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White Horses of France's Camargue

Consider the dreamlike quality of a herd of white horses as they thunder—manes flashing, foam flying—across the shallow marshlands of France’s famous Camargue. Consider, too, the prospect of four days of electrifying photography, capturing every nuance of these powerful horses hurtling directly toward your camera or of stallions engaged in battle for herd dominance.

In the wild, the white Camargue horses are found only on the wetlands and salt marshes of southeastern France. They are thought to be descended from prehistoric horses that lived during the Paleolithic period more than 17,000 years ago. Throughout history, this ancient breed is believed to have been crossed with several other breeds—particularly Arabian horses. This genetic combination permits these brawny animals to withstand the region’s bleak, cold winters and intensely hot summers. They are so strong it is said they are able to canter through mud up to their bellies!

The Camargue horse is the traditional mount of the gardians. These cowboys of the Camargue are responsible for rounding up the wild black "fighting" bulls that graze the land. Over time, the gardians have developed the original breed of Camargue horses into a surprisingly agile, surefooted and reliable mount. The Camargue is considered one of Europe’s few remaining original breeds, although it was not officially recognized as a unique breed until 1976. Today, there are about 30 separate herds spread over an area of around 203,000 acres. Foals are born starting in April. Though they are dark in color at birth, all the Camargue horses are white when mature. It is speculated that white coats may provide a natural mosquito repellent for animals adapted to salt marsh living.

Our amazing shoot concentrates on photographing the horses during the best light of day, with the goal of creating images depicting as much of their untamed life as possible. Horse drives orchestrated by the gardians are at the top of our shooting list, but fighting stallions and quiet moments in the marshes are also on our agenda. Our photo safari takes place on private ranchland adjacent to the Parc naturel régional de Camargue—a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Here, along with the famous horses and bulls, dwell an interesting assortment of wading birds and shorebirds, including impressive flocks of greater flamingos. Our tour includes a visit to the Parc Ornithologique de Pont de Gau for very accessible viewing and shots of hundreds of pink flamingos. Don’t miss this exceptional opportunity to photograph the white horses of the Camargue for yourself!

• For more information and photos, read Photo Safari client Isobel Wayrick's blog.

Day 1

Depart from home.

Day 2 (Apr 28)

Arrive in Marseille, France. Transfer on your own to our airport hotel by taxi or free hotel shuttle. Meet with the group this evening for dinner at the hotel restaurant. (D)

Day 3

After breakfast, we drive to the seaside town of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. In the afternoon, we visit one of several ranches for our first photography session with the striking Camargue horses. (BLD)

Days 4–6

For the next three mornings and afternoons, we bring the ranch horses to different properties, allowing for a wide range of photogenic backdrops and behaviors. We photograph the white horses running through the shallow water of salt marshes and along the beach in the waves and salt spray. With shots of fighting stallions, mares with their dark foals in the fields or at the ranches, and detailed portraits—head shots and gardian riders in their gear—we have many opportunities to capture this time-honored breed in a variety of environments unique to this seaside estuary. We also take advantage of the sweet light at sunrise and sunset to silhouette horses with or without riders. Schedule permitting, we shoot a traditional celebration where riders lead black bulls through the town. (BLD)

Day 7

In the best available light, we shoot greater flamingos feeding, displaying and in flight at the Parc Ornithologique de Pont de Gau. Located in the middle of the Parc naturel régional de Camargue, the bird park’s natural habitats primarily include marsh and ponds with remarkable proximity to migratory and resident birds, such as flamingos, herons, storks, ducks, raptors and other small waders. The actual order of the itinerary may vary according to weather or other conditions and we may substitute the flamingo shooting day for horses if poor weather disrupts our eight-session horse shooting schedule. (BLD)

Day 8

After our last session with the horses this morning, we drive back to Marseille in the afternoon. (BLD)

Day 9 (May 5)

Depart for home this morning. (B)

Tour Details

Apr 27–May 5, 2013
$5,295 from Marseille, France
Includes meals, hotel, ground transportation, horse shoots, park admission fees

Special Terms & Conditions Apply

"Patrice Aguilar was a fantastic co-leader. His knowledge of the area and hard work with herding and directing the horses made a tremendous difference. I would highly recommend this very talented photographer."
—S. Arata

"No matter what your experience level is, you’ll always learn something from Joe’s tours."
—M. Soriano

"I had a smile on my face while reviewing my photos from Camargue. We were given stellar opportunities to take fabulous photographs."
—V. Hunter

Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. P.O. Box 655, Vashon Island, Washington USA 98070
Phone: (206) 463-5383 Fax: (206) 463-5484 Email: info@photosafaris.com
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