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 (check the 'Please Note' dropdown for each specific tour), 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.
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 5-10% 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.
Your guide will be waiting for you at Christmas Island Airport. It’s a half hour drive to Swell Lodge but it can often take longer as you’ll be driving through the National Park and might come across a few of our Christmas Island red crabs or robber crabs. After that it’ll be onwards through the Jurassic jungle to the lodge.
Swell Lodge is perched on the sea cliff on the far, uninhabited side of the island, featuring a glass front opening to an expansive ocean-sunset deck where seabirds soar past at eye-level; a luxurious Italian-tiled ensuite bathroom with views into the jungle from your hot shower; king size bed; stone bench tops; glass sculptures; canvas-side walls with massive zip-down meshed windows; Haiku ceiling fan and more. Enjoy your first sunset at Swell Lodge with a cool drink of beer, cider, wine, sparkling wine or a G&T from your fridge with a selection of cheeses, nuts and dried fruit. Your private chef will come out and prepare an amazing meal, on your balcony using local produce.
Put your camera batteries on charge and enjoy falling asleep to the swell of the ocean. The following week is going to be jam-packed with photographic opportunities!
Your photography guide will drive you to the Blowholes for a picnic lunch stopping at a majestic strangler fig on the way. Red crabs will be crawling around its buttressed roots, vibrant green moss sparkles in the forest and the brave can even climb inside the huge hollow interior and gaze up through the lattice structure of this magnificent tree!
As we drive closer to the Blowholes you’ll hear the roar of the ocean erupting through the narrow tunnels in the limestone with each wave, depending on how big the swell is. It’s not until you step out onto the amazing boardwalk and along to the viewing platform that the sheer power of this spectacle really hits home. With a thundering roar, explosive jets of water can eject 20 meters into the air from dozens of hidden holes simultaneously all along this panoramic, rugged southern coastline of our island.
In the afternoon we’ll visit the ‘Pink House’ research station and learn more about the charismatic little Christmas Island Blue-tailed Skink that is extinct in the wild, however the Christmas Island Parks staff are working hard to change that with a successful breeding and reintroduction program. After this, your guide will drive you to Parks’s fascinating bird rehabilitation center, where - more often than not - there’s at least a few local birds resting and recuperating, sometimes including young Abbotts Boobies, Frigatebirds and Tropicbirds that need a bit of medication or just some extra sustenance to rebuild their strength. This is an amazing opportunity to learn about and get up close and personal with some of the island’s remarkable birdlife.
On the drive back to the lodge we’ll stop at Hugh’s Dales walking trail, Australia’s first RAMSAR recognized wetland and one of Christmas Island’s most iconic attractions. A beautiful modern boardwalk guides you through this unique section of tropical rainforest past a number of pristine, permanent watercourses, busy with a variety of crabs and adorned by stands of enormous, buttress-rooted Tahitian chestnut trees, the 1.5km (30min) trail and boardwalk leads to a spectacular waterfall. We’ll capture this in the last of the afternoon light as a soft orange glow filters through the jungle. We’ll save the rest of this walk for another day so we can take you back to the lodge just in time to photograph the sunset from your balcony. Your private chef will be visiting you soon to prepare and serve you a wonderful three course meal on your private deck.
Your photography guide will pick you up very early to drive to the other side of the island to shoot Lily Beach at sunrise. Nestled between two jagged rocky headlands, the pure white sand of Lily Beach were formed by centuries of coral rubble being tumbled by the waves. As the golden lighting illuminates the coast we’ll move to a boardwalk to look for nesting brown boobies. When the light get’s harsh and you get hungry, our chef will meet us here and serve a gourmet breakfast. After this, we’ll continue through the pandanus and cabbage trees keeping an eye out for iridescent yellow locusts and delicate butterflies. We’ll come to a look out to the old casino and eventually a staircase down to Ethel
Beach - another beautiful slice of paradise. Hermit crabs are easy to find against the rocky cliffs here, and you might even spot a red-footed booby or frigate bird nesting at eye-level.
Enough of the sun? Time to cool off! We’ll head to the Grotto, a wonderfully secluded, flooded cave opening with a white sandy bottom and glowing blue water a quick dip! The rise and fall of the ocean swirls through like a refreshing, jungle-wrapped spa and it’s also nicely chilled from an underground freshwater stream - so make sure you bring your swimmers as well as your camera. Swimming in the grotto is a magic experience not to be missed!
It’s time to go snorkelling! Christmas Island boasts some of the best snorkelling and scuba diving in the world, amongst colourful coral reefs and a kaleidoscope of fish and other marine life in crystal-clear, 28-degree water with amazing visability. Your guide will take you to Flying Fish Cove, one of the best ‘house reefs’ in the world, complete with a drop-off wall, lionfish, clownfish, reef sharks, turtles, clams and more.
By now we will have certainly worked up an appetite and our private chef will meet us at the cove for an Instagram-worthy picnic lunch.
This afternoon we'll drive back to the lodge via one of the many lookouts on Christmas Island; giving us a fantastic opportunity to practice our ‘birds in flight photography’ skills.
We’ll arrive back at the lodge in the afternoon with a time to relax after your early start, download, back up and edit some of today’s photos and freshen up before your chef prepares dinner for you on your private deck.
You'll need some energy today as 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 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 huge trees, vines and fungi, and of course is scattered with a variety of crabs.
Dolly Beach is one of the prettiest and most secluded beaches on Christmas Island and indeed was ranked Australia’s 7th best beach in 2016. 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! We’ll enjoy a freshly prepared picnic on Dolly Beach and have time to photograph and maybe even cool off in the ocean rock pools before returning to the lodge.
Once again, your chef will be preparing you a three course gourmet meal on your private deck as you watch (or photograph) the sunset.
If you're up for a bit of an adventure today, we’ll head to the infinity pools, Anderson’s Dale and Merrial beach. Following on from Hugh’s Dale waterfall there's a turn-off to a beautiful, permanent stream flowing through a tiny valley. You’ll notice a small dam has been built for the pleasure of the resident blue crab population, and there's even shrimp and eels to be found. Following this watercourse down, the valley channels into a small limestone gorge you can walk through, bridged over in parts with a delicate roof of tree roots forming a tunnel, leading you out at last to the ocean. On the way back from Anderson’s we’ll follow a ‘locals only’ unmarked route down another watercourse, emerging through the pandanus into a secret rocky inlet with a couple of coconut palms. Here the ocean swell breaks into a series of natural rock pools you can sit in, with each wave spilling excess water around their perimeters in a mesmerizing waterfall. Only safe at low tide and when the sea isn't too rough, this secret little hide-away is a real treasure and photographic gem.
Our chef has prepared a picnic for us to enjoy at Merrial Beach, a perfect example of the anecdote, “Good things come in small packages”! A short, flagged jungle trail (walkable from Swell Lodge) leads to this little patch of sand, nestled in a crack in the coastline and rimmed by high cliffs. It's a great place to escape and relax, unwind and explore the marine in the tidal rockpools. If there's a car in the single-space car-park however, local custom is to come back another time...
This afternoon we may a snorkel in the cove, visit another lookout to practice our ‘birds in flight’ shots or simply relax and enjoy Swell Lodge before heading into ‘town’ as we’ll be eating out at one of the local Chinese restaurants tonights and maybe even join the locals at the outdoor cinema.
This morning we’ll head out on our charter boat snorkelling tour, an amazing opportunity to explore the coastline from the sea and scoot around to the North coast 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! We can also help you with your underwater photography.
After a wonderful lunch prepared by our chef back at the cove, we’ll visit the local museum in the afternoon before heading back to the lodge for a relaxing afternoon, before another gourmet three course dinner. from your chef.
Those keen for another sunrise shoot can be picked up very early and driven to the other side of the island for sunrise at the cove to capture the flowing movement of the ocean as it swirls past the unique rocky outcrops in the shallows. Our chef will meet us at the cove to deliver breakfast before we cool off and go snorkelling. We’ll use today to re-visit some of our favourite spots on the island like the Blowholes, Hugh’s Dale and the infinity pools and visit some of the lookouts we haven’t had a chance to visit yet or any other experiences the weather may have caused us to delay until now. We’ll get you back to the lodge in the early afternoon so you have time to do a download and back up of your photos before your chef comes out, for the last amazing dinner.
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).
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 are some places that are ‘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 nearby. 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 (or beyond, to Anderson’s Dale if you’re up for it), 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 nearby 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 guests 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. Please be aware that the planes can only land on Christmas Island if they have a clear visual approach and on occasion, a landing can be aborted due to low clouds, fog, storms and other adverse 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 and drinks are provided. During your stay at Swell Lodge, our private chef will be looking after your culinary needs. Breakfast is usually a relaxed, self-serve affair with a selection of cereals, yoghurt, fresh fruit and other treats to start your day, unless breakfast is being delivered out at a photo shoot. Our chef will prepare a picnic lunch after your morning activity. Dinners vary from having our chef come out and prepare an amazing meal just for you on your balcony using local produce, and also a visit to one of the best local restaurants on island. All meals included.
A selection of wine, sparkling wine, beer, cider, gin and tonic (often with fresh island limes) as well as an assortment of soft drinks will be provided for you in your eco-chalet refrigerator, and are all included in your stay.
Be prepared to be self sufficient regarding your camera gear.
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.