Sheena’s encounters with incredible wildlife across Botswana and Zimbabwe – Read her trip diary!

Wildfoot African expert, Sheena Ogley recently shared enthralling encounters with incredible wildlife across Botswana and Zimbabwe. Read her gripping photographic trip diary detailing her exhilarating adventures and unique experiences amongst some of Africa’s most spectacular roaming species.

Day 1 – Kwara Private Reserve – Okavango Delta – Botswana

Touchdown! After a little wait in Maun, it was wheels up in my 12-seater Grand Caravan, then 30 minutes later it was wheels down in the Kwara Private Reserve! Wildlife guide Matt and tracker Obe were waiting on hand to welcome me. ‘About a 30-minute drive to camp’ they said, ‘Unless we see something exciting on the way’. We started with some nice spotting of Tsetse beast and giraffe. Then came the elephants. As it was heading towards sunset, I was suddenly aware that everywhere I looked, elephants were emerging from the woods; they were heading for their evening sundowner drinks at the main water channel!

Wow! What a welcome! However, it soon became apparent that this was just the start. Over the radio came news of a leopard sighting; ‘Do you want to check it out?’ said Matt, ‘Absolutely’ said I, and off we went. Sure enough, emerging from underneath the bushes, was a young leopard, stretching and yawning ready for her evening activities.

Well, I thought, whilst this is a whistle-stop tour, it was certainly starting well. But of course, they weren’t done yet. ‘There is a wild dog sighting, Sheena, but there is a three-car limit on each sighting’ explains Matt. Obviously, I was disappointed not to see them, but no, Matt had a plan. As I was by myself, a quick transfer into another vehicle with guests already on wild dog high alert, and off I went in hot pursuit. The ‘Ferrari Safari’ was underway, and we dashed off to find the dogs.

A pack of about 12 dogs were making dinner plans; Impala looking the likely option. But despite their best efforts, the perfect ambush was just not happening for them, and we watched as they split and regrouped, replanned and tried and tried again. Tired for now, they decided to call it a night and with that we headed for camp, with my head spinning and camera already getting good use.

Day 2 – Shinde Private Reserve – Okavango Delta – Botswana

Early start today and no sooner had I made myself at home at Splash Camp, I’m off to my next stop. Matt had his plan and an early morning drive had us in search of the dogs again to see if they had had success during the night. Despite the threat of rain, the grey sky morning did reap its rewards and sure enough the dogs were active, but again, alas, ‘no cigar’.

After a tea stop, I was duly handed over to Ronnie from Shinde on the neighbouring concession. His opening words to me were, ‘We have a 30-minute drive to camp as you have a surprise at 12pm, oh unless we see something interesting on the way’. I’m sensing a theme here, but a surprise, I love surprises! But we’ll get to that…

The good old safari guide’s radio never fails to bring good news, and this time another leopard. Arriving to the sighting, a few other vehicles were already getting a wonderful view of a young male leopard. Positioning us in just the right spot, a magnificent sight he was. But one was just not enough, and low and behold a female was spotted just 50 meters away.

We repositioned and Ronnie, being a very experienced guide, knew just the spot she would emerge from. Before I knew it, she was strolling right past our vehicle and climbed up the nearby tree giving us the classic leopard pose. What an absolute treat to sit and watch these majestic creatures.

So, to the surprise. The airstrip is just a few minutes’ drive from camp, so after dropping off my luggage, we arrived to find a helicopter waiting for me.

Yes, a little 20-minute flip over the concession was a wonderful gift from Ker & Downey. ‘The doors are off’ said Brent ‘So keep hold of your stuff!’. I wasn’t sure where to look first, down to the elephants and a rare sitatunga nestled in the long grass, or look up and survey the landscape. After taking it all in and getting some hopefully not-too-wobbly footage, we touch down again, and it was off to lunch and a chance to digest my morning.

The afternoon game drive was another magical experience. We discovered the two leopards again, a mother and son as it turns out. They were very chilled around our presence as we sat and watched them play for half an hour, before we were alerted to a female lion. We found her with a great vantage point surveying the plains, but being rather full still from a morning feast, she promptly fell asleep.

With a little more time left, Ronnie and I continued to explore and found the culprits of the load roaring we’d heard earlier in the afternoon. Two lion brothers had wandered into the concession, and anyone who knows anything about lions knows you don’t wander into another pride’s territory, and you certainly don’t announce your arrival! They were a very skinny sight and in need of a good feast. Again, it was a privilege to sit and watch their interactions. Hopefully, after we left, they found a meal and quickly moved on as they were in no shape to protect themselves.

What a day! There’s a very good reason that the Okavango Delta is so popular, and I think I just had a pretty good example of its delights.

Day 3 – Khwai Community Reserve – Okavango Delta – Botswana

After the rather hectic day yesterday, this morning was a much calmer affair, starting with a mokoro trip with BT. A mokoro trip must be the most peaceful game experience; the rain clouds from yesterday were breaking and the sunrise reflections on the water were just beautiful. We had, however, a few hitchhikers on the way! One tiny and one slightly large frog decided to hop on board for the ride, but hopped back out again before BT had a chance to identify them. Breaking the calm of the trip, was BT’s sudden excitement, he’d spotted movements in the reeds. It was a sitatunga, so hard to spot and very rarely seen. They live in the swamp lands and are inherently shy. Sadly, we couldn’t get a picture, but sometimes a memory is enough.

Next, we were wheels up again and off east to the Khwai Community Reserve, bordering the Moremi Game Reserve.

Well, arriving at camp, it was clear that there had been quite the commotion on the morning game drive.

Inside Moremi, five male lions had entered the territory of another pride, resulting in carnage. A young male cub was killed, a mother fled with 2 tiny cubs and the rest of the resident pride were scattered. Understandably, the guides and guests were keen to return to the crime scene that afternoon to see the fall out.

I think everyone was a bit nervous to be honest, the last thing they wanted to find was evidence that the invading pride had found the tiny cubs. However, we did find one of the main protagonists scouring and sniffing the bushes that had been the cubs’ hiding place prior to the ambush. But no cubs were found, so we all decided to believe that they had fled to safety in time and were now lying low in another faraway bush. (Hopefully!)

As the sun was starting to set, suddenly four of the original pride emerged looking pretty unscathed, but on high alert. Even 7 hours later, their attention was fixed back in the direction of the morning’s attack. I know this is nature and all this happens whether we are there to witness it or not, but it’s both heart stopping and heart breaking.

Day 4 – Setari – Okavango Delta – Botswana

One last early morning drive in Moremi Game reserve, did not disappoint. The regrouped pride from last night had retrieved another of its members, much to our relief. And as a parting hurrah, our guide Max, with the most eagle eyes imaginable, spotted a mother with two lion cubs resting underneath a bush. It was a gorgeous family interaction as they groomed and played with one another.

An early afternoon flight found me heading northwest into the heart of the ‘handle’ of the Okavango Delta Panhandle. My next destination Setari Camp, an all-water camp, and I was looking forward to a change of scenery and mode of transportation. After another warm and generous welcome, Seretse readied the boat that saw us gliding through the vast papyrus lined channels. There’s no doubt our guide was working in the right place, his passion and enthusiasm for this area is totally infectious. He even turned me into a birder!

The water channels in this area change constantly from tiny waterways, only just wide enough for the boat, to wide open basins where the hippos like to wallow. At every turn their distinctive ‘honking’ and water snorting can be heard as they bob down and appear in a totally different place, not unnerving at all!!

I’d never been up to this part of the delta before, but I have to say I really hope it’s not my last time and would urge everyone to stay for a little while and enjoy the tranquillity.

Day 5 – Hwange National Park – Zimbabwe

Early start this morning and no time for a game activity, so I must bid a very reluctant ‘goodbye’ to Setari. But now for a total change and new country, I’m heading to elephant country!!

Now don’t for one minute think there is a lack of elephants in Botswana, far from it, but this is next level stuff. I’ve arrived at Ivory Camp in Hwange and my guide, the fabulously named Zebedee, is the expert around here. It’s late in the day, so a drive on the Amalinda Private Reserve is this evening’s treat. In this area, although there are large areas of dense bush land, there is no shortage of wildlife. 200 + strong herds of buffalo can be found in these parts as well as predators, but this evening is the elephant show. A wide, open valley cuts through this reserve with interspersed water holes, and Zebedee knows well that these will soon be full of elephants. Tonight, however, they were a little shy and waited amongst the bushes until the sun was almost down to make their move. But then they came, in giant waves; groups of 40 then 50 then 60 until the noise of slurping and trumpeting while each jostled for a place was mesmerising. The downside of their tardiness to the water meant it was dark, so getting images to show you was slightly trickier, but trust me, it’s very special.

Day 6 – Hwange National Park – Zimbabwe

Well, all play and no work makes Sheena; in big trouble! Whilst I have been enjoying the wildlife, a few site visits were the plan for this morning. To be honest, getting to look around the lovely Khulu and Sable Camps was no hardship. But then all too soon, I was leaving Zebedee behind and heading off with Ellius and entering Hwange National Park. The early stages of the drive are through quite thick bush, but that never phases a safari guide, who was spotting steinbok and giraffe. Then slowly, car after car coming from the opposite direction brought news of a wild dog pack sighting.

This was a seventeen strong pack that Ellius was well familiar with and off we went in their direction. Sure enough, right where had been described, the pack sat resting under a large teak tree. Handily, the site was not far from our planned lunch stop, so instead we tucked into egg and cheese sandwiches washed down with Ginger Ale watching this ‘little’ family.

After lunch, off we went again, heading for Somalisa Camp. The closer we got, the elephant count rose and rose until we reached a waterhole just a few kilometres from camp, where we found a huge herd moving in and out of the waterhole, including a tiny elephant so small his ears were still pink!

Even though Somalisa Camp has a great fleet of safari vehicles, an armchair safari would have been more than enough. The waterhole in front of camp is a permanent mecca for all wildlife, with a stream of baboons, elephants, waterhogs and waterbucks making their way to and fro throughout the afternoon. But an afternoon drive with sundowners awaits, with Bryan our guide for the afternoon, bringing a wealth of elephants, baboons and a very snoozy Lion. However, once again it was the evening that drew the huge numbers of elephants to the waterhole. Whilst we ate dinner by candlelight, the elephants were a matter of feet away.

Day 7 – Mana Pools National Park – Zimbabwe

‘Knock, knock’ comes the 5am call, accompanied with fresh coffee left at my tent. Around the private concession of Somalisa are the sister properties of Somalisa Expeditions and Arcacia, and this morning was the perfect opportunity to have a quick site visit before my flight to Mana Pools. Arcacia shares a location with the main camp but is aimed more at families or smaller groups overlooking their own waterhole, and Expeditions is just a few kilometres away and has more of a mobile camp feel to it but with a good few creature comforts.

All too soon it was time to leave the elephants behind and head to Mana Pools. It’s about a 1h20m flight into Mana Airstrip flying over the vast man-made Lake Kariba.

Waiting at the airstrip for myself and the other guests was Trymore who whisked us off to Nyamatusi Camp. Now setting himself up to peak too soon, he casually pointed out 3 hyena resting up from the sun under a tree near the road within moments of setting off!

After that initial excitement, and our ‘stay briefing’ by the very congenial, Sheppard, I finally had time for a little R&R. The room overlooks the Zambezi, a beautiful sight, and the air-con is a welcome relief from the 40° plus heat. But the cute little private plunge pool was not something I could resist for long.

For the afternoon, we headed to the water of course. Why not, when the Zambezi is on your doorstep. Yona is our guide and along with his assistant canoe guides, they very carefully navigate the river that conceals just one or two hippos and crocodiles!!

As we paddled along, crocs shimmied from the banks to the water, elephants swam across in search of greener pastures, and hippos, well they snorted a lot and generally played hide and seek with us underneath the canoe!

After a lovely evening meal, I was just heading off to bed and making my plans for the next day when a beautiful young female leopard came through camp to say ‘goodnight’. ‘Night night’ lovely leopard.

Day 8 – Mana Pools National Park – Zimbabwe

Today is my penultimate stop on my whistlestop trip, and Trymore takes us out early this morning in search of lions before I move on. We’d heard the roaring throughout the night and fresh tracks around camp suggested they were not far away. A wonderful sight greeted us not far from camp, a male and 2 female lions lay out in the open enjoying the cool morning sunrise. However, there is a well-defined hierarchy in a lion pride and from the look of their bellies, the male had well and truly had his fill and the females maybe not so much, which meant they were still on high alert for a quick spot of breakfast. Despite their interest in a wondering Eland, the moment had past and as the heat was starting to rise, that put an end to their hunt for this morning.

I was heading towards my next camp, but there was still time to visit the renowned baobab tree at Chine Pool. Chine means Thursday in Shona and many years ago it was declared that the farmers did not work on Thursdays making this baobab a prime spot for locals to sit and discuss local issues and politics. There is just a small gap to get in and out of the tree, and this would be a test of whether I’d had too many afternoon tea cakes! Luckily, I managed to squeeze inside, then, thankfully, back out again!

‘Hello!’ the smiling face of Bryan, welcomed me to his safari vehicle and after another farewell, I was off to Zambezi Expeditions Camp.

Now in this area, there’s a rather famous resident, a large, tusked male named ‘Boswell’; he has mastered the skill of standing on his back legs to reach higher branches, a skill that he seems to have passed on to his fellow bulls. I arrive in camp in time for lunch and one of Boswell’s crew seem to have decided to join us.

This afternoon brings a game drive. Traversing to and from the Zambezi, we find a wealth of wildlife including 3 female lions, enjoying the shade as the intense heat of the day was starting to dissipate.

The evening was brought to a conclusion with sundowners on the banks of the Zambezi, whilst watching these lions repositioning themselves to a suitable vantage point with one eye on an Impala supper.

Day 9 – Mana Pools National Park – Zimbabwe

If you’ve been on any safari, you know that early morning ‘wake-ups’ are part of the deal. This morning was no exception, but I was even more excited because we were doing a walking safari.  This is a really special treat and we set off with Cloud and Bryan, with their trusty safari guide issue guns.

This is a chance to appreciate the smaller creatures and it was wonderful to find a pair of leopard tortoise, learn about the flora, and, very quietly, watch a female hyena and a few friends of the aforementioned Boswell.

The buzz around Mana Pools is always fuelled with speculation of the whereabouts of the dogs. We’re talking wild dogs. They had been out of the area for a little while, and rumour had it they were on their way back.

The rumours were not wrong! Sure enough, the dogs had been spotted by the wild dog conservation rangers, and we found them lounging amongst the bushes.

After the excitement of the dogs, I was introduced to Reggie, my last guide, and we headed off to my final camp of the trip, Kanga Camp.

There is some seriously dense woodland between the open plains of Mana Pools at the Zambezi and the more southerly areas of the park, so I was wondering what I might see. However, my first task on arrival was to eat lunch and I soon found I was not alone! Elephants, once again the stars of the show here, were drinking out of the plunge pool and pulling seed pods out of the tree above our heads.

The whole area is also home to several lions, hyena, and even leopard have been seen in these parts, and the afternoon game drive seen us encounter a couple of male lions.

But, whilst my pics are half decent, I’d urge you to check out the footage by Robert E Fuller, a renowned wildlife photographer and filmmaker, who we sent to this area just before I arrived.

Robert E Fuller visits Mana Pools

Day 10 – Thank you and ‘Goodbye’

Well, the time has come to say ‘Goodbye’, and what a trip it’s been. Leopards, lions, helicopter flip, more elephants than you can shake a stick at, amazing wild dog encounters and so much generous hospitality. A huge thanks to African Bush Camps, Amalinda Safari Collection, Setari Camps, Ker & Downey & Kwando Safaris for sharing your homes with me.

Until next time!!!

Follow in Sheena’s Footsteps – Your adventure, your way

Our wonderful guides have firsthand experience and knowledge of all the regions in which we travel. That’s why we’re able to offer you the unique opportunity of visiting these destinations with expert guides on a tour that has been customised to match your exact requirements. We can create your dream safari holiday – and you can rest assured we know what we’re talking about because we’ve been there ourselves. 

Our passion really is making your aspirations for adventure come true, so if you’re looking to tick one more thing off that travel bucket list, get in touch with one of our friendly team members so we can get started on helping you have a holiday of a lifetime!

We recommend…

With our extensive first-hand experience and deep local knowledge of all our destinations, we’re passionate about providing you with the opportunities to explore some of the most fascinating and unique places on Earth. We’re ready to help you plan your once-in-a-lifetime holiday to Africa. Here are just a few of the many thrilling and memorable tours we offer – and there are plenty more!

Botswana Zebra Migration Special

Immerse yourself in Africa’s second largest zebra migration from the banks of the very river this phenomenon leads these beautiful animals to. The peak of the zebra migration at Leroo La Tau is from July through to October, but do not fear, from October through to July these zebras can be found in the nearby Nxai Pans where you can be taken on a full day adventure. After this action packed few days, you will find yourself relaxing, overlooking the awe-inspiring Xugana Lagoon and exploring the wonders the world famous Okavango Delta has to offer.

Wild Botswana

A fantastic Botswanan wildlife adventure, taking in four different locations all with their distinct qualities. Start in Chobe River Front, and then head to Linyanti Concessions, the Okavango Delta and Nxai Pan National Park.

Classic Botswana Safari & River Cruise

An exclusive trip offering an exciting combination of land and water based game viewing adventures, finishing with a relaxing three night cruise along the Chobe River aboard a unique safari boat.

Amy’s Patagonia Adventure

Amy from Wildfoot Travel visited the ‘End of the Earth’ earlier this year, experiencing this captivating region aboard the M/V Ocean Victory. The isolated fjords of Patagonia are made much more accessible aboard a small expedition vessel, giving access to remote towns, narrow fjord systems and the formidable glaciers that lie within them. Here is an insight into Amy’s journey…

The Voyage

Starting in Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world, our vessel wound its way through Chile, heading north to Valparaiso. With an experienced team on board, the journey began with excitement as I awoke on my first day in the stunning Beagle Channel, before we headed into the narrow channels of the fjord system. With condors soaring overhead, sea lions roaring on the shore, breaching whales, and bergy bits (pieces of ice from the glacier) floating past the ship, this was a fantastic and unforgettable immersion into the region.

Patagonia is teeming with history, wildlife and culture, and our journey touched upon the legacy of early explorers like Ferdinand Magellan, the resilience of indigenous people such as the Yaghan and Kawesqar, and the impact of natural wonders like the glaciers of the Patagonian Ice Fields and the imposing towers of Torres del Paine.

Wildlife Encounters

From sea lions howling on the shoreline and pumas roaming Torres Del Paine to whales and cormorants bobbing in the water, our wildlife encounters were nothing short of extraordinary. The majestic humpback whales and dolphins gliding past the boat, captivating us with their playful behaviour and magnificent flukes, will be something I will remember for a very long time. Along the shores, sea lions basked in the sun, and at the heart of Patagonia’s wilderness, Torres Del Paine National Park, we witnessed the elusive pumas silently roaming alongside the iconic guanaco and rheas.

Captivating Scenery

The Patagonian landscape is nature’s art, with its dramatic terrain carved out by glaciers. As we wound our way through the narrow channels of the fjord system, the dramatic cliffs meeting the chilly waters where sea lions and dolphins frolicked along the coast was a breathtaking sight. Yet that was just the beginning of the spectacular scenery that was coming our way. As we approached the nearby Moreno Glacier, standing proudly at 250 ft tall, we had to take a moment to stand in awe as this huge ice wall calved its vibrant blue icebergs into Lake Argentino.

Further along the way, the impressive sights continued in earnest as we reached the colossal Pi XII Glacier, one of the world’s largest non-polar glaciers, which stretches as far as the eye can see. And all of this was before we even reached the jewel in the crown of Patagonia, the awe-inspiring Torres del Paine National Park. A must-visit for nature enthusiasts and hikers, the pristine lakes, forests and waterfalls of the park did not disappoint! Named for its iconic granite peaks, the park’s diverse terrain is perfect for activities such as trekking, horseback riding, kayaking and photography. I particularly enjoyed our treks, reaching incredible viewpoints that simply took my breath away.

Cultural Immersion

Our voyage wasn’t just about wildlife and scenery; it was also an opportunity to connect with local cultures. From indigenous communities to the vibrant town of Castro, we delved into the rich history and traditions of these regions. Through visits to museums, artisan markets, and interactions with locals, we gained insights into the people and heritage that define these remarkable places.

Within the breathtaking landscapes of Chilean Patagonia lies the unique villages of Puerte Edén and Caleta Tortel. Puerte Edén, often referred to as the “City of Silence,” is a remote coastal village accessible only by boat, making it an off-the-beaten-path destination that exudes tranquillity. Caleta Tortel is a picturesque village celebrated for its unique wooden boardwalks and bridges that meander through its maze of islands and channels. These hidden gems offer one-of-a-kind experiences, and both are the perfect stops for those seeking to connect with the local communities, making them indispensable ports of call on any Chilean adventure.

Sustainable Travel  – Managing a Balance

In an era where responsible travel is of paramount importance, Albatros Expeditions, the operator for my Patagonia adventure, uphold a commitment to sustainable travel. By increasing local jobs, fostering understanding and learning, promoting conservation and protection, and acting as change ambassadors, they contribute positively to the destinations we visited. Simultaneously, they strive to decrease greenhouse gas emissions, waste, and pollution, in order to reduce negative impacts on these extraordinary places. The vessel itself, the M/V Ocean Victory, is equipped with a Tier 3 compliant engine and innovative technology to minimise its ecological footprint.

The Vessel

Speaking of the vessel, the M/V Ocean Victory is a marvel of modern engineering. Its Wärtsilä NOR (nitrogen oxide reducer) engine reduces NOX emissions by up to 75%, making it a pioneer in low-emission expedition cruising. With an ice-class 1A certification, Rolls Royce zero-speed stabilizers, and an X-bow design for comfort and speed in rough seas, the Ocean Victory ensures both safety and unparalleled adventure for its passengers.

The vessel itself is a home away from home. Featuring comfortable cabins (90% with their own private veranda), scrumptious food, leisure facilities, two lounges with fantastic views and unbeatable service, the vessel provides everything that you would expect from a high-end hotel, and more!

Cruising through the icy fjords, taking in the view from one of the many observation decks, lounges, hydraulic viewing platforms, or perhaps the onboard hot tub, helps to make every part of your trip even more memorable.

The crew on board are there to make your trip extraordinary. Whether it be spotting wildlife from the deck, evening lectures in the lounge, or on location in the wilderness, the expedition team are experts in their fields and keen to share their knowledge with you.

Your adventure, your way

Our expert team of wildlife and adventure enthusiasts have firsthand experience and knowledge of all the regions in which we travel. That’s why we’re so well placed to create bespoke adventures for you, based upon your exact requirements and desires. With access to the region’s best guides, suppliers and tours, whether you want to explore by land or sea, on your own or with a group, or self-guided or accompanied by experts, you can rest assured that we know what we’re talking about. We’ve been there and done it all.

Our passion really is making your aspirations for adventure come true, so if you’re looking to tick one more thing off that travel bucket list, get in touch with one of our friendly team members so we can get started on helping you create the holiday of a lifetime!

We recommend…

As well as creating bespoke, tailormade itineraries, we also provide a wide range of set departure tours and adventures to Patagonia and Chile in general. With our extensive, firsthand experience and local knowledge, we can work with you to build your perfect trip. Here are just a few of our favourite Patagonia itineraries to give you an idea of what you can expect from a visit to this remarkable area.

Patagonian Fjords of Chile

The Chilean Fjords, with mazes of inland passages, calving glaciers and stunning wildlife, count as one of nature’s greatest wonders. There is no greater way to experience this spectacle than from an expedition cruise.

Lakes, Mountains & Glaciers Puma Special

Start in the cosmopolitan city of Santiago and enjoy a day trip to the world heritage city of Valparaiso. Then head south to Patagonia, the vast region straddling the mighty Andes, where mountains, lakes, glaciers and an unforgettable puma trekking experience awaits.

Complete Patagonia from Atlantic to Pacific

An itinerary encompassing the best of Patagonia, from the wild Valdes Peninsula in Argentina to a spectacular cruise in the Chilean fjords landing at the legendary Cape Horn. Starting in vibrant Buenos Aires and taking in the cosmopolitan capital city of Santiago and the World Heritage area of Valparaiso, this is the top-and-tailed total Patagonian experience.

See the Magnificent Lights in the Arctic with Wildfoot Travel

For travellers with a curious spirit and an adventurous heart, seeing the spectacle of the lights in the Arctic – which has achieved almost reverential status amongst travellers – is something that can’t be satisfied merely by looking at photographs and documentaries or listening to other people recounting their travel stories. This incredible natural phenomenon is at the top of countless so-called travel “bucket lists”, and for those who do put their dreams into action and make a pilgrimage to witness the event for themselves, it’s something very special, that will genuinely never be forgotten. 

We’re all about making people’s adventure travel dreams come true, and we know everything there is to know about many of the world’s most exotic wild places – including the magnificent Arctic region. So if you’re considering a trip to see the lights in the Arctic for yourself, and wondering how to bring the idea to fruition, we’re the ones to help you! To whet your appetite, learning a little more about the region and what you can expect on a week-long visit or a month-long odyssey, might very well inspire you to action!

The history of the Northern Lights

We are all familiar with the term Northern lights to describe the phenomenon of lights in the Arctic, but their correct scientific name is aurora borealis – chosen by the Italian astronomer, physicist and engineer, Galileo who named them after the Roman goddess of the morning, Aurora  and the Greek god of the wind, Boreas. He mistakenly believed the display came about due to sunlight reflecting from the Earth’s atmosphere.

But even though the name is attributed to Galileo, the lights in the Arctic have been around since way before his time – all the way back to pre-history. The oldest known record of them is in a 30,000-year-old cave painting in France, and there are many myths and legends that revolve around them, documented by everyone from the Vikings to the North American Inuits to the ancient Chinese. 

It’s a pretty astounding thought to imagine that the dinosaurs who once walked the Earth looked up at the same spectacle in the skies that adventurous travellers do today – and they were probably just as awe-struck as we are!

northern lights in scandanavia

the northern lights

What causes Arctic lights?

Put into simple terms: the event is what happens when electrically charged particles from space enter the earth’s atmosphere at great speed. And the most incredible thing is that it all starts on the sun…

Originating from the surface of the sun, large amounts of gas are shot out into space in what scientists call ‘Coronal Mass Ejections’. Creating what are known as solar winds, the particles travel at an incredible eight million kilometres per hour and, even though around 98% of them are deflected by our planet’s magnetic field, some of them get through and enter the Earth’s upper atmosphere. They are accelerated toward the magnetic poles – or as we call them, the North and South Poles (in the south it is called ‘aurora australis’). 

When the charged particles collide with the atoms and molecules of the Earth’s atmosphere (usually at around 80-300 kilometres above the surface of the planet) they become ‘excited’ (yes, that’s the technical term!), and the collision creates the emission of the fluorescent, glowing, highly distinctive dancing show we know and love. The variation in colours is caused by the different gases, e.g: the green is oxygen, while pink, blue or purple is nitrogen. On more rare occasions, we can see a deep red, which is indicative of high altitude oxygen.

How often do the Northern Lights happen?

It’s fascinating to learn that, actually, the lights in the Arctic are happening every day of the year – 24 hours a day! But even though the process is happening constantly, of course the times when they’re visible to the human eye is a different matter altogether – and did we mention they’re unpredictable? 

The lights are visible from late August to early April and while the conditions do need to be dark and free of clouds, it doesn’t actually need to be extremely cold, which is a common misconception. At some times of the year in certain places it can be almost perpetually dark, but as a guide they are most likely to appear between the hours of around 5pm to 2am. A word of warning: you should be prepared for some late nights or broken sleep if you’re keen to catch as many sightings as possible. Because of their unpredictability, the longer you can stay in the region on a tour, obviously the better chance you’ll have of seeing them. That’s why our packages are the length they are.

While the solar winds that propel the particles required to create the lights toward Earth are in constant effect, the emissions do vary in their strength in what is an approximately eleven year cycle. This means that during the peak periods of activity the aurora borealis appears at their most frequent and intense. (According to NASA, the next ‘solar maximum’ is due around 2025.) For the die-hard fans, tracking the solar cycle will keep you in-the-know as to when the very best potential sightings are predicted – although when you’re on a WILDFOOT tour your guide will stay abreast of this information so you don’t have to.

How long do the Northern Lights last?

For something so anticipated and fascinating, the actual length of time the lights in the Arctic appear on any given occasion can seem almost fleeting. But the flipside is that fortunately sometimes it can be much longer. In some cases they may appear for just a few minutes – dancing and weaving with each other for a short, tantalising time before slipping away to return the sky to blackness. A decent display would be considered to be about 15-20 minutes in duration, however, at other times it can go on for a magnificent and memorable few hours – or even longer.

During an active period the displays could occur every couple of hours, for short, sporadic periods, or longer 30-minute sessions. You can keep an eye on the forecast using an app, although, again, if you travel with one of our WILDFOOT tours or cruises, your guide will be all over the predicted schedule of sky shows.  

Which month is best to see the Northern Lights in Iceland?

Although the lights in the Arctic are present throughout the year, there isn’t enough darkness in the summer to provide decent sightings (in fact it doesn’t ever get completely dark for long periods of the season). So we advise customers who really want to see them to travel during winter when the skies are at their darkest (sometimes for 24 hours). The winter season runs from late September to early March, with the optimal time for sightings considered to be from mid-October through March.

You may have to spend extended time standing outdoors in the cold if you want to catch (and photograph) the best sightings, but the good news is that the presence of the Gulf Stream means that Iceland is far less chilly than other places like Sweden, Finland and Norway.

Are Northern Lights tours worth it?

Naturally our answer to that question is always going to be a resounding ‘yes’. We love what we do and we want to share it with as many people as possible! We’ve been running tours and expeditions for many years now, to some of the most remote and exotic parts of the world, including trips to see the lights in the Arctic – so we know a thing or two about the best way to do it.

For many customers the opportunity to experience the light show is an integral part of their motivation to explore the Arctic regions. In our experience, any of our land-based trips to Spitsbergen in the Svalbard archipelago should be your first choice if you are hunting the Northern Lights. This is a fantastic location for winter displays.

As with any natural phenomenon, even when we as humans think we have a handle on Mother Nature’s behaviour, the aurora borealis can be notoriously unpredictable. That’s just a fact, and many a traveller has been disappointed when they miss out on seeing them after coming all the way to Iceland, Sweden, Greenland – or wherever. But calling on our many years of experience, we know exactly how to maximise your chances to satisfy your adventurous heart’s desire. 

Because we’ve been chasing the lights for so long, we know the very best places to see them – and we’ve designed our tours accordingly. When they’re at their most intense, it is possible to get wonderful sightings from the major cities like Tromsø or Reykjavik, but really, to give our clients the best possible chance we know we need to be in more out-of-the-way places in the landscape – which are free of pollution.

Our cruises and tours go to places that we’ve personally explored over our many years in the industry, that we know from experience can offer stunning opportunities to view the spectacle even in times of low-hanging cloud cover. 

So, yes, we whole-heartedly believe that taking one of our fantastic cruises or land-based tours is the very best way to see the lights in the Arctic – and you can have a look at our testimonials to see that you don’t just have to take our word for it!

Other Highlights of Iceland and Greenland

While seeing the Northern Lights is one of the most common goals for most people visiting the stunning region of the Arctic Circle, one the best pieces of advice we can think of is to make sure you wholeheartedly and completely immerse yourself in the adventure and focus on everything else as well – because there is so much on offer. 

Our inspirational, expert-led range of adventure tours is designed to allow you the most up-close-and-personal encounter with the landscape, wildlife, people and unique geology as is humanly possible – by land or sea!

Sights and attractions

These extraordinary destinations are brimming with things to see, do and experience – with everything from hiking and adrenaline based land activities, to slightly tamer shore excursions (but no less fulfilling) and pastimes like bird-watching.

The uniquely adapted wildlife of the region is a source of endless fascination and enjoyment, with the opportunities to encounter many species seen nowhere else on the planet. You’ll have the chance to see reindeer, Arctic foxes, a host of marine life, including whales, dolphins, seals and walruses, as well as more than 40 species of endemic and migratory birds.

If you’re looking to make your adventure holiday even more adventurous, you’ll be able to try your hand at a host of activities including scuba diving (to discover a whole new world beneath the surface of the icy seas), snowshoeing, mountain climbing, kayaking and more.

Keen photographers will find a plethora of delight in the magnificent landscape – with imposing glaciers, frozen waterfalls, inspiring fjords and remote traditional villages and people.  

We’ve designed our tours to provide maximum fun and maximum adventure, and we take you to places other companies don’t go, to introduce you to the authentic heart, soul and history of this inimitable destination. Our itineraries range from 7-day life-affirming cruises along little-traversed coastlines to experience the astonishing landscape and wildlife of Disko Bay, to an epic sea voyage of 26-days to take in the magnificence and diversity of Greenland, visiting remote settlements and exploring unique geological formations.  

While we’re mostly known for our fantastic cruising itineraries throughout the Arctic Circle, we also offer an extensive portfolio of itineraries that provide you with some incredible land-based adventures if that’s what you’d prefer. Activities include exciting wildlife-watching to encounter unique species, husky-sledding, camping, kayaking, self-drive itineraries and luxury hotels where you can relax and enjoy the stunning spectacle of the Northern Lights.

Your adventure, your way

Our wonderful guides have firsthand experience and knowledge of all the regions in which we travel. That’s why we’re able to offer you the unique opportunity of visiting these destinations with expert guides on a tour that has been customised to match your exact requirements. On land or by sea, self-guided or with an expert, we can create your dream holiday – and you can rest assured we know what we’re talking about because we’ve been there ourselves. 

Our passion really is making your aspirations for adventure come true, so if you’re looking to tick one more thing off that travel bucket list, get in touch with one of our friendly team members so we can get started on helping you have a holiday of a lifetime!

We recommend…

With our extensive first-hand experience and deep local knowledge of all our destinations, we’re passionate about providing you with the opportunities to explore some of the most fascinating and unique places on Earth. We’re ready to help you plan your once-in-a-lifetime holiday to discover the magnificence of the Arctic. Here are just a few of the many thrilling and memorable tours we offer – and there are plenty more!

northern lights in scandanavia

Guided Iceland Winter Tour

Travelling with a small group and a guide, this 8-day tour introduces you to the very best Iceland has to offer – in the most magical of ways. In a specially modified 4WD vehicle you’ll explore majestic glaciers and waterfalls, stunning beaches, national parks, hot springs and, of course, the unforgettable spectacle of the aurora borealis.

Iceland Winter – Northern Lights Self-Drive

Explore the iconic natural wonders of Iceland your way, with the freedom of this 5-day self-drive itinerary. Including 2 nights in Reykjavik and 2 nights in Hveragerdi, you’ll take to the open roads of the east and south of the country at your own pace – it’s a fantastic way for keen amateur photographers to make the most of their time and with departures timed during the winter months, you’ll increase your chances of seeing the Northern Lights. This self-guided experience is one of the absolute best ways to discover the sights independently.

The Icebergs in Greenland's Disko Bay

Disko Bay Exploration

Come aboard the MS Balto, a specially designed vessel, and explore the fjords and secret anchorages of the magical Disko Bay region. On this 8-day tour you’ll see towering icebergs, imposing glaciers, unique geological formations and a stunning array of wildlife including whales, reindeer and Arctic foxes. This small group expedition introduces you to ‘micro-cruising’ to encounter remote settlements and their people and experience a magnificent landscape unlike any other on the planet. 

The Great Greenland Adventure

Discover the astonishing landscape of Greenland in this epic 26-day sea voyage aboard the purpose-built MS Balto. Along with the incredible geological formations, uncharted coastlines, icebergs, glaciers, caves and fjords for which the country is famous, you’ll have the chance to encounter an abundance of wildlife, including multiple whale species, and learn about the fascinating Norse history and Inuit culture. The ultimate ocean-going expedition that will change your life! 

northwest passage amazing scenery Ten Reasons To Sail The North West Passage

By Wildfoot Travel’s Dave Cheetham

The Northwest Passage is the sea route through Northern Canada’s Archipelago, connecting the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean. But what is it about this iconic journey that makes it such a magnet for the more adventurous traveller? 

Here are ten good reasons why you should add this trip to your bucket list.

1. Venture Where Few Have Ever Been

Thick pack ice makes these waterways completely inaccessible for most of the year.

The ice begins to recede in July, making travel possible from July to September.

This inaccessibility makes this one of the most remote and unspoiled locations on the planet. For those with Wanderlust in their soul, there’s something exciting about reaching places where few have travelled.

2. Wildlife

The wildlife in this area is truly spectacular. July and August offer the best chance of wildlife activity and as the days are longer which allows more time to witness the natural splendour that surrounds you. Highlights on the list of wildlife you may encounter here include polar bears, Musk Ox, Puffins, Beluga whales, Narwhal and Walrus.

incredible wildlife in the Northwest Passage

3. Northern Lights.

As the skies darken in September, the chances of witnessing the Aurora Borealis and its captivating colour display increase. Watching nature’s light show from the deck of an expedition ship is a truly moving experience and one that will stay with you forever.

4. Scenery

The rugged and constantly changing landscape in Canada’s far north is quite breath-taking. As you travel through the icy waters, you will be able to feast your eyes on a mesmerising geological display that can only be found in the far north.

5. History

For over 300 years European explorers searched in vain to find a way through the ice and unlock a shorter trade route to China and the east. 

In that time, hundreds of lives were lost and countless stories and legends were born. The British expedition, led by Captain Sir John Franklin, is a particularly harrowing and macabre tale.

It wasn’t until 1906 that legendary Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen completed the journey successfully. Charting the way for others to follow.

Travelling through these icy waterways, you can visit many historic locations as you uncover the stories of determination, failure and triumph that are etched on these icy shores. 

6. Photographic Opportunities

You’ll be the envy of all your friends when you return with incredible shots of marine wildlife, birdlife, icebergs, landscapes, seascapes, and of course, possible even the Northern Lights.

great wildlife photography opportunities in The Northwest Passage

7. Learning

Travelling on a small expedition cruise ship with onboard scientists alongside other experts, you can enjoy both guided trips ashore and lectures on board. Depending on the voyage and the vessel you choose, you’ll learn about wildlife, conservation, geology, history, photography, climate change and the fight against global warming.

8. Walking

On the many trips ashore, you will visit several of the islands in this fascinating Archipelago, giving you opportunities to explore on foot. Walking leads to even better vantage points and richer, more intimate wildlife encounters.

9. Culture

Inuit culture is completely unique. Everything about life here is fascinatingly different, yet warm and welcoming. A glimpse of everyday life in the far north, is something that you will never forget.

10. True Escapism

If you are looking for tranquillity and an escape from the everyday grinding pressures of the ‘real world’, look no further. The icy silence and sense of wilderness here combine with amazing wildlife and the pragmatic, enduring local people to put our everyday lives clearly into perspective.

The Greg Mortimer in the Northwest Passage

Find out more about our trips to experience the Northwest Passage here

Costa Rica Wildlife Paradise Costa Rica: Beauty & Abundance

by Phoebe Edge , Costa Rica Research Field Assistant

Pura vida! For anyone who has visited Costa Rica they will explain to you that this phrase defines the basic essence of life here. For Ticos (slang for Costa Ricans), it is a simple expression of happiness, optimism, and living life to the fullest. It is literally impossible to visit Costa Rica without hearing this phrase continuously. And honestly, it doesn’t take long to get into the Pura Vida spirit once you are here. 

I have lived in South Pacific Costa Rica for over a decade now and, over and over again, people tell me that the unforced kindness of the Costa Rican people made their visit here that much more special. Visitors quickly discover that Ticos take immense pride in their country and share it through their hospitality. Costa Rica is synonymous with peace and democracy. It became the first country in the modern world to abolish its military army in 1948. Family is very important to Ticos as well.

monkeys in costa rica

All of this keeps the country strong and on an even keel. I can safely say that the love the Ticos have for their country and its unique and exquisite natural beauty is completely infectious, and you feel inspired to help preserve it as they do. It’s in everything they say and do. 
Costa Rica covers a mere 0.03% of the planet’s surface, yet it has become world renowned for being a haven for biodiversity. Not only does the extensive biodiversity provide an abundance of natural beauty, it creates a home for thousands of plant species and animals making it one of the last strongholds. The nation is endowed with over 6% of all life forms on Earth, a high majority of which are endemic meaning they are not found anywhere else. Its tropical climate extends across extreme variations in altitude and covers countless ecosystems. Habitats range from verdant rainforest, lush mangroves, lava fields, serene cloud forests, as well as Atlantic and Pacific Ocean territory. At least 850 bird species can be found, 237 mammal species, 1,260 tree species, 1,200 orchid species, and 361 reptile and amphibian species. These are only the ones we currently know of. Costa Rica harbours thousands of known life forms and thousands more are still yet to be discovered.

turtles in costa rica

Protecting these natural wonders remains high on the country’s agenda, and thankfully tourism hasn’t wavered in its commitment to conservation. Tourists flock to Costa Rica in the hope of seeing some of the hundreds of species here. Yet it is always managed in a sustainable way. It’s incredible to observe how the forces of nature and local culture interplay and combine so effectively here.
Costa Rica began moving towards ecotourism with the establishment of its first protected area, the Cabo Blanco National Reserve, in 1963. This was then followed by the creation of the first official national parks in 1971. Today the Costa Rican government protects over 1,300,000 hectares. Along with various private reserves operated by non-profit organisations. This means that over 30% of national territory is allocated for conservation – one of the highest ratios in the world. It is for this reason that Costa Rica is often cited as a model for conservation in harmony with community development and economic growth.

reptiles in costa rica

Wet or dry season, dawn or dusk, no day is ever dull here. The more time you spend in Costa Rica you begin to realise how much the smallest details contribute to the most fulfilling experiences. Hearing the sound of bright red scarlet macaws fly overhead through the postcard perfect blue sky never ceases to amaze. Nor nature’s wake-up call of howler monkeys at dawn, while the jungle humidity embraces you and makes you feel like you have taken a step back in time. The stillness of the rainforest punctuated by the various calls of frogs, the rasping of cicadas and the songs of toucans. Crashing waves on deserted beaches whilst sea turtles emerge to lay their eggs. An iridescent blue morpho butterfly fluttering by as whales breach in the background. These may all sound like simple things, they are. Yet the simplicity of these moments are what make them so beautiful. Nature’s perfectly orchestrated moments make the modern world and all its stress fade to insignificance.

sloths in costa rica

I remember one of my first times out on the Golfo Dulce, where I am now based researching and conserving cetaceans and sea turtles. A small body of water just 15 by 50km in size yet it holds over 20% of all the marine life of Pacific Costa Rica. Within 30 minutes on the water, I managed to see a mother and calf humpback whale. The mama came right by the boat, partially lifted her head out of the water and looked me straight in the eye. I felt my whole body come alive with her energy and couldn’t move for several minutes. And there it was, a life changing moment that will stay with me forever. Connecting with nature is such a comfort and while it feels almost out of body at first, it becomes the norm on a day-to-day basis here. One lasting memory after another.
Costa Rica is overflowing with the most incredible national parks, gorgeous scenery, adventures for everyone, and unique wildlife. There is abundance all around. On top of this, the locals are so welcoming that it makes it extremely hard to leave. So, when you do come to Costa Rica, take it all in and treasure every moment while you say to yourself and everyone you meet along the way like you really, really mean it, “Pura vida!”

whale watching in costa rica

Find out more about our trips to Costa Rica here

Miranda Krestovnikoff snorkelling Presenting: Miranda Krestovnikoff

Wildlife Expert, Author, Diver & TV Presenter

by Miranda Krestovnikoff, British radio and television presenter specialising in natural history and archaeological programmes

I am a natural history radio and television presenter with a passion for the marine environment. I learnt to scuba dive in the shadow of Skomer Island and always feel at home when I’m in or on the water. I’ve been lucky enough to incorporate this into my presenting work through television projects such as diving shipwrecks on “Wreck Detectives” for Channel 4 and exploring magnificent coastal wildlife on the BAFTA award winning series “COAST” for BBC2.

I love travel and adventure and nowhere better than on our very own coastline, without the need to fly abroad. Here in the UK, we have some of the best coastal and marine wildlife anywhere in the world with over 20 species of cetacean and places where you can snorkel and dive with grey seals and blue sharks. For those who prefer to keep their feet dry, the seabird colonies around our shores are stunning with offshore islands offering exciting opportunities to get close to some of the world’s largest colonies of puffins, Manx shearwaters and gannets.

I have always wanted to embark on a trip that encompasses all of my favourite parts of the UK coastline and this cruise does just that. Visits to my favourites islands of Lundy, Skomer and the Scillies are all included along with Islay of the Hebrides. The wildlife we’ll see en-route will be just stunning – I can’t wait! 

Miranda Krestovnikoff

Find out about our UK expedition cruises on the Greg Mortimer here

penguins in the Falklands The World’s Best Kept Wildlife Holiday Secret
Andy Pollard – Falklands Wildlife Expert

‘Our Man in Stanley’, Andy Pollard is as Falklands as they come. Friendly, courteous and welcoming, he knows most of his fellow islanders by their first name. Andy grew up spending time on Sealion Island where his mother Jenny was the lodge guide for many years. He is also a successful wildlife and birding guide and an expert photographer who knows every nook and cranny on each key island. 

Slipping under most traveller’s radar, and only 400 Miles from southern Argentina, sit 700 Islands where you can still find true wilderness and a wildlife-fest that is hard to beat. 

The Falklands are home to 75% of the worlds rockhopper penguins, 70% of the earths black browed Albatross, the world’s largest population of gentoo penguins and 40% of the world’s southern giant petrels. We have not even mentioned the two endemic bird species (12 subspecies are unique the Falklands) then there are 171 native species of higher plants with 13 endemic species.  

Birds create amazing wildlife photography opportunities in the Falklands

Hard to get there? Yes of course it is. But to those who endeavour, the delights of the Falklands are extremely magnetic and hard to resist once sampled.

Most travellers visit The Falklands as part of an expedition, also visiting South Georgia & Antarctica on a 19-25 day vessel based adventure spending a few days exploring the key islands. Passengers make up to 5 landings at key wildlife or nesting spots depending on the number of days allocated within the itinerary.

Experts on board will not only introduce you to incredible wildlife, but the scenery too. Each island is similar in that they no steep hills, making them great for hiking. Aside from that similarity, each island offers its own unique and diverse landscape and wildlife.

Penguins on a wildlife holiday in the Falklands

If you are lucky, you will also land at the pier in Stanley where you will meet some of the locals.  You may have time to try a half in one of the three taverns, or maybe to visit the museum or cathedral. Enjoying high tea at one of the cafes or hotels is also a must.

MV Greg Mortimer and sister vessel MV Sylvia Earl offer vessel-based expeditions incorporating Antarctica, Falklands & South Georgia from £ 16,704

per person based on a triple share or £17,200 per person for a shared double or twin cabin.

If you are lucky enough to be using the Falklands as a starting or finishing point on your expedition, I strongly recommended that you consider arriving a week or even two weeks early to explore these islands independently.

By choosing a 14-night land-based itinerary you can spend 3 nights on each key island and still have enough time to spend in Stanley to enjoy day trips to the fascinating battlefields or maybe to take a 4×4 guided visit to Volunteer Point where you will see a spectacular king penguin colony of 1000 plus birds.

On each of the key wildlife islands there is a small lodge with anything from 5 to 10 bedrooms available for those who visit. The lodges are looked after by expert guides who are there to make visitors feel welcome as well as to help them discover the best possible spots for viewing wildlife. Each lodge offers full board, with drinks available at an additional cost.

rich wildlife photography opportunities in the Falklands

Orientation trips in a 4×4 vehicle are also usually included, which are invaluable, allowing you to get your bearings very quickly, preparing you for your own adventures. Pack lunches are on offer for those who would like to stay out all day to walk and take photographs under their own steam. 

Land-based 14-night experiences before you board your vessel start at £4995 (based on two people sharing) and include accommodation, inter-island flights, transfers and full board whilst on the islands and Bed & Breakfast whilst in Stanley

Find out about our wildlife adventure trips to The Falklands here

Doug Allan reviews the new Swarovski binoculars Swarovski CL 10 x 30 Binoculars Reviewed

Wildlife and documentary cameraman Doug Allan

Doug Allan – Award Winning Wildlife Cameraman

Amongst the world’s most respected wildlife cameramen, Doug Allen has worked on countless TV shows and documentaries including Planet Earth, Blue Planet, Frozen Planet and Life In The Freezer. Alongside filming (and winning eight Emmys), Doug has published his own remarkable book ‘Freeze Frame. He also finds time in his busy schedule to act as an invaluable ambassador for Wildlife Travel.

Filming wildlife requires tenacity. The animals don’t always turn up or behave as you’d like them to. To ease frustration, we remember two things. 

First – bear in mind that you can only be in one place at a time. So, you make your best call but it won’t always be right. Go search all day for polar bears without success then return to the cabin to find it surrounded by pawprints.  

But the second, well that says if you’re not there, you’ll never see it. That’s the one that takes you out on the less than promising days, when perhaps a little flash of what you want will be your only reward.

A review of the new Swarovski CL 10 x 30 Binoculars

Binoculars are relevant when making that second call. They’re no use if they’re so heavy that it’s tempting to leave them behind when the rucksack is full of cameras. I need mine to be always with me, both light andcomfortable. There are shoots when I’ll be looking through them for half of a twelve-hour day.

I like the elegant simplicity of the design of these 10 x 30 CL Swarovskis; the thumb indents on the back of the barrels made for effortless holding, they were a natural fit in my hands. The focuser wheel’s action is smooth and precise, beautifully engineered so focusing in and out is crisp and consistent. The wheel is large and coated in soft rubber for grip with gloves or numb fingers. Important when I’m filming in cold places. I was surprised how easy it was to hold them and focus with one hand. 

Because of the nature of the filming I do, I tend to give my equipment a hard time. Dust, snow, salt spray – are all common hazards. The nitrogen filling and waterproof to 4m are other attributes I want.  

It’s maybe a small point but I do like rubber lens protectors that are attached to the barrels. Much less likely to be lost or be blown away. 

Swarovski CL 10 x 30 Binoculars Review

I had one disappointment. Changing the dioptre adjustment involves pushing and twisting the middle of the focus wheel, an action that’s much more fiddly than on other Swarovski models which have a ‘pull-out to release mechanism’ before you adjust. Once it’s set however it’s almost impossible to shift by mistake. 

To summarise – the Swarovski CL 10 x 30’s are exceptionally small and light, extremely well made, with high resolution and clarity; they have a bright and flat field that’s sharp to the edges, steady hold and good focus action. Definitely a pair I would recommend. Just a shame about the dioptre adjustment.

Freeze Frame By Doug Allan

Doug Allan’s remarkable book Freeze Frame is available now on his website. Why not pick up a copy of your own here:

wildlife photography of gannets on Grassholme Island ‘Cornwall’ My Patch

By Wildlife Photographer Graham Jones

Graham Jones

I live in Lerryn, Cornwall, beside the River Lerryn, a lovely little river that flows into the River Fowey. I have a lifelong passion for wildlife photography. These days, I am lucky enough to spend my time shooting images for books, talks, and articles. 

Whenever I photograph birds, I am usually surrounded by wildlife of all sorts, so I take those opportunities to snap away at anything else that takes my interest while I can. 

My wildlife photography in the UK takes me to many remote and interesting locations, which inevitably lead me to take spontaneous travel shots along the way. 

Following birds has taken me all over the world (with the help of Wildfoot Travel) but my local patch is in the South West of England – and it is no accident that I choose to live here.  

The South, and South West coast of England have a distinctly-mesmerising natural beauty.  Moving West through Devon and Cornwall you discover a land rich in wildlife, history and culture. As you travel west, the landscape becomes increasingly rugged with huge sea cliffs, dense woodland, rolling hills and peaceful moorlands. Each of these areas is brought to life by its own unique waterways including rivers, estuaries and creeks. 

Besides being a natural haven for all kinds of wildlife, this area is also a land of ancient Celtic myths, Arthurian legends, pirates, smugglers, and evidence of a once-thriving mining industry.

Sailing along the rugged coastline, the ports of Plymouth and Dartmouth, retain a fascinating, deeply-ingrained maritime heritage. Further west, the harbour town of  Fowey, (pronounced Foy), has managed to retain its charm despite being a busy commercial harbour. Its deep-water channel is used by many big ships delivering their cargo, which regularly includes China Clay.  The picture-postcard harbour, carrying over 1500 moorings, is bustling with yachts and other small boats. Fowey also welcomes over 6000 visiting yachts and motor cruisers each year.

Over the centuries, Barbary Pirates sailed these waters, along with the Spanish Armada, British Privateers, smugglers and pirates. If that rich heritage is not enough to capture your imagination, the wildlife and the scenery are both outstanding. 

The name Fowey comes from the Cornish for Beech Tree, and it is easy to see why. Beech woods line the river upstream and the small creeks and rivers, like the Lerryn, that feed into it. Rare birds like Little Egrets, once only found on the near continent, have colonised these woodlands. The trees and bushes that line the riverbanks also provide a haven for many other birds including owls and kingfishers. The stealthy and patient visitor may even be lucky enough spot an occasional otter.

wildlife photography of a Little Egret in Cornwall

Spring is a good time to see West Country wildlife at its finest. Birds that migrate to Africa for the English winter like wheatears and fly catchers begin to return. Whilst overshoots of rare Mediterranean birds like Hoopoes and Bee-eaters can often be witnessed.    
Sea birds who have spent the long-winter traversing oceans, return to our waters to breed. Gulls, guillemots, razorbills, and puffins take their place back on the islands and cliffs. Gannets nest in spectacular colonies and fulmars, shearwaters, and petrels also begin to reappear.  Whilst on land, wildflowers abound. 

Moving further west there is a feast of wildlife photography opportunities on offer, with chances to see dolphins, porpoises, and basking sharks. Minke and Humpbacked whales also navigate these waterways. 

Trips to historic towns, derelict mines, lost gardens and wildlife-rich moorlands, offer the chance to make your own discoveries. The South West Coast Path is a continuous footpath, stretching over 600 miles long.  This well-managed pathway holds something for everyone, from short walks to long hikes which can include sightings of even more migrants and resident birds. 

The picturesque, secret-bays and idyllic, tiny beaches in this area have been used for many film sets (including Poldark) and there is always the chance to see a seal that has hauled out to enjoy a well-earned rest on the golden sand.  

wildlife photography of an Atlantic seal

Evidence that the reintroduction scheme is working well, the county bird of Cornwall, the Chough, is spotted with increasing regularity and can be easily identified by its red beak and red legs.  Peregrine falcons haunt the cliffs, and as the countryside squeezes towards Land’s End, rarer and rarer birds are regularly spotted. Birds like the Sociable Plover which should have been in Kazakhstan, turned up near Land’s End recently. 

Following the coast as you travel further west, the historic port of Falmouth appears. Travelling onwards unveils the tiny fishing villages of Coverack and Cadgwith, before reaching the most southerly point of mainland England, The Lizard peninsular. 

Then on to St Michael’s Mount, Penzance, the working fishing port of Newlyn and the beautiful village of Mousehole towards Land’s End. Beyond that, the USA is the next stop at just over 4000 miles west.  

Twenty seven miles off the coast is the possibly the jewel of the Southwest. The Isles of Scilly. These remarkable islands bask in a sub-tropical climate, helping to create their stunning beauty. This is a place of flowers and shipwrecks. 

In the days of square-rigged sailing ships, the islands were a magnet for wrecks. These days they attract the wrecks of birds. Each year, migrating birds that overshoot their European destination, often ending up on the isles of Scilly. 
In Autumn, birds that migrate south from Siberia to South Asia can become disoriented in bad weather. Losing their bearings, they hit Britain, travel south and end up on the Scillies. The same is true of American birds that migrate south from Alaska, often getting caught in westerly gales and landing in the isles of Scilly. 
Every autumn hundreds of birdwatchers visit. It is said that you have more chance of seeing rare waders here than on their nesting sites in Siberia or Alaska.

As the Spring arrives, flowers grow, puffins nest, terns return, and seals are common. Bringing the beaches back to life, revitalised in a display of natural colour and activity. Perfect for wildlife photography. 

Turning east back towards land, you begin to follow the north Cornwall coast. Here it is easy to see how the full force of the west winds, and the powerful seas they create, have carved out the imposing landscape. Towering cliffs, extensive beaches (ideal for surfing) and smaller, wilder bays pepper the coastline. 

Lying off the coast of Devon, the island of Lundy is an old pirates’ haunt. It is surrounded by one of the UK’s first marine nature reserves, an area of water protected from overfishing, where underwater life thrives. A small colony of puffins still exists and once again migration is a good time to visit.

Although technically outside ‘my patch’, travelling north towards the headland of South West Wales, your reach the stunning islands of Skomer and Skokholm and the uninhabited island of Grassholme the nesting place of puffins and Gannets. 

Of course, it is possible to travel onwards right around the UK, unlocking countless opportunities for wildlife photography. North through the Celtic Sea, a known hotspot for sightings of huge numbers of dolphins. On past the Welsh coast to the Isle of Man and up to the coast cost of Scotland. Then on to the islands of the Inner and Outer Hebrides, and beyond where the Orkneys and Shetland await.  The sea birds change as you go, with more kittiwakes, more predatory Skuas and more chance of seeing birds from the far north.  

But that is not my local patch! 

Graham Jones 

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What to Pack for an Antarctica Cruise

The Antarctic is not your average holiday destination (read our comprehensive guide here), so you would be forgiven for overthinking your packing list and planning on taking much more than you might actually need. After all, you are heading off into a cold, icy landscape that is open to all the elements and you really don’t want to get caught unprepared. But, when considering the question, ‘what to pack for an Antarctica cruise’, remember this: You are not an intrepid explorer heading off on foot, camping in the deepest depths of a glacial ice field and, while it might still be chilly, you will be travelling in the austral summer which sees much more settled weather and a much more pleasant environment.

So, when it comes to what to pack for an Antarctica cruise, we have some top tips. We want you to be prepared, but we also think it is important to not overpack or worry about taking too much. So here goes…

Your Main Bag

OK, so let’s start with what you are going to carry all your kit in. A backpack is definitely better than a suitcase. Getting on and off ships that have very narrow corridors can be tricky so something you can carry on your back is best. And don’t go over the top in size. Pack light and you will be grateful you did.

A dry bag is also a good idea to carry electronics when you are jumping on and off your zodiac for those exciting trips to shore.


General Clothing

First and foremost, leave the dinner jackets and ball gowns at home. You need to be comfortable on this trip, and there is no need for fancy clothes and impractical shoes. Pack comfy clothing that doesn’t restrict your movement and perhaps one smarter outfit if you discover that your ship hosts a Captain’s Welcome evening. Don’t go over the top though. A smart top and nice pair of trousers will do just fine.

Base Layers

Base layers are so important. You only need a couple as they wash well and dry quickly. Silk or merino wool are our preferred materials, but if you have polypropylene, that is good too. All these fabrics wick away sweat and keep you warm. Base layers are thin and meant for layering as and when necessary.

Mid layers

Pop a mid-layer on over your base layer when you’re out on excursions, and you’ll stay warm and comfortable. For zodiac cruises that can get chilly, and any trips that involve a shore landing, we recommend a fleece jumper or good quality sweater too. You can always take it off if you get too warm – that is the beauty of layering!


You are going to spend time getting a cold bum on these trips. Whether it is sitting in a kayak or crouching low to get that long awaited perfect penguin pic, your bottom will make contact with the ice and cold. To help keep your legs warm, fleece lined trousers are a go-to clothing item.

Outer layers

Having a quality outer layer is paramount. You are at the mercy of the weather conditions in this part of the world and if you get too wet, you could be in serious trouble. Many expeditions provide a Parka coat (these are usually a bright colour so that the crew can always spot the passengers against the ice), but you need to check with the company you book with first. If your company is not providing this waterproof outer layer they most probably provide equipment hire as an alternative. This is a good option as investing in a heavy-duty jacket that you may never wear again can be very expensive.

Waterproof Pants

These are essential when you are heading out on a zodiac. There is always splashing and sometimes a wave or two, so keeping the water away from your warm insulating layer is key. You can go for a lightweight pair and the simple pull-on, pull-off style works best. Waterproof trousers also stop you getting damp when you are on the floor photographing or perhaps even re-living your youth and enjoying a slide down an icy hillside (like the one in Paradise Bay)!

Warm Socks

You definitely need to take care of your feet when you are onboard, and warm socks are a must. You should pack plenty of pairs too as these tend to be the first item of clothing to get wet. Merino wool socks are our favourite option. They are extremely warm, wash well, dry quickly and are great at keeping smelly feet at bay. Choose a stretchy sock for maximum comfort.

A Note on Laundry – Yes, some ships do offer you this facility but why not just pack enough underwear for the trip and rinse out anything you might need along the way? This is a much easier option, and the cabin laundry service can be expensive. Handwashing socks and anything merino is also easy to do. Merino dries quickly so no worries there.

Footwear Essentials

Comfy Boat Shoes and Knee-High Waterproof Boots

Choose a pair of shoes will be mainly worn on the ship. Remember that the ship has a deck so they will see some outdoor action. Make sure this pair of shoes is easy to get on and off as you don’t want to miss a ‘once in a lifetime sight’ on deck because you were fighting with tricky shoelaces.

Apart from your comfy shoes on board, you will need a pair of quality waterproof knee-high boots. This footwear will be worn when you are getting from the cruise ship to the shore in your inflatable landing boat. Insulated is best, but if you bring your own and they are not lined, don’t worry, add in a pair of warm socks and you will be fine. Knee high is so important because when you get off your zodiac boat to head to shore, you often have to wade through water that can be up to mid-calf level. Wet feet are a no-no, so if your company doesn’t provide these boots, invest in a decent pair.

Great news though – two pairs of shoes is ample.

Top Tip: Buying your own boots? Go for a shallow tread. Penguin poop can be very hard to dig out of the deep treads!

On Shore Essentials

Waterproof Gloves

No-one wants wet hands in the cold so waterproof gloves should be top of the list when thinking of what to pack for an Antarctica cruise. Thermal lined is always a good idea, but make sure your gloves have that all important waterproof (or at least water resistant) layer too. Again, the investment is most certainly worth it.

Here at Wildfoot, we recommend packing two pairs of gloves. Being small and light they can often get lost and as they are easy and light to pack it is wise to take a couple of pairs. Liners can help anyone who is particularly predisposed to cold hands.

Fact: Up to 20% of body heat is lost through the head so keeping your head warm is key! Lots of fleeces and jackets come with hoods that are ideal as an extra head layer but having a separate hat made for the conditions and a scarf too is essential.


Neck gaiters are a great idea. No flapping ends like those on scarfs and they are made with warmth as a priority. Alternatively, you could combine your hat and scarf and go for a balaclava. These are very effective at keeping out the cold and protecting your ears, chin, nose and neck too.


Beanies are a good option for drier days. Designed for freedom of movement they are ideal for wildlife spotting. As an alternative, especially if you find beanies irritating, try a headband that covers the ears, as these can be just as effective against the wind and cold.


There is nothing quite like the brightness of an Antarctic sunny day. The high latitude and altitude create a light like no other; both bright and beautiful it can almost dazzle you if you are not prepared. Not surprising when you consider that the whiteness of the snow and ice is so pristine that the reflection of ultraviolet light can actually be quite harsh on the eyes. Even on colder days, the sun’s powerful rays penetrate the atmosphere, and it is not unusual to end up sun burnt and even suffer snow-blindness on days like these.

Eyes need protection so if you are not going ‘full-on’ snow goggles (some do and it is recommended) you definitely need polar sunglasses. These are lighter and easier to wear, but you do need to go for a quality pair and recommended brand.



You have probably looked forward to booking such an epic experience for years and no doubt you have saved up and are splashing out on indulging in every bit of this incredible cruise, which is why we really encourage you not to scrimp on camera equipment. You may very well have a good camera that you’re familiar with – great, bring that but please don’t rely on your phone for capturing this kind of holiday. A reasonable camera and even a GoPro or video camera are high on the ‘what to pack for an Antarctica cruise’ list.

Some people like to work with a tripod so add this to your list if you like. And, remember a good sized SD card for storing your daily pics and lots of spare batteries too.

We could write a whole blog post on the pros and cons of different cameras for wildlife photography, but our advice is to use the camera you are familiar with or if you need to buy a new one, go for something that you can understand and work with without too much added stress.

Don’t forget too that many expeditions have an onboard photography expert who is on hand to help you get to grips with your kit and advise on how to get the very best shots you can. This is an opportunity not to be passed up.


As any outdoor enthusiast knows, a headlamp always comes in useful. Your trip may or may not include an overnight camp onshore, but even if it doesn’t, you might do some wildlife spotting in the hours of darkness while on the ship. Having a headlamp that is hands free leaves you able to take any shots you might like to.

Go for one with good brightness quality and a decent battery life. Oh, and if you grab one that doesn’t weigh too much, that is a bonus.


Some companies provide these, but it is nice to bring your own. You are then familiar with your settings and fit and can watch the wonderful seabirds and majestic sea life at leisure.


Water Bottle

While it may be chilly and thoughts of hot chocolate are more prevalent than thoughts of a long drink of water, you need to keep hydrated in this part of the world. Two litres of water a day is the advice, so packing a decent water bottle is essential. Choose a bottle that carries at least 750ml – there are plenty of excellent brands out there.

Top tip: Water can freeze when you are onshore so covering your bottle with a thermal sock can be a lifesaver!


SO, SO important, sunscreen needs to be applied everyday while you are in this part of the world. This should definitely be at the very top of your ‘what to pack for an Antarctica cruise’ list. The UV light is extremely strong here and you will need an SPF factor of at least 30.

Lip Balm with SPF

The sunshine and dry, windy conditions are a nightmare for dry lips. Pack a quality lip balm that offers adequate protection with sunscreen too.

Sea Sickness Medicine

This is one often overlooked by guests, which is understandable as you don’t often spend days and nights onboard a ship so it’s likely that you have no idea how you will cope. Taking some motion sickness medicine with you just in case is a sensible plan. The Drake Passage is included on many a cruise and this particular stretch of water can get quite choppy to say the least – although you could be lucky and end up travelling through on a day.


In our modern world, access to power is ever more important to us. Whether it is to recharge our camera, download our photos, charge our toothbrush or plug in our reading light, we always need power. A powerstrip is useful because power points are few and far between on board our cruise ships. Invest in a lightweight one that allows you to plug in all your devices in one place.

Ear Plugs

Even if you find that you bond with all of your fellow passengers, you don’t necessarily want to hear them snoring when you’re trying to get a good night’s sleep. Cabin walls can be thin and people go to bed at different times so, if you want to work to your own schedule, ear plugs are a must!


Lots of cruises include all you need in the name of toiletries, but we definitely suggest bringing your own moisturiser. Skin can get dry, especially when you have been out in the wind and sun all day so using an effective product that works for you is recommended. Remember to pack a toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner and a hairbrush too, of course.

Bathing Suit

You never know – you might decide to brave the ‘polar plunge’ while you are onboard, so a bathing suit is essential. If you are not so inclined to be daring, you may discover your ship has a hot tub, so your swimming costume could come in handy for that too.

Hand Warmers

Not for everyone, this accessory can make a huge difference for anyone suffering from Reynauds or anyone with a predisposition for cold hands. You really have no idea how you will cope in the Antarctic environment so handwarmers might be something you want to consider.


There will be downtime on the ship and while many vessels have a library, you may want to take the opportunity to catch up on all those books you have been trying to read but never got around to. Downloading some music is always a good idea but do this at home, as no matter what the info says about the strength of Wi-Fi on board, it won’t ever be as good as at your home. Download all you need before you leave and don’t forget your headphones.

Journaling a trip isn’t for everyone but if you think you may feel inspired at times to write about your experiences, then bring a journal just in case this trip gets your creative juices flowing. It doesn’t have to be anything more than a list of what you saw that day, but journaling memories is a great way of remembering your holiday and bringing your trip back to life.

Do Not Pack…

No need for fancy clothes and please stay away from open toed shoes. If your ship has a spa, they will provide flip flops for use by the sauna or hot tub.

We would also suggest that you leave any fancy jewellery you have at home. This kind of cruise is not like a river cruise or a Caribbean option. This is a trip taking you to the wildest part of our planet where expensive jewellery is very much not required. If you bring a precious item and then need to leave it behind in your cabin or take it off for an excursion, there is more risk of loss too, and you really don’t want that worry when you should be concentrating on enjoying an experience of a lifetime.


Before you go, please make sure your passport is in date and you have any visas required. Travelling is always exciting wherever you go, and it is easy to forget about the bare essentials. You won’t be going anywhere without an up-to-date passport, so make this a priority when thinking about ‘what to pack for an Antarctica cruise’.

Recommended Cruises

We have an incredible range of Antarctic cruises on offer and when asked about our favourites, we always find it hard to answer. Here are three, however, that come highly recommended.

Across The Antarctic Circle

A stunning trip that takes in a crossing of the Polar Circle (subject to conditions), this cruise combines the very best of what this region offers. Glorious landscapes inhabited by incredible wildlife and dotted with historic sites stretch in every direction and, as you sail into hidden inlets and tiny bays, this undiscovered world of pristine beauty unravels.

Cape Horn and The Falkland Islands

There are few who have had the privilege of stepping onto the shores of Cape Horn, the famous but rarely visited island south of Ushuaia, but you have the exciting opportunity on this innovative expedition. After sailing the southern seas, the trip halts at the Falkland Islands for a few days where passengers have the chance to explore spectacular landscapes and enjoy wonderful wildlife spotting.

Spirit of Antarctica

This one is a classic. Encompassing all that is true of the Antarctic region, the cruise introduces this part of our wonderful world from an authentic and genuine perspective. Spend time wildlife spotting from the deck, head out on a zodiac to explore onshore, or why not join one the many thrilling optional extra activities? This cruise brings you the very best of Antarctica and has all you need to satisfy your holiday aspirations.

When planning your trip to the Antarctic, we want to help, and not only with your ‘what to pack for an Antarctica cruise’ question. We have an expert team on hand to answer all of the questions, many of which are answered here. We can talk through your travel options and get you on the cruise that is worthy of all your aspirations. We understand that this trip could well be a once in a lifetime and we take great pride in giving every passenger exactly what they want and more. Let us take you to the most majestic part of our planet and share with you a holiday that will carve a place for itself in your memories always.