Binoculars on Safari
A question we are asked a lot is about packing and often it is about clothes, camera’s and footwear, but, one of the most important items to consider can be overlooked. A good pair binoculars will definitely have a positive impact on your overall experience, while you will often be able to get up close and personal with wildlife on your safari there will be occasions when that leopard is just a little far away or that Fish Eagle is a bit to high in a tree, not only this but viewing wildlife that is closer to you through your binoculars will allow you to see intricate details an to really appreciate the situation you are in.
Some of our high end partners do have a pair of binoculars on the vehicle to be shared around but if you are on a drive with another couple or you are travelling as a family it is not ideal to be sharing one pair between four or six of you, so below is a guide to what we think you should be looking for and a few of our top picks.
Safari is not a cheap holiday and we really do think that a little money on a pair of binoculars is a far better pre-trip purchase than a lot of safari specific clothing and paraphernalia. This said, unless you are a serious serial safari goer, keen birder or avid nature lover we really do not see the need to spend out on the likes of Leica, Swarovski or Zeiss which can run you into a cost of £1,500.
Binoculars are defined by two numbers, first is the magnifier for safari I would suggest 8x or 10x. The magnification denotes how many times further you can see than with the naked eye, the reason that these two are best for safari is that they offer good magnification while being held in the hand, much higher and it is difficult to follow moving wildlife or to stay stable without a tripod to stabilize them. The second number is the size of the end lens, these are most often x32 or x42, the higher the diameter the more light passes through and the better the image in low light.
I personally like 8×42, you get a nice sharp image in low light and can stay steady when trying to find birds in trees or follow action unfolding in front of you. With almost all of the models below there are both 8x and 10x options depending on your preference.
If you are looking for the most versatile pair that you can use again and again but would also like them small enough to be unnoticeable on treks and when out birding then these Nikons are a great option
Nikon Travelite EX 8×25 Binoculars £109
This is where we most frequently find ourselves recommending our clients look, there are now a lot of great options that don’t cost the earth but deliver really solid performance.
Hawke Vantage WP 8×42 Binoculars Green – £69.99
If you are looking for a great pair 8×42’s for under £100 then these are a really solid option, Hawke produce good quality optics from this entry level pair up to the £500 range. These have really good specifications for the price, they are roof prism rather than Porro which is advantageous, as well as this they are waterproof and fog proof. Overall if you are looking for a good value pair for occasional use or your first time safari then these are a great option.
Bushnell NatureView 8×42 Binoculars – £129
Bushnell have been in existence for a long time and have a huge range of Optics, we like these more than their entry level Powerview models simply because they are fog proof and waterproof where the Powerview are not. These are around £30-50 more expensive but definitely worth it in the long run for usability in a variety of situations. These are a similar model to my own go to pair, I really like them and feel that they are rugged enough to take being thrown in and out of bags and vehicles and I don’t feel as precious as I would with a much more expensive pair.
Nikon Prostaff 7 8×42 Binoculars – £189
These are my favourite in terms of quality and features vs cost, this is why I have a pair myself! A robust pair of binoculars that take heavy usage well without showing too much wear and at a price that means you are not constantly worried about them. They are a really great option at 8 x 42 but these are also available in 10 x and a slightly cheaper version in the Prostaff 5 model.
If you are a keen safari goer or enjoy birding and nature viewing in the UK and have a little more money to spend then below are two great options to consider. The advantages of these mid range over the entry level options is the binoculars performance in low light.
Zeiss Terra ED 10×42 Binoculars – £409
Nikon Monarch 7 10 x 42 – £449
We very rarely talk about these binoculars, mostly because of the outstanding quality available in the mid range options making it hard to justify spending this amount of money on optics, however, if you are in a money no object situation and are likely to use these frequently then the below are the top models on offer from the market leaders.
Zeiss Victory SF 8×42 Binoculars – £1,799
Swarovski EL FieldPro 10×32 Swarovision – £1,495