Go Ahead traveler Camille explored the wonders of Machu Picchu during her recent time on our Grand Tour of South America. A talented and established wedding photographer, Camille was able to show us—through her photography—just how beautiful a visit to South America can be. We sat down for a Q&A with Camille about her experience and to see which snaps were her favorites.
What made you choose South America for a tour?
Since I was a little girl, I’ve always imagined myself traveling on big adventures to Machu Picchu and the Amazon rainforest. Growing up, I also developed an interest in the Argentinian and Brazilian cultures. The Grand Tour of South America with the Amazon extension was the perfect opportunity for scratching all of those bucket list items at once. I discovered this tour because my mother and her fiancée did it a couple of years ago, but without the Amazon part.
How did your perspective change after taking this tour?
Everything was perfect on the Grand Tour of South America. The tour guides were knowledgeable, responsible and really wanted us to have a great experience. They would go out of their way to make us feel at home. Also, the meal and drink plans were great. I even gained five pounds, and it was so worth it!
One of the special things about our group is that we were traveling during the Christmas holidays. On our last night in Rio de Janeiro after the tango show and dinner excursion, the driver took us to a special place where we could see the Nativity Tree on the Rodrigo de Freitas Lake. It was the perfect ending to an amazing night.
Had you been to South America before? What were your first thoughts upon arriving?
It was my first time in South America, and I fell in love the moment I got down from the plane in Rio. My first thought was that the locals were all extremely nice and friendly, and that the weather was perfect.
What was your favorite destination on tour and why?
This is probably the hardest question to answer. We visited so many different kinds of places, I cannot make up my mind about what I liked the most. I loved the laid-back and festive atmosphere of Rio. I felt really small while gazing upon the immense Iguassu Falls. And I’ve totally decided I want to live in Buenos Aires someday. But I think that what I loved the most of the tour was Peru. The jaw-dropping beauty of the scenic and historical sites we visited was nothing compared to the humble and friendly nature of the locals, the exquisite food and the amazing cultural experience I had there.
What surprised you most about this tour?
The Amazon rainforest extension was AMAZING! Those two days were packed with activities of all sorts, and I’m really glad I opted for it. We went on bird-watching walks, fished for piranhas (which tasted great), spotted pink dolphins, visited a small aboriginal tribe, visited a rescue and rehabilitation center for local wildlife and even got to bring supplies to an impoverished community.
How did you get into photography? What about travel photography intrigues you?
Ever since I was a kid I always remember having toy film cameras around. Capturing people and memories was something I grew up doing and somehow became an essential part of my life. By the time I finished high school I already had my own wedding photography business, which is now my full-time job.
As a by-product of working at weddings, I’ve had the privilege of traveling to many beautiful places and meet people from very diverse backgrounds. The passion for this kind of cultural exchange made me fall in love with traveling, and of course, travel photography.
What was your favorite shot that you took from tour and why?
While visiting the Amazonian Yagua tribe, kids were curious about our presence there, so they quickly left everything they were doing to come meet us. Most of them had parrots or baby sloths as pets. I met a particular girl whom I thought was adorable. Her serene personality made me feel drawn to her. Afterward, we chatted a bit and she let me hold her parrot, called Aurora. This portrait of her was my favorite shot from the whole tour because it shows the pure harmony and connection with nature the villagers from the Yagua tribe have.
What advice would you give to someone traveling on the Grand Tour of South America?
There are many resources online that will talk about what to pack, do or eat on a trip like this one. So my best advice would rather be to get there with an open mind. The best way to really enjoy South America on a trip like this is to spend time with locals, mingle with everyone else on your tour, try to taste everything, jump in on every opportunity and spend as little time as possible in your hotel room.
Also, a practical recommendation: bring vitamins, antibiotics, cold and stomach medicines. You don’t want to miss out on anything!
What’s next on your travel wish list?
My travel wish list is rather long, but my next big adventures will be Iceland and Australia.
Thanks for sharing your story with us, Camille! Have questions for Camille or about our Grand Tour of South America? Leave them in the comments below.