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I have always wanted to go to Africa, but it is a long way away, and it is expensive to get there, I had to figure out a way.
As a photo tour guide in the Greater Yellowstone and beyond I have found I could go to places previously, too far away, by taking ten folks along with me who wanted to shoot in pretty places, or who wanted help with learning their equipment and software.
I didn’t think anyone would want to go to Africa with someone who had never been there before, but after asking some of my Yellowstone and Grand Teton tour guests if they would go if the price was right, whether I had been there or not and the answer was yes. I found, it is common knowledge among photographers that it is the local trackers and guides who were the wildlife experts. It was OK for me to be a tour host only providing good lodging, logistics and photo advice.
All destination tours I had led previously, I had gone out to scout first, Africa is a tough one to scout, so I scouted it on Google. All it takes is interminable of hours measured in weeks and months of planning LOL. Due diligence and time was the answer to my Africa conundrum.
I knew what I wanted all I had to do was find it. I wanted a small camp I could fill with only photographers as photographer’s needs and desires are different than the typical safari guest. I wanted adequate facilities, but not fancy and expensive. Photographers would rather spend $800.00 on a lens rather than a night in a fancy tent by the river. I also wanted to provide a price point where you don’t have to be wealthy to go.
I put together a tour package for Kruger National Park in South Africa and it sold out in two weeks. After eighteen months of planning we were on our way, Johannesburg, Kruger, Sabi Sands, Lions, elephants and leopards Oh yeah.
Camps offer cookie cutter packages, since I commandeered the camp; their cookie cutter was thrown out the window. I found most photography guests and camp hosts aren’t serious photographers and know little about them. I soon was modifying their itineraries to meet our needs better than the needs of the pedestrian safari guest.
The trophy destination, Sabi Sands Gave Preserve, turned out to not be optimum as it was hurt by the severe drought; hence, Kruger National Park unexpectedly became the prime destination. The lodges prime way of finding predators was spotlighting them at night, well they photograph like crap at night so I shuffled the schedule to skip the spotlighting so we could spend more time on game drives that favored good photography. We likely saw fewer leopards, but we could photograph the ones we found. The ability to change things was important.
My eternity in “Google Hell” paid off and my research was spot on. The tour came off without a hitch and the portfolio of 12 different photographers looks much different now after I provided an affordable and effective photo safari. I was blessed with a crew of excited clients.
I now have experience and the accompanying confidence that I can host an array of photography tours possibly anywhere.
Where to next? The Hole Picture Photo Safaris