Lens recommendation for Madikwe Game Reserve

Johan van Zyl Johan, Lens Recommendations 7 Comments

Madikwe Game Reserve, situated in the North West Province of South Africa close to the Botswana border, is home to our Madikwe Photo Safari.  This Reserve which is only a four hour drive from Johannesburg, is the perfect getaway for photographers.  Being Malaria free, it is also a great destination for families with young kids.

Having guided in Madikwe for about five years and running the Madikwe Photo Safari, these would be the lenses I would recommend for travelling to this unique destination.

Wide Angle (24-70mm)

Madikwe has numerous waterholes, which in the drier months can become a highway for wildlife.  Having a wide angle in these situations would help capture the entire scene, which is often accompanied by gorgeous light being on the edge of the Kalahari.

On all of our safaris to Madikwe, we will try (weather dependant) to do some star photography, where a wider lens might come in handy, a 16-35, 17-40mm or similar.

Medium Zoom lens (70-200mm)

Definitely a lens that is suited for this Reserve.  In Madikwe, as with most Reserves in South Africa, off roading is permitted for high profile species, which means you generally get close to the animals.  This lens will also help capture “animal in environment” type images, and with the scenic waterholes and mountains this Reserve, the possibilities are endless.

Telephoto Lens (300-500mm range)

From past experiences in this Reserve, a focal length of 400mm is the maximum required to capture most scenes, however with the amount of birdlife in the area, a 500mm would come in handy if bird photography is what you are after.  Focal range more than 300mm will also enable you to deconstruct your subjects and look for more abstract images.

In Summary

  • Wide angle lens for Landscape images from vistas and around scenic waterholes
  • Mid focal range 70-200mm for “animal in environment” type images.
  • Telephoto lens of 300-400mm for close up portraits
  • 500-600mm if bird photography is of interest.


About the Author

Johan van Zyl


The opportunity of visiting some of the wildest, undisturbed areas and sharing my passion for wildlife, conservation and photography with like minded people is a privilege that I am forever grateful.

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Comments 7

  1. Charles Hopkins

    I agree and as a hobbyist photographer (not a pro like Johan) having visited Madikwe 13 times including once with Johan, what he hasn’t mentioned and the thing that sets Madikwe apart from self-drive reserves/arks is the proximity you get as the rangers can go off-oad (mostly) and the limit on the number of vehicles at a sighting. This gives fantastic close shots of most of the animals/sightings and hence Johan’s suggestion of a shorter and a medium zoom. My choice is a 24-105, a 70-200, a 100-400.

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  2. Charles Hopkins

    Johan – Further to your choice of lenses for Madikwe – I would like to hear your thoughts on full frame and cropped sensor cameras seeing you used both and your preferred pairing of camera and lenses. I know there isn’t a set recipe, but your thoughts would be useful.

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      Johan van Zyl

      Hi Charles, personally I enjoy full frame and will use this whenever possible. On our trip I used a 1Dx MK II and a 400mm 2.8 and a 5D Mark III with a 70-200. This was a great combo I feel as you had the reach of the 400mm for close up portraits and the 70-200mm for wider images. If I had two bodies this is the combo I would go for. If I only had one body and lens it would be a full frame camera and 300mm 2.8 lens. It all comes down to personal preference and the images that you are after. Hope this helps?

  3. Joao travassos

    Johan,I will be with you on the great migration photo safari next august.For it your recommendations concerning lenses are the same ? Would it be in any way useful a 150-600 or you consider it too much?

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      Johan van Zyl

      Hi Joao,

      Thank you for getting in touch. A little more reach will come in very handy in the Mara, especially for close up interactions at river crossings. Like Gerry mentioned go check out the blogs we did on the Mara and please don’t hesitate to give me a shout should you have any more questions.

      Look forward to hosting you during the greatest wildlife spectacle.


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