Greg Basco is a resident Costa Rican professional photographer and environmentalist. He is a BBC/Veolia Wildlife Photographer of the Year and Nature's Best Windland Smith Rice prizewinner (recently winning the Art in Nature category), and his photos have been published by National Geographic, Outdoor Photographer, and Newsweek. His latest work is an acclaimed coffee table book on Costa Rica's natural wonders, and he is co-author of the popular e-book The Guide to Tropical Nature Photography and Lightroom for the Nature Photographer. Greg has earned a reputation as a knowledgeable workshop leader who puts his clients first. Greg does his own shooting on his own time, not yours!
Lucas Bustamante is a passionate biologist and wildlife photographer from Ecuador. For seven years now, he has been dedicated to documenting Ecuador's biodiversity, particularly reptiles and amphibians. He is a co-founder and general coordinator at Tropical Herping. Like Greg, Lucas' images have been honored in both the BBC/Veolia Wildlife Photographer of the Year and Nature's Best Windland Smith Rice contests. In addition to leading photography tours, he also has written several articles and books about conservation and herpetology. Lucas' photographic work has been featured in National Geographic, Ranger Rick Jr., Discovery Channel and many other magazines, books, calendars and articles. He recently won the Macro category in the Nature's Best Windland Smith Rice competition.
Day 1, Setember 7, Arrival/Quito
Arrival to Ecuador. Meet our representative at the Mariscal Sucre International Airport and transfer to our hotel in the heart of Quito. If you arrive early this day, make sure to get over to the charming historical section of the city. The architecture and the atmosphere is amazing.
Day 2, September 8, Amazon Rainforest
After breakfast, we depart for the airport to fly to the Amazon city of Coca. We transfer from there to the boat that takes us to our amazing luxury lodge in the heart of the Ecuadorian Amazon. We arrive late afternoon with time to photograph the sunset over the rainforest.
Day 3, September 9, Amazon Rainforest
After a great breakfast this morning we head to a nearby clay lick that attracts dozens of parrots and parakeets, as well as the occasional macaw. This is one of our Amazon highlights as the clay licks of the western Amazon are one of the planet's true natural wonders. We photograph all morning and return to our lodge in the afternoon. We then gear up and head out on private boats into the nearby lagoons and jungle canals in search of the ancient hoatzin bird, caimans, and giant river otters. We enjoy a fantastic dinner after this busy day. After dinner, we enjoy a presentation from Lucas on macro photography and another from Greg on how to use flash in nature photography.
Day 4, September 10, Amazon Rainforest
Today after breakfast gear up for macro. We'll work with macro setups all day, and our subjects will include colorful poison frogs, amazing tree frogs, snakes, and the super cool caiman iguana. We will teach you our techniques for working with flash for a natural look. We have all meals at the lodge today and are free to explore the grounds for birds and forest photos.
Day 5, September 11, Amazon Rainforest
After breakfast, we have a chance to try a really cool technique – wide angle macro photography – that produces amazing images of small subjects in their habitat. Later in the morning we have a second chance at the clay lick. We may encounter some different species, and it's also a great opportunity to try slow shutter speeds or to correct any mistakes you may have made on the first clay lick visit. After lunch, we have the afternoon free to relax, to explore the lagoon in a private boat, or to visit a nearby canopy tower for a bird's-eye view of the rainforest.
Day 6, September 12, Pacific Slope Cloud Forest
We depart very early this morning for our boat back to Coca and then our plane back to Quito. Be sure to have a camera handy as the dawn light can be inspiring! We enjoy lunch at a local restaurant right on the equator and then arrive to our cloud forest lodge in late afternoon with time to relax and photograph hummingbirds right outside the lodge restaurant.
Day 7, September 13, Pacific Slope Cloud Forest
Today we have a full day with the multiple-flash setups for hummingbirds at the lodge. Booted Racket-tail abound, and our highlight is the fantasy-like Violet-tailed Sylph! In addition to hummingbird setups, we will be working our herp setups with subjects such as Executioner Clownfrog, Palm Treefrog, and Babbling Torrenteer, Emerald Glassfrog, Dappled Glassfrog, Gem Anole, Equatorial Anole, and the uber-cool Hippie Anole!
Day 8, September 14, Cloud Forest and Quito Interlude
After an early breakfast this morning, we visit a nearby lodge situated in a higher cloud forest. It's a great place to photograph colorful birds such as the Toucan Barbet, the Plate-billed Mountain Toucan, Blue-winged Mountain Tanager, and Masked Trogon. After lunch at our lodge, we check out and head back to Quito, arriving to our capital city hotel mid-afternoon. You have a free afternoon today to relax and edit photos. Dinner is not included this evening as there are a number of great restaurants within very easy walking distance from our hotel, and this gives you a chance to try out a local restaurant, grab some fast food, or order room service if you prefer to stay in. Since we will be visiting higher elevations at our last stop, this will be a good chance to acclimate. But we have some surprises for you tomorrow right in Quito!
Day 9, September 15, Quito Interlude
After a buffet breakfast this morning, we visit a nearby botanical garden that offers great portrait opportunities of the Black-tailed Train Bearer hummingbird as well as some fantastic flowers. We enjoy lunch at a typical Ecuadorian restaurant nearby and then gear up for another surprise – a glass-enclosed cable car ride to the mountains above Quito. We'll stay at the top until sunset for great photos as the city comes to life and the sun sets! We return to our hotel where dinner again is on your own. This will be a fun and productive photo day!
Day 10, September 16, Cotopaxi Volcano
After breakfast, we check out and head to the Cotopaxi National Park. We arrive to our lodge for lunch and then have the afternoon to photograph the Giant Hummingbird (the world's largest!) right on the grounds. In the evening we head out to photograph the snow-covered peak of the Cotopaxi Volcano with stars.
Day 11, September 17, Cotopaxi Volcano
We take the morning for more hummingbird photography. Late morning, we head out into the park in our bus to photograph birds and possibly even the Andean Fox. In late afternoon, we have a special treat. We will photograph the sunset over the Cotopaxi volcano with llamas in the foreground! In the evening we can head out again to photograph the snow-covered peak of the Cotopaxi Volcano with stars.
Day 12, September 18, Back to Quito
After breakfast we have a chance to do some image captioning right in our lodge's charming sitting area. Late morning, we check out and head back to Quito, stopping for lunch at a local restaurant famous among Ecuadorians for its great local food. We arrive to our capital city hotel with time to check-in and relax before enjoying a farewell dinner at a local restaurant.
Day 13, September 19, Departure – Airport
Private transfer to the Mariscal Sucre International Airport for your flights home.
THIS ITINERARY INCLUDES
Lodging as specified
All meals except as indicated below
Transportation w/private driver in spacious air-conditioned tour bus
Private transfers to and from airport
Professional, full-time photo instruction from your leaders Greg and Lucas
Multiple-flash setups for hummingbird photography
Entrances and fees for all described activities
Taxes for all specified services
THIS ITINERARY DOES NOT INCLUDE
Dinner these nights (Sept. 7, 14, 15)
Non-mealtime snacks and drinks
Single room supplement ($793)
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
+ Will someone be there to meet me at the airport?
Certainly! We take care of you from the moment you step off the plane until the moment you leave to return home. We'll send you all of the info you need to know regarding arrival in a final info message before the trip.
+ I plan to arrive a day early. Can you help?
Definitely, we'll be happy to make your reservations to ensure that you get to the same hotel that we have booked for the official first night of the tour. By the way, private transfers to and from the airport are always included in our tours, and you can use this transfer whether you arrive early or depart later than the official dates.
+ What kind of clothes should I bring?
In general, your best choices are lightweight garments that breathe and dry quickly, and you’ll want a mix of long sleeves and short sleeves. A light polartec and a good rain jacket are also good to have. For meals, it’s informal at the lodges and in the region in general. A pair of jeans, tennis shoes, and a clean shirt are just fine for dinner, even in the captial city hotels. Lightweight hiking boots are fine for your photography out in the field, and if you’re visiting a beach area, you will want sandals or aqua shoes as well. Of course a good hat and sunscreen are important. The sun is strong in the tropics, even on cloudy days. We will send you clothing information specific to your trip after you've signed up.
+ Can I have laundry done?
Many of the lodges we use offer laundry service for a cost of approximately $1 per garment with same or next day service. We will indicate to you which lodges have laundry service after you've signed up for a given trip.
+ Can I drink the water?
This is probably the question that our clients ask us the most. And it’s the one for which we have the least definitive answer, except to say that beer is always a safe choice!. Water in and around capital cities is treated with chlorine and generally can be consumed with no worries. The lodges that we use for our photo travel often have their own well water, which is tested regularly by the Ministry of Health. Nonetheless, upset stomachs do occur as a result of change in diet or simply bacteria different from those to which Northern stomachs are accustomed. Serious disorders such as Giardia or amoebic dysentery are virtually unheard of. Bottled water is very widely available at our hotels and lodges, and a conservative strategy would be to use it as often as possible when outside the capital. As with travel to any foreign country, immodium pills are good to have along, and some of our clients also bring along Cipro or other broad-spectrum antibiotics. Some go so far as to begin taking antibiotics before arriving in-country. For antibiotic use, we suggest you consult with your physician. That said, we have very very few problems with water and food-related issues on our tours.
+ Do I need to change money?
If you are coming from outside the United States, yes. Ecuador uses the US dollar as its currency. That said, since pretty much everything is included in the trip cost, you won't need much cash.
+ How do I keep my equipment safe from humidity while in the rainforest?
The lush cloud forests and rain forests for which Costa Rica is famous means that your camera gear will be exposed to high humidity. We’ve never had problems with our gear here in Costa Rica, and neither have our clients, so humidity is nothing to be obsessed about. And it is certainly not a deterrent to visiting and photographing the rainforest. Nonetheless, a three-pronged strategy will help avoid damage to your gear and allow you to concentrate on your photography.
First, pack your gear well in water repellant camera bags and backpacks and sprinkle these liberally with silica gel packages. A former tour participant turned us on to this site for all of your silica gel needs: http://www.silicagelpackets.com/. Whenever possible, pack each item in ziploc bags to avoid condensation upon exiting an air-conditioned vehicle or when traveling from the cool highlands to the warm lowlands.
Second, try to avoid actually getting your gear wet. We try to send our photo clients to lodges with covered shooting areas but these are not always available. A good rain cover for your camera and/or a small umbrella that clips onto your tripod can be very useful. And rain showers can come down suddenly when you are out with your camera. That same small umbrella is an easy way to cover up as are garbage bags stored in handy places in your camera bag. Camera bags with built-in rain covers are particularly useful.
Third, at night you may want to dry your equipment with a compact hair dryer that you bring along for this purpose (most lodges do not have hair dryers in the bathroom).
+ I'd like a single room. Can that be arranged?
Certainly. Simply indicate your rooming preference on the workshop signup form.
+ I'm traveling by myself but would like a double room. Can that be arranged?
It depends. If we can match you up with a suitable solo traveler who also wants to share, we will place you in a double room.
Did you know that the Hoatzin is the last surviving member of a lineage that split from other birds 64 million years ago, shortly after dinosaurs went extinct? We'll photograph this living relic in the Ecuadorian Amazon!
You should arrive to and depart from Ecuador's Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO).
All of our hotels and lodges have electricity and hot water. and even WiFi. They're quite nice!
Plan to arrive early? No problem, we'll make your reservation for you!
This trip requires only low to moderate fitness. We will be at fairly high elevations during our time in Cotopaxi Volcano National Park but we will have 2 nights in Quito to acclimate!
Electrical current is 110 volts, the same as the US. If you are coming from Europe or Asia, you may need a voltage converter.
A small power strip for charging camera, flash, laptop, and phone/tablet is useful. Greg Basco recommends this one:
We recommend purchasing travel insurance if you have not already done so. There are many companies out there, but we've found Frontier MedEx to have a pretty good selection. Note that in the case of a medical emergency, we will assist you in every way possible.
Gear insurance is also a good idea. You may, of course, have your gear covered under your homeowner's policy. If not, we've heard good things about TCP Insurance. Greg Basco has had his gear covered under the NANPA policy offered through Rand Insurance for years. He's only had to file one claim but they took care of things right away with no hassle. Note that NANPA also offers recommendations for travel insurance for photo tours.
Some countries may require that you have proof of yellow fever vaccination upon leaving for and returning from Ecuador. Please consult your doctor, and be sure to bring along a copy and the original of your vaccination certificate if your country requires it.
Greg has tried numerous auxiliary battery packs, and this is the first he likes that doesn't break the bank (see Quantum Turbo). We'll be doing some natural light hummingbird photography with fill-flash and fast recycle time is a big help. This Godox unit is easy to use and works very well.
Check out our reading list for our recommendations on great natural history books for our destinations.
- Apr 14, 2018 – Apr 24, 2018 COSTA RICA - Art of Biodiversity Pacific - SOLD OUT! Apr 14, 2018 – Apr 24, 2018
- Jan 20, 2019 – Jan 31, 2019 COSTA RICA - Toucans, Hummingbirds, & Quetzals - SOLD OUT! Jan 20, 2019 – Jan 31, 2019
- Feb 25, 2019 – Mar 9, 2019 ECUADOR - Tropical Bird Photography - SOLD OUT! Feb 25, 2019 – Mar 9, 2019
- Mar 12, 2019 – Mar 23, 2019 ECUADOR - Hummingbirds, Herps, and More - SPOTS OPEN! Mar 12, 2019 – Mar 23, 2019