In this article, we’re going to lay out the three gear investments you should consider making if you are serious about increasing your reach, followers and bookings on Instagram. For around $1000 USD, you can put together a serious content creation arsenal in the nature and wildlife travel niche.
We help businesses in the nature and wildlife travel industry--eco-lodges, birding lodges, bio stations, dive resorts, liveaboards, and wildlife guides–promote their businesses on Instagram and these are the three things that I always recommend to individuals and businesses looking to invest in content.
In the nature and wildlife travel industry, potential clients want to see what you can show them and what your property has to offer. This is how people make a decision.
If you’re a birdwatching lodge in the Amazon, potential visitors want a taste of what they can expect to see when visiting. If you’re a dive resort specializing in macro diving in Bali, people don’t want to just hear about the diversity while browsing dive resorts; they want to see what you see on your dives.
Failing to understand this is to fail to understand the primacy of first-hand visual content when integrating Instagram (your most important social media lead generation tool) into your sales funnel.
Let’s get into it.
Table of Contents
Gear Item 1: A Drone
If you are serious about promoting your nature and wildlife travel business, you need a drone. Nothing shows off the majesty of your property or the sites you visit like aerial footage. You can even bring the drone down to eye level and create stunning “virtual tour” effects for potential visitors, taking them through trails or alongside boats and vehicles.
Check out some of the shots in the video below that we put together for the launch of The Nature Traveller’s Handbook: 150 Research Stations and Private Reserves to Visit Before You Die. It’s a supercut of some of my favourite nature and wildlife travel experiences from the past ten years.
That was all shot on my DJI Mini 2. I really like DJI; I think they’re the best consumer drone company out there. The Mini 2 is a good combination of price and quality. You can shoot very nice cinematic 30fps 4k footage, but there are other (better) drone options out there if you are willing to spend more money.
Some other options are:
A drone will be one of the best investments in your business you make. With it, you have a source of non-stop video footage (i.e., Instagram reels) and everything you need to create compelling promotional material.
Check out this video from Master Reef Guides (a snorkel and dive agency on the Great Barrier Reef).
This took them probably 5 minutes to set up and shoot. Editing and posting definitely took longer and more expertise.
But the lesson here is, if I were someone debating which tour company to spend my money with, I’d almost certainly go with the one that did the best job putting me right in the middle of the action before I even booked.
I opted for the Mini 2 because I’m always on the road, and it’s very small. It also shot 4k, 30fps, which is really all you need to shoot professional-looking cinematic shots–which is what I (and my clients) need.
The battery life on the Mini 2 isn’t great (around 25 minutes before you get the return to home alarm), and its sensors are fairly rudimentary compared to the Mini 3 and other more expensive DJIs (so more chance of crashing). It’s also quite small, so be careful flying it in any sort of wind.
It’s definitely worth getting another battery if you opt for the Mini 2.
Gear Item 2: A Trail Cam
A trail cam (or wildlife cam) is a device set up by conservationists, ranchers, hunters, and, increasingly, nature and wildlife lodges and reserves, to monitor and survey wildlife.
It is also a great source of first-hand documentation of the wildlife in and around your property and any sites you may visit with guests. It shows anyone considering visiting that there are great sightings to be had and is also a great source of never-ending content.
Check out this video of a couple of male coatis fighting posted by one of my favourite accounts I follow, Guanacaste Wildlife Monitoring.
All this guy does is set up trail cams and post the footage. I reached out and asked him what camera he used to capture this particular video because I wanted to pick one up for myself, and he said it was the Browning Recon Force.
I ended up getting the Browning Dark Ops because I was in Mexico at the time, and the Recon Force wouldn’t ship there.
If you operate a private reserve or are a professional field guide (especially for mammals), a trail cam is a great piece of kit to showcase your area. You will have to go through the footage to find clips that are suitable to post, but they get a ton of engagement on Instagram.
Bear in mind that none of the consumer-grade wildlife cameras offer premium-quality footage. My Dark Ops records in 720p, but the footage is still great. Some of the Brownings–like the Strike Force Pro and the Recon Force–record in 1080p, but once you start talking about 4k, the prices skyrocket.
All of the Browning trail cams I’ve used are very easy to operate, durable and simple to set up. Here’s a great article by wildlife photographer Will Nicholls on setting up a camera trap.
Important note about trail cams
In my experience, these are the most important features of a trail camera:
- Video and photo quality
- night vision
- Which side the display is on
- Red light
Video and photo quality is self-explanatory. If you want higher-resolution images and videos, then you need to spend more money.
Most camera traps are going to have night vision that allows you to capture nighttime stills and video.
Some camera traps have a display screen on the camera side of the device. I don’t like this because it emits a light that animals might see and be spooked by.
Pay attention to whether there is a red light on the front of your trail cam as well. When I was deciding which one to get, I spoke to people who monitor wildlife for a living, and they all said to avoid anything with both a light-emitting screen or a sensor light on the front.
Animals see it, and it might frighten them away. I also read people in comment sections saying that the light either a) had no effect or b) it actually made some animals more curious and want to approach.
In the end, I opted for something with no light. If you look at my trail camera, you will see it doesn’t have any screen or red light on the front. Just a sensor and a camera.
Gear Item 3: An Action Cam
An action cam refers to small, durable, mountable cameras designed to capture “action.” The GoPro and the DJI Osmo series are the two best-known and most widely used.
They are great for:
- Birding lodges (placing next to feeders or feeding areas).
- Dive shops and liveaboards (they are really tailor-made for underwater filming).
- Any adventure or outdoor travel brands (they shoot high-quality, cinematic footage that looks professional even on auto).
Check out these two videos I shot on my DJI Osmo 3 at a Biostation in Guatemala (the slow-motion setting is particularly fun, and simple to use).
Other action cam options
I went with the Osmo 3 because the 4 wasn’t out yet, and I opted for it over the GoPro Hero 11 (the DJI 3’s direct competitor) because it has a better depth rating (16m for the Osmo 3 vs 10m for the Hero 11) and I live to dive/free dive.
It will pay off investing in your business
For around $1000 USD, you can put together a video content creation arsenal that will allow you to capture the kinds of nature and wildlife scenes that entice visitors to follow you on social media, recommend you to friends and family, and, if you’ve got the rest of your sales funnel right, increase bookings.