Safari gear: 4 of the Best binoculars for an African safari

Binoculars can make a huge difference on your safari – here are our recommendations.

Binoculars are one of the first things to pack when going on your next African safari. In this guide, we cover what to look for when choosing good binoculars for safari, as well as a few handy tips and recommendations.

Do I Really Need Binoculars for Safari?

There are plenty of times you will get close to the animals, but in other cases, you won’t. So, good safari binoculars definitely enhance your safari experience. Most lodges will have one or two shared pairs of binoculars on board a vehicle or boat. But these can be low or average-quality binoculars and not that great for sharing among the passengers. If you want a good view and not miss the right moments because someone else is using the shared pair – it is highly recommended that you bring your own binoculars on safari.

Do I Need the Highest Quality Expensive Binoculars for Safari?

There is no need to go overboard, especially if you’ll only be using them once or twice in a lifetime. If you are a dedicated bird-watcher or a regular observer, then a mid-high priced pair of binoculars would interest you, and there are many good options available.

What’s the Best Magnification for Safari Binoculars?

High magnification is always nice to have. Unfortunately, it is nearly useless for safari! The problem with all that zoom is that your image becomes unstable. There is no space in the safari vehicle for using a tripod, so ultra-powerful binoculars are not a good option. Another reason is that higher magnification also means a narrower field of view. On safari, you will often need to spot animals hiding around large bushy areas. A wide field of view will allow you to achieve that. So, in our opinion, 8x is the perfect magnification for safari. Any bigger than that will result in an unstable image.

What’s the Best Lens Size for Safari Binoculars?

Bigger lenses mean that you can view in lower light conditions. Because you will be out there in the field early mornings and at dusk, you will benefit from 42mm lenses. Smaller than that means your image will be too dark at those times. Bigger than 42mm means a lot of glass making your binoculars heavier, bulkier and harder to carry and a lot more expensive.

What’s the Optimal Size and Weight for Safari binoculars?

You will be better off with lighter, smaller binoculars for safari. They are just easier to put up to your eyes and spot the action right away, and if you go for a walk, they are much easier to carry around your neck. That said, you still need some decent magnification and big enough lenses for viewing in low light conditions. So, bottom line: go for 8×42 or 10×42 binoculars. This will be the perfect balance between magnification, lens size, and weight.

What Other Features Should I Look for in Safari Binoculars?

Safari means rough roads, dust, humidity and possible drops or hits to your new binoculars. So, waterproof and shockproof features are not an absolute must but are definitely desirable. Another feature to look for is long eye relief. In plain English, this means that you will be able to hold your binoculars further away from your eyes and still see a clear image. This is important if you’ll be using your glasses or sunglasses while using the binoculars.

Which Brand and at What Price?

We won’t sugarcoat it: with optics, you simply get what you pay for. Top notch European brands like Carl Zeiss, Leica and Swarovski offer superior image quality and nearly indestructible binoculars. But these can cost you over $2,000 for the 8×42 pair. Cheaper binoculars between $80 and $150 might work, as long as there’s always enough light around. Another downside to cheaper models is that they will have blurry, dark or distorted images when using the full zoom. If you want those beautiful views of the magnificent wildlife around you then mid-range 8×42 binoculars would be your best bet.

Our top picks for safari binoculars are as follows:

Mid Range:

#1 Zeiss Terra ED

#2 Nikon Monarch 5 – 8×42

Upper Range:

#1 Swarovski EL42 8.5×42

#2 Zeiss Victory SF 8×42

Now that you have a good pair of binoculars grab a cleaning kit to keep your gear looking and working like new! This kit will also work great on your camera!

There are many brands of binoculars to suit any price point so please contact us if you have any other questions.

SafarisWhat binoculars to use on safari


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