CONTENT

Land Rover Discovery Feb 2018 – Part I

Land Rover – Discovery With A Purpose Expedition to Assam and Arunachal Pradesh

Jaguar Land Rover India and Conde Nast Traveller India announced an initiative, ‘Discovery With A Purpose’, to spread awareness about India’s endangered wildlife. India has a great diversity of wildlife across several thousand species. However, many of them are under threat of extinction and thus need to be protected. The ‘Discovery With A Purpose’ initiative is aimed at bringing forth the species that face such a threat and thus create information and conversations around areas where our collective help and support may be needed.

31 Jan: Arrive in Dibrugarh
The entire team of Land Rover, the video and still crew and of course Environmental Writer and Photographer, Arati Kumar-Rao and Wildlife Photographer, Sudhir Shivaram arrived at Dibrugar on day 1 of the expedition.
Overnight at: Mancotta Heritage Chang Bungalow + Hotel Tea County

1 Feb: Flag-off and depart for Miao
We all met at Mancotta Heritage Chang Bungalow for a flag-off ceremony. JLR brand director Ankur flagged off the journey. We then departed for Miao (166km; 8 hrs).
Overnight at: Namdapha Jungle Camp + Tourist Lodge Miao

Late in the evening we reached Miao and spent the rest of the evening flaunting the all new Land Rover Discovery on the banks of the river.

2 Feb: Day-trip to the Namdapha forest reserve – I
Depart at 5.00am and drive to Deban Forest Camp (25km; 2 hrs). After breakfast, head for a guided trek into the forest. We kept our eyes peeled and fingers crossed for the red panda, but no luck. Later we return to Deban Forest Camp by 2pm for lunch. Departed for Miao at 3pm.
Overnight at: Namdapha Jungle Camp

3 Feb: Day-trip to the Namdapha forest reserve – II*
We followed the same schedule as above. Today, we took a different trail into the forest. Along the way, meet staff at the forest reserve + Phupla Sinpho, an elder from the Singpho clan and founder of SEACOW (Society for environmental awareness
and conservation of wildlife). We had a brief talk with him on their efforts and challenges of conservation in that area.
Overnight at: Namdapha Jungle Camp

4 Feb: School activity + Drive to Roing
After breakfast at 7am, we drove for around 10 minutes to a secondary school. Here, we handed over a set of textbooks + some stationery to the students. We spent 2 hrs with the students, engaging with them over wildlife and environment. Activities include a little drawing session, and a show-and-tell around wildlife photography and conservation.
We departed at 10am for Roing (150km; 7 hrs).
Overnight at: Yatri Niwas, Roing

5 Feb: Drive to Pasighat
We left at 8am for Pasighat (96km; ~5 hrs). The plan was to arrive by 1.30pm and spend the rest of the day at leisure. This was one of the most beautiful drives I have ever done. Arunachal Pradesh is absolutely beautiful. We need to be proud of our landscapes and the habitat and do whatever it takes to protect them for our future generations. The river crossing we did on the way was quite adventurous and we took some shots from the drone.
Overnight at: Hotel Serene Abode, Pasighat

6 Feb: Drive to Majuli
Leave at 7am for Majuli (295km; 9 hrs). Arrive before sunset and bed down for the night.
Overnight at: Dekasang Majuli

7 Feb: To Kokilamukh, then Kaziranga
We left at 6am for Kokilamukh (35km; 1 hr). A drive, a car ferry across the gigantic Brahmaputra and a 45-min walk later, we arrived to meet “Forest Man of India” Jadav Payeng, and visit the river island he has afforested. We had a long fruitful discussion with Payeng where he explained the issues of the current schooling system and emphasised about the need for better education on conservation awareness. We later departed for Kaziranga National Park (100km; 3 hrs) and arrived at Iora.
Overnight at: IORA-The Retreat, Kaziranga

8 Feb: Around Kaziranga, then Nameri
At 6am, we headed into the reserve on a jeep safari and explored the Eastern range of Kaziranga. At 11am, we departed for Nameri National Park (100km; 4 hrs). We then visited the pygmy hog conservation centre at the park.
Overnight at: Nameri Eco-Camp

9 Feb: Around Nameri, then Guwahati
We briefly headed into the park for bird sightings—the hornbill and the white-winged wood duck, potentially. Also visited the golden mahseer conservation centre. Later visited the Eastern Himalayan Botanic Ark set up by Balipara Foundation at Wild Mahseer lodge.
At 2.30pm, departed for Guwahati (175km; 4 hrs).
Overnight at: Radisson Blu, Guwahati

10 Feb: Depart for home
After a good night’s sleep, next morning we headed to the airport to catch the flight home. A trip I will cherish forever.

The lead instructors from Land Rover:

CONTENT

Land Rover Discovery Feb 2018 – Part II

You can read the Part I of the blog here

Here is the main video shot as a part of the 10 days expedition to Assam and Arunachal Pradesh in the all new Land Rover Discovery:

Here are all the other videos:
Discovery With A Purpose | Dibrugarh to Miao:

Discovery With A Purpose

Discovery With A Purpose | Majuli to Kaziranga

Discovery With A Purpose | Passighat to Majuli

Discovery with a Purpose | Miao to Roing

Discovery With A Purpose | People of Namdapha

Discovery With A Purpose | Forest Man of India

Discovery With A Purpose | Children of Namdapha

CONTENT

Exploring Sanjay Dubri National Park

Located in the Sidhi district of Madhya Pradesh, is one of the most spectacular reserves that I’d like to call an underdog. The combination of mesmerizing landscapes and waterbodies with the presence of some feisty big cats makes Sanjay Dubri Reserve a destination that shouldn’t be missed when exploring India’s forests.

Sanjay Dubri National Park

In December, I held a two-day workshop with 16 participants in collaboration with the Forest Department and the MP Tiger Foundation Society to promote tourism at the reserve. As part of the collaboration, the entire trip, from the accommodation to the safari rides had been sponsored, so only a nominal fee of INR 15,000 was decided for the participants, part of which would go as proceeds to the forest department.

Sudhir with forest department officials in Sanjay Dubri National Park

I was working with Forest Officer Mr. Parihar and enquired with him about what the forest is in need of. It being winter, we figured that what the forest officers are most in need of is winter wear, so along with the workshop fees, I contributed INR 1.6 lakhs from the Sudhir Shivaram Photography organisation to purchase fleece for the staff that is so important in these winter months.

Offering winterwear to forest officials

Usually, I like to reach the forest where the workshop is scheduled a day or two early, so that I can spend that time by myself, relaxing, taking photos and familiarising myself with the place.

On the 4th of December, I reached Jabalpur and drove to Bandhavgarh National Reserve and drove to Sanjay Dubri from there with another friend Mr. Nishant Kapoor and later joined by Mr. Jay Raj (Range Forest Officer Mr. Parihar’s brother).

Sanjay Dubri has 4 different ranges:  The Dubri range, the Kusmi range, Pondi range and Bastua range.  I wanted to check out the more unexplored areas of the forest, so we drove to Kusmi Forest Guest House from Parsuli Resort, where the workshop participants would arrive in two days. That night, we went to bed after planning our adventures for tomorrow.

Early next morning, we ate our breakfast on top of Ramdha Watch Tower, which is located at Ramdha Kund, a site with large rock formations in the middle of water ponds. From Gopad River View Point we took in the breathtaking vision of the river gushing below us, as we stood atop a large rock on the cliff.

Sudhir at the hill top in Sanjay Dubri National Park
Scenary in Sanjay Dubri National Park
Sudhir at the hill top in Sanjay Dubri National Park

After lunch at the guest house, we headed to the Son Gharial Sanctuary, which is about 100kms away from Sanjay Dubri National Reserve and we stayed there for the night.

Sudhir having luch at the guest house

In the morning we took a boat ride through the serene waters in the sanctuary and then headed back to Sanjay Dubri since the workshop participants were arriving soon. That evening, I met with the 16 enthusiastic workshop participants who had come from all over the country and briefed them about the course of the next few days.

Sudhir Shivaram

In the morning we set out into the Dubri range and went straight to the Bitkhuri Watch Tower.

Sudhir Shivaram with workshop participants in Sanjay Dubri National Park

As we ate breakfast on the top, we could hear alarm calls from below us, and were even able to pick up conversations happening between the Bandhavgarh staff over the radio, despite it being at least two hours away! It proved to me how accessible that spot was, even though it was remote.

Everyone having breakfast in Sanjay Dubri National Park

While we were going through the forest, we found out that the tigress Kamli had just made a kill. Instantly, set out on a frenzy to track her down as fast as we could. We all know know precious timing is to get a good sighting, and we knew we had to act fast or we’d miss her. Luckily, we did manage to track her down and get some photographs of the gorgeous cat.

Tiger shot in Sanjay Dubri National Park

Post lunch, we headed to the base of the river we had seen from the cliff and were allowed to get down and dip our feet into the cold water since this area isn’t part of the reserve. We literally spent an hour there, goofing around and playing in the water like kids! It was shallow and safe, which is why we had such a great time there.

Everyone playing at water in Sanjay Dubri National Park
dancing with local tribals

In the night, back at the resort, we went through some fundamentals of photography, wherein I talked about some technicalities and techniques and answered all the questions that the participants had come with. The interactive session was followed by a dance performance by local tribals in the resort. Not only was this enjoyable for the whole group, but it is also a great way to promote the local culture by providing them with exposure and opportunity.

QA session back in the resort

The next morning, we visited the forest’s elephant camp, and were spending our entire day exploring areas a little beyond Kusmi range. We didn’t expect it, but the jungle had a gift for us in store. One of my favourite parts about being in the wild is that it can spring a surprise on you at any moment. It can be so thrilling! We were lucky to be able to get a glimpse of Kamli once again before we concluded the ride.

Tiger in Sanjay Dubri National Park

In the night, Mr Vincent, Field Director from the Forest Department addressed our gathering, and we distributed the fleece to the officials who had joined us. We also shared the workshop mementoes with the participants. The participants and I spent a good few hours chatting about our wildlife travel stories. Put a group of wildlife enthusiasts in one room, and the chatter never stops! Everybody had such intriguing insights to share with the group.

distributing fleece to the officials
winding up the workshop

Winding up the workshop the next morning, we all departed from Sanjay Dubri and made our way home.

The forest is a gift that keeps on giving, and I have always wished to give back to it in the best and most efficient way I can. This wish did come true through the collaboration with the MP Forest Department and the MP Tiger Foundation Society. I’m absolutely delighted to have been able to contribute my share to the forest, and I can’t thank the resort staff and forest department for all the work they put in. I’m currently working with them to figure out when to schedule a trip like this again, so keep an eye out for when I announce the next workshop!

Here are a few pics from the tour:

Some more behind the scene images:

CONTENT

Bandhavgarh Photography Tour Nov 2017

Moments from Bandhavgarh Photography Learning Tour – Nov 2017
This was the first photography learning tour for the season apart from the recently concluded parents & kids workshop. The previous workshop was a runaway success with kids and parents having a fantastic time at the workshop with loads of fun and Tiger sightings.
The expectations of this workshop were a bit high in terms of Tiger sightings as the previous group had some awesome sightings. In all our photography learning tours we hire the best driver and guides to maximize the opportunity of good photography, be it Tigers or the commoners.
The tour started off with a few participants arriving earlier as they had a long overseas travel. The couple John and Barbera had come all the way from the US and the day of the arrival was Barbara’s birthday. We made sure to make it a special day for her by arranging bush dinner and the tribal dance which we had organized for our kids group.
dinner in bandhavgarh
Day 1 of the tour was more of relaxing time for me as the participants started arriving through out the day as the parents/kids workshop participants left. Since a few of them arrived in earlier, we organized a safari in the afternoon to the buffer area. Typically our workshop starts on a Wednesday as the park is closed in the afternoon, and there is no rush to get onto the afternoon safari. But the buffer area is open for tourism and those who come in early have the option to go there.
The buffer area is quite beautiful with a number of streams.
buffer area in bandhavgarh
buffer area in bandhavgarh
Later in the evening, we had the brief introduction session about the entire program and quick tips on the camera related settings for the next day. It was made clear to the participants that the workshop is going to be quite hectic. Though we cannot guarantee any Tigers, what we guarantee is great learning!
After the intro session, it was time for dinner. We always ensure to host our participants at the best of the places so that they are fully relaxed and pampered with top of the line accommodation and food. All our Bandhavgarh workshops are done at Kings Lodge from Pugdundee Safaris. It’s like a second home for me.
Kings Lodge
Kings Lodge
The fun started the next morning with wakeup call at 4:30am. The park opens at 6:15am and we try to be early to get the first glimpse of the Tiger.
Bandhavgarh safari timings are from 6:15am to 11am in the winters. This gives the participants long hours of learning on photography tips and trying out various experiments on lighting and composition. Typically the first 2 hours of the safari are spent tracking the Tiger, as that’s their most active time.
The other fun part of our safaris is the breakfast time at center point. Both Tala and Magdhi zones have center points where we take a break for our breakfast. Though we take good packed breakfast from the resort, the real breakfast we have is from the local small stall selling hot Maggi, samosa, pakodas, bread omelette, poha, coffee/tea and other quick eats.
Centre Point Breakfast
centre point breakfast
Maggi is my favorite fast food and my workshop participants know how crazy I am for Maggi. I make it a point to give more business for these local vendors as their livelihood depends on tourism and is an integral part of the larger picture of saving the forest and the Tiger.
Sudhir eating Maggie
After breakfast we continued with the safari and finally returnd by around 11:30am to the resort.
The participants got a brief rest and we assembled at the conference room for our photography learning. The session included classroom teaching where the core concepts were taught, and we stepped outside to get hands-on training of the same.
The core concepts of photography required for wildlife photography were dealt in-depth – mainly the auto focusing and the advanced concepts of focus point sensors (cross type, non-cross type, dual-cross type) and the focus points to be used for composition (single point, group AF, auto selection etc).
The field exercise gave the participants better confidence on the camera settings and how to use in real life scenario.
Post the session; we had lunch and a small power nap to get back the energy for the rest of the day. The afternoon safari timings were a bit short as it was winter, but we got ample opportunity to make our images.
Back from the safari, we took some rest and again assembled in the conference room for the evening session on photography. Though the workshops are quite hectic, we do have ample time for fun. In the evenings, we organized bush dinner and also local folk dance where the participants joined in for the dance.
local folk dance
The above exercise repeated for the next set of days. By the end of the workshop the participants had some amazing sightings. We saw at least 2 Tigers in every safari and 4 in some. Apart from the Tigers we also shot a lot of common species and landscape.
At the end of the workshop, the participants returned with great memories of the workshop and also made some new friends. Hope to see them back again.
participants of Bandhavgarh workshop
Here’s the group of the Nov 2017 photography learning tour and some moments from the workshop:
participants of Bandhavgarh workshop

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