Travel Tips for Wildlife Photographers around the World….

Maasai Mara in Kenya
How did we get so close, so lucky to get this shot?  We ended up calling it “safari luck” when we saw the Big Five in the first 10 hours on safari. The photo was taken in the Maasai Mara in Kenya.

Note: Today’s lengthy post is #4 of 5 required for SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

Today’s post is not intended to be a photographic instruction piece. Your personal equipment isn’t a point of discussion for our purposes here. Also, I will preface that I am not a photographic expert, by any means. Preparing 3000 posts over these past years has been our primary focus. As much as we’ve loved sharing our photos, becoming experts in photo-taking simply wasn’t a goal of ours. Others may say it should have been.

But, our worldwide journey has been wrapped around our goal of doing and being whoever we chose to be, at any given time, as we’ve scoured the world, not necessarily doing and being what is expected of us. Sure, great skills in photography would have been an asset, Somehow, my interest in acquiring those skills has not been at the forefront of my mind. We are merely typical travelers, who happen to hold a camera in our hands, excited to share what we see through our eyes, not a perfect, perhaps edited version of what treasures we behold.

More so, our somewhat simple goal has been to share with our family/readers/friends inspirations that which we’ve gleaned from our eight years of non-stop world travel (barring the over six months we’ve been stuck in a hotel room in Mumbai, India while in lockdown, due to COVID-19). Thus, our topic of travel tips for wildlife photographers around the world is more about the “where,” the “what,” and the “when” to take photos of wildlife, as opposed to the instructive mode of “how.”

older elephant resting his trunk on his tusk
In most cases, we were within 25 feet of any of the animals in our photos. Notice, this older elephant resting his trunk on his tusk. Our guide assumed this old male to be around 60 years old, close to his life expectancy. The photo was taken in the Maasai Mara in Kenya.

No doubt, some of today’s travel tips for wildlife photographers around the world will include a portion of the “how” when positioning yourself and your subject for the ideal shot, not necessarily the perfect shot. It may be a shot that bespeaks your passion, as it has with us, for animals in the wild and then, those that may not be in the wild which are equally fascinating and photo-worthy.

Why write travel tips for wildlife photographers around the world?…

Unable to take photos these past many months, we’d decided early on in this confinement to take advantage of the thousands of photos we’ve posted throughout the past eight years and share them once again. This provided us with fodder for our daily uploads while fulfilling the expectation of our years-long reader throughout the world. Only early on in our journey in 2012, we failed to post photos, a time when we had virtually no experience in using a camera and little interest in learning to do so.

No more than a few days into our journey, we realized, a few shots here and there, taken using our phones, just wasn’t going to be sufficient. We purchased a small-sized Samsung point and shoot when I thought it was kind of “cute” since the exterior was pink. Over the years, we purchased a few upgrades from the first purchase we made while at a port of call on our first cruise at a Walmart store in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. .Oh, good grief! We had no clue how to use it!

Oxpeckers can dig into the flesh of animals to extract parasites
Oxpeckers can dig into the flesh of animals to extract parasites, ticks, and other insects that may burrow under their skin as is the case of this kudu. Sadly once the insect is extracted, the oxpecker may continue to peck at the injured site, making matters worse. The photo was taken in Marloth Park, South Africa.

Had other world travelers written such a post describing travel tips for wildlife photographers around the world, we may have checked it out. But, in 2012, there were few people online doing what we have been doing; traveling the world for years to come, without a home, without storage, with only the items in our then overweight luggage (we’ve since improved that scenario), intent on finding appropriate wildlife subjects in most countries in their itinerary.

Had we discovered such a site that emphatically stated we had to learn all the features of a camera and how to use them, I may have looked the other way, Tom included. Comparable to our lack of interest in bungee jumping, learning the nuances of a camera wasn’t in our wheelhouse. We just weren’t interested.

So, today, for the first time ever in almost 3000 posts, which we’ll achieve in less than 30 days, (within two days of our eight-year travel anniversary), we’ll be delighted to share what we’ve learned for the where, the what, and the when, of taking photos that may not be perfect, but will hopefully fill your hearts with blissful memories of places you’ve been and wildlife you’ve been blessed to see and experience, both in the wild and elsewhere.

wildlife photographers around the world
Finding the rarely seen Colobus Monkey put me on a photo-taking frenzy. The photo was taken in Diani Beach, Kenya.

The “where” of travel tips for wildlife photographers around the world?

It’s been these very photos, that prompted us to write travel tips for wildlife photographers around the world, that may include the more experienced photographer and also those, who, like us at one point, could barely figure out how to use the flash or the zoom, let alone more complicated settings.

When we decided to travel the world early in 2012, ten months later we were ready to go, having sold every worldly possession while booking two years into the future to provide us with peace of mind in knowing we had a place to live wherever we traveled. In the process, we kept in mind our preferences, not only in regard to the type of life we wanted to live, the type of property we wanted to live in, but also the surroundings we craved.

wildlife photographer in Kruger National Park, South Africa
We waited patiently and mom stood while the baby sat up on her/his hind end, nose touching mom. The photo was taken in Kruger National Park, South Africa.

What appealed most to our tastes and desires were a few vital factors:

  1. Beautiful surroundings and scenery, when possible
  2. An abundance of nature within easy reach
  3. Access to experiencing wildlife and other animals on a daily basis, if possible
    wildlife photographer in Princeville, Kauai, Hawaii
    This Laysan Albatross parent and chick sit close to one another until the chick becomes more confident and the parents feel more at ease. In time, the chick will be left behind on its own to fledge, most likely five to six months later. At five years of age, they will return with a mate and begin the life cycle all over again. The photo was taken in Princeville, Kauai, Hawaii.

Utmost in our travels, access to wildlife became more and more important to us, as time continued on. We’d seen all the historic buildings, churches, and structures, to satisfy a lifetime. We’d dined in excellent restaurants befitting my way of eating. We shopped in unique local markets, adapting to available foods and resources, We experienced the nuances of cultural differences from that which we’d known in our old lives and met countless people everywhere we traveled.

But, as far as travel tips for wildlife photographers around the world, where one chooses to go is of the utmost importance. In Dubai, we were disappointed with little wildlife, other than camels, available for photo-taking, as well as in Morocco. We went wild with delight over the vast array of birds in Costa Rica. We loved shepherding sheep on a farm in England. And, we giggled at a pig farm in Tasmania, Australia.

wildlife photographer in New Plymouth New Zealand
Alpacas are excellent photo subjects. The photo was taken on an alpaca farm in New Plymouth New Zealand.

In Madeira, Portugal, we saw dolphins and whales while on a catamaran tour out to sea. In Hawaii, the birds, whales, and other sea creatures were in abundance. In Antarctica, we were in heaven with the sheer numbers of penguins, killer whales, elephant seals, and birds, let alone the scenery beyond our wildest dreams.

It all boils down to what you’d like to accomplish in your travels. If wildlife is your top priority, it’s important to conduct research to determine if the location you’re hoping to visit has an abundance of wildlife. Many countries we’d assumed would be rife with wild animals were not necessarily the case when the only means of taking photos of very elusive animals was while on a planned safari.

No doubt, we’ve been on safari no less than 100 times over the past years; some guided tours, some with a private guide, and many of our own as “self-drives” through national parks. In each of these cases, one must be prepared to be patient and accept the reality that, at times, you may not be able to take a single photo of the more elusive animals and only see the usual plentiful antelopes and birds.

wildlife photographer in the Maasai Mara in Kenya
We were in a Toyota Land Cruiser with open sides, 25 feet from the lion. Much to our surprise we never felt frightened or at risk at close-range to any of these big animals, including this massive male lion who gave us a great show. In the background in the carcass of a zebra, this lion savored for lunch. The photo was taken in the Maasai Mara in Kenya.

For birdwatching enthusiasts, almost every country has a plethora of birds presenting countless photo ops. Taking photos of birds in flight requires definitive camera skills, not every amateur photographer possesses as has been the case for me in most scenarios. However, some of our favorite photos are of the Laysan Albatross in Kauai, Hawaii, and of course, in the millions of penguins in Antarctica, a photographer’s dream come true.

In researching possible destinations, important travel tips for wildlife photographers around the world is to determine how important multitudes of photos are to you or if a select number will satisfy your needs and curiosity. For us, with our daily posts, taking tens of thousands of photos each year, the numbers of decent shots are important. For the average traveler, returning home with 100 good shots may be totally fulfilling. It’s important to decide where you are on the spectrum.

The “what” of travel tips for wildlife photographers around the world?

Amid all the decisions in deciding on locations, one must define what is most important for you to see and photograph. If lions are at the top of your list, Africa is by far, the most opportune continent to visit, especially if choosing to stay for a while. But, not every country in Africa is safe to visit, nor is there an abundance of lions easily accessed in some countries in Africa.

wildlife photographer in Atenas, Costa Rica
Tom’s photo. What a shot of the classic “Froot Loops” cereal (per Tom) Toucan, technically known as the Rainbow-billed Toucan, aka the Keel-billed Toucan. The photo was taken in Atenas, Costa Rica.

We chose Kenya and South Africa as one of our many goals in seeing lions. When it came to tigers we knew India was our best option. We were never disappointed in each of these countries. There are 13 countries where tigers may be spotted, but for us, India proved to have the best opportunities to encounter them in the wild.

At this point, we should mention, animals in zoos and wildlife facilities do not fulfill our objectives. If that were the case, one could simply visit a zoo in their hometown or home country. For us, the wild aspect has been a top priority when we have distinct opinions we won’t share here today about wild animals locked in cages or small enclosures.

That’s not to say, many rehabilitation centers throughout the world may have excellent open spaces for wildlife with the intent of eventually releasing them back into the wild, when possible. We have visited many of these, some of which we’ve found rewarding, providing excellent photo ops as shown in our past posts.

wildlife photographer in Kruger National Park
Impalas have exquisite markings on their faces and bodies. The photo was taken in Kruger National Park.

We’d never have seen a Tasmanian Devil in Tasmania if we hadn’t visited a rehab center, other than the sad roadkill we observed in the mornings. We’ve yet to see one of the more elusive nocturnal animals in the wild, the endangered pangolin. Hopefully, someday we’ll have that opportunity.

Each traveler(s) must decide for themselves, “the what” is most befitting their goals and objectives when returning home, or in continuing on a year’s long journey such as ours with a litany of photos exciting and memorable to savor over the years to come.

The “when” of travel tips for wildlife photographers around the world…

There are three important questions one may ask themselves in regard to the “when” of taking photos of wildlife. For most, they include:

  1. When is the best time in life to embark on such a journey? Only each individual, couple, or family can make that determination based on specific lifestyle, travel budget, work constraints, and worthy of mention, general health. It’s important to note, that embarking on a safari for hours at a time on bumpy dirt roads with potholes, with fast unanticipated turns could be difficult for some. Also, climbing in and out of the jeep-type vehicles may be extremely challenging for those with certain physical conditions, advanced age, or lack of mobility. This is not an experience for those who could become distressed during a “rough and tumble” experience. Also, individuals with severe back or neck problems could find a safari unbearable. If time is limited, the experience may equally be limited. Many choose a one or two-day safari, as part of a bigger trip and find themselves disappointed, unable to have seen, and taken photos of some of their personal favorites.
  2. When is the best time of the year to see and photograph wildlife? This varies by the area of each country you choose to visit. Research is imperative to determine the best seasons for viewing wildlife. Often rainy seasons are less desirable. Most often the best seasons are during the heat of the hottest time of the year. This is important to know if you are sensitive to the thought of sitting in an open-air vehicle while on safari. Although, there are many safari companies that have enclosed air-conditioned vehicles that may be more suitable for those individuals, although taking photos will be restricted in such vehicles. If you’re interested in the Great Migration in Kenya and Tanzania, that eventful experience only occurs in the fall months and must be timed perfectly to witness the five million animals traversing the Serengeti and the Mara River over and over again. Here again, research is imperative.
  3. When is the best time to snap the shot to acquire the best possible photo? When it comes to taking photos of wildlife, timing is everything. This has been an area we both feel we have found most rewarding, as our skills increased over the years. Patience and perseverance are the keys to this aspect. At times, we’ve sat still quietly for 20 or 30 minutes to acquire the best photo. Also, being aware of when to click the shutter is vital for the best possible photo of your chosen subject.
    the pellet crumbs on the nose of this adorable bushbuck
    Notice the pellet crumbs on the nose of this adorable bushbuck. The photo was taken in Marloth Park, South Africa.

In conclusion…

Many of our photos posted here today will illustrate, in part, our use of travel tips for wildlife photographers around the world. They aren’t perfect, but for us, they have fulfilled our desire to create a memory that will easily endure through our lifetime and for those that follow us, for theirs.

If as a photographer, you’ve been able to learn and develop comprehensive photographic skills, it will only add to your pleasure and fulfillment. Perhaps, in time we may choose to fine-tune our skills, but for now, the spontaneous and heartfelt representations of those animals we’ve discovered in the wild, on farms, and in rescue facilities, has provided us both with exactly that which we hoped to achieve as we traveled the world over the past eight years.

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Photo from one year ago today, October 7, 2019:

ocean in Torquay, Devon
It was wonderful to see the ocean once again in Torquay, Devon. For more photos, please click here.

 

 

 

 

Comments and responses Travel Tips for Wildlife Photographers around the World….

  1. Linda Phillips Reply

    Just a quick edit…. in the paragraph below the lion photo, I think you left out the word penguins…… in the millions in Antarctica.

    Keep on keepin’ on, my friends!!

    • worldwide-admin Post authorReply

      Thank you, Linda. I appreciate the “catch” and made the correction. It’s so easy to miss something!

      Nice hearing from you. Stay well!

      Warmest regards,
      Jess & Tom

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