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Author Topic: India Wildlife Safaris Tips  (Read 2992 times)

Offline gsferrari

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India Wildlife Safaris Tips
« on: January 20, 2014, 10:21:50 AM »
This thread is intended to be a collection of tips, recommendations and gyaan regarding:

1. Booking safaris at Pench, Tadoba, Ranthambore, Corbett etc. (how to book, documents, fees)
2. When to go
3. Where to stay
4. Whom to contact
5. Any recommended driver
6. Any recommended guide
7. Some safaris have additional charges for those who carry bigger lenses. Any concrete info on this will be appreciated. I think up to 200mm is free and beyond that is charged on every 10mm or 20mm...not sure.
8. Tips on what to wear (colors, patterns, perfumes or stinky poo)
9. How to shoot ouf of a moving/standing vehicle for the sharpest results
10. What settings to watch out for in early morning light/mist, mid-morning light

And anything else you can think to add to this.

Looking forward to your inputs!
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Offline mannusingh

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Re: India Wildlife Safaris Tips
« Reply #1 on: January 20, 2014, 01:02:26 PM »
I think I can contribute a bit here as I have been going to safaris for many years now.

First of all safaris are an expensive proposition, with average fees across all the major national tiger reserves per safari being in the region of 4-5k. Good guides are again expensive especially if you want to stick to them for all the safaris as they have to jump the roster.

Most big parks now allow online bookings of safaris though some like Tadoba are still offline.

Typically summers are the best time if animal sightings, read tiger sightings are what you are after. Though winters can give you some amazing light and ambience. Sightings in winters are difficult in terms of animal sightings, due to plenty of scrub and foliage and plenty of water in the interiors vs summers when all animals are found in some water hole or the other.

Stay can range from the very expensive super luxurious Oberoi Vanya Vilas and Taj Mahua Kothi to super cheap lodges. Regulars and photographers like me usually spend more on safaris than luxuries.

Ideal gear to have is a super zoom like 80/100-400 or a 70-300 and a wide angle like a 18-70 or 18-55. The bigger super teles are good to have though not a must have. You will just not be able to shoot early in dawn or late dusk that's all. But then some of the finest images are also taken in this period.

Clothing should be shades or Browns or greens or anything not too flashy. No bright colors please.

Typically most shoot hand held but you  can invest in a good bean bag. Also remember 6 is the maximum number that can be accommodated in a gypsy, but for photography lesser the better.

Sent from my Nexus 4
« Last Edit: January 20, 2014, 01:07:32 PM by mannusingh »
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Offline gsferrari

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Re: India Wildlife Safaris Tips
« Reply #2 on: January 20, 2014, 04:23:27 PM »
Brilliant write-up sir!

Reading and absorbing. I think I didn't miss the f/2.8 as much as I missed having elbow room and a bean-bag to stabilize the lens or my elbow on the roll-cage of the Gypsy. Do you think the Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 is suitable for this sort of gig? I don't see any other Nikon in this zoom range and the 200-400 is an f/4 lens.

400 f/2.8 is too big and heavy
300 f/2.8 is sweet but how much better is it compared to the 300 f/4 I already have? Arguably 420mm f/4 (300 f/2.8 + 1.4x TC2) is better than 420 f/5.6 but what is the ground reality?

Is there no safari that takes you through the forest on foot?
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Offline mannusingh

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Re: India Wildlife Safaris Tips
« Reply #3 on: January 20, 2014, 06:08:19 PM »
The 300 2.8 VR 2 the latest iteration of the legendary 300 2.8 is way better simply coz you have VR which will let you shoot at half the shutter speed atleast than what you are currently shooting with your F4 at the same aperture. At F4 the shutter can even be faster. At 5.6 it's stopped down where as the F4 lens is wide open so again the 2.8 will be sharper. So really there is no contest, the 2.8 is that much better.

The sigma is pretty sharp but it's not that good at 2.8 from the reviews I have read and its also not a true 300 at 300 due to focus breathing.

The 200-400 suffers at distance shooting from all the reports I have read on the web . Within 50 feet it's as sharp as 400 2.8. It's the perfect safari lens IMHO

The new 80-400 G is sharp wide open even at 400, but it too suffers from focus breathing. A lot people are selling off their 200-400 after acquiring the 80-400.

The 400 2.8 is absolutely the best lens at 400. But you know it's heavy and expensive.

I am nor aware of any foot safaris in any of the national tiger reserves. Kanha used  to have a short guided walk inside the khatia gate some years back. Not sure if its still on.

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« Last Edit: January 20, 2014, 06:10:54 PM by mannusingh »
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Offline theqca

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Re: India Wildlife Safaris Tips
« Reply #4 on: January 20, 2014, 06:12:59 PM »
mannusingh - thanks for the inputs..much appreciated.

gsferrari - In terms of who to contact, how to go etc etc i can add my 2 pence worth - Dr Anand (a forum member, Dentist and professional macro photographer) organises the most cost effective wildlife photography tours that i am aware off. Another point that i liked about him is that he's honest and detailed in his business approach apart from being a photographer and nature conservationist. You can contact him here - https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kedsan-Adventures/133650053314543

I'll check if he can post some tips here on this thread based on his experience.




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Offline madsolute

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Re: India Wildlife Safaris Tips
« Reply #5 on: January 20, 2014, 07:08:55 PM »
I can vouch for DrAnand's experience and knowledge on this topic... Been on a few trips with him... Very reasonable and extremely well planned trips!

Offline dranand

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Re: India Wildlife Safaris Tips
« Reply #6 on: January 20, 2014, 08:41:09 PM »
Thanks  Ayaz and Madsolute ....... for any assistance  anybody can contact me , will love to help out.

Offline gsferrari

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Re: India Wildlife Safaris Tips
« Reply #7 on: January 20, 2014, 09:50:43 PM »
This is fantastic! Dr.Anand looking forward to your inputs.
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Offline dranand

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Re: India Wildlife Safaris Tips
« Reply #8 on: January 21, 2014, 11:24:54 AM »
1. Booking safaris at Pench, Tadoba, Ranthambore, Corbett etc. (how to book, documents, fees)

Now a days everything is online booking through government websites , otherwise ask any travel agent they will do it for nominal extra charges.

2. When to go - Depends upon what u want see??? Tigers or Birds ??? Birds - Dec , Jan , Feb .... Tigers - March - april - May.

3. Where to stay - Again depends upon budget - but wont cost less than Rs. 2500 per person with all meals in good resort.

4. Whom to contact - contact me ........ or any other travel agency who specialize in wildlife.

5. Any recommended driver - As per new rules drivers changes all the time.

6. Any recommended guide - same as above.

7. Some safaris have additional charges for those who carry bigger lenses. Any concrete info on this will be appreciated. I think up to 200mm is free and beyond that is charged on every 10mm or 20mm...not sure. - This is not true - Gypsy can accommodate max 6 pax, but that is congested. For zoom Like 100-400 or 150-500 ........ 4 pax r sufficient. If u r  using 500 or 600 primes than 2 pax. After all u have to whole gypsy rent eg. Rs. 5000/- per trip if u share one pax or 6 Pax charges r same.

8. Tips on what to wear (colors, patterns, perfumes or stinky poo)  - Natural colors always prefer - green, brown etc... avoid red orange etc..

9. How to shoot ouf of a moving/standing vehicle for the sharpest results - Monopod , bean bag will help u , but we always prefer to stop gypsy and shoot.

10. What settings to watch out for in early morning light/mist, mid-morning light -  Depends upon your gear , very difficult to tell.



Offline DG

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Re: India Wildlife Safaris Tips
« Reply #9 on: February 20, 2014, 04:34:50 PM »
Thanks for the info.

In Bangalore, TOEHOLD team  is also very good in conducting this kind of tours.

For Tadoba, I think jjmpf member Atul is good enough, infact best.

Also in south Indian parks, if you book with JLR (Jungle Lodges), their safaris are best here with  very knowledgeable naturalist and drivers in open gypsy.   
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Offline mannusingh

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Re: India Wildlife Safaris Tips
« Reply #10 on: February 25, 2014, 02:44:04 PM »
Thanks for the info.

In Bangalore, TOEHOLD team  is also very good in conducting this kind of tours.

For Tadoba, I think jjmpf member Atul is good enough, infact best.

Also in south Indian parks, if you book with JLR (Jungle Lodges), their safaris are best here with  very knowledgeable naturalist and drivers in open gypsy.

I have heard good things about JLR, though never experienced it myself. Toehold is daylight robbery. Just too expensive for what they offer and expensive is not always the best. To cite an example, I had hired a good guide to go to Chambal a few weeks back. My guide asked me if the Toehold guys could tag along till Chambal as they couldnt find anything too exciting in Bharatpur. The guide was to be with me as I had hired him and ofcourse I did not mind that they tagged along with us. But somehow that seemed quite cheap for someone who charges you a bomb for their services and claim to be an expert. I have also noticed that their hotels and lodges are not really very top of the line for the amount they charge. I was just going through their site and they are charging close to 35000 per person for stay, meals and 8 safaris excluding train or airplane transport. Even local transfers are not included.
« Last Edit: February 25, 2014, 03:10:33 PM by mannusingh »
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Offline DG

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Re: India Wildlife Safaris Tips
« Reply #11 on: May 28, 2014, 03:07:02 PM »
 
Thanks for the info.

In Bangalore, TOEHOLD team  is also very good in conducting this kind of tours.

For Tadoba, I think jjmpf member Atul is good enough, infact best.

Also in south Indian parks, if you book with JLR (Jungle Lodges), their safaris are best here with  very knowledgeable naturalist and drivers in open gypsy.

I have heard good things about JLR, though never experienced it myself. Toehold is daylight robbery. Just too expensive for what they offer and expensive is not always the best. To cite an example, I had hired a good guide to go to Chambal a few weeks back. My guide asked me if the Toehold guys could tag along till Chambal as they couldnt find anything too exciting in Bharatpur. The guide was to be with me as I had hired him and ofcourse I did not mind that they tagged along with us. But somehow that seemed quite cheap for someone who charges you a bomb for their services and claim to be an expert. I have also noticed that their hotels and lodges are not really very top of the line for the amount they charge. I was just going through their site and they are charging close to 35000 per person for stay, meals and 8 safaris excluding train or airplane transport. Even local transfers are not included.


yes that might be the case with TOEHOLD, I borrowed some lenses from them and met couple of wildlife photographers only...Sachin Rai and all are good people but yes Charges are like daylight robbery..

JLR also same in terms of their package...very very expensive..This safari business especially in Tiger Reserves are astronomical now..but I must say that the properties of JLR are best so far in terms of Jungle experience...They have monopoly in Karnataka's tiger reserves.

But on the contrary, if you go to Tadoba, contact Atul, there you can really budget your trip properly with great safari. Its still not badly commercialized like other central Indian parks.
« Last Edit: May 28, 2014, 03:10:34 PM by DG »
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Offline MayaV

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Re: India Wildlife Safaris Tips
« Reply #12 on: May 28, 2014, 04:26:36 PM »
If you have good local contacts, you can make your own trip. For big cat tours, i would not recommend more then two or max 3 on a gypsy.

For Ranthambore the best guy for safari is Aditya (Dicky) Singh. If anyone specifically wants information for a particular park then PM, i will try and get information.

If you want to visit Gujarat for Birding or Lions, feel free to ask me, i can get you in contacts with guides of specific places LRK, GRK. Many places in Gujarat does not require guide, like Velavadar, Thol, Nal Sarovar, Jamnagar, Ratanmahal, Vansda, Shoolpaneshwar etc.

Cheers

Vivek

Offline Srikar

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Re: India Wildlife Safaris Tips
« Reply #13 on: December 29, 2014, 06:32:56 PM »
Hi,

I am an absolute novice when it comes to photography. I am more interested in nature or wildlife photography. I am starting out with a Canon 1100D in its basic form with the lens 18 * 55. I am going with Nature wanderers for Ranthambore trip during Republic day weekend. But I'm finding that going on tours with Toehold or Nature wanderers is probhitively expensive.

How can i work on my passion without spending too much? At least for a start.

Regards,
Srikar

Offline mannusingh

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Re: India Wildlife Safaris Tips
« Reply #14 on: December 30, 2014, 03:32:54 PM »
I had been to the JLR property at Kabini called the Kabini River Lodge in Diwali this year and here is a small review of it:

The property is lovely no doubt. Owned by the Karnataka govt, JLR usually enjoys a monoploy with multiple properties all over Karnataka with prime pieces of real esate. Built along the kabini river banks, the Kabini River Lodge has both tents and cottages as stay options. Tents are cheaper and I got mine near the river bank. It was a lovely place to stay and was self sufficient and comfortable with almost all creature comforts. They have hammocks all along the bank so one can laze around with a book or just doze off when needed. The tents are well maintained and the quality of bedding is quite decent.

Food is typically South Indian with plenty of options for both Veg and Non Veg, more so Veg. Dont go there expecting the ubiquitious North Indian food as you get in most other TRs (Tiger Reserves). Food is served in buffet style, in a common area and you have to brave the paths at night when its pitch dark especiallly if your accomodation is far away. But it is fun nevertheless.

They also have a souvinior shop near the check in office, that sells JLR branded stuff at exorbitant rates but its all of decent quality. I usually collect caps from every jungle trip or TR that I visit, so treated myself a with a JLR branded one this time.

At nights they play nature films at the bar area, which is actually a beautiful old bungalow with antique furniture, which are mostly Kabini related and I got to see the same clip every night I stayed there.

Now the important thing tariff and inclusions.

I dont remember the exact tariff but it was all exclusive and not very cheap. You also have to factor in transportation from a major city or tourist destination like Bangalore or Mysore or Coorg in your cost calculations if you dont have your own vehicle.

The incusions are all meals, tea, coffee, lodging and 2 safaris a day along with a coracle ride which is like a 15 minute round boat ride.
For safaris you have the option of a boat safari and a jeep safari. Boats are better if you want to photograph water birds and jeeps are better for mammals. I did in all 4 safaris, 3 by jeep and 1 by boat.

The JLR safari vehicles are not gypsys as seen in most TRs, rather Mahindra and TATA vehicles with closed roofs. IMHO these are not really good for photography. I prefer a gypsy any day and being a petrol engined vehicle is also a lot quieter.

One thing that I noticed and rue about Nagarhole NP is that it is completley covered by Lantena. For those who do not know what it is, its a weed/shrub that grows very quickly and overpowers and chokes the local foliage and becomes the dominant plant in that area. It is a very fast grower and can cover large areas of land within a short period. Problem is that no animal is able to eat it and by destoying the local plants it destroys the food source of a lot of herbivores which has a cascading affect on the carnivores that depend on these herbivores.

I have seen lantena in most parks but it is always systematically destroyed by the forest dept to aid growth of local and indigenious plants. All the top TRs that i have been to like Kanha, Corbett, Ranthambhore, Kaziranga, Bandhavgarh, Pench and Tadoba all have very little Lantena to speak of. So it was really sad to see so much Lantena everywhere in Nagarhole.

Every year Kabini sees a mass movement of elephants in search of food especially in the summer. This leads these giants to often come close to human settlements, as these used to be ancient migratory paths for these elephants which are now closed due to development and human encroachments. So many get killed or just die due to starvation. So as Lantena and development is replacing a lot of local foliage and jungle areas, the future of Kabini and Nagerhiole in general looks bleak.

The staff at JLR Kibini River Lodge are a helpful lot. But as usual as in most TRs, they too are big cat centric. I mean there is such a lot of flora and fauna to see and photograph in a jungle or a TR but the guides and drivers are only interested in showing you a Leopard or a Tiger. But I guess that is all what the money paying junta demands so there is nothing much one can do about this. IMHO the best guides who are ready to show the marvels of a TR are in Kanha.

Still the overall experience was good, as I generally love to be in a jungle, but the safaris were a bit uninvolving. And no I did not see a tiger nor a leopard. Still was satisfied with my trip. JLR has many other properties in Karanataka and I will slowly and surely try to cover all of them in the future.
« Last Edit: December 31, 2014, 09:16:28 AM by mannusingh »
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