Top Cat Tryst - Tiger Photography Tour
He came from the bush like a spectre, walked with the authority of a colonel and sat like a Tagore poem in earthly form. You were left a sitting duck.
Before this you hadn't seen anything remotely as big that is also so achingly throbbing with aesthetic perfection and mesmeric charm. Rightfully, you check if you're hallucinating.
You want to cling to every second of this exotic experience, but it is like a mirage - a real phenomenon but not a packable commodity. And the more you see, the more you want of it. It is joyous, sacred. You cannot shrug it off. Something inside you has been lit. Your life has just changed and you know you'll never be the same again.
For you've just enjoyed the incomparable sight of a tiger in the wild.
How is it?
The tiger's beauty is like an impossible paradox, a phenomenon more than a physical entity, seemingly existent in a different plane of reality. And that is why, no matter how prepared you are, every time you see a tiger, you become a conductor of electricity. You buzz with incredulity.
Seeing a tiger in the wild has been documented to elicit strong reactions from souls of various billing - from the weekend picnicker to the academically minded researcher. Some become poets, some try hard to stifle a scream of delight and some perform a jocular jig in tribute to Fortuna, but nobody ever escapes the magic. There is a reason the tiger has been voted the world's favourite animal.
And Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve is one of its most famous temples; a natural amphitheatre that kindly affords an invaluable window to the life of this great cat.
Situated in the heart of Wild India, it is not merely one of the tiger's best havens, but its very byword. This is because the tiger is more than just a wild inmate of the forest here; it is rather the very spirit that resides in every heart living around it. It is the tiger capital of the world.
In these parts, the day's calendar revolves around the tiger's schedule, and life dances to the rhythm of its marauding moods. And that is why here, when a tiger spots you, it is eminently possible to spot it back.
But equal to the allure of the tenant is the splendour of its home.
An intoxicating mix of history and natural history sings a soulful tune in this timeless land. Set around a haunting 2000-year-old fort believed to have been gifted by lord Ram to his brother Lakshman (leading to the name 'Bandhavgarh,' meaning 'brother's fort'), the 437km2 park is as much an archaeological goldmine as an ecological gem.
Halfway up the fort, an astounding monolithic sculpture of a recumbent lord Vishnu oversees the wild affairs unfolding on the lower slopes where the star protagonists play out their everyday roles.
An undercurrent of magic envelopes you as you snake your way through the hallowed alleys of the tourism zones, where the great tigers - Charger, Sita, Mohini and B2 - once roamed and whose able descendants now grace the mythical landscape like beautiful relics left behind by a fantastical kingdom.
At Bandhavgarh, bedazzlement comes as standard.
What you will see and photograph:
Plainly, the biggest draw of the park is the unparalleled opportunity it offers to observe and photograph tiger behaviour for sustained periods of time. Tracking the known individuals by territory and movement, the extraordinarily skilled guides and drivers yield intimate photo opportunities and unique insights into the public life of the enigmatic big cat and the expert Toehold-Skipper will show you how to make the most of it.
But it doesn't stop there.
Jackals and jungle cats cross paths with pleasing frequency, fish eagles and pythons show up unexpectedly and the now rarefied species of vultures, which thrive here, constitute a heartening sight overhead.
From displaying peacocks to surveying white-eyed buzzards, there is plenty of avian life to keep you riveted. Other chief winged attractions include the brown fish owl, blue-bearded bee-eater, lesser adjutant stork, white-rumped shama, orange-headed rock thrush and stork-billed kingfisher.
Down below, the plaintive, almost blood-curdling, cry of the rutting chital, the stately sambhar, the diminutive muntjac and many other mammals will enthrall you in no less measure. Bandhavgarh is indeed a smorgasbord of the choicest riches.
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.
Santosh has been richly recognised, most notably as winner of the NDTV Tiger Photo Contest in 2010, finalist in the same year at the world's most coveted competition - the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year, and recipient of several Special Mentions in the annual Sanctuary Asia Wildlife Photography competitions. His photos have adorned websites, magazines, books, calendars and other merchandise both commercially and in aid of conservation.
Santosh's work may be followed on his blog, and his Facebook Page.
Read more about Santosh 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 wanted to express my gratitude for organizing a wonderful trip. I was looking forward for the trip more so from the point of having a break from the hectic corporate life and to have good sighting of wild life. The trip gave me much more than what i had expected. The learnings from the trip on photography was great and will help me improve my skills further. Your knowledge of photography made the trip more informative and fun. Thanks for the wonderful experience. Looking forward for more such trips in the future.
- Sandesh Murchy, Bengaluru
The Bandhavgarh trip was a very enriching experience.. of course with the Tigers and the forests in context. Sachin, with his immense knowledge, his freindly affable ways, and his eagerness to teach, broke the ice immidiately in such a diverse group, his informal approach i think worked wonders. In the last one year that i have picked up a camera..and travelled with a couple of groups, the instant bond that Sachin created with the participants was magical. We felt a bond with toehold ... as we parted .. and im sure many of us will be there for more trips in future.
- Neelu Bhatt, Bengaluru
For a nature lover seeking solace in the wilderness,dreams galore, expectations are very high. For him the itenary running at pace, guidance, information on field, the whole experience of being one with nature matters a lot. Even a when a person learns digital photography understanding the techniques, knowing about the nuances, he needs the right tutoring and ideas to bring in a difference in what he visualizes and photographs, here the experience with Toehold has been by far one of the best.
- Dilip Prashanth, Bengaluru
This mail is just to tell you guys that it was wonderful experience with you all it was very friendly envouent with you all guys as it was my journey towards wildlife and I m so happy that it was with right guys.
- Tejas Chhadwa, Mumbai
Tigers, Leopards and Wildldogs - all predators in Kanha made this a great outing. Learnt so much and had great fun!
- Srinivas Yelandur, Bengaluru
Please click on any thumbnail and use the left and right arrow keys to navigate between photos in the gallery.
- DAY 1 3/10 May 2017, Wednesday: Arrival and Check-in; Overnight in Bandhavgarh
Participants fly to Jabalpur from either Delhi or Mumbai and are transported to Bandhavgarh, in about five hours. After checking in, we are met by the Skipper and get to know one another. Following a scrumptious dinner and a round of mutual introduction, our Skipper will brief the group on the natural history features and tourist rules of the park and set the tone for the Tour before we retire for the night with exciting dreams of what lies ahead.
DAY 2 4/11 May, Thursday: Morning and Afternoon Safaris and Overnight in Bandhavgarh
Come early morning and it's time for the much-awaited first safari, during which we acquaint ourselves with the topographical features of the park. A dash of beginner's luck can yield the coveted sight of a tiger early on the trip, kicking the event off to a rollicking start, but even if feline fortune doesn't shine through, the beauty of the forest is bound to enthrall us with plenty of time remaining on the Tour to see and photograph the principal object of our pursuit.
Following our maiden foray, we return to camp, where the Tour's first interactive ChaayaaChitraChaayaaChitra: Photography Techniques, Tips, Trickssession will ensue. These unique Toehold sessions, which are highly fruitful and great fun, are reported by earlier participants to be as enjoyable as the safaris themselves and are likely to entertain as much as educate you.
In the afternoon we venture into the park for another safari, looking for more opportunities.
Having spent a noteworthy day replete with exploration, photography and frolic, we enjoy a scrumptious supper before hitting the sack for the night.
DAYS 3 and 4 5 and 6 May/12 and 13 May, Friday and Saturday: Morning and Afternoon Safaris and Overnight in Bandhavgarh
For the next two days, we follow the same schedule in pursuit of tiger photography opportunities.
After a morning wakeup-call at 4:15 opens the day, we reach the park gate at the earliest possible and be one of the first to enter when it opens. This will allow us to look for pugmarks and other fresh signs of any tiger movement to track the big cats, and also put us in a vantage position for viewing and photography, should a tiger materialize. Tigers are at their most active during the early hours of dawn and late hours of dusk, so we seek to utilize the first hour of the ride to the most.
The morning safari lasts for a full four hours, giving us a splendid chance not only to find tigers but also see and photograph many other inhabitants of this Central Indian Eden. We exit the park and return to our comfortable resort for a refreshing shower and a rejuvenating breakfast.
After a brief repose, we meet for a session of ChitraTantraChitraTantra: Photo Principles, Reviews, Critique, where your Skipper will critique your pictures upon request, sharing valuable tips for improvement. Intriguing and interactive, this discussion is bound to open your eyes to many new things you can try on the rides to come.
Lunch will be followed by the second safari at 3:30 p.m. Afternoons are great for bird-watching, and while we wait for tigers to start moving or visit the numerous waterholes to counter the summer heat, we have a great time photographing some of the winged attractions of Bandhavgarh. Meanwhile your Skipper will constantly monitor the situation and strategize with the guide and the driver to maximize tiger sighting opportunities.
Should a tiger encounter materialize, your Skipper will do everything in his strength to put you in the best possible position for viewing and photography.
- DAY 5 7/14 May, Sunday: Morning and Afternoon Safaris in Bandhavgarh and Checkout
After enjoying morning and evening safaris in Bandhavgarh, we check out of our lodge and are transferred to Jabalpur or Katni, whence we return home with fascinating tales to tell our families and friends!
For schedule 1, the Tour starts at Bandhavgarh after 12 noon on 3 May 2017 and ends at Bandhavgarh after the evening safari on 7 May.
For schedule 2, the Tour starts at Bandhavgarh after 12 noon on 10 May 2017 and ends at Bandhavgarh after the evening safari on 14 May.
Transfer from and back to the nearest airport (Jabalpur) or railway station (Umaria or Katni) will be at an additional, actual cost. Toehold will provide assistance in cab-pooling but please talk to us for further help and specific needs.
The itinerary common to both schedules will be as follows:
Exclusive of service tax
Exclusive of service tax
Exclusive of service tax
Frequently Asked Questions
- Who should participate in this Tour? Are there any eligibility criteria?
Anybody over the age of 18 (unless accompanied by an adult) and interested in nature and wildlife - specifically tigers - and/or photography will enjoy this Tour thoroughly. There are no other 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 for you to make the most of the Tour, we recommend you be familiar with at least the basics of photography. If you're not, we suggest you join a Art and Science of Photography Workshop first.
- How many people can I expect to share my vehicle with on safari?
Our Photo Tours are designed to provide you sufficient space for comfortable photography without being excessively taxing on your pocket, so you can expect a maximum of three other people (including the participants and the Skipper) apart from the driver and the mandatory forest department guide.
Why aren't onward and return journeys included on this Tour?
Since participants of our Tours travel from various parts of the country by different modes (road, rail and air) as per their individual preferences, it works best to originate Tours from the destinations. We, however, provide all the assistance you need in arranging your logistics.
- 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 Photo 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.
- How sure are you about photographing wildlife 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. Of all the Indian parks, Bandhavgarh offers the best opportunity to observe and photograph the Bengal tiger. However, since we will be in an uncontrolled environment, we do not claim that sightings - especially of big cats - are guaranteed.
What equipment do you suggest on this Tour?
For tigers 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 the 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!
© - All Text, Photographs, Videos and Narrations are properties of Toehold Travel & Photography Private Limited.
3 to 7 May and 10 to 14 May 2017
- Tour Cost:
Per person exclusive of service tax
Per couple exclusive of service tax
Per person exclusive of service tax
All fares excluding transport to and back from Bandhavgarh.
- Skipper: Sachin Rai