Archive for the ‘India’ Category

India Tiger Safari – Video Slideshow

Saturday, May 14th, 2011

Our Indian Tiger Safari produced some of the best wildlife photographs I’ve taken to date.  This video slideshow showcases the best of the best along with some amazing video footage of tigers and other animals of india.

A gallery of the best photos from the trip can be found here.

http://www.busscher.us/holiday/india/index.html

Don’t forget to check out the previous blog posts about this trip.

New Delhi – was that a holi water balloon?

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

The "holi" gauntlet

As our tuk-tuk driver led us on foot down this seemingly innocent looking alleyway to go see a temple, the people that occupied the alley when we entered had disappeared when we were walking back out.  I didn’t think anything of it at first but then as I was walking ahead of Miki with our guide, I head a loud noise and then an ear piercing scream.  I instantly turned around and saw Miki had stopped dead in her tracks and was looking skyward.  She wasn’t hurt.  No one was near here…

What happened, I yelled.

I was hit by a water balloon she replied.

What?  A water balloon?

Our tuk-tuk driver interjected with a big smile on his face and said, “don’t worry… it’s holy”

Huh?  A holy water balloon.  The balloon is filled with holy water? That makes it’s ok that Miki got hit by a water balloon that someone threw off a 4 story building.

No, no our tuk-tuk driver replied.  It’s for the festival called holi (with an i not a y).  The kids are just practicing.

Still confused as ever we shrugged it off and kept on exploring the market in the old part of Delhi.  We later found out that India had a festival coming up where they throw colored powder and colored water at each other.  The main day of the festival was 2 days from now and kids were already honing their water balloon throwing skills on unsuspecting tourists.  There weren’t many other tourists around so we became high value targets and had multiple attacks during our short walk.  Those kids are very quick and this was the best picture I could get of two of them.

2 holi attackers

We had to leave Delhi the day before the festival which is to bad.  I would have like to prepared myself for battle and gotten some revenge :)  Lot’s of people were getting ready for the festival and the street vendors were there to help.

Street vendor selling colored powder for holi

Colored powder for the holi festival... it gets everywhere.

Our tuk-tuk driver continued to take us around the old delhi markets.  The sights, sounds, and smells you experience are what travelling is all about.  This was a different planet.

Old Delhi market tour

Drivers in India are some of the craziest yet most skilled drivers we’ve had the experience to ride along with during our travels.  Our driver could easily talk on his cell phone while a motorbike was speeding past a truck that was heading right for us.  Our driver didn’t flinch and mildly steered out of the way continuing his conversation as our knuckles turned white hanging onto the railings for dear life.

Delhi's crazy drivers

The best part of visiting markets around the world is mixing with the locals.  Miki is an expert at that and always love trying her hand at new professions.

Miki the vegetable seller

Miki the tricycle driver

Miki the nut and spice merchant

You know those immigration cards you need to fill out when you enter back into your home country.  There is usually a check box that says have you handled any livestock during your trip abroad… or something like that.  I wonder if this counts.

handling livestock?

A final panorama of Delhi…

Our hotel concierge, taxi driver, and even a few blogs recommended to stay away from this area of Delhi because it’s too dangerous.  I’m glad we went and explored a little even though we had a few scary moments with some water balloon attacks.  All part of the fun of travelling.

One last thing, you know what a mid western, meat and potato boy craves after eating nothing but indian curry for 2 solid weeks… a Big Mac.  Luckily there was a Mc Donalds close by so off we went.   We entered the golden arches and I stood patiently in line waiting for my turn to order.  While waiting I took a look at the menu and…. WHAT… no Big Mac.  No double quarter pounder with cheese.  In fact, no meet at all.  Duh… cows are sacred in India which means no beef.  Not a problem though.  The Chicken Maharaja Mac to the rescue.  Not as good as beef laden Big Mac but it still hit the spot.

Chicken Maharaja Mac

Bandhavgarh and Kanha National Parks… more than just tigers

Sunday, May 1st, 2011

Bandhavgarh Landscape

Bandhavgarh and Kanha National Parks have much more to offer than just tigers.  The tigers are the main tourist draw and it was the main reason we came here but they aren’t the only attraction.  Both parks are different and I’ll go over some of the best non-tiger things that Bandhavgarh has to offer first.

The most obvious non tiger things to do in Bandhavgarh is to photograph the many other animals.  My favorite pictures came from the plethora of bird sightings which I posted about earlier but there were also plenty of deer, wild boar, and langur monkeys to search for.  Sometimes you didn’t have to search that hard as was the case in the langur monkey roadblock.

Langur Monkey Roadblock

There is also the Bandhavgarh fort which makes for a nice afternoon hike (or a extraordinarily strenuous climb if you asked our guide Talat).  You can have your guide arrange to visit the fort in between your morning and afternoon game drives.  It can get pretty hot in the middle of the day so be prepared.  Also have you lodge pack a lunch for you because the views from the top of the hill are the perfect backdrop for a picnic.

View from Bandhavgarh Fort

Talat struggling on the long way around to Bandhavgarh Fort

The climb to the top of the fort wasn’t that bad but it was a little bit of hike.  For my marathon running wife she bounced up like it was nothing.  However, if you’re an out of shape photographer that spends most of his time sitting in the back of jeep taking photos of tigers then it could be a bit of a challenge.

If you hire Talat from Wild Life Photo Tours for your India safari make sure to say Nathan recommended to hike to the top of the Bandhavgarh fort.  He’ll think that its a great idea :)  If he doesn’t thank you then I’m sure his wife will thank you for giving him som exercise… sorry Talat… I just had to mention this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Talat passing out after finally making it to the top

The views from up here were great.  There was also a vulture nest on the side of the cliff I tried to take a photo of.  Unfortunately, it was just a little to far away to get a decent shot with the lens I brought up with me.

Nathan at the top of Bandhavgarh Fort

There were also some pretty cools ruins to explore on your way up to the fort.  The first one is a big statue of Lord Vishnue reclining on a seven headed serpent.  You can see the pics of the others below.  All in all, it was a nice break from the game drives and I recommend a trip to the top of Bandhavgarh Fort.

Read more about Bandhavgarh and Kanha after the break.

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Tuli Tiger Resort in Kanha

Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

Tuli Tiger Resort - pool and main lodge

The Tuli Tiger Resort was much different than the Tiger Trails Resort we stayed at in Bandhavgarh.  It’s part of a larger chain of hotels which makes it much more commercial.  Not necessarily a bad thing if that is what you are looking for.  The resort is laid out around a small pond and all the paths and gardens are landscaped well.

Tuli Tiger Resort Landscape

The service was good and professional here but it wasn’t as personal as the Tiger Trails Resort.  The rooms were big, bright and spacious.  The outside temperature would fluctuate wildly from being near freezing in the morning to 35+ in the afternoon but somehow the design/build of the rooms kept it comfortable all day long.  We didn’t use the fan or air conditioning even once.  Not sure how they did it but it was a nice plus.

The resort has another resort thats actually within the resort.  It was confusing at first because I thought we were booked at the Tuli Corrider resort which is a luxury tented resort that just opened.  Turns out we were booked at the main resort and not the resort within the resort.  In order to get to the Tuli Corrider resort you have to walk through the Tuli Tiger Resort property.  Kinda a bad design if you ask me especially after I found out what the charge per night for the luxury tented camps.

Tuli Corridor Resort (inside the Tuli Tiger Resort)

However, once you get inside the Corridor resort it’s pretty nice.  I wasn’t able to get inside one of the tented camps but they looked spacious from the outside.  If you stay here you also get your own private pool in addition to the pool thats available to the other guests at the Tuli Tiger Resort.

Tuli Corridor Resort Swimming Pool

The Tuli Corridor Resort is very nice but I don’t think it’s worth it since the cost of one of these rooms is several times more than the standard room we stayed in.  You just spend too much time in the park on game drives to enjoy any of the amenities you pay for.  Even if you do have some down time all you really want to do is catch up on sleep.

All in all, I liked the resort but I liked the more personal feel of the Tiger Trails Resort we stayed at in Bandhavgarh better.  Luckily, they have a sister resort in Kanha.  The Wild Chalet Resort.  If I go back to Kanha I’ll try that resort instead.

Tiger Trails Resort in Bandhavgarh

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

Tiger Trails Resort - Main lodge

The Tiger Trails Resort in Bandhavgarh is a simple yet very nice resort.  The loding is very basic (a huge contrast to the Oberoi we stayed at in Agra) but was still comfortable.  Since you spend the vast majority of your time in the park it really doesn’t matter what type of lodging you stay at.  Those that stay at places like the new Taj resort in Bandhavgarh are really just wasting their money.

We also had a nice little visitor that kept appearing in our bathroom.  One day after a long and dusty game drive, I turned on the facuet in the bathroom sink, cupped my hands under the facuet gather water to wash my face, and as I started to lean down to splash my face I literly came face-to-face with this little guy.

froggy visitor chill'n on the faucet

After taking a jump back, splashing water all over myself and letting out a very girly scream, I realized it was just a harmless little frog.

Miki's new froggy friend

He also made an appearance one morning on what would appear, from a froggy point of view, to be the softest bed in the bathroom.  Problem was I had some business to take care so had to relocate him back to the sink.

froggy bed

Since there weren’t many guests when we stayed there all the food was served at the table rather than buffet style.  The food was all local and was delicious.  Miki even got to spend some time with the cooks so they could teach her some of the recipes.  The service was very personal.  Something that you definitely don’t get at the larger, more commercial resorts.

They also got some locals to put on a show for us one night which, as always, Miki participated in.

Local Dance Performance at Tiger Trails Resort in Bandhavgarh

We usually stay in more upmarket lodging but when I go back to Bandhavgarh I will return here without hesitation.  I’m sure it will also serve you nicely as a comfortable base for your tiger safari if you ever chose to travel here.

 

Tigers of India – Photos and Action Packed Tiger Encounters

Saturday, April 16th, 2011

Tiger crossing road in Bandhavgarh

The main reason for our trip to India was to see the royal bengal tiger. These are the biggest of the big cats. The national parks in India have a lot of other wildlife as you saw from my previous posts but the main attraction are the tigers.  I didn’t have high expectation to get a lot of great photos of tigers but with a little bit of luck, a bit of skill, the right equipment, a little patience, a good guide, and some crazy drivers we were able to get some of my best wildlife photos to date. Professional wildlife photographer Talat Khalid of Wild Life Photo Tours arranged this trip for us to visit his two favorite spots for tiger photography.  Bandhavhargh and Kanha tiger reservers.  As you can see below, there is a good reason these are his favorite parks.

Tigress - Aama nalah (our first tiger sighting)

We saw a total of 13 different tigers over our 10 days in the parks.  Some we saw on multiple occasions and every one of the sightings was an amazing experience.  The tigress pictured above is named Aama nalah for the area of Bandhavgarh that she claims as her territory.  She was the first of our 13 tiger sightings and it was amazing.  She was huge!!!  (most girls probably wouldn’t want you to say to them that but I think its ok in the tiger world).  She came so close to our vehicle and eventually walked right in front of us.  If the trip would have ended with just this one tiger sighting it would have been worth it.  They are truly magnificent animals.  It didn’t stop there though… it only got better…

Tiger - "New Male"

Tiger - New Male profile

“New Male” pictured above, is the son of “B2″ who is the son of “Charger” who is arguably the most famous tiger in India given his many appearances on national geographic, BBC, etc.  Charger passed away several years ago after his son, B2, killed him.  B2 is 17 years old now, the same age as his father when he killed him.  Sadly, history is about to repeat itself.  New Male is expanding his territory and needs to kill his father (B2) in order to get the mating rights to all the females in the territory.  We witnessed one such encounter.

All of the sudden we saw B2 run out of the woods and our guide knew that New Male must be chasing him.  A fight was almost sure to happen, he said.

Tiger B2 running from New Male

B2 ran across the road dangerously close to a vehicle.  A few years ago one tourist got mauled when a tiger jumped into the vehicle when being chased.  A very simliar situation to today.

Tiger B2 running close to vehicle

Then out of the corner of my left eye I spotted another tiger.  It was New Male.  My camera was still focused on where B2 ran across the road so I just kept the shutter pressed and captured the action at my cameras maximum 9 frames per second as he disappeared into the trees after B2.

Tiger New Male chasing B2

We feared the worst.  We thought it was over for B2.  New Male was sure to catch him.  He was only 50 meters behind and catching up.  We quickly moved our vehicle to where the guide thought they might come out of the woods… if B2 would even make it out.  About 10 minutes later we found B2 walking along the road.  Looking back to see if he son was still close behind.

Tiger B2 looking for his son

You could see the fear in his eyes.  He was worried.  He knew what was about to happen.  However, what happened next surprised us all.

Tiger New male got lost?

New Male came out of the woods but he seemed to be confused.  He was walking in the wrong direction.  He was still very close to his father but he seemed to have lost his scent.  He walked up and down the road around our vehicle but then eventually found a nice spot in the shade to lay down.

Tiger - New Male laying in the shade

B2 was safe… at least for today.

Tiger - New Male

While we were all sympathetic for B2, there was no denying that New Male is a magnificent tiger.  He was much bigger than he father, younger, and more muscular.  Just look at those canines.  Every part of this tiger was massive.  Even though they are pure breed killing machines they have a lot in common with tame house cats if you watch them long enough.

Tiger - New Male winking

Tiger - New Male (thats a lot of tiger drool)

He had a lot of foam-ish looking saliva hanging on his mouth and just like a ordinary house got he got rid of it with a couple little head flicks.

More tiger pictures after the break…

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Kingfisher Fishing in Kanha National Park and other birds of India

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

Common Kingfisher ready for take off

My favorite birds to watch during the safari were the kingfishers.  They have beautiful colors and watching them fish was amazing.  It required a lot of patience to get these photographs because they are very quick and pretty small targets to shoot.  However, after studying their behavior for a while you could sense when they were about to fly off to attack their prey.  They also had a tendency to return to them same perch to start a new attack run if the previous one wasn’t successful.  With a lot of patience, a little bit of skill and a lot of luck I got one of my favorite shots of the trip (above).  I was also able to get this amazing sequence of a common kingfisher catching a little fish.

He missed that time around but he kept on hunting and eventually got the little fish.  He didn’t share it with his mate hanging out next to him though.  Selfish bird :(

Common Kingfisher caught a fish (but didn't share it with his mate)

I also got a very sharp shot of a white breasted kingfisher with its third eyelid (nictitating membrane) closed.  Obviously is was pure luck I got this shot because there is no way you can time the shutter with a blink.  I looked online and I haven’t been able to find another picture of this bird with its third eyelid closed.  I’m sure I’m not the first to capture this photo but I can pretend until someone shows me another pic :)

white breasted kingfisher with 3rd eyelid closed

Another cool trick in the bird world comes from the owl.  Wouldn’t it be cool if we could do this?

Owl Head | No Owl Head

A trip to India wouldn’t be complete without a picture of a peacock.  These things were everywhere and they are very, very noisy.  This was mating season so we saw a lot of displays like this.  Males in the peacock world sure do go through a lot of trouble to attract a mate.

Peacock

Some more favorite bird pics from our trip to India.

stay tuned because I’m almost finished processing the tiger pictures.  They will be posted shortly.

Jackal killing a spotted dear

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Most of the action that happened during our game drives in Bandhavgarh usually happened in the last few minutes of our drives.  This day was no exception.  We were on our way back to the front gate of the park when our guide saw what appeared to be a dead spotted dear near the side of the road.

Sleeping? Spotted Deer

We all thought the deer was dead and were anxiously looking around for what could have killed it.  After some searching we spotted a jackal waiting in the bushes.  Our vehicle probably scared him off his kill.  We backed up the vehicle to give some space between us and the deer in the hopes the jackal would come back for his kill.

To our surprise, the deer’s head started moving.  Then it started to slowly get up.  It wasn’t dead after all… at least not yet.  After it stumbled to its feet it just stood there all dazed and confused.  Then all of the sudden it started to run.  It probably just realized what happend to him and knew he needed to get the heck out of there.  The problem was that this was the edge of the park and they erected a wall to keep the wildlife out of the village that was right next door.  Bad news for the deer.  Good news for the Jackal.

Spotted deer escaping from Jackal

The deer didn’t have anywhere to go and the jackal quickly ran out of the woods after the deer

Jackal caught up with the spotted deer

The deer put up a valiant effort and with some pretty skillful dodging a weaving he did manage to get away… but just for a while.  The Jackal was just too quick for the deer and he was eventually able to bite into the deer’s ear and pull its head to the ground.  The deer was pretty tall compared to the Jackal so he needed to get its neck lower in order to get its mouth around it to suffocate it.

See the final kill after the break

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Tiger Safari in Kanha Tiger Reserve time lapsed to 2 minutes

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

Another time lapse video but of another Tiger Reserve in India, Kanha.  This is a much different park than Bandhavgarh which I posted a time lapse video about earlier.  It’s much bigger and has wide open plains which gives it a more Africa type feel.

Front view time lapse of one of our game drives at Kanha national park.

0:05 – Driving through the city of Tala (don’t blink. It’s only about 3 frames)

0:47 – watching the elephants bathing in dust

1:17 – Indian bison sighting

Lots of stopping and starting. Waiting and watching. Sometimes game drives are like that. A lot of waiting and watching and not much action but its not a zoo and wildlife sightings aren’t guaranteed.  The park is still beautiful and having a nice drive through a beautiful game park is a great experience.

You can view the video on youtube here (soundtrack had to be changed due to copyright restrictions).

Creating the tiger safari game drive time lapse video

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

I had an idea to create a time lapse movie during one of our game drives in the tiger reserves.  I haven’t done something like this before and haven’t seen anything online about doing something like this but I gave it a go.  I took my canon 5d mark II with a 12-24mm lens zoomed out to 24mm and plugged in my cheap chinese knock off time lapse trigger device thingy.  It was configured to take 1 photo every 7 seconds.  I imported all the jpegs into quicktime pro which I used to create the movie to playback all the still frames at 12 frames per second.

I mounted the camera to a bean bag and then strapped it to the top frame of the vehicle with a lot of tape (the roads are bumpy… very, very bumpy so I was pretty worried about the camera flying off).  I wrapped it all in a small towel to try and protect it from the dust.  It didn’t really work because the fine talcum powder like dust gets everywhere.

The results turned out much better than I thought.  The first take I had it pointed forward and I think it catches the gist of what a game drive is.  I was also lucky and it caught a very brief glimpse of the Jackal killing a Chital on this camera.  It’s the very small dot down the road next to the wall.  Don’t worry, I got a much better shot with my 500mm lens which I’ll be posting later.

The second take was the camera rig turned around at me and Talat.  This was the best take of all.  It was a pretty boring game drive until the last few minutes.  We ended up getting an amazing tiger safari in a mad scrabble of vehicles.