In late April/early May I completed two back-to-back Indian trips. The first being our Tigers of Bandhavgarh Safari Holiday. I always look forward to our annual trip to photograph tigers & this year was no different, apart from the fact that I was more excited than usual.
We took a break from Bandhavgarh in 2016, so I couldn’t wait to get back there. I can honestly say that I have never been more excited about going back to what I consider to be my second home.
We have been visiting the park for 7 years now & have gotten to know its residents very well. Along with the drivers & guides who have become our friends, we have mourned the loss of favourite tigers & celebrated the birth of new cubs.
The recent spate of enquiries about our photographic holiday to India to photograph the Royal Bengal Tiger has got me reminiscing about our last visit to India & why this tour is one of my favourite trips. I know I keep saying this but seeing a wild Bengal Tiger really is something very special. The first time I saw a wild tiger, I almost forgot to breathe because I was so spellbound by this majestic big cat. I can still remember seeing the pug marks in the soft sand before B2, Lord of Bandhavgarh, strode into view & lay just a few feet away from our car. We choose to visit Bandhavgarh because it has the highest density of tigers of all the national parks in India. As with all wildlife photography, there are no guarantees but one can always stack the cards in one’s favour by choosing the right time of year to visit. In our case, we choose to visit during the height of the Indian summer because the wildlife has to come to water. Our Tigers of Bandhavgarh India workshop is probably one of our toughest due to the searing heat but at the same time, it’s also one of our most relaxing workshops thanks to the luxurious accommodation we have chosen for our downtime. And what an awesome base we have chosen! Each person or couple has their own villa measuring a minimum of 1000 sq. ft. Each villa has a bedroom, a dressing area, spacious bathroom, private courtyard with rain shower (perfect for cooling off after a hot game drive) & a private deck. The rooms are air-conditioned with TV, mini bar. safe, phone, wifi, hair dryer, basically all the modern conveniences that you may expect to find in a modern hotel. A typical day starts at 4am when we make our way to the jeeps for the short drive to the entrance of Bandhavgarh National Park. Once we have been assigned our naturalist & route, we head into the park. In May, the landscape of the park is probably at its most diverse with areas of arid dry grassland, pretty meadowland & pockets of lush green jungle, reminiscent of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. As you will see from the photos, all make fantastic settings for a Bengal tiger. Wildlife aside, there are also some fantastic architectural photographic opportunities such as the 35 foot long statue of Vishnu, carved out of a single piece of sandstone which is located halfway up to Bandhavgarh Fort. The path leading to & the area where the statue is located looks like something out of an Indiana Jones movie with water falling into a pool just below the statue & monkeys chasing each other across the statue. Man-made caves that were once used as stables, guard rooms & justice courts also make for great images, especially if a Bengal tiger happens to wander in front of them. One such cave is home to hundreds of bats which can be photographed if you are brave enough to enter. The morning safari typically ends around 10am when the heat is starting to become uncomfortable. After a refreshing cool shower, breakfast is served as we talk excitedly about what sightings we had achieved. I remember one morning drive where my guest & I had no tiger sighting BUT we managed to grab photos of a sloth bear & her cub. We watched with much amusement as David & the rest of our guests sympathised about how my guest & I had not managed to see a tiger, that is, until they saw the back of our cameras. Sloth bear sightings are incredibly rare & definitely trump tiger sightings! After breakfast, the rest of the morning is at leisure for you to either catch up on some sleep, go through the morning’s images, take a dip in the enormous swimming pool, take advantage of the massage or therapy rooms or all of the above! A light lunch is served around noon if you fancy a bite to eat & we head out for the late afternoon/evening safari around 3pm. Whilst our target species is the Royal Bengal Tiger, there is also a wide variety of colourful birds & other wildlife such as Sambar, Spotted Deer, Langur monkeys, Gaur & wild boar. If we are lucky, we may even see Leopard, Sloth Bear & Asian Wild Dog. We leave the park as the sun goes down to head back to our villas. The evening meal can be served either indoors or outside under a star strewn sky. The cuisine is truly international with all requirements catered for. One evening, David had a hankering for fish & chips & that evening, he got exactly that for dinner! Nothing is too much trouble for the staff. Our Safari tour is based on the use of private jeeps & expert local naturalists. These guys really know their stuff & are excellent trackers. One morning, we were lucky enough to photograph a tigress emerging from the jungle because our naturalist had heard her sneeze & was able to judge where she would emerge! With just two people per jeep, there is plenty of space for camera equipment, tripods & for you to move around. David & I can offer one to one sessions to anyone who wants it. The Tigers of Bandhavgarh India Photography Holiday will run from 28th April to 7th May 2015. We have just one place left on this tour so if you are interested, please use our contact form to register your interest. Please note that all bookings have to be made by 28th December 2014 to guarantee the game drives.