While very different, together, these two islands form the perfect tropical wonderland. While both have great snorkeling etc, Christmas Island is more about the amazing birdlife, the lost-word style landscapes, the forests, the crabs etc, while Cocos keeling is more about the relaxing sandy beaches, clam water, palm trees and Malay culture. Considering as to reach either you have to fly past (and even briefly disembark) at the other anyway, you absolutely may as well explore and experience both while you're in this remote corner of the world. It's only about a 90 minute flight! Many of our guests who've come on our Christmas Island Photography Tours over the years have gone on to explore Cocos Keeling on their own and told us how good it was but that it would be great to be as well organised as our own tours, so in 2017 we went over there and checked it out and spent the next 6 months organising the perfect tour to Cocos Keeling Islands covering all the highlights in the exclusive, small-group style we know you like.
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.
Definitely try to get a window seat for this short flight between Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands – the view is sure to astound you. Watch the frigate birds soaring in the thermals below, giving you one final goodbye as you farewell the emerald green paradise of Christmas Island. After a short 2hr flight over the Indian ocean you’ll start to catch a glimpse of the flat horseshoe pattern of the 27 coral islands that make up the Cocos (Keeling) Islands group. You’ll notice the rows of planted coconut palms, the endless white sandy beaches and tropical coral reefs from above before landing on West Island. Once we have our bags, we’ll literally roll them across the road to our accommodation at the well-appointed Cocos Village Bungalows (cocosvillagebungalows.com). But don’t unpack just yet – we have organized a relaxed dinner and welcome drinks to begin our stay in this unique tropical paradise! What a way to begin!
After a quick breakfast at the Bungalows we’ll be splitting into two groups, with half of us off to explore Direction Island on our exclusive boat trip, while the other half experience the wonders of West Island on our driving tour. Don’t worry, the groups will swap over this afternoon so you’ll get a chance to enjoy both activities today.
Our exclusive boat will pick us up from West Island and deliver us over to Direction Island, rated Australia’s best beach for 2016! You’ll quickly understand why. This truly is a remote paradise with endless sweeping beaches, coconut palms and crystal clear water. On the Southern tip of the Island lies our favorite snorkeling spot, locally known as the ‘rip’. You literally jump in at one end and the gentle current drifts you past colorful corals, tropical fish and maybe even a few harmless reef sharks (if you’re lucky!). Don’t bother about swimming back, just let the reef slowly take you back into the lagoon and back to the beach. You can walk up to the start of the ‘rip’ and go again if you’d like! Once you have coasted the ‘rip’ a few times, we’ll cruise out to the lagoon, keeping our eyes out for dolphins, manta rays and Kat, the resident (and affectionately named) dugong, before stopping at an old ship wreck lying in relatively shallow water. Here you’ll be able to jump in and witness the kaleidoscope of corals and fish that have taken over the wreck. We’ll be back by lunch time to swap with the other half of the group who will have spent the morning exploring West Island on the driving tour. So, after lunch we’ll tag team and do the same! We’ll visit ‘The Barge’ gallery which is literally and old barge that has been restored by a resident artist and turned into an art gallery. Pretty cool! We’ll also visit the clam farm where vibrant blue and purple clams are being sustainably farmed for fish tanks around the world. This is one of the best opportunities to photograph their brilliant colours up close. Next is a stop off at the water hole, which is a good opportunity for bird spotting, before visiting a few different beaches to photograph the hermit crabs, surf and incredible coconut palms.
Tonight we have organised sunset drinks and a BBQ dinner at Trannies Beach, a sublime to spot to watch the sunset! Make sure you bring your camera gear as you’ll find the classic ‘tropical paradise postcard’ shot here with coconut palms outstretched along the beach, silhouetted by the sunset. Just stunning!
This morning we’ll be on the motorized canoes as we explore the
Southern Islands in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands group. Starting from Canoe Beach we’ll motor over to Pulau Blan Madar where we’ll enjoy
a scrumptious breakfast and an opportunity to photograph literally thousands of hermit crabs. After breakfast we’ll make our way around
to the point of South Island, passing so many turtles on the way that if you didn’t get a perfect shot of one yesterday you’ll get a great second
chance! The historical WWII sights on the South Island are fascinating to stop off and explore before we head back to the canoes and motor around to the next great spot on South Island. Here you’ll be able to enjoy a paddle, snorkel or short walk and photograph the idyllic secluded
beaches and arching palm trees. Soak it all in while our guide husks a coconut for everyone to try. Told you this was paradise! We’ll then motor over to Pulau Maria where we will snorkel the ‘little rip’. There is so much to see as the water currents take you gently around the island – you won’t even have to try and swim!
Tonight we’ll catch the sunset at Canoe Beach and have a final farewell dinner. What a fitting way to celebrate what has been an amazing tour exploring the very best that Cocos (Keeling) Islands have to offer!
Check in for this morning’s flight opens at 6:30 AM so it’ll be an early start to be packed up and checked out by this time. There is a bakery café at the airport where we can grab a breakfast treat while we wait for our flight to depart and take us back to the hustle and bustle of our busy lives. Good thing you’ll have hundreds (or thousands) of photos to instantly transport you back to this incredible island escape.
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 photo tour Booking Conditions for our cancellation policy (above).
A non-refundable, non-transferable $1,000 AUD booking deposit is required to secure your spot on this photo tour.
We are confident this trip will go ahead, however if we do not reach minimum numbers, we will of course return your deposit to you.
There won’t be any strenuous hiking, but a reasonable level of mobility and fitness will be required to get in and out of the motorized canoes; go for short walks along soft, sandy beaches or through the forest; get on and off boats; and snorkeling.
Price includes all meals, moderate amount of drinks and accommodation is provided.
Price does not include flights from your home town to Cocos (Keeling) Islands, nor your return flight back home.
After you book, we will email you an extensive information document telling you everything you need to know from what camera gear to bring, currency, power plug types, etc.
We do not loan out our own camera equipment for this trip. We will bring a spare camera or two just in case but... be prepared to be self sufficient regarding your camera gear.
When you book into the tour you’ll receive your own personal login details to our voyager guest online hub where you will need to fill in your medical details and agree to our booking terms and conditions.