The 8 Best Binoculars for Safari of 2023

The Athlon Optics Midas G2 UHD 8x42 is great for a wildlife-viewing excursion.

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Travel + Leisure / Sabrina Jiang

As you're packing for your dream safari, there's one thing you absolutely need to have on your list: binoculars. Magnified vision is crucial to see wildlife in extraordinary detail — though don't be surprised if you have more than a few close encounters on your trip.

It's notoriously difficult to get up close to birds, but even if you're not interested in feathered friends, you'll still want to invest in a pair of binoculars.  "Mammals on safari are often distant, and there is much delight in the detail added magnification brings, such as looking at the eye of a close-up elephant or the intricate tail of a giraffe through binoculars," Martin Benadie of Wildside Nature Tours told Travel + Leisure.

Binoculars have many specs, but the most important ones to focus on for safari are magnification and objective lens diameter, which are the two numbers in the name of the product; field of view; eye relief; and weight.

Our favorite pair of binoculars for safari is the Athlon Optics Midas G2 UHD 8x42 because it has the optimal specs and is priced in the mid-range for binoculars.

Here’s our breakdown of the best binoculars for safari:

Best Overall

Athlon Optics Midas G2 8x42 UHD Binocular

Athlon Optics Midas G2 8x42 UHD Binocular for Adult and Kids


Why We Love It
  • It has the ideal specs for a safari, as recommended by our expert, Martin Benadie.

What to Consider
  • Images are a little dim, especially in low-light conditions.

This is an ideal pair of binoculars particularly on safari, though it can be used in most binocular-viewing scenarios. Benadie recommended 8x magnification and a 42-millimeter objective lens diameter for safari binoculars (he's also a fan of 8x32 for a more compact pair), which is exactly what the Athlon Optic Midas offers. It also has a relatively wide field of view that makes spotting wildlife at a distance a little easier—you can see more of what's going on, whether that's birds courting one another in a funky dance or a baby zebra nursing beneath its mother. And eye relief? It hits the mark there, too, with a depth of 17.2 millimeters that's perfect if you wear glasses (both prescription and sunglasses).

Furthermore, this is an exceptionally hardy pair of binoculars with a durable rubber coating, which is crucial for bumpy rides in a safari vehicle. If you drop the binoculars or hit them against something, the sensitive hardware will be better protected. The binoculars are also waterproof and fog-proof, making them work in all sorts of conditions that you might encounter on safari, from sudden rainstorms to dramatic temperature changes from day to night.

Price at time of publish: $300

The Details: 8x magnification | 42-millimeter objective lens diameter | 8.1-degree field of view | 17.2-millimeter eye relief | 23.3 ounces

Best Budget

Nikon Aculon A211 8×42



Why We Love It
  • You get the perfect magnification for safari along with a wide field of view.

What to Consider
  • They have a shallow eye relief and aren't weatherproof.

For a solid pair of binoculars that leaves extra room in your budget, this model does the trick. It has the ideal 8x42 magnification and objective lens diameter for safari, plus a solidly wide field of view for observing full scenes. The tradeoffs for that low price, however, include a lack of waterproofing and fog-proofing, a shallow eye relief, and a slightly heavier weight than our top pick (only by 3 ounces, which is pretty negligible if we're being honest). Still, the most important thing is that they'll enhance your vision to see wildlife up close, and they do a really good job at that.

Price at time of publish: $87

The Details: 8x magnification | 42-millimeter objective lens diameter | 8-degree field of view | 12-millimeter eye relief | 26.3 ounces

Best Lightweight

Leica Trinovid BCA 8x20 Binocular with Case

Leica Trinovid BCA 8x20 Binocular with Case Binocular, Black


Why We Love It
  • They're pocket-sized for easy travel.

What to Consider
  • Their small sizes mean they have a narrow field of view.

Though you won't be carrying your bags very far on safari considering most are undertaken in vehicles, it's nice to have a lightweight pair of binoculars like this one that you can keep in your pocket. Leica is a camera company, so it has high-quality lenses — this model has 8x magnification like its larger counterparts, but it has just 20-millimeter objective lenses. Thus the overall device is extremely lightweight and compact. Given their small stature, they do have a narrow field of view, but we think the clarity of the image due to the high-quality lenses makes up for that.

Price at time of publish: $549

The Details: 8x magnification | 20-millimeter objective lens diameter | 6.5-degree field of view | 14-millimeter eye relief | 3.8 ounces

Best High-magnification

Vortex OpticsViper HD 10x42



Why We Love It
  • They're weatherproof and durable.

What to Consider
  • They have a narrow field of view.

If you do want to go with slightly higher magnification for your safari binoculars, this is our pick. Just remember that higher magnification means the binoculars will be extra sensitive to movement, so it might be harder to see a steady image—that doesn't pair well with the narrow field of view, which is a byproduct of the extra magnification. What makes this pair stand out, though, is their durability: they're waterproof, fog-proof, covered in rubber, and scratch-resistant. That means you don't have to fear damaging them in messy conditions (though you should always treat your binoculars with care!). We also appreciate that they're lightweight and have a pretty deep eye relief. 

Price at time of publish: $485

The Details: 10x magnification | 42-millimeter objective lens diameter | 6.5-degree field of view | 17-millimeter eye relief | 24.9 ounces

Best for Bird-watching

Nikon Monarch M7 8x42 Binoculars

NIKON Monarch M7 8x42


Why We Love It
  • They have very accurate coloration.

What to Consider
  • A greater magnification would be better for observing larger creatures. 

Because birds often keep their distance from humans and safari vehicles, binoculars are an extremely helpful tool to identify them and appreciate their wonderful plumage and intriguing behaviors. But don't be fooled into thinking you need extra-high magnification to go birding—because birds move quickly, it's easier to spot them with a wide field of view, which is typically offered by lower-magnification binoculars. This pair hits the sweet spot with a solid 8x42 magnification and optical lens diameter (again, the ideal for safari and not just birding). It has a very wide field of view for these optical specs, and it has accurate coloration, which is paramount to the birding community.

Price at time of publish: $487

The Details: 8x magnification | 42-millimeter objective lens diameter | 8.3-degree field of view | 17.1-millimeter eye relief | 23.6 ounces

Best Low-light

Vortex Razor HD 10X50



Why We Love It
  • They're very durable and weatherproof.

What to Consider
  • The light technology comes at a higher cost.

Because many animals are active around dawn and dusk—and those are the coolest times of day—you'll likely head out on game drives around sunrise and sunset. As such, lighting conditions aren't necessarily optimal, and you may want to consider investing in binoculars that function well with limited light. That's this pair, which is specifically designed to deliver sharp and bright images, even in low light. They are also made for rugged conditions, being waterproof, fog-proof, scratch-resistant, and coated with rubber armor for shock absorption and better grip. If you can stomach the price tag, this is an excellent pair of binoculars for safari-goers.

Price at time of publish: $979

The Details: 8x magnification | 42-millimeter objective lens diameter | 7.4-degree field of view | 17.5-millimeter eye relief | 24.2 ounces

Longest Eye Relief

Vanguard Endeavor ED 8x42

Why We Love It
  • They’re rather affordable within the realm of binoculars.

What to Consider
  • They have a slightly narrower field of view than comparable binoculars.

For glasses-wearers, one of the most important—if not the most important—spec to consider is eye relief, which measures the optimal distance between the optical lens and your eye. Because wearing glasses will separate the lens and your eye by a few extra millimeters, you'll want a pair of binoculars with deep eye relief. This pair has one of the deepest eye reliefs for lower-priced binoculars: 19 millimeters. But these binoculars actually perform spectacularly in other categories, too, notably in sharpness, brightness, and color accuracy. Quite frankly, this is an excellent all-around pair of binoculars, but doubly so for people who wear glasses.

Price at time of publish: $216

The Details: 8x magnification | 42-millimeter objective lens diameter | 7-degree field of view | 19-millimeter eye relief | 25.8 ounces

Best Splurge

Swarovski EL 8.5x42



Why We Love It
  • They have exceptionally deep eye relief.

What to Consider
  • They're pretty heavy.

Swarovski—yes, the crystal company—is known for making extremely high-quality binoculars, and they certainly have the price tag to match. What's spectacular about this splurge-worthy pair is that they not only magnify, but brighten, too. And that's not to mention their crystal-clear lenses (pun intended). As such, they're great in low-light conditions, such as dusk and dawn, when animals on safari are typically most active. On top of all that, they're also waterproof to the point where they can be submerged up to 13 feet. So, yes, you technically could bring them snorkeling, though that's not a typical safari activity. 

Price at time of publish: $2,169

The Details: 8.5x magnification | 42-millimeter objective lens diameter | 7.6-degree field of view | 20-millimeter eye relief | 29.5 ounces

Tips for Buying Binoculars for Safari

Understand the specs

When you're looking to buy binoculars, you need to consider the specs of these advanced optical devices. Every number you're looking at in a product description impacts your user experience. To help you figure out what each number means, here's a quick breakdown of the main specs to consider when buying binoculars:

  • Magnification: This number (which is the first number in the product name when you see something like 8x42) denotes how many times larger an object will appear through the binoculars as compared to real life. Higher numbers mean higher magnification. For safari, it's best to stick to 8x or 10x magnification.
  • Objective lens diameter: This number indicates the size of the binoculars' front lenses, measured in millimeters. (It's the second number in the product name when you see something like 8x42). Larger lenses allow more light into the binoculars, which provides a crisper image, but as their size increases, so does their weight. Most standard binoculars have 42-millimeter lenses, while some compact models range from 20 to 30 millimeters.
  • Field of view: This number refers to the width of the image you see in your binoculars. There are two forms of measurement for field of view: angular and linear. Angular field of view is measured in degrees (out of a possible 360) from your vantage point. Linear field of view is measured in feet, but its calculation is a little complicated. It refers to the width of the image in feet per 1,000 yards. For example, if you're looking at a point 1,000 yards away through a pair of binoculars, however many feet the image you see covers end to end is the linear field of view.
  • Eye relief: Measured in millimeters, this is the ideal distance between the optical lens (the lens in the eyepiece) and your eyes. People who wear glasses will want a deeper eye relief, since their glasses will add some distance between the optical lens and their eyes. A deep eye relief is considered 16 millimeters or more.
  • Weight: This is, of course, how heavy the binoculars are. Heavier binoculars are more difficult to use, as your arms may get tired holding them up. You might want to use a tripod for the heaviest binoculars, but that might not be possible in a safari vehicle.

Expect rough terrain

There's usually a fair bit of off-roading on safari, which means you—and any equipment you're carrying—are in for a bumpy ride. If possible, keep your binoculars in a protective case while you're on the move and only use them when the vehicle is stopped. You don't want to risk dropping them. To minimize the likelihood of damage from bumps, choose binoculars with a rubber coating. "The rubber armoring gives an element of protection against bumps, but binoculars remain sensitive instruments best not dropped, as prisms can misalign," said Benadie. 

Consider weight

Most safaris are taken in vehicles, so you don't need to worry about carrying extra weight for most of your journey. But do remember that you probably won't be using a tripod from within the vehicle, so your arms might get tired from holding up a heavy pair of binoculars.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • Do I need binoculars for safari?

    Though it's not absolutely necessary to use binoculars on safari, your experience will be greatly enhanced by them. Wildlife will likely approach your safari vehicle, which provides wonderful viewing opportunities with the naked eye, but there are many times when animals will be farther away. In those cases, binoculars provide you with a front-row seat to all the action! Keep in mind that some safari operators provide guests with loaner binoculars, too, so check with your company before purchasing your own pair.

  • How do binoculars work?

    Binoculars are a powerful tool to enhance your vision, magnifying the subjects in front of you. The process starts with the objective lenses, which are the ones farthest away from your eyes. These curved pieces of glass take in the image in front of you in the form of light. That light is inverted by the lens, then reflected off prisms inside the binoculars to be reverted to the right orientation. From the prisms, the light then enters the eyepiece, where the image is magnified by more lenses—that image is then reflected into your eyes.

  • How do I clean binoculars?

    "Dust (or biscuit crumbs) are best washed off under a tap if the optics are waterproof," said Benadie. "A small blower brush is good to have, too, if the optics are not waterproof." He says that you can then follow up with a gentle swipe of a microfiber cloth. And as for the rubber body, you can use a mild soapy solution to get it in tip-top shape.

Why Trust Travel + Leisure

For this article, Stefanie Waldek read dozens of customer reviews, and incorporated her own experience with binoculars for wildlife viewing. While researching binoculars, we spoke with Martin Benadie of Wildside Nature Tours.

Up Next: What to Pack for Safari: A Complete Checklist

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