India: Tigers, Sloth Bears, Asiatic Wild Dogs and much more
Central India, plus Agra, the Chambal River and Gujarat
Wednesday 20th March – Sunday 7th April 2019
Leaders: Mike Watson and local naturalist guides
|19 Days||Group Size Limit 6|
Thursday 19th March – Monday 6th April 2020
Leaders: Mike Watson and local naturalist guides will assist in each area
|19 Days||Group Size Limit 6|
- The chance to photograph majestic Tigers in the wild, multiple times
- Searching for Sloth Bears and Asiatic Wild Dogs at Tadoba
- Muggers, Gharials, Indian Skimmers, Gangetic Dolphins and other wildlife in the Chambal River
- Explore the Little Rann of Kutch looking for Asiatic Wild Asses, Bengal Foxes, Striped Hyaenas and Flamingoes
- Get up close to Asia's most beautiful antelope, the Blackbuck
- Seek out Grey Wolf and Jungle Cat at Blackbuck National Park
- See and photograph the Taj Mahal, one of the most beautiful buildings in the world
INDIA TIGER & WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY TOURS WITH WILD IMAGES
Tiger! Surely one of the most evocative creatures that still shares our crowded planet with us, but for how much longer? Of all the mammals that wildlife photographers dream of photographing, the magnificent Tiger surely tops the bill! But Tiger photography is not an easy thing to do. Unlike, for example, Lions in Africa, Tigers in India and other parts of Asia are rare and far more secretive, at least in many wildlife sanctuaries. Those making short visits to the wildlife reserves of India are sometimes lucky enough to see a Tiger or two on their travels, but often views are brief and quite often there are no sightings at all. To see and photograph Tigers well it is necessary to spend plenty of time and also to visit the very best and most reliable Tiger reserves in India. Furthermore, the very best period for frequency of Tiger sightings is from late March to May, with the period November to February, when many overseas wildlife photographers come to India because of the cooler weather, being much less good.
To see and photograph Tigers well it is necessary to spend plenty of time and also to visit the very best and most reliable Tiger reserves in India. Furthermore, the very best period for frequency of Tiger sightings is from late March to May, with the period November to February, when the majority of overseas visitors come to India because of the cooler weather, being much less good.
In order to make those Tiger photography dreams come true, we will be exploring what is probably the best wildlife sanctuary in India for Tiger sightings at the present time, the little-known but brilliant Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra in Central India. This huge and remote park, situated in the hill ranges of central India that were immortalized by Rudyard Kipling in the Jungle Book, protects vast tracts of largely deciduous forest which still hold many Tigers. Tadoba is currently recognized by discerning wildlife photographers as one of the very best places to go if one wants great photography encounters with Tigers.
In this wonderful reserve in Central India you can expect, not just hope, to get multiple sightings of these extraordinary and beautiful predators, often at close range, and sometimes one can watch them for long periods at a time! Staring into the huge, cold yellow eyes of a Tiger just a short distance away is an awesome experience, and Tadoba is where it can happen. We will explore the park by jeep and some of the Tigers are now so used to the presence of people that they seem unconcerned by their close proximity. From the well-sited lodge we use at Tadoba, with its expert guides, our group members have a good chance of sighting over 10 Tigers during a 10 days stay, and we could even record as many as 20-30 or even more! (By this we do not mean the number of different Tiger individuals, but the cumulative total of number of Tigers seen per day.) Needless to say, Tadoba has recently become something of a Tiger photography Mecca, but it remains far less well-known than places like Bandhavgarh and Kanha, even though, in our opinion, it is even better.
Tadoba holds a great variety of other wildlife and among large mammals offering good photography potential are the huge Gaur (or Indian Bison), the beautiful Chital (or Spotted Deer), Sambar (a large Red Deer/Elk-sized species), Nilgai (or Blue Bull, one of the world’s largest antelopes), Wild Boar and two species of monkey; Rhesus Macaque and the characterful Hanuman (or Grey) Langur.
We have a very good chance of multiple encounters with Sloth Bear and a good chance of coming across the rare and declining Dhole (or Asiatic or Indian Wild Dog). The sanctuary also produces sightings of Leopard, Jungle Cat and Golden Jackal,
Tadoba holds a rich selection of birdlife and amongst the species that often provide superb wildlife photography portraits are Indian Peafowl (the males will be in full display at the time of our visit), Lesser Adjutant (a huge stork), Crested Serpent Eagle, Crested Hawk-Eagle, Indian Scops Owl and Jungle Owlet.
The Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve is of course the major focus of this Indian wildlife photography journey, but our rich tapestry of experiences will be further enhanced by spending some time in other parts of this huge country.
During the first part of our India wildlife photography tour, we will pay a visit to the city of Agra to see and photograph the ethereal Taj Mahal, a building that represents a pinnacle of human achievement and one which epitomizes the romantic India of a bygone era that pinnacle of human achievement. The riches accumulated by the Moghul emperors were used to build awe-inspiring strongholds and some of the most fabulous palaces and monuments ever constructed. Their lives and times seem like a fairy tale to we inhabitants of a much more crowded and less simple era, but they live on in the remarkable monuments they built that now emblazon India’s rich architectural heritage.
Afterwards we will explore the wonderful National Chambal Sanctuary, a little-known reserve on the Chambal River, one of the last clean waterways in Northern India, where we will have superb opportunities for photography with two species of crocodile (the long-snouted Gharial and the thick-set Mugger), Gangetic River Dolphins, bizarre Indian Skimmers, Bar-headed Geese, Great Thick-knees and River and Black-bellied Terns.
The next stage of our Indian wildlife photography journey, before we move on to its climax at Tadoba, will take in two national parks in the state of Gujarat in western India.
The Little Rann of Kutch is home to most of the remaining Indian Wild Asses (or Onagers), Lesser Flamingos, the lovely Indian Courser and many other interesting creatures, including Bengal Fox and Striped Hyaena (we will be hoping to visit dens of both to photograph the young ones).
To the southeast lies Blackbuck (or Velavadar) National Park, where we will enjoy close-up encounters with the beautiful Blackbuck, surely one of the most striking antelopes of all. This is probably the best park in India for Grey Wolf encounters and is a great place for Jungle Cat and even Striped Hyaena.
Why we no longer include Gir Forest and its Lions
For some time we included a visit to Gir National Park in the Gujarat section of this tour, but we no longer do so. The ‘Asiatic’ Lions of Gir are quite famous, so this might seem a strange decision, but we have very good reasons for making it.
In the first place the ‘safari’ system at Gir has become almost intolerable for serious photographers. As with virtually every other national park and wildlife sanctuary in India, Gir used to have two ‘safari’ periods daily, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Then, in late 2015, the Gir authorities became unique in forcing in a third safari slot, apparently with only money-making in mind, that meant that everyone taking the early morning safari had to be out of the park by 09.00.
At first glance that would not seem too bad, as obviously the best light is early on, but Gir’s problem is that the route system is not only compulsory and one-way (with no turning round allowed), but all the best routes are extraordinarily long, being over 40 kilometres of dirt track in most cases. Just to get round this length of dirt track takes a long time, and all of it eats into what is now a meagre ration of time for photography. When one could go slowly, take time for photography and be out of the park by an 11.00 deadline it worked, but now it is often a helter-skelter, road-rally like situation to get to the gate by 09.00. In our view, a deeply flawed experience, if not a horrendous one.
On top of all this there is the serious corruption issue at Gir. We hate to say this, but the forest staff, or at least some of them, at Gir have long been ‘milking’ wildlife photographers by offering to drive the Lions out of cover towards photographers’ vehicles in return for substantial sums. We have even ourselves witnessed forest staff driving the Lions away from the tracks early in the morning so they could then make money by driving them back again! (Clearly you can’t risk doing this with a Tiger, thank goodness, but the Gir Lions are so docile and used to humans in their world that they put up with it.)
It is with some regret that we have decided to exclude the now deeply-flawed Gir Lions experience from our tours, but Africa is the place to experience Lions in a far superior way. The ‘Asiatic’ Lions of Gir are no longer considered a distinctive form by most mammalian taxonomists: recent research implies that they are not distinct from Lions from Western, Central and Northern Africa. Indeed, there is now (as yet unsubstantiated) talk that the Gir Lions were brought there from Africa by one of the local rulers in times past rather than representing a relict population of genuine ‘Asiatic’ Lions. Who knows if that will turn out to be true?
Accommodation & Road Transport
The hotels/lodges used during our India wildlife photography tour are of good standard almost throughout (and the lodge at Tadoba has a swimming pool). The lodge at the Little Rann of Kutch, where we spend two nights, is simple but charming and very pleasant and all rooms have private bathrooms. Road transfers are by cars or small coach, but we use open-topped jeeps (with up to 3 or 4 participants in each) inside most of the sanctuaries (we use an open-sided safari truck at the Little Rann of Kutch). Roads in India are variable in standard, but improving rapidly.
The walking effort during our India photography tour is easy throughout. There is little walking involved.
Typically it will be warm to hot, dry and sunny (early mornings are sometimes cool) in the parts of India being visited. Although overcast weather is not infrequent, rain is uncommon at this season.
If you are using a DSLR for wildlife photography you will need prime telephotos, with or without converters, that cover the range 200-600mm or more.(If your budget does not run to prime lenses, a high quality 100-400mm or similar zoom can be a great alternative.) Alternatively, you can get wonderful photography results with a high quality digital bridge camera with an 18-20x or higher optical zoom. If you have questions about what equipment you ought to bring, please contact us.
Other Wild Images wildlife photography tours in India:
INDIA WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY TOUR PRICE INFORMATION
2019 confirmed prices and 2020 provisional prices: £5890, €6710, $8190 Nagpur/Nagpur. Deposit: 10%.
Includes surface transportation, accommodations, meals, entrance fees (including photography fees for one camera) and tips/gratuities.
Also includes these flights: Delhi-Ahmedabad, Bhavnagar-Mumbai, Mumbai-Nagpur.
Single Room Supplement: £774, €882, $1076.
This tour is priced in US Dollars. Amounts shown in Pounds Sterling and Euros are based on £1 = $1.390 and €1 = $1.220.
Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.
INDIA WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY TOUR ITINERARY
The Wild Images India wildlife photography tour begins this morning at Delhi, the capital city of India, from where we will travel southwards to the historic city of Agra. Here we will make our way to the incomparable Taj Mahal, a mausoleum of ethereal beauty built by the Mogul emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal, that really does live up to its reputation and more. This immense building seems to float on its white marble plinth whilst inside the light filters gently down to softly illuminate the jewel-encrusted tombs of the emperor and his beloved. The Taj Mahal is positioned at the edge of the city, immediately above the Yamuna River and happily the far bank of the river is still undeveloped, making for an unspoilt backdrop for photography of this deservedly celebrated monument. After our visit to the Taj Mahal we will head for a small but comfortable and welcoming lodge near the Chambal River for a two nights stay.
Today we will explore the National Chambal Sanctuary. This important wildlife sanctuary is situated on the border between Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh states. Here the Chambal River, the last unpolluted major river in northern India, flows between low erosion cliffs as it approaches its junction with the Ganges. The wildlife sanctuary, which also includes part of the state of Rajasthan further upstream, was set up to protect the healthy population of crocodiles that survives here, and also a population of the highly endangered Gangetic River Dolphin.
By taking two boat trips on the river during our stay, we should be able to closely approach and photograph the crocodiles as they sun themselves on the sandbars, both the long-snouted Gharial and the more conventionally-shaped Mugger. Typically one encounters large adult male Gharials with a bulbous protrusion on the end of their snout, smaller adults and immatures and even tiny juveniles, all with long rows of fine teeth on display and streamlined, thinly plated bodies that contrast with the more conventional and fearsome-looking teeth and heavy armoured plating of the thick-set Muggers. We also have an excellent chance of seeing the blind Gangetic River Dolphin and we may even be lucky enough to watch them jumping exuberantly, although sometimes they show little more than their backs. Photography is a real challenge, however, as they usually give little or no notice they are about to surface or breach.
The most notable bird species of the Chambal is the localized Indian Skimmer and we should be able to photograph these bizarre creatures living up to their name as they flap across the river, intermittently dipping their ‘broken’ bills into the water, or flocking on small islets. Other photography attractions include the declining Red-naped (or Indian Black) Ibis, the handsome Bar-headed Goose, Bonelli’s Eagle, the hulking, huge-eyed Great Thick-knee, the noisy River Tern and the uncommon Black-bellied Tern. There is often a photogenic Brown Hawk-Owl in the lodge gardens.
During the late afternoon, after a chance to review images or take a rest in the heat of the day, we will visit the impressive Hindu temple complex at nearby Bateshwar. Not only can one take great images of the shrines and temples along the riverfront, but the priests and pilgrims here simply add to the delightful nature of the place. While this is primarily a wildlife photography tour, it is great to have a chance to soak in, and picture, India’s vibrant religious life.
This morning we will take a second boat trip for photography on the Chambal, giving us all the chance to capture subjects and scenes we may have missed the previous day.
This afternoon we will return to Delhi for an overnight stay.
This morning we take a flight south to Ahmedabad in western India. From the capital of Gujarat state we will head a relatively short distance westwards, our goal the salty ‘wastelands’ of the Little Rann of Kutch, where we will stay for two nights in a small but welcoming lodge run by a local landowner.
This afternoon we will begin our exploration of the Little Rann of Kutch.
At its southern edge the Thar Desert gradually gives way to the vast saline flats that form the Great Rann of Kutch and the Little Rann of Kutch. These flats, which were once part of the Gulf of Kutch (it is said Alexander the Great embarked from a port in the gulf at the end of his abortive campaign to conquer northwestern India), are still inundated by the sea during the monsoon months.
The Little Rann of Kutch is the last stronghold of the Indian Wild Ass (or Onager), which is now protected by the 4954 square kilometres (1913 square kilometres) of the Wild Ass Wildlife Sanctuary. The open flats of the Rann are a wild place, but offer little in the way of sustenance, even to a wild ass, but the bushy and grassy areas towards its periphery are a different matter and here we shall surely encounter a good number of attractive Indian Wild Asses. Getting the orange disc of the setting sun behind the asses creates a classic image.
The endearing little Bengal (or Indian) Fox may also be encountered and we will be hoping to find a den where we can really close to the endearing, playful cubs. The same applies to the impressive Striped Hyaena. The young animals are far less wary than the adults and often allow a close approach.
Our wildlife photography safaris here will be by means of an open-topped 4×4 truck. , but we can get out and walk (or crouch down) anywhere we want.
At the edge of the Little Rann are a number of wetlands and here we could encounter both Greater and Lesser Flamingoes (this region of India is the only area outside Africa where the latter species breeds). Other potential subjects for photography include Great White Pelican, Western Reef Egret, Black-headed Ibis, Eurasian Spoonbill, Woolly-necked Stork, the attractive Painted Stork, Asian Openbill (an extraordinary stork with a bill adapted to cracking the shells of pond snails), Comb (or Knob-billed) Duck, the stately Sarus Crane, Black-necked Stilt, Pied Avocet, Marsh Sandpiper, Slender-billed Gull and Gull-billed Tern.
Areas of dry cultivation and wasteland hold two more specialities that make nice photographic subjects; the attractive Yellow-wattled Lapwing and the beautiful Indian Courser, while the lovely Rosy Starling (a winter visitor to India) can sometimes be found in large, approachable flocks at the edge of villages.
After a final morning at the Little Rann of Kutch, we will travel southwards to Blackbuck (or Velavadar) National Park, situated near the Gulf of Cambay to the north of Bhavnagar, where we will stay for three nights at a very comfortable, indeed luxurious, lodge.
Blackbuck (or Velavadar) National Park is one of the last areas of relatively undisturbed grassland in Gujarat and is famous for its large herds of elegant Blackbucks, which we will be able to see and photograph at close range (the males, with their long, spiral horns, are especially striking, and the backdrop of tall, dry grass, ranging from yellowish-white to reddish-brown in colour, is especially pleasing). Blackbucks have a habit of leaping into the air when agitated or alarmed and we will be wanting to find some taking to the air as they cross the dirt tracks that criss-cross the sanctuary. Their leaps make for fantastic action photography!
This wildlife sanctuary is also well known for frequent sightings of Grey Wolf, which we have a very good chance of seeing (on one visit we watched one chasing a herd of Blackbuck, causing utter confusion and panic!). Often they are close enough for good photography.
Blackbuck is one of the best places in India for Jungle Cat encounters, and if we are persistent we have a good chance of being able to watch one hunt, leaping into the air in order to pounce on its rodent prey hidden in the grass.
This is also a good place for photographing the splendid Nilgai or Blue Bull, a large antelope. We also have another chance to encounter Striped Hyaena here.
This 34 square kilometres (13 square miles) sanctuary also holds some interesting birds, including the localized Painted Francolin and Sykes’s Lark, but it is the more common and widespread Indian birds that make the easiest and most rewarding photographic targets.
We will have another chance to explore Velavadar today before we head to Bhavnagar airport and catch a short flight to Mumbai for an overnight stay.
This morning we will continue our journey with a flight to the Central Indian city of Nagpur in the state of Maharashtra. From there we will drive southeastwards through partly cultivated and partly forested terrain to the edge of Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve in the state of Maharashtra for a nine nights stay at a comfortable jungle lodge.
The Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (sometimes referred to simply as Tadoba National Park) covers a vast area of forest in northeastern Maharashtra state. The wildlife reserve has an area of 625 square kilometres (241 square miles), is mostly clothed in teak, sal and bamboo forest and holds a good population of over 60 Tigers, as well as Leopards, Indian Wild Dogs and other important mammals. In recent year it has sprung from obscurity owing to the quality and frequency of its Tiger sightings. Tadoba is an amazing and rapidly up-and-coming destination for wildlife photography.
We shall be spending most of our time in the Tiger Reserve itself, where the habitat diversity is excellent and the density of Tigers high. Each day we will make morning and afternoon wildlife photography excursions into the park by jeep, exploring a range of habitats including tall sal and teak forest, patches of evergreen forest and a number of wetlands including a large lake, marshes and pools. Large grassy meadows, the sites of former villages and their surrounding cultivation and pastureland, dot the park and in the early morning these meadows can be covered in low-lying mist, creating some beautiful landscapes. In places hills rise high above the rolling forests.
As we patrol the park tracks we will be keeping a constant lookout for Tigers. The best times of day are early morning and late afternoon, when Tigers can regularly be found walking along the tracks or stalking across the meadows, or even drinking or taking a bath in one of the pools.
We will be using open-topped jeeps to explore Tadoba, with skilled local driver-guides who are experts on the geography of the park and have an intimate knowledge of the park’s Tigers and other key creatures. Our driver-guides seem to have a feel for where a Tiger will appear, so we should have a high chance of plenty of encounters. We could watch one of the huge territorial adult males on patrol, at times walking right past the jeeps showing utter indifference to our proximity, or strolling past the cubs he fathered last year and showing equal disdain (to the distress of the cubs, who clearly want dad to stop and play!). We could find some well-grown cubs playing around in the meadows or woodland, chasing each other, stalking imaginary prey or running around with an old bone in their mouths. Or perhaps a female sprawled in the shade with her younger cubs around her, glaring balefully at these interlopers in her world. On other occasions we might watch Tigers drinking or even bathing in a forest pool. Tiger movements are of course unpredictable, so it is quite possible to go for some time without seeing one, and then have a fantastic series of magical, close-range photography encounters in succession! It is all a matter of chance with these incredibly beautiful carnivores.
Although Tigers dominate the scene at Tadoba, they would not be there were it not for a healthy population of prey animals. We should also have some good opportunities to photograph the beautiful Chital (also known as Axis or Spotted Deer), which is much the commonest large mammal in the park and we will soon get used to their yelping calls, which rise in pitch when they sight a Tiger.
The other really conspicuous species is the Hanuman (or Grey) Langur – they are everywhere in the park, sitting in playful, rowdy groups by the roadside or climbing high in the trees. (The local form is now sometimes treated as a distinct species: Northern Plains Grey Langur.) Monkeys often make for great ‘photo ops’ and the langurs, the Bandar Log of Kipling, with their long, long, curling tails, graceful loping movements and cheeky faces fringed by a ruff of hair are certainly rich subjects. Mothers with small babies are commonly met with and often pose unselfconsciously for some really gooey shots! (Or try long distance telephoto shots of sunlit solitary monkeys sat by the roadside, or crossing a dusty, shadowy track). There are so many photography possibilities here.
The huge Gaur (or Indian Bison) can be seen regularly here and we are likely to come across herds of these placid bovines feeding in the forest, or wandering across the track in front of our jeep. Close-up photographs of the massive heads and horns of these impressive beasts are often the shots that make the most impact.
Tadoba also hosts packs of Dholes (or Asiatic Wild Dogs) and the chances of seeing and photographing a group of these attractive predators is good, although they tend to be quite unpredictable in their movements. When encountered, the dogs are often quite unafraid, continuing to go about their business together, whether hunting or some other kind of social interaction, regardless of the presence of a jeep or two.
This is also surely one of the best places in India for seeing Sloth Bear, and we have a good chance of having a number of sightings during our visit and may be able to photograph bears drinking at the waterholes.
Other mammals that are regularly encountered at Tadoba include Rhesus Macaque, Golden Jackal, Ruddy Mongoose, Leopard, Jungle Cat, Wild Boar, Indian Muntjac (or Barking Deer), Sambar, Chowsingha (or Four-horned Antelope), Nilgai (or Blue Bull), Northern Palm Squirrel and Indian Hare. There are slim chances for Indian Porcupine, Ratel (or Honey Badger) and Small Indian Civet. Marsh Crocodiles (or Muggers) can be found in some of the wetlands, while Sambar feeding on the aquatic vegetation (and often almost submerged) makes for some unusual photographs.
Although it is the prospect of close encounters with Tigers and other large mammals that will have brought us to Tadoba, this extensive park is an excellent place for birds too. The dry Sal forest and clumps of bamboo that dominate the park and its buffer area hold a wide variety of species and amongst those that may offer good opportunities for photography are the huge Lesser Adjutant, the beautiful Crested Serpent Eagle, Grey-headed Fish Eagle, White-eyed Buzzard, Crested Hawk-Eagle, Indian Peafowl (which should be displaying at the time of our visit, a magnificent sight), Grey Junglefowl, the delightful Indian Scops Owl, the quizzical little Jungle Owlet, Crested Treeswift, Indian Roller, Green Bee-eater, the striking White-naped Woodpecker, Black-rumped Flameback and the huge Stork-billed Kingfisher. Sometimes a Brown Fish Owl or a Mottled Wood Owl can be seen roosting close to the park roads, but at other times they move position and disappear for weeks on end. Tiger kills attract dwindling numbers of White-rumped, Indian (or Long-billed) and Red-headed Vultures.
Outside the park proper there are interesting photographic opportunities. There is a lovely wetland area that we can visit and anyone who fancies an interesting cultural experience can explore a local village where the friendly Gond tribal people are usually happy about being photographed as they go about village life. Indeed the children want to be in every photograph!
After a final jeep safari at Tadoba we will return to Nagpur airport, where our Indian wildlife photography tour ends this afternoon. (There are flights from Nagpur to Mumbai and Delhi.)
Indian Wildlife Spectacular Tour Report 2018
3 May 2018
It’s difficult to express properly in words how spectacular India can be for photography. In many ways it can easily rival other photogenic places in the world in terms of species variety, wildlife encounters, landscapes, people and of course numbers of images captured. The beauty of India is that you never expect it to be […]View Full Report