Wild Riches of the Lower Himalaya - Wildlife Photography Tour
A gharial basks in the shallows as a Pallas' fish eagle dripping with majesty dries its big wings on a branch above. On the stony riverbed, a black stork forages for aquatic tidbits and a jackal, overseen by a collared falconet topping the bald canopy of a dead tree, marauds at a trot. And as you drive slowly through an idyllic path flanked by giant sal trees, a tiger with big paws, thick fur and amber eyes appears from the bush, enters your heart and walks away with it.
It is then you realize that this is not just a tour; this is a grand photographic voyage into India's cornucopian wildlife Eden that goes in the garb of Corbett Tiger Reserve.
How is it?
Since Corbett was born as India's first National Park, it has remained one of the country's finest wild refuges harbouring a sensational variety of free life in the most breathtaking of settings. Any exaggeration in describing Corbett is quite impossible, for its enchantment defeats verbal articulation.
Located nicely between the Himalayas and the terai that stretch to Nepal, the Ramganga and her tributaries crisscross the park spawning some dramatic landscapes that dazzle with celestial beauty. With rich disparity in habitat, ranging from plain to precipitous and dense forests to emancipating meadows, it supports a rich variety of precious natural treasures and adorns India's crown as a gleaming jewel.
The pathways and ravines down which Jim Corbett once tracked tigers show traits of the Himalayan mountain system. The northern part represents the Lesser Himalayan belt, with an average altitude of 1800m comprising oak, pine and rhododendron, while most of the park occurs in the Shivaliks, where sal abounds.
But perhaps the most emblematic of Corbett's habitats are the chaur - vast tracts of magnificent grassland that are the result of ancient forest clearings made for agriculture, and are now a haven to many species that are specialized to living and feeding in the grasses. Nearly synonymous with the fabled Dhikala range of Corbett, chaur are favourite haunts of the majestic elephants and other smaller herbivores, which attract tigers too.
Life flourishes in every inch of Corbett. If you like surprises, there are plenty in store, and in the early spring month of February, if splendid misty scenes straight from Utopia are your thing, you couldn't be in a better place.
What you will see and photograph:
In birding terms, Corbett resembles a very large, open treasure-chest filled with an assortment of Himalayan endemics. No fewer than 585 species of birds, 50 species of mammals and 33 species of reptiles inhabit the park, taking species diversity to dizzying levels.
A crested kingfisher sits on a smooth rock awaiting its breakfast to be fished out, as an ibisbill practises some riverside meditation. In the undergrowth a jungle cat flushes a babbler from the ground, causing a barking deer to cough out its stentorian call in alarm.
A blue whistling thrush vindicates its name, a green magpie adorns the trees and a spectacular khaleej pheasant is never too far away. And while close to the ground, a red jungle fowl sets new standards of vividness, a lesser fish eagle perched on a high branch opens up fresh perspectives on grace and majesty.
As day turns to dusk, a mottled wood owl sitting quietly by the track bores a piercing look into your soul as you pass by. In the meadows throbbing with theatrical feel, a shy hog deer melts quietly into the grass and from the edge of a ravine, a black francolin calls it a day.
Amid all this avian frenzy, mammals don't play truant. From the diminutive yellow-throated marten to the gently gigantic Asian elephant, they in fact quite zealously vie for your attention. The coveted appearance of the enigmatic Corbett tiger, traditionally skittish but commoner in the public gaze in recent times, can earn a permanent seat in your memory.
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 click on any thumbnail and use the left and right arrow keys to navigate between photos in the gallery.
Please note: This Tour will begin on the morning of 7 February 2017 at Ramnagar and end at Ramnagar in the evening on 12 February. We suggest an overnight train or a shared taxi between Delhi and Ramnagar on the nights of 6 and 12 February.
- DAY 1 7 February 2017, Tuesday: Ramnagar and Bijrani; Overnight in Ramnagar
Participants arrive in Ramnagar early in the morning and after checking in, we begin the Tour with a brief introductory session and later commence bird-watching in the periphery of the park. We will target some of the specialty-birds all morning and then return to the room to indulge in a brief nap.
In the afternoon, we'll make our way to the famous Bijrani range for a three-hour safari ride. Bijrani is a fantastic birding area with good chances of sighting tigers and elephants. The regular fixtures of the jungle should allow plenty of 'target practice' to hone your skills early and get creative. Driving through this prime tiger-habitat is a pulsating start to our photographic expedition.
We'll return to the lodge after the ride and end the day with an interactive ChaayaaChitraChaayaaChitra: Photography Techniques, Tips, Trickssession with our expert Skipper.
- DAY 2 8 February, Wednesday: Transfer to and Overnight in Gairal
Leaving in the morning, we enter the Dhanghari gate and drive up to our next destination - Gairal. From this point on, we will be inside the Corbett Tiger Reserve for the rest of the Tour. Gairal Rest House is in a picturesque location on the banks of the Ramganga river and the beautiful forest road leading to it offers plenty of wildlife sightings en route.
Reaching Gairal by afternoon, we lunch and rest awhile before leaving for the evening safari ride. Here we will target the tiny Chestnut-headed Tesia and the Grey-bellied Tesia. Gairal is also a good place to sight the endangered Gharial Crocodile. And not to forget, a glimpse of the king of the jungle is always a possibility.
- DAY 3 9 February, Thursday: Afternoon Safari and Overnight in Dhikala
The Dhikala Forest Rest House is one of the oldest in Corbett, and the range is highly sought after due to its excellent wildlife sightings. Driving towards Dhikala through dense forests, we look for birds like the red-billed leothrix, yellow-bellied fantail flycatcher and the dollar bird. We will also swing by the famous Crocodile Pool where crocodiles and gharials are seen from a vantage point, and keep our senses peeled for tuskers, tigers and the rare tawny fishing owl.
We reach our destination by afternoon and check in. Not after long, we will embark on our evening safari and drive through the famous Dhikala chaur, which offers a tremendous opportunity to photograph elephants and hog deer in a highly photogenic ambience.
In the evening, a session of ChitraTantraChitraTantra: Photo Principles, Reviews, Critiquewill help you get your photos reviewed and incorporate improvements into your photography and digital post-production processing techniques.
- DAY 4 and 5 10 and 11 February, Friday and Saturday: Morning and Afternoon Safaris and Overnight in Dhikala
We will spend the morning and evening safaris roaming the Dhikala chaur, winding through Sambar Road, Khinnanauli and other popular landmarks, scouring for jackals, owls, vultures, collared falconets, lesser and Pallas' fishing eagles and otters. Being a biodiversity hotspot, Dhikala seldom disappoints a discerning visitor as there is never a dearth of objects of amazement in this action-packed zone.
Before enjoying a scrumptious supper and retiring for the night, we are educated and entertained through a CharchaalokaCharchaaloka: Presentations, Lectures, Discussionssession facilitated by the Skipper.
- DAY 6 12 February, Sunday: Last Safari, Checkout and Dispersal
We drive around Dhikala in the morning and depart post-lunch to drive up to Dhanghari, all the while admiring the lovely landscape and amazing wilderness. We reach Ramnagar whence participants disperse by their preferred mode of transport.
Please note: Your Skipper may, at his discretion, amend the itinerary for the better, depending on prevailing circumstances. This will not affect your travel schedules, Tour duration or cost.
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! However, in order to make the most of this Tour photographically, we recommend that you be conversant with at least the basics of photography. If you're not, we strongly recommend you join a Art and Science of Photography Workshop before the Tour.
Why aren't onward and return journeys included in the Tour itinerary?
Since participants of our Photo Tours converge from various parts of the country - and sometimes even abroad - it works best to originate Tours from the destination itself. However, we provide all requisite assistance with onward and return logistics at extra actual cost to ensure your transit is smooth.
By what mode will photography be done on this Tour?
Photography will be done from an open four-wheel-drive safari vehicle.
- 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?
For elephants and other mammals, a telephoto zoom lens in the range of 70 to 200mm/300mm or 100 to 400mm works very well. If opting for a fixed ('prime') lens, the 300mm focal length on a cropped sensor body with a 1.4x extender ('teleconverter') is the best compromise, although lenses of longer focal length can be used to good effect as well, especially on 'full-frame' bodies. For birds, a lens with a focal length of at least 400mm is essential. A wide-angle or normal zoom to capture landscapes or creative perspectives of wildlife is recommended. And since the light conditions in Indian jungles can often be challenging, an image-stabilized lens and a camera body that performs well at high sensitivities are boons.
I do not have requisite equipment. What do I do?
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 can enjoy a 10% discount on all equipment hired on our Photo Tours!
*Equipment rental is subject to availability and feasibility of delivery if you're not travelling from Bangalore or Pune.
© - All Text, Photographs, Videos and Narrations are properties of Toehold Travel & Photography Private Limited.
7 to 12 February 2017
- Tour Cost:
Per person inclusive of taxes
Per couple inclusive of taxes
Per person inclusive of taxes
- Skipper: Sachin Rai