Itinerary – seven days and six nights. The following planned itinerary is flexible to allow for inclement weather, wildlife conditions and spontaneous photographic opportunities. A wildlife photographer must always be ready for the unexpected.
Day 1 — Landing and travel day
Arrival in Colombo, Sri Lanka you will be met by a Wild Trail Safaris representative to assist with your luggage and ensure you connect with your airbus flight to Yala National Park - approximately two hours away. We will advise recommended arrival and departure points & dates prior to you booking your international flights. Transported to the Wild Trails base on the south-west fringe of the Yala National Park – students will see elephants and other wildlife immediately, for a sampler of all that is to come. After a long day of travel, guests will meet Lucia Griggi and Milinda De Silva of Wild Trails and the Wild Trails safari team, who will ease you into the comfort and relaxation of the luxury safari camp, as the sun sets and the jungle night party begins.
Day 2 — Meet and Greet and Eat
The adventurers gather on the second day at the camp for a welcome brunch and orientation. Students and Lucia will get to know each other, talk about what equipment they have and begin to evolve a plan for shooting. Lucia has gathered a lot of stories in ten years on the road, and those stories start here. That afternoon is the first visit into the park, ready and prepared for the first leopard sighting. Back for a campfire and welcome dinner and the start of more stories. Wild trails Photographic Safaris believe the more time spent in the field, the greater your chances are of capturing an incredible wildlife moment. So it’s early to bed, earlier to rise.
Day 3— Wildlife photography in Yala.
Wildlife photography is the main focus of the Wild Trails Expeditions. These are all-day expeditions, which begin with waking up before dawn to a cup of English or Sri Lankan “Ceylon” tea and then taking to the jeeps for a ride to the nearest water hole - where leopards can be seen as the sun is coming up. These early hours are the perfect time for predator encounters and dramatic predator action.
Water holes in the Sri Lankan jungle are an uneasy peace – nervously serene. There seems to be a common agreement amongst all the animals – a truce in the ladder of predation – that all are welcome as long as you don’t try to eat another animal. It is fascinating to watch, but can they all just get along? The ring of peace is sometimes broken by the circle of life. Sunrise is magical, and activates the jungle in a different way from night. Driving away from the water hole, students will be looking every which way, whilst the trekkers have their eyes on the ground, looking for leopard tracks in the dust.
The morning stalk for leopards is briefly interrupted by a brunch – either a picnic in the jungle or a return to camp. Throughout the safari there is time to relax, review and recharge; this is often during the warmer parts of the day, when the light is harsh and animals are at rest. Most often Lucia guides her students back to camp for brunch, showers, download time, and possibly a little siesta in preparation for the afternoon.
The majority of the day is spent in the jeeps, driving the dusty roads of Yala, with one eye on the trekkers and one eye on the jungle, one hand on your camera, one hand keeping you in the jeep - watching for leopard, elephant and whatever wildlife is out for an afternoon stroll.
In the evening, there is a return to the water hole to coincide with the habits of leopard, and then a return to camp for dinner, editing, stories and luxurious sleep, lulled by the sounds of the jungle.
Day 4 – Welcome to the Jungle – On Foot (can we still do this)?
Day four is much like day three, with one exception. On this day students will leave the safety and security of the Jeeps and take to the jungle by foot. Exploring Yala on foot allows students to get up close and personal with the myriad plants and wildlife of the park.
Wild Trails are very conscious of the environment they are in, and so environmental disturbance is minimal: no cell phones or newspapers. Nothing to distract from the jungle and photographing it all. And Wild Trails leaves only footprints. Everything is packed up and packed out.
Wild Trails staff also know that an expedition travels on its stomach, and they prepare three solid meals a day, as well as snacks for your time out in the bush.
Day 5 – Jungle Boogie
The best place to learn about wildlife photography is in the field, with your camera in hand focused on the subject material. So our classrooms are huge and our lessons last all day, but our tuition style is relaxed, fun and personalized. Lucia will offer technical and creative advice specific to each wildlife encounter.
After these days in the jungle, guided by trekkers, the students will have some knowledge of where they are, and what they want to do. The trekkers and drivers are ready and willing to take students wherever they want to go, and this day is all about students’ exploring parts of Yala they haven’t yet seen – or want to see again.
In the evening everyone returns to camp for photo critiques. By now all students will have taken hundreds if not thousands of images, and there will be time in the evening for an edit (optional). Lucia will review students’ work whilst in camp and suggest postproduction ideas and techniques. Lucia has learned a lot of tricks and techniques in her 10 years of professional work, and she will challenge students to move out of their comfort zones and experiment with new ideas.
Day 6 – Fine Focus
Tea before dawn, a visit to likely waterholes, and then a day in Yala, covering parts of the 378 square mile park that haven’t yet been seen. Most likely students will be out of camp all day, and there will be a picnic in the jungle.
A return to camp in the evening for an optional presentation of the most impressive photos taken by the class, and a photo critique if desired.
Day 7 — Transfers
Most students will not want to leave and Lucia will gently remind them that Yala National Park will always be there – pristine and perfect - and the students have friends and families and lives and loved ones to return to. Most students will want one more visit to the waterholes and as much trekking and tracking as possible before transferring back to Colombo. The flight home from Sri Lanka to just about everywhere is long – but students will need many hours to edit all they shot during a miraculous 7 days with Lucia Griggi at Wild Trails Sri Lanka Expeditions.