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Join award-winning wildlife photographer and author Kirsten Hines on this Naturalist Journeys’ photography adventure into the tropical wilderness that serves as her backyard in south Florida.
A biologist, writer, and photographer, Kirsten’s work has appeared in numerous exhibitions and publications, including her six books on south Florida’s nature and history. Three of her books feature the area’s national parks and two upcoming titles, Wild Florida and Birds of Florida, focus on the state’s animals. Sharing her intimate knowledge, Kirsten takes you to some of her favorite wildlife photography destinations at the optimal times to capture south Florida’s unique fauna and splendor.
Attached to temperate North America but extending into the warm waters of the Caribbean, south Florida is unlike any other place in the world. Widely known for its tropical Everglades marsh, south Florida is a complex ecosystem that also includes a variety of upland habitats that house an unparalleled mix of temperate and tropical species at the edges of their ranges. Combine this with an incredible diversity of introduced, nonnative species that now thrive wild throughout the region, the photographic opportunities are limitless.
This tour is largely based out of Coconut Grove, a historic community on the shore of Biscayne Bay that pre-dates Miami and continues to be one of its most vibrant neighborhoods. From this central location, we journey south into the Florida Keys, north into central Florida scrub habitat, around oases of nature within Miami’s urban matrix, and throughout the Everglades, finishing the trip with a night in Flamingo to experience the true magic of the Everglades.
Each tour includes several full-day excursions with multiple photographic stops timed to coincide with the biology of the animals and optimal photographic conditions. There is a limit of four persons for this intimate and focused photo workshop. If you have a small group of your own, ask us for a private booking, a limited number of additional dates are available.
- Get hands-on photography instruction at some of south Florida’s top wildlife locations, timed for optimal conditions.
- Encounter tropical animals that occur nowhere else in the USA: American crocodile, Atala Butterfly, West Indian Manatee, Mangrove Cuckoo, White-crowned Pigeon, and more.
- Photograph endemic species such as the Florida Scrub-Jay, Florida scrub lizard and others in their equally endemic sand-scrub habitat.
- Experience the history and magic of Coconut Grove, one of Miami’s oldest and most vibrant communities.
- Explore Miami’s natural side, experiencing not only its native tropical biodiversity but wild birds and reptiles introduced from around the world.
- Tour picturesque cypress domes, complex tropical hammocks, intricate pine rocklands, and vast Everglades marshes.
- See the Everglades from the perspective of the Miccosukee on a private airboat tour to an ancestral tree island camp.
- Capture intimate images of Wood Stork, Anhinga, herons, egrets, and other wading birds at a bustling rookery.
Itineraries are guidelines; variations in itinerary may occur to account for weather, road conditions, closures, etc. and to maximize your experience.
Mon., Mar. 18 : Arrivals
You are picked up at the Miami International Airport (MIA) and driven a short way to get settled at our main hotel for the workshop in historic Coconut Grove where tall trees and palms arch over and line curving roads. We start with a sunset photography session at a nearby tropical forest, followed by dinner and an introduction to photographing South Florida’s nature at Kirsten’s Kottage Studio Gallery located in a century-old Coconut Grove cottage. Over the next few days, Kirsten introduces you to Florida’s specialized habitats and the animals that live there including tropical crocodiles, manatees, land crabs, butterflies, Roseate Spoonbill, White-crowned Pigeon, temperate alligators, deer, monarchs, Bald Eagle, Blue Jay, and more; she shows you colorful residents and, pending the dates you select, a mix of migratory species that overwinter, oversummer, or simply pass through on their way between northern and southern seasonal homes.
Accommodations in Coconut Grove (D)
Tues., Mar. 19 : Tamiami Trail
Get your first opportunity today to photograph the vast marshes of the Everglades as the sun’s first rays shift through swaying sawgrass. Anhinga warm their wings in the golden light as Great Egret stalk the water’s edge and Snail Kite might soar above. We travel westward along Tamiami Trail, appreciating the transition from Everglades marsh to the bromeliad-festooned cypress domes of Big Cypress National Preserve. Stopping at tranquil oases along the way, we seek out American alligators, Big Cypress fox squirrels, turtles, Barred Owl, and good numbers of wading birds posed within these picture-perfect natural sets. If water conditions are right, we find large mixed flocks of ibis, egrets, and herons, often including Wood Stork, Roseate Spoonbill, and White Pelican within easy camera range. Join a local Miccosoukee-operated private airboat tour of an ancestral family camp set in a remote area of marsh. As the sun sets, capture skies filled with birds as they return to night roosts, or the mystery of gnarled cypress trees silhouetted against the twilight.
Accommodations in Coconut Grove (B,L,D)
Wed., Mar. 20 : Southern Biscayne Bay | Key Largo
Mangrove-lined shores greet you this morning as we work our way along Biscayne Bay’s southern coast into the upper Florida Keys. With a little luck, we hope to photograph an elusive Mangrove Cuckoo peering out from the branches, or a White-crowned Pigeon perched near the top of these stilt-like trees. In late spring, Florida’s endemic subspecies of either Prairie or Yellow Warbler may emerge to trill in early morning light. We explore coastal marshes for rails and nighthawks, tropical maritime hammocks for wintering songbirds, and sandy beaches alongside aquamarine waters for an array of shorebirds. Watch for Magnificent Frigatebird overhead, and no doubt, green iguanas in the surrounding bushes.
Accommodations in Coconut Grove (B,L,D)
Thurs., Mar. 21 : Miami Area
While nature is rarely the first thing people associate with Miami, it’s situated within a biodiversity hotspot for tropical species and pockets of this wealth remain tucked within the city’s limits. Spend the day exploring oases of natural coastal dunes, beaches, endangered pine rocklands, tropical hammocks, and naturalistic gardens where a variety of native species like Wilson’s, Semipalmated, and endangered Piping Plover winter on the sand, blue land crabs scuttle through roots, golden orbweaver spiders sparkle between bushes, and assorted waterbirds float across ponds while American crocodiles bask on shore. Birds ranging from tiny Ruby-throated Hummingbird to impressively large Great Horned Owl fill the canopy above.
In addition to this abundance of native species, Miami is also an epicenter for nonnative birds and reptiles, providing opportunities to photograph Central American parrots, African agama lizards, Red-whiskered Bulbul from Asia, and myriad other species from around the world, many of which are only found in south Florida within the continental United States. We have unstructured time in the middle of the day for those who would like to explore Coconut Grove independently or to join Kirsten at her studio gallery for an optional Adobe Lightroom photo-processing workshop or photo review session.
Accommodations in Coconut Grove (B,L,D)
Fri., Mar. 22 : Palm Beach Area
As the sun rises, we set up dramatic opportunities to photograph Wood Stork, Anhinga, Double-crested Cormorant, and a variety of herons and egrets on their nests (seasonally) in a bustling rookery. Roseate Spoonbill, Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Purple Gallinule, Limpkin, songbirds, marsh rabbits, alligators, and a variety of turtles are other regulars to be photographed in this matrix of shimmering water and lush vegetation.
Following this wetland immersion, we head north for a taste of central Florida’s xeric sand-scrub habitat. This endangered subtropical forest houses a suite of endemic species including the Florida Scrub-Jay, the Florida scrub lizard, and red widow spiders. We seek out all these species, plus gopher tortoises and more as we explore the area’s shrub-studded white sands. We also have the opportunity to visit Burrowing Owl so accustomed to people they practically pose for photographs.
Accommodations in Coconut Grove (B,L,D)
Sat., Mar. 23 : Everglades National Park
Today is devoted to the subtle but stunning beauty of North America’s only tropical wetland. Greet the day at one of the park’s best wildlife-viewing areas to photograph the mix of temperate and tropical animals that make this World Heritage Site unique. Perhaps an Anhinga swallows a fish whole mere feet away, a south Florida-specialty Great White Heron might pose statuesque along the water’s edge, and alligators are certainly here. We spend the day working our way through the vast fields of sawgrass contained within the park, stopping to explore upland pine rocklands, palm-studded forests, and mangrove-lined ponds, each of which contains a variety of birds to add to your portfolio.
We close the day at the southern end of the park’s road in Flamingo, exploring brackish ponds for Black-necked Stilts, marina waters for American crocodiles and West Indian manatees, ocean-side beaches for a variety of shorebirds, and scanning the skies for Osprey, American Kestrel, and Swallow-tailed Kite in spring.
Accommodations in Flamingo, Everglades National Park (B,L,D)
Sun., Mar 24 : Departures
By staying this last night at Flamingo, we can experience an Everglades wakening as Wood Stork, White Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, and egrets begin crisscrossing the sky first as pre-dawn shadows, then in glowing gold light as the sun peaks above the horizon. We capture the magnificence of this magical time of day before making our way back north, stopping long enough to photograph Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, assorted kingbirds, and possibly a White-tailed Kite or Short-tailed Hawk along the way.
The tour ends mid-day at Miami International Airport. Please schedule departing flights for 3:00 PM or later. (B)
Red-masked Parakeet by Kirsten Hines
Wood Stork Nest by Kirsten Hines
Green Iguana by Kirsten Hines
Great Blue Heron by Kirsten Hines
Piping Plover by Kirsten Hines
Swallow-tailed Kite by Kirsten Hines
Marsh Rabbit by Kirsten Hines
American Alligator by Kirsten Hines
Limpkin by Kirsten Hines
Florida Scenic by Kirsten Hines
Box Turtle by Kirsten Hines
Scrub Jay by Kirsten Hines
Common Nighthawk by Kirsten Hines
Cost of the Journey
Cost of the workshop is: TBD based on double occupancy, from Miami, FL (MIA). This cost includes: accommodations for six nights, most meals as specified in the itinerary (B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner), airport welcome and transfer or hotel shuttle, land transportation during the journey, professional guide services, park and other entrance fees, and miscellaneous program expenses. Cost does not include: round-trip airfare to and from Miami, items of a personal nature such as laundry, telephone, drinks from the bar, and gratuities for luggage handling or personal services.
Please plan to make air travel plans only after the minimum group size has been met. We will send you a confirmation email as soon as the trip has been confirmed.
Arrival and Departure Airport: Miami International Airport (MIA)
Arrival Details: Plan flights to arrive March 18, 2024 no later than 2:00 PM.
Departure Details: Plan flights to depart March 24, 2024 after 3:00 PM.
Travel Tips: If you arrive in Miami early, you can book an early night at our tour hotel, the Hotel Arya Coconut Grove. If you’re looking to explore around Miami, there are plenty of things to do! The Vizcaya Museum & Gardens is just three miles from the hotel and worth a visit. The main house was built between 1914 and 1922 and has collections that date all the way back to Pompeii. The lush gardens have walking paths and contain many pieces of artwork as well as an orchid garden. If beautiful beaches sound relaxing, then head to Miami Beach for some of Florida’s most stunning beaches. The Miami Botanical Gardens, with more than 100 species of palms, is located on Miami Beach and free to visit. Miami is easy to get around via taxi, Uber, or rental car.
Items of Note
Most sites require moderate hiking along mostly flat and even terrain, so please plan to bring a good pack to carry photographic gear, water, sun, and bug protection. This workshop is designed for photographers using SLR cameras with at least a 200mm telephoto lens. For those interested in photographing insects, amphibians, and smaller reptiles, a macro lens is highly recommended along with a tripod. For those interested in capturing wildlife within the landscape, mid-range (ex. 24-105mm) or wide angle (35mm or less) lenses are recommended.
Browse below for trip reports and species lists from past versions of this and other tours from this destination.
Kirsten’s love of nature blossomed with early childhood explorations of emerald rainforests, sea star-filled tidepools, and wildflower-strewn mountains in Washington State. This paired with a love for travel when her family translocated to the Philippines where she lived from ages 8-18. Kirsten’s natural history explorations of the world expanded in college, graduate school and beyond as she studied Augur buzzards in Kenya, magnificent frigatebirds in the Galapagos Islands, poison-dart frogs in Costa Rica, rock iguanas in the Bahamas, kangaroos, bowerbirds, and fairy wrens in Australia, and myriad plants and animals in Florida where she worked as a biologist until a camera tweaked the trajectory of her career. Seven continents and 56 countries later, Kirsten now bases out of Florida and Maryland as a wildlife photographer, writer, speaker, nature guide, photography instructor, and conservationist.
Kirsten’s writing and photography have appeared in numerous online and print publications, including six of her own books on Florida’s nature and history, starting with the award-winning gardening reference Attracting Birds to South Florida Gardens and most recently Everglades National Park. Her upcoming photo-illustrated books include the coffee-table book Wild Florida: The Animals of the Sunshine State and the field guide Birds of Florida. Kirsten’s images have also been featured in photography showcases, public art programs, and in solo and juried group exhibitions. With over 20 years of experience leading nature and photography trips and workshops, Kirsten’s goal is to inspire enthusiasm for the natural world among diverse audiences. She is a founding member of Phoebes Birding, which connects women through nature, member of the IUCN Iguana Specialist Group and North American Nature Photography Association, and a board member of Tropical Audubon Society and Audubon Florida.
Other trips with Kirsten Hines
Essential Information +
This information is important for being prepared for your journey; we want you to have the best experience possible. If you only read one section, this one is key!
Ahead of Your Tour
- Please talk with your doctor about general health needs. It is a good idea to consult with your doctor about general vaccinations recommended for travel.
- Please plan to make air travel plans only after the minimum group size has been met. We will send you a confirmation email as soon as the trip has been confirmed. After you make travel reservations, please send a copy of your travel itinerary to the Naturalist Journeys office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Travel insurance in case of serious medical emergency is recommended. Full health coverage and repatriation is available through Allianz Travel Insurance.
- Soft sided luggage/duffel bags are easiest for packing the vans. Remember to pack essential medications in your carry-on luggage, as well as one day of clothing and optics in case of luggage delay.
We will share a copy of your health and emergency contact information with your guide. This information will be kept confidential but is very important in case of a medical emergency. In addition to bringing any prescription medications with you, we recommend that you have a copy of the prescriptions in case of loss.
Pace of the Tour & What to Expect
You will receive a Schedule-at-a-Glance and list of hotels (our eContact List) a few weeks before your departure. This will serve as an outline for each day and alert you to any recent changes made in the schedule or to our hotels, if needed.
Our journeys are set up to follow the rhythm of nature. Our focus is on birding and nature; we offer full, well-planned field days and often get up early for that magical time around dawn. We generally follow the published itinerary, but we stay flexible to the weather, wildlife opportunities and the interests of the group. Your guide will keep you apprised of the next day’s schedule at each evening meal, noting what to bring and what to prepare for. Questions and/or concerns are welcome.
The pace of our Naturalist Journeys tours is moderate; to fully participate you should be able to get in and out of vehicles several times a day, and walk 1-3 miles over uneven terrain. It is important to participate with a flexible attitude as adjustments may be made in our schedule to make the most of our time in the field or for other purposes at your guide's discretion. We are not a “listing” bird company that drills down on target species, but at times we do wait for those special species unique to the places we visit. During the day, we take time to stop for photos and for educational opportunities to learn about conservation projects, landscapes, and geology. We appreciate other taxa as well as birds, with mammals often the biggest draw but plants and butterflies are also very popular. Our clients often lend their own expertise to the mix.
We like to make meals a fun and memorable part of the experience, too. Breakfasts are often at hotels, and we carry snacks, fruit, and water in the vans each day. Lunches are a mix of picnics in the field (weather dependent) and a chance to dine with locals at small cafes and restaurants. For dinner, we pride ourselves in our homework to keep up with the best choices for dining, choosing restaurants with atmosphere that specialize in local foods. On occasion we keep dinner simple to go back out in the field for sunset wildlife viewing or night walks. In some remote locations, our choices are limited. If you are tired, room service for dinner may be an option you can choose.
Food & Drink
We carry water and juices/cold drinks in the cooler each day, and sodas if people like them. Please also plan on bringing and filling your water bottle for hiking each day. We try to use as few plastics as possible!
Packing, Clothing & Laundry
Soft sided luggage/duffel bags are easiest for packing the vans. Please pack essential medications in your carry-on luggage, as well as one day of clothing and optics in case of luggage delay.
Dress is informal and is casual even at restaurants. Layering is a great way to stay comfortable. Protective clothing is essential, whether it be from from sun, rain, cold, insects, or vegetation. You need closed toe shoes, and we comfortable walking shoes with good tread. Hiking boots with good support for hiking and on rocky terrain can work well.
Many people ask how much to plan to bring as spending money. Part of that depends on how much you want to shop. Most shops will take VISA and MasterCard or American Express. Typical items people purchase include local souvenirs and T-shirts, caps, and natural history books. You may want to bring cash for drinks with dinner (if available) or smaller local purchases.
Expect the normal tipping protocol to apply for hotel maids and bar service. If at the end of the tour, you would like to show your appreciation to your guides, tipping is entirely appropriate but at your discretion. We hope that you will be pleased with all professional services. Gratuities for group meals are included. For your birding tour guide, we suggest $10-$15 per day per guest. Note that if there is more than one guide, this amount can be split among them.
Cell Phones & Internet Service
Wi-Fi and cell phone service are available in most US destinations, although there are some exceptions in remote locations. Wi-Fi is generally provided in all hotels, lodges, and restaurants you visit, at least in public areas. Please refrain from taking or making cell phone calls in the vehicles when traveling with other passengers unless it appears to be an emergency as this disrupts other guests – please plan cell phone calls on your own time.
Smoking is not permitted in any vehicle or in any situation where the group is participating in an activity together, such as a vehicle excursion or a guided walk. Please respect all designated smoking areas at hotels and restaurants.
For this tour, your guides will drive travelers in either full-size or mini-vans or a combination of those two. We ask all attendees to please rotate your seating, so you ride with different drivers and alternate between front and back seats.
Photo Release & Sharing
We take many group photos and will share photos with the group. And after your tour, we will organize a chance to share photos via Dropbox or Google Photos. Please note that this is our policy and if you prefer to be excluded, we need to know ahead of your tour.
By registering for this tour, you agree to grant to Naturalist Journeys and its authorized representatives permission to record photos and/or video of your participation in the tour. You further agree that any or all of the material photographed may be used, in any form, as part of any future publications, brochures, or other printed materials used to promote Naturalist Journeys, and further that such use shall be without payment of fees, royalties, special credit or other compensation.
Please contact Naturalist Journeys by email at email@example.com or telephone our office: (520) 558-1146 or toll free: (866) 900-1146 if you have any questions. Many thanks for traveling with us and we hope you enjoy your journey.
Packing List +
Please Pack Light!
Soft luggage is easier for us to pack in a vehicle than a more rigid hard sided piece, so if you have the choice, please use your soft luggage. Be sure to have your name and address on the inside of the bag, as well as on the luggage tag on the handle. It is our hope that you can pack in one suitcase that does not exceed 50 pounds. Be sure to pack your personal medication, airline tickets, passport, binoculars, camera, and other essential items in your carry-on bag. You will want a daypack for field trips, so this is the ideal carry-on. We recommend checking your airline’s luggage size and weight restrictions about a week or so before your departure.
In general, the weather during your stay should be warm and dry. Average highs are in the mid-70 °F and average lows of 55-65 °F. Since weather can be unpredictable, you could still see some rain, but usually comes in short stints. Check your favorite weather website, like www.weather.com, closer to your departure to better predict what the weather will be on your adventure.
Dress is very informal. Lightweight long-sleeved shirts and long pants make ideal field clothing, as they are more protective from sun, insects, and vegetation. But if you like to wear them by all means bring some shorts. Choose clothing you don’t mind getting dirty – and things that are comfortable and easy. Layering is your best strategy for comfort.
Note on clothing colors and insect repellent: We recommend khaki or muted colors (navy, greens, gray, black, dark burgundy, or similar) as they are spotted less easily than very vivid/saturated colors (brilliant white or blue, fiery red, neon pink or green, etc.). It is possible to purchase field clothing permeated with insect repellent; two options are Craghoppers Insect Shield and Exofficio’s Bugs Away collections. Another approach is to purchase Permethrin spray (online or from REI) to treat your field clothing and socks before your departure.
Clothing & Gear
- Lightweight long pants, 2 pair
- Shorts (optional)
- Lightweight long-sleeved shirts (2-3)
- T-shirts or equivalent (4-5 – remember you may be buying some!)
- Comfortable clothes for evening (a cleaner version of your field clothes or a skirt, sundress, etc.)
- Personal underclothing and pajamas
- Socks – lightweight and easy to wash and dry
- Bathing suit (optional)
- Hat with broad brim
- Bandana (gel bandanas work well to keep you cool)
- Comfortable walking shoes (such as tennis shoes)
- Lightweight hiking boots
- Sandals for evenings, travel days (optional)
- Lightweight Jacket; fleece fabric is ideal, but a sweater or sweatshirt will do
- Lightweight raincoat or poncho
- Field vest (optional), a great source is Big Pockets, http://www.bigpockets.com/
Equipment & Miscellaneous
- PHOTO IDENTIFICATION
- Airline tickets or e-ticket verification
- Passport with copy kept elsewhere (for international travelers)
- Umbrella – compact and not brightly colored
- Small daypack or fanny pack for carrying your field gear
- Small flashlight with fresh batteries
- Alarm clock
- Sunscreen/Chapstick with SPF
- Sunglasses with neck strap
- Insect repellent
- Toilet articles
- Spotting scope and tripod (optional)
- Camera and extra batteries/battery chargers, film or digital chips, lens cleaning supplies and your instruction manual (optional)
- Tablet or laptop for personal use and/or transferring photos, USB cord and charger (optional)
- Chargers for cameras and/or phones, and three prong adapters if needed
- Water bottle (or you can use one of ours and refill during the journey)
- Notebook or journal and pen (optional)
- Field guides (optional)
- Earplugs (if hotel noise or roommates snoring may bother you; these are optional)
- Cell phone
- Rechargeable power bank (optional)
WE DO NOT RECOMMEND TRAVELING WITH PRECIOUS OR VALUABLE JEWELRY – don’t tempt anyone and don’t bring things you’d regret losing - your mind will be at ease!
Medical & First Aid Items
- Personal medications (and copy of vital prescriptions)
- Personal first aid kit and medications for general ailments (Imodium or Lomotil, Antihistamine cream or tablets, Eye drops, etc.)
- Motion sickness preventatives if likely to be needed on bus, van drives, etc.
- Copy of eyeglass prescription, medical prescriptions, Covid-19 vaccination record, and any medical alerts
- Insurance information
- Extra pair of eyeglasses or contacts
- Band-Aids, moleskin to protect against blisters
- Small bottle of antibacterial soap or hand sanitizer
Suggested Reading List +
Merlin App. A phone-based birding app from Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology. You can download it here.
Photo Instruction & Resources
History & Culture
There is a good selection of books available for sale at visitors’ centers, and your guide will also have a selection of reference books and materials for participants to share. As an Amazon Associate, Naturalist Journeys earns from qualifying purchases, and may get commissions for purchases made through links on this page at no added cost to you.
Useful Links +
The Everglades – Florida
Nature, Wildlife & Biology
Great Florida Birding Trail
The Florida Ornithological Society
Tropical Audubon Society
Eco-regions in Florida
The National Wildlife Federation - Everglades
National Park Service - Everglades
Florida Museum - Everglades
The Nature Conservancy - Everglades
Florida Audubon Society - Everglades
The Everglades Foundation
National Parks Conservation Association - Everglades
Everglades National Park
Geology & Geography
History & Culture
History & Culture of the Everglades Region
People of the Everglades – National Parks Service
People of the Everglades – Google Arts & Culture
Helpful Travel Websites
Miami International Airport (MIA)
Homeland Security Real ID Act
Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
Date & Time – Florida
Photo credits coming soon.