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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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?
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
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.
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.
Lions, Hyenas, and Cheetahs
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.
Being Surprised by what we didn’t expect to see
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.
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.
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.
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.
American Crocodiles at Banco Chinchorro, Quintana Roo, Mexico (Cancun area) 2019
With Reef diving at Chinchorro
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
15mm 2.8 Fisheye
17 – 40mm
We photographed in the afternoon light so I set my camera to
ISO200. On brighter days I reduced ISO to 125 and 160
The shallow water, mid day sun, and shooting upward toward
the surface presented the challenge of not over exposing or getting scatter.
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.
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
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.
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.
our Crocodile encounter, we transferred back up to Cancun and Isla Mujeres to swim with the whale
sharks for 4 days
Whale Sharks were Extra Special this year and loads of Manta Rays!
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
out more about the whale shark portion of the trip: Whale Sharks
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Canon 5D MKIIII
15mm fisheye lens
17 – 40mm Lens
Go Pro in underwater housing with short grip handle
iPhone or Panasonic for topside and island photos
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
500 typically but ranging between
400 – 640
F8 – F9
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Photography at Tiger Beach
Canon 5D MKIV
Inon Z 330 Strobes
EF 16 – 35mm f/2.8L II USM
Canon 5D MKIII
EF 15mm f/2.8 fisheye
Nexus Anthis housing
2 Inon Z 240 strobes
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.
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.
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 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
A Striped Marlin Hunting Frenzy with Shark Diving, and Mobula Rays by Night
Limited to 5 guests
The adventure starts 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 ship wrecks.
After 2 days of diving, 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.
On to Port San Carlos where Magdalena Bay is host to the largest stripped 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. To conclude the trip we transfer back to La Paz for our return travels.
Nov 9 – Guess arrive Cabo transfer to Cabo Pulmo
Nov 10 – Shark dive, 2nd Dive
Nov 11 – Shark dive, 2nd Dive, Transfer to La Paz, night Mobula Dive
Nov 12 – Depart midday for Part San Carlos
Nov 13 – 16 – Stripped Marlin & Sardines (4 days)
Nov 17 – Transfer to La Paz Airport, Guests depart
Notes: Arrive on the 9th to San Jose Del Cabo Airport (SJD), Depart on the 17th from La Paz Airport (LAO) This trip combines Scuba Diving and Snorkeling in open water conditions
(US)$ 3,700 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 La Paz 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
This will be a real marine experience; be in the action with fast and elusive predators
email me at email@example.com to reserve your space!
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
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.
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.
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.
Each safari brings a wealth of wildlife encounters for my guests. I feel like I have come to know some of these animals through multiple sightings from year to year.
Safari images taken in South Africa can be very intimate since we are often able to get very close to the wildlife. Between our proximity and our medium range lenses, it is possible to get eye to eye portraits of our subjects displaying all the details of their faces and sometimes even reading their story in their eyes.
In contrast we are often witness to fast moving moments in the animals life played out right in front of our cameras and safari vehicle.
I thought it would be nice to precent couplets of images contrasting these two common image styles. Each was taken while in the Greater Kruger Park private reserves, Kruger Park, and the Sabi Sands Reserve.
The lenses used were my
Canon EF 24 – 105 F 4 IS and my EF 100 – 400mm F4.5 – 5.6L IS II
Resting like a typical cat, this lion surveys her surroundings from a mound
(ok, not an action shot exactly, but a neat contrast between adult and cub)
Love the feeling I get on safari as if I am part of these animals’ daily life. A precious few hours spent in their world indeed!
I hope you enjoyed my selections and pairings and found inspiration in them.
Trip Report: Polar Bears in Churchill , Canada 2018
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.
This year’s trip featured very nice weather under partly cloudy skies and snow. 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.
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 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.
These vehicles are the only way to get into the Park area as the terrain is too rough for standard vehicles.
We had many bear sightings from the bear vehicle.
Our 2nd day out was in a private van 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.
Learning about conservation in this Arctic Region is a primary goal of these visits. We learned about the impact of humans on the polar bears and the steps they take to keep bears from becoming a nuisance around human areas like the dump and in town. We were enlightened about the bear jail and how they trap and release the bears.
On our last day we were back with our private van and guide.
We had a chance to see a polar bear trying some hunting on a ice covered pond.
Wildlife such as snowy owls, ptarmigans, and a fox were harder to find on this trip perhaps due to weather changing on our last day.
Our day ended in town at a restaurant and then straight onto the airport and our flight back to Winnipeg.
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.