Binoculars for an African safari

Bincoulars for an African Safari

Binoculars are the most essential item you should pack for an African safari.

We frequently advise guests that if they have to choose between a camera and binoculars, then take some binoculars.

When on safari, ideally, you need a pair of binoculars each. After spending much time and money planning your African safari, you want to make the most of every moment.Β Β 

Binoculars are not just for distance vision, but they are great when wildlife is close. The level of detail you can see is amazing! 

Despite most of our guests getting closer to wildlife than they ever imagined, a good pair of binoculars is critical to your overall safari experience. We recommend each person has a pair of binoculars. 

We are often asked the following:

Is there a brand of binoculars that is best?

Although there isn’t a single “best” binocular brand for everyone, we understand budget constraints will preclude some brands. Whilst looking for binoculars, you will notice brands such as Swarovski, Bushnell, Nikon, Leica, and Zeiss are frequently mentioned. 

What binocular magnification is best for safari?

Most safari travellers choose a magnification of 7x or 8x, which provides a wide field of view. Keen birdwatchers may choose for a magnification of 10x or 12x, which provides a better field of view.

What do the numbers on binoculars mean?

When binoculars are described as 8×42, the 42 refers to the front lens size, called the objective lens. The larger the front or objective lens, the more light there is for viewing. This is important when in low light conditions, such as dawn and dusk. 

With luggage weight limits for most safaris, there is a trade-off between portability and viewing range. Larger lenses do make binoculars more cumbersome.

Full-sized binoculars have an objective lens at least 42 mm or more in diameter.
Mid-sized binoculars have an objective lens ranging from 32 to 36 mm in diameter.
Compact binoculars have an objective lens ranging from 21 to 28 mm in diameter.

Full-sized and mid-sized binoculars’ allow more light, so the image you see will typically be brighter and of higher quality. However, other factors like the quality of the glass and coatings also greatly influence this.

Even with very small compacts, picture brightness won’t be an issue on a bright, sunny day; it only becomes a significant impact in low light. When it’s cooler and the majority of the wildlife is more active, you can go on a safari very early in the morning or late in the afternoon or early evening.

How much to spend on safari binoculars?

Similar to cameras, when it comes to binoculars, you really do get what you pay for. 

The price of a pair of binoculars can vary widely depending on the materials used in their construction and the quality of the glass used. If you are only going to use your binoculars only once or twice a year, we understand if you do not want to spend a lot of money. However, we think you will have a much better safari experience if you purchase (or borrow) a pair of mid-range binoculars instead of the cheapest ones.

If you cannot afford to purchase or cannot warrant the expense, then ask family and friends and borrow a pair of binoculars.

What are the best binocular specifications for safari?

Considering our experience travelling to Africa over the last 30 years, we suggest guests look at either purchasing or borrowing 8×42 or 10×42 binoculars.

With the left eye closed, rotate the diopter until the image seen by the right eye is focused.

How to use binoculars?

If you have ever attempted to use someone else’s binoculars, you know that they need to be adjusted to each user. Below are some basic steps to focus your binoculars

  1. Adjusting the eyecups. For non-eyeglass wearers, eyecups should be set to the fully extended position. For eyeglass wearers, eyecups should be set to the fully retracted position.
  2. Adjust the distance between the eyepieces to suit your eyes.This is done by β€œbending” the binocular at its hinge.
  3. Focus the left eye first. With the right eye closed, turn the focus knob until the image seen by the left eye is focused.
  4. Focus the right eye. With the left eye closed, rotate the diopter until the image seen by the right eye is focused.
Binocular Diagram