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Photography Tour India including Nagaland and Hornbill Festival

November 2017

This is a specialist tour for the photographer AND the non-photographer.

There are plans to operate this tour in 2017. There will be a variation to the itinerary and this is being planned at the moment. In addition there will be an exploratory option to travel from Nagaland to Myanmar via the famed 'Burma Road'. The land crossing from India to Myanmar has been reopened after closing in the 1950's.

Please register your interest in advance.

Picture of Patrick Horton

Visit Darjeeling, Sikkim, Assam and remote Nagaland the land of the headhunters! This is a rare opportunity to visit a lesser known part of India, one that requires special permits.

Travel with the guidebook writer and travel photographer.
Patrick Horton is a professional writer, photographer and contributing author to many editions of the Lonely Planet India and Delhi guides. He is also the author of the travel app - Delhi Expert. Patrick can’t stay away from India so join him in this very special itinerary.

India
From the snows and glaciers of the highest mountains in the world to barren desert and tropical rainforest; from teeming cities to ageless villages; from the grandeur of Maharajahs’ palaces to thatched mud huts; and from an advanced software industry to thousands of years-old cultural and religious traditions, India displays countless contrasts.

This is a country where a myriad of ethnic groups speaking more than the 18 main languages and practicing the major religions of the world all live together and call themselves Indian. There can be few countries with such diversity. Our tour samples a portion of that variety and we hope to give you a taste and passion for more.

  • Visit Nagaland and witness the Hornbill Festival - The Land of the Headhunters.

  • Visit Sikkim Darjeeling and see Mt.Kanchenjunga at dawn

  • Cruise on River Brahmaputra

  • Visit Kaziranga National Park (UNESCO Heritage Site) and see the rhinos and tigers

  • Visit Nameri National Park and raft the Jia Bharaoli River

  • Visit the beautiful Majuli Island, the world’s largest inland island – bang in the middle of the mighty Bramhaputra River. We might even see some rare fresh water dolphins

  • Explore the sights of Kolkata

Photography

The region with its wild scenery, vibrant ethnic communities and diverse wildlife offers a palate from which a photographer can indulge. Our tour will allow sufficient time for photography; we will even stop the bus for that elusive photograph. Non photographers, or those with a more reduced interest in the art, will find no hindrance to the core structure and content of the tour. In fact the 'time out' and locations will only enhance the overall experience.  There will be continuing conversations on the art and techniques of photography with personal assistance from Patrick Horton

THE TOUR

DAY 1: 14 November– ARRIVE KOLKATA

Transfer from the airport to the hotel for overnight stay. Kolkata, formerly Calcutta, was the original national capital of India under the British. Nationalist unrest in the early part of the 1900s caused the British to move the capital to Delhi.

DAY 2: 15 Nov. IN KOLKATA

After breakfast visit some of the famous sights of the city. The rattly old Howrah Bridge, Kalighat the holiest temple to the goddess Kali in Kolkata, the Victorian Memorial and museum, the Botanical Gardens with the world’s largest/widest (but not tallest) tree and architecture from the British era.

DAY 3: 16 Nov. KOLKATA TO DARJEELING

Toy Train DarjeelingAfter breakfast transfer back to the airport for a flight to Siliguri and then by road through the impressive foothills of the Himalaya to Darjeeling and hotel for an overnight stay. On the way we’ll be sharing some of the roadway with the Toy Train, a narrow gauge railway that is one of the few in the world to be UNESCO heritage listed. If our luck is in and it is running from Siliguri we may be able to go by train. Recently, operation has not been consistent.

 

DAY 4: 17 Nov. DARJEELING

View of HimalayaIf the weather is good we’ll be up before dawn to get to Tiger Hill to see the sun paint in four of the five highest mountains in the world. After breakfast stroll the Chowrasta or Mall, visit the Zoo and adjacent Himalayan Mountaineering Institute with its history section on Himalayan mountaineering, the Tibetan Self-help Centre and a tea plantation, for Darjeeling is famous for tea. Time permitting we’ll venture for a short ride on the steam-hauled section of the toy train railway.

 

DAY 5: 18 Nov. DARJEELING TO PELLING

If the previous day started cloudy and this one starts fine then there’ll be another shot at Tiger Hill. After breakfast it’s a scenic drive up and down the hills to the town of Pelling in the state of Sikkim. After we’ve settled into our hotel we’ll have a wander around this Indian hilltop town.

 DAY 6: 19 Nov. IN PELLING

Pemayangtse MonasteryVisit the nearby Pemayangtse Monastery, which is one of Sikkim’s oldest Buddhist monasteries. Also nearby are the Rabdentse ruins the remains of the old capital from where the Chogyals or divinely appointed kings ruled Sikkim. The ruins are on a ridge top providing a magnificent view over a deep gorge. A little farther afield is Kechopalri Lake formed in the shape of a footprint and believed by some to have been made by the Buddha. Another legend has it that birds keep the lake clear of leaves by removing each leaf that dares to fall on its surface. Regardless it’s an atmospheric lake ringed by Buddhist prayer flags.

 

 

 

DAY 7: 20 Nov. PELLING TO KALIMPONG

After breakfast, drive to beautiful Kalimpong town and book into our hotel for the night. Afterwards there’s the opportunity to wander through this bazaar town and visit a Bhutanese Monastery, where the paintings within have been recently restored. Also, at the time of writing, this is one of the few monasterys (of this level) that allow internal photography

DAY 8: 21 Nov KALIMPONG TO BAGDOGRA AND FLIGHT TO GUWAHATI

There’s an early start to the day with the drive to Bagdogra airport back down on the plains for flight to Guwahati, the capital of Assam. After arrival we visit the Kamakhya temple (on route to hotel). In Hindu legends the goddess Sati (an incarnation of Kali) becomes dismembered into 51 pieces during a divine punch-up. These parts fell all across India, a toe at Kalighat in Kolkata (already visited) and her yoni (female parts) at Kamakhya giving the locals a good reason to build a temple.

DAY 9: 22 Nov. GUWAHATI – NAMERI NATIONAL PARK

Assam tea plantationDrive through Assam’s lush lowlands and tea gardens to Nameri National Park - a Tiger Reserve and birder’s paradise covering an area of 200 km2. Seeing a tiger can’t be guaranteed but they may well be watching us. Overnight at Eco Camp at Potasali in luxury tents, but before settling down for the night enjoying an evening beer beside a bonfire and then dining in an open air restaurant.

 

 

DAY 10: 23 Nov. NAMERI

Explore the Reserve’s forest on foot escorted by a forest guard. The trek is about 3.2kms long and passes through thick forest and open grasslands. Back to the camp and then a rafting trip in rubber dinghies on the Jia Bhoroli River through the National Park. The evening is at your leisure. Overnight stay at the Eco Camp.

DAY 11: 24 Nov. NAMERI – KAZIRANGA National Park

Indian rhino

Leave the Eco Camp and drive to Kaziranga National Park. This is a World Heritage Site and Tiger Reserve, covering an area of 430 km2.  This is the home to more than 80% of the world’s rhino population and you should see plenty. Overnight at Kaziranga.

 

 

 

 

 DAY 12: 25 Nov. KAZIRANGA NATIONAL PARK

wildlife viewing by elephantToday starts early with bed tea, an admirable Indian institution that serves both as your wake-up call and early morning tea. Drive into the park and then transfer to an elephant that serves as a safe and high viewing platform for wandering through the park. The rhinos have seen it all before and they are unperturbed by the elephants and their passengers. Elephant travel tends to be slow so afterwards there’s a jeep safari to explore the farther ranges of the park. Stay overnight at Kaziranga National Park.

 

DAY 13: 26 Nov. KAZIRANGA – MAJULI

Majuli Island riverFrom Kaziranga we

drive to Nemati ghat (quay) to join a local ferry plying across the Brahmaputra River to  Majuli. Likely as not you’ll be sharing the boat with milk churns, the odd hen or rooster, possibly a goat and a large number of motorcycles up on the roof.   Majuli is the largest river island in the world and the centre for Vaishnavite (worship of the god Vishnu) culture of Assam. Simply described, the Hindu pantheon consists of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva and all the other gods are avatars of these three. To complicate matters Vishnu and Shiva are also avatars of top god, Brahma. Visit Auniati Satra, the largest satra or monastery on Majuli.  Overnight on Majuli.

 

DAY 14: 27 Nov. MAJULI

Majuli satra Wander the island and visit a couple more of the satras. These monasteries are dedicated to the worship of Vishnu that is celebrated through dance and theatre by acting out scenes from the Hindu Bhagavad Gita epic. Evening, enjoy the Satriya Dance performed by the monks of Komolabari Satra. Overnight at Majuli.

 

 

 

 

DAY 15: 28 Nov. MAJULI – JORHAT

Majuli satra templeAfter breakfast we again join the colourful ferry fro the return journey to the 'mainland'. This is an easy day as we arrive for a night’s stay in Jorhat area to enjoy an overnight stay in a Heritage Tea Bungalow – the luxurious quarters built for the British manager of the tea estate. In the afternoon we visit an operating tea estate next door. If you have a golf interest you will find the golf course and putting green, intertwined with tea plants a charming experience.

 

DAY 16: 29 Nov. KOHIMA

The drive to Kohima is about five hours and we start to ascend the foothills of the eastern Himalaya. From northern Pakistan, along northern India, Nepal, Bhutan and then India again this mountain range follows a northwest to southeast direction, but then above the extreme northeast point of India the range bends and flows to the south. The peaks become lower and individual ranges are separated by deep green valleys. Straddling a ridge, Kohima is the capital city of the state of Nagaland. We also plan to visit a village called Tofema on route.
The evening is at leisure either in the hotel or out in the town.

DAY 17: 30 Nov. KOHIMA

Oday we will explore area outside the town of Kohima visiting villages such as Khonoma where many aspects of tribal life are still maintained to some degree. This is a rugged and more remote part of India and this time allows us more understanding of this unique part of the world.

DAY 18: 01 Dec. KOHIMA

After breakfast, drive to Kisema village the venue of Hornbill Festival. The rest of the day is spent at the festival ground watching and listening to the dance performances, music, visiting the traditional Naga houses and trying to work out which tribe is which – there are over ten each with their distinctive costume. Overnight at Kohima.

DAY 19: 02 Dec. KOHIMA

Kohima commonwealth war gravesMorning visit to the WWII cemetery at the site where Allied forces halted the Japanese invasion of India. This was one of the tide-turning events of those tumultuous years and there was fierce fighting here marked by an exchange of grenades over the net of the tennis court of the District Magistrate.

Then back to Kisema for more of the Hornbill festival. Evening, a visit to the local market for shopping for the distinctive Naga crafts.

 

Hornbill festival tribes     Nagaland tribes

 

DAY 20: 03 Dec. KOHIMA - DIMAPUR - KOLKATA

We depart this mountain ridge city and descend back to the start of the plains of India to Dimapur airport for our flight to Kolkata.

DAY 21: 04 Dec. KOLKATA

Most international departure flights from Kolkata are late evening so there is a full day to witness the cacophany of Kolkata. Again we slow down and concentrate of an old historical part of the city with a morning walking tour. Afternoon free to rest, or explore the markets, shops or chai vendors. Evening transfer to airport.

NOTE: After breakfast we will reduce to 2 days rooms (normal rooms with bathrooms) so bags will need to be moved to these rooms. If you want your own late checkout (for your own room) then additional costs would apply

Cost:

AU$5976 per person twin share.

Single supplement AU$1500.

We will introduce single travellers who wish to share with others with similar thoughts.

We will offer to introduce those who book on their own to others who may wish to share rooms.

  • The above cost includes:
  • All arrival and departure transfers
  • Assistance at the airport
  • three domestic airfares
  • Accommodation in Kolkata on bed and breakfast basis
  • Accommodation on all meals basis Darjeeling, Pelling, Kalimpong
  • English speaking specialist guides in Kolkata
  • Transportation using AC Tempo Traveller, or similar vehicle
  • All transfers
  • All sightseeing as per the itinerary
  • 01 elephant ride
  • 02 jeep safari at Kaziranga
  • Trekking & rafting at Nameri
  • Special ferry to Majuli
  • Tea Plant tour Jorhat
  • Local English speaking guide for each section.
  • Forest entry fees
  • Kolkata history walking tour
  • The above cost does not include
  • International airfares
  • Camera fees, mineral water, beverages, soft drink & snacks etc.
  • Gratuities
  • And any other expenses not specified in the inclusions

Money:

Gone are the days of needing to travel with large amounts of cash or travellers cheques. India has ATMs everywhere accepting MasterCard and Visa. Shops and hotels accept credit cards. A good idea is to take a prepaid cash card. You should have some cash to cover remote areas, or a malfunctioning bank ATM!  

Food and Drink:

You may love Indian cuisine or find it doesn’t just agree with you. Indian food is not about screaming hot curries but a delicate balance of herbs and spices. Hotels provide Western-style food as well as the local varieties. Assamese cuisine is a little blander and there’s always the option of a Western breakfast. Tea, in various forms, is widely drunk but real coffee is a rarity and seasoned visitors always travel with their own supplies. 

Soft drinks are in plentiful supply as is bottled water which should be your preferred drink over tap water. Indian beers are good and they also make decent spirits.

Health:

Check with your doctor about your medical requirements and say that you’ll be travelling in Kolkata, West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam and Nagaland.

Photography:

Indian woman and childDepending on the equipment you have and your expectations your camera gear could just be a simple digital camera with a video facility to a digital SLR with a range of lenses which should include a wide angle lens, a standard lens and a telephoto lens although most of these options can now be found in one or two zoom lenses. Serious photographers will include a tripod in their gear.

 

 

Accommodation

This will be midrange with an emphasis on interesting heritage hotels rather than identikit Western brands. Nagaland hotels are simple by western standards and we will get the best we can, but do not expect luxury in this part of the tour.

Planned Hotels: As with India plans could change!
KOLKATA – THE LYTTON
DARJEELING – THE ELGIN DARJEELING
PELLING – MOUNT PANDIM
KALIMPONG – SILVER OAKS
GUWAHATI – HOTEL BRAHMAPUTRA
NAMERI – ECO CAMP
KAZIRANGA – JUPURI GHAR / SIMILAR
KOHIMA – VIVOR
MAJULI – TBA
JORHAT – SANGSUA TEA PLANTER’S BUNGALOW

Client Comments from 2012 tour

A Travel Blog written by another participant

Image Gallery

History of India - well, an abridged summary to fit the next page.

WW2 History Calcutta

Maps of India and the areas visited.

India weather

 

For further enquiries and expressions of interest email us

 

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