India Photo Journey
Vast Wetlands, Bengal Tigers, and the Taj Mahal.
India is a mystical country—culturally fascinating and wonderfully diverse in terms of habitats, scenery, and the wildlife harbored within. It is also a photographer’s dream. This varied tour first offers the vast wetlands of Bharatpur. A former hunting reserve of the Maharajas (Indian royalty), this park is littered with pools and swamps that are interspersed with dry scrub and woodland. After a good monsoon, it is home to immense numbers of waterbirds, making for a wonderful wildlife spectacle. Photographers rarely visit just once, as memory cards come back jam-packed with images of storks, herons, ducks, jacanas, and geese, as well as the many photogenic passerines and day-roosting night birds within this reserve. Other targets include India’s national bird, the extravagant Indian Peafowl, the massive Nilgai or Blue Bull, and Asia’s largest deer, the Sambar.
No visit to India would be complete without the cultural diversion of the Taj Mahal. This pristine white marble mausoleum stands prominently on the banks of the Yamuna River and is a true wonder of exquisite architectural design. We’ll time our visit for the afternoon, when the atmospheric light will bring the building to life and put you in place for the perfect shot. After shooting the Taj, we will return to nature and enjoy a gentle cruise through the crystal clear waters of the Chambal River, a vital sanctuary for waterbirds like the rare Indian Skimmer, which often perches prominently on the banks of the river; we can use our boat as a makeshift blind to slowly approach within shooting distance of these odd-looking birds. The river is also home to other spectacular animals that are sure to keep our cameras active, like the menacing-looking Mugger Crocodile and the bizzare-yet-elegant Gharial.
Then we will head south to Madhya Pradesh in central India and enjoy an African-style adventure in Bandhavgarh, the world’s premier tiger reserve, boasting the highest density of Bengal Tigers on Earth. With plenty of time in the park we will have multiple chances to photograph this magnificent and fierce beast by using open-top jeeps and by taking elephant rides to get up close to this marvelous cat. Aside from India’s flagship animal, plenty of other Asian animals roam the park, from “holy” Hanuman Langurs to spritely Chital Deer and Golden Jackals. Finally, we will travel north into the seldom-visited realm of Assam, and Kaziranga National Park, for another, very different game experience. The most prominent animal here is the robust Asian One-horned Rhinoceros, which will be a major target for our lenses, as will Eastern Swamp Deer and the rare Asiatic Water Buffalo. Vast herds of Asian Elephant also wander around this remote park, adding a number of key animal species to our photo list. Both game parks are good for birds too, offering large, spectacular storks like Greater and Lesser adjutants, the regal Pallas’s Fish-Eagle, and even the chance of capturing the beautiful Bengal Florican as it dances above the grasslands of Kaziranga.
CLIMATE: Ranges from hot and dry on the plains around Bharatpur to very cold during the early mornings in the game parks. Kaziranga is warm and slightly humid.
DIFFICULTY: Mostly easy, but a few of the hikes are moderate. The overnight train ride is at least 12 hours, and some people find it very tiring.
ACCOMMODATION: Generally excellent, with one night on a sleeper train on the extension. All have private bathrooms, except on the overnight sleeper train.