Category Archives: featured

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

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

GoPro

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. 

Hammerheads

            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
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