Guest blog written by Kelsey Wellington, EcoTour Adventure Guide
“No way, this is so cool,” a guest says as I press record on my phone’s camera. “Kids, c’mere, check this out!”
The father excitedly waves his three children over, and I step back to give them space to see my phone’s screen.
The phone is attached to a Swarovski Optik spotting scope–a high-powered telescope that, in this case, can magnify objects up to 70x larger than they appear to the naked eye–using a PhoneSkope phone case. The case, made to fit all brands of smartphones, is designed to grip the eyepiece of a spotting scope so users can snap photos and record videos of the magnified object using their phones.
On this particular day, we are digiscoping a young bull moose in velvet that stands across the Gros Ventre River, approximately fifty yards away. The children crowd around the scope and gasp in awe as they watch the moose strip a willow branch of its leaves.
I glance up at the father and say, “I can send this video to you at the end of the tour.” He grins and repeats himself. “This is so cool.”
High-powered optics and digiscoping tools are essential to watching wildlife, as animals are usually far from roads. As a wildlife tour company, Jackson Hole EcoTour Adventures is proud to be the field partner of both Swarovski Optik and PhoneSkope. Combined, these brands enable us to provide our guests with the best wildlife viewing opportunities as well as the footage to share their wildlife memories with friends and family.
The goals of our wildlife tours are to connect people with nature, to make the natural world feel more accessible, and to inspire visitors to return home and build connections with their own backyards. Without tools like binoculars, spotting scopes, and PhoneSkope cases, these goals are much harder to achieve.
Many visitors to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem don’t realize how important binoculars are when it comes to seeing wildlife. Sure, we spot wildlife close to and even on the roads, but more often than not, animals are dozens of yards–if not miles–away. Without the help of binoculars and scopes, my job as a wildlife guide would be immensely more difficult. Having nothing but the highest quality optics enables me to not only spot the animal from a distance, but even to see its details. Swarovski Optik binoculars and spotting scopes really bring these details to life, which in turn inspires awe and wonder in our guests.
Swarovski Optik and PhoneSkope understand the importance of making wildlife accessible to people in order to connect with nature, which is why they have combined forces with EcoTour Adventures to create a first-of-its-kind partnership in North America. When asked about the reason for this partnership, Jason Gebhart, Western Director of Sales for Swarovski Optik, said, “Swarovski Optik is a family company with strong roots in the Tyrol region of Austria, an area of exceptional beauty. All of us at Swarovski Optik want to inspire people to love and care for nature. We consider it our duty to care for the environment, protect nature, and preserve biodiversity. Similar to Jackson Hole EcoTour Adventures, nature has always inspired us and we hope that, through this partnership, we can bring that same energy and passion to the visitors of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.” Through this partnership, high-quality binoculars and scopes are available to every guest while on tour with EcoTour Adventures, allowing guests to experience the world’s finest optics while spotting the incredible wildlife of Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.
Since beginning this partnership, I have heard countless guests comment on the power of the spotting scopes. Not only are they in awe of the videos they get to take home thanks to the PhoneSkope, but of the image quality of those videos as well. Animals that stand miles and miles away are suddenly brought close through the zoom power of the spotting scope, and I consistently hear guests exclaim, “I can’t believe how clearly we can see that!” as they look through the viewfinder.
This brings me to the most important aspect of wildlife viewing: practicing ethical behavior by maintaining safe distances. Maintaining a safe distance from wild animals is important to both the safety of the animals and the safety of our guests. We never want to interfere with the natural behavior of wildlife–and we especially do not want any animals to feel threatened by our presence–so our use of optics and digiscopes allows us to get up close to the animals without actually getting up close. This ensures a positive experience for both animals and guests alike!
It’s hard to beat the experience of watching a moose wade through a pond, or a grizzly bear digging up roots in a sagebrush field, or a bull elk bugling at sunrise. We understand the impact and value of these experiences to our guests–experiences that are only enhanced through the use of top-notch optics and footage to take home and look back on. The union of Jackson Hole EcoTour Adventures, Swarovski Optik, and PhoneSkope represents a desire by these three companies to be more impactful in the world of conservation education and to have a greater, more meaningful impact on visitors to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
“I didn’t know we had all these animals here,” one of the children–from the same group of three–said as she watched a herd of bull elk steadily make their way through a sagebrush field. Our morning tour was winding down, and we had seen no shortage of animals during the four-hour adventure.
It brings me immense joy to share these animals and these places with others. Fostering connections to wild places is deeply ingrained in my personal values, and the values of Jackson Hole EcoTour Adventures, a company I am proud to work for. These connections are only enhanced through the use of optics and PhoneSkope cases, and we at EcoTour Adventures are beyond thrilled to be able to provide our guests with the absolute best tools to see wildlife during their visits to this magical place.