2019 Year in Review

2019 was a busy year packed full of wonderful wildlife encounters shared with my guests on many wildlife photography tours.

Each of my locations is special and rich in wildlife, so to rank the trips and encounters is difficult. Given that they were all exceptional trips year after year, I present them in order of what was special it me this year.

Many of these trips will be featured on my 2020 Calendar of Trips but some will have to wait until future years before I can share them again: there is just not enough time to do it all! Please enjoy this review.

Striped Marlin at Magdalena Bay

Magdalena Bay in Baja Mexico has a sardine run each November which attracts Striped Marlin, seal ions, sharks, and even whales to the area. We jumped in this frenzy of action and photographed the action. This was a special experience because of the shear numbers of marlin, easy to find bait balls, the comical sea lions, and the whole spectacle. We also combined this with diving at some of the other wonderful natural spaces in Baja for an underwater safari.

Nov 2020 Baja Safari

Sardine Run at Magdalena Bay Baja
Seals and striped marlin manage and prey on a bait ball of sardines

Polar Bears in Churchill, Canada

The polar bears in Churchill are always abundant and a pleasure to photograph, but this year there seemed to be even more than usual. This year there was snow cover and several pairs of mothers and cubs to delight us. We also had a little bit of Northern Lights .

2020 Polar Bears

Polar Bear photo Tour Churchill
A male polar bear scratches and stretches to the amusement of the photographers

African Autumn in South Africa

There is so much wildlife seen on our safaris: we have had increasing frequency of wild dog encounters, rhinos, very good elephant herds, lion prides with cubs, and so many more exceptional sightings. Each year I think it is the best and then the next year tops it! I picked this leopard to represent a year of many beautiful predators displaying behavior in front of our lenses. This was a quiet moment where we could imagine ourselves as the leopard and live out part of his day.

2020 & 2021 South African Safaris

South African photo safari
A male leopard takes a high vantage point for a morning break

Tiger Sharks & Hammerheads in Bahamas

I visited Tiger Beach twice in 2019: March and October. We are always happy to see the same individuals back each year plus a few new ones. New this year was as 2nd resident Great Hammerhead. I was a great day to be able to capture both species in photo – we see it underwater, but to get them all in one frame is not easy.

2020 Tiger Sharks & Hammerheads

Tiger Beach dive trip Bahamas
Multiple female tiger sharks and a great hammerhead circle our group then pass right over my head

Whale Sharks & Giant Mantas in Mexico

It is not fair to rank the Whale Shark Aggregation low on my favorites list because year after year it consistently gives us many many whale sharks, mantas in clear warm water. I am privileged to a part of this for 10 years now. My favorite is when a whale shark goes into “bottle feed” position. I have even had 360 videos as I swim around the shark who is in vertical position.

2020 Whale Sharks & Mantas

whale shark trips Isla Mujeres
When there is a concentrated food patch, a whale shark will feed in a vertical position to suck in the most food.

African Spring in South Africa

The seasons in South Africa give a different color scheme to the photos. In spring the colors are soft yellows and browns as the grass has not yet come alive. Every plant and animal is waiting for the first rains of season. This time of year can give us more predator action as they prey on animals weakened by lack of grass to eat. We had so many great encounters – I chose this hippo because his grunt always makes we laugh. 2020 & 2021 Safaris

African photo safari
A male hippo strikes an impressive territorial display for our photographers

Sailfish in Isla Mujeres, Mexico

For many years I have visited and photographed the sardine run on the eastern side of Mexico at Isla Mujeres. The clear warm water makes for some great video and photography action. Now that I have experienced the billfish on both the east (Isla / Cancun) and west (Magdalena Bay) I can compare the two. The sailfish are very graceful and their flashing colors and sails waving up and down is very dramatic. In 2020 I will only be visiting Baja for billfish

Sailfish sardine run Mexico
Sailfish work together to keep the bait ball tight and at the surface before one by one attacking the bait ball.

Grizzle Bears in BC, Canada

In summer 2019 I was able to go on a scouting trip to photograph grizzles from a boat. We had great encounters with mothers & cubs, a territorial male, a huge male bear, and serene moments with bears feeding on grass. This was a very special trip and staying on a boat in this remote area.

I am working on offering this special experience as a future trip.

Grizzle bear photo tour Canada
A mother bear and a cub are anxious about the presence of a male bear nearby.

Namibia Road Trip, Southern Africa

I completed an overland tour of Namibia after my September Safaris. This country is very different to where I hold my safaris: less wildlife but unique and awe inspiring views everywhere. It was a chance to work on my wide angle and landscape photography.

Namibia desert
Sand patterns on a dune

American Crocodiles of Chinchorro, Mexico

For the 3rd year I traveled to the remote Chinchorro Atoll and stayed in a rustic fishing hut in order to have close encounters with American Crocodiles. Thanks to the expert crew we were all able to do this safely. We spent our “down time” diving on the pristine reefs and eliminating the invasive lion fish.

crocodile photography mexico
A crocodile in shallow water approaches us at the remote Chinchorro Atoll Nature Preserve

Thank you to all the great people who made 2019 special for my guests and myself. I look forward to a great and exciting 2020

About Gregory Sweeney

About my South Africa Safaris

2019 Polar Bear Expedition

Trip Report

Every October and November, polar bears congregate in the Churchill area to await the return of the sea ice and access to their preferred prey: the ringed seal.  This year our trip to Churchill was in late October.  The weather was starting to get snowy, but the ice had not yet formed. Numerous bears were known to be in the area.

Join my next Polar Bear Expedition to Churchill

This year there was more snow on the ground, but the weather was nice enough to get out each day.   Our last day the weather conditions were worse, but the polar bears loved it and they were still easy to find. The ice has started to form, but is not solid enough yet for the bears to move out.  The bears were gathered and very much anticipating the next few weeks when the ice will be fully formed for their trip out to seal hunting territory.

In my Camera Bag:

I keep my photography kit streamlined for easy travel and utility in the field

Canon 5D MK IV

Canon 5D MK III

Canon 100 – 400 F4.5 – 5.6L IS II

Canon 400mm F4 +1.4x teleconverter

24 – 105mm lens for murals etc around town.

Tripod for when we get out of the vehicle

We traveled by way of Winnipeg and a flight up to Churchill.  Our group stayed inside the Churchill Wildlife Management Area at the Northern Studies Centre, a research facility that houses the scientists and their research. Each year the Centre welcomes a few visitors such as our group.  While at the Centre we were introduced to the ecofriendly facility, learned of the current research, and had a thorough orientation to polar bears in this region. It is a comfortable facility with meeting rooms, media rooms, a workout room, and we enjoyed the observation deck and night observatory dome. At times we had wildlife sightings from the windows of the Centre: a fox visited daily, a hare, birds, and a bear came close.

Our first two days out were in a private van with a local guide which takes us around the town area and bordering wildlife area. When out with our wildlife guide we are able to get out of the vehicle (when safe) and use our tripods to photograph the bears or arctic wildlife.

We had several opportunities to see bears up close and were able to place the van in such a way to get great images from outside the vehicle.

Our last day was spent on a specialized bear tundra vehicle in the Wildlife Management Area – a nature preserve.  The vehicle was comfortable and had window we could photograph through as well has the big open back deck for unobstructed photographs.

After a full day in the Wildlife Management Area we returned to the Centre for a final dinner then headed to the airport for our return to Winnipeg.

These vehicles are the only way to get into the Park area as the terrain is too rough for standard vehicles.

It was a great trip full of great chances to photograph polar bears and wildlife.  We are grateful for the opportunity to stay at the Northern Studies Centre for a quality yet affordable trip packed with wildlife and photography.

Get information about our next Polar Bears in Churchill Trip

Safari Stories: Ground Hornbills

It takes cooperation to raise young and keep them safe in the bush

Members of a Southern Ground Hornbill family group take on different roles in order to raise chicks. Family members also must cooperate to defend territory or risk young members being kidnapped by rival hornbill groups.

We often see Southern Ground Hornbills when we traverse their territory in Kruger National Park. We also hear their distinct calls during mating season in May.

Ground Hornbills are Cooperative Breeders with all members taking on responsibilities

Ground Hornbill groups typically consist of a single adult female, several adult males, and immature birds.  Each group also has an alpha male who is usually considered the one who mates with the female. Once the eggs are laid, the female has the sole responsibility of incubating them in the nest for around 40 days, during which time the rest of the group will bring her food from the outside world.  Once the incubation period is over, she leaves the nest to join the rest of the groups and begins to play her part in feeding the chick. 

Studies have shown that the ages, sex, and rank determine the roles of each individual in the group.  The contributions of the parent birds will depend on the number of helpers they have. Typically, there are two variations: additive care and compensative care.  Additive describes each bird in the group doing an equal part in feeding the chick.

Ground Hornbills foraging and finding some nice insects to eat

With compensation care, some adult birds, usually the parents, neglect their feeding duties and rely on other members of the group to feed the chicks.  This happens in cases of larger groups where there are more birds to do the feeding.

Ground Hornbills in Kruger
A juvenile is getting lessons on how to forage for insects

Juveniles are do not participate in territory patrols for fear they will be kidnapped by rival hornbill clans.

Territory defense is vital to the survival of ground hornbills. Each group is dependent on its nesting site and food source and the birds must be ready to fend off any intruders.  Their deep booming calls which travel a great distance and are a signature sound of the bush, broadcast who they are and where they territory lies. 

Patrolling and defending these territories ( up to 100 sq.KM) requires an immense amount of effort and energy.  You would assume an important job such as this would be performed by all members, but it has been observed that younger individuals within groups do not take part in territorial defense.  It is the responsibility of just the adult birds.   The reason why is not understood, however the recent observation of kidnapping of juveniles by opposing groups has suggested that there is a risk of losing young members of the group in a territorial altercation.

Ground hornbills
Hopefully this group is foraging close to home base and not on patrol on the edge of their territory: the juvenile in the group could be at risk of kidnapping by rivals.

Breeding is difficult (and getting harder) for ground hornbills and kidnapping a healthy juvenile is a cheap way to grow the clan and perhaps replace chicks lost to failed breeding or rearing.

Favorite Moments from my September 2019 Safaris

Guided safaris to South Africa
Hyenas can hunt and catch their own food, but they also steal as a means to an easy meal

My favorite part about leading safaris in South Africa is the pleasure, awe, and delight in the eyes and faces of my guests when they they have wildlife encounters the exceed all expectations. Some guests are not expecting how close we can get to the animals and the behaviors we get to experience first hand.

My favorite moments while on safari are not the perfect photos, but the times when we get to be special observers into the lives of wildlife or see something completely unexpected.

Leopards Being Awesome & Humorous

photographing leopards in Sabi Sands
A male leopard on patrol after dark in Sabi Sands

We spend 3 nights in the wildlife rich Sabi Sands Reserve. The rivers and trees make this a favorite habitat for leopards. The rangers and guides have some to know many of the resident and itinerate leopards in the area and can recognize and tell histories of many of the cats.

Photograph leopards on safari in Sabi Sands
Leopards are very comfortable climbing and sleeping in trees , as this female demonstrates
Leopards in Sabi Sands
A leopard naps in the comfort and safety of it favorite tree

While on an evening game drive we see leopards traveling within their territory on patrol to mark or defend it or moving into good hunting areas. Watching the big males walk with strength in the steps and alert eyes is very exciting: will they run across an other male trespassing or stalk vulnerable prey animals in the dark?

Leopard safari in Sabi Sands
A leopard naps but stays alert to any unusual sounds

Leopards have favorite trees they use to eat in peace from those who would steal their kill or to secret it away for later when they have eaten their fill. As with all cats, they are experts at getting comfortable for long naps. Looking directly into the eyes of these top predators is something you do not forget and it challenges us to capture this feeling in our photographs.

A Busy Watering Hole at Kruger National Park

elephants in Kruger Park
Juvenile elephants play while the adults drink and bathe

Kruger is a huge park and has a high degree of biodiversity . September is still dry season so watering holes are popular spots for all wildlife. Mid morning we stopped at a spot overlooking a large watering hole. Zebra, waterbuck, and impala were at the shores or drinking as we scanned the water for hippos. We spotted saddle billed storks, vultures drinking, and watched a large kudu male and his harem visit for a drink. Then at the far left a family of elephants approached with the matriarch marching in the lead with ears flared in a display of determination and domination. Behind her were juveniles, other females, and a few very young ones. They lined up at the water’s edge to drink and we could observe that the littlest ones were so young they could not yet drink using their trunk but rather had to kneel down to drink by mouth. The adults soon ventured into the water to bathe and apply mud while the young ones broke out into wrestling and tumbling in the water. As they were leaving, just to show who is in charge, the elephants mock charged some zebra to scare them away.

photography safari workshop in Kruger
elephants chase zebras away from the watering hole

This was a prime example of the magic of Kruger Park where sometimes you just sit at a nice spot and see the wildlife come to you and play out their daily dramas.

photo safari in Kruger
A female waterbuck comes down to the water to drink

Lions, Hyenas, and Cheetahs

Photo safari in South Africa
Young hyenas at the den

Seeing predators in action or at rest is always exciting and shows us how predators and prey both play their role in the environment. We can learn so much by watching them in action and at rest. Everything we note about them informs our photographs and makes the memories of these encounters more vivid.

photograph cheetahs on safari
Two cheetah brothers survey their hunting grounds in the morning light
Big cat photo safari
Our vehicles can get really close to lions without disturbing them
photograph lions on safari
Lions approach a watering hole following the dominant female
Big cats on South Africa safari
As with any cat, lions know how to get comfortable for their frequent naps; this time on an old termite mound

Being Surprised by what we didn’t expect to see

Kori Bustard and bird photography in Africa
Kori Bustard: one of the largest birds in the savanna

With nature, anything is possible and you never know what you will see. This seems to have become more a rule since many of the fences between Kruger Park and the private reserves have been taking away.

Hippo with mouth open
A male hippo making a territorial display
vulture at carcas
A white backed vulture joins storks and other vultures at a carass
white rhino with ox pecker
An oxpecker sits on the head of a white rhino picking off parasites

We are always excited to see white and black rhinos still in the wild and not confined to small, guarded properties as in so many places.

see rhinos on south africa safari
White Rhinos in an alert stance

There are also common species that present to us in such a way as to make us see them differently and make a nice image.

photo safari in South Africa
Usually calm zebra suddenly break into a gallop and bring a sense of excitement to a wide angle image.

After so many years I am still amazed, thrilled, and humbled by the wildlife we encounter in our area of South Africa. It is so exciting to see my guests be surprised by their first safari adventure.

Join one of my small group guided safaris make your own wildlife memories and images.

See a list of my next safaris

Crocodiles in Chinchorro Trip Report 2019

Photographing American Crocodiles at Banco Chinchorro, Quintana Roo, Mexico (Cancun area) 2019

With Reef diving at Chinchorro

Crocodiles in Chinchorro Mexico

This was my 3rd trip to Banco Chinchorro for crocodiles, but for all my guests this was their first encounter so close to reptile predators.

This is a place few people have been to and a chance to see and photograph pristine Caribbean reefs and also get close to the rare and endangered American Crocodile.

Crocodiles in Mexico


Crocodiles in Mexico

Chinchorro Atoll (Banco Chinchorro Biosphere Reserve) is the best place in the world to get close to American crocodiles. It is located south of Cancun, Mexico and near the Belize border. The Banco Chinchorro Biosphere Reserve is the largest stand – alone reef in the Northern hemisphere and one of the healthiest. Currently only 1,928 hectares of the 144k hectares are zoned for diving and fewer than one thousand divers get to see these remote and unspoiled dive sites per year. It teems with fish and other sea life, and contains more than 100 shipwrecks as well as the largest population of American crocodiles found in the Americas.

crocodile Chinchorro

The weather was very nice and calm for our visit.  We  started at the beautiful beachside resort in Xcalak for some amazing dives. The reefs are healthy and colorful with many fish.  Again this year we found ourselves diving with  manatees who were not afraid to approach us.

fish huts chinchorro

We made the crossing to Chinchorro on our 3rd day in Xcalak. The water was smooth on the way out.  At the fish huts we found that the water would change from a tea green hue to a clear blue color depending on the tide level.

American Crocodile
Photographing Crocodiles in Mexico

This is a safe encounter with guides who have done years of experimentation and careful planning to make this safe. Our outfitter and guides in Xcalak: XTC Dive Center,  were the first operator to organize croc encounters in Chinchorro and they remain the only dive operator with an official concession. They are committed to sustainable tourism and conservation. This year they were training a new guide to work with the guests and crocodiles.

Camera Equipment

My primary lens for the underwater images was the 15mm 2.8 fisheye.  I also had with me my 17 – 40mm lens which I used primarily for topside images, but used on at least one session underwater.  My lens choices had to be balanced against limited space/weight and what I need and prefer for the whale sharks. 

Lenses Used

15mm 2.8 Fisheye

17 – 40mm 

Crocodiles in Chinchorro

We photographed in the afternoon light so I set my camera to ISO200.
On brighter days I reduced ISO to 125 and 160

Reef Diving in Xcalak

The shallow water, mid day sun, and shooting upward toward the surface presented the challenge of not over exposing or getting scatter.

re2f diving in Xcalak

Each morning we dive and while taking in the pristine reefs and marine life, we hunt lionfish. There is a duo purpose in this; to help eliminate the invasive lionfish population and to get food to attract the crocs.

harvesting invasive lionfish to feed to the crocs

The fisherman’s’ hunts have no wifi, cell phone, mobile services, no running water, only marine toilets, and 2 or more hours from shore. Guests and I slept in hammocks in the huts and delicious food was prepared and cooked by our boat captains with the aide of a small generator and ice storage chests (all food must be transferred out with us). Since there are fishermen in the other huts, we also  had the chance to buy fresh catch from passing fishermen to make a special, though rustic feast.

Chinchorro Mexico

When the crocs come in as per their daily schedule, we would go in pairs into the water with our guide and the junior guide to watch over our safety and to manipulate the bait.  They are really good at reading the crocs and they are able to get the croc into different poses so we get a variety of good images.

Photographing Crocodiles

It was a great trip and everyone came away with some great images. It was certainly a great time being relaxed and unplugged out in the remote marine environment.  We returned to Xcalak for another day of diving and a return to Cancun.  Some of the guests joined me for the Whale Shark Aggregation on Isla Mujeres.

photographing crocodiles in Mexico

After our Crocodile encounter, we transferred back up to Cancun and Isla Mujeres to swim with the whale sharks for 4 days

The Whale Sharks were Extra Special this year and loads of Manta Rays!

sunset at Chinchorro Atoll

We spent 4 days on the water and 5 nights on Isla Mujeres for the Whale Shark Aggregation.  Always a fun place with great food, we had nonstop whale shark encounters to keep us busy on our 4 days on the water.  We also had great manta sightings .  The water was clear and blue and the weather was very nice with mostly flat water throughout my 3 weeks in

Find out more about the whale shark portion of the trip: Whale Sharks 

and my Trip Log

Whale Sharks 2019 Trip Report

The annual aggregation of hundreds of whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) off the coast of Isla Mujeres, a tiny little island near Cancun, Mexico has been a must – do event among underwater photographers and marine wildlife lovers. I have been sharing this great event with guests and underwater photography for over 10  years now and still find it a thrill and a grand opportunity for close up wildlife encounters. This year was another great year with numerous whale sharks and some giant mantas.

See Trip Details

swim with whale sharks

I had two group trips this year: one in July and one in mid August. Both groups were treated to many encounters, good weather and water conditions. I want to thank all of this year’s guests for being such great participants: it was a joy to host you.

whale shark season Isla Mujeres

My first group was a family of wonderfully fun, positive, and active people. It was a first visit for most of them and it was exciting to see them experience the magic for the first time.

My 2nd Whale Shark  trip was combined with Crocodiles in Xcalak.  We enjoyed  superb diving on pristine reefs in their marine reserve and 2 nights in the remote fishing hut at the Chichorro Atoll with 3 days of in water encounters with the crocodiles. The group then transferred back up to Cancun and Isla Mujeres for the whale sharks. 

Isla mujeres Playa Media Luna
Our Hotel with pool and beach, easy walk to all the shops and restaurants

Many of these guests had joined my whale shark trip in the past: they came back because they love the atmosphere, relaxing days on the boat, the fresh ceviche, all the great food and sites on Isla Mujeres. The first time guests were excited to see so many whale sharks in one place and without the burden of scuba gear.

swim with whale sharks Mexico

I schedule our trips at the peak of the season. In both July and August the weather was great with smooth water, great visibility and hundreds of whale sharks which were easy to find each day. For both our first and second week of guests, the water was clear and flat. Not even one day of bad weather or cloudy water! Very special.

At least one day with each group the  crew were able to find schools of mantas. Most times there were no whale sharks in the area, just the mantas, but one of the encounters had the mantas right with the whale sharks. This was a wonderful chance to get a manta and whale shark together in a single image.  

Isla Mujeres has many shops full of hand crafts

Like most days, we had this encounter to ourselves with no other boats near us. The mantas did their ballet of loops and plunges before moving off out of our range. It was time to return to shore so we came home very happy and content.

swim with giant manta ray cancun mexico

Photo gear


15mm fisheye lens

17 – 40mm Lens

Other camas

Go Pro in underwater housing with short grip handle

iPhone or Panasonic for topside and island photos

whale shark trip isla mujeres mexico
Whale Shark feeding in the vertical position

I use a Canon 5D MKIIII in an Nexus housing for my underwater work. It is full frame and I like the quality video capabilities. Due to the size of the whale sharks I am using a Canon 15mm f2.8 fisheye lens. I visited the crocodiles before the whale sharks, so I also had a 17 – 40mm lens, but I prefer working the results of the fisheye for whale sharks.

I looked at my shooting data in Lightroom from my 10 years of whale shark images and most  fall into the below settings ranges.

Typical Settings Using full Manual Mode
ISO 500 typically but ranging between 400 –  640
Aperture F8 – F9
Shutter Speed 1/200 sec
Snorkel with whale sharks

 I like to photograph the feeding motion of the mouth from a 3/4 profile angle. The idea here is to capture the turbulence of the water as it flows into the mouth. The whale sharks have a natural behavior where they hang vertical in the water and feed on the krill at the surface. We call this “botilla – bottle feeding”.  It makes for a great portrait aspect ratio photo and the action usually lasts several minutes; so the photographer does not need to swim to keep up, rather move around the WS to get different sides.

How this Trip Works

The whale sharks arrive in large numbers every summer to feed on the abundant supply of plankton and bonito eggs. For me it was an incredible experience to be in the warm blue water with these beautiful and graceful creatures. On several peak days hundred whale sharks would congregate in the space of a couple soccer fields. I have photographed whale sharks in locations around the world (Honduras, Mozambique, Western Australia), but never had the experience of being in the water with such a large aggregation and the large individuals who seemed unfazed by my presence.

whale shark workshop in Cancun

Our boats leave from Isla Mujeres, just a short walk or golf cart ride from our beachfront hotel. The 10 passenger boats are comfortable for our groups of 6 or 7 and they are fast, provide shade and storage, and smooth while cruising. Our boat captain and crew were excellent at finding whale sharks each day, sometimes just a short 40 minute boat ride. Sandwiches and snacks are on the boat with us so we are set to spend most of the day at sea. Regulations require we depart the whale sharks between  2pm – 3pm, but this gives us plenty of time to enjoy our swimming. After long day on the water we would head back to Isla Mujeres but not before eating some ceviche freshly prepared while we were busy with the whale sharks. Once back at the hotel, we have a relaxing time in the hotel pool , a cleanup and download , and a delicious dinner out in town at one of many great restauants.

One afternoon we took the golf carts to the opposite end of the island where they have a zipline, a scenic park, and iguanas. There are many shops to pick up snacks and drinks. Each night we had a delicious meal at restaurants ranging from Mexican tacos to pizza, Mediterranean, and Cuban. After our 4 days on the whale shark boat, some of the guests returned to Cancun and did scuba dives in the Mayan cenotes and toured some of the ruins.

Another Magical Season Wraps Up

Swimming in this aggregation in the Gulf of Mexico was not like other times I have encountered whale sharks in other waters: we would hold in an area where there were 4 -5 visible then wait until they passed close and get in the water with them. They did not seem too agitated by our presence or the splash of our fins.  This is an event that delivers a great guest experience and images year after year.  If you love being in the water and have not experienced this, you must do it.  I have many guests who return year after year for the awesome whale sharks, but also for the fun of Isla Mujeres, great food, and friendly people and guests. 

I will be returning next year:  Check my website for dates and available spaces.

See details and Contact Me through my website

More Links to my Whale Sharks Blog Posts

   Great things about Isla Mujeres

Whale Shark   Photography Guide

  What you need to know about Whale Shark Trips in Cancun, Mexico

Our Photo Safari Dates for 2020 & 2021

Leopard mother

9 Day Photo Safaris in 2020  – Best of Limpopo & Sabi

May 15 – 23 – Sold Out Sept 15 – 23
May 28 – June 5 Sept 29 – Oct 7
May Safaris: $5,200 pp  (USD)
September: $5,300 pp (USD)
Inclusive of Accommodations, Transfers, Activities, Food. See more detail on our website
Safaris in 2021
April 30 – May 8 Aug 20 – 28 – Sold Out
May 12 – 20 Sept 1 – 9
May 26 – June 3 – Sold Out Sept 14 – 22
May Safaris: $5,400 pp  (USD)
September: $5,500 pp (USD)
Inclusive of Accommodations, Transfers, Activities, Food. See more detail on our website
Gregory Sweeney hosts affordable 9 day photographic safaris on private reserves in the game rich area of Limpopo, South Africa.  During the safari we stay at our own tree house lodge as well as in the famous Sabi Sands reserve. We visit Kruger National Park and many private reserves seeking all of the great wildlife. Small groups of 6 -8make this an exclusive and personal experience.
For more information  and price  visit my safari website http://www.AfricaWildSafaris.net
Other safari posts

Tiger Shark Dive Trip Report March 2019

Tiger Beach, Bahamas earns its reputation for clear water, white sands, and 6 species sharks. After over a decade of leading shark trips it still fills me with awe and wonder and still gives me thrills like it was my first time.  An international collection of divers was onboard from Denmark, Germany, Japan, USA, and Canada. For the Japanese guests lead by my good friend and co-leader Takaji Ochi, it was their first experience at Tiger Beach. The 5 -7 tiger sharks and the hammerheads, including one shark new to the area were a highlight.

hammerhead Shark
Patches the Hammerhead

Our trip started under threat of changing weather, but a smart decision by the Captain to leave a few hours early had us avoiding rough weather and a windy crossing. After clearing customs at west end and half way to Tiger beach we encountered a pod of dolphins.  This was an unexpected encounter for this season.  The captain asked if any guests wanted to jump in with them, so several guests jumped in with snorkel gear.  Dolphins enjoy curiosities in their water and interacted with us for a while. 

Join my next Tiger Beach Trip: See the schedule at http://www.TigerSharkDive.com

dolphin pod
Dolphins swim to the surface. Thank you to Koji Tanaka for the image
scuba dive with sharks
Multiple tiger sharks and divers at Tiger Beach
Tiger Sharks
Tiger Sharks

The numbers of large, mature, and often pregnant sharks at Tiger Beach is evidence that the protection measures by the Bahamian government are working and that the sharks are living natural life spans and thriving. Our tourism and the revenue it brings to the Bahamas is their reward for continuing to look after the sharks.  With out Bahamian conservation efforts I believe there would not be many, if any, sharks at Tiger Beach today.

Photography at Tiger Beach

Tiger Shark over the eel Grass
A large tiger shark circles over the eel grass

My Equipment

Primary Camera

  • Canon 5D MKIV
  • Nauticam Housing
  • Inon Z 330 Strobes
  • EF 16 – 35mm f/2.8L II USM

2nd Camera

  • Canon 5D MKIII
  • EF 15mm f/2.8 fisheye
  • Nexus Anthis housing
  • 2 Inon Z 240 strobes
caribbean reef shark
Caribbean reef shark


I have this mounted ontop of my camera but also place it on a weighted base on the sand near the bait crates and just let it run.  I get crazy close ups and swim overs.  Sometimes it gets knocked around by the sharks.

drone image of boat and sunset
The Dolphin Dream at sunset

Mavic Pro Drone

I fly this over the boat on clear days and while the guests are doing “lemon snaps” with sharks on the surface at the stern.  (It is tricky to land a drone on a moving boat so I do not recommend this unless you are experienced with landing in challenging situations or hand catching)

Experimenting with Strobes

In the past I have found that my Inon Z 240 strobes were not always able to reach far enough to expose the passing shark.  This year I brought my Inon Z 330 to see if the extra reach was an improvement.  There was a noticeable difference with the Z 330 strobes. 

hammerhead shark close up
The new resident hammerhead shark. Very large and feisty

Positioning for Photography and Using Sharks’ Behavior

Before diving, our captain and crew detail the shark attraction and diving procedures. 

Underwater, divers find that the Tiger sharks  swim slowly and all into a pattern circling the chum crates.  They approach from down current then circle wide and back around to the crates. Our photographers can position themselves along the shark’s path for head on shots or overhead passes.    Staying on the bottom and with minimal movement is the safest way to observe the sharks at close distance. 

Sharks species of Tiger Beach

Tiger Shark Dive Chum
A crew member Dave Finch gives a fish to a large Tiger Shark

Tiger Sharks

Tiger sharks are the stars of the show. Most are very large and mature females. We enjoy seeing the same sharks year after year and some have been given names so we can refer to them.  They glide in a slow pattern among us and the bait crates, received a few bits of fish from the crew. Most are not shy but there seems to be a ranking order with smaller individuals pushed out. 


            For several seasons we have had a frequent hammerhead shark visitor to our dives at Tiger Beach.  Shy at first, this hammerhead has progressed from shy in the periphery to standing up to the larger tigers in the commotion around the bait crates.  Now “Patches” is a regular known to all the shark dive crews.

Now there is a new Hammer in town!

           A new hammerhead shark has made her debut at Tiger Beach. Just like Patches this hammerhead was spotted in the distance but too shy to come to the divers, crates, and tigers. Now this huge female, “Cleopatra” mixes in the crowd and asserts herself like a matriarch. I even had the chance to photograph the two hammerheads and a tiger shark all in the same frame.  It seems hammerheads are now ranging to Tiger Beach and not just off the shallows of Bimini. This is very welcome.

            Bull Sharks

            We have had a few bull sharks joining the mix in the last few years.  This year there were a few hanging around on the dives. While nice to see and well behaved, due to their aggressive tactics, we do not let them get any of the bait for fear that if they do they will morph from manageable visitors to a dangerously unpredictable menace.

Drome image of Dive boat
Drone image of our boat taken while attracting lemon sharks to the surface

Lemon Sharks

           Lemon sharks have a permanent toothy grin and can sneek up on you.  They have great character to their faces and are easy to get close to for photography.

Lemon Shark
lemon sharks assemble for a session of “lemon snaps” by our guests

Taking Lemon Snaps

            We like to attract some lemon sharks to the surface at the back of the boat for a chance to take over/under split images of the sharks at the surface.  Using a pole or other safe method (no hands!) we get surface level, shallow depth, or from above images of the lemons thrashing about at the bait.

Caribbean Reef Sharks

            The CR sharks are very graceful and beautiful sharks that join in around the bait crates with the tigers, but also can be found circling under the boat and among schools of jacks.  This shark, like its name is also found hovering over the small reefs found at Tiger Beach. This shark has no problem coming close to divers and will pass over to right near to you.

Caribbean reef shark over the eel grass
Tiger shark dive boat

Night Dive

            Most evenings everyone relaxes over a great meal and recharges after a long day of diving. We had a night of calm weather and low current so some of us took the opportunity to go for a night dive.  We encountered a few bull sharks and quite a few lemon sharks.

Photographing the sunset
Sunset over the Atlantic

I want to give special thanks to Captain Scott Smith and his crew for getting us in the middle of the action with the sharks and for the fantastic  meals.

Check out my future Tiger Shark Dive Trips at http://www.TigerSharkDive.com

Shark diving trip
Our guests
Dolphin Dream Tiger Shark Dive Boat
The Dolphin Dream Docked at West End , Bahamas while clearing customs

Annoucing Baja, Mexico Safari 2020

November 10 – 18 2020

A Striped Marlin Hunting Frenzy with Shark Diving, Sea Lions, and Mobula Rays by Night

Limited to 6 guests

(US )$3,875  per person single room

sardine run Magdalena Bay

2019 Trip Report

Magdalena Bay has be full of explosive Striped Marlin action in the past few years. We had a very successful trip this November 2019 with perfect weather and plenty of sardine action with seals and marlin hunting. Our best day we were able to stay with a baitball for over an hour. What a thrill to see the coordinated action of the fish as they hunted and we photographed from all angles. The sea lion colony of La Paz was very fun with the sea lions checking us out and buzzing all around us. The rays were a magical experience in the evening light as they swirled around us. Last was our visit to Cabo Pulmo National Marine Reserve where we photographed bull sharks on their many wrecks and the incredibly large schools of fish.

Baja is an exciting paradise for diving and snorkeling with huge satisfaction for photographers and videographers.

2020 Baja Trip Overview

The adventure starts in Port San Carlos where  Magdalena Bay is host to the largest striped marlin migration in the world. We will be on our own boat from 7am to 4pm looking for sea birds who will point us to  the epic hunting action going on underwater. The marlins hunt the sardines as do the sharks and seals.  Under the surface will be a frenzy of action as marlin hunt in cooperation containing and maneuvering the bait balls.  One by one they attack the sardines and take their meal. We stay at an upscale hotel outside of Port San Carlos.   

striped marlin Magdalena Bay Mexico

After, we transfer to La Paz where we do a dive unique to La Paz: a night dive with Mobula Rays.  Plankton are drawn like a magnet to our lights and schools of rays come swooping in to dive down to feed in the sand.   It is non-stop swirling action at night.  We also dive with sea lions; a dive full of fast interaction with these curious and humorous animals.

sea lion colony dive La Paz

Our last days are in Cabo Pulmo National Park where protected marine habitat and pristine coral draws an enormous amount of tropical fish, seals, turtles, and more.   Large schools of jacks are an awesome sight as the formation pulses and morphs before us.  We do dives specifically for bull sharks who lurk and patrol on the scattered remains of shipwrecks. 

bull sharks at Cabo Pulmo


  • Nov 10 – Guess arrive Cabo transfer to Cabo Pulmo
  • Nov 11 – 14- Stripped Marlin & Sardines (4 days)
  • Nov 15 – Transfer to La Paz, Sea Lion colony dive, night dive for Mobula rays
  • Nov 16 – Shark dive, 2nd Dive
    Nov 17 – Shark dive, 2nd Dive, explore beaches and park
  • Nov 18 – Transfer to Airport, Guests depart
Striped Marlin Sardine Run Mexico

Notes: Arrive on the 10th to San Jose Del Cabo Airport (SJD), Depart on the 18th from same airport. This trip combines Scuba Diving and Snorkeling in open water conditions



(US)$ 3,875 per person Single Room


9 nights accommodation in Single Room (discount for sharing),

All Transfers between Cabo airport, Cabo Pulmo, La Paz, Port San Carlos, back to airport,

2 days of 2 tank diving in Cabo Pulmo, 1 night dive with mobula ray in la Paz

4 full days on boat for stripped marlin

Cabo Pulmo wreck

This will be a real marine experience; be in the action with fast and elusive predators

email me at info@gregorysweeney.com to reserve your space!

schools of fish diving in Cabo Pulmo
striped marlin trip Baja Mexico
Sardine run with seals Magdalena Bay Mexico
sardine run Magdalena Bay Baja Mexico
Cabo Pulmo National Park Diving
diving with sea lions

The Story of Africa Wild Safaris

There is a story behind every great endeavor

Here is Our Story

We built a safari lodge in order to offer personal, authentic, wildlife filled safaris for those who love being around wildlife either with or without a camera

Lion on a termite mound
Resting like a typical cat, this lion surveys her surroundings from a mound

The story of Africa Wild Safaris started in 2005 when we took our first  safari in the Kruger area of South Africa.  It was not an ordinary safari: the host and guide was a friend who owned a small safari lodge.  From the first day of safari, as a photographers , we were hooked and passionate about the conservation of this area. We were already hosting specialty travel adventures for underwater photographs. It was easy to see that  a safari was a good match to what our underwater photographers liked: a wildlife filled experience that was an authentic and unique travel experience. Adding safaris seemed a natural fit. 

When we added the safaris, the goal was to replicate the feeling of that first safari; the surprise, wonder, learning, and most importantly the feeling of being hosted by friends.  The proximity to Kruger National Park and numerous private reserves ensured that quality of wildlife encounters and number of activities would never be a problem.

After just two years, in order to make a unique safari trip for our guests, we went all in and built our own lodge so we could give our guests the ultimate personal safari experience. 

Now we have our own small safari lodge right next door to those friends who first introduced us to the magic.

A safari lodge was the perfect match for us: I am a photographer, wildlife biologist with ranger experience and an accomplished builder. Karen is our business manager  and adds advanced photo and video processing skills.  In the beginning the lodge was just a beautiful piece of property but it has continued to grow each year into a mature lodge with 4 tree houses. 

The lodge and safaris have grown up together over the years. We have selected the best educational, conservation minded, and wildlife filled activities in the area.  Seeing big cats is important to guests so the safaris evolved to  also include a stay in the famous Sabi Sands Wildlife Reserve; the best location to see leopards. 

elephant and game drive vehicle
getting close to elephants

We have remained committed to the same area and work with the same guides, owners, and national parks since we  started. Together with our private nature reserve neighbors, we work to restore the habitat surrounding the lodge according to national standards. The goal is to drop fences and become part of the Greater Kruger Area: private lands which expand the park area for wildlife migration.

tree house bathroom
The ensuite bathroom with tub and outside shower with a view

We  split our time between living the USA and South Africa and still offer a full schedule of underwater photography, bear,  and safari trips.  We continue our commitment to showing guests what we feel is the best places in South Africa and the Kruger area.