Late last year, I happened to read an online article about a photographer who had managed to get himself 365 nights of free accommodation in Africa in exchange for his pictures.
I thought to myself, “I could do that,” so I Googled safari lodges in Tanzania and Kenya, sent out around 50 emails and within a couple of weeks had 17 invitations! Two of those came from &Beyond and Cottar’s, and they both wanted me to spend a few months at their camps both taking pictures and also teaching photography to the guests. In exchange for my pictures and my time, I’d get free board and lodging and daily game drives.
I agreed immediately and started trying to sort out the logistics. It wasn’t easy given all the issues involving work permits, park fee waivers and getting hold of a long enough lens, so it took a steady stream of emails to work it all out, but I eventually spent March to May in Tanzania at Klein’s Camp, Serengeti Under Canvas and Grumeti Serengeti Tented Camp run by &Beyond, followed by the month of June at Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camp.
I went on 163 game drives while I was over there and took nearly 90,000 pictures! I kept 4,950 to give to &Beyond and Cottar’s and sell myself through stock agencies, and I gave 43 of them five stars. (You can see a selection below.) I saw 60 different animal species and 208 different kinds of birds. Highlights included seeing three kills (one lion, one cheetah and one leopard) and the very rare pangolin! I’ll never forget that one.
Overall, it was a great experience. Given that I ended up having to pay $3,000 in park fees and spend £15,500 on a long lens, it wasn’t quite as cheap as I expected (!), but I’d like to make it a regular event. Cottar’s has already asked me back next year, and I’m hoping &Beyond will do the same. The setting was spectacular, the wildlife was gorgeous, the staff were helpful and the guests were great company. What’s not to like…?!
About Nick Dale
I didn’t start out as a photographer. I liked taking pictures when I was a boy, but I ended up selling my camera to my cousin and going to Oxford to ready English. When I left, I eventually found a job as a strategy consultant for a few years before ‘retiring’ at the age of 29. I then travelled round the world for seven years, doing four ski seasons and working on an internet start-up in San Francisco, before finally returning to London in 2005. At that point, consulting work felt too stressful, so I decided to go ‘quality of life’, and I’m now a private tutor and wildlife photographer.
I’ve been a photographer since 2013 when I received a random email inviting me to climb Mount Kenya and go on safari. I immediately signed up and bought myself a ‘bridge’ camera for the trip, but I had such a good time that I decided I needed a ‘proper’ DSLR like the one brought by one of the other guests. I now have Nikon D810 and D850 camera bodies and take almost all my shots with a Nikon 80-400mm lens and an 800mm prime. In my career so far, I’ve taken pictures in 25 countries on all seven continents. I sell my work through stock agencies and at exhibitions in London, and I’ve won various competitions including the Sunday Times/Audley Travel Big Shot. I also lead workshops and give talks to various clubs and societies. It may have taken a while, but I made it as a photographer in the end! [Official Website]