India - Tigers & Varanasi Photo Tour
Wildlife of Ranthambore National Park, including the majestic Tiger and the cultural splendour of Varanasi
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!
Day 1: Arrival in Delhi
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.
Day 2: New Delhi train to Ranthambore
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!
Days 3 to 7: Ranthambore National Park
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!
Day 8: Ranthambore train to New Delhi
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.
Day 9: Fly Delhi to Varanasi
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.
Day 10: Varanasi
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.
Day 11: Fly to Delhi and depart
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.