Yep. We’re Different Than the Other Guys!
At Wild Departures, we do things a little different.
- We try whenever possible to extend single travelers or couples the same rate, except in Katmai or Kaktovik where single accommodations are not available. No penalties for traveling solo. We don’t believe you should have to share a room if you don’t want to. Please inquire.
- We offer a 100% sighting guarantee on many of our wildlife excursions. Depending on the trip, you can get back your initial deposit or 10% of the trip cost (if no deposit was required) if we don’t deliver.
- Most of our trips include a framed, complimentary image of your own photo from the trip (or one of ours if you prefer), shipped to your home following your return (international shipping when available is extra).
- We’re a wildlife viewing company, but we also guarantee you’ll return home with great photos. Our guides are professional wildlife photographers, so instruction (in the field and post-processing) is included for all guests as an optional offering. Whether you shoot with an SLR or an iPhone, you’ll return home with exceptional images.
- We believe in small groups. Hey, we’re not cattle, and with Wild Departures, you’re not just another tourist. Small groups allow us to give personal attention to each guest, including one-on-one image review or instruction upon request.
- We specialize in total immersion, meaning we offer plenty of time in the field with the wildlife you came to see. Yes, you (or your travel companion) can choose other activities if you get bored of bears, bald eagles, polar bears, or cheetahs. That said: Our ideal guest wants to be surrounded by a specific species for as many days and hours as possible. This gives you the opportunity to study animal or bird behavior, fully experience and understand their habitat, and get images in varying light and weather conditions.
- We book places years in advance to secure spots for our guests that sell out because of the venue and dates we’ve selected for maximum wildlife numbers and activity. Most of our selected venues have no availability during prime wildlife dates, including our polar bear trips, which are booked for dates which maximize opportunities for snow, and allow visitors to stay in a lodge on the tundra with the bears, rather than commuting in and out every day on a slow-moving tundra vehicle. These are the details (and insider knowledge) that matter and, though we try to keep our prices reasonable, we won’t sacrifice our customers’ experiences to save a few bucks.
- You don’t have to be a photographer to come on these trips, but you DO have to love wildlife and want to see it and spend time with it.
- We have FUN. We laugh, a lot. We endeavor to make each trip as enjoyable as possible.
- We’re woman-owned. LGBTQ friendly. All are welcome on our trips, regardless of your race, religion, orientation, political views, dietary restrictions, etc.
Wild Departures grew out of another venture of ours, Creative Conferences. Creative Conferences began in 2007 to provide nature and wildlife lovers the opportunity to learn from professional travel and outdoor writers and photographers AND from the publishers who buy their work. In our nine-year history, we’ve had National Geographic and Outside magazine photo editors on staff discussing their work and letting attendees in on the best places to go, along with photography and journaling tips. Pulitzer Prize winning authors and National Magazine Award winners have taught our writing classes. Many of our former alums have gone on to get articles and photos published in Shape, National Geographic, The New York Times and Outside. But the connecting thread at all of the conferences has been inspiring people to enjoy nature and wildlife across the world and to share it with others through words and images, whether that be through a slideshow at home, framed images on your wall, on Facebook or in a national magazine.
Twenty-four years of working as a travel writer and photographer have allowed our founder, Michelle Theall, to access all things of fur and fin. But it’s her work in Alaska that drove her to start Wild Departures. As a professional photographer and the former editor-in-chief of Alaska Magazine, Theall explored every nook and cranny of the state. She often heard readers voice frustrations about coming to Alaska and not seeing wildlife. Bucket list items like grizzlies and wolves went unchecked. Her desire to place travelers in the middle of the best wildlife viewing spots at the ideal times of year resulted in the creation of Wild Departures. She then expanded her offerings to include other wildlife hotspots, keeping groups small in order to preserve the intimacy and wonder of the natural environment.
To Contact Us: Michelle@michelletheall.com
Rave Reviews from our Trips:
Rave Reviews from the 2016 Alaska Tour:
“I loved the trip because of the unique experiences and the close encounters with the landscapes and the wildlife – wonderful and lasting memories created!”
Testimonials From Other Trips and Conferences
Attendees were asked to rate the overall conference as poor, fair, good, great, or excellent. Over 98% rated the conference great to excellent, and 98% said they would definitely attend a conference like this one again. Here are just a few of the things our past attendees have said about their Conference experience:
I attended the 2007 Magazine Writer’s Conference, and met with Janet Lee from Shape magazine for one of my “editor speed dates.” I told her about an article idea I had, and she suggested I refine it and pitch an FOB article on the topic. I sent a pitch to her in October, and today, I received an e-mail from another Shape editor. Janet passed the pitch along to her, and she wants the article! It’s due Monday and will be in the June issue — I’m psyched! Kathie
Comments from our Travel Writing and Photography Conference, September 12-14:
To my new friends from the writer’s conference last week, here is a link to a piece I wrote about meeting Chris Keyes of Outside magazine last weekend on my blog. Hope you all gained inspiration from the conference. Stay in touch, all the best. John J.
Comments from our Photography Conference, April 11-13:
One of the best professional and personal investments I’ve made in a long time.
I just can’t believe the big names that were in attendance!
I’m very pleased to have discovered this conference. It has given me a remarkable perspective on professional photography in an incredibly short amount of time.
Well worth the price of admission.
Exactly what I’d hoped it would be. Great exposure to and advice from the top professionals in the field in a warm, friendly, and encouraging environment.
You did an excellent job of setting up an informative and entertaining conference. The speakers were great!
The networking I have made with such wonderful people will have a ripple effect on my future.
Everything was presented in such a cool and relaxed way.
Great intimate feel with a vast amount of useful info.” “Your chance to focus on your work, finally create a portfolio, and sell!
Learning how different the requirements were for each magazine was a tremendous piece of knowledge.
Please thank your speakers. For them to take the time to mentor us all was a fantastic sharing of their talents!
You will never know for yourself that this conference is where you need to be until you get here and experience it for yourself. Come and be taught by some of the industry’s best.
This is the second Creative Conference I have attended (put on by this organization), and I would highly recommend it to any photographer who is interested in taking their craft to a higher level.
This seminar exceeded anything I could imagine! – Julia Vandenoever
Worthwhile for enthusiast to professional! Full of practical tips, great insights, and inspiring stories!
So worth it! Thanks!
It’s a great kick in the pants to shoot more, develop yourself, and stop being afraid of photo editors.
As a testimony to the quality of your speakers…Sadie (keynote from National Geographic) was EXCELLENT, but your other speakers were equal or even better.
The strength of this conference was the accessibility of the presenters. Wonderful conference!
Very informative and FUN!
It’s wonderful to be with people who share the same passion!
Great to have the one-on-one time to meet with such amazing people.
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
Quotes about …….
Corey Rich – professional adventure photographer / Aurora Photo
“Superb! Funny and down to earth!”
“Inspired me to gain my own experiences to document my own adventures.”
“Entertaining. Very fun, talented.”
Sadie Quarrier – Keynote Speaker / National Geographic senior photo editor
“Outstanding photo presentation. Would love to see more!”
“AMAZING! A picture really is worth a thousand words.”
“Perfect ending to the day.”