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About Andy


I am an avid adventurer, conservationist, teacher, and outdoor photographer whose photography celebrates the African landscape and its rich wildlife, people, and culture. My photographic safaris allow my travelers to not only enhance their understanding of photography, lighting, and wildlife, but to develop a life-long admiration for Africa ‘s beauty and culture.

Banana Republic recently used my photographs as the cornerstone of their Urban Safari campaign, and my images were seen in all 750 stores around the globe, as well as in their billboards, catalogs and annual report. I was also the winner of the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year in the ‘Wild Places’ category in 2008 and a highly commended in the ‘Creative Visions of Nature’ category in 2007.

I launched Gura Gear in 2008, in an attempt to deliver lightweight camera bags to the market. I was looking for a lightweight camera bag to hold all of my photographic gear, and there was nothing desirable on the market that suited my needs. After spending 2 years with many prototypes, the Gura Gear Kiboko bag was born. More products are now available on the Gura Gear web site.





Entries in Report (21)


Sabi Sands Safari Report - Day 4

Today was the last day of my pre-safari at Mala Mala, and we did things a little differently than the past few days. We wanted as much as possible to see the wild dogs at the den, so we knew we wouldn’t benefit by arriving first thing in the morning with the cold temperatures. We had our bags packed before sunrise, we ate breakfast and then we headed out for the long drive down to Charleston and the southern end of the reserve. This allowed the dogs to hopefully wake up and let the air warm up a bit before coming out. We had to transfer to Singita at 10am, so we only had about 30 minutes total at the den when we arrived there. I am glad that we planned the morning this way, because we had yet another chance to see these magnificent predators one last time. When we arrived we had either 5 or 6 adult dogs running around the vehicle, and it was difficult for me to count just how many unique individuals we had amongst us due to the dense brush. We head some fascinating vocalizations and when things died down we had to rush back to check out and head over to Singita.

I always have a great time at Mala Mala, and this short stay was no exception. I will be leading a private safari group to Mala Mala in 2013, and it might be on my public safari schedule as well. I am not sure, as my 2013 safaris aren’t set in stone yet.

At 10am we grabbed a vehicle and drove an hour west to Singita Castleton, where I will be spending the next 16 nights. Castleton is a small and comfortable camp in the Singita area of the Sabi Sands. Castleton has only 6 bedrooms and can accommodate up to 12 people, and that is the maximum. I like to take sole use of camps when I can, because this allows me and my safari groups to have flexible dining schedules based on what we are seeing out on game drives. If we are 2 hours late for lunch nobody will care. I love that kind of care-free feeling that my game drives are not based on set dining schedules. Wildlife photography comes first, and it’s not like we are going to starve if we adjust our dining schedule around a little bit.

We arrived at camp about 30 minutes before the bulk of my travelers arrived at the airstrip, so I had time to throw my bags into my room and book it to the airstrip. I chartered a Beech 1900 private airplane to bring in the rest of the safari group, which allowed for an extreme amount of weight allowance per person. The typical allowance is 44 pounds in southern Africa, which would include everything inclusive of camera equipment. Heck, my camera bags (A Gura Gear Kiboko and a Gura Gear Chobe) weigh close to that amount without even into my duffel bag with my clothing.

We said hello to everybody as they exited the plane, had cold water and wet towels for people to freshen up with, and we took off for Castleton. Everybody got settled in, had a nice lunch out in the garden and took off around 3pm for our afternoon game drive. The first game drive on any safari typically involves short distances, as we don’t want to miss all of the things that are new to people if it is their first time on safari. Zebras, rhino, giraffe, elephant, kudu, impala, countless bird species and wildebeest were on tap for the afternoon, followed by a stop for sundowner cocktails after the sun had set.


El Grupo

Nikon D4, 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII, 1/400 @ f/8, ISO 400

Camera bags on this safari are sponsored by Gura Gear, which I started in 2008. Check us out. We make the best camera bags on the planet.

Some of the gear on this safari has been provided by I rely on for both my own needs as well as my safari travelers’ needs. When we need big lenses, cameras or anything else photographic, we turn to to help out. They are the best resource in the industry for traveling photographers.


Safari Update from South Africa - Day 1

This is the first installment of safari updates from the Sabi Sands of South Africa. I am on a 3-day pre safari with two of my customers, and at the end of this pre safari I will begin two back-to-back safaris, each with 11 travelers. My goals for writing these daily safari updates are:


  • To explain what we are seeing and photographing each day
  • To explain some of the camera equipment used and any thoughts around them
  • To show a day-in-the-life on one of my African photographic safaris
  • To create a diary for my travelers, so they won’t have to keep up with what we saw each day


So, here goes!

This morning we left the D’Oreale Grand Hotel in Johannesburg, and were picked up by my good friend Gordie, who runs a hospitality transfer business. Gordie took us to the hanger where our flight would take us to the Sabi Sands. We checked in, if you can call it that, and boarded our Pilatus PC-12 aircraft. 50 minutes later we landed at the Mala Mala airstrip, and my good friend and head ranger Matt grabbed us and took us to our camp for the next 3 nights. Every time I visit Mala Mala I make sure that Matt is my main guide, and this trip is no exception. We grabbed a nice lunch on the deck, got settled into our rooms and then took off for our afternoon game drive.

The weather this afternoon was almost perfect at around 75F. When I left home in Houston it was already getting into the 90’s each day, with an average low of the mid 70’s. I am not a fan of hot and humid places, and it was great to be in such great weather.

We had heard about a pair of leopard cubs from the Kikilezi female leopard, and made sure that we went straight for the place where they were last seen. It is important to be sensitive around any young cub, and since their mother wasn’t around we didn’t want to stay very long at all. If anything bad happened during our brief visit, the cubs would associate the event with the presence of a vehicle, and would forever be shy around them. We did spot the two 6-week old cubs, and for a quick reference I have included an image. It isn’t a great one, but the purpose of the images on these updates is to illustrate what we have seen out here.

After our brief visit with the leopard cubs, we drove along the edge of the Sand River to see what was out in the open and easy to photograph. We happened on a small congregation of bull elephants, drinking and sparring at the waters’ edge. I love any animal that is near water, especially if there is interaction with the water (drinking, splashing, etc) or if there is a reflection. Or both! We took some shots and decided we would head down to the southern edge of Mala Mala where some wild dogs had been seen a few days earlier.

When we got to the southern edge of the property, we had to bushwhack our way through very very dense brush in an attempt to locate where we though the dog den might be. We had another vehicle in the area, and he was able to triangulate and figure out the location within an hour. We stayed a fair distance back from the den, and we only saw one adult female near the entrance. Awesome! This is the key to great wild dog photography, as you know where the epicenter of activity is coming from. All hunts begin and end from the den. We didn’t stay long, as it was obvious that the other adults had already left to go hunting, and there wasn’t much to see. We needed to make sure the dogs weren’t spooked by our presence, and staying back to observe and come back another day was the best approach.

We headed back to camp after dark, as it took a while to find our way back to the road from the dense brush. The temperature quickly dropped and my vehicle mates and I all had huge smiles on our faces from our first game drive of the trip.


Leopard Cub

Nikon D800, 300mm f/2.8, 1/3200 @ f/4, ISO 400. Hand held


Elephant in the Sand River

Nikon D800, 300mm f2.8, 1/640 @ f/5, ISO 400. Shot from a bean bag


View of the same elephant in the Sand River

Nikon D800, 300mm f/2.8, 1/1000 @ f/5.6, ISO 400

Camera bags on this safari are sponsored by Gura Gear, which I started in 2008. Check us out. We make the best camera bags on the planet. :-)
Some of the gear on this safari has been provided by I rely on for both my own needs as well as my safari travelers’ needs. When we need big lenses, cameras or anything else photographic, we turn to to help out. They are the best resource in the industry for traveling photographers.

Safari Update - Serengeti

We drove around the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater early this morning, and as we lost elevation on the way down to the Serengeti plains we lost the green vegetation and cool highlands air. There is a section of whistling thorn acacia bushes that routinely have grazing giraffes, and today had a very nice congregation of them on both sides of the road. As a side note, I love shooting them in this area, as I am able to put the Serengeti plains as the backdrop.

We had some water on some of the roads heading down, and I can definitely feel that the long rains are almost here. It did rain both evenings when we were at Gibbs Farm, and it rained when we were in Ngorongoro, and now signs of recent rain in the southeastern Serengeti. Good news, for sure.

We made it to the Ndutu area in the late morning, and we ate a picnic lunch under a large acacia tree, which overlooked Lake Masek and its flamingos. After lunch the cyclone of water began. I mean really began. We had a solid wall of water around the swamps west of Ndutu, and our vehicles were sliding sideways because of the heavy rain and mud. I haven’t been in a rain like that in many years, and it was awesome.

The drive from Ndutu to Kusini was, well, interesting. The solid wall of rain and wind followed us almost the entire way, and I wasn’t able to take a single image today. Not a single image. The rain was so hard it would have ruined all of my gear, so it wasn’t worth it.

The Kusini area has some amazing granite kopjes, and the Kusini Camp is settled on top of one. We arrived around 5pm, as we couldn’t continue our game drive any longer due to the rain. Since arrived before sunset, we all showered and came and enjoyed one of the most amazing sundowner dinks on top of their central kopje. The staff placed large pillows near top for each of us to sit on, and hoisted up a drink cart for the serving of drinks. It is the small touches that matter in the hospitality industry, and the staff here have it nailed to a ‘T’.

After our gorgeous sunset, we had appetizers around the fire, and finished with dinner in the dining room. Not much else to add, other than today was a great day, even though I didn’t take a single photograph.


Tswalu Kalahari - My Experiences

At the end of my 2010 Predators of the Sabi Sands safari, I took some time to go and visit a property that I have wanted to visit for quite some time. The property is called Tswalu Kalahari, and is in the Kalahari Desert in the Northern Cape of South Africa. Tswalu is a very large reserve, made up of more than 106,000 hectares, with excellent wildlife for the wildlife photographer and nature lover. Tswalu’s habitat and wildlife are quite amazing: a semi-arid environment of red earth and sand dunes, wide open skies, 230+ species of birds, 90 species of mammals and some of the most breathtaking scenery as a backdrop. Let’s go over some of the mammal species: sable antelope, roan antelope, giraffe, black rhino, Kalahari desert lion (awesome manes!), meerkat, brown hyaena, aardwolf, aardvark, ground squirrel, and tons more to keep one’s attention.

Background and Accommodations

The name Kalahari derives from the Tswana word “Kgala” which means “great thirst”. But the southern Kalahari, where Tswalu is located, is really a “green desert” as the Korannaberg Mountains attract precious rainfall in the summer months. The Kalahari has been the ancestral home of the San people, or Bushmen, for thousands of years. As hunter-gatherers, the Bushmen survived by tracking and hunting wild game with bows and arrow, gathering berries or desert melons and storing scarce water in the blown-out shells of ostrich eggs. The San culture and beliefs are rich and rooted in this land.

Tswalu is located in the southern area of the Kalahari Desert, on the South African side of the border

Historically the area has been both ranch land and hunting land. In 1999 Nicky Oppenheimer purchased Tswalu, extended the amount of land, and began restoring the land back to its original state. Tswalu has two different accommodation options: The Motse and Tarkuni. The Motse is the main location, which means “village” in Tswana, and consists of just eight spacious and secluded suites. Tarkuni is the Oppenheimer’s private home, and can accommodate up to 10 guests. I stayed at The Motse during my visit, and did take the opportunity to visit Tarkuni during some down time. Both are excellent and very comfortable, and I would love to stay at Tarkuni if I bring a handful of travelers with me, due to the more private setting. Regarding The Motse, 2 of their suites have 2 rooms, and myself and one of my guests used one of these rooms during our stay. The 2-bedroom suites have 2 bathrooms and a common area, and would work well for a small family of 2 to 4 people. It should be said that Tswalu is a member of the Relais & Châteaux collection of worldwide properties, which means you know you will receive excellent service, dining and accommodations. Tswalu has their own private airplane, a Pilatus PC-12, which only takes about 90 minutes of flight time to get to and from Johannesburg, and they also have service in and out of Capetown. There are other planes available, depending on need and availability.

The lounge are at Motse

Wildlife Wildlife Wildlife

Well, I am an African wildlife photographer, and I am driven primarily by photography than anything else. Tswalu’s wildlife is not what I would call a ‘big five’ experience, and is more appropriate for people who have been on safari before or who would like to experience species that are not easily seen in other places. I went to Tswalu to photograph meerkats, desert adapted Kalahari lions, black rhino and sable antelope. I did come away with wonderful images and experiences with all of these species, as well as with some other things that I did not expect. Here are just some wildlife experiences we encountered:

  • A crash of 5 white rhinos running a few feet from the side of the vehicle (was difficult to photograph, for sure).
  • Mating Kalahari desert adapted lions, and the male had a huge dark mane that is the most magnificent of any male I have ever seen.
  • Tracking black rhino and finding both mother and young calf together, only 10 meters from us.
  • Numerous visits to meerkat mobs (yes, they are called ‘mobs’ or ‘gangs’) to photograph them from many different angles and lighting situations.
  • Numerous sightings of both sable and roan antelope.
  • Dozens of bird species, and I especially am fond of all of the weaver species on the reserve.


Big Boy, my nickname for one of their magnificent Kalahari desert adapted male lions


Meerkat sunning himself in the morning light


Additional Information and Wrap-up

I visited in mid November, and based on what I know about the area I should plan on coming back during some of the warm(er) months. I am not sure that I will visit during the wintertime, as would like to have the big, puffy clouds on the horizon to contrast the red sand on the ground, and that needs to happen when the days are warm.

My experience at Tswalu was extraordinary, and one of the best combinations of service, dining, accommodations, wildlife and overall experience that I have ever experienced in Africa. This says quite a bit about how I feel about Tswalu, and how much I desire to return in future years.


Sunset over the Kalahari Desert, Tswalu


Setting up for dinner-under-the-stars in the Boma


A crash of five white rhinos, who took a few seconds to stop while I took a photograph. We drove next to them for a few minutes, watching them run parallel to our vehicle. What a blast.


Yawning lioness in the late afternoon light


Meerkats, all sunning themselves in the morning light


Tanzania safari report - Day 18

Well, today was our last full day on safari. When I say that I am tired I really mean it. I know that all of my guides do this day in and day out, and my hat is off to all of them for their hard work on my safaris. Their dedication does not go unnoticed. I feel extremely fulfilled, knowing that my past 2 safaris had great wildlife sightings with great photographic opportunities.

Today was our last full day out on safari, and we took advantage of what Tarangire is known for: elephants. The morning was overcast and cooler, and I couldn't have asked for better conditions. Cloudy days is good, because of the soft light. It is difficult to include the sky in a scene, however that is ok because you can get good shots all day.

We lost the clouds late in the morning, however we did have good elephant viewing along the Tarangire River. Very similar viewing as yesterday, in that we had much paying and sparring between the younger males. We sat and watched two lionesses stalk impala, but the hunt was over before it began. The impala were downwind of the hunting females, and they knew what was up before the lionesses could get close.

I will be going home tomorrow, and I will surely sleep on the plane without any effort. I miss Leslie, Christian and Will, and look forward to spending some time with them in a few days. I also look forward to my coming back to Africa in July! I will be in Botswana and South Africa in July, and then Tanzania next February. It isn't as much time in Africa in years past, however I am slowing down my safaris to concentrate on Gura Gear and family. Chris Gamel is also running a Tanzania safari in June, John Paul Caponigro is running a Namibia landscape workshop in September and Randy Hanna is running a Tanzania safari in February. Plenty safaris to choose from! The combination of all four of us adds up to a great selection of safaris in Africa.


Tanzania safari report - Day 17

It was difficult to leave our Ngorongoro camp today, as I truly believe that it is the most beautiful place to camp in all of Africa. The Thomson Safaris seasonal camp location is second to none, the accommodations very comfortable and the staff is always accommodating and fun to work with. All of the Thomson camps make my work life so much easier, and I can call all of the staff friends.

We drove around the crater's edge in the early morning light, and took some time at the overlook for some quick photos. It amazes me that God created such a beautiful place with such abundant wildlife, and it doesn't go unnoticed.

We left the Ngorongoro Conservation area and fueled up our Land Rovers in Karatu, in the heary of the Mbulu district. Karatu is primarily inhabited by the Iraqw people, who are of cushitic origin and have a language that is more similar to Maa than any bantu based language. It was nice to have tarmac roads for a few hours!

We drove down from the Ngorongoro highlands, past Mto Wa Mbu, Manyara Ranch, Makuyuni and into the the northen part of Tarangire National Park.

We entered Tarangire just after lunch, and immediately ran into large herds of elephants. We spent a few hours meandering around Tarangire River, and settled across the river from a family group that was playing in the water. The young males were sparring, and the resulting action made for good shots. I loved the spashing of water, which added an additional piece of eye candy to the scene.

We started running out of luck in the late part of the afternoon, and then all of a sudden Robert spotted a large male leopard in a sausage tree near the Sopa road. He didn't stick around for long, and he jumped down into the tall grass. Afterwards we headed for camp, as we were already commited to driving towards the camp, and the only other way to prolong the excellent elephant herd viewing was to head back towards the north.

It was a very hot day, and it was a relief to have the sun set behind the Ngorongoro highlands. It hasn't rained in a few weeks, yet there is ample amounts of tsetse flies in the area. Fun!

I added up the leopard and cheetah count in the past 7 days, and we have seen 5 leopards and a whopping 13 cheetahs!! Amazing luck. Almost an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the cheeath count.


Tanzania safari report - Day 16

Today we were up at 5:15 and we headed out as early as we can get away with. Early birds do get the biggest and best worms, and here at Ngorongoro this is especially true. I am familiar with all of the lion prides here, and I do have an idea where to be and when. I have many many early morning sightings of entire lion prides, and this is one very cool sight. Oh, and have I mentioned that I like to have sightings by myself? I prefer to not have competition for the best shooting positions, so I just get out earlier. It isn't rocket science, but it is a good lesson for nature photographers.

We did see a pride of about 12, however they were a little far away. We moved around the crater to the upper portion of the Munge River, and we noticed that our Land Rover was having a difficult time turning. Well, the problem ended up being a bent tie rod. We were able to take it off, bend it back, and reinstall it. Nothing like looking over your shoulder for lions while repairing a vehicle.

We worked the Munge, then came across a hunting cheetah. This was a great way to watch how they hunt, however we realized that there was also a lioness in the tall grass as well. Did they know about each other? Nothing transpired, however it made for great watching for an hour or more.

The afternoon was filled with lions on feet away from us. This happened on three different occasions. Smiles all around! The afternoon light was challenging, however we did have great landscape shots with the passing clouds.


Tanzania safari report - Day 15

We woke up on the late side at 6:30, ate breakfast and said goodbye to the camp staff at 8am. This morning was a 'move between camps' morning. On the way to Naabi hill, we saw a line of wildebeest that must have been at least three or four hundred strong. Just one line in the middle of nowhere. After Naabi we again intercepted the bulk of the migration, and at 30mph it took us at least 45 minutes to drive through the huge herds. Some areas must have been filled only with male wildebeest, as I didn't see any young ones. Other parts was filled with babies, so liked to refer to those areas as nurseries.

Wildebeest give birth to their calves in the southern part of the Serengeti plains in December through March, likely with the bulk being in January and February. I love this time of the year, as we can see the big herds, as well as non migratory wildlife. I also love our summer months and early fall.

The drive from Oldupai (not Olduvai, which non Tanzanians messed up on the name) was filled with golden hills, fresh with wildflowers. What a beautiful landscape it was. We haven't seen rain in over a week, and the flowers are obviously a result of those rains. Giraffes were aplenty on our ascent to the crater, and I counted no fewer than 40 individuals amongst the vivid green and yellow hills.

We arrived at Ngorongoro Crater (really a caldera, but I won't nitpick) after lunch and entered on the opposite side of the crater than our evening camp. At the bottom of th descent road was a large herd of wildebeest, and we sat and watched many new mothers graze with their newborns. Many new calves with short umbilical cords, so these calves are very very new. The calving season in Ngorongoro is different than the Serengeti, as the rains, nutrients and available food is quite different between the two.

Lake Magadi (or Makaat in the Maa language) was full with flamingos, however as of a few years ago we haven't been able to drive next to the water's edge. What a shame, but I do understand that the crater needs better protection from too many guesus. Too many roads is not a good thing for the environment and its wildlife. More roads equals more maintenance equals more money, staff, vehicles and fuel.

It was a fairly relaxed afternoon, and we spent our time with 7 huge bull elephants, picking out interesting compositions. Today was a tiring day with the travel from our last camp, and I was eager to get back to camp to unwind a little bit. Sitting in a Land Rover for 9 hours can suck the life right out of you, especially in the hot sun.

Tomorrow will be our earliest day yet, as we will leave camp at 5:59. The gate opens up at 6am, and our camp is only feet away from the gate. My feelings about the lodges here at Ngorongoro have already been written about in one of my earlier safari entries.