After 25 years of working with Jessops and setting up Jessops Wildlife Academy, I set up my own dream of an International Travel Company for people who are passionate about photographing and watching wildlife “Bringing them closer to wildlife”.
I have been a wildlife photographer for over 30 years, started with a canon 50D and using kodak elite slide film. The only thing that has changed now, is how you capture your images. With over 15 different types of digital storage cards come and gone, from floppy discs with the first Sony Camera, Smart Media, XD cards, of course Compact Flash, and SD cards which are standard now. Phones have become your everyday compact camera and are advertised more as cameras than a phone!!
Of course your ISO levels is the biggest advantage now, not having to worry if your slide film will come with the light and 1600 ISO slide film would be so grainy !!!
But contacts and wildlife behaviour still hasn’t changed. So to make people’s Dreams come true, I started to learn about the Travel Industry and how it works. I became a member of PTS “Protected Trust Services”, offering you peace of mind as your money is put in a trust fund. Suppliers are paid automatically and Wildlife Dreams doesn’t get paid until you had your holiday of a lifetime.
With Safari’s booked for the coming year, I was really looking forward to being the first international photographer & travel company to go to Antares Bush Camp with its own floodlit waterhole, which is mere meters from your private lodge. With a personal chef to prepare meals, you have more time to go on a game drive or spend in the hide, and won’t miss the Elephants coming to drink and bath. With only the sounds of the bush and uninterrupted night skies and the nearest supermarket over an hour away, Antares offers a unique experience in the wild bush. Of course there is my home from home at Tatenda Guest House in Hazyview, situated in lovely gardens, less than 10 minutes from Phabeni Gate in the Southern Kruger Park. Your safari vehicle is parked next door so no long drives picking other people up or sharing it with others as at Wildlife Dreams the maximum guests on a tour is normally only 6.
Then Covid hit the World and our lives changed forever. With nobody knowing what to do, lockdowns and uncertainty, I had to cancel all my tours and refund my customers. Being a new company, Wildlife Dreams didn’t qualify for support grants and survival mode kicked in. I applied my energy where I could make a difference and became a support worker for adults with learning difficulties, giving me a new challenge and rewarding job, but my heart will always be behind the lens and in the bush, sharing my knowledge of photography and wildlife.
After almost 2 years’ absence, I have returned to South Africa to meet with new partners that I have connected with online and via zoom conference calls, to make your wildlife dreams become even better.
Apart from our existing pre-booked safaris, we can now offer custom-designed safari holidays to Southern and East Africa, creating an itinerary to meet your holiday requirements, ensuring your holiday is everything you dreamed of. New tours are being planned to make even more wildlife dreams come true.
Antares Bush Camp is a very unique space that presents photographic opportunities 24 hours a day - the long wait was well worth it. I’m honoured to be the first International wildlife photographer and travel company to use Antares. Staying at a camp before we bring guests is very important to Wildlife Dreams. Unlike many tour operators that sell tours off fact sheets, we have first hand experience of what we offer our guests and can therefore include interesting nearby local attractions such as a river cruise that we didn’t know about, giving you another amazing experience, or the Gin tasting evening by a local distillery. The hide has South African and British plug sockets for charging your equipment within the hide so you don’t miss a shot. Wi-Fi is brilliant in both the hide and lodge, making it easy to stay connected to the world, or doing a live Facebook feed to friends, so they can share the amazing experiences with you
The lodge offers a safari game drive everyday and is connected to the reserve’s WhatsApp group. Game drives are often done at a moments notice, in response to sighting reports received via WhatsApp, making for great photo opportunities. But it’s the hide with its gimbal heads and bean bags, plenty of space with fridge and even a bed if you want to sleep overnight, that makes it special. The floodlights come on automatically for your night time photography and having lions come down to drink, or roaring outside the hide, is an experience that will stay with you forever. If you love Elephants, then you’ll definitely be having Wildlife Dreams. The elephants come to drink and are only a few feet away, giving you such excitement that we always have a box of tissues on hand to wipe the tears from your eyes, or mud splashes off your faces.
While I was there, I helped design and build a new reflection pool with a dust bath running along side it, to give more bird photography opportunities, should the waterhole be quiet. As it is a natural waterhole, it can sometimes be quiet, but usually not for long. Another feature of the camp is the tower that overlooks the reserve, built at the right height to also observe the hornbills nesting in the nearby Marula tree. If you want to relax on the patio decks or in the pool, you can still see the wildlife come down to drink. I have personally watched a lion drinking at the waterhole while enjoying a braai (barbeque) for dinner. It doesn’t get better than that.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog from Wildlife Dreams “Bringing you closer to Wildlife”
Our next blog will explain why “Kruger National Park” is so special and why I’ve been photographing here for over 25 years.
Keep Safe Phil