the proximity of the wildlife to the boat, the variety and concentration of wildlife… I am sure you get the point! If not, check out Marlon’s trip report from a trip he lead there in march 2013.

For the purposes of this post I will be focusing purely on lens choices for photography on the Chobe River and not from a vehicle… So by now we all know that the Chobe River  is a fantastic destination for photographers. Many of you may be familiar with the photographic boats which elaborate rigs for making photography on the river that much easier. These rigs are usually kitted out with 400, 500 or even 600mm prime lenses. Are they really necessary though?

My thoughts for photography on the Chobe River  fall into three broad types of images that one would want to capture whilst on a photographic safari in this destination.

Landscapes & Sunsets

The sunsets on the Chobe River are nothing short of spectacular and you will want to go as wide as possible in order to capture the magic of the region.

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Taken @ 16mm

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Taken @ 16mm


The birdlife along the Chobe River is phenomenal both in terms of diversity and the concentrations. It really is a paradise for birders and bird photographers. This is probably the one elements of photography on the Chobe where I would recommend the use of a 600mm lens. That being said, you would still be able to get great results with focal lengths of between 300 and 500mm as well.

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Taken @ 420mm

lens choices for photography on the chobe river-7

Taken @ 600mm


The wildlife along the banks of the Chobe River are fairly relaxed and accustomed to the boats, allowing one to get up close and personal a lot of the time.Apart from using your wide angle lens for sunsets, a good wide angle lens is crucial in ensuring that you capture some interesting animal in environment opportunities that you will encounter along the Chobe River. During the afternoons in the summer months there are massive build ups of clouds and storm cells which make for dramatic backgrounds and you will want a wide angle lens on hand to capture these sorts of moments.

lens choices for photography on the chobe river

Taken @ 27mm

For the most part, focal lengths of between 70 and up to 300mm will be used to get decent portraits and general wildlife images. More often than not, your guide will “park” the boat on the shores of the river to provide you with a more stable platform for photographing and this often means that you are very close to the sighting. This is where prime lenses of greater than 300mm will require some creative thinking in order to work the scene and capture interesting close-ups.

These images are a good illustration of how a single sighting can be worked with a 16-35mm lens on one body and a 600mm lens on a second body.

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Taken @ 600mm

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Taken @ 35mm

I have often find myself leaving the long glass out to dry as I try and include more of the environment or sky at specific sightings. As you can see, I am not the only one who does this!

lens choices for photography on the chobe river-6

What Would I Take?

The take home message here is that you don’t necessarily have to have the big toys to enjoy photography on the Chobe River. The set up of  photographic boats makes it easier to spend extended periods of time photographing but the long lenses that are often seen decorating these photographic boats are not a necessity. My choices below are based up on the versatility that the combination of lenses affords me in capturing the sights of the Chobe.

The Real Deal

  • Canon 100-400mm
  • Canon 18 – 200mm
  • Nikon 80-400mm
  • Nikon 18 – 200mm
  • Sigma 150-500mm
  • Sigma 10 -20mm

Andrew Beck

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About the Author

Andrew Beck

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Very few people can tell you what their passion in life is. Even fewer will be able to tell you that what they do for a living is in fact their passion. My love for the bush and conservation took me on journey which would not only allow me to explore the continent which fascinates me so much, but to share my passion for photography and conservation with others. Be sure to check out my my website and instagram account.

Comments 0

  1. Douglas Bolt

    Thanks for the info. Very helpful.

    Dewald Swanepoel sent me the link as my wife and I are going on a “tourist” safari to Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe in Oct with OAT. We have a 44 lb luggage limit, so I’m planning on taking a 7D with 100-400 and a 5Dm2 with a 24-105. Unless I can pack more into 44 lb than I suspect, I’ll leave a 12-24 and a 400 DO with Dewald for him to use until we get back and start wandering around the Western Cape after the safari.

    1. Post
      Andrew Beck

      Hi Douglas, thanks for the feedback.

      I think you are spot on with your lens choices there although I would see if you cant include the 12-24mm in your bag for the dramatic sunsets and landscape shots.

      Safe travels!

  2. Donna Michiel

    Andrew, we are going to Kruger and Chobe in November of this year, I am a beginner/intermediate with a Canon 7D, I have a Sigma 120-400, a Canon 24-105L series, and a Canon 10-22 EFS lenses. I am wondering about the benefits of upgrading the 10-22 EFS lense to the Canon 16-35 lense you recommended above? I also have a Canon rebel xsi that I will take as a second camera. I upgraded from this camera last fall, so still learning the 7D.
    Thanks for your help. I’ll be watching for your lense recommendations for Kruger also…..

    1. Post
      Andrew Beck

      Hi Donna, thanks for your comment here.

      The 10-22mm is a great lens and given the crop factor of the 7D will give you a nice wide field of view when shooting landscapes – after all , it was specifically designed for these smaller crop sensors. I dont think you need to upgrade to the 16-35mmm unless you look to upgrade to a full frame body like the 5D series, but based on your comment above that is further down the road 🙂

      The post on Lens choices for KNP will go live during the course of the day tomorrow but you may want to check out Morkel’s post on “Driving yourself to great photo’s in the Kruger” at the link below:


      Chat soon!

  3. Donna Michiel

    Thank you for the feedback Andrew! I have been following the wild eye page, and enjoying all of the posts. I have seen Morkels post on the self drives in Kruger, which is exactly what we will be doing. Your photographs are amazing and inspiring, really enjoyed the shots in the blog above as always.

    Thanks again, I enjoy your work, and the wild eye team posts. They are very helpful for those of us who enjoy photography after our day jobs are done. Would love to skip the day job but…

    1. Post
      Andrew Beck

      Hi Donna, thanks so much for the kind words and I am glad that you find our blog posts helpful!

      If you guys have any time in JHB before you head to Kruger and Chobe it would be great to catch up over a cup of coffee.

  4. Donna Michiel

    Thank you Andrew, will keep that in mind. We are travelling with friends who used to live in Pretoria, and will be spending a couple of days in that area before heading into Kruger. Thanks again for your feedback.

  5. Donna Michiel

    Still working on the Kruger Park Lense Choices? You are obviously busy guys! Keep up the posts, they are all great!

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