Wildlife photography is a popular pastime for many adventurers, whether you’re looking out your living room window in the hopes of spotting some local birdlife or if you choose to travel to an exotic new country for rarer photo opportunities.
Originally, the hobby took a more informational slant to document rare wildlife, but recently it’s seen photographers practice a more playful and creative style. The rise of wildlife photography has allowed the activity to become more accessible to the general public. In 2023, almost 50,000 photos were submitted to the Natural History Museum for the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, compared to 38,575 in 2022.
However, not all countries have the best wildlife opportunities. They might be diverse and teeming with life, but that doesn’t always mean you’re able to take photos of them. At Go2Africa, we’ve analyzed millions of photos from thousands of travelers to find out which country is the best for wildlife spotting.
So grab your camera, book a trip and explore our study below to see the wildlife hotspots to put on your list this year.
- Kenya has the highest proportion of wildlife photos with 20.69% of the country’s tagged photos featuring animals.
- Five of the top 10 countries for wildlife photography are in Africa including Kenya, Botswana, Tanzania, Namibia and South Africa.
- Canada has the most wildlife photos overall with 156,420, making up 20.42% of its photos.
- Kruger is the national park with the most wildlife photos overall with 40,965 photos making up an incredible 42.54% of its photo gallery.
- The U.S. state of Florida is the best state for wildlife photography with 34.31% of images featuring wildlife.
How We Conducted the Study
To conduct the study, Go2Africa first pulled a seed list of all the countries, U.S. states and popular national parks around the world. We then analyzed almost 70 million images on the photo-sharing website Flickr by searching for each location and the keyword ‘wildlife’. Using this data, we then calculated the number of wildlife photos as a percentage of all photos of the location to determine where people visited to photograph animals.
African Continent Features the Best Countries to Spot Wildlife
On the continent of Africa, there’s an overwhelming number of countries that have a high number of wildlife photos, from the extensive plains of Kenya to the diverse savannahs of Botswana. Five African countries appear in the top 10 ranking of countries for wildlife spotting including Kenya, Botswana, Tanzania, Namibia and South Africa.
Each country has its own unique species and offers budding wildlife photographers ample opportunity to put their cameras to the test and explore animals no other continent gets to see. Africa has a diverse range of species including wildebeest, hippos, elephants, giraffes, cheetahs, the Big 5, which comprises lions, elephants, buffalo, leopards, and rhinoceroses, along with a range of smaller critters.
The continent has taken the hearts of endless visitors, prompting famed American author Jodi Picoult to say
“Africa – You can see a sunset and believe you have witnessed the Hand of God. You watch the slow lope of a lioness and forget to breathe. You marvel at the tripod of a giraffe bent to water. In Africa, there are iridescent blues on the wings of birds that you do not see anywhere else in nature. In Africa, in the midday heart, you can see blisters in the atmosphere. When you are in Africa, you feel primordial, rocked in the cradle of the world.”
Kenya Leads As Top Country for Wildlife Spotting
Of all the countries in the world, Kenya ranks as the best place for wildlife spotting. The country is biologically diverse with over 25,000 species of animal and 7,000 species of plants that have so far been recorded, along with at least 2,000 fungi and bacteria. Featuring animals photographers would only dream of capturing, along with the Big 5 which attracts thousands of tourists every year, the country is a powerhouse of wildlife.
Kenya has many expansive parks and landscapes that are home to its diverse population of wildlife. The Masai Mara is the country’s most popular reserve and holds one of Africa’s richest concentrations of wildlife. At the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, Amboseli is renowned for its large herds of free-ranging African elephants and its majestic backdrop which makes photography in the region especially breathtaking. Samburu National Reserve is famous for its abundance of unique species such as the Grevy Zebra - the largest of the three zebra species.
Emma Hill, an African Safari Expert who specializes in Kenya safaris recommends Kenya as one of the top locations for wildlife photography:
“I've consistently found joy in promoting Kenya as a preferred destination for my travelers as it holds incredible rewards for avid wildlife enthusiasts and passionate amateur photographers. While the rainy season poses its challenges, the vibrant colors that emerge in the Open Savannah of the Masai Mara, particularly in the fantastic private concessions surrounding this popular National Park, are truly awe-inspiring. The same can be said for exploring the Acacia thickets and lush pockets of vegetation in the Northern part of Kenya, such as Ol Pejeta, Lewa, Mugie, Loisaba, and Samburu.
“These diverse locations offer unique wildlife sightings and settings, an experience further enhanced if you can include the cost of a private vehicle for game viewing. Opting for travel between November and March, or even in June, not only ensures the best photography conditions but may also present opportunities for special deals or lower rates.”
Canada Ranks 2nd As Wildlife Photographers Haven
Canada comes in at second place as the best country to spot wildlife. 20.42% of all pictures taken in the country, accounting for over 150,000 images, are of its stunning wildlife from the fearsome grizzly bear to majestic wild elk. Canada is a richly biodiverse country with over 80,000 classified species and 20 major ecosystems including tundra, boreal forest, grassland, and temperate deciduous forest, giving photographers plenty of opportunities to capture its sometimes elusive inhabitants.
The Canadian Geographic Canadian Wildlife Competition of the Year showcases some of the amazing opportunities the country has to capture all creatures great and small. 2023’s winner Jean-Christophe Lemay won with photographs including a woodland caribou traversing a frosty landscape high in the Chic-Choc mountains of Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula as well as a female Canada lynx and her kit peering over the snow in Quebec’s La Vérendrye Wildlife Reserve.
Singapore Ranks 3rd As Urban Oasis for Wildlife
Singapore comes in third place with 19.19% of photos capturing the country’s unique wildlife, making up 117,702 photos in total. Although Singapore is a relatively small country mainly dominated by its widespread metropolis, its botanic gardens, wetlands and surrounding islands are all teeming with life.
National Geographic Photographer Gab Mejia told the publication, “The common impression people have of Singapore is that it’s an urban jungle. But behind all these tall buildings, there are nooks and crannies you can go into, where you’ll discover lush vegetation, wildlife, and all the different kinds of insects and birds.”
Kruger Is The Best National Park in The World For Wildlife Spotting
In our analysis, we also looked at national parks around the world which are often some of the best places to spot wildlife. They’re protected areas that allow native animals to flourish and the public to walk amongst animals in their natural habitat.
South Africa’s Kruger National Park ranked as the best national park to spot wildlife, more than any other, even beating out any of the USA’s locations. Almost half of photographs of the park (42.54%) are of the location’s incredible wildlife, accounting for over 40,965 unique images.
Not only will visitors have the chance to spot the Big 5, but Kruger is also home to a high density of wild animals including buffalo, storks, giraffes, hyenas, impalas and crocodiles. The official Kruger National Park website says, “The diversity of habitats in the park, from open savannas to lush riverine forests, allows photographers the benefit of selecting preferred landscapes for their photographs.”
Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya comes in second place with 33.53% of photos of the park featuring wildlife. The Masai Mara has long been a favorite safari destination with some of the more popular and larger animals in the world including lions, cheetahs, elephants, zebras and hippos.
All the top three national parks on our list are based in Africa, with Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park coming in third place with 23.37% of its photos showcasing the park’s unique wildlife. The Serengeti, along with the Masai Mara, are both renowned for The Great Wildebeest Migration which sees more than 2 million animals traverse through both national parks throughout the year.
Florida Is The Best State For Wildlife Spotting
While some countries are better for wildlife photography than others, places closer to home in the U.S. are teeming with their own unique wildlife. The United States of America is one of seventeen megadiverse countries in the world with an estimated 2,972 native species including the two national animals, the Bald Eagle and American Bison.
In our analysis of wildlife photographs, Florida ranked as the best state to spot wildlife. Of all 682,181 photos of the state, 34.31% featured that of its diverse wildlife, eclipsing any other state. Florida has a huge range of environments that are home to many colorful species from swamps to coral reefs. The Florida panther, northern river otter, mink, white-tailed deer, bobcat, nine-banded armadillo, and Virginia opossum are all species you’d find within the state, making it a great spot for wildlife spotters to explore.
Texas comes in second place for top states to spot wildlife with 18.53% of its photographs featuring animals. The state challenges Florida for the top spot in terms of varying terrain with over 800 habitat types from desert valleys to wooded mountain slopes homing black bears, mountain lions and barn owls.
California comes in third place with over 115,000 photographs of the state’s wildlife making up 14.71% of its photos. The Golden State is home to more plants and wildlife than any other state with elk, bears and coyotes all roaming its expansive drylands.
How to Take Professional Wildlife Photos on Safari and at Home
Taking high-quality photographs of animals is a skill in itself. Rogan Kerr, professional photographer, videographer and owner of Roaming Media shares his tips on how to take professional wildlife photos when you’re on safari:
Shrink Down Your Gear
Don’t be that guy with four camera bags on the back of a safari vehicle. If you can’t comfortably carry your gear, you’re doing it wrong! Not only will dragging too much luggage around on safari get in your way, but it could also stop you from being able to move quickly making you miss key shots.
Pick Your MVP
The back of a safari vehicle is not the ideal place to be swapping out lenses. Go with something that gives you a bit of dexterity. I shoot most of my content on a 70-300mm - which allows me to capture wider scenes and punch in for the close-up.
Think About Stabilization
Safari vehicles are bumpy! Your photos are going to reflect that if you don’t compensate with shutter speed. You can even make your life easier using a tripod, monopod or bean bag so keep these in mind before your trip. You’ll create less stress on your camera and reduce the risk of bumping it while on drive.
Bigger Zoom = Higher Shutter Speeds
If you’re going to wield a hefty zoom lens, you need to pump your shutter speed up to compensate for the inevitable lens shake. The rule of thumb is doubles. If you’re at 70mm your shutter speed should be at least 1/140 and so on.
The Small Stuff
Don’t just obsess over the big cats. There is so much incredible wildlife to photograph in Africa, from the birds to the buffalo. All of them hold incredible photographic opportunities. Try to build a portfolio that is diverse and celebrates the incredible heritage of Africa!
Practice with Pets
If you’re a novice photographer and want to get the hang of shooting animals, start with your pets! They’ll help you get your eye in. After which move to birds and squirrels in your local park. Once you start looking for nature you’ll find it everywhere - and it’s all an opportunity to practice.
Embrace the Dark
Low-light conditions are a part of safari photography. Get to know the extremes you can push your camera to so that you know how best to deal with these conditions in the field. You don’t want to end up pushing all your photographs through an AI denoiser when they all come out grainy.
Has our study inspired you to go on a wildlife spotting trip of your own? Explore our safari holidays in the top country for wildlife spotting, Kenya and give yourself the opportunity to snap photos of the Big 5 on our photographic safaris.
To find out the best countries for wildlife spotting, we first pulled a seed list of every country in the world. Then, using this list we searched for each country on the photo-sharing platform Flickr along with the keyword ‘wildlife’.
We pulled the numbers for each search term and then calculated them as a percentage of the total photos of the country. These were then ranked overall and by continent.
We repeated the methodology for national parks, pulling our seed list from U.S. News & World Report’s Best National Parks in the World for 2023 ranking.
Some countries that could hold double meanings such as Chad, Guinea and Turkey were given the additional keyword of ‘country’.
Data was collected in January 2023.