Author Archives: rickcollins51

Although Rick Collins was born in the United States, he has spent more than 30 years living and traveling abroad. His love of photography and travel adventure, combined with his attraction to foreign cultures and odd jobs in strange places, have taken him to the far-flung corners of the world. He presently works as a bear guide for photographers in remote Alaska five months of the year and travels worldwide the other seven months.


For the purpose of this document, the ‘Company’ shall mean Spotlight Photo Safaris.

The ‘Client’ is the person who has signed the Booking form, accepting the quotation and confirming the booking of the safari. If a client signs on behalf of any member/s of his/her party, then the client accepts these terms and conditions on behalf of every member of his/her party as if they had specifically signed it


There is no binding contract between the Company and the Client until the following three conditions have been met:

1. The Waiver of Liability (included in the Client’s Welcome Package) has been signed and received by the Company.
2. A deposit of 20% of the full safari price has been received by the Company.
3. The Client has confirmed his/her acceptance of the TERMS AND CONDITIONS by signing the Waiver of Liability.


1. ACCOMMODATIONS: As specified in the itinerary, or similar, will be provided in hotels, lodges and camps, based on two persons sharing a room with ensuite. The Company may substitute hotels, lodges, guesthouses and camps when they consider necessary or appropriate, but substitutions will be an upgrade or of equal value. Service charges and taxes are included.
2. MEALS: Three full meals are provided daily.
3. TRANSFERS: Airport pick-up upon arrival at Kilimanjaro (JRO) and delivery to the lodge of safari departure.
4. TRANSPORT: Two elongated Toyato pop-top Landcruisers, three photographers to a vehicle with unlimited refrigerated bottled water and soft drinks.
5. GUIDES: Two extremely knowledgeable English-speaking guides, one per vehicle.
7. INTERNAL FLIGHT: These are overland safaris in one direction with a return flight from Seronera in the Serengeti to Kilimanjaro Airport on the day of the Client’s international departure. There is a strict Baggage Allowance on internal flights and the Client will be responsible for any excess.
8. FLYING DOCTOR SERVICE: Should anything major untoward happen while traveling remote, onsite medical aid will be rendered by the Flying Doctor Service. If evacuation to a medical facility is deemed necessary, the Flying Doctor Service will deliver the Client to the nearest medical treatment center. However, it will be the Client’s responsibility to arrange travel insurance prior to the safari to cover his/her treatment and medical expenses while at the facility and international evacuation home should it become necessary.
9. TRIBAL VISITS: We will visit three tribes: the Hadzabe Bushmen and the Datoga tribe of Lake Eyasi and a Maasai boma in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
10. OPEN BAR: Soft drinks, house wines, house beers and well drinks are unlimited. Premium call drinks are at the Client’s expense.
11. LAUNDRY: Full laundry service at Gibbs Farm and a subsidized laundry service at Four Seasons. This should be sufficient for the duration of the safari for most people. Additional laundry facilities are available along the way but will be at the expense of the Client.
12. GRATUITIES: All gratuities and donations (guides/drivers, accommodations, meals, bar, balloon safari, tribes and Maasai school donations) have been negotiated and, for the convenience of our Clients, are included in the overall safari price. Clients are invited to offer supplemental gratuities if they feel the service in any given situation was extraordinary, and they’re also encouraged to discuss with the Company Tour Leader should they feel the service was below standard and an adjustment should be made.


1. Domestic and international land and air transport to/from Kilimanjaro Airport (JRO) and the Client’s domicile.
2. Travel and Health Insurance
3. Costs associated with obtaining passport, Tanzanian visa, and required medication (e.g. malaria tablets) and inoculations
4. Excess baggage fees
5. Optional Serengeti Balloon Safari
6. Personal expenses including but not limited to telephone calls, mini-bar purchases, room service charges, personal snacks, souvenirs and any other incidental personal expenses


1. The price is in US dollars and is based on SIX PARTICIPANTS. Should the number of participants change, the trip price is subject to change accordingly.
2. The price is based on double occupancy. If a Client cancels in a double occupancy room, the remaining Client must pay the single supplement unless a replacement can be found.
3. Prices are also based on tariffs, government fees, exchange rates, supplier rates and airfares in effect at the time this agreement is signed by the Client. We reserve the right to alter prices quoted should inflation, costs of fuel, labor or materials, airfares or foreign exchange rates change. The Client will be notified in writing of such changes.
4. Should government entities raise national park or other fees after this agreement is made, we will also be forced to pass on the additional expense.

PAYMENTS (*A copy of the Payment Schedule is included in the Client’s Welcome Packet)

1. A booking fee of $500 is required to hold the Client’s place on his/her safari of choice .
2. A first payment of 20% (minus $500) is due within 10 days of being confirmed on the Client’s safari of choice. If the payment is not received by the Company within 10 days, it will be construed as a cancellation and the $500 booking fee will be forfeited.
3. A second payment of 30% must be received by the Company on or before the due date specified in the Payment Schedule.
4. The balance of 50% must be received by the Company on or before the due date specified in the Payment Schedule.
5. If the full amount is not received by the due date, the Company shall, at its discretion, treat the reservation as cancelled and initiate cancellation fees as outlined below. The Company will not be responsible for any additional costs – including personal expenses, lost land and/or air reservations or purchased tickets – incurred by the Client in preparing for their safari.
6. Late applicants may join the safari based on accommodation availability and the correct payment of funds.


1. All cancellations must be in writing and will be effective upon acknowledged receipt by the Company. The date of receipt by the Company will determine the cancellation charge.
2. Cancellation charges are as follows:
• 91 days or more prior to departure: $500 per traveler
• 90-75 days 50% of safari price
• 74-31 days 75% of safari price
• after 30 days 100% of safari price. No Refunds!
• Trip cancellation insurance is obligatory. No refunds will be issued for Clients departing the safari early or for any unused portion of the safari

1. Travel, cancellation and health insurance is compulsory, forms part of the conditions of booking and is solely the responsibility of the Client. The policy must be for the duration of the trip and must cover, among other things, personal injury, medical expenses, repatriation expenses, accidental death and disability, loss of luggage and personal effects, and expenses associated with the cancellation or curtailment of the safari. Should the Client fall ill, all hospital expenses, medical treatment, doctor’s fees and repatriation costs are the responsibility of the Client. The Company shall not be responsible for a refund of any unused portions of the safari.
2. The Company will not accept liability for loss or damage of the Client’s luggage or personal effects.
3. PLEASE NOTE: Most insurance companies require an insurer to purchase the policy within 14 days of the deposit in order to cover pre-existing conditions. Please visit these companies online at and for further details.


1. The Client acknowledges an awareness of the proposed itinerary and accepts that there could be conditions for which they must be physically prepared. These conditions include, but are not limited to, stairs, short walks and vehicular transport over rough terrain for long stretches of time. The Client confirms that he or she is medically fit, in good physical and mental health and is able to undertake this safari.
2. The Client has previously acknowledged in the Registration Form any pre-existing medical conditions and must inform the Company of any relevant changes or additions to these conditions prior to commencement of the safari.
3. If the Client becomes unable to complete the tour due to intentionally undisclosed health conditions, he/she shall not be entitled to seek any refund or compensation whatsoever from the Company.


1. Any decision made by the Company Tour Leader is final. The company shall not be held responsible for any Client who commits an illegal act. The Client shall in such circumstances be excluded from the safari without refund or compensation.
2. The Company Tour Leader, at his sole discretion, can decline to carry a Client further if he considers a client unsuitable for the safari due to mental or physical illness or if there is implied danger to any other Client or Company representative. If a Client causes severe inconvenience or annoyance to other Clients, the Company also has the authority of decline to carry the Client further, without refund. This will only happen in extreme cases where every other option to mitigate the circumstances has been first explored.

Posted in Latest

Floating the Kulik


Shortly before closing the lodge this season, a few of us decided to fly to Katmai National Park to float the Kulik, a 1-1/2 mile stretch of river connecting Nonvianuk Lake with the smaller Kulik Lake upstream. (Click on the map for more detail)


THE FLIGHT TO KULIK.  Only from the air can one appreciate the magnitude of Alaska and the diversity and grandeur of its landscape.


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Nonvianuk Lake plays host to thousands of Sockeye salmon, many of whom spawn in the narrow stream en route to Kulik Lake, their final resting place.  The spent salmon attract local bears and the spawned roe attract trout that, in turn, attract fishermen from afar.  For a good part of the fishing season, man and beast stand shoulder to shoulder – often only feet apart – aware of each other, yet unconcerned, as they share a common goal – ‘landing the big one.’

Floating the KulikHere you can see just how awkward shooting from a 2-man raft can be – particularly when it’s not only difficult to control the raft, but hold the lens steady at a very uncomfortable angle.  My only thought was to land myself….but where?

A top day with David, Oliver and Lisle.  Thanks!!





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The Camargue

I miss shooting wildlife.  It’s like being on holiday and missing home.  There are so many wonderful and exciting subjects to photograph in Europe – beautiful old buildings and pristine landscapes – but it’s a controlled environment that hasn’t changed radically over the centuries.  Everything is stationary and predictable – excluding the weather, of course.  But if you’re willing to hang around, the sun will eventually reappear. At least in Southern France.

Photographing buildings and landscapes is really about line and composition.  Obviously, good lighting helps.  But what’s lacking is the element of chance, that adrenalin rush you get when stumbling across a wild animal in its habitat – or in yours.  There’s that single moment you have to capture it with your camera where, despite any amount of preparation, it always comes down to luck and a prayer that the animal doesn’t bolt, the sun disappear, or the memory card fail or flash ‘Full’.  If you catch the animal in frame, you’re happy.  If it’s looking at you and the picture’s in focus, you’re ecstatic.  If it’s looking at you and too close to focus, you’re in trouble.  It’s a heart pump either way.  I just don’t get that with buildings.

After several months of shooting old, but quaint villages in France and northern Italy, I decided to try one of the few pockets of wildlife left in Europe – the Camargue in southwest France.

The Camargue is Western Europe’s largest river delta and comprises 140,000 hectares of wetlands, pastures, salt flats and dunes where the Rhone River meets the sea.  85,000 hectares are designated National Park and, like Italy’s Cinque Terre, it has been sanctioned as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The park is home to over 400 species of birds, including the Greater Flamingo that can number over 20,000 during the nesting season. Additional wildlife includes beavers, badgers, wild boar, tree frogs, turtles and water snakes.

I saw a handful of flamingos, an owl, and a couple of mallard ducks.   OK, I chose to go when there were no tourists.  The restaurants were mostly closed or boarded over as this is the time of year the owners take their holidays.  And the wildlife too, I suspect.
[slideshow id=12]But there were other animals aplenty.  The Camargue is world famous for its white horses – small in size and technically classified a pony – but fearless creatures with incredible stamina and agility, traits that made them invaluable when building the Suez Canal.  It’s said they date back to the oldest horses hunted during the Upper Paleolithic time.  To preserve their standard of purity, the government has set rigorous rules of registration: foals must be born outdoors and must be ‘seen to suckle from a registered mare as proof of parentage’.  Makes you wonder about French birth certificates.

The Camargue black bull, when not out to pasture, is well-known in French cooking circles and Spanish bullrings.  What doesn’t get eaten in France is exported to Spain for bullfights – and then eaten.  The Camargueses have their own variation of bullfighting – ‘la course Camarguaise’ where men attempt to pluck tassels and strings suspended between the wild bull’s horns.  There’s no swordplay, but still the element of danger and a lot of (hopefully) harmless fun.


Probably the best known, most internationally revered export from the Camargue is the octane-charged ‘Gipsy Kings’, the musical sensation that took the world by storm in 1987.  Every year in May, thousands of gypsies descend on the seaside village of Saintes Maries de la Mer for the Gitan Pilgrimage where they confirm their faith and culture by parading their patron saint, the Black Madonna (yet to be recognized by the Vatican), by horseback to the sea.  It’s a flamboyant street fiesta of gypsy music and flamenco dancing.  It was during one of these processions in the 1960’s where the two groups of brothers formed the ‘Gipsy Kings’.


Despite the lack of wildlife and bone-chilling Mistral winds from the north settling in, I hung around a Saturday night for a taste of Gypsy music at the local bar.  Two elderly gentlemen held the floor, guitars in readiness.  On the countdown they began an instrumental which was, at first, thrilling.  One would never guess that such music could come from a couple of cheap guitars and be so proficiently performed by two older gentlemen.  Strings were strummed, plucked, flicked and picked while the body of the guitar, doubling as a percussion section, was thumped, tapped and drummed.

But halfway through the piece the older of the two threw himself into song with complete abandon. By that I mean he abandoned his partner, (I think) the song they were singing, the key it was to be sung in, and any potential chance of making a credible recovery before the song’s end.  It was excruciating to listen to as patrons suddenly took an interest in the unremarkable artwork festooning walls or feigned looking for bits of cork floating in their wine.  But the little guy sang with such passion you had to appreciate the effort, if not the voice.  By the third song and the second bottle, a few of the listeners sang along and, in comparison, the old gypsy wasn’t sounding half so bad.  It was actually a very enjoyable evening.  I’ll never forget the guitar playing – what I can remember of it.

And yes, the Camargue has old buildings.  Aigues Mortes was originally a fishing village before Louis IX fortified the village with 1.65 kilometers of 6-meter thick walls to make it France’s only Mediterranean port at that time.  It was from here that the Seventh and Eighth Crusades departed in the late 13th Century.  Aigues Mortes was originally on the coast (as any port would be) but is now several miles from the sea due to the ever changing Rhone delta.  One can’t help but be impressed by the size and scope of the structure which now houses a living (tourist) village with 6000 inhabitants.

Impressive, yes, it all was.  But still, I miss shooting wildlife.


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Of Heaven and Earth – Italy’s Cinque Terre

As spiritual as it may sound, these are also the key ingredients of a landscape portrait.  When they cooperate with one another, you get a brilliance of color, drama and magic.  When they don’t, you get flat lighting, dull colors, and generally wet.

The latter was the case on a recent trip to the Ligorian coast of Italy to shoot the five rugged coastal and mountain villages that comprise the Cinque Terre (Five Lands).  For centuries these ancient villages derived their livelihood from vineyards finely suited to the steeply carved mountain terraces and the warm Mediterranean climate.  In recent years tourists have outnumbered the grapes, the economy has flourished, and the age-old tradition of cultivating vineyards has dwindled.


What makes these villages unique is their isolation.  They can only be reached by mountain paths, a ferry, a few trains and a small treacherous road with limited vehicle access.  Modern development has virtually been shut out.  For this reason, the area was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.


Visiting the Cinque Terre, I was hit with the Trifecta of bad luck: the trails between the villages – which provide the best vantage points for photography – had been closed for maintenance; the ferry – which provides the second best vantage point for shooting the villages – doesn’t run in the off-season; and the weather – which was predicted as sunny to partly cloudy – was foul (except blue sky the day I was leaving).

Despite bad weather and bad research, shots were fired.  You’ll find these and other recent photos in the Latest gallery.


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