Gerry van der Walt, Wild Eye, Wildlife Photography

When was your last first time?

Gerry van der Walt All Authors, Gerry Leave a Comment

Seriously, when was the last time that you took an image of a wildlife species for the first time?

There is an undeniable thrill to seeing and photographing a brand new species.  Yes, it’s great for your portfolio and all that but the experience is just next level awesome.  I remember a few years ago I was in Lake Nakuru hosting one of our Big Cats & Tuskers safari when we, having just left the lodge, were driving along and next minute Jimmy slammed on the brakes and calmly said “Striped Hyena”.

Now up until this point, not having seen one of these animals in more than 13 years of guiding,  I considered Striped Hyena to fall in the same category as unicorns and the Loch Ness monster but there it was, next to the road just going about it’s morning.  The images my guests and I got weren’t great as the light was still very low but I will always remember this sighting.

Gerry van der Walt, Wild Eye, Wildlife Photography

In the same breath, I recall vividly every single detail of my first ever Polar Bear sighting.  It was, cliched as it sounds, a moment I will never forget.

Gerry van der Walt, Wild Eye, Wildlife Photography

Last year was a big year for me and I did a LOT of traveling while hosting Wild Eye safaris in not only Africa but in Svalbard and British Columbia making for amazing memories with guests, incredible photography and a number of firsts.

In no particular order, here are the new wildlife species that I had the pleasure and privilege of seeing and photographing with my safari and expedition guests for the first time last year.

Mountain Gorilla

Gerry van der Walt, Wild Eye, Wildlife Photography

There is a reason that so many people have gorillas at the top of of their wildlife bucket lists.  Spending an hour with these iconic animals makes for an experience that few other nature experiences will rival.


Gerry van der Walt, Wild Eye, Wildlife Photography

Spending a day with a family of Chimpanzees will give you more photographic opportunities than you could ever dream of and watching their behavior, their interactions and the way they look at you will remind you that we share 98% of the same DNA.

Grizzly Bear

Gerry van der Walt, Wild Eye, Wildlife Photography

Even if you’ve never seen a Grizzly Bear, deep down you know these animals are powerful, impressive and truly iconic.  When you see it for the first time, you’ll know it’s true.

Black Bear

Gerry van der Walt, Wild Eye, Wildlife Photography

Being a lot smaller than grizzlies doesn’t take away from the magic of seeing a Black Bear in its natural environment.  Their dark coats make for challenging photography and seeing one of these black ghosts moving through the lush forests of British Columbia is truly special.

Spirit Bear

Gerry van der Walt, Wild Eye, Wildlife Photography

With less than 300 of these animals in the entire world, spending two days up close and personal with them ranks as one of my top three wildlife experiences ever.

This year I will once again be hosting safaris and expeditions to go in search of all of the above species. Let me know if you’re keen for an adventure.  The thing I look forward to most is sharing the experience with my guests and being a part of their first time seeing and photographing some of the world’s most unique and iconic species out in the wild.

Whether a polar bear or a lion, a spirit bear or an elephant; when was the last time you saw and photographed a new species for the first time?

Until next time.


About the Author

Gerry van der Walt

I am a private and specialist photographic safari guide, public speaker, co founder of Wild Eye and wildlife photographer. Visit my website at or follow my journey on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter a look forward to changing the way you see the world.  I also host a Wildlife Photography Podcast and I Vlog!

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