Saturday, 2 September 2017

Graduate to Grown-Up: Lisle

Lisle, age 27.
Studied Geography at Plymouth University,
graduated in 2010. 

What did you want to do when you graduated from university?
Originally, when I finished my undergrad degree and left Plymouth University, I wanted to go deep into academia, with a Master's and PhD being the jump off points. So, the aim at that point was to make my way into academia via, ideally, field based research in conservation / zoology. 

What did you actually do?
I'm now an international bird/wildlife and photography tour leader for two of the best natural history tour and expedition companies in the world. Both roles involve leading tours (usually 2 or more weeks in length) with a focus on either seeing as much wildlife as possible, or coming away with as many exceptional photos as possible. One of the companies, Heritage Expeditions, runs ship-based expeditions through the Pacific so I work predominantly in the Russian Far East, Melanesia, the Subantarctic Islands of New Zealand, and the Ross Sea region of East Antarctica. For the main company I work for, Tropical Birding, I lead tours in places like South Africa, Namibia, Australia, Papua New Guinea, India, Morocco, Ecuador and Costa Rica, to name just a few. Typically I travel 300+ days a year. 

How did you get there, and what's the journey been like?
I began guiding by getting a job on the Portsmouth to Santander (Spain) ferry, showing passengers whales, dolphins and whatever other wildlife I could. I was then awarded a Masters scholarship at the Percy Fitzpatrick Institute of African Ornithology at the University of Cape Town. During my time at UCT I discovered that I didn't want to be office-based, I didn't really enjoy scientific field work, but I did want to go birding and photograph all day every day. That was the beginning. Next I applied for an Enderby Trust scholarship which each year allows a couple of young people aged 18-30 to join one of Heritage Expeditions' flagship expeditions. I joined the one-off 'South Pacific Odyssey' for which we sailed from New Zealand to the Solomon Islands, visiting various islands in The Kermadecs, Tonga, Fiji and Vanuatu along the way. The trip was heavily wildlife and photography focussed, and it was here that I met one of the owners of Tropical Birding. He invited me out to their lodge, Tandayapa, in Ecuador for a 3 month stint and said to treat it as an 'on the job interview'. I did just that, and at the end of my stint I put my balls on the table, so to speak, and told one of the other owners that I was looking for a job guiding. I was offered a job on the spot and I've not stopped travelling since. 

If you could do anything else, what would it be?
To be honest, my current situation is perfect for me and I wouldn't do anything else. I get all the travel I could possibly hope for, and more for work. In between jobs I can book in stops anywhere in the world along the route for personal travel. I get to stay at phenomenal lodges that I wouldn't otherwise be able to, and I get to see some of the most spectacular places and beasts on the planet. I also avoid the trap of paying rent because I'm never in one place for too long, so financially it's a good situation too. 

What's been the highlight of your graduate life so far?
I've had many many highlights but this year I managed to step foot on all 7 continents in the space of 10 weeks. I also crossed both the Arctic and Antarctic Circles in the first half of the year. That's something I never thought I'd achieve. Other highlights have included a night spent watching Black Rhino and Desert Elephant bathe in a dimly lit waterhole in Namibia, snorkelling with Dugong in Vanuatu, sitting with Emperor Penguins in Antarctica, discovering a new colony of bizarre Spoon-billed Sandpipers in eastern Russia, photographing the Mount Hagen cultural gathering in Papua New Guinea, and co-rediscovering a species of flying fox on Vanikoro in the Solomon Islands that hadn't been seen for nearly 100 years. 

Where do you see yourself in 10 years' time?
I don't really know, I haven't really thought that far ahead. If I'm still exploring and seeing the world, I'll be happy. Ideally with a fantastic woman to share it all with.  

Check out Lisle's travel photography at:

1 comment

  1. Lisle.. I wish I was your age again and could come with you!! How phenomenal (but tiring) a schedule. But what wonderful wonderful memories you are collecting for yourself..and I am so envious of those encounters with wildlife....My dream is to travel to Kenya and stay on Daphne Sheldricks elephant sanctuary..but I am probably never going to realise it! All the luck in the world to you..and that girl will come along I'm sure! Judyxx (Simon's mum)


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