Giants of the Floodplains - Wildlife Photography Tour
What do you call a sanctuary that has the world's largest population of the great one-horned rhino, the planet's highest density of tiger, is India's biggest conservation success and a UNSECO World Heritage Site?
You may call it an idyll. Some call it a marvel of the Northeast. The world knows it as Kaziranga National Park.
And stepping into its core, this guided Tour will unravel the many facets of the wondrous site, and around its sinuous swamps and surreal mist-shrouded vistas, introduce you to a world of endless opportunities.
How is it?
KAZIRANGA NATIONAL PARK
Kaziranga's 470km2 lush green flood plains, which seem to be designed for maximum spectacle value, and fed by the mighty Brahmaputra, are composed of tall, dense grasslands interspersed with cane brakes, open woodlands, interconnecting streams and numerous lakes or 'beels' - which is a long way of saying that it's a truly mesmeric setting.
And virtually everything about Kaziranga is large, as giants dominate the landscape. From the grasses to the birds, and from the reptiles to the mammals, the underlying credo of this wildlife expo is that chic is the opposite of size-zero. And their rarity and exclusivity add excitement to the experience.
'An isolated evergreen forest' is a concise identifier of Hoollongapar Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary but the beauty and the magic it stands for cannot be reduced to words, for it is an invaluable piece of natural heritage sheltering India's only ape, the Western Hoolock Gibbon, besides a wealth of other exotic species.
The sanctuary is a 21km2 treasure of alluvial semi-evergreen vegetation composed of the eponymous Hollong trees, and evergreen shrubs and herbs. And weaving on you an inescapable web of charm, it will remain evergreen in your heart.
NAMERI TIGER RESERVE
Situated on the northern bank of the Brahmaputra near the Arunachal Pradesh-Assam border, this exotic natural treasure supports an astounding diversity of flora and fauna, and is home to some of the subcontinent's rarest species like the White-Winged Wood duck, which we will pursue with our base set in the delightfully located Nameri Eco Camp.
With the Jia Bhoroli River passing pristinely through narrow strips of grasslands, Nameri is composed of semi-evergreen, moist deciduous forests are rich in creepers and bamboo. Although famous for its prospering Elephant population, Nameri is really in fact a subliminal destination for the birder. With over 300 species in residence, its paradisiacal paths are certain to set your heart aflutter at every step.
What you will see and photograph:
Two decades ago, Kaziranga faced the ignominious threat of losing its most celebrated tenant, the great one-horned rhinoceros. Today, it is the best place in the world to see and photograph this primordial pachyderm. And although the rhino is virtually synonymous with the place, it is merely the tip of an iceberg that goes incredibly deep.
Among other mammals, the rare and endangered Asiatic water buffalo - a species of wild buffalo even larger than its African counterpart - forms a unique attraction. Enormous mud-stained tuskers and mid-sized elephant herds drifting slowly across the great outdoors are a regular fixture. In a smaller segment, the comely hog deer and the endemic swamp deer (or the 'soft ground barasingha') offer beautiful attractions on hooves. Occasionally, those bestowed with special fortune may enjoy the exceptional sight of a tiger adorning the great outdoors.
Kaziranga's avian life is famously splendid. Identified by Birdlife International as an "Important Bird Area", a rich variety of migratory birds, waders, raptors and scavengers are found here, including the black-necked stork, red-breasted parakeet, Asian barred owlet, dusky eagle-owl, dalmatian pelican, grey-headed fish eagle, Jerdon's babbler, swamp francolin, great hornbill, pied harrier and cinerous vulture.
Reptiles are represented by two of the largest snakes in the world, the reticulated python and Indian rock python, and the longest venomous snake in the world, the king cobra. The Assam roofed turtle is a fairly common sight that lends itself beautifully to creative imaging.
The adjoining Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary, which is a bonus destination on this Tour, is a fabulous place to observe some of India's endemic primates. A small park that offers big opportunities, it boasts of seven species of primate including the hoolock gibbon, pig-tailed and stump-tailed macaques, capped langur and slow loris, while three species of civet and four species of squirrel, including the Malayan giant, will keep your eyes riveted to the canopy. Amidst all this, the botanically inclined will be floored by its floral diversity. Truly, a 'simian adventure' never sounded so enticing!
At Nameri, prepare to attain salvation from birds that seem expressly designed to swoop down in exquisite fashion and slyly fly away with your heart in tow. Walking the mesmerising paths as they caress our senses, we are most likely to be rewarded with sights of the long-tailed broadbill, scarlet and long-tailed minivet, black-crested bulbul and streaked spiderhunter, while a singular glimpse of a wreathed hornbill or the rare and coveted white-winged wood duck sailing in sheer tranquility can purge all your fatigue in an instant. Besides, a refreshing sail down the river can reveal magnificent exotics such as the ibisbill, merganser, Pallas' fish eagle and plumbeous redstart. Withal, consider that mammals can include the yellow-throated marten and the Assamese macaque, and you may never have a dull moment at enchanting Nameri.
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:
We had a lovely time during the trip. Thank you for all the efforts in making it memorable and fruitful! We look forward to being on another photo tour with you soon!
- Ashwin Kumar N, Mumbai
Thank you so so much for everything; you guys are the best skippers ever! I had an absolutely amazing time on the trip; everything was so well organised and taken care of.
Can't wait to go for the next one!
- Neelu Pilania, Singapore
Toehold Photography and Travel is an excellent company, we only give them praise for the two weeks that we traveled with them on photography safaris. We arrived at Guwahati near Kaziranga Park, and for the next two weeks our trip was seamless. Everything was taken care for us, including transport after our flight, lodging, meals, entrance fees, vehicles, and most importantly, photography instruction. From 5:30 AM until 9:30 PM the Toehold staff was available. The focus of the safaris is photography, and we had rank amateurs to accomplished photographers on the trip. Everyone was given help regardless of ability. The animals we saw were beyond description. One-horned rhino, elephants in the wild, long horn buffalo, 155 species of birds, and the nearly extinct gibbon monkey.
- Jerry Rampelt, USA
Every impression I had of the north-east was superceeded by visuals seen on this tour. Thanks to Toehold to have helped me bring back these visuals
- Krisha Murali, Bengaluru
Being my first wildlife tour, I was not only enjoying the game but also the immense confidence build that Toehold influenced when it comes to photography.
- Supriya Pathak, Mumbai
One of my favorite tours till date, loved the organizing, execution and fun on this tour. Highly recommend anyone who wishes to go here to tag on to Toehold.
- Harish N.P, Bengaluru
Please click on any thumbnail and use the left and right arrow keys to navigate between photos in the gallery.
- Day 1 22 January 2017, Sunday: Arrival and Overnight in Nameri
We assemble at Guwahati by noon and the group will leave for Nameri. After a drive of around five hours, we settle down in our lovely camp, which is at at the edge of the forest and many species of birds, including the Oriental Hobby and the brown hawk owl, are seen nearby. Reptile lovers will be delighted by the enchanting sight of the endemic tokay gecko, a very big Gecko that resides in the banyan trees nearby.
In the evening over dinner, we get introduced to one another and then hear the course of action for the next few days from the Skipper, before we retire for the day.
- Day 2 23 January, Monday: All-day Birding and Overnight in Nameri
In the morning we take the kilometre-long walk to the river and cross by boat to the midst of the pristine forest, where we venture on a longer walk enjoying the habitat and pursuing bird sightings and photo opportunities.
We return for lunch, and after the meal, go back to the river making our way through shrubs to see small pratincoles and ibisbills as hornbills fly overhead.
- Day 3 24 January, Tuesday: Morning in Nameri; Transfer to and Overnight in Kaziranga
After enjoying a final birding session or an optional raft ride in the river photographing the waterfront birds found here, we check out of our camp at Nameri and are transferred to Kaziranga, where we reach in the evening.
Shortly after, we discuss the course of action before enjoying a scrumptious supper and retiring.
- Day 4 25 January, Wednesday: Morning and Afternoon Safaris and Overnight in Kaziranga
We enter the forest early in the morning and reach the gates of one of the zones of this beautiful park, aiming to get some evocative pictures of rhinos in the mist. As the mist lifts, the beauty of the magical swampy grasslands will become evident. After a fascinating ride, we return to the resort and breakfast, after which we discuss our first morning safari.
In the late afternoon we leave for the second safari, hoping to make images of the other magnificent wildlife seen here. A stimulating ChaayaaChitraChaayaaChitra: Photography Techniques, Tips, Trickssession will ensue before dinner, with a view of helping us make the most of the forthcoming safaris.
- Day 5 26 January, Thursday: Morning and Afternoon Safaris and Overnight in Kaziranga
We follow the same schedule as on day 2 and explore some other forested areas of the park too, choosing our zones according to the group's preference between mammal and bird photography. In the evening, another highly insightful session we call ChitraTantraChitraTantra: Photo Principles, Reviews, Critiquewill help you have your images reviewed and incorporate necessary improvements into your photography and processing.
- Day 6 27 January, Friday: Half-day Visit to Gibbon and Overnight in Kaziranga
We visit the beautiful Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary and spend half a day watching and photographing primates. A combination of patience and luck should yield opportunities to watch hoolock gibbons at length.
In the evening we return to Kaziranga and after an informal discussion about the finds of the day or a session reviewing pictures, call it a productive day.
- Day 7 28 January, Saturday: Morning and Afternoon Safaris and Overnight in Kaziranga
We venture into the National Park for two more safaris to try our luck with large mammals and rare birds. By now, we will have spent ample time both in the field and off it learning a lot about both photography and animal behaviour, which should help us make the most of the opportunities that come our way. In the evening we enjoy a CharchaalokaCharchaaloka: Presentations, Lectures, Discussionssession from the Skipper.
- Day 8 29 January, Sunday: Checkout and Dispersal
After an early breakfast we check out of our lodge in Kaziranga and are driven back to Guwahati. Having enjoyed an eventful trip filled with learning, adventure, fun and memorable experiences, we part and return home, bustling with stories to tell and pictures to share.
KAZIRANGA AND GIBBON
Inclusive of taxes
Inclusive of taxes
Inclusive of taxes
Frequently Asked Questions
- Who should participate in this Tour? Are there any eligibility criteria?
Anybody with an interest in wildlife, photography or birding will thoroughly enjoy this Tour. And although this Tour is optimized for photographers, non-photographers are most welcome too. There are no eligibility criteria except that you must be over 18 unless accompanied by a parent or adult guardian.
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 the Tour photographically, we suggest you be familiar with at least the basics of photography. If you are not, please consider signing up for a Art and Science of Photography Workshop first.
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.
What equipment do you suggest on this Tour?
For rhinos 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 should 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 enjoy a 10% discount on all equipment hired for our Photo Tours!
By what mode will we explore the forests on this Tour?
We will do our photography from an open safari vehicle in Kaziranga Tiger Reserve, but on foot and by raft in Nameri Tiger Reserve, and on foot in Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary. Due to this, we require that you have a requisite level of fitness.
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, on each safari.
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. However, since we will be in an uncontrolled environment, we do not claim that sightings of specific species are guaranteed.
© - All Text, Photographs, Videos and Narrations are properties of Toehold Travel & Photography Private Limited.
22 to 29 January 2017
Per person inclusive of taxes
Per couple inclusive of taxes
Per person inclusive of taxes
- Skipper: Sachin Rai