Home to over a billion people in arguably the world’s richest cultural landscape, India is a country with no equal. This great nation boasts a staggering geographical diversity ranging from deserts and forests to tropical, palm-lined shores and snow-capped peaks. India is of course also famous for its rich avifauna and iconic mammalian mega fauna, foremost of which is the regal Bengal Tiger. This expedition visits some of remarkable cultural and wildlife highlights of this huge country, and promises to a trip of a lifetime!
Today is set aside as an arrival day in bustling New Delhi – India’s second most populous city, and one of the most densely populated on earth. After progressing through passport control and having collected baggage, you will be met by an ORYX representative and driven through to your lovely accommodations for the night.
This morning on your Ranthambore tiger tour, your local guide will collect you from your hotel where you will depart Delhi by way of train for Ranthambore, which is scheduled to leave at 07h40, and which should arrive in Ranthambore at 12h05. From the station, you will depart for your accommodations, and after lunch will make our way into the park for afternoon game viewing.
Located in the Sawai Madhopur district of south-eastern Rajasthan, Ranthambore National Park is one of India’s largest parks, protecting over 380 square kilometres (almost 1400 square kilometres including the buffer zone). Dominated by the 10th century Ranthambore Fort, which sits atop a plateau 700-feet above the plains, this scenic reserve contains good concentrations of herbivores such as Spotted Deer, Sambar and Wild Boar; which are the Tigers primary food source. Although the Tiger population of the park is small, quite a few are habituated to the presence of tourists, and this afternoon will be our first opportunity during this tiger tour in India to photograph this cat, often regarded as the most spectacular of all the world’s felines!
We will use open-top jeeps to explore the park for Tigers, enjoying the prolific bird life of the area as we explore. The rangers will be on the lookout for telltale signs such as pugmarks or scat in the road and will be ever alert for the alarm calls of Sambar, Spotted Deer (Chital) and Hanuman Langur.
With some luck on our Ranthambore tiger tour, these signs will lead us to a Tiger padding along a dusty track or sprawled out in the dappled sunlight of a bamboo thicket. Looking into the amber eyes of this, the largest of all the cats, undoubtedly ranks as one of the world’s ultimate wildlife experiences. If we are exceptionally lucky, we may even be able to see (and photograph!) a Tiger on the famous Fort at Ranthambore!
Besides the main target of obtaining an unforgettable Tiger experience, Ranthambhore hosts an exciting cast of supporting mammals.
The Leopard population is healthy and although they can be harder to find than Tiger, they are nevertheless regularly sighted. Striped Hyaena prefer the park outskirts and areas nearer to our lodge and we will make an effort to find them. Sloth Bears roam the park in small numbers and we may be fortunate to encounter these versatile creatures. Other predators include Indian Wolf (rare), Golden Jackal, Indian Fox, Jungle Cat, Ruddy, Indian Grey and Small Indian mongoose. The default herbivores are the elegant Spotted Deer or Chital, and much larger Sambar. Less common are Indian Gazelle or Chinkara, and Nilgai. Sounders of Wild Boar are frequently encountered as are the dainty Indian Palm Squirrel and troops of often tame Southern Plains Grey Langur, and we can dream of spotting an Indian Pangolin…
Photographic opportunities in Ranthambhore National Park abound and range from spectacular scenery, impressive Banyan trees, ancient forts and ruins, Tigers and other wildlife, to birds that are often comically tame!
This morning on your Ranthambore tiger tour, you will have a further opportinity to photograph game within the reserve, whereafter you will board the 12h50 train bound for Delhi (scheduled to arrive at 19h00) for an overnight stay.
This morning at a time to be advised, we will head to Indira Gandhi International Airport for our flight to Varanasi (approximately 1,5 hours). After arrival in Varanasi, and baggage collection, an ORYX representative will meet you before transporting you to your hotel.
After check-in and lunch, we will explore and photograph Varanasi (Benares or Kashi), the oldest living city in the world and the city that has been the ultimate Hindu pilgrimage for ages. Hindus believe that one who is graced to die on the holy land of Varanasi will attain salvation from the cycle of birth and re-birth.
During our Varanasi photography tour, we will enjoy an early morning boat ride on the river Ganges to witness the sunrise over the river and Ghats (the broad flight of steps leading down to the water) and also to observe the devotees taking a holy dip and offering morning prayers. The city is an experience the likes of which you will find nowhere else in the world!
It is also one of India’s most photographed cities, particularly its Hindu pilgrims, worshipers and bathers on the Ghats situated along the banks of the Ganges (Ganga) River.
According to legend, the city was founded by the Hindu deity Lord Shiva several thousand years ago, thus making it one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in the country.
It is also a general held belief that it stands on the weapon “The Trishool” (Trident) of Lord Shiva. It is one of the seven sacred cities of the Hindus, and many Hindu scriptures, including the Rigveda, Skanda Purana, the Ramayana, and the Mahabharata, mention the city.
A dip at any of the 84 sacred Ghats of the Ganges is believed to wash away the sins of mortals. The city is a centre of learning and civilization and for over 3000 years Varanasi has been a symbol of Hindu renaissance. Knowledge, philosophy, culture, devotion to gods, and Indian arts and crafts have flourished here for centuries, and it is aptly called the “Cultural Capital of India”.
Varanasi was previously an industry centre famous for its muslin and silk fabrics, perfumes, ivory works and sculpture, while today it is a noted centre for fine silks and brocaded fabrics, exquisite saris, brassware, jewellery, woodcraft, carpets, wall hangings, lamp shades, masks of Hindu and Buddhist deities, Zari work, stone inlay work, glass beads and bangles.
Today, our wonderful Varanasi photography tour sadly comes to an end. After a final morning’s photography and breakfast we will fly back to Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi as we will where this photo tour concludes.
Penny Robartes is a professional fine art wildlife photographer whose images are easily recognized by her iconoclastic work that is recalibrating the way the world sees wildlife.
Heralding from Cape Town, South Africa, she has emerged as one of Africa’s great nature photographers and is moving her Tour Leading expertise and portfolio to incorporate destinations abroad. Her stunning creations breathe life into natural encounters with the deftness of an artist’s brushstrokes and the enthralling narrative of the best storytellers.
Her portraits of elusive and endangered, to the every-day wildlife becomes all the more poignant through the artistic interpretation she brings to every one of her works, with seemingly abstract compositions morphing graphically into poignant statements. Each image is a work of art but also a moment of the wildlife subject’s unbridled rawness captured forever.
Penny has photographed and led multiple photo tours throughout Africa, predominately to South and East Africa. Supplementary to this, she has spent a combined 50-days as Photographer in Residence at Alex Walker’s Serian Camps in both Tanzania and Kenya. Her passionate, friendly and relaxed manner enables her to connect with and inspire each of her guests as she assists them in capturing and exploring their own unique vision. Penny has taken ORYX guests to Antarctica, various East and South African destinations, as well as to new and upcoming destinations such as Kamchatka in Russia Far East. With her extensive travels and guiding experiences, her knowledge on wildlife as well as photography, Penny is an undeniable force within the ORYX artillery.
Semi-finalist in BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2017!
Penny Robartes is a Photo Tour Leader for ORYX private and scheduled departures.
“Having travelled with ORYX on two previous occasions when I decided to visit India again they was the first choice company to arrange it for me .I wanted some culture to sit alongside an Indian wildlife experience. The trip was perfect – great hotels, great sightseeing and best of all wonderful wildlife. Our tiger sightings were phenomenal and I we really could not have asked for more. The local guides were excellent and Marius Coetzee (our ORYX tour leader) could not do enough for us and improved everyone’s photography over the course of the trip. We have all decided to travel with ORYX in India again next year and look forward to another great trip.”India
“Andries and I would like to thank the ORYX team for a memorable India tour. The tour was exceptionally well planned. The only hassle we as guests were left with was to try and get the best photo of a Tiger. We can only but highly recommend ORYX and will not think twice about using their services again in future.”India
“Dale Morris was an excellent tour leader. Apart from being a very pleasant person, he also went out of his way to share his wealth of knowledge on photography with us. We started the tour with our photos looking like normal holiday snap shots, and ended up taking some pretty professional images. Thank you Dale for your patience and willingness to help us.”India
“We are writing to provide some feedback on our short trip to India with Oryx, to visit several game parks with Tiger spotting a priority. We had a small group of 4, ably led by Dale Morris, a genuinely friendly and helpful leader. Dale is a skilled and award winning photographer whose enthusiasm for photography was infectious. Dale was a delight to travel with and ensured that everything worked as planned. We managed to see quite a few tigers and also enjoyed the classic sights of the Taj Mahal.”India
I have recently returned from my second ORYX private tour to India with Marius, and wanted to say how much I enjoyed it and to recommend ORYX to anyone considering taking a wildlife photographic trip.
We knew where we wanted to go – Corbett, Keoladeo, Ranthambhore and Pench – but left all the planning and details in the very capable hands of ORYX. We were not disappointed. Everything had been taken care of, from accommodation in the best locations and travel between national parks, down to tips for our drivers and guides, so that we only had to think about the wildlife and the photography – a real luxury.
Marius is an inspirational photographer, and a superb travelling companion. He has seemingly endless patience, and his knowledge and advice have helped even this novice photographer capture some exceptional images! Nothing is too much trouble for him, and his experience has proved invaluable in enabling us to take shots that I know we would not have if he had not been with us. We had the most amazing tiger sighting in Ranthambhore – no mean feat – and fulfilled our wish to see dhole in Pench, as well as many other wonderful wildlife moments on the trip, which were entirely due to him – so a very big thank you to Marius.
I have been on numerous safaris in Africa, and have been lucky enough to have had many amazing wildlife experiences, but the ORYX tours to India have been in a league of their own. We are already planning our next tour to India with Marius, and hope that there will be many more to come!
Having recently returned from my third trip to India with ORYX in three consecutive years, with the fourth one in 2015 already on the drawing board, I would urge all those who have not yet been to consider it very seriously as a perfect holiday destination.
The aim of our first trip was to see the glorious Taj Mahal at Agra and, if possible, catch a glimpse of the majestic Bengal tiger yet having succeeded in both, nothing could have prepared us for the excitement we experienced as we raised our cameras those first photographs of them. Thus began a love affair with India.
From the moment we met surprisingly young Marius Coetzee, safari guide and prize-winning photographer at Dubai Airport, we realised he was what one might loosely describe as a mover and shaker, inspiring immediate confidence. Coupled with this was his ability to relax with people of all ages, putting them at ease, thus making mealtime conversations stimulating and fun, so traveling on one’s own need not be a concern. Our first visit to India in 2011 was his too, yet having worked in Natal (KwaZulu) where there is a large Indian community, he instinctively knew how to get on with the locals, appreciating their customs and habits, yet earning their respect by his sound common sense and mature capability.
He stands no nonsense and this is soon understood! This is so important in India, particularly on wildlife safaris, where the drivers’ and guides’ goodwill, and anxiety to please, are so crucial in Marius getting us into the best possible position to find – hopefully – and photograph the rarer species like a tiger or dhole (wild dogs), for despite the photographs one sees, India is very different to the Masai Mara and one actually has to look quite hard for shy predators.
However, the jungles we visited in the northern and central national parks are absolutely stunning, each with its own individual characteristics, though more like Up-State New York than the Amazon, and there is an abundance of game and birdlife. Marius drew on his techniques as a top South African safari guide by playing close attention to alarm calls by spotted deer (chital) and langurs (silver haired, long–tailed monkeys), resulting in wonderful tiger and dhole sightings on a number of occasions, earning him obvious, if slightly grudging, admiration from our jeep drivers and guides, who consider themselves to be the experts on Indian wildlife.
India also has the advantage of a culture stretching back over 3,000 years and cities such as Varanasi, the glorious Holy City built on the banks of the Ganges, and beautiful Udaipur in Rajastan, are a photographer’s delight especially if encouraged by one’s enthusiastic tour leader to reluctantly rise at dawn in order to capitalize on the golden morning light. One never tires of the rich tapestry of colours provided by the glorious silk or cotton saris worn by Asian women with such innate grace and one can only wonder at how immaculate much of their clothing is when many have only a communal water pump or local river in which to do their laundry. Whether you are an aspiring but novice photographer – we started off with little automatic Lumix cameras with built-in zooms, progressed to Nikon DSLRs and under Marius’s tutelage, are now producing more than passable photos, to our great surprise – or an experienced one, in which case you would benefit hugely from Marius’s photographic/competition expertise and advice, intriguing India has absolutely everything you could possible ask for. From the moment the February morning mists lift and the beauty of this enigmatic country is revealed, I am certain you will succumb to its magic, whether your penchant is wildlife, architecture, scenery, or all three.
On each occasion, ORYX has provided us with an Indian guide of the highest caliber, intelligent with an almost encyclopedic knowledge of birds and wildlife, and a touching willingness to do everything possible to make our lives easier, from hailing porters and checking-in our luggage at airports to accompanying us on shopping expeditions to ensure we were given the fairest prices. They, in turn, appointed the best possible local guides at the historic sites we chose to visit and, looking back, thanks to efficient planning, everything worked like clockwork from the moment we were collected at the airport to our departure a fortnight later, no mean feat in a country like India. For a holiday that is anxiety-free, yet filled with exciting sights and sounds, ORYX India is the perfect combination. Enjoy India!
I have recently returned from my fourth private photographic tour to India with ORYX and have to say that the trip exceeded all my hopes and expectations, and I cannot recommend ORYX highly enough. Our trip was 2 years in the planning, with the excellent team at ORYX doing a marvellous job throughout. Our tour leader, Marius Coetzee, had suggested that we time our visit slightly later than usual and go in March, in the hope of catching the iconic sight of a tiger lying in a water pool to cool off. We have had many incredible tiger sightings on our previous ORYX expeditions, especially in Ranthambhore National Park, and were not disappointed on this latest trip. In fact we achieved our aim on the first afternoon game drive in Ranthambhore! In all we visited five national parks over 3 weeks; each park had its individual delights and we have returned home with some really wonderful wildlife images, including tiger, leopard, sloth bear and dhole.
We knew from previous experience that everything would be taken care of – down to the tipping of our local guides and drivers – by Marius and our Indian guide, so we were left free to concentrate on the amazing wildlife and our photography. Nothing was too much trouble for them, everything ran like clockwork thanks to excellent organisation, and ORYX could not have done more to make sure that our trip was everything we could have hoped for. I would recommend ORYX to anyone who is interested in wildlife and photography, and will definitely use them again.
“I grew up admiring the beautiful portraits and landscape shots hanging in my grandparents’ house. Later, I recall my cheek muscles constantly hurting as the subject of my mom’s developing love of photography. So when I was gifted a Nikon DSLR camera in early college, I felt like I was following the footsteps of my mom and grandfather before her. Through photography I wanted to be able to capture the sentiment of a moment; to tell a story through the light in a person’s eyes. Marius gave me the tools to begin to do this on our trip to India with ORYX Photographic Expeditions.
Marius helped me see what makes a good photograph, taught me new techniques like hi-key, how to shoot in different light and how to process an image using Lightroom. At the end of this trip I am thrilled to have a good portfolio of photographs I can print and look back on proudly, but even happier to have refined my skills and developed a deeper passion for photography.”
Thank you for another great experience! It was a fantastic time in India, and although I’m very glad to be home, I already miss it.
It was great getting the opportunity to meet the other clients, and Dale did a wonderful job as our guide and I really appreciate all of his hard work and dedication both in and out of the field, and I loved his willingness to engage in personable conversations at the dinner table. He was very willing to listen and learn about the world through someone else’s perspective. He also taught me some new tricks with my camera that I had no idea about, but they made life so much easier.
Thanks again for everything!India
WE HAD A FANTASTIC TRIP, AND BY NOW I AM SURE THAT YOU KNOW THAT WE SAW EIGHTEEN TIGERS AND APPROXIMATELY 25 DIFFERENT SIGHTINGS
OUR TRIP TO JAWAI WAS ALSO FANTASTIC, AND I CAN ONLY BEST DESCRIBE IT AS MIND BLOWING! THE CONSERVATION OF THESE LEOPARDS IN THE ENVIRONMENT THEY FIND THEM SELVES, IS TRULY REMARKABLE.
THE RABARI PEOPLE ARE INCREDIBLE AND THEIR SURVIVAL, WHICH IN IT’S SELF IS THREATENED, BUT THEY LIVE IN HARMONY WITH THE LEOPARDS IN THE HILLS OF JAWAI!
IN AS FAR AS THE LODGES WERE CONCERNED, WELL FROM THE FIRST TO THE LAST DAY, WE WERE ACCOMODATED IN WORLD CLASS ACCOMODATION.
THE MANAGEMENT, STAFF AND PEOPLE IN GENERAL WERE FANTASTIC.
THE CUISINE WAS SIMPLY OF THE VERY HIGHEST STANDARDS. ALL ARRANGEMENTS WERE VERY SLICK AND AS CUSTOMARY WITH ORYX AND MARIUS, EVERYTHING WAS 100% PERFECT! MARIUS, THE WARRIOR, WAS ALWAYS AT MY SIDE TO ASSIST THE “OLD MAN”!THE OLD MAN ALSO ACTED AS HIS “FATHER” AND GOT HIM A FEW PRIVILEGES IN RETURN FOR HIS SERVICE AND ASSISTANCE!
OUR HOSTS WERE FANTASTIC AND I CAN HONESTLY SAY THAT I AM MORE THAN HAPPY AND SATISFIED WITH THE WHOLE TRIP!
THANKS TO YOU AND YOUR COLLEAGUES FOR ALL THAT YOU DID TO MAKE THE TRIP SUCH A PLEASURE AND ALL I TAKE FROM THERE ARE WONDERFUL MEMORIES!