Visiting the jungle has always been a therapeutic experience for me. Soaking up in the pleasant green sights and immersing in the sounds of the enchanting natural world, leaving behind the rush of daily urban life is exactly the kind of break I needed.
When Thadam Experiences announced a Nature and Wildlife Photography workshop at Valparai, I jumped on the opportunity and booked myself a slot at the event.
The classes were held at the tranquil Indraprastha bungalow in the Waterfall estate where food and stay were provided.
The accommodation is a British colonial bungalow, restored to provide necessary comforts while holidaying amidst the clouds, chilly winds and lush Tea gardens. Adding to the picturesque setting were the silver oaks and flame of the forests bursting out in red, punctuating the greens. Small river brooks and the occasional waterfalls from the recent monsoon rains added to the spectacle.
The classes were led by Mr. Harishvara Venkat, an eminent photographer and wildlife enthusiast, who has been teaching Wildlife photography to children and nature enthusiasts for many years now and strives to give back to the natural world that he so fiercely loves and protects, in every way he can. Mr. Prakash Ramakrishnan who captured the award winning melanistic and common leopard pair photograph, was also around to guide and offer useful photography tips to the participants during field walks.
“The group comprised of a mix of aspiring student hobbyists, budding amateurs to professionals. Interacting with them opened up a whole new perspective for me in the relatively unknown world of photography.”
What made it equally engaging was the information shared by the friendly naturalist Mr.Lingesh Kalingarayar, on the behaviour and habits of the wildlife subjects we photographed.
Our field trip on that first evening was through the tea gardens in the estate alongside the fragments of forest patches. After spotting a few birds, we spotted a herd of six Indian gaurs grazing on the meadows. As we were marveling at the muscular bulls and cows, an unusual disturbance made them nervous as they suddenly ran in alert. Lingesh observed what spooked them and to all our surprise and excitement, a sloth bear emerged from the tea bushes. The usually shy, solitary animal was totally unaware of our presence and was busy looking for ants and termites to feed on.
With its sluggish walk, like on a treasure hunt, the bear was untrue to its sloppy nature as it urgently went raiding on termite mounds like on a frenzy mission. The air was filled with happiness and excitement as I stood along with the shutterbugs and their non-stop clicks. It was an exhilarating experience to have managed a rare sighting and a brilliant way to kick start the tour.
A sumptuous dinner was served for us at the Indraprastha bungalow as we shared stories with our new acquaintances before going to bed.
It was an early start to the following day, as we set out in pursuit of the Great Indian hornbills and Nilgiri Tahrs. Thanks to our Naturalist’s knowledge of the locale, we looked for them in the right places and managed with good sightings of both the Hornbill and Tahrs.
The classes continued, back at the Indraprastha bungalow, as Harish took us through the various techniques and nuances of photography. The evening was windy with drizzles and we had to be content with a lone spotting of a barking deer during the trek.
On the final day, we started off early to Puthuthottam estate in pursuit of the lion tailed macaques and a variety of birds. Upon arriving at Puthuthottam Annexe, a private plantation bungalow operated by Briar tea Bungalows, we spotted a couple of Malabar giant squirrels hanging around on trees. Birds of all varieties chirped and fluttered around – rufous babblers, vernal hanging parrots, orange minivets, scimitar babblers, coppersmith barbet.
“Oooh! I am amazed at the number of species I got to know while birding with the team!”
On return for our final session of the workshop, we had an amazing informative session with Ganesh Raghunathan, a research affiliate with Nature Conservation Foundation, a mysore based NGO pioneering in conservation efforts in a range of wildlife habitats across the country. He shared with us some useful tips on photo composition. He later shared with us, details on the work they do at the Anamalais towards conservation of the rainforests and its endangered habitants.
The workshop came to an end by Sunday afternoon and it was an enriching experience overall. As I bid goodbye to the misty hills and the green tea gardens, I carried nothing but wonderful memories back home.
Our next Workshop: Feb 19th – 21st, 2-16. BOOK YOUR TRIP – https://www.instamojo.com/pollachipapyrus/thadam-nature-and-wildlife-photography-tour-/