Cheesemans' Ecology Safaris

Our History

“This planet has some beautiful natural spaces, and they are getting smaller. It was Gail and Doug’s firmest belief that if people saw just how beautiful these places are, along with the wildlife in them, they would work to save them. As natural educators, that is exactly what they set out do.” -Ted Cheeseman

Experience

These are trip highlights such as the spray of water on a zodiac, encounters with gorillas and other animals several feet away, etc etc. Highlighted best through all our videos and testimonials.

Learn

Lectures on board, any educational webinars we have to links to, also links to papers / reports /guides / photography tips from our guides, our reading resource list.

Protect

All our conservation write-ups, partnerships, miscellaneous events we participate in and support, and any highlights on trips that show additional work (citizen science initiatives, trash clean-up, etc)

1980: Cheesemans' is Founded

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Doug & Gail Start The Company

In an era when, to most people, “safari” meant hunting big game in Africa, Gail and Doug Cheeseman had a vision of providing in-depth, educational wildlife safaris so others could photograph, enjoy, and learn about various animals, and their natural habitats around the world. Both were guides and teachers before they were world travelers. They, above all, loved to share their experiences in nature. In the 1970s, while raising a young family on a single-income teacher’s salary in California, the opportunity arose to lead summertime nature-based travel tours. Doug had been taking his ecology class on field trips in Monterey Bay when an operator asked him to guide a trip to Baja, Mexico, and then to East Africa, at which point Gail and Doug decided to venture out on their own as guides to form what is now Cheesemans’ Ecology Safaris. In 1980, the fledgling company was born of a passion for experiencing nature’s beauty among friends.

In an era when, to most people, “safari” meant hunting big game in Africa, Gail and Doug Cheeseman had a vision of providing in-depth, educational wildlife safaris so others could photograph, enjoy, and learn about various animals, and their natural habitats around the world. Both were guides and teachers before they were world travelers. They, above all, loved to share their experiences in nature. In the 1970s, while raising a young family on a single-income teacher’s salary in California, the opportunity arose to lead summertime nature-based travel tours. Doug had been taking his ecology class on field trips in Monterey Bay when an operator asked him to guide a trip to Baja, Mexico, and then to East Africa, at which point Gail and Doug decided to venture out on their own as guides to form what is now Cheesemans’ Ecology Safaris. In 1980, the fledgling company was born of a passion for experiencing nature’s beauty among friends.

From day one, wildlife and habitat conservation, as well as seeking ways we could benefit the ecosystems and the communities we travel to, have been elemental to Cheesemans’ Ecology Safaris. Gail and Doug sought to pioneer quality ecological travel with a personal touch and a sense of connection and inclusivity. Doug was a big personality who, when excited, was very loud. Nothing elevated his volume or energy like being in nature and seeing wildlife in its element. His sense of wonder was so genuine and infectious that people couldn’t help but stop at that moment and direct their attention to whatever Doug was witnessing. He then provided such that everyone was easily enamored by what they joined him in observing. Gail was a teacher and self-taught naturalist (which is essentially what brought the two together as a couple) and simply loved to share her enthusiasm for nature with anyone who was willing to enjoy it with her. Her rapport with people and passion for wildlife facilitated life-enriching safari experiences for those fortunate enough to have traveled with her.

For many years Cheesemans’ Ecology Safaris was limited to one or two trips per year during the summer when Doug’s college teaching was not in session. In the 1990s, Doug transitioned to a reduced teaching contract enabling the in-depth Antarctic expeditions that Cheesemans’ Ecology Safaris has become famous for. Ted describes Antarctica as the greatest “win” for the company:

“We stand out as having the most experience and in-depth access to touring the southernmost part of the globe. This has also led to a very consistent contribution to conservation in the area that has never wavered and continues to develop and improve in that destination as time goes on.”

In the early days of Cheesemans’, typical family time sometimes took a backseat to keep the company going, but that alternative approach to life led to Ted becoming the biologist and scientist that he is today. In his opinion, Gail and Doug were living the best versions of their lives and inspired him to do so as well. Growing up, Ted followed Darwin/Wallace and dreamed of living his life out in the field doing research. Ted learned the guiding aspect of the business directly from his father, enabling him to identify with travelers who were having first-time experiences. Being able to see these locations vicariously through a traveler’s fresh eyes is the catalyst that continues to galvanize Ted as it did his parents.

Clarity of mission has always been a constant with Cheesemans’, even as the company has evolved with time. The initial slogan was “In-depth, Rigorous Safaris.” In the late ’70s and early ‘80s, travel to most locations was not as “comfortable” as it may be today. Over time, this has changed; and oftentimes, like in the case of East Africa, the lodges that are closest to the action are the most luxurious. Further, Cheesemans’ has had to adapt to the ever-changing travel market. Expectations of a passionate experience must be presented with a polished and professional delivery, clear pre-trip communications, and current and accessible online representation. As technology sped up the pace of communication, Cheesemans’ adjusted. The business has come a long way from handwriting letters and sending a TELEX to local operators and waiting on a return, to using Skype, Zoom, email, WhatsApp, and social media to communicate, often in real-time, with people all over the world. Foundationally, though, today’s Cheesemans’ Ecology Safaris operates with the values Gail and Doug instilled into their company. Their sense of commitment, passion, and integrity, fueled by their devotion to wildlife conservation and their inspiration to create world-altering safari experiences, remains essential in the mission and function of the company.