I am not an expert on binoculars, but that is not going to stop me from giving you some excellent advice.
Wildlife watching requires binoculars, and although I’m focusing on birding here, everything we’re talking about applies generally. So this advice may be useful for your Safari to Africa where birds will be only one component of your viewing.
Here are a few guidelines that I’ve found to be useful. I’d love to see people add comments.
1) The person in the store knows crap.
2) Bigger binoculars will always be optically better all else being equal. In other words, whatever you are looking for optically will be more easily achieved if the designers do not have to make it all happen in a miniature binocular. Or, putting it yet another way, similar optical results can be achieved for less money with a larger pair of binoculars. Bigger is better.
3a) Big binoculars are a pain to carry around, won’t fit in your carry on as easily, and in general are less convenient. Small is better.
3b) Almost all small highly portable binoculars under $150.00 are unsatisfactory, even if they carry a famous name brand. They might seem OK when you try them out, but once you use actually good binoculars you won’t like them so much.
4) You need to have one pair of binoculars per person, so if you are a couple, get two.
5) A really nice compromise between size, quality, and price is the Orion Savannah 8×32 Phase-Coated Waterproof Binoculars or one that is like it. This is what we use and we have a hard time switching to anything else. We only have one, and our other binoculars are small Nikons that are very nice. There are also some large klunky unknown name brand sets that work OK but you would not want to be seen in public with them.
For our second pair, I think we are going back to the Orions.
My final piece of advice: 7) Use the binoculars. Spend time looking at the creature. After you’ve had it in view long enough to get the distinguishing marks down, and to know what you are looking at and what it is doing, keep looking for a while longer. Interesting things sometimes happen.