Our Ladakh photo tour commences today as you arrive in the old silk route town of Leh, nestled in the mighty Trans-Himalaya.
Upon arrival you will be met by your photo tour leader and you will be transferred to your suite at the Grand Dragon Hotel. Today you will need to rest in order to acclimatise to the high altitude of 3,400 meters and must limit your physical activities to properly adjust to the area.
Leh, the capital of Ladakh, was an important stopover on trade routes along the Indus Valley between Tibet to the east, Kashmir to the west and also between India and China for centuries. The main goods carried were salt, grain, pashm or cashmere wool, charas or cannabis resin from the Tarim Basin, indigo, silk yarn and Banaras brocade.
Overnight The Grand Dragon Hotel
After an early breakfast, we will drive down to the monastery of Thiksey to attend the morning prayers. This is a beautiful and calming experience steeped in the tradition of the Gelugpa, or yellow hat order, of Buddhism, headed by His Holiness, the Dalai Lama.
After the morning prayers have concluded, we will take a drive around the beautiful Indus Valley and view the monastery of Stakna towering above the meandering Indus, followed by a drive to the monastery of Matho to view a different order of Buddhism. The monastery is at a vantage point as it offers splendid sights of the Indus Valley in all its glory. Lunch will be a private affair with a family in a traditional home in the village of Stok, after which we will spend some time taking portraits of our hosts.
After lunch we will head back to the hotel for some relaxation and then head out again later in the afternoon to view a sweeping and glorious sunset from the Shanti Stupa (or Peace Pagoda), built by the Japanese, that offers commanding views of Leh and the Stok mountain range.
Overnight The Grand Dragon Hotel
This morning on our Ladakh photo tour we will depart to Nubra Valley which is approximately a 4.45 hour drive from Leh.
We will cross the high pass of Khardung La, one of the highest motorable roads on earth and is the gateway into the famed Nubra Valley. This area overlooks the mountain ranges of Ladakh, Saltoro and the high Karakorum Range, which spans across the borders of Pakistan, India and China. The Karakoram is home to four of the most closely located peaks over 8000m in height on earth, which includes K2, the second highest peak at 8,611m after Mt Everest.
Nubra is known as the melting pot of the Central Asian culture of Xinjiang, just across the mountains in China, the Muslim influences of Baltistan (now mostly in Pakistan), and the Buddhist history of Tibet that infuses so much of Ladakhi daily life. Complimented by sprawling mountainous peaks, the area is perfect recipe for landscape and portraiture photography!
Using the village of Sumur as a base, we will explore Ladakhi culture, learn about the silk route history and work on your Ladakhi portraiture portfolio.
Sumur, along with Kyagar, were the last major villages that silk route caravans encountered before crossing the Karakorum pass into the region known as Yarkand, south of Xinjiang in China. The area still has some fascinating traditional houses that we will visit. Although Sumur is a lesser frequented part of Nubra valley, with many tourists and cars during the summer, we will be off the beaten path during our Ladakh photo tour and closer to the glorious history of the Silk Route.
Over the next two days in Nubra Valley, we will visit a few remote villages, explore the high altitude sand dunes of Hunder, shoot Bactrian camels and be in awe of the towering mountains that surrounds us.
Nights Kesar Nubra
Today we will make our way back to Leh by crossing the Khardung La once again. The afternoon will be at leisure where you can do a little shopping or some self-exploring, and in the evening there will be an optional photo processing and editing session.
Overnight The Grand Dragon Hotel
After breakfast, our Ladakh photo tour continues as we set out westwards towards the Batalik section north of the town of Kargil. This area is famous for being the centre of all Indo-Pakistani wars and here we will visit the Aryan villages of Dah, Hanu, and Darchik.
The Brokpa tribals that inhabit this region are of Dardic origins, similar to the Kashmiris, but have a long standing myth that claim they are descendants of the armies of Alexander the Great and proclaim themselves as the original ‘Aryans.’ While genetic studies have shown that they are in fact very similar to Kashmiris, their way of life and religion is in fact quite the opposite from that of Kashmir or of Ladakhi. The Brokpa have a unique way of dressing and incorporate a lot of flowers and jewelry into their headgear, making for fascinating subjects for portraits.
We will explore the Brokpa villages and continue our portraiture photography over two days, while staying in homestays within the village itself.
Overnight Brokpa Homestays
This morning we will head back to Leh but will take a different route through the Aryan Valley to explore some of the stunning landscapes. On our way back, we will stop at the 10th century monastery of Lamayuru, which is one of the largest and oldest gompas (Buddhist fortifications) in Ladakh, with a population of around 150 permanent monks resident. It has, in the past, housed up to 400 monks, many of which are now based in gompas in surrounding villages.
Our evening plans will be at leisure, which can include some more shopping or perhaps an editing workshop.
Overnight The Grand Dragon Hotel
Today marks your final morning of our Ladakh photo tour as we bid farewell to this beautiful part of the world. After breakfast and at a time to be advised, you will be transferred back to Leh Airport where this incredible, once in a life time adventure sadly comes to an end.
Behzad Larry is a professional photographer and adventurer. An avid explorer, Behzad specializes in documenting the remote reaches of the world. Through his travel photography he covers portraiture and landscapes in the high Himalayas, Central Asia, and the Tibetan Plateau. Behzad spends over 9 months a year combining his loves of history and photography by traveling with clients to capturing life in the high mountains through studio-like portraiture and leading expeditions to document elusive wildlife such as snow leopards.
Behzad specializes in photography expeditions to North India and Central Asia. His team has incredible experience and have hosted filming expeditions for National Geographic, The Discovery Channel, and the BBC, including BBC’s snow leopard filming for the “Mountains” episode of Planet Earth II.
Behzad calls New York City home, and is originally from the small town of Mhow, in central India. He has lived and worked across North America, Eastern and North-Western Africa, and South Asia. He has served as a William J. Clinton Fellow, and is a trained historian from Colby College (USA), where he was a Ralph J. Bunche Scholar. Besides English, he speaks Hindi, Urdu, Gujarati, and has studied Arabic and Farsi. Behzad has been featured frequently in travel magazines and has done travel features for both print and web.
He is a member of the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain and a Nikon Pro.
“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!
The recent first ORYX expedition for Snow Leopards was outstanding! The communication from the first e-mail enquiring about the trip to the time we got back, was very good. Trouble broke out between India and Pakistan in another part of India during our expedition; you ensured my family were informed immediately of my well-being. Thank you!
The expedition was very well organized. Behzad ensured each of us acclimatized to the high altitude in the first two days. None of us felt altitude sickness. Behzad and the team also kept a close watch on our physical ability and mental awareness through out the trip. Their attention was key in a very enjoyable experience.
The camp site was perfect. Behzad had pitched the tents well in advance of our arrival, to take the best position. The tents themselves were luxurious, with a bed ensuring we were not sore or cold by sleeping on the ground. The food was delicious, with pizzas, pastas, noodles, dumplings and Indian food for lunch and dinner. Breakfast was elaborate, with porridge, eggs, bread and cereal. Many varieties of tea and coffee were always available through the day.
The sightings were exceptional. Khenrab Phuntsog, the renowned tracker from BBC Planet Earth 2, is not only a great tracker, but also one of the lead conservationists in Hemis National Park. He gave many, many insights into the ecology, animal behaviour, culture and conservation aspects of what we experienced. He delivered in spades each day: we had 7 snow leopard sightings including one from a few hundred feet and two from the camp (a first, I am told), 5 tibetan wolf sightings, including one from the camp (a first again). We also saw a red fox, many blue sheep and birds. The calls on four different mornings of ‘snow leopard’ even before the first cup of tea, and the first time I saw a snow leopard, will always remain with me.
Behzad went over and beyond in helping us with our photography, setup portrait sessions, cultural experiences and helped with astro photography. He is an exceptional photo mentor, tour leader, cultural and snow leopard expert, and above all a very warm, funny and extremely friendly person.
This trip was supposed to see the snow leopard, to take it off my bucket list. Instead, it has turned into the first of hopefully many more trips to see the snow leopards again.
Thank you for such a wonderful experience!