When packing to go on safari, binoculars are by far the most important piece of equipment that you should include. If you’ve put in a heap of time and money organising your African safari trip, you want to ensure that you make the most out of every second and get the very best view you can of the lions, leopards and giraffes you see.
It’s not always possible to get up close with safari animals, and although you may be lucky enough to get within ten meters of a lion on a rare occasion, it’s more likely your safari guide will scope out an animal hiding behind a bush in the distance, or very cleverly blending in with some rocks on the horizon. In these situations, it is essential that you have your own binoculars on hand to even have a chance of getting a look at your favourite safari animal that you’re so excited to see.
So we know that binoculars are highly important on a safari trip, but what will be the best binoculars for safari? Let’s take a look.
Choosing the best binoculars for safari
When it comes to choosing safari binoculars, the main factors to consider are magnification and objective lens size.
Now we know you’ve paid a lot to go on safari, and you want to see the zebras, elephants and rhinos in as much detail as possible, so we wouldn’t blame you for thinking that binoculars with a very high magnification would be the best, but this isn’t actually true. High magnification binoculars are great for getting a very close up view of an animal, however they also have their downfalls, which could ultimately effect your chances of seeing the animal at all. Here’s why…
The higher a binoculars magnification, the more susceptible they are to any small movement from your hands, or the vehicle that you’re in. This can result in very highly magnified images being shaky and blurred, meaning your view of the animal is obscured.
Field of view
Binoculars with a high magnification ultimately have a smaller field of view - the more you’re zoomed in, the less of the landscape you can see through the binoculars at one time. A small field of view isn’t too much of a problem once you’ve located the animal of interest, but can make it hard to identify the animal in the landscape to start with, meaning you’ll run the risk of missing the animal all together.
The best magnification for safari binoculars
We’d suggest opting for binoculars with either an 8x or 10x magnification at the most. This level of magnification will allow you to scout out animals of interest and still get a good, close up look at them.
Objective lens size
When it comes to choosing the best objective lens size for your safari binoculars, there’s a few things to consider. Large lenses produce bright, clear images as they let in more light than smaller, compact lenses. This is essential when on safari, as you’ll likely be heading out at dawn and dusk to catch a glimpse of the animals when they’re at their most active. In addition, large lenses also provide a wider field of view, meaning you’ll be able to see more of the bush and plain around you at one time, making it easier to spot animals. The only problem with large lenses? They increase the overall size and weight of the binoculars, making them larger to pack in your safari bag, and heavier and more cumbersome to carry around your neck, most likely alongside an equally as large camera.
So, when it comes to objective lens size, we’d suggest a compromise between ultra bright, 50mm lenses, and ultra compact 25mm lenses, and suggest opting for mid sized 32mm or full sized 42mm lenses. These will be bright enough to give you a great view, and not weigh you down too much.
Best binocular specifications for safari
Taking into account our considerations regarding magnification and objective lens size, we’d suggest looking for 8x42 or 8x32 binoculars.
Other important features for safari binoculars
Waterproof and shockproof
It goes without saying that safari binoculars should be tough, rugged and ready for the outdoors. With this in mind, it’s essential to choose waterproof binoculars that are nitrogen purged and won’t fog in extreme temperature changes. They should also be shockproof and have a durable rubber armour as they’ll be lucky to escape a safari excursion without some sort of bump or scrape.
Long eye relief
It’s likely there’ll be times on safari that you’re out in the midday sun, scouting out some sleeping lions or such like, and will want to protect your eyes from the suns glare with sunglasses. Wearing glasses or sunglasses whilst using your binoculars is fine, however you’ll need to choose some binoculars with as long eye relief as possible to do so. Eye relief is measured in mm, and basically indicates how far away from your face you can hold the binoculars and still be able to see through them properly. Binoculars with an eye relief of 17mm and above will be a great option.
How much to spend on safari binoculars
When it comes to optics such as binoculars, you really do get what you pay for. Glass quality and binocular construction can vary significantly, with high quality optics being harder to make, and hence coming with a big price tag. If you’re only likely to use your binoculars once or twice a year, or perhaps just once in a lifetime, we won’t blame you for not wanting to spend a thousand dollars or more, but would strongly advise choosing mid priced binoculars over the cheapest ones available, as they’ll bring you so much more enjoyment and significantly improve your safari experience.
Recommended binoculars for safari
Below we’ve suggested some of our best binoculars for safari at a few different price points.