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.
Our Galapagos, Amazon and Hummingbird tour starts in the evening when we meet at the Le Parc Hotel Quito (airport transfers included). for a quick welcome and photography crash course and briefing. We’ll eat out, sampling some of the fine local cuisine before setting your camera betteries on charge, formatting memory cards and trying to get some sleep ready for the adventure to begin tomorrow.
After breakfast we’ll be transferred to Quito airport in Ecuador where we’ll board our flight to Galapagos - landing at San Cristobal - the point of entry into the amazing Galapagos Archipelago! We’ll be welcomed on board the luxurious motor vessel ‘Galapagos Odyssey’ and once you have made yourself at home we’ll head out to visit the Cerro Colorado Tortoises Protection and Growing Center. Here we’ll have the opportunity to photograph not only the tortoises but also many other species of native and endemic flora and fauna like the San Cristobal Mockingbird and Yellow Warblers.
Today we’ll explore Española Island, considered one of the oldest islands in the Galapagos Archipelago. On board our luxurious ‘Galapagos Odyssey’ this morning we’ll head to Gardener Bay, a beautiful beach for relaxing, swimming, snorkelling, kayaking and the opportunity to photograph sea lions up close. This afternoon our boat will cruise around the Punta Suarez, a rocky part of the island known for being one of the most impressive and varied colonies of sea birds in the Galapagos. We will photograph the masked and blue-footed booby birds, Galapagos doves, red-billed tropicbird, mocking birds, swallowed-tailed gulls and most important, the critically endangered waved albatross. This island has its own species of animals such as the Espanola mockingbird, which has a longer and more curved beak than the one of the central islands, the Española lava lizard and the marine Iguana. High cliffs rise from the sea giving us spectacular views of soaring sea birds and the impressive blow hole.
Our day begins at Punta Cormorant on Floreana Island, an island formed by volcanic eruption. This location is known for its Flamingo lagoon, one of the largest and best in the Galapagos Islands. The lagoon is also home to various species of shorebirds such as stilts, white-checked pintail ducks and a variety of migratory birds. The ‘Green Beach’ is also extraordinary, coloured by its large percentage of olivine crystals in the sand, a contrast from ‘Flour Sand Beach’ which is made up of coral fragments. In the afternoon we’ll explore Post Office Bay - the site of a wooden barrel, placed there in the 18th Century and used as a post office ever since where letters are hand-delivered to their destinations. It was also the landing area for some of the first colonists. Continuing northward we’ll ascent to Baroness Lookout, a beautiful vista where we can photograph the entire landscape from the coastline to the flamingo lagoon and out to the wide forest of Palo Santo.
Onwards to Santa Fe, a mostly flat island due to its formation by uplift rather than volcanic eruption and possibly the oldest island in the Galapagos Archipelago. It’s also home to a number of endemic species including the Galapagos Hawk and the two species of land iguana found in the Galapagos. We’ll disembark on the island and get the chance to photograph one of the many sea lion colonies present, perhaps even snorkel with some of them in the crystal clear water. After lunch we’ll explore Plazas, located to the east of Santa Cruz Island and forming part of the two-island group known as Islas Plazas. Even despite it’s small size, some of the most outstanding species of the region are found here. The land iguanas here are smaller than their relatives found elsewhere and several hybrids can also be found - a cross between a male marine iguana and a female land iguana – incredibly unique and instantly recognizable. Frigate birds, Brown Pelicans, Tropicbirds and Shearwaters nest in the cliffs and always provide great photo opportunities.
Today we get the chance to discover the magic of two amazing islands – North Seymour Island and Santa Cruz Island. North Seymour is another uplifted island, which is again flatter than the volcanic islands around, and is known for its large nesting populations of Frigate birds. The magnificent Frigatebird is known as the 'pirate of the skies' because of its famous technique of harassing other birds returning from a day's fishing until they drop their catch in mid air, whereupon the frigatebird skilfully swoops in and grabs the free meal before it even hits the water! Some will be flying right close to us putting on aerobic displays (which will be a photographic challenge!), and others will be collecting sticks for their nests. The real beauty of these birds is captured when the males puff out their brilliant red throat pouches to impress potential mates. They'll be nesting there right in front of us, rattling their bills, and posing for the perfect shot! The island is also home to nesting Blue-footed boobies. Watch where you step as boobies care little for where they nest and it’s possible to stumble right over them if you’re not keeping an eye out! Later this afternoon we’ll visit Bachas Beach on Santa Cruz Island with its stunning white sand and brackish water lagoon.
Today we farewell ‘Galapagos Odyssey’, our home away from home for the past 5 days, but not before we briefly explore our last island, Mosquera Islet. This small, magical island has a reef of rocks and coral and a sandy beach where a big population of sea lions haul out. It offers amazing snorkelling opportunities and the rocks are home to Red Lava crabs and Sally light-foot crabs so keep your macro lens handy!
Once back at Baltra airport it’s time for a change of address! We’ll begin our journey back to the mainland to experience the second half of the safari! Our 2-hour flight will land in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, where our private bus will transport us to our tranquil accommodation at the San Jorge Eco-Lodge. Dinner will be served at the lodge's Ecuadorian restaurant, 'El Cucayco', overlooking the Quito valley. Try not to get too carried away with the amazing birdlife (including hummingbirds) that'll already be flitting around, as this is only a rest-stop - tomorrow we'll be heading to the incredible Amazon Basin!
After a 30 min flight over the Andes Mountains we'll be landing in the world-famous Amazon Basin - the place of legends and a location on every photographer’s (and adventurer's) bucket-list. The lodge staff will meet us and after a quick bite to eat we'll climb aboard our two-hour private motorised canoe ride through the mighty Amazon to the world-renowned Sacha Eco lodge. Keep your cameras handy as it's possible to spot any number of bird species including Terns, Plovers, Blackbirds, Swallows, Martins and Herons. After a 30 min walk through the rainforest to Lake Pilchicocha, more staff will meet us and paddle us across to Sacha Lodge. This afternoon our guide will take us to visit the butterfly house before we make our way to the restaurant to watch the sunset over the water and pinch yourself until you realise that tomorrow you're going to be exploring the Amazon!
You'll come to realise that most of the activity in the Amazon happens early in the morning or later in the afternoon. Between the hours of 11am and 3pm is known as "dead time" where animal activity and sightings dwindle as do our comfort levels in the hot and humid climate. Consequently, we'll begin our days very early to make the most of them! So after an early breakfast we'll be heading for the 36m high and 275m long suspended 'Canopy walkway' for spectacular views of the amazon rainforest and to spot the many different bird species. When the day heats up we'll return to the lodge for a refreshing dip in the lake, or a relaxing nap in your personal hammock on your private balcony. The afternoon will see us head out on a silent canoe ride through the flooded Amazonia forest, where we'll have a good chance of seeing squirrel, capuchin and howler monkeys - all the while keeping our eyes peeled for the shy and elusive river otter and the very well camouflaged three-toed sloth! After our canoe ride we'll arrive at Sacha's 135-foot wooden tower built around an ancient Kapok tree which we can climb and watch the sunset with an amazing view of the volcano, Mount Sumaco, and off to the distant snow covered peaks of the Andes! Leaving the tower after sunset, we'll hop back in our canoes and slip silently back through the flooded forest at night, surrounded by the sounds of frogs, bats and other night-life - an unforgettable experience in itself - arriving back at the lodge in time for a late dinner.
Another early start today for our short canoe trip down the Napo River to visit a Parrot lick - an exposed clay riverbank where brightly coloured parrots of several different species gather in the early morning. In ideal conditions (dry & sunny) hundreds of parrots will perch and eat the exposed clay in a spectacular show of sound and colour. We'll head back to the lodge for "dead time" and in the afternoon we'll be visiting lake Lagartococha, a tranquil canoe ride through a natural swamp home to anacondas, caimans (crocs) and capybaras - all awesome photographic subjects. After the canoe ride, a walk to the other side of Largotococha may give us the opportunity to spot capuchin or squirrel monkeys playfully jumping through the trees. We'll head back to the lodge in time for our last dinner in the Amazon rainforest!
You guessed it, another early departure this morning as we head back to our canoes for the two-hour ride back to the airport for our flight back to Quito. Once arrived, we’ll again board our private transfer back to the homely San Jorge Eco-Lodge and Botanical Reserve for the next part of the tour (and our personal favourite) - Hummingbirds in the cloud forests of the Andes!
After breakfast we'll be departing for the San Jorge De Tandayapa Hummingbird Sanctuary, a 150-acre property on the edge of the pristine cloud forest in the foothills of the mighty Andes mountain range. This property boasts the world record for the most hummingbird species recorded in one year (43 species!)! There are a number of well-kept walking trails that snake along the side of the Tandayapa Valley through the ancient forest, and we'll be guided by local naturalists to help us spot and identify the different bird species as well as other flora and fauna. For the less adventurous in the group, you're welcome to stay the open-air Hummingbird Restaurant' that is surrounded by super active hummingbird and tanager feeders. This spot provides superb photography opportunities to catch the hummingbirds hovering at the feeders (just out of shot), or sitting on a branch with their iridescent feathers reflecting in the sunshine. It's just magical and you won’t want to leave, I assure you. Leave we must though, as it just gets better. After lunch at the restaurant, we drive onwards to the San Jorge de Milpe Orchid & Bird Reserve in the Upper Tropical Rainforest, where we'll be basing ourselves for the next two nights. After arriving late in the afternoon some of you may want to relax and unwind in your spacious bamboo suite, with two hammocks on the balcony commanding magnificent views over the pristine rainforest Milpe is known for. For those of you who can't get enough of photographing the beautifully bright birds, you can make your way to the main dining area - a three-story bamboo complex with a classy restaurant on the first floor, bar on the second and a 50ft observation deck above the treetops on the third. From here you'll be able to set yourself up and photograph a huge variety of birds that might include Parakeets, Toucans, Woodpeckers, Barbets & Taneger's. After dinner tonight we'll be taken on a guided night walk to see if we can spot the Crested or Mottled Owl, and hopefully some of the amazing nocturnal mammals that frequent the area like the Tayra.
San Jorge de Milpe reserve has over 450 species of birds, as well as wild orchids, butterflies, moths, plants, reptiles and mammals - the photographic opportunities here are endless. So you'll be so pleased to know we've planned to stay a full day here. After breakfast we'll be taken on a walk through the rainforest. Don't forget your macro and wide-angle lens for this walk! The rainforest is simply stunning, sprouting lush green ferns, mosses, intricately patterned orchids and towering old trees. Depending how many things we photograph on the way, we may even make it to one of the 11 waterfalls on the reserve with optional swimming (so don't forget your swimmers either!). While our chances are probably negligible, the guide has had an amazing experience with a black panther (black jaguar) here, so always keep looking. We'll be back at the lodge for lunch before another afternoon walk, which will be our last chance to spot some of the more elusive toucans! Again, for the less adventurous in the group there's always plenty of activity at the bird feeders in the restaurant where you'll be welcome all day, or feel free to wander the local jungle paths yourself.
Ok guys, you deserve a bit of a break, so we'll let you sleep in for a leisurely start. Enjoy the tranquillity of the rainforest this morning, sit by the bird feeders outside the restaurant one last time, or revisit one of the walks we did yesterday. We won’t be leaving Milpe until after lunch so you can be as active or as sloth-like as you wish! We'll be transiting back to the San Jorge Eco-Lodge and Botanical Reserve in the outskirts of Quito tonight where we'll have one last celebratory dinner to celebrate all the remarkable things we have seen, from giant tortoises in the Galapagos Islands, the amazing Amazon jungle and just this morning, Hummingbirds in the cloud forest of the Andes. It's been an absolutely amazing photo tour, and I bet you'll have to keep looking back at the photos again and again to prove to yourself that it was real!
That's if folks! Today we'll be offering transfers to Quito airport, from where you can jet back from Ecuador to the reality of your busy lives back home, attend to that flood of emails building up in our inbox and get ready to return to work. Stick a few of your best photos up on the wall and remember, forever, two of the most exciting weeks of your life!!! And for those of you who want to enjoy Quito/Ecuador a little longer we do have a great post-tour optional program on offer (check out the details in our information document which we'll send you when you register your interest in joining this tour.).
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 photo tours are subject to minimum numbers. Please ensure you have read our tour Booking Conditions for our cancellation policy (above).
All meals are provided but beverages must be purchased at your own expense.
We will form our own private group - we will have our own guide, and all boat trips and day-trips etc will be just us.
The price includes domestic flights (from Ecuador mainland to/from Galapagos, and from Quito to/from the Amazon) but does NOT include flights from your home town to Ecuador, nor your return flight back home. However, we have our own travel agent who is more than happy to help answer all your questions and help you book the best flights, travel insurance etc.
This is the Amazon we're going to - there may be occasional power outages etc, but it's all part of the experience though, and I'm sure you'll survive.
If you have your own good snorkelling gear then it's a good idea to bring it, however if not, never fear - you can hire mask, snorkel and fins on Galapagos, but (as is often the case with hire gear) it can sometimes be hard to find the exact fit sometimes, but you'll be fine. Wetsuits? Personal choice, the water can be cold 18 degrees and some photo tour guests do like to bring or hire a wetsuit, some long, some short.
Level of fitness - medium+. This photo tour is not for the unfit or the infirm, those with poor balance or those who struggle carrying camera bags around in the heat and humidity. You need to be able to get in and out of boats, walk to to and from accommodation lodges along rainforest trails, up inclines etc. Email us if you are unsure.
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 just in case but... be prepared to be self sufficient regarding your camera gear - however we do have some gear available for hire - book ahead.
If you need your mobile phone to work - be sure to enable global roaming before you go, there's great coverage, but be warned of global roaming fees, especially for data. Perhaps treat it as a much needed break from your hectic lives at home! There's wifi internet in the foyer of the hotel in Galapagos, and in Quito, but none in the Hummingbird forest or Amazon.
The Galapagos part of this trip is boat-based. It is a very seaworthy ship and it's quite roomy with many places to relax. Anyone who suffers from seasickness should bring appropriate medication, but don't let this deter you from the trip.
A non-refundable, non-transferable $1,000 USD booking deposit is required.