Flying Colours of the Northeast - Bird Photography Tour
In the thick of a prosaic urban grind, does your heart beat for something a little different? Do you dream of breaking the sedentary mould to take a hike in the land of high hills, low clouds and 'flying colours'? Where the woods are pristine, free of noise and full of wildlife, would you like to embrace nature and photograph avian exotics? Now you can.
The place is Eaglenest, the opportunity is this Photo Tour, and the time to book your place is now.
How is it?
With steep ridges, lazy streams and vibrant waterfalls, the historic Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary in the Eastern Himalaya is India's own Shangri La. Located in West Kameng district in Arunachal Pradesh and covering an area of 218 km2, the variation in its altitudes is extreme and spawns a mind-boggling richness and diversity of avian life.
At every altitude range, starting from the lowest at 500 m to the highest at over 3000 m, different types of birds thrive, so birding in Eaglenest is akin to visiting a multi-storey exhibition where each floor sports different attractions.
Managed by the Bugun tribe, Eaglenest is a shining paradigm of community-supported ecotourism. And this is strikingly evident in the habitat and the wildlife that thrive in the sylvan forests around Lama (2350 m), Eaglenest Pass (2800 m), Sunderview (2465 m), Bompu (1940 m), Sessni (1250 m) and Khellong (750 m), where even the occasional vehicular noise is absent, pristine nature rules the roost and the bliss of peace reigns supreme.
What you will see and photograph:
Amid dense forests and utopian vistas lies Eaglenest's prime draw - birds - some skulking, some bold; some colourful and some drab; but most perky and restless and found nowhere else in the country.
13 types of cuckoo and as many species of laughingthrush, over two dozen types of babbler and eight varieties of woodpecker also await your discovery, while with cooperation from nature's elements and a little help from your Toehold Skipper, more than 24 types of warbler, five species of sunbird and a flamboyant array of flycatchers can make their way into your memory card.
Eaglenest is a limitless treasure-chest, and very soon you may find your checklist growing faster than you came to expect. While chestnut-crowned warbler and streak-throated barwing have it in them to take your breath away, bagging images of a fulvetta or a yuhina could rob you of a night's sleep.
It wouldn't be baseless either to say that the green-tailed sunbird is omnipresent. And while the beautiful sibia lives up to its name and golden-breasted fulvettas redefine the term 'vividness' once and for all, as many as three types of minla, along with inmates like the bay woodpecker and chestnut-crowned laughingthrush, vie to regale your aesthetic sense.
Further afield, an almightily glorious rufous-fronted tit can cause you to erupt uncontrollably in elation, while a Himalayan cutia is likely to be a subject of your unbridled admiration.
Surface scratched, the inhabitants under the tip of the iceberg betray themselves and you realize that these flying attractions are not just pretty critters but match their looks with substance. Mixed hunting-flocks press themselves into action as insect activity propagates. Led ably by a fulvetta or a parrotbill, they join forces to bring varied kinds of prey to the dinner table.
Near Eaglenest Pass, where magnolia and rhododendrons adorn the scenery, good sightings of the green-backed tit are usually just a sniff away. Rubbing shoulders with them, the Mrs Gould's sunbird has been witnessed to have a flair to pose exceptionally well to any lens that may be wielded at it.
Further ahead a spotted nutcracker and crimson-breasted woodpecker may crystallize themselves in your memory by attracting you with their strident calls.
Elsewhere, fortune may favour the brave, but here in the hills, fortune usually favours the hard-working. Perseverance and wakeful senses can yield sightings of the streak-breasted scimitar babbler, and it's worthwhile to try tracking the chestnut-headed tesia and the pygmy wren-babbler.
Most of all, a single glimpse of the coveted Ward's trogon can give you as much gratification as a lifetime achievement award and free you of all the trekking fatigue in an instant.
And thus you see that if you enjoy courting birds around bushes and striking 'lifers' out from a list, this Tour was conceived for you. And, while you're at it, if making images of these avian sirens gives you a bigger kick than a cognac, you will raise a toast to the winged treasures of Eaglenest.
Sachin has been documenting many of the less-known and little-noticed aspects of the wild and constantly perseveres to share his experiences with citizens and scientists, especially through his photography website which is an enriching resource for budding wildlife enthusiasts and naturalists. An active supporter of many conservation NGOs, Sachin invests a lot of his time in their outreach activities and has led several expeditions in search of rare species, even rediscovering a 'lost' species of frog 73 years after its first sighting and description. For his stellar work in photography, Sachin has been honoured with prestigious accolades, including the Photographer of the Year award by Sanctuary Asia in 2008 and the first prize at the DJ Memorial Photo Contest in 2013.
Sachin's work may be enjoyed on his website at www.landofthewild.com, and regular updates of his latest work can be found on his Facebook Page.
Read more about Sachin here.
WHY GO ON A TOEHOLD PHOTO TOUR?At Toehold, we are passionate about photography just as you are, which lets us understand your travails and needs perfectly. And we use this insight to specially design our Photography Tours so they give you a toehold to excel at the art and set you up for success.
The Toehold team at your disposal will keep you tuned and geared, so you come in empty-handed but go out with bagful of images and tales of an experience that is better lived than heard.
- A clinically organized tour with utmost attention to your comfort and needs
- An open, informal environment that promotes interactive learning
- A team that will strategize and work to a plan to optimize opportunities and ensure a great tour
- Practical, hands-on assistance in photography from the tour Skippers both in the field and off it
- A wealth of subject matter knowledge
- Individual interaction with the Skippers over general or specific issues
- First-hand learning from the masters in the art and craft of photography
These exclusive, informative and interactive sessions are -
TESTIMONIALS BY OUR PREVIOUS TOUR PARTICIPANTSPhotography enthusiasts who were a part of a similar Tour previously said:
I had a great time on the Toehold tour. They took care of all the logistics so all I had to do was enjoy myself! The evening sessions were great fun and I got to interact with a lot of like-minded people. I'm already planning for my next trip with Toehold!
- Ritwick Sharma, Mumbai
I had never been on a photography trip before and so was apprehensive that I would feel out of place among photographers but I was proven totally wrong. The 'Skippers' made me totally comfortable and helped me with the most basic of my camera settings with a lot of patience, and the sightings made the experience even better and totally worth it!
- Sonali Sinha, Delhi
Going on this Toehold tour has been the most enriching experience in recent times. The amount of learning about photography that's possible just being around these guys is amazing. The best part was getting assistance from the Skippers in the field, to make the most of the opportunities we had. I'd greatly recommend Toehold tours to someone looking for a productive way to spend a few days!
- Dr. Ramesh Bhat, Bangalore
I went on a tour with Toehold to a destination I was so familiar with but ended up learning a lot more things than I already knew. Great bunch of young pros.
- Gopal Basu, Kolkatta
My young boys learnt so much about photography and wildlife that the dining table is full of stories and technical jargons of photography.
- Suchitra K, Kolkatta
Toehold injects a lot of interest in youngsters about photography and natural history. Wish them all the best!
- Pradeep Kenchappa, Bengaluru
Please note: The Tour starts at lunchtime on 5 March at Guwahati Airport, and ends at the same place on the evening of 13 March. Transfers between Guwahati and Eaglenest are included.
- DAY 1 5 March 2016, Saturday: Guwahati to Tezpur; Overnight in Tezpur
Participants arrive at Guwahati from their respective locations by afternoon. We then drive to Tezpur and camp for the night.
- DAY 2 6 March, Sunday: Arrival at and Overnight in Lama Camp
We depart Tezpur in the morning after breakfast. Our quest for feathered exhibits takes us to the famous Lama Camp, around which spotting leaf birds, blue-throated barbets and lesser yellownape has been known to be relatively easy. We reach Lama late in the afternoon and go on a birding walk looking for beauties such as the Bhutan laughingthrush and the beautiful sibia, before camping overnight with colourful dreams of the treats that lie ahead.
- DAY 3 7 March, Monday: All-day Birding and Overnight in Lama
After probably being woken up by the calls of a hill partridge, we spend the whole day birding around Lama, trying particularly zealously to give the Bugun liocichla some eye. While we're at it, black-faced warbler, green-tailed sunbird and green-backed tit can break cover. Other treats may include bullfinches and the magnificent streak-throated scimitar babbler. After hopefully a fruitful inaugural day, we put our feet up at Lama.
- DAY 4 8 March, Tuesday: Birding near Lama and Overnight in Bompu Camp
Commencing our mission early, we look for more birds in Lama. As we drift to Bompu via the Eaglenest Pass - the highest motorable pass in Eaglenest - we seek the spotted laughingthrush, brown parrotbill, spotted nutcracker and rufous-vented yuhina. sightings of red pandas around this place have been reported as well. Reaching Bompu in the evening, we soak in the splendid forest scenes, sounds and smells, and hibernate for the night here.
- DAYS 5 and 6 9 and 10 March, Wednesday and Thursday: Birding around and Overnight in Bompu
For the next two days we start early and walk around Bompu finding all the birds we can, which may include the golden babbler, purple cochoa, red-tailed minla and slender-billed scimitar babbler. On one of the two days, we descend to the lower altitude forests of Sessni, where we pursue the rufous-necked hornbill, coral-billed scimitar babbler and rufous-headed parrotbill, while small niltava, collared owlet, beautiful nuthatch, maroon oriole and long-tailed broadbill can satiate the thirsty. Fortune allowing, mammals may include the yellow-throated marten, the hoary-bellied Himalayan squirrel and the Malayan giant squirrel. Busy enjoying all this ecological richness, a total of two days will be spent in the hallowed environs of the Bompu Camp.
- DAY 7 11 March, Friday: Return to and Overnight in Lama
On our way back to Lama, we seek the coveted Ward's trogon, apart from the chestnut-headed tesia, black-faced laughingthrush and blue-fronted redstart, while scarlet finches, black eagles and Eurasian sparrowhawks may mark their attendance too. In the evening, we check in to Lama and camp overnight.
- DAY 8 12 March, Saturday: Checkout and Overnight in Tezpur
We enjoy some birding in the morning at Lama and check-out on time to reach Tezpur by evening. We halt at Tezpur for the night.
- DAY 9 13 March, Sunday: Dispersal and Return
Having opened our eyes and exposed our sensors to the many new and beautiful birds of the Eastern Himalayas, we depart for Guwahati, whence we return to our homes with the species lists we carried from home now marred by myriad strikes.
Inclusive of taxes
Inclusive of taxes
Inclusive of taxes
Frequently Asked Questions
- Who should participate in this Tour? Are there any eligibility criteria?
Anybody interested in birds, wildlife and/or photography and is above the age of 18 (unless accompanied by an adult) can participate in this Tour. There are no eligibility criteria.
I am a newbie in nature photography. Am I eligible?
Absolutely! This Tour is meant for fledgling as well as experienced photographers. Beginners get all the advantages of learning on and off the field from Toehold's eminent Skippers. In fact if you are a newbie, you should jump on this terrific learning opportunity and sign up right away!
I am not into photography at all. Do you suggest I participate?
Most certainly! Although the Tour has been optimized for photography, non-photographers are equally welcome as the Tour offers a wealth of bird-watching opportunities and natural history learning.
How is the boarding and lodging on the Tour?
Due to the remoteness of the region, accommodation and other facilities will be basic but comfortable, and meals simple but tasty.
By what mode will photography be done on this Tour?
While we will use motorized transport to get to the birding sites, most or all of the photography will be done on foot. Therefore, a minimum requisite level of fitness is required.
How sure are you about photographing birds on this Tour?
Considering the meticulous attention to timing we pay while scheduling Tours and the local expertise we leverage, we believe that it would be extremely unfortunate if our sightings and photography were unsatisfactory. However, since we will be in an uncontrolled environment, we do not claim that sightings of specific species are guaranteed.
How different are your Photo Tours from ordinary tours?
Unlike travel agents who plan your holiday from a remote destination to places they sometimes haven't experienced themselves, Photo Tours offer a comprehensive toehold to experience a place through the guidance of a professional photographer. The common ingredients in all our Tours are fun and a lot of learning and knowledge sharing. Besides, most or all of our Tour participants are photography enthusiasts, which keeps the group in harmony and helps make your experience focussed.
What equipment do you suggest on this Tour?
Considering the nature of the subjects and shooting conditions expected on this Tour, a telephoto lens with a focal length of at least 400mm is considered necessary, with longer focal lengths being welcome. A tripod, or at least a monopod, is strongly recommended and a wide-angle lens is a welcome addition to photograph the scenic splendour of Eaglenest.
What do I do if I do not have the requisite equipment?
If you do not have appropriate equipment, there is no need to fret. Toehold offers an exhaustive array of cameras and lenses for hire, so you can always hire what you need. Click here to see what we offer. What's better, you enjoy a 10% discount on all equipment hired for our Photo Tours!
© - All Text, Photographs, Videos and Narrations are properties of Toehold Travel & Photography Private Limited.
- Date : 5 to 13 March 2016
- Tour Cost:
Per person inclusive of taxes
Per couple inclusive of taxes
Per person inclusive of taxes
All fares excluding flights
- Skipper: Sachin Rai