Wildlife Photography Tours India
Indian wildlife photography safaris are very different to the African wildlife photographic safaris. India, a unique country present in Asia, where a variety of wildlife can be found in different national parks. During the British rule in India, the wildlife numbers declined rapidly due to hunting and expansion of human settlements. Wildlife was treated as nuisance for crop and threat to human life. The hunters had a celebrity status and they were hailed heroes for killing the animals and saving the villagers from wild animals like Tigers, Lion, Rhinos and Elephants. Classic example of this was Jim Corbett, a hunter who realized importance of wildlife and turned conservation advocate. After the Indian independence from British in 1947, India has taken measures to protect its wildlife and parks. Many wild areas and their habitats were identified and thousands of square miles was marked and given a protected status in the form of National parks. This was no easy task by any means. Thousands of villages and tribes had to leave their small villages which were present inside the jungle and had to be relocated. These national parks are todays safe havens for wildlife where they are protected and monitored.
It is a true privilege to visit these magnificent places and witness natural history unfold in front of your eyes, exactly the way it used to happen hundreds of years ago. The best part is nature can be experienced in Indian national parks without compromising on present day luxury. In the vicinity of these beautiful national parks, eco-friendly lodges and resorts have come up, where the guests can enjoy the nature without compromising on luxury. These luxury accommodation companies also employ generations of local tribes as field guides, trackers, rangers and hospitality staff. This is a win-win situation for the lodge operators as well as for the local populations. Both are being benefited with the sustained wildlife tourism which is still picking up in India.
The national parks also change visitors a fee to see these beautiful parks and that money goes towards the conservation, monitoring and research on wildlife. If we compare 1918 to 2018, many stringent laws have come in force for the protection of wildlife and for the protection of their native habitat. People who used to go to these parks for hunting as a hobby are no longer allowed to kill or injure any animal. This has inspired the next generation to pick up their cameras and shoot wildlife with their cameras on photography safaris and experience nearly the same level of thrill and excitement they might have experienced on a hunting safari. The advantage of photography safaris is that there are no flying bullets and nobody gets injured but everyone comes out happy!
India is home to plethora of animals and birds. This gives us fantastic opportunity to witness and photograph the native Indian wildlife. Below we have listed top wildlife destinations of India from a wildlife photography tours perspective.
a) Hemis National Park, Northern India : In the snow covered Hemis National park in India, Snow Leopards also known as ghost leopards are found. This is difficult place to live however these beautiful clouded cats have made this rocky snowy terrain their home. Every year, very few places are available to see these magnificent animals on our photography tours. High level of fitness is required to participate in this tour as miles of walking / hiking is involved in a rocky area where altitude sickness is very common. We have live in tents as the accommodation options are very limited and basic. Shooting in snow creates additional challenges as your battery runs out much quickly and the charging options are limited. We do visit nearby villages to charge batteries and make phone calls/ access internet.
b) Jim Corbett National Park (Uttarakhand) Northern India
Named after the famous hunter who turned conservation advocate, this beautiful national park is present in the state of Uttarakhand. It is located about 250km (152 miles) from the national capital of India (New Delhi) by road. The park is very unique as it has three main attractions i.e. Tigers, Elephants and Great One horned Rhinos. Ramganga and Kosi rivers create a beautiful landscape where Tigers and elephants roam freely. Leopards and other species of animals are also present in Jim Corbett national park which makes it an ideal choice for wildlife photography. Thankfully great luxury accommodations are also available in the surrounding of Jim Corbett National parks.
Small 4×4 vehicles are available to rent for the duration of safaris and we have a team of English speaking guides and rangers to take us to these beautiful animals in their natural habitat.
c) Ranthambore National Park, (Rajasthan) North-Western India
Ranthambore is arguably the most famous Tiger reserve in India as well as abroad. The North Western state of Rajasthan is home to beautiful landscape and wide range of animals. Although Tigers are the star attraction of this park, there are leopards, hyenas, jackals, sambar deer, spotted deer, Barking Deers, Jungle Cats, Peacocks, Crocodiles, Langoors, Sloth Bears ,lots of reptiles and birds.
Many world famous wildlife photographers have visited and worked in Ranthambore and it continues to attract attention of nature photographers from all over the world. Although wildlife sightings are good all year round, the rugged land becomes very harsh and dry in summer when the animals are easily sighted in the proximity of waterholes. All year good sightings make it an ideal place for wildlife photography tours. Ranthambore is on our list of India wildlife photography tours. It’s a 10-day photography safaris where we focus on wildlife photography for 7 days (14 game drives), 1 day on Tajmahal photography and 1 day city tour of Jaipur (The pink city).
D) Sasan Gir national Park (Gujrat) North-West India
Not many people know that there are Lions in India. They are the Asiatic lions, a species of Lions which has made remarkable recovery from the brink of extinction. The Sasan Gir juggles were used as hunting grounds by the British and the Indian rulers. At one point in time, only 12 of them were left when the emperor of Junagarh (a local Indian ruler of that area) realised the problem and gave them protected status. Now about 524 adults call Sasan Gir their home. Once these Lions were present all over between India to Europe (Greece / Italy). These are the very species of Lions which Romans set up Christians in the Colosseum in Rome (Italy). Today only 524 of them are present on the Earth and that makes it a real privilege to photograph them in their natural habitat. The local tribal community known as Maldharis and their basic lifestyle also presents us with an opportunity if you are interested in cultural or tribal photography. We organise a 7 day tour (about 12 game drives) of Sasan Gir national park. You may enquire about combining the Ranthambore wildlife photography tour with Asiatic Lion Photo tour of Sasan Gir.
E) Kaziranga National Park (Aasam) North-Eastern India
Prince William and his wife Kate visited Kaziranga National Park few years ago. It is home to great one horned Rhinos. Symbol of strength and power, the great one horned Rhinos were hunted a lot by the locals to cater the international demand for bones and horns. Now as we all know, the bones and horns have no medicinal properties and composition wise, they are exactly same to any other animal bones.
In Kaziranga national park, it’s not all about Rhinos, there are Wild Boars, Wild Water Buffalos, Barasingha deer, Golden Langoor, Hog Deer, Fish Eagles, Asiatic elephants as well as Tigers in the national park. Kaziranga is only accessible for few months of a year, especially during the Monsoon rainy season, it remains submerged in the Bramhaputra river. November to April is the best time to visit Kaziranga national park for Indian wildlife photography safaris. The safari itself can be done on elephant back or on a small 4×4 vehicle. We take our participants on 4×4 vehicles for two main reasons. First, it is ethically and morally incorrect to use one animal (domesticated elephant) to see the other wild animals. Secondly, from a small 4×4 vehicle, you can get an eye level photograph of the wildlife, which is not at all possible from Elephant back. Picture taken from elephant back can be seen as all look down, not at eye level.
F) Bandhavgarh National Park (Madhya Pradesh) Central India.
After Ranthambore, Bandhavgarh is the second most famous park to Photograph Indian wildlife especially Tigers. The park is RELATIVELY small however, it presents fantastic opportunities to Photograph Indian big Cats (Tigers, Leopards) and other native wildlife. The terrain inside this national park is uneven so it is very much possible to take a perfectly eye level shot when you 4×4 is in a deeper area while the animal are relatively on higher grounds. There are opportunities to book full day permits to enter the national park for photography. The full day permit allows us to remain inside the national park from sunrise to sunset. It also allows us enter the national park 15 mins before and exit the national park 15 min after the general tourists. Off-roading or getting out of your safari vehicle is not permitted in any national park India. (There are designated places for breakfast and comfort breaks inside national parks.)
G) Kanha National Park (Madhya Pradesh) Central India.
Kanha National park is one of the most beautiful national park of Central India. Tall and straight Saal trees and open grassland makes the national park landscape to die for. Tigers, Leopards, Bisons (Gaurs), Sloth Bears, Sambar Deer, Barasingha, Langoors and Jackals, Foxes make it a heaven for Indian wildlife photography tours. The bird life is fantastic in Kanha. It is a very unique experience to enjoy your mouth watering breakfast in the middle of the jungle. Our preferred lodge in Kanha national park is Singinawa Jungle Lodge. Its boutique luxury lodge outside national park in about 100 acres and has its private pool, roof top dining area and library. Kanha national park is located about 4 Hrs drive from the nearest international airport (Nagpur). Safari vehicles are small 4x4s which has a capacity of 6 tourists + Guide and Driver, however, for all our photographic safaris in India, we provide one full row of seat per person (i.e. only 2 of you in a vehicle instead of 6), to ensure comfort and space for photographic equipment.
H) Satpura national Park (Madhya Pradesh) Central India.
Satpura is a relatively less known park of central India. The sloth bear population is incredible and you are bound to get some memorable photographs of sloth bears (with cubs on their back, if luck favours).
Our resort of choice at Satpura National park is Forsyth Lodge, a boutique luxury lodge present on the edge of national park. The rangers are knowledgeable and the chefs are magicians. The food is at this place is real treat for everyone’s taste buds. The best season to go for Indian wildlife photo safari in Satpura national park is March to June each year. All the national park in India requires permits to enter and unfortunately very few permits are available each day! The number of permits are regulated by the forest departments and few permits are released so that there is minimal disturbance to the wildlife due to tourism. This means you should book your Indian wildlife photography safaris with us well in advance to secure permits of desired national parks and desired entry points (so that your chances of spotting and photographing wildlife are higher) .
I) Pench National Park (Maharashtra & Madhya Pradesh) Central India.
Everyone has heard about Mowgli. Mowgli was a fictional character but the story was inspired by Pench national park. Pench river divides the state of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. The vast area that surrounds Pench river is called as Pench National park. The national park is present in both the states however the Madhya Pradesh side (Touria Gate) has lots of choices for luxury accommodation and also the wildlife sightings are better as compared to other entry point of the same national park. Our choice of resort in Pench National park is Taj Baghvan Resort. The hospitality at this place is second to none. Luxury King sized rooms, open working kitchen, Barbecue area, swimming pool and own custom-built safari vehicles makes it an ideal choice for wildlife photography safaris.
J) Tadoba National Park (Maharashtra) Central India.
Just 2 hrs drive away from Nagpur International airport, the Indian wildlife gem is present. Tadoba has attracted lot of international attention in past few years due to almost guaranteed wildlife sightings all year round. Tigers, Leopards, Bisons (Gaurs), Sloth Bears, Crocodiles, Sambar Deer, Langoors and Indian Wild Dogs (Dhole) makes it ideal choice for Indian wildlife photography tours. Our recommended accommodation is Bamboo Safari Lodge in Tadoba national park. Excellent welcoming staff, swimming pool and own custom-built safari vehicles are some of the reasons we stay at Bamboo Safari Lodge. Any wildlife photography safari to India cannot be considered complete without visiting Tadoba National park. In fact, as of May 2018, there is officially reported sighting of very rare melanistic leopard / black leopard or popularly know as black panther. For all our Indian wildlife Photography Tours , we provide bean bags to all our participants so that they don’t have to carry bean bags in their luggage. If the participants wish to use their own bean bags, they can bring empty ones and the resort will be happy to fill them up.
K) Nagarhole National park (Karnataka) Southern India.
Nagarhole National park also known as Rajiv Gandhi national park is present in the southern state of Karnataka. Nagarhole national park is a very beautiful place to photograph Asiatic leopards and elephants. There are Tigers as well as other native wildlife too. The star attraction of Nagarhole national park is melanistic leopard, also called as black Panther because of its completely black skin colour. It is NOT a different species but the native leopard with melamine issue. If you look closely, you can see the spots on the leopard’s skin like which are covered by the black colour. Accommodation options at Nagarhole National park are limited but adequate. There are luxury lodges run by the government as well as by private companies. The forest department of Nagarhole national parks doesn’t allow exclusive use of vehicle for safaris. This means you may have to share vehicles with other tourists and non-photographers which may pose additional challenges. However, we try and visit the parks when it is relatively quiet so that we get the vehicle for ourselves or with minimum sharing and if at all we have to share the vehicle, we request to be clubbed with other considerate photographers (who understand photographic needs and has patience to wait at waterholes) rather than going with a group of impatient kids!