When making a list of things that can ruin your safari experience, not bringing the right pair of binoculars might not be the first thing that comes to mind. Surely, a leopard jumping into the vehicle comes before. A safari is a trip for observing or hunting animals in their natural habitat. In the past, the expedition was mostly about hunting but now, tourists essentially go there to observe and photograph wildlife. Do not be misled by the synonymous name, as some safaris do take place outside of Africa, going to Africa just seems like the initial decision people make for this once in a lifetime experience. And for this experience to be unstoppable, a good pair of binoculars will be your best friend.
Common Use Conditions
Safari equals bumpy roads, a hot climate, constant moving, dirt, humidity, and plausible falls of your pair of binoculars. Safari binoculars are usually used at high temperatures, very much exposed to the sun. Hence, proper housing is needed. Most of the areas are covered in dense vegetation, which results in short viewing distances. There is a high likelihood that there will be dust and other particles in the atmosphere, and something can always go wrong in the wilderness, which is why having waterproof and shockproof binos plays to your advantage.
Field of View
For your safari journey, you need to bring the best pair of binoculars accompanied by the best features. Buy them, pack them, and handle them with love and care. The first feature safari binoculars should have is a wide field of view. A wide field of view provides better observation at a short viewing distance. It is also better for following the action, especially when panning while in search of animals.
The second feature is a magnification of 8x or less, as it is most appropriate for stalking and use on vehicles. Bigger is not always better — the biggest magnification might not be the best choice for a few reasons, one of them being handshaking when trying to focus with magnifications of 12 and up. High magnification also means narrowing the field of view, which brings us back to our first point.
Size and Weight
Obviously, your safari binoculars should be small in mass, as well as in size, as it is normal for people to get tired on safaris, and carrying extra weight around for a longer period of time can be a pain in the neck. Low mass is of big help if you use the binoculars all day long and smaller binoculars are easier to put up to your eyes.
Reliability and Robustness
The reliability and robustness of the binoculars are also what is important, as binoculars are exposed to harsh conditions such as high temperatures, thus they need to be durable. The materials used should also be sweat proof, as, believe it or not, sweaty hands can also pose a problem. Remember – reliability and robustness are equally significant as the quality of optics.
If you are among the unfortunate and need prescription glasses, you need a pair of binos with a long eye relief. Also, in a hot climate sweat is hither and yon, so binoculars with a longer eye relief are much easier to use.
Because the whole point of bringing binoculars to a safari is to observe animals, the binoculars should have a slow focus feature to observe the details on slow-moving animals, and a fast-focus feature to observe birds if birds are your cup of tea. Being able to see so much detail on the animals is exhilarating, as is spotting unapproachable animals you would have otherwise not have seen.
Pocket binoculars are lightweight and small – pocket-sized. This means that they are easy to carry around in your pockets, and also extremely affordable. However, because of their short eye relief, not the most comfortable to use. They are an adequate choice, as they will function well on your excursion, but at the same time, not be much of a money waste when you return, should you not use them again.
Compact binoculars could be the ideal choice, as they are not too big or heavy, so you can still carry them around without difficulties. These are compact and lightweight, but they cannot fit in your pocket. Binoculars this size are a great travel companion, even for wearing them around your neck on a bushwalk in the Motherland. The most common configuration is 8×32, so they are quite similar to full-size binoculars. What is more, they offer decent optical performance, acceptable eye relief, and a wide field of view.
Full-size binoculars with 8×42 configuration are extremely comfortable to look through, due to their generous eye relief. They also perform well in low-light situations. The best time for big game hunters is at dusk and dawn, so it is vital to have binoculars that let a fair amount of light in. However, the mass of full-size 8×42 binoculars can bring you to a point of departure if you carry them with you the whole day, which is quite likely at safaris.
Sadly, it can be difficult to know what is most suitable for safaris if you have not been on a safari trip yet. So, if you are torn between choosing compact binoculars or 8×42 binoculars, we have written a buying guide for both, which might help to ease up your decision.
Congratulations, you have purchased the most affordable pair of binoculars on the market. Now, the only thing you are left with is a ruined experience. Buying cheap does not automatically mean buying smart, and spending less does not invariably mean gaining more benefit for the money. The word safari translates to the word journey in Arabic. And if we have learned anything from our past journeys, bringing the right pair of binoculars is a must. And with this, we hope we have given you some insight on what is the right pair for you.