When planning a trip to the Amazon rainforest for wildlife photography, it might seem somewhat facile to point out the importance of doing one’s research; however, this very simple step is often overlooked, and thus bears repeating.
Jaguar (Panthera onca) spotted along the riverbank on the way to Tambopata Research Center, Peru
Some questions worth asking before setting off might include:
1. What is the weather this time of the year?
Dry and rainy seasons have become increasingly unpredictable in today’s global climate and it’s worth checking the local conditions before booking and departing.
These will depend on what you would like to photograph.
2. Will I be comfortable?
This is an especially important question, and one which is often neglected, often with repercussions. Bring a hoodie for unexpected chilly weather (early morning boat rides!). Waterproof socks can be good for walking across boardwalks and keeping feet dry when boots become flooded. An easily accessible compact umbrella attached via carabiner or even a contact sheet for lying on the ground and/or providing additional cover for one’s bag. Quick dry clothing and extra microfibre cloths to clean optics. Individual ziploc bags for both clothing and photography equipment (with silica or dehumidifier pack)
If you are starting as a wildlife photographer or are doing this just for fun, you might be able to have the best of both worlds.
While many places offer high probabilities of sighting of fauna and basic accommodation, you will also find those with luxury accommodation and wildlife fauna. Your choice will depend on the purpose of your trip. Nevertheless, with Rainforest Expeditions I have seen that you could have the opportunity to combine both because their lodges are very well located with the national reserve behind or even within the same reserve and have more than comfortable rooms between comfort, suites and even deluxe suites.
3. Do I have enough flexibility in my booking to account for emergencies or changing the duration of my stay?
During the rainy season, airlines will often cancel flights which may lead to lost connections and complications. Alternatively, if you wish to book a longer stay but have arrived in the peak season, there might not be any additional room.
4.Will I find the wildlife what I’m looking to photograph?
This often depends on a variety of factors including the amount of experience, amount of time, rarity of the subject, equipment on hand, season, etc… However, one can look at communal databases like ebird and iNaturalist, and concentrate one’s efforts in high probability zones, request specific guides, ask resident researchers or your travel specialist, etc…
5. Do I have the right photo equipment?
This is deeply personal and largely depends on the kind of trip you are preparing; however, I will outline in the next section my basic tools which might serve as a reference.
6. Are there any restrictions in the area to do my activities? Eg. Research, Sampling, Drone flight, exclusion zones, etc…
Researchers, volunteers and those with a special mandate will undoubtedly have undergone special preparations for the occasion; however, it’s worth noting that many countries, national parks, and other areas are becoming increasingly restrictive in their drone policies. Camera trapping can also present some challenges and thus it’s always worthwhile double checking. In Peru, for research or commercial uses you require a permission for the national reserve of Tambopata and consider a fee for the number of days you will be filming / photographing inside the national reserve.
For nature photography as an amateur and without commercial use intentions, there is no need to request special permits for the National Reserve of Tambopata.
7. Will I be able to repair/replace my equipment while in the field?
As a general rule, I never assume that I’ll find a specialized part or cable while traveling. Where possible I carry a redundancy, otherwise I carry a small repair kit equipped with glue, silicone, tape, specialized screws and camera plates, and a variety of electrical cables which I can manually tie together without the need for solder (there are few things worse than being unable to use one’s equipment on account of a dead charger!). Consider a jeweller’s screwdriver and a multi-tool as well.
These questions can serve as a kind of checklist, and help avoid pratfalls, especially when scaling up the size of the project or the amount of equipment.
Did you find these questions useful? in my next post you will find details of the equipment that I personally use for each type of shots including macro lenses, landscape among others
If you are ready to start planing your coming wildlife photography tour, get in contact with Rainforest Expeditions team.