This is going to be quite a niche-specific article, so if you’ve stumbled in here and you aren’t interested in looking for and photographing reptiles and amphibians, the below list probably isn’t giong to be for you.
Over the years, I’ve done quite a few herping tours–from SE Asia to South America–as well as guided some myself. A lot of the people I follow on Instagram are fellow herpers, including a handful who are professional guides in various places around the world (Thailand, Indonesia, Colombia).
Some of these guides are expats who have immigrated to places like SE Asia and Central America, either with a strong amateur passion for herpetofauna and/or some kind of scientific background. Some are local people. Either way, these are folks who sell their wildlife and local geographical knowledge to enthusiasts like me for an opportunity to head out into the wild in search of reptiles, amphibians and anything else you are fortunate to illuminate with a flashlight beam.
Trying to decide on optics or outdoor gear for an upcoming trip? Checkout my detailed breakdowns of everything from boots to flashlights to snake gaiters and more.
Most of these people run their guiding businesses through Instagram (perhaps alongside a website). They post their finds regularly (some of them daily) and advertise upcoming tours.
I thought I would put together a short list of some of the accounts I follow and create a repository of social media-based guides in this insular little niche of ours. I hope this is a work in progress, where I add new accounts and opportunities as I encounter them.
It seems a growing number of people around the world are becoming interested in seeing, protecting and helping others find and photograph reptiles and amphibians–some of the most imperilled creatures on earth–as well as recognizing the economic opportunity that comes with the specialized local knowledge required to guide (especially people with few attractive economic opportunities in places like Latin America). I expect there to be more people and small businesses added to this list over time.
Here’s the list.
Table of Contents
Southeast Asia is a place that I’ve been coming back to for years. I’ve spent many hundreds of hours herping the forests of Southern Thailand, Malaysian Borneo and West Papua Indonesia–on my own, with herping friends and as an occasional guide.
The diversity of habitats, the sheer number of species and the relative safety of Southeast Asian wild areas (compared to other places I have herped (like Mexico, Guatemala and Colombia) has drawn me back for the past 7 years, and I can’t foresee ever stopping.
Here are some of the best herping guides and tours in the region.
- Geographic focus: Peninsular Malaysia, Malaysian Borneo
Orion Herp Adventure has been guiding fieldherping tours in Peninsular Malaysia, as well as Malaysian Borneo for years and they are a well-known guiding outfit in the region.
You can book both single-day and week-long trips.
- Geographic focus: Thailand, they are in the process of developing excursions further afield in SE Asia.
Explore Herpetology is a collective of reptile experts and enthusiasts dedicated to providing the highest quality herping experiences in Asia. They cater to a diverse range of herpers, from enthusiastic first-timers to seasoned herpetologists in search of rare reptiles.
I’ve spent, cumulatively, around a year-and-a-half in Thailand over the last six years, and I’ve done a lot of herping. I like to think I’ve found and photographed a lot of species, but these guys are next level.
Spend a few minutes perusing their Instagram, and you’ll see what I mean. The sheer number, as well as the number of rarities they encounter all over the country is insane.
They also go to places that no one else goes–particularly Narathiwat and Yala in the far south of Thailand.
Their tours to these places sell out quick, and for good reason. Go out into the field with these guys, and you are all but guaranteed to have your mind blown by a crazy number of reptile, amphibian and invertebrate species.
You might also find yourself inadvertently participating in the discovery of a new species or a new range addition for a species. Explore Herpetology actively seeks opportunities to contribute to scientific knowledge, and past expeditions have resulted in significant discoveries, such as new country records, the rediscovery of species believed to be lost for decades, and substantial range extensions.
- Geographic focus: Thailand
Another of Thailand’s most famous herping and general wildlife guiding outfits, if you go out with these guys, you are not only going to add some serious herps to your list, but mammals as well.
A lot of their tours are to the world-famous Kaeng Krachan National Park, around 75km from the province of Hua Hin. This is one of the best places for both mammal watching and herping in Thailand.
- Geographic focus: Palawan, Philippines
At first glance Wild Palawan Expeditions (especially from their Instagram) Wild Palawan Expeditions does not look like a serious herping outfit. Most of their publicity is promoting their general tourist packages (a lot of which are centred around things like swimming with Whale Sharks in Palawan).
They do, however, organize some fairly rigorous herping trips around Palawan (one of the most forested areas of the Philippines), and regularly post stunners to Facebook herping groups.
Check out this gorgeous Schult’z Pitviper:
- Geographic focus: India
It’s quite difficult to find herping guides in India, especially herping outfits led by local biologists with so much experience in the field.
Ecophis Wildlife is run by Indian wildlife conservation biologist Yatin Kalki and wildlife photographer Vikas Kumar. They run expeditions throughout all of India’s most herp-rich regions, including the Thar Desert, Agumbe and Wayanad.
The Neotropics (Central and South America)
The first place I went when I began working remotely back in 2016 was Colombia. It was a place I had always fantasized about–it’s Pacific, Amazonian and Andean valley wet forests; it’s Orinoco wetlands and mountainous Caribbean coast.
I have also herped Costa Rica and Panama, Mexico, Guatemala, and Ecuador. I’ve spent cumulative years of my life in Central and South America and the abundance and diversity are unsurpassed anywhere else in the world.
Here are some of the best herping guides in the Americas.
- Geographic focus: Yucatan and Quintana Roo
Ichi Wildlife Tours offers bespoke birding, mammal watching and herping tours in Yucatan, Campeche and Quintana Roo Mexico.
If you’re looking to see regional endemics and access places like Calakmul, these are your guys.
- Geographic focus: Mexico
It’s hard to come across herping guides in Mexico. This is a place where you really need a lot of local knowledge to navigate the very complicated social and political landscape, and much of the country is probably not safe to herp.
These guys plan expeditions to places like Lacandon in Chiapas, Michoacan, Veracruz and other parts of the country with incredible herp diversity but quite a ways off the beaten path.
- Geographic focus: Guatemala
Indigo Expeditions is run by conservation biologist Rowland Griffin, someone with extensive experience throughout Guatemala (particularly in the Maya Biosphere Reserve).
If you are looking for herps in Guate, there really isn’t a better herpetofauna authority.
- Geographic focus: Costa Rica
CR Wild is definitely the biggest herpetofauna guiding small business in Costa Rica and is quickly becoming one of the bigger ones in Central America.
Led by Spanish Anthropologist César L. Barrio-Amoró, they now organize trips to Colombia, Guatemala, and Mexico, as well as both Atlantic and Pacific Slope Costa Rican herping expeditions.
They’re another group of guys who really put in the hours and seem to find nearly all of the superstar species everywhere they go. They also, like other outfits on this list, contribute to conservation and furthering scientific knowledge and understanding when and where they can.
- Geographic focus: Monteverde
Wildlife Journey’s CR is led by Costa Rican wildlife photographer Jean Bonilla with a focus on both birds and herps.
- Geographic focus: Caribbean
Herping Expedition CR is run by Costa Rican wildlife photographer and guide Andrey Solís. It is based out of Saripiqui in Heredia.
Geographic focus: Corcovado National Park (and trips to the Brazilian Pantanal)
Wildlife By Luis is run by Costa Rican wildlife photographer Luis Acuña, who is based out of Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula.
He’s definitely a generalist, which you can clearly see from his Instagram profile, but like most Costa Rican guides, they have a very good knowledge of their country/region’s gorgeous herpetofauna.
- Geographic focus: Panama
Go Herping Panama is a biologist-led, conservation-focused herping tour operator. They are one, if not the only Panama-based tour company that specializes in Panamanian herps.
- Geographic focus: The Chocó-Darién wet forests of Nuqui on the Pacific Coast of Colombia.
Nuqui, on the isolated Pacific Coast of Colombia, is somewhere I first went back in 2018 and have been dying to go back ever since.
Nuqui Herping is a relatively new, community and family-based small business run by local Chocoan people with a passion for herpetofauna and conservation.
They post on Instagram almost every day, and it’s back-to-back stunners (especially the dart frogs and harlequin frogs). The entire Pacific Coast of Colombia, from Buena Ventura to Bahia Solano, is dart frog heaven (especially for endemics), and Nuqui is no exception.
I already pointed one Spanish herper friend in their direction this past July, and he was very happy with the experience.
One thing to note, if you’re considering heading out with these guys, is the language barrier. I’ve communicated over Instagram chat with Nuqui Herping a few times (in Spanish), but I’m not too sure about their level of English. One of the great things about herping, though, is that it’s a universal language. Excitement (and shared Latin names, of course) transcends language barriers.
- Geographic focus: at present, Colombia’s Pacific Coast (for frogs) and the Magdalena wet forests.
Birding and Herping is a Colombian wildlife tour company based out of Quindío specializing in herpetofauna, birds and mammals.
A wholly-owned Colombian enterprise, they pride themselves on involving local communities, keeping conservation at the forefront of all their tours and their intimate knowledge of the local terrain, flora and fauna in all the places they visit.
- Geographic focus: Colombia (unspecified).
Herping in Colombia is primarily focused on frogs, although where there are frogs, there are other herpetofauna, so I’m confident that you would likely be able to customize your tour to suit your primary interests and targets.
- Geographic focus: The Chocó-Darién wet forest around Bahia Solano, Colombia
Another community-based Colombian Pacific Coast herping outfit, these guys are based out of the slightly more northern community (59km from Nuqui as the crow flies) of Bahia Solano.
Like Nuqui, it is also quite isolated, reachable either by slow ferry or a charter flight.
These guys also find a TON. Think of the most gorgeous endemic dart frogs from the Colombian Pacific and the most stunning coral mimics of the Chocó-Darién ecoregion, and these guys find them on a seemingly regular basis.
As with the Nuqui Herping guys, I’m not too sure what kind of language barrier you can expect with Herping Bahia Solano Tour.
- Geographic focus: Putumayo, Colombia
Diego Rocha is someone I’ve wanted to go out herping with for a while but have never had the time while I’ve been in Colombia.
He’s based out of my absolute favourite part of Colombia–Putumayo–and while he’s not specifically a herpetofauna guide (although he does concentrate primarily on frogs), he’s someone with a good knowledge of both the local terrain and the local wildlife across all animal groups.
Colombia is one of those places where you can’t just wander the forests on your own for obvious security reasons, and you typically need someone with both local knowledge and local connections to access private land with significant patches of forest and wetlands on it.
The Colombian Amazon is just a mess when it comes to safety and deforestation, so having someone like Diego as a guide and resource is invaluable.
- Geographic focus: Latin America-based with several international trips as well.
Maybe one of the most well-known herping tour guides and outfits in the world, Tropical Herping is the project of Ecuadorian biologist and world-renowned wildlife conservation photojournalist Lucas Bustamante.
They organize trips all over the world, from Borneo to Madagascar to Belize to Sri Lanka, and it’s been a dream of mine to one day join them on one of their tours.
Tropical Herping is a conservation-first business model that funds its projects and operations via tourism. It is definitely going to be the most expensive experience on this list, just FYI, but the company, their photography and their reviews speak for themselves if you’re a serious herper.
- Geographic location: Ecuador (but also Colombia and Costa Rica)
Since 2016, Photo Wildlife Tours, a team of biologists and naturalists, have provided a unique service, not only capturing wildlife but also sharing insights into their behaviour. Your participation in their trips actively contributes to various conservation programs they champion.
- Geographic focus: Atlantic Forest, Amazon, Cerrado
Offering both herping expeditions and primate safaris, Latin Wild Expeditions is run by Brazilian wildlife photographer and videographer Rafael Guadeluppe.
- Geographic focus: Suriname
Suriname is the most forested country on earth and a herping mecca. This is a place where rainbow boas, emerald tree boas, anacondas and the craziest Amazon tree boa morphs are common occurences as far as the Amazon basin goes.
A difficult country to get to, Herping Suriname is the brainchild of environmentalist and herpetofauna enthusiast Dick Locke who has been helping and exploring the jungles of Suriname for over a decade.
I will be building this list out over time, so it will continue to grow.
If anyone has recommendations for herping tour additions or perhaps would even like to be added themselves, feel free to let me know so that I can grow this into as comprehensive a resource as possible.
If you appear on this list and would like me to add (or remove something) I’ve written, you can also let me know.