Top Cat Tryst
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.
- An authentic 4-night/5-day wildlife experience in a celebrated central Indian forest
- An excursion planned and executed to perfection
- Possibly excellent photo opportunities of tigers and other attractions of Bandhavgarh
- Beautiful landscape photographs of scenic environs
- Extensive photography assistance both on and off the field
- A wealth of natural history and post-processing learning with Toehold’s Skippers
- A fun and highly interactive environment without barriers
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.
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.
For schedule 1, the Tour starts at Bandhavgarh after 12 noon on 1 May 2019 and ends at Bandhavgarh after the evening safari on 5 May.
For schedule 2, the Tour starts at Bandhavgarh after 12 noon on 8 May 2019 and ends at Bandhavgarh after the evening safari on 12 May.
Transfer from and back to the nearest airport (Jabalpur) or railway station (Umaria or Katni) will be at an additional, actual cost. We 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:
Schedule 1: 1 to 5 May 2019
Schedule 2: 8 to 12 May 2019
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.
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 ChaayaaChitra session 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.
For the next two days, we follow the same schedule in pursuit of tiger photography opportunities.
After a morning wakeup-call at 04:15. 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 ChitraTantra, 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 03:30 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.
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!
- Per Person on Twin Share Accommodation
- Per Couple on Twin Share Accommodation
- Per Person on Twin Share Accommodation
- Twin-sharing accommodation in comfortable rooms unless single occupancy purchased at extra cost
- All meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and hot beverages (coffee and tea)
- All entry fees, guide fees and safaris
What’s Not Included?
- Any airfare
- Transfers from the nearest airport or railway station and back
- Any kind of personal expenses or optional tours or extra meals ordered
- Insurance, laundry and phone calls
- Bottled water, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages
- Camera fees if any (participants will be advised of the estimated fees in advance)
- Tips and gratuities
- All applicable taxes
- Anything that is not included in the inclusions list
- At least 50% of the Tour fee as booking amount (non-refundable)
- Remainder of the Tour fee before 20 December 2018
- 50% of the Tour fee on or before 25 December 2018
- 100% of the Tour fee on or after 26 December 2018
Please note: The date of written (email) communication of intent to cancel is the date considered for calculation of the cancellation fees.
While Toehold Photo Travel is one of our most popular offerings, we work as a travel agency without bringing the photography guide element in to your travel. In short you would be using our travel experts service to just plan the vacation and execute it.
- Unlike a Photo Travel experience, your Vacation is completely personalised.
- The dates, style of travel, class of hotels and lodges, destinations, everything is tailor-made to suit your custom requirement.
- A Skipper or a photography guide doesn’t travel with you to guide you unless you decide to take our customised and guided photo travel experience.
So take advantage of the immense experience and field knowledge that we bring in to your Vacation’s planning without having to pay for our time and costs. Plus, we don’t charge an additional fee for our time and travel planning services.
Who should participate in this Tour?
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 to make the most of the Tour photographically, we recommend that you be familiar with photography fundamentals. If you’re not, we suggest you join an Art and Science of Photography Workshop before the Tour.
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 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.
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.
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. Visit our Rental Store to see what we offer. What’s better, you can enjoy a 10% discount on all equipment hired on our Photo Tours!
I wanted to express my gratitude for organizing a wonderful trip. 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.
The Bandhavgarh trip was a very enriching experience. Sachin, with his immense knowledge and his eagerness to teach, broke the ice immediately. His informal approach i think worked wonders. Thank you Toehold!
For a nature lover seeking solace in the wilderness, expectations are very high. When a person learns digital photography understanding the techniques, 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.
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.
Tigers, Leopards and Wild Dogs – all predators in Bandhavgarh made this a great outing. Learnt so much and had great fun!