Tiger Solstice - Wildlife Photography Tour
It's summer in an ancient forest. A peacock crows his raucous call, big sambar stags stomp the ground in red alert, frogs retreat to the security of the water and chirping birds slump into a lull of silence.
A tiger walks out of the bush and strides regally across the shoreline taking your breath away.
And you have witnessed the magic of the emperor who doesn't rule merely the land but also the hearts of its inhabitants. It's a timely experience of timeless evolutionary perfection.
Why do the Full-Day Tour?
Tiger watching and photography in Ranthambhore is an unparalleled joy, but is beset by a number of challenges. Here's how the Full Day Tour resolves these obstacles:
1. No zone restrictions
On a regular tour, we must stay within one tourism zone for the entire safari. And because zone permits are bought months in advance, we cannot choose your zone based on the current sightings. But on the Full-Day Tour, we can move between zones, whenever and as many times as we want! What's more, we'll be accompanied by a forest guard equipped with a walkie, so he can track the goings on in all the zones in real-time, and get us to the right place every time! This means ultimate freedom and flexibility in tracking wildlife and pursuing sightings.
2. More time
Being in the park for the entire day allows us to spend more time tracking tigers and other wildlife. And when we find a subject of interest, we don't have to leave in a hurry to comply by the time restrictions that apply to the normal safaris. And more time spent in the park equates to potentially more opportunities.
3. More space and exclusivity
Because there are very few vehicles on full-day safaris, once the vehicles doing regular safaris exit the park in the morning until the afternoon safari begins, we have a lot of exclusive time in the park, which translates to a more pristine experience and potentially better images.
How is it?
Between the Aravalis and the Vindhyas in the Sawai Madhopur District of eastern Rajasthan lies the Ranthambhore National Park as a part of the greater Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve. 1334km2 in area but infinitely larger in appeal, the tiger reserve is bound by two rivers and a sanctuary, and features the terrain types of both hill systems at whose confluence it nestles enticingly.
But Ranthambhore is not just the confluence of two mountain ranges, but also a convergence of the best of man, nature and her creations. Here, history and natural history jell seamlessly to form a perpetual spectacle of endless wonder.
The ancient relics left by the human kingdoms of the past, most notably in the way of arches, gates and chhatris, dot the park almost ubiquitously, now reclaimed by the protected wilderness and embraced wholeheartedly by its rightful inhabitants.
This great setting in which the masterpieces of human industry complement the products of nature's whimsical flair, gives the reserve its unique, inimitable feel and charm that have propelled it to one of the best places on Earth in which to witness some of the world's most beautiful animals enjoying unmolested lives.
The invaluable jungles of Ranthambhore bear the distinction of being India's largest expanse of dry deciduous Anogeissus pendula forest, Rajasthan's only habitat in which a viable tiger population currently survives, a critical water catchment area, and an important bio-diversity hub supporting endangered megafauna. And with its rugged hills, steep valleys, rakish ravines and grass-covered plateaus, Ranthambhore makes tiger-watching a joy nonpareil.
What you will see and photograph:
The royal Bengal tiger, true to the prevailing ambience, is particularly royal here. A true emperor of all it surveys, the tiger makes its life much more public here than in most other reserves, offering a wealth of precious opportunities to observe and photograph Ranthambhore's most charismatic tenant and implicitly its greatest guardian in all its glorious individuality.
But the tiger is certainly not Ranthambhore's singular attraction. For where the apex of the food chain dwells, a whole healthy ecosystem thrives and thus abounds a great variety of watchable wildlife.
Felines hogging a smaller share of the limelight include the leopard, which is sometimes seen straddling the rocky cliffs and steep ridges under the perilous shadow of its larger cousin; the elusive caracal with its long, tufted ears; the fascinating jungle cat and the diminutive rusty-spotted cat.
Notable ungulates apart from the ubiquitous sambar and chital are India's largest antelope, the nilgai or blue bull and the infinitely graceful and rare chinkara or Indian gazelle, which are the kinds of subjects that make photography such a rewarding vocation.
Sloth bears, jackals and Indian foxes are in attendance and a burst of fortune can lead to explosively exciting encounters and while Indian and palm civets, ruddy mongooses and the striking striped hyena are not easy to see, their pursuit in the interests of a photographic pay-dirt will keep you very keenly interested.
And over 320 species of birds in attendance, including francolins, quails, thicknees, sand grouses and partridges in the ground to minivets, flycatchers, tits, orioles, green pigeons and parakeets in the trees, the avifaunal siege is bounteous enough to keep you riveted as you snake through its magical alleyways in the quest of the king.
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 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: The Tour starts at Ranthambhore after 12 noon on 19 April 2017, and ends at Ranthambhore after breakfast on 23 April. Transfer from and back to the nearest airport or railway station will be at an additional, actual cost. Assistance in cab-pooling will be provided but please talk to us for further help and specific needs.
- DAY 1 19 April 2017, Wednesday: Arrival and Check-in; Overnight in Ranthambhore
You arrive at the lodge in Sawai Madhopur by lunchtime and check in. Shortly, the Skipper will facilitate a round of mutual introduction over buffet lunch and orient you to the features and the rules of the park.
The afternoon will be at leisure as we wait for everybody to check in. In the evening the Skipper will deliver a refresher of photography basics to ensure we're all geared up for a full day's photography the next day.
Having spent a noteworthy day replete with preparation and frolic, we enjoy a scrumptious supper before hitting the sack for the night with dreams of what lies ahead.
DAYS 2 to 4 20 to 22 April, Thursday to Saturday: Full-day Safaris and Overnight in Ranthambhore
Over the next three days, we enjoy full-day safaris in Ranthambhore. We enter the park just after sunrise and go in search of tigers and all the other wealth of photo opportunities, to hopefully make plenty of images of many of Ranthambhore's resident wild inhabitants.
A forest guard armed with a walkie will accompany us to keep track of the goings on in the various zones in the park, and whensoever a sighting is reported somewhere, we can drive straight up there without any zone restrictions.
Meanwhile the Skipper will constantly monitor the situation and decide the strategy real-time to maximise the opportunities and derive the utmost value from the experience. He will also help you make great images by having the vehicle positioned rightly, and assisting you to get all the settings right.
In the evenings, we meet for a ChitraTantraChitraTantra: Photo Principles, Reviews, Critiqueor CharchaalokaCharchaaloka: Presentations, Lectures, Discussionssession, where a review of the experiences of the day and a discussion of all matters photography and natural-history will call a fittingly erudite end to a productive day.
DAY 5 23 April, Sunday: Checkout and Dispersal
After enjoying a final morning's breakfast, we take the customary group picture, check out and disperse with many images to show and many an enthralling story to tell to our loved ones.
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, to make the most of the Tour, we suggest you be conversant with at least the basics of photography. If you aren't, we strongly recommend that you consider signing up for 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 personnel.
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. 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.
- Date: 19 to 23 April 2017
- Tour Cost
Per person exclusive of service tax
Per couple exclusive of service tax
Per person exclusive of service tax
All fares excluding travel to and back from Ranthambhore
- Skipper: Santosh Saligram