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Night Vision Binoculars on Safari

Earlier this year I went on Safari in Zimbabwe and with me I took a pair of the excellent Luna Optics LN-PB3 Night vision binoculars that I had previously reviewed and because they were so good, I just simply could not leave them behind.

Below are a few of my personal experiences with the night vision binoculars on that trip, which I think really highlight just why I think that you should really consider taking a pair on your next safari holiday:

Viewing Elephants at Night with Night Vision

During my stay in Zimbabwe, I went on a houseboat on Lake Kariba. Located on the Zambezi river, by volume it is the largest artificial lake in the world and there is plenty of wildlife that lives in and around it’s shoreline and it is where where elephants are a very common sight, but it is not that often that you get to watch them at night:

Late one afternoon as the sun was setting, I watched and took photos of a couple of elephant bulls feeding on an island and just before it completely set, they swam across the small stretch of water between the island and the mainland. The water was deep and they became completely submerged, except for their trunks. This in itself was really great to see, but later on that night I was in for far more of a treat.

On the houseboat, I usually sleep out on the front deck under the stars instead of inside a cabin. I love it as not only do the stars seem to shine much brighter in Africa, but from here you get to hear all the sounds of the bush at night.

On this particular night I heard the breaking of branches not far from the boat and knew what it was – the elephants, tearing at the trees for food. Turing on the Luna Optics LN-PB3 Night vision binoculars, I was able to sit and watch them for ages.

For me it is always fascinating to watch these majestic animals at night and this occasion was no diofferent. What was also very interesting was to note just how good their eyesight must be as even though there was nothing but the light from the stars and the moon, they purposely walked over the large ropes that we use to secure the boat to the shore, being very careful so as not to touch them.

The Bat and the Hippo

Spending some time on a houseboat on Lake Kariba is a wonderful experience and is a great way to view animals like elephants, buffalo, crocodiles and a whole host of African birds. It is also a great place to go if you like fishing as lying within these waters is the mighty Tigerfish (Hydrocynus forskalii).

Obviously being on the water another very common sight during the day are Hippopotamuses, but like the elephants you rarely get the opportunity to observe them at night.

At night the boat is moored up against the land and shortly after going to bed one night, (I usually sleep out on the deck under the stars) I heard the unmistakable sound of a hippo coming out of the water onto the land to feed (Hippos usually feed on land at night because their skin is very sensitive to the sun and they can even get sunburnt.)

With so many hippos, this sight is not uncommon around Lake Kariba and I have often seen them eating at night, but never without using a light. So I quickly reached for the Luna Optics binoculars and what I saw was a complete revelation. Sure enough there was a large hippo munching on the grass only 20 meters from the boat, but what I also saw astonished me:

I could also clearly see a bat flying around it again and again. The reason for this I imagine is that it must have been an Insect-eating bat (Microchiroptera) that was taking advantage of the fact that the hippo was flushing insects out from the ground.

For me this sight was incredible and I just wonder if anyone has ever seen this behavior or even if it has been documented it before?

The Greater Bush Baby (Galago crassicaudatus)

During my safari holiday, I also spent a few nights at a Game reserve called Imire. This 11,000 acre game park is located about 105kms east of Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare and belongs to conservationists John and Judy Travers who have made it their lives’ work to give rescued wild animals a home.

At the heart of Imire is their black rhino conservation project and for over twenty years they have been breeding these critically endangered mammals and returning them to national parks at Imire. However as we learnt illegal poaching in Zimbabwe means they face a daily battle to keep their animals alive. So what I really like is that by visiting Imire, you can also feel good in the knowledge that the money you spend here is going to a great cause.

On my second night at Imire, I was woken by noise in a tree behind our lodge. It was a sound that I had never heard that close before, it was very loud and and sounded like a little like a human child crying and was rather scary!

Plucking up a little courage and taking my night vision binoculars with me, I decided to go and investigate. Using just the Luna Optics binoculars, I could make out that there was something fairly large in the tree behind our lodge, it was about the size of the cat, but because it was fairly high up, I could not positively identify it.

Turning on the LN-ELIR-1 laser illuminator (an extra laser illuminator that can be attached to the binoculars), I instantly recognised it as the Greater Bush Baby (Galago crassicaudatus). Worth mentioning here is that the laser illuminator is invisible to wildlife, but their eyes shine back at you, almost like cat eyes do on the road. This makes finding animals soo much easier than if you were not using it.

After watching “him” for a while, he moved out of sight and I went back to bed. I was thrilled to have seen the Bush Baby and to have been able to identify the animal that made the sound made going back to sleep much easier! Because I was using night vision, I was able to watch it in it’s own environment, acting completely normally without me having to disturb it with a spotlight or torch, which is what you really want.


Apart from these highlights, I had many other wonderful experiences with the night vision binoculars and it is why I highly recommend that if you are going to be spending a few nights on safari or anywhere in the wild that you get yourself a good pair.

I can’t speak for all Night Vision binoculars, but the Luna Optics LN-PB3 Night vision binoculars that I was using were excellent but I must stress that what really made them was the additional LN-ELIR-1 laser illuminator that you can buy as an accessory to add to it as it really does make a huge difference.

Please note: All of the images used in this article were taken by me, apart from the green night vision ones. Unfortunately I did not have the capability to take photos through a night vision device and they are only there as a guide, but what I will say is in terms of quality, they fairly accurately depict what I could actually see through the binoculars.

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