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.
- A three-night/four-day photographic fest to one of the world’s best bird photography destinations
- A chance to photograph numerous migratory and residential birds, especially waders
- A wealth of focused photography learning under the tutelage of Skipper Santosh Saligram
- Enriching interactive sessions on natural history and a range of interesting topics
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 UNESCO 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.
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, shoveler, 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, 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.
Please note: This Tour begins at Bharatpur at around lunchtime on 14 February 2019, Thursday, and ends at Bharatpur after breakfast on 17 February, Sunday. 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.
14 February 2019, Thursday
Tour participants assemble in Delhi or Jaipur as per their preference (we recommend Jaipur), and at around 09:00 a.m., we leave for Bharatpur, completing the journey and checking in to our hotel for a 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.
15 February, Friday
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 ChitraTantra. 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.
16 February, Saturday
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, CharchaaLoka, will afford a wealth of technical insight into photography as well as natural history.
17 February, Sunday
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.
- 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) for Tour duration
- All rickshaw rides and entry fees
What’s Not Included?
- Travel between your home and Bharatpur, including airfare and transfers between Delhi or Jaipur and Bharatpur
- Any kind of personal expenses or optional tours, and 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
- Anything that is not included in the inclusions list
- All applicable taxes
- 50% of the Tour fee as booking amount (non-refundable)
- Remainder of the Tour fee before 30 November 2018
- 50% of the Tour fee on or before 14 December 2018
- 100% of the Tour fee on or after 15 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? 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.
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.
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 – especially of specific species – are guaranteed.
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.
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.
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.
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 do I do if I do not have the requisite equipment?
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 enjoy a 10% discount on all equipment hired for our Photo Tours!
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.
Thanks a ton for this wonderful trip. I do look forward to be a part of other Toehold photography events.
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
Yes, it was a great experience. I would definitely look forward to another excursion with you in the future.
Happy to be a part of your first Bharatpur photo tour, Inspiring trip and memories forever.