Loved by non-photographers too, our photo tour holidays offer the ultimate, small-group travel experience to the world's most wonderful and unique places - with special access away from the crowds. I love to travel, but I hate being stuck with loads of other people (especially when we've got nothing in common), being taken to the regular, over-crowded tourist attractions or wasting hours in an amazing country just relaxing by some pool. I want to get the most out of my holidays - I want to see as many different animals as I can, I want to travel through different landscapes and be shown hidden gems off the beaten path, I want to experience the culture, taste the food, meet new friends with similar interests, enjoy some luxury and importantly, I want to have the time to take some beautiful and unique photos of it all. This is what we strive for with our photography tours and workshops.
It's not enough for me to spot a distant lion, tick it off and move on - I wan't to have the option to try and get closer, on the correct side for best lighting and even wait for him to lift his head and stare directly down the barrel of my camera lens for a great photo - or to move on when I'm done - I want flexibility. I want the inside tips for the best photo location to be ready when the sun rises over the horizon and spills across the bay onto those boulders - and if I can't quite get my photo to work, it'd be awesome to have a friendly pro-photographer right there to offer advice (not one who'll stand in front of me to get the best shot themselves!). If there's a seal colony out on an island nearby, then I'd want to charter a boat tour out there just with my friends onboard so we can spend as long or as short as we want to get the photos without being crowded on a regular sight-seeing tour. If the seal colony was a bit of a tourist attraction on a local beach then I'd want to wait for the crowds to leave, and go down onto the beach after hours - just us as a small group, and a private ranger guide to photograph them at our leisure in beautiful evening lighting.
You don't even need to be a photographer to love this style of holiday - who wouldn't like a bit of luxury and a bit of extra patience from their tour leaders, or to be given the opportunity to fly over lakes covered in pink flamingos in Africa in a doors-off plane or over a beautiful coastline in a doors-off helicopter for some epic views? Stay on a private island, learn some new skills with your photography, make some new friends and have an unforgettable, unique holiday - all at the same time! Sound good? Well, there's a reason more than half of our guests come back again, and again on our photo tours!
Absolutely not! We have many non-photographers (and partners of photographers) enjoy our tours! As one guest said "It didn’t matter that I’m not a photographer - I used my iPhone. Just experiencing all these amazing locations at a relaxed pace, in comfort and without the crowds was wonderful!". The expert photography tuition is a bonus - the incredible access to experience the best places in a tiny group is the main thing! If you're traveling to take photos, or just as a holiday - in the end, it's all about seeing as many of the amazing animals as possible, experiencing the local food and culture, admiring the landscapes, breathing the fresh air and enjoying the whole unforgettable experience with a small group of friends. Whether or not you put a camera in front of your face doesn't really change this. We've had many non-photographers come on our tour, enjoying just spotting animals, identifying them, or watching their behaviour and by the end of the trip many of them do start picking up a camera (or borrowing one of ours) and start getting excited about photography too! Some have later gone on to become full-on photographers, to the delight of their partners! Either way, they have a ball and often come away with us again and again.
Most photography guests are beginner to keen-enthusiast level - so no need to stress that your photography may not be good enough - the whole point is to improve your photography, no matter what your level! Our tours are enjoyed by everyone from non-photographers, iPhone and happy-snap photographers right up to serious professionals. We start each tour with a quick photography crash-course, and our expert photography guides are there to help you throughout the whole tour. There is no better way to improve your photography than spending a solid week or two practicing, surrounded by amazingly inspiring subjects, with a small, friendly group of like-minded people. You will be amazed how much your photography will improve. We're there to offer as much or as little assistance as you'd like, at whatever level of complexity you're ready for.
The level of physical activity varies for each of our tours, however none involve strenuous hiking or anything like that. In Kenya, for example, the hardest thing you'll have to do is walk to and from your tour vehicle mostly, other destinations involve things like optional snorkelling, or may include short walks or humid conditions. We've had 83 year old guests, guests with bad knees and even heart-conditions do even what we consider our most strenuous tours, so rest assured the tour you're looking at is very likely achievable. If you're concerned, just ask us. The tour information booklet we provide for each tour gives a clearer indication of what's involved for each destination. We're very mindful of the abilities of our guests and can always provide less demanding alternatives for those wishing a break.
For each of our tours, we've carefully prepared (and keep updated) a detailed information booklet covering everything including our recommendations for what kind of camera & lenses we'd consider well suited for that trip, as well as also everything else like clothes, what type of power plug, what currency, what the climate is like, language tips and plenty of other information to help answer all your questions! We'll send you a copy of this information booklet when you book, or you can email us for one in advance. We also have a selection of lenses including telephoto lenses for hire, please email us in advance if you're interested.
We do have a selection of lenses (including macro, wide and telephoto lenses, for both Canon and Nikon) available for hire. Please just ask us about this if you're interested during your booking. There's no need for amazing camera gear though to enjoy our tours - some guests come as non-photographers or just with an iPhone camera and still absolutely love the experience of small-group, luxury and relaxed-pace travel to these very special places. It's up to you how serious you want your photography focus to be, and we do provide an information booklet for each tour including our recommendations for what kind of camera & lenses we'd consider best suited to maximise your photography for each trip. We'll send you a copy of this information booklet when you book, or you can email us for one in advance.
Fear not - more than half of our tour guests travel solo. To help you make friends before you even leave and to be reassured and aided by the advice of your fellow-travellers (and those who have gone before you), we've created an interactive Facebook group for our CBP Voyager Club members (that's anyone who's been on, or is going on any of our tours, which also gives them 10% OFF any future tours!). You can find out who's coming from your area, perhaps even meet up beforehand or fly together. This is a great resource and we encourage you to make the most of it if you're on Facebook! Anyone can read the CBP Voyager Club Facebook page, but you can only interact once you've paid your deposit.
We recommend that you book your flights and travel insurance with our dedicated, friendly travel agent Brenda as she can try and put you on the same flights and accommodations as your fellow travellers pre/post tour. Before you depart you'll be told exact details for who will be meeting you at the airport, holding what sign, and also give you contact phone numbers to call in the unlikely event that you are delayed or plans need to change.
And do not worry that most accommodation is twin-share - we're good at pairing you up with a roomie who you'll get along with - it has been the start of long-term friendships for many! We can't guarantee that we'll always be able to have you sharing with someone of the same sex - it depends on the gender split, but we do our best. You can request to purchase a single supplement (a room to yourself) if you really need to (subject to availability) though keep in mind that you're usually only in your rooms to sleep as we fill your waking hours with plenty to do, and the couple of occasions we have had guests request rooms to themselves, they end up regretting it when they see the amazing friendships that form between the other roomies.
Of course we can - even in places like Kenya we've successfully catered for vegan, gluten-free, lactose-intolerant and vegetarian guests, and all have had a wonderful tour.
Rest assured that we do not travel through any of the major danger hot-spots like those highly warned against in travel advisory boards etc. For example, in Kenya, we do not even pass through downtown Nairobi and we operate completely away from the coast / Mombasa region and the Somali border. The fact that we like to take you to the more tranquil, less-touristy places on our tours conveniently means we only ever spend minimal time in busy, built up areas or large tourist attractions where thieves or terrorists might target - most of the places we stay at are quite rural and private, and you'll quickly feel right at home & safe.
Our cancelation policies are in line with other leading tourism operators, and you can read all about them here in our Booking Terms and Conditions. We are proud to employ industry best-practices such as holding your payments in a trust-fund and have been awarded the T-QUAL tick (Australian Government's national symbol of tourism quality).
The Voyager Club is our photo tour loyalty program! As our photo tours apparently can be very addictive (we've had guests come to more than half a dozen of our tours!), we created the Chris Bray Photography Voyager Club, giving repeat guests 5% OFF future tours with automatic Silver Membership, and then 10% OFF as Gold Members after their fifth tour with us.
Either click the 'Book Now' button above and fill in your details, or simply contact us and let us know which tour you're keen to join us on, and we'll send you a deposit invoice to secure your spot, along with the tour information booklet and our Booking Terms and Conditions.
Perth to Christmas Island
On Tuesdays, Virgin flies directly to Christmas Island from Perth, touching down in the late afternoon. Once landed we’ll pile into our three 4WD vehicles and head down to 'The Sunset', our beautiful ocean-front, air-conditioned hotel accommodation for the week, located in the main settlement on Christmas Island. We won't stay long because the sun will be just about to set so we’ll whisk you off to the historic Taj Jin House at Smiths Point, the grounds of the former British District Officers Residence and now the community museum and function room. We’ll have welcome drinks out on the balcony before a quick introductory slide show and photography crash course inside. After the slide show the local catering company will provide an amazing roast dinner as we celebrate the start of what will be an amazing week ahead of us!
We'll shoot the sunrise through the cliff-sided walls of Lily Beach before another pool-side breakfast. You'll need some energy as today we're driving the jaw-clenching 4WD track down to Greta Beach, halting every couple of minutes for one of you to hop out and usher red crabs off the road. The beach is amazing with Noddy Terns nesting in the surrounding cliffs, thousands of adorable little hermit crabs clambering around rocks, and for those who love beach-combing, the amount of stuff that ocean currents wash up onto this remote beach is unbelievable. After Greta Beach, we drive onwards to the start of the 2km track (most boardwalk) through the rainforest to Dolly Beach. The walk itself is wonderful, leading around the huge trees, vines and fungi and filled with a variety of crab species. Dolly Beach is one of the prettiest and most secluded beaches on Christmas Island. Deserted most of the time, it has the whitest sand on Christmas Island, a fresh water stream, and is overhung by idyllic coconut palms. Turtles nest on the beach year-round too - look for the tracks of nesting adults and emerging hatchlings amongst the drifted logs and coconuts! It was ranked Australia’s 7th best beach in 2016 (and if you are staying on with us for Cocos (Keeling) Island tour you’ll be able to check out Australia’s #1 beach ‘Cossies Beach’). Tonight we’ll head to a breathtaking lookout at Territory Day Park to enjoy sunset drinks and a BBQ dinner while gazing out over the bay far below. With frigate birds, boobies, bats and tropicbirds (including the stunning, endemic Golden Bosun variety) soaring majestically right past at eye-level, and the Christmas Island famous red crabs munching on the leaf-litter at your feet, the magic of this incredible place will capture your heart.
After sunrise and a hearty cooked breakfast down at the waterfront of Flying Fish Cove, this morning we'll divide our time by finishing our 1-on-1 sessions with you all and snorkeling down at the cove before we have lunch at a lovely local cafe and set off for the afternoon activities. This afternoon we’ll first drive out to Margaret Knoll Lookout where Christmas Island's many and varied bird species soar past at eye level. We’ll then continue onwards towards Christmas Island’s Blow Holes, but on the way we'll hopefully be able to stop and crouch, cameras in hand, beside some natural pools of water as flocks of soaring frigate birds swoop down right in front of us and dramatically scoop up beakfulls of water to drink on the wing! Amazing! Our next stop will be at the most beautiful strangler fig on Christmas Island. Red crabs will be crawling around it's roots, the vibrant green moss will sparkle like an emerald in the forest, and the twists and turns of it's trunk system will have you mesmerised! As we drive closer to the Blow Holes you'll start to hear the roar of the ocean being pushed up through the narrow tunnels in the limestone rocks. It's a beautiful boardwalk and viewing platform where, depending on what the ocean swell is doing, the explosive spouts of water can tower up to 20 meters high. It is quite a spectacle in the late afternoon when the sinking rays of sun highlight the mist and spray.
It's 'movie night' tonight and we have sponsored it! All the locals gather at the outdoor (and only) cinema on Christmas Island to watch the latest movie - if the plane delivers it in time! We'll shout you tickets and one of the homemade choc-tops too!
Boat Excursion & the Dales
After another pool-side continental breakfast at 'The Sunset', today we're splitting the group in half. Half of you will go with Jess to visit a few local favourites: the ‘Sitting Room’ and ‘The Grotto’. You’ll head down a secret path where, perched on rocks above the waves, you can photograph birds in the air as well as nesting tropicbirds and boobies in the surrounding shrubs. After sitting here a while you’ll understand why it’s called the ‘Sitting Room’. After this, Jess will guide you along a little crab-covered track to 'The Grotto' - a wonderfully secluded, flooded cave opening with a white sandy bottom glowing blue. The rise and fall of the ocean swirls through it like a refreshing, mid-jungle spa, so make sure you bring your swimmers! Meanwhile, the other half of you will accompany Chris for a morning out with Hama, the best dive-boat operator on Christmas Island. You’ll explore the coastline from the sea and scoot around to the NW corner of Christmas Island to a number of stunning snorkelling sites. The water is the clearest you’ll ever see! Depending on the weather there’s the possibility of snorkelling over shipwrecks and maybe even swimming with Spinner Dolphins up close in the clear blue water! Chris can teach you how to duck-dive under for some close-up underwater photos if you're keen.
After our adventures we'll all reunite for a late picnic lunch before setting off on our 4WD trip across to ‘The Dales’ on the far side of Christmas Island. As the saying goes, “up-hill and down-dales”, this corner of Christmas Island has several little gullies through which streams gently meander amidst what looks like an enchanted forest of trees with ornate buttress roots and fungi. The boardwalk leads us in and around beneath a jungle canopy filled with bird-calls and up to a picturesque waterfall. Be careful not to tread on any of the thousands of big red crabs - or the slightly shyer blue ones - dotting the landscape and pathway. If we keep our eyes open we might even spot the largest land-living arthropod in the world - a giant Robber Crab (aka Coconut Crab) - with a leg span of almost 1m! Christmas Island has the world's largest and densest population of these colourful giants, and to be able to walk right up to them and macro photograph their alien-like features is simply amazing. We may even get to enjoy the sun setting over the ocean from Martin Point Lookout, beside a spectacular blowhole, and when we're done photographing we’ll head back to our town for a hearty dinner.
This morning is the reverse of yesterday morning, where those who went snorkelling now go to 'Sitting Rock' and ‘The Grotto’, and the others go on the boat to the dive sites, reuniting again for lunch. This afternoon we'll be checking in with National Parks for a unique and close up experience with orphaned birds like the Abbots Boobies, tropicbirds and Frigate birds. We'll arrive at feeding time so you can photograph them as well as hear about all their conservation and the effort being made to release these birds back into the wild. This is not something that is available to the public and we are very fortunate for Parks to allow us into the enclosure to photograph these endangered species up close! We'll enjoy a gourmet meal as the final farewell to what has been the most amazing week.
IMPORTANT - Ensure you have read our Tour Booking Conditions prior to booking. The document covers everything from your rights, inclusions and payment schedule, to our cancellation policy and extent of liability.
All our tours are subject to minimum numbers. Please ensure you have read our Tour Booking Conditions for our cancellation policy (above).
For what we want from Christmas Island (the most diverse experience possible) June is the best time of year to visit. We've thought long and hard about the best dates, asked all the people 'in the know' and we believe this is the best time for the type of tour we want to run. It's just at the end of the rainy season, so we can still expect a bit of rain but this just keeps everything lush and green, and there are still HEAPS of red (and other crabs) littering the ground in the right places (unlike during the dry season). If we were to visit in the wet season when the red crab migration is on, a) it's major rainy season then, b) all the roads are closed due to the crabs so we couldn't get around Christmas island, c) we want birds nesting, and d) the crab migration is unpredictable so we couldn't reliably schedule a tour to coincide with it, even if we wanted to.
Physical Activity - Part of the joy of this secret paradise is that so few tourists visit each year - just a couple of hundred (that’s it!) - so we can’t expect much in the way of facilities unlike, say, the Galapagos. To get to the best photographic spots sometimes involves decent walks on uneven, slippery, undulating terrain, coupled with a hot and humid environment. To put things into perspective, Christmas Island was once a coral reef that was ‘up-lifted’, so there is some places off-boardwalk where walking around involves balance and dexterity and careful treading between jagged pinnacles of savagely sharp limestone. Also, the ground is often littered and undermined with crab holes, making even a sure foot placement unstable. We don’t mean to put you off - if you have a good level of fitness, mobility, balance and dexterity you’ll absolutely love this island and if you ever feel like some of the walks are not for you there are always options and other things to photograph near by. The longest walk on the tour is the 4km return walk to Dolly Beach; this is mostly on a flat boardwalk that can be slippery at times. We are never in a hurry on this walk and are always stopping to take photographs. The next longest walk is 1.5km return to Hugh’s Dale Waterfall, again this is mostly flat and on a board walk however there are a few set of stairs at the end of the walk to get you to the waterfall. If you ever feel like you are not up to the walk there are always things to photograph near by in the car parks. We reserve the right to decline guests from booking on this trip if we feel they may not be well suited, may hurt themselves, or detract from the experience of the other clients by holding the group back.
Return flights between Perth and Christmas Island are not included in the price of the tour, you'll have to book your own flight from Perth with Virgin Australia. The price does not include flights from your hometown to Perth, nor your return flights back home from Perth. Please be aware that the planes can only land on Christmas Island if they have a clear visual approach and it is not uncommon for aborted landings due to low clouds, fog, storms and other weather conditions outside of our control - this could theoretically delay flights by days at either end of the journey so please keep this in mind when booking on our tour. We will not extend the tour to compensate for any reduction in time on Christmas Island such flight issues may cause, nor will we cover the cost of your extended stay on Christmas Island if the scheduled departure doesn't occur. This is what travel insurance is for, and we require you to have it.
All meals are provided. A moderate amount of drinks are included and any additional drinks must be purchased at your own expense. We can visit the shops en-route if you wish. FYI Christmas Island is both duty and GST free, therefore alcohol is amazingly cheap to buy at the supermarket! While we strive to get you the best quality meals (including getting an external catering company to fly in fresh produce for our picnics etc.) we will dine at some of the local restaurants too, where the standard of some of the meals is not high-end. We get you the best we can. We can cater for some special dietary requirements, including vegetarians, but it’s best to discuss this with us before you book, as options can be limited on the island. As the island’s population is 70% Chinese, there are a lot of Chinese eateries on the Island, as well as Chinese grocery stores. If there are some food items that you just can’t live without for the week we recommend that you bring them yourself as there is every possibility that these items won’t be available on the island.
We will bring a spare camera or two just in case but... apart from this, be prepared to be self sufficient regarding your camera gear. We do hire out some cameras and lenses, ask before we depart.
After you book, we will email you an extensive information document telling you everything you need to know from what camera gear to bring, mobile coverage, etc.
A non-refundable, non-transferable $1,000 AUD booking deposit is required.