Wetland Wonders - Wildlife Photography Tour
You walk a path that winds pristinely through marshy vegetation. The curtain of mist rises slowly off a huge flock of greylag geese as you approach a large lake. Golden sun-rays filter through from the horizon, lending an ethereal glow to the scene.
Suddenly, a marauding marsh harrier encircles above, rousing the roosting geese into the air. The sight and the sound of thousands of wings beating overhead is stunning. You realize that every step taken here is an advance through a world of endless fascination, and in its wondrous folds, Bharatpur hands you an experience beyond the ordinary.
How is it?
To the nature lover, winter is synonymous with misty horizons, frost-capped grass-flowers and...birds. Hundreds of them. Some foreign, some local; some big and many small; but all of them fascinating to watch and photograph. And synonymous with birds in the winter is a small swampy paradise called Keoladeo Ghana National Park.
Made by man and replenished by Nature, this centrepiece of the little town of Bharatpur is the result of a bund constructed 250 years ago. Subsequently its rich and eventful history witnessed large-scale hunting by the maharajas and the visiting viceroys. But upon the establishment as a national park in 1982, the sanctuary, named after the Shiva temple at the midst of its network of swamps, received the protection it much deserved and was declared a UNSECO World Heritage Site in 1985.
At its best, the variety, density and the sheer number of birds on show here will rival the world's biggest fair of any kind, and the beauty and scale of its bird life will leave even a great orator hopelessly spellbound.
What you will see and photograph:
When Sir Peter Scott described Keoladeo Ghana as "the world's best bird area" he wasn't given to hyperbole. For such are the treats in store here that it's hard to think of a place that is more rewarding to the seeker of winged wanderers.
A wader's paradise, Bharatpur lets its feathered guests have a field day, and its long list of winter-meet attendees features the bar-headed goose, gadwall, shoveller, grebes, and ducks, including the comb duck and the lesser whistling duck, which are in large numbers.
Northern pintails and greylag geese roost in the thousands while marsh harriers prowl the air looking to eat one of them. In the quest for fish, kingfishers perch patiently on a branch near water, black-necked storks walk through it hoping to stun one, and Oriental darters snake in and out trying to scoop one out.
The list of hooting callers features the brown hawk owl, collared scops owl and dusky eagle owl, and to photograph the spotted owlet, hardly a better place can be conceived, as they welcome the rising sun . Steppe, tawny, greater and lesser spotted and crested serpent eagles constitute the distinguished raptors, while so do the black-shouldered kite, shikra, white-eyed buzzard and Oriental honey buzzard among others.
Storks are aplenty, and come in the open-billed, painted, black- and woolly-necked format, while herons are purple and grey, and ibises are black and glossy. Greenshanks, stilts, sandpipers and jacanas hang out at the waterfront along with common coot and common moorhen, white-eared bulbuls adorn the bushes, and yellow-footed green pigeon and Eurasian wryneck decorate the trees.
Coppersmith barbets are not averse to approach, common hoopoes pose delightfully with erect crests, Indian coursers and yellow-wattled lapwings can be snapped at eye-level with some exertion of the back, and white-breasted waterhen can often be shot with a wide-angle lens!
The smaller birds are not left behind either. European and Indian rollers abound, while Indian nightjars perch still on discreet branches, white-browed and red-throated flycatchers show themselves endearingly, and citrine wagtails, bluethroats and brown shrikes entice with their eponymous colours.
But saying that Bharatpur is all about birds is like claiming that the Himalayas are all about snow-clad hills. Never short of surprises, a day's walk in the Ghana can yield cherished sights of jungle cat. Besides, jackal and Bengal monitor lizard encounters are exceedingly common, nilgai (blue bull) are commonly seen, and the park is one of the best places in the world to photograph the Indian rock python.
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:
The Bharatpur experience has been magical and the Sarus Crane encounter is a memory for life long. Thanks for making bird photography more interesting and rewarding.
- Dr Sriram, Bangalore
Thanks a ton for this wonderful trip. I do look forward to be a part of other Toehold photography events.
- Animesh Singh, Delhi
Thanks a lot for the wonderful trip..really loved it a lot. It was great fun meeting like minded people and sharing ideas..wish I could do something like this forever
- Saurav Mahanta, Salem
Thank you for a wonderful experience on the tour - both at Bharatpur and the surprise Chambal visit. Everything was well-organised and more than met all my expectations. I was afforded the opportunity to meet some very interesting people and also must thank you for helping to rekindle my interest in wildlife and photography. Thank you!
- Kiran Kalyan, Bangalore
Yes, it was a great experience. I would definitely look forward to another excursion with you in the future.
- Lois Parmar, Mumbai
Happy to be a part of your first Bharatpur photo tour, Inspiring trip and memories forever.
- Prakash Subbanna, Bangalore
Please click on any thumbnail and use the left and right arrow keys to navigate between photos in the gallery.
Please note: This Tour begins at Bharatpur at around lunchtime on 16 February 2017, and ends at Bharatpur after breakfast on 19 February. Road transfers between Delhi or Jaipur and Bharatpur will be arranged in shared cabs at extra actual cost. Please talk to us for special needs.
- DAY 1 16 February 2017, Thursday: Arrival and Initial Foray; Overnight in Bharatpur
Tour participants assemble in Delhi or Jaipur as per their preference, and at around 9 a.m., we leave for Bharatpur, completing the journey and checking in to our hotel for a late lunch.
After mutual introduction and a quick briefing by the Skipper about the park, we make our first foray into it, familiarizing ourselves with the terrain and enjoying our maiden exploration of it. We return to the resort after a fulfilling introduction to the park and spend the rest of the evening discussing the basics of wetland bird photography. A scrumptious dinner precedes retirement for the day.
DAY 2 17 February, Friday: All-day Photography in Keoladeo Ghana National Park; Overnight in Bharatpur
Before sunrise, our cycle rickshaw drivers are waiting for us at the lodge and we're taken to the park when we're ready. We spend much of the first day visiting the major birding hotspots and seek to make evocative images in early morning light.
By midday, we meet at the central area of the park for lunch and a brief rest, before resuming our activity. In the winter the light is excellent nearly throughout the day, with the quality of photography opportunities peaking at dawn and dusk. The Skipper will utilize his experience to put us in the right place at the right time to capitalize on such opportunities.
Exiting the park after sunset, we return to the lodge and after a refreshing round of tea, gather for a session of ChitraTantraChitraTantra: Photo Principles, Reviews, Critique. These interactive sessions are highly insightful and greatly entertaining, and ensure that your post-shoot time is as productive as when you're out in the field.
After a productive day full of photography fun and off-the-field learning, we dine and retire for the night.
DAY 3 18 February, Saturday: All-day Photography in Keoladeo Ghana National Park; Overnight in Bharatpur
Into the third day of the Tour, we enjoy all-day photography with the same schedule as on the previous day. We may also visit some areas outside the park based on potential.
In the evening, another insightful session, CharchaalokaCharchaaloka: Presentations, Lectures, Discussions, will afford a wealth of technical insight into photography as well as natural history.
DAY 4 19 February, Sunday: Checkout and Dispersal
Our last morning at Bharatpur will be spent doing a short ride into the picturesque park, and after photographing birds in the delightful early-morning light, we return to the lodge for breakfast.
Having enjoyed a highly productive time in a bird paradise, we take a customary group picture and then, depending on schedules of departure, are dropped back to Delhi or Jaipur to connect to our flights.
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 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, to make the most of the Tour photographically, we suggest you be conversant with at least the basics of photography. If you are not, we strongly recommend you join for 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?
Motorized transport is prohibited inside the national park. We will be using chauffeured cycle rickshaws to get around, and much of the photography will be done on foot.
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, especially on 'full-frame' (35mm) bodies. 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 Bharatpur and make creative perspectives of wildlife.
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!
© - All Text, Photographs, Videos and Narrations are properties of Toehold Travel & Photography Private Limited.
16 to 19 February 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 Bharatpur
- Skipper: Santosh Saligram