Safari with James: a few FAQs
What services do you offer?
I work as a private safari and photographic guide, a travel designer and a conservation photographer. My guests often enlist my services for one or a combination of these things.
As a travel designer, I aim to create life-enriching safaris that deepen a connection to nature and help support the communities, wildlife and land we visit. Bringing to bear over 20 years of guiding experience across five continents, these trips are personally tailored and can range from a three-night stay at a single destination to a multi-week, multi-country experience.
As a private safari guide, I not only design the trip, but also then accompany my guests along their entire journey, guiding and personalising their experience throughout (for more about what this entails, please see the question farther below on the advantages of being privately guided).
As a photographic guide, I help both amateur photographers looking to hone their nature photography skills, and professional photographers who trust me to help with anticipation, angles and finding unique opportunities. This is always while respecting the safety and comfort of the wildlife. Some of my clients may not wish to use a camera, in which case I also offer to document their journey with a portfolio of still photography and videos.
As a photographer I work with conservation organisations to raise awareness of and funding for environmental issues.
What do you enjoy most about being a guide?
Tracking. Much like an absorbing story, I enjoy unravelling the small clues and signs that come with tracking an animal on foot and connecting with that individual energetically.
Soundscapes. In our cities, our aural filters are so strong they’re excellent at blocking out what we don’t need, so when someone comes into the wild, there’s at first an entire universe of sound that is unavailable to them. There’s a real awakening when they start unlocking their ears and tuning in to different frequencies. It’s the equivalent of giving someone with blurred vision a new pair of glasses.
People. Many of my guests have become good friends; being able to share these special moments in their lives in nature has been a great privilege.
How do you go about designing a safari?
The first step is getting to know who’s coming on safari. A good safari is very specifically tailored to the people coming on the journey, so wherever possible I try to speak to the potential clients over a call before suggesting any particular countries, lodges and experiences. I’d want to find out what their vision is and the joyful challenge for me is to go above and beyond in delivering that.
I look to deliver something beyond cookie cutter itineraries that follow well worn paths by pulling from a combination of sources – my own experience, local contacts on the ground, a network of extremely well-travelled guides of the highest reputes and regular scouting trips to new destinations that I undertake in my free time.
I choose destinations that have rich biodiversity, practice ethical tourism and are as wild as possible. These are places that can shift consciousness and change lives.
I’ve been on safari dozens of times and seen it all. Where would you recommend I go?
Understanding who is coming on the journey is a critical precursor to choosing a destination or designing an experience. But off the bat, Zakouma National Park in Chad, puma tracking in Patagonia, searching for snow leopards in the Himalayas and taking a mobile camp into a remote part of the Namib would stand out as unique and remarkable experiences.
What are the advantages of having a private guide?
- Having the safari designer and key decision maker with you every step of the way as your host through your journey. It helps enable a certain flow, particularly over multiple countries and lodges, where you could be starting from scratch with each new guide, while adding a level of security in case anything goes awry.
- Ensuring there is a professional and experienced guide to deepen the nature and conservation narrative. We work closely with local guides to deliver an elevated safari for our guests.
- Photographic tuition and documentation of your trip if you desire.
What do I need to consider in a safari destination?
Some questions to ask yourself:
- Is your visit going to benefit local communities and the environment you’re visiting?
- Are the operators and lodges you’re planning on staying at adhering to ethical practices regarding community upliftment, environmental footprint and conservation projects?
- Are you going to places where the vehicle numbers are restricted at sightings?
- Can you do walking safaris and night drives? Both add an extra dimension to regular safari trips.
- Are you away from noise?
- Are you situated deep in the heart of a wild space?
I want to give back to the places I’m visiting. Can you make this a philanthropic trip?
Absolutely! I love connecting donors to authentic projects and would encourage all guests coming on safari to look at giving back in some way. This can be put at the forefront of any trip design, having a unique hands-on experience with conservation is often the highlight of a trip.
The possibilities are endless.
Would we be a good fit for a safari?
The kind of people I usually take on safari have a deep reverence for nature and have the utmost respect for local people, land and wildlife. They draw happiness from being completely immersed in a wild space, away from the crowds, and are able to have fun while also acknowledging the boundaries that come with the privilege.
I don’t subscribe to a safari ethos built on instant gratification, ticking off a checklist or taking photographs at the expense of the comfort of animals.