Field Photography in India’s Western Ghats
4 or 6-day options, year-round.
Registration Deadline: 60 days before tour start date.
“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.
Private photo-tours will take you from Bangalore to Mysore, the ancient capital of the region, with the final destination of Fringe Ford, a field station nestled in a private conservation concession near the Wyanad Forest Reserve. These tours focus on small-group interactions, with a maximum of four participants per tour.
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 (time permitting), 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 layperson 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 primary 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 has always 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, a guide and your tour leader, Ishaan, will accompany you. They 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).
Experience the Sahyadris like never before – with a naturalist-cum-wildlife photographer who will show you how you can 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 of birds at this time of year.
Take a safari through an elephant corridor, on your way to Fringe Ford.
Visit and photograph the historic city of Mysore, including India’s oldest zoo and colourful local markets.
Receive valuable personalised instruction directly from professional field guide and wildlife photographer Ishaan Raghunandan.
Explore any form of photography you want to – night photography, macro photography, stills, and even camera trapping.
Tailor your trip to suit your specific interests or the interests of your journey.
Travel at a time that is suitable to you.
[blockquote id=”” class=”” style=”” align=”none” author=”” affiliation=”” affiliation_url=””]Come explore the Western Ghats, a biodiversity hotspot like no other. [/blockquote]
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Day 1: Arrive in Bangalore City early this morning or plan to arrive the night before and book your stay in the city. We will begin the drive to Mysore by dawn to make the most of our time. Shoot the unique historical Karnataka rock landscape on the way. Lunch at Mysore, followed by a safari through Nagarhole National Park on the way to Fringe Ford, our final destination. Enjoy nightly visitors to the camp’s salt lick.
Days 2-3: Spend days trekking in the rainforest around camp, including a trek to the top of a nearby mountain range 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 astrophotography and delve into post-production techniques in the evenings. Explore amphibian and reptile diversity at night in nearby streams.
Day 4: Spend the morning photographing the 25+ bird species in and around camp, from close-range and even eye-level in some cases, due to the terrain. Lunch at Fringe Ford. Drive back to Bangalore in the evening, to maximise your time in the forest. Plan on continuing your trip only the next day, but do make reservations at a local hotel directly for this night. We can drop you off at Mysore, or Bangalore, to continue your trip.
Day 1: Arrive in Bangalore City early this morning or plan to arrive the night before and book your stay in the city. We will begin the drive to Mysore by dawn to make the most of our time. Shoot the unique historical Karnataka rock landscape on the way. Lunch at Mysore, followed by an exploration of Mysore Zoo, where you will have the chance to photograph iconic animals from eye-level and at close-range.
Days 2: Visit the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary early in the morning, followed by a safari through Nagarhole National Park on the way to Fringe Ford, our final destination. Enjoy nightly visitors to the camp’s salt lick.
Days 3-5: Spend days trekking in the rainforest around camp, including a trek to the top of a nearby mountain range 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 astrophotography and delve into post-production techniques in the evenings. Explore amphibian and reptile diversity at night in nearby streams. Explore camera-trap methods to photograph the more elusive and cryptic species in the area. Finally, learn some tree-climbing to up your game, and your vantage point.
Day 6: Spend the morning photographing the 25+ bird species in and around camp, from close-range and even eye-level in some cases, due to the terrain. Lunch at Fringe Ford. Drive back to Bangalore in the evening, to maximise your time in the forest. Plan on continuing your trip only the next day, but do make reservations at a local hotel directly for this night. We can drop you off at Mysore, or Bangalore, to continue your trip.
Lodging and Accommodation
While traveling to the field site, we will provide three meals a day at popular hotels along the highway. Once we have arrived at Fringe Ford, 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 on this tour 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 participants can book on Make My Trip. Participants 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 tours, 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 tour. If you decide to continue elsewhere from the field station, Mysore or Bangalore, you may probably 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 neighbouring country and return 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 two 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 an excellent 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 a travel agency, which 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 long 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 regular 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 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.
The following equipment will be available on the tour:
- Trail cameras (Bushnell)
- GPS, Compass
- DSLR cameras for learning purposes during the tour (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 DSLRs available for participants to use in particular tours. Please email us at email@example.com if you wish to reserve one of these cameras.
Other optional items:
- Zoom lens
- Tripod (for moonlight photography)
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Single Supplement: if you do not want to be paired with another participant during the field course, you may live in a single room for a fee of USD 150 for the 4-day trip, and USD 230 for the 6-day trip.
- The includes the following:
- Food and lodging for the entire tour.
- Transportation to and from Bangalore to Mysore including the field sites.
- Experienced instructors and field equipment.
This tour fee does NOT include:
- International travel to India.
- Travel or health insurance (proof of health insurance is required for tour attendance).
- Rubber boots, binoculars, flashlight and insect repellent (all of which are required to attend this tour).
- A camera
We provide an option to obtain financial assistance for attending this photo tour:
- Fundraising: FPI can now provide a peer-to-peer crowdfunding platform for all photo tour participants. You will be able to make your 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 tour 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 tour at any time, your donors cannot get a refund. In this case, all of those resources would also roll over into our scholarship fund for other participants. To set up this option, please register for a tour, first, and then contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up your fundraising page.
Please read our cancellation policy carefully before applying for 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 60 days from your start date, we will refund all tour fees paid in full (except for the processing fee of $100).
- If you cancel your reservation within 45 days of your start date, you will be refunded 40% of your tour fee.
- Tour fees cannot be refunded for cancellations made after 45 days before the start date of your tour.
- If FPI has to cancel this tour 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 tour are not entitled to a refund for any reason.
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