As we come to the end of 2023, I thought I would share 5 of my favourite images with all of you. They may not be my best images, but each image holds a special memory and I want to share the story behind each image and why it is a highlight for me.
Looking back at the past year, its really difficult to choose highlights as there have simply been so many. I am extremely fortunate to do what I do and visit some pretty incredible destinations all while sharing my passion with all those who travelled with me.
As guides we often get asked where or what our favourite destination is to travel too, this is a very difficult question to answer, because all the destinations we travel to offer a completely different experience and have very different feels to them. My answer is generally, what are you as a guest looking for out of a safari? IS it your first time on safari? Have you been on safari multiple times? If so where all have you been? Out of the experiences you have had, what did you really enjoy and what didn't you enjoy if anything? From that, I am able to give feedback and advise what I think would be a dream come true safari for those guests.
With that said, as difficult as it was, here are my 5 favourite images for 2023 and why...
Going on a journey of a lifetime as we explore the enchanting wilderness of Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, an absolute must for any safari enthusiast seeking a unique and soul-stirring adventure. Nestled within the heart of East Africa, Uganda offers an unparalleled opportunity to trek alongside majestic mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. Bwindi's lush and dense forest, aptly named "Impenetrable," serves as a sanctuary for these awe-inspiring creatures, making it a prime destination for wildlife enthusiasts.
Beyond the sheer thrill of encountering these magnificent primates up close, the trek through Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is a mesmerizing experience in itself. The rich biodiversity, comprising variety of flora and fauna, sets the stage for an immersive journey into nature's wonders. The mist-shrouded canopy, vibrant birdlife, and the ancient, towering trees create a mystical atmosphere that heightens the sense of adventure and discovery.
What sets Uganda apart is the commitment to responsible and sustainable tourism, ensuring that the delicate balance between human interaction and the gorillas' natural habitat is preserved. The trekking experience is not only an opportunity to witness the incredible bond between these gentle giants but also a chance to contribute to conservation efforts that safeguard the future of these endangered species. On a recent survey, it has show that the Gorilla numbers in Bwindi have almost doubled in the last 20 years, this just goes to show what an incredible job the conservationists and their efforts are doing.
For those seeking a safari that transcends the ordinary, a trek with gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is an essential pilgrimage. Uganda beckons, promising an unforgettable encounter with nature's splendor and the rare privilege of communing with one of the planet's most extraordinary inhabitants.
Having said the above, I am always in awe when heading out on a Gorilla trek, there is always a sense of the unknown, are you going to find them, if you do where they going to be, what's the experience going to be like? I am fortunate to have visited this country many times before and even more fortunate to have see Gorillas on every single trek I have done. The experience isn't just about spending time and seeing the gorillas, its everything, from the briefing(which always builds excitement) to entering this incredible impenetrable forrest. Walking through the forrest you hear a variety of different birds calling, monkeys calling and the local guides are absolutely superb when it comes to sharing local knowledge about the little things along the way.
The reason I chose this shot is that we share roughly 98% of our DNA with the magnificent animals and I am always waiting for the local guide to tell us that the forrest trackers have found them, because I know that no matter where they are, to be on foot and to get up close and personal with these animals is nothing short of mind blowing.
It is only when you are sitting or observing them from a couple of yards away that you truly understand how closely we are related. I often remind my guests to put their cameras down for a moment and to just look at the Gorillas, to see their different facial expressions, to see their finger prints and to watch how they interact with each other, because that is the memories that we will all hold onto for a life time and are memories that are difficult to explain unless you have been there.
For me this is a highlight, not only does it showcase a beautiful portrait of a Gorilla, but it also reminds me of all the incredible moments my guests got to experience with them and how a trip to Uganda has touch each and every single guests lives, it has also always given me a great impression of how well their conservation efforts are working in order to allow our guests and others from across the world to come and have these unique experiences.
Another Image I really love. Earlier this year in August, I hosted a private safari to Amboseli. The night before we headed to Amboseli, My guest and I had dinner together where we got to know each other and also got to set the expectation of what we were looking to capture during our time in Amboseli.
Amboseli isn't a massive Reserve, but it does offer a huge amount of diversity. Around camp is the marsh area which is great for bird photography and also an abundance of wildlife coming down to feed on the nutritious vegetation and to quench their thirst during the hot dry days.
During this time of year, it is peak safari time in Kenya, with all the Parks being very busy and the Masai Mara being the main attraction for one of the greatest wildlife spectacles on earth. So I prepared my guest, that Ambseli may be busy, but we will find ways to avoid that as best we can, one place being the dry lake bed. We were there for about 5 nights and every morning our goal was to set off for the dry lake bed, take a packed breakfast with us and just wait for any animal activity as they cross the lake bed heading to the marsh area for food and water during the day.
We discussed the different opportunities we were able to get and the beauty of the lake bed is that you can get out of your vehicle and can lie next to the vehicle for a different perspective, this offers a photographer a unique chance at getting different images of your subject all by using angles.
Our idea was to hopefully have some clouds in the background and to have elephant crossing the lake bed allowing us to position the car as best we could then lie on the opposite side and take pictures with a 24-70mm lens to exaggerate the image and to be able to create something extraordinary in post processing.
We were fortunate to get elephants on the lake bed each day and yes on social media you see many different images of this being done, our end goal was to create something unique and I think by editing these images in Sepia, really makes them pop and adds a completely different element to the image. This image reminds me of the hours we spend scanning the lake bed, but also having put the time into the idea of what we wanted, just made the reward of the image at the end just that much better.
This year I was fortunate enough to host the Best of Botswana safari, this safari includes visitngin 4 different destinations - Moremi, Khwai, Savuti and a houseboat on the Chobe.
IT is a wonderful safari for any safari goer, whether it is your first time on safari, or you are big into wildlife photography, it offers something for everyone. Our first 9 nights were done mobile camping, which is an incredible experience in itself.
Being in the industry for so many years has been an absolute privilege and this photo is one of my highlights not just for the photo but the incredible sightings we had of wild dogs through our trip. I think over all we saw about 5 different packs of wild dogs, most packs had pups and this particular morning was probably one of the best wild dog sightings I have ever had.
We came across 2 adults finishing up the remains of a small antelope and then decided to follow them back to the rest of the pack. What a decision this turned out to be! We came across the entire pack with their pups and spent a good hour or so watching them as the adults would play with one another and chase each other around and then watching how curious the youngsters were as well was absolutely priceless. They were very inquisitive and apart from offering great photographic opportunities it was very special watching their behaviour towards one another and even towards the vehicle. This is all part of habituating them from a young age and this single image brings back memories of every wild dog sighting we had and how unique each sighting was. Considering they are an endanger species they seem to be doing very well in Botswana and most guest highlights included the amount of time we got to spend with the animals and how fortunate we were to spend the amount of time we did with them, I think it gave us all a new appreciation for how special these animals are.
Our third stop in Botswana was Savuti, A very well known area for its predator viewing. Our main focus here, being VERY dry was the three waterhole that were in relatively close proximity to each other. So our plan was to drive through the different areas and see what we could find on our way to the waterholes. The first waterhole(where this photog was taken was always our first stop in the morning) we were lucky in that each morning of our 3 night stay we always had lions and a bunch of other animals around, so we would spend a fair bit of time photographing and watching all the different species. One highlight was this male, there were cubs around and he played with them and chased them for a good 20 minutes and it was always in a playful way. It was some interaction that I have not seen much of in the past, normally males tolerate cubs but I have never seen them playing with cubs in such a manor...
Being early morning, the water was still very calm, so I suggested to the guests to photograph the pride playing but to be ready for a shot of the male when he comes to the water for a drink as I was sure after all his running around that he would have a drink before it started to get warm and he headed for some shade. About 10 minutes later, he did just that and shooting in portrait orientation makes for a great photograph including his reflection.
That's the beauty of photography and what I really love is that, a single image from a sighting cam bring back a variety of memories, even though I have images of the cubs playing with this male, the main shot we were all after was him drinking water and being able to look at this image just reminds me of arriving at the waterhole at first light, seeing lions everywhere, watching them play and then the cherry on top was to get the image that we all had in our mind of the male drinking. Its been a few months since this sighting but I can still remember everything that happened that morning and that's what makes photography so special and why this image means so much to me.
One moment I will NEVER forget.
This is an image of the mighty Craig, a beautiful large tusker who I had only seen twice before and they were sightings mainly of his rear end.
This image was taken on my final safari of the year to Amboseli and then finishing in the Masai Mara. Once again Amboseli has plenty to offer and we were spoilt for choices with sightings. It was one of those safaris where there were pretty much fireworks on every drive in one way or another.
The day before we left, we received news that Craig was at a waterhole which was a fair distance away from where we were at, so we decided on the high risk high reward approach. We made our way to the waterhole just in time to see the back of him walking away and into the thicket. It was great to see him, but i couldn't help but think if only we had gotten there 10 minutes earlier...
The following morning Amboseli kicked off in a big way, from a clear Mount Kilimanjaro to photographing flamingos with the mountain in the background as well as a herd of elephants to getting some stunning shots of elephants on the lake bed. It really felt like an amazing last day send off by Amboseli. Having had such an action packed morning, we were just about to head back to camp when a guest and I made a joke and said the only thing that would make this morning even better was if Craig appeared...
No jokes, 5 minutes later our guide turned to us as we were reaching camp and said he had news of Craig heading towards the same waterhole from the day before. Once again, I went all in, high risk high reward and we headed to the waterhole. When we got there, there was no sign of elephant activity around the water which meant he had not been there yet so we made the decision to sit and wait for a bit, bearing in mind it was quite late and the was VERY hot.
As we sat and waited, a herd of giraffe came down to drink which kept us entertained until our guide suddenly from know where said ''look there! to the left its Craig and he is coming straight here".
We all turned to each other with the biggest smiles on our faces as this majestic beautiful gentle giant emerged from the thicket and walked straight towards us. He threw some dust and ambled slowly to the water where we sat and watched him for about 45 minutes as he drank, threw mud on himself and then had a bit of a dust bath, this time high risk high reward paid off for us.
Its a simple reminder that, going on safari isn't about racing around and trying to find one specific thing but putting all the cards in your favour and allowing nature to show you whatever comes your way and if you have that mindset, I promise you that you will be amazed at what you stumble across.
For myself and guest this moment of him appearing out of the thicket coming straight towards us was a life long dream not just to photograph nut to be able to share this moment with him and with each other.
A moment we will all remember for the rest of our lives...
Botswana Mobile Safari
Combining three unique destinations in Moremi game reserve, the popular Khwai concession and ending off on Beagle Expedition's private concession, this tour will expose guests to prolific game viewing and the uniquely diverse scenery that Botswana has to offer.
Amboseli & Masai Mara Safari
What makes this even more special is that fact that Mount Kilimanjaro forms the backdrop for almost every image, providing incredible photographic opportunities. Having our own vehicles and local guides means we do not have to stick to lodge game drives times and can spend our time in search of sightings in the scenic Amboseli National Park between sunrise and sunset.