Workshop: India’s Western Ghats
January 1 – 8, 2018 (8 Days)
Deadline to register: December 1, 2017
“On the Malabar Coast of southern India, along the Arabian Sea, lies a range of mountains known as the Western Ghats, or Sahyadris. Far more ancient than the larger and better-known Himalayas to the north, the Sahyadris harbour the most intact rainforests in peninsular India.” So begins Kamal Bawa’s introduction to the Ghats, one of the “last great places on Earth,” in which roam the elephant, tiger, and the giant Malabar squirrel. This workshop will provide hands-on training on how to overcome the struggles of photographing in old growth forests abundant in migrating winter birds, awe-inspiring gaur, playful dhole, imposing elephants, elusive leopards, lightning-quick flying squirrels, and even a lizard that glides from tree to tree.
In this tour, you will begin your journey by road from Bangalore to Mysore, exploring stunning rock formations unique to the state of Karnataka. In Mysore, you will make multiple visits to the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, taking a private boat ride that will bring you eye-level with avifauna such as the spot-billed pelican, black-headed ibis, and several species of cormorants, as well as the occasional crocodile and a massive roost of fruit bats. You will visit India’s oldest and most renowned zoo, the Mysore Zoo, that began as the Maharajah of Mysore’s personal collection of animals and today is well-respected and popular among scientists and the lay person alike. Here you will have the chance to photograph at close-range some of the rarer mammals and birds of the Ghats, as well as some unusual fauna from as far away as Australia.
From Mysore you will travel to the main destination of this tour, a remarkable gem of little-known India called Fringe Ford, where time stands still and life in the rainforest is as it always has been. At this field station, you don’t even have to leave camp to find wildlife, wilderness comes directly to you – from the dawn chorus of dozens of species of birds, to the night-time congregation of elephant, gaur and sambar deer at the salt-lick in front of the main house.
At all times, you will be accompanied by a guide and your tour leader, Ishaan, who are both experienced naturalists with a passion for wildlife, regardless of its size or status. In smaller groups, you will explore the rainforest in a series of day and night time treks designed to allow you to shoot everything from amphibians to ungulates, and with a bit of luck, the king of the jungle – the Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris).
The ultimate goal of this workshop is to give you a chance to photograph some of the most threatened and vulnerable species on the Indian subcontinent in an area that routinely faces obstacles to conservation such as human-wildlife conflict, habitat fragmentation, habitat destruction, and road-related wildlife kills. In the words of your tour leader Ishaan, “film and photography are arguably the most valuable tools we have for raising awareness and mobilising efforts to protect what jewels remain on this planet.”
Do something meaningful on this adventure, and hone your photography skills while contributing to conservation research and awareness in the Sahyadris.
- Explore the incredible biodiversity hotspot that is the Western Ghats of India, an area where new species are being discovered even as you read these words.
- Shoot in a field site directly in tiger country, where wildlife come to you.
- Visit Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, famous for its influx in birds at this time of year
- Take a safari through an elephant corridor, on your way to Fringe Ford
- Visit and photograph the historical city of Mysore, including India’s oldest zoo and colorful local markets.
- Small group photography instruction from professional field guide and wildlife photographer Ishaan Raghunandan
[blockquote id=”” class=”” style=”” align=”none” author=”” affiliation=”” affiliation_url=””]The Western Ghats are a biodiveristy hotspot like no other. [/blockquote]
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DAY 1: JANUARY 1
Arrive in Bangalore City early this morning or plan to arrive the night before and book your stay in the city. We begin the drive to Mysore by dawn to make the most of our time. Shoot the distinctive historic Karnataka rock landscape on the way. Lunch at Mysore and spend the rest of the day at the Mysore Zoo, on eye-level with India’s wildlife.
DAY 2: JANUARY 2
Return at dawn and dusk this day to Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary for more shooting from a boat and on foot. Learn how to apply techniques that wildlife biologists use to keep a field journal and sightings log to track your own photography. In the afternoon, spend time at the Mysore palace for a chance to take in some historic, cultural and religious features of the city.
DAY 3: JANUARY 3
Pay one last visit to Ranganathittu before driving from Mysore through the Nagarhole National Park to Fringe Ford. You will be switching from the state of Karnataka to Kerala, and along the way will stop for a safari at Nagarhole National Park. Arrive at Fringe Ford that evening, settle in and get a glimpse of the first action at the field station’s salt lick.
DAYS 4-7: JANUARY 4-7
You will spend your days trekking in the rainforest around camp, including some treks to the top of nearby mountain ranges where you will get spectacular views of the Sahyadris from above the tree line. Along the way, shoot a variety of wildlife, from insects and birds, to endangered mammals. Learn off-trail navigation and animal tracking techniques to serve you better in future adventures. Experiment with moonlight and astro-photography and delve into post-production techniques in the evenings. Explore amphibian and reptile diversity at night in nearby streams, and even spend a morning learning tree-climbing and camera-trap placements for a unique window into getting that perfect, but typically unattainable wildlife shot.
DAY 8: JANUARY 8
Return to Bangalore by road, and plan to fly out that evening, or continue your trip in India, without FPI. You will not be stopping in Mysore, but if you want to leave the group there, we are happy to drop you off.
Food & Refreshments
While traveling to the field site, three meals a day will be provided at reputable hotels along the highway. Breakfast in Mysore will be provided at the hotel that we are staying at. Once we have arrived at Fringeford, food quality increases significantly, with delicious meals featuring Kerala cuisine. These meals are healthy and will fill you up, but this is the middle of the rainforest, so don’t expect to get all your food groups represented in the same way you try to eat while you are at home. If you are concerned about this, take a multi-vitamin while at the field station. Vegetarians will sometimes get tofu and soy meat substitutes. Being vegan at this workshop can be difficult (but it is not impossible).
You will also have access to cookies, crackers, coffee, and tea, at all times during the day while at camp. If you think you will do better with Cliff or Luna bars (or the like), please bring some for yourself. Any additional treats you bring (including precious chocolate) will be fair game for small rainforest creatures, so bring plenty of ziplock bags in which to place your food. Also avoid leaving wrappers in your rooms containing anything edible because that will attract some curiosity from the local miniature wildlife.
Bedrooms and Baths
Logistics: Travel, Visas, Vaccines
International Air Travel: Getting to India from a different country is accomplished primarily by air. We recommend using Kayak, Orbitz or Expedia to book your flights online. Local students can book on Make My Trip. Students must plan to arrive no later than 6 am on January 1st, 2018. If you are arriving earlier than this time, we can provide you with local hotel recommendations, but you must book these independently.
As with all of our workshops, a comprehensive travel packet that contains information on when and how to book your travel, visas, vaccinations, and packing tips, will be made available to all participants. This packet is provided to participants once they have registered for the workshop. Departure should be planned from Bangalore no earlier than 8 pm on the 8th of January. If you decide to continue elsewhere from the field station, Mysore or Bangalore, you may certainly also do that.
Visas: These are required for travel to India for citizens of many countries. To apply for a visa, use the following websites or contact us for more information if you can’t locate it online: Travisa or Cox and Kings
You can get an e-tourist visa as a US citizen applying for an Indian visa, which is a quick way to get a visa upon arrival in India by acquiring prior electronically generated approval in the US. The final stamp in your passport happens when you land in India, after biometrics are taken at the airport. Note: You must not apply earlier than 34 days before you travel to India, processing time is ~3 business days, and it costs $49 with Travisa. You have to provide a valid passport and confirmed round-trip flight tickets to apply. It will only allow you to enter the country once, for a total duration of 30 days. You cannot leave to visit any other neighboring country and return back to India to catch a flight to the US with this visa i.e. this is a single-entry and NOT a multiple-entry visa. You also can only have 2 such visas in a 12-month.
You can also apply for a traditional tourist visa, which can take a little longer to process and which involves sending your passport to an agency and getting it returned. You can, however, get a ten-year multiple entry tourist visa for ~$125 with a 6-10 business day turnaround, depending on where you live in the US and which consulate you approach. This visa should allow you to enter and leave the country freely during your stay, facilitating any additional travel in the region if you so desire.
If you are not a U.S. citizen, Travisa is probably a good agency to use since it does offer some global services. Otherwise, contact your local Indian consulate and ask them for help. In many countries, it’s possible to walk-in your papers to the consulate in-person and get a visa both quickly and independent of any agency. In some others, you have to go through an agency. This will vary by country.
IMPORTANT: If you are Indian by origin, or have recently switched from Indian to other citizenship, you have somewhat of a longer road ahead of you, so begin the visa process quickly for it can take ~2 months to complete.
Vaccines: You will have to provide proof of a normal vaccination record (as listed here by the CDC). For travel to India, we require that you also get the following vaccines: Typhoid (oral or injectable) and Hepatitis A. It is additionally recommended to speak with your doctor or a travel clinic about the Japanese encephalitis vaccine, and to follow their expert advice in this matter. If you have the current flu shot for the year as well, all the better. Find a travel clinic and get your shots EARLY.
You may consider taking malaria prophylaxis if you like, particularly for your stay in Mysore and Bangalore. There are no mosquitoes at the field station so the risk of catching malaria while there is minimal. Please follow your health care provider’s recommendations in this regard.
The CDC’s recommendations for travelers to India may be found here.
Arrival packet: When all participants have submitted their travel information form (see above), we will collate this information and send you an Arrival Plan. This document will let you know if others are traveling on the same flight/bus as you and provide you with their email addresses so you can get in touch in advance (if you want to). You will also receive exact instructions on what to do when you land, and an image of your instructor/local contact so you can look out for us at the airport/bus station. More importantly, we will provide you with instructions on what to do if you find out that you have been delayed. The Arrival Plan will also include local contact information for your instructor so that you can get in touch with them if needed to let them know if your travel plans were forced to change for some reason.
Please do not panic about being picked up at an airport or not knowing who will do this until you receive the Arrival Plan. That plan will contain all the information you need. Expect it to arrive electronically just before Christmas.
The following equipment will be available at the workshop:
- Trail cameras (Bushnell)
- Gps, Compass
- DSLR cameras for learning purposes during classes (not to be used in the field)
You must bring the following equipment with you:
- A DSLR camera
- Raw editing software
- Rain boots
- Rain protection – for camera gear and person
Having a DSLR is recommended as certain topics will require a fully manual camera to learn. If however you do not own a DSLR, FPI will provide 3 DSLR’s available for students to use in particular classes. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to reserve one of these cameras.
Other optional items:
- Zoom lens
- Tripod (for moonlight photography)
Single Supplement: $300 USD (if you do not want to be paired with another participant during the field course)
Spouse/Partner Supplement: $1200 USD (for a non-photographing partner/spouse to join you. Spots limited. Enquire right away.)
Special rate for Indian citizens and residents: $600 USD discount on overall fee. You MUST contact us at email@example.com prior to registering to avail of this fee. You will be asked to prove citizenship AND residency in the country. Only 3 such spots are available for each field course.
- The fee for this tour is $2200 USD, and includes the following:
- Food and lodging for the entire workshop.
- Transportation to and from Bangalore to Mysore including the field sites.
- Experienced instructors and field equipment.
This workshop fee does NOT include:
- International travel to India.
- Travel or health insurance (proof of health insurance is required for workshop attendance).
- Rubber boots, binoculars, flashlight and insect repellent (all of which are required to take this workshop).
- A camera
We provide an option to obtain financial assistance for attending this field workshop:
- Fundraising: FPI can now provide a peer-to-peer crowd funding platform for all field workshop students. You will be able to make your own fundraising page to share with your contacts and social networks. At the end of the fundraising period, FPI will issue a discount code to you for 100% of the funds that you have raised. You would then enter this code as you make your final workshop payment. If you raise enough to cover all (or part) of your initial reservation fee, you would be refunded that portion as well. Please note that funds raised in excess of your program fees will be rolled into our scholarship fund. Also, if you withdraw from the workshop at any time, your donors cannot get a refund. In this case, all of those funds would also roll over into our scholarship fund for other students. To set up this option, please register for a workshop, first, and then contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up your fundraising page.
Please read our cancellation policy carefully before applying to this tour:
- $100 of your deposit made during registration is a processing fee that is nonrefundable under any circumstances.
- If you cancel on or before the registration deadline of Friday, December 1st, 2017, we will refund all workshop fees paid in full (except for the processing fee of $100).
- If you cancel your reservation by December 15, 2017, you will be refunded 40% of your workshop fee.
- Workshop fees cannot be refunded for cancellations made after December 15, 2017.
- If FPI has to cancel this workshop due to mitigating reasons, a full refund of all fees paid, including the registration fee, will be made available to all participants.
- Early departures from the field workshop are not entitled to a refund for any reason.
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