Leading Ladies: One of our own – Q & A with Sue Flood

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Sue Flood was an Associate Producer on the award winning BBC series ‘The Blue Planet’ and is a photographer, author, wildlife filmmaker and conservationist. Her travel and photography highlights include diving with humpback whales in the South Pacific, face to face encounters with leopard seals in the Antarctic, filming of polar bears in the Arctic and on safari in Zambia. Sue has led many of our photographic wildlife group tours and will be joining our cruise to Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falklands with Monty Halls and Telegraph Tours departing next January.

We asked Sue to share her thoughts on who inspired her to become a photographer, which place she is happiest, her best travel advice and more…

What was your earliest or childhood ambition?

At school I wanted to work on wildlife films with David Attenborough, so to get to do that for 11 years was truly a dream come true!

What ambitions do you still have?

To be a better photographer and get fitter!

Ambition or talent: Which matters more?

They’re both important. And you make your own luck, to some extent. Whenever people tell me I’m lucky, I always reply that the harder I work, the luckier I get!

If your 20-year old self could see you know, what would he/she think?

I think she’d be pleasantly surprised at how happy I am, doing a job that I love, and very happily married to a childhood friend who I met when I was 9!  I also think she’d be amazed to find out I was invited to meet the Queen at Buckingham Palace as a result of my photography. 

If you had to rate your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?

It goes up to 11, like the amps in Spinal Tap.

In what place are you happiest?

Home is where the heart is. Though an emperor penguin colony is the place I’m happiest in the field!

Do you consider your carbon footprint?

Of course I do. I wish it were possible to do my job without getting on a plane.

How often do you travel?

Several long-haul trips a year.

The one essential you travel with?

My camera, of course!

Your best piece of travel advice?

Save your airmiles!  Saving my points with Virgin Airlines allowed me to get married on the beach on Necker Island last year (and Richard Branson was our witness!).

What advice would you give to young ladies wishing to follow in your footsteps?

Work hard, and don’t ever think of doing this job unless you want to do it more than anything else in the world!

What motivates you to do what you do?

Getting people interested in the natural world, whether through still or moving images.

Who has inspired you to do what you do?

No prizes for guessing it’s David Attenborough!

If you could do it all over again, is there anything you would change?

No – most of my career has been wonderful, and the bits that haven’t have taught me something, so I wouldn’t change a thing.

Travel with Sue on one of our wildlife group tours below or get in touch with our experts for more information on an exclusive Galapagos charter in 2017 led by her. Call us on 01285 601 791 or email inspire@steppestravel.com.

Visiting Stanley

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*Day five* – we spent the morning in Stanley on the Falkland Islands, a bizarre mix of Victorian cottages with a New Zealand village feel and quintessentially English flower gardens ablaze with bright daffodils.

There were two excursions on offer, a guided history walk with Jim that took in the many monuments along the waterfront and ended at the small but packed museum or a “pub crawl” with Colin who was celebrating his birthday. I decided on the former, on the latter they only managed 2 pubs out of the 5 options but all seemed quite merry when we returned to the ship.

The History of the Falklands was fascinating there is so much more to learn than just the more recent conflict which really put it on the map. I would have liked more time to see some of the battle famous sights and memorials; I will just have to come back! In the afternoon we set sail towards South Georgia taking with us a British couple who are going to be working on the island for 6 months looking after the shop, museum and taking on various other tasks as required, a job they had seen in the local Penguin News.

*Day 6* – the fickle Southern Ocean is our home again for the next few days as we sail across to South Georgia. At times just a gentle swell lulling you into the next set of huge waves that make the ship toss and lurch, she has a tendency to do this during meal times seeing how many plates and bowls of soup she can spill.

On deck you can watch as the huge waves roll onwards, we have the wind behind us which is helping our progress and we have a constant entourage of birds – the ever present Pintados and Petrels have been joined by Black Browed Albatross and today the magnificent Wandering Albatross swung in our wake, tantalising close but never quite as near as the other species. With unbelievable grace and hardly an adjustment of their wings they soar over the tumultuous seas, just skimming the waves but never getting caught out but them, as mesmerising as fire to watch. The lectures today covered Shackleton and his men along with King Penguins and the seals of Antarctica.

*Day 7* – today the seas are much calmer no longer 7-8 meter waves and gale force winds but also no longer the sunshine just a hazy sea mist as we head towards the Convergence where the cold Antarctic waters meet creating a dramatic drop in both water and air temperature. This is a barrier to many species so we are unlikely to see the dolphins in our wake any more.

Yesterday the weather was very changeable with bright sunshine dispersed with squalls of snow that blew up from nowhere and disappeared as quickly, icy blasts of snow like little ball bearings and the waves whipping up blasting the foam off the tops of the waves. The slackening of the wind has reduced the numbers of birds in our wake although a few new species have been spotted including Blue and White Bellied Petrels.

This afternoon we will completed our biosecurity checks, cleaning all clothing and equipment that we intend to take on to South Georgia. At around 4.30 we sighted Shag rocks, five towering cliffs up to 70 meter poking up in the seemingly endless sea, here there were a huge number of Blue eyed cormorants flying around and nesting on the precipitous cliffs. This means we are well on course to reach South Georgia tomorrow.

More coming soon ….

Heading South

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Sue is currently on her South Georgia, Falkland and Antarctica cruise – read all about her adventures as she sends us updates from the boat.

*Day One* – standing on the end of the pier at Puerto Madryn and looking forward to heading south. Puerto Madryn is the gateway to Peninsula Valdez famed for its wildlife including the Southern Wright whales that calve in the bay, fingers crossed we may see some as we set sail this afternoon, setting a course for the Falkland Islands.

The Only Way is South.

You know the omens are good for a trip when the first wildlife encounter is prior to leaving the dock; we had two huge sea lions alongside the ship just lazing on the dock only mildly interested in the to-ing and frow-ing. During the compulsory muster drill, that now has to be performed before the ship sets sail, a couple of Southern Wright whales were breaching in the bay, they continued to put on a show throughout the drill and well into the crew introductions. In the early evening we set sail heading south east towards the Falkland Islands a two day sail away, after a long flight I took advantage of an early night and was lulled to sleep with the rocking of the ocean.

*Day Two* – we awoke to a beautiful calm morning with sunshine, I was on deck by 6.30 watching birds in our wake, Cape petrels wheeling around the ship catching the updrafts with their dappled plumage catching the morning sunlight. Tiny storm petrels that look so fragile dancing across the tops of the waves and then the magnificent Albatross, both Royal and Black browed gracefully glide in with an occasional idle flap of their wings. They effortlessly caught up with us swirling and swooping alongside the ship.

Humpbacks were spotted on a number of occasions their huge blasts of air catching the sun as they took in lung fulls of air, then the tell-tale humpback before they dived again with a final flick of their tail. During the day we were joined by several small groups of hourglass dolphins who came in from a great distant to hang on our bow wave, like kids having fun they whipped back and forth leaping in front of the ship then disappearing as quickly as they had come. This along with six lectures over the course of the day covering everything from the conflicts of the Falkland Islands to whale identification we were never bored. With a slight tail wind and these gentle seas we are making good progress….

*Day Three* – another sunny one but the wind has picked up and the swells of the Southern Ocean have caught up with quite a few of us, lunchtime numbers were definitely depleted! Despite the rougher seas we did see a couple of humpback whales and we were again joined by the hour glass dolphins. The afternoon was set aside for the briefings on zodiac landings and the biosecurity measures. In the late afternoon land could be seen and as we were a little ahead of time we took the opportunity to sail close to the Jason Island group which has a large black browed Albatross colony and many of them wheeled around the boat as we watched the setting sun.

*Day Four* – the first big day as we were to have two landings today. The first was at Carcass Island where we landed at Dyke bay and walked along the head of the beach to the small holding which takes guests, a number of which had just flown in on one of the regular flights by Cessna. The coastline had plenty on offer, ducks kelp and highland geese many of which had chicks and in burrows the Magellenic penguins were beginning nesting. Caracaras were definitely in the mood for love and there was much displaying particularly around the farm house. At the farm we were warmly welcomed by the McGill family who provided us with a great cup of tea and an amazing display of cakes.

We were joined by both Commersons and Peals dolphins during the zodiac trip back to the ship. During lunch we repositioned to Saunders Island, here we were provided with a plethora of penguins – Gentoo, Magallenic, King and Rockhoppers. The landing spot was a stunning isthmus between two hills known as the neck with crashing surf on one side and slightly less on ours – which made for an exciting landing. The punky Rockhoppers were noisy neighbours to the far more serene Black Browed Albatross who looked rather disdainfully at their clamouring behaviour. In amongst these were gaudy Imperial cormorants with their bright red eyes and orange crest.

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More blogs coming soon …