On a shoe-string budget in the summer of 1990, we formed Eco-Expeditions and were the only two employees. During those early days we worked non-stop; we designed the itineraries and brochures, we marketed the trips, we led the expeditions, and, when each trip concluded, we wrote the “welcome home” letters. In the fall when Werner and Susan Zehnder suggested that we join forces with Jack Grove and Mike Messick to form a travel company, Zegrahm Expeditions, we reminded them that we already had Eco. Being a masterful thinker and businessman, Werner suggested that Zegrahm could do all the paperwork for Eco while we were in the field leading trips. Peter and I subscribed to the notion that “A bad day in the field was better than a good day in the office” and so we made the best decision of our lives.
Eco-Expeditions’ trips were designed as small-group, land-based adventures to areas of the world that are remote and rarely, if ever, visited. Our Botswana safaris were to areas with limited access and thus never failed to produce leopards, cheetahs, and wild dogs. On our Uganda safaris, we trekked into the forest for amazing encounters with mountain gorillas. In India, we combined the Taj Mahal with phenomenal birding and tiger-viewing by elephant-back and 4x4 vehicles. Mongolia we referred to as the ‘land of the near and the far’ because without scale it was impossible to measure heights and distances in the Gobi.
For the first several years, Peter and I traveled nine months of the year leading trips for both Eco and Zegrahm. We had so many other exciting trips that we wanted to create but we couldn’t figure out how to be in two places at the same time. And so the first of many great Eco-Expeditions leaders joined our team; some of whom have been with us now for over 15 years.
Lex Hes, the author of Leopards of Londolozi, is a brilliant naturalist who leads our Botswana, Madagascar, and Zambia safaris. With the unflappable Gary Wintz, a friend of the Dalai Lama, we designed our Tibet, Burma & Laos, Iran, Western Himalayas, and other cultural itineraries. Mark Brazil, a Brit who lives in Japan and owns a home in New Zealand, is the leader of Eco’s popular Snow Monkeys & Cranes expedition to Japan, Wild India, and Best of Brazil (no pun intended). Kevin Clement, our resident mountaineer (He lives within the boundaries of Denali National Park!), leads our Patagonia and Alaska My Way expeditions. And how can we describe our esteemed colleague, Jonathan Rossouw? A medical doctor by profession, he is a passionate naturalist, world-class birder, and expert snorkeling guide. You name it, Jonathan does it; there doesn’t seem to be anything he can’t do.
We look forward to the next 20 years starting with 2011 when we will lead a memorable voyage to the Azores with the Canary Islands and a land excursion to Morocco. That year we will also lead two voyages to Antarctica, South Georgia, and Falkland Islands, plus a Ross Sea voyage to visit emperor penguin colonies aboard the Russian icebreaker, Kapitan Khlebnikov, on her penultimate voyage. We wouldn’t miss this historic expedition for the world.
The spirit of Eco-Expeditions continues with our small, intimate group of travelers exploring Wild India with Mark Brazil for further thrilling tiger encounters from the backs of elephants. Gary Wintz will once again be sharing cultural delights with travelers in Burma and Laos and a new trekking itinerary to Bhutan. Lex Hes will continue the Eco tradition of seeking out leopards, lions, and wild dogs on his Back to Africa with Lex Hes expedition (we haven’t missed in 20 years). And, Jonathan, will be traveling the world to find gorillas in Uganda, while Kevin charters new Eco territory in Nicaragua and Panama.
The past 20 years have been exceptional. Peter and I have had the opportunity of working alongside great friends in addition to making new ones; we have visited some of the wildest places on our planet; and we have contributed to global conservation issues and worthy causes—how could we be more fortunate?