I spent the first half of February in Delhi catching up on a backlog of work and chasing multiple article deadlines. Katherine and I did manage to take a long weekend over Valentines Day and escaped to Jodhpur in Rajasthan. It was our first visit to Blue City and we deliberately coincided our trip with the opening of our good friend Dickie McCallum’s latest Flying Fox zip line tour. The Flying Fox course in Jodhpur took us on an epic flight over the battlements of Mehrangarh Fort as we clipped onto six separate cables for an aerial view of the fort that is hard to beat. What a great experience!
The end of February saw me travel up to Corbett National Park on behalf of Leisure Hotels. I spent a fantastic week staying in their Corbett Hideaway and Hideaway River Lodges in the Himalayan foothills. The River Lodge is the only camp to be situated inside the park with an enviable location on the picturesque Ramganga River in the reserve’s northern zone; it was a real treat to spend 5 days in this wilderness paradise. Although I was up there to collect material for Leisure Hotels’ promotional photo essays, I had plenty of fun and great game viewing in the process. Wild elephants strolling across the grassy plains, a rare leopard cat feeding on a Langur monkey and a beautiful tigress on the hunt one evening where especially memorable sightings, especially when the tiger started growlling at some Sambar deer that where sounding the alarm and warning other animals of her presence! Corbett is a stunningly beautiful reserve and the wildlife viewing is definitely under-rated. I hope to return again next season to stay in some of the old colonial Forest Rest Houses inside the park’s wildlife-rich Dikala tourism zone.
Next stop on my Leisure Hotels itinerary was Lahore House in Haridwar to briefly experience the ceremonies and festivities of the sacred hindu pilgrimage known as Kumbh Mela. Millions of devoted hindus undertake this pilgrimage (that comes to Haridwar only every 12 years) and bathe in the holy waters of the Ganga River. It was quite an experience to witness the religious fervor of this grand event which includes the meditions and rituals of naked Naga Babas. However, photography was a challenge as my trip coincided with Holi – the festival of colour – and all the coloured dyes and water bombs didn’t agree with my cameras, not to mention the cultural challenges of photographing people at religious events.
The final stop on my trip was Leisure Hotel’s Camp Five Elements on the Ganges River. This beautiful beach camp provided me with the ideal base from which to experience and photograph the white-water action of the mighty Ganga. Just north of Rishikesh lies the epicentre of India’s white-water and adventure sports industry. There are base camps strung out along both sides of the river with well over a hundred companies operating on this short stretch of river, although Camp Five Elements and Himalayan River Runners definitely lay claim to the two finest beaches on the whole river. I spent three days paddling down the river and setting up next to the biggest rapids and shooting the action as a procession of rafts and kayaks tackled the white-water. Notorious rapids like The Wall, Three Blind Mice, Golf Course and Club House provided the best opportunities for getting the money shots with the low water levels at this time of year.
As I look ahead to March I have some more great adventures lined up with two visits to Ranthambhore National Park in search of tigers and other Asiatic wildlife, as well as a return trip to the Ganga for more white-water entertainment. An action-packed and exciting month lies in wait… Bring it on!