Mayakoba, National Geographic photographers and Ride Into Birdland team-up for “Wildlife Photo Master Class Weekends”

We have talked before in Ride Into Birdland about a unique location for bird photography in the Yucatan Peninsula: Mayakoba. I have written here and here about the pleasurable experience of being waterborne on six miles of pristine canals, photographing from the comfort of a quiet electric boat as birds display their colors for the camera.

A Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) provides a splashing performance for my camera on the waters of Mayakoba. (Photo Ivan Gabaldon).

It was not by accident that developers achieved something so remarkable in Mayakoba, blending two concepts that could seem as easy to mix as oil and water: luxury hotels and nature preservation. A multi-disciplinary team of biologists, geologists, engineers and architects was actually sent to live on the property long before development started, to be imbued with a true sense of its biological richness.  What they envisioned for these 240 square hectares of land and Caribbean shoreline turned out to be much more than a run-of-the-mill “sea-and-sand” resort. Present-day guests at Mayakoba’s Fairmont, Banyan Tree and Rosewood hotels share the grounds with some 200 species of flora and fauna and are able to experience tropical rainforest, cenotes, mangroves, dunes and pristine canals fed by underground waters that flow into the sea. The resort has garnered recognition from bodies such as the U.N. World Tourism Organization and the Rainforest Alliance.

Now, and here comes today’s BIG announcement, Mayakoba has decided to arrange something very special for bird photography enthusiasts: National Geographic contract-photographers Steve Winter, Tim Laman and Brian Skerry are scheduled to kick off a new series of  Wildlife Photo MasterClass weekends, three-day experiences aimed at photographers of all levels who will benefit from lectures, daily photo-outings and one-on-one contact with these recognized masters of nature photography. The first two weekends have already been scheduled for December 6-9, 2013 and January 24-27, 2014. Additional dates throughout 2014 will soon be announced.

Again in Mayakoba, a Snowy Egret (Egretta alba) seems to dance on the tips of yellow gloves. (Photo Ivan Gabaldon).

This is wonderful news. We are firm believers in the Yucatan Peninsula’s great potential for bird and nature related tourism, and also keenly aware of the Peninsula’s need to reach top-of-mind positioning among international nature-loving travelers. Customers who demand nature-conscious tourism can provide, by virtue of their spending choices, a much-needed counter balance to the trite concepts of mass tourism (as exemplified by the predatory development evident in, but not exclusive to, the Cancún area).

Exciting new offerings like the Wildlife Photo MasterClass Weekends are bold moves in the right direction, mixing wonderful locations with high-level accommodations and the human touch of some of the world’s most talented nature photo-journalists. In this age of social networks and TripAdvisor, nothing speaks better for a destination than beautiful photography, and we can foresee many great photographs traveling through the WWW as a result of the Photo Weekends.

On top of such good news we’ve been invited to join the Wildlife Photo MasterClass Weekends, providing local know-how and additional support for students and lecturing photographers. I will be writing about this experience, as it promises opportunities to expand our knowledge, interact with people who are very passionate about nature and photography, spread the word about bird photography in the Yucatan and have a great time while doing all of the above. I want to THANK James Batt, Mayakoba’s number one bird enthusiast, for making us part of a project that started with his own love of bird photography. See a selection of his images on his Flickr gallery, it recently logged 20,000 clicks from people visiting, through his photographs, the birds and ecosystems of Mayakoba.

Pure form and function, an Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) dives in front of our boat. (Photo © Ivan Gabaldon).

Today’s post is not the last you will hear about this project. I plan to provide full coverage of the experience as it evolves and will attempt to interview each Master Photographer for our readers. In the meantime, be dazzled by their amazing work at the following links:

Steve Winter’s website, and his National Geographic profile.

Tim Laman’s website, his Wildlife Diaries and his National Geographic profile.

Brian Skerry’s website and his National Geographic profile.




Included below is information released by Mayakoba about available packages. For additional information and bookings, please contact Banyan Tree Mayakoba directly.

The “Wildlife Photo Master Class” Package includes:
* Three-nights accommodation in an exclusive Garden Pool Villa at Banyan Tree Mayakoba.
* One-on-one guidance and review from professional photographers on composition, lighting, metering, equipment and how to achieve the “wow factor”.
* Welcome conference, photography workshops and closing lecture where students can showcase their work from the weekend.
* Daily waterborne and walking excursions through the waterways and mangrove jungles of Mayakoba.
*Excursions to the nearby reserves and heritage sites providing opportunity to photograph the iconic “Mot-Mot” bird as well as Mayan ruins.
* Daily breakfast, a lunch and two dinners at Banyan Tree Mayakoba’s award-winning restaurants.
Dates: December 6-9, 2013 and January 24-27, 2014, with additional 2014 dates to be confirmed shortly. Reservations are extremely limited.
Price: Packages start at U.S. $ 4,158 for three nights, plus taxes and fees. Rate is per Villa and based on double occupancy. A minimum stay of three nights is required.





In 2014, by James Batt’s invitation, I will again be providing support and local knowledge for Brian, Steve, Tim and all participating photographers during these great photo experiences devoted to nature photography. Availability is limited, click on the image for more information. (Updated Jun 29, 2014. IGH)

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One Response to Mayakoba, National Geographic photographers and Ride Into Birdland team-up for “Wildlife Photo Master Class Weekends”

  1. Pingback: REVIEW: Riviera Maya Pro Photographer and bird expert Ivan Gabaldon details his experience at the first WPM workshop at Mayakoba.

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