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The Taj Mahal – One of 7-Wonders in the World

Thursday, April 19, 2018 posted by Bruce 4:23 PM

A Fairy Tale Ending in a bad dream…!

Side view of the Taj Mahal at sunrise – my favorite shot on this trip…!

Since 2013, I have visited India every year primarily to the ‘tiger reserves’. I now have 50 tigers in my files. In 2018 this year, I arrived in Delhi on Feb. 18th and went straight up to Corbett with my Indian agent ‘Anu Marwah’ and we spent the next 7 days touring around looking for tigers. I ended up getting four tigers on this trip. I also visited a private reserve named Vanghat situated on the Ramnagar River. I managed to set 5 camera traps up on the ridge-line overlooking the resort. I got a tiger crossing in front of a video camera during the morning hours in beautiful light. I also lost one of the traps to a tusker elephant that left it in pieces.

From there I went to the Chambal River and got some good gharial and mugger croc shots. After that, it was to Kanha and Bandavgarh tiger reserves where I got five tigers (two in Kanha and three in Bandhavgarh). All I can say is: Kanha is now very nice to visit with new restrictions set in place by the park’s director and staff, and it was an absolute joy visiting. I got some really nice tiger shots. I recommend anyone wanting to see and photograph tigers: visit Kanha. You will be pleased as it is the best run tiger reserve and national park in the country.

However, Bandhavgarh is a horse of another color. When a tiger is seen, the screaming and shouting that goes on between the drives jockeying for position is the worst I have seen in India. I got three tigers but Anu’s driver was one of the main culprits and I had to hold on for dear life. I had one heck of time staying in the jeep as he raced all over the place screaming at everyone to get out of his way. My agent/guide was not there that day to see this fiasco that goes on all the time in Bandhavgarh. The Forest Department here should be ashamed of themselves for letting this develop, and this is played out everyday and needs immediate attention.

Front view of the Taj Mahal in the early morning…!

Anu decided that she would not stay with me and then complained she had a sore back, and then abandoned me the next day. The only problem I have with this (I am a big boy and can take care of myself in tiger country) is she went back to Delhi and then straight down to Tadoba Tiger Reserve to go out hunting tigers with a rich Indian client on my money. Both of them managed to get small cubs and a mother, and I think her sore back must have gone away as she posted her trip on Facebook a couple of days later. She charged me an arm and a leg for this trip and I really started to loose my respect for her then.

My final destination this year was the Taj Mahal with my wife Noi, from Thailand. The 17th Century mausoleum attracts about 12,000 visitors a day and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world. India’s official recorded history says that the Muslim Mughal ruler Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal in memory of his third Queen, Mumtaj Mahal in 1643.

We wanted to visit this place together that should be on everyone’s bucket list. It is one of the seven great wonders of the world and seeing this amazing monument is inspirational. I told Anu that my wife broke her leg several years ago and had a walking problem. I asked her if she could get a wheelchair for Noi who is 74 this year. I however overlooked asking her about the wheelchair and a dedicated honest guide to take us into the Tag as we left Delhi. That was the most serious mistake that I have ever made with her so far. She should have provided both of these services for us but she let us down by skimming money off the large extra payment we gave her for this last trip.

Me and Noi at the Royal Gate to the Taj Mahal…!

So when we got to the car park the next morning which is 1 ½ kilometers from the main gate, we were surrounded by a group of local vultures that prey on unsuspecting tourists like me and my wife. We finally agreed on a guide and a wheelchair. He was a smooth-talking self-appointed guide and I had my reservations but we went in anyway not wanting to bother too much about anything. We just wanted to see the Taj and surrounding areas. We went around and the wheelchair did come in real handy for Noi.

I came back the next day and I asked if he could get me through the gate again. We agreed on a price. I had my Nikon D4s and my D700 secondary camera with two different lenses attached and another beautiful U.S. $1,400 Zeiss 28mm lens for Nikon in my vest pocket. As I entered the security gate, the lens was lifted from my view and disappeared (stolen). When I went for it to actually photograph the Taj, it was no where to be found, and that was that. I left this so-called holy place with a bad taste in my mouth and swore that this was my last visit to India. The final straw was Anu also refused to call us before we left to say thank you and/or goodbye after we paid her a lot of money. She could not be bothered. And the spirits of the forest know that I speak the truth.

Some of you who are friends with Anu Marwah may not like what I have to say here and may take offence, but the Facebook ‘defriend’ option is right there and that’s fine with me. I have known her since 2014 when she was partnered with one Jason Fernandes from Mumbai running a wildlife photography tour agent company named ‘Wilderness Uncut’. He was the most famous ‘smoker’ awhile back to ever light-up a cigarette in a national park in India that went completely viral. He also did a number on me when he was with Anu promising the world and not delivering. Anu also smokes cigarettes in the tiger reserves, usually at a rest stop where she hides, and has most of the guards in her pocket.

This is what happens in India when you believe in people that are actually dishonest agents with bad intentions and services, and eventually they take advantage of you. There maybe some good ones out there but it will be extremely difficult for me to believe in any of them. I apologize to all my good friends in India and they know who they are. I rest my case and this will be the last time I will talk about a crooked Indian guide service. But you have been warned and should share this with as many people as possible so that others don’t get ripped off by these two non-professionals…!!  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bandhavgarh National Park: A historical tiger reserve

Sunday, March 18, 2018 posted by Bruce 10:01 PM

Bandhavgarh National Park is situated in central India in the State of Madhya Pradesh, and has delighted tiger enthusiasts for many years now. Tigers like ‘Charger’, ‘Vijaya’, ‘Spotty’, ‘Dotty’ and ‘Solo’ to name a few have made a name for themselves as real world stars of ‘Mother Nature’ showing off a beauty and charisma found only in a few other places in India.

One of ‘Spotty’s cubs lounging at a waterhole in the interior…!

I have made four trips to Bandhavgarh since November 2014, and have been able to get some very nice tiger photographs including the famous sisters named ‘Dotty and Spotty’. The park is made-up of three zones (1, 2 & 3) and tigers are found in all three. However, one cannot be absolutely sure to get the striped cat and at times, it can be frustrating to say the least, especially when the Forest Department is burning leaves along the side of the road in March. The best time to come is during the hot season (April-May) when water resources are low, and prey and predator are not very far away from the waterholes. My first trip here came-up dry with just a few pug-marks here and there.

‘Spotty’ (in the foreground) leading her two cubs close by the road…!

Being very spiritual, I have come to believe in two mystical beings that are found here. There is a shrine by the side of the main road and another one inside the park in ‘Zone One’ where ‘Siddh Baba’ lives. The other spiritual being is ‘Siddi Mama’ who lives in all ‘Banyon’ trees found throughout India. One day in 2015 as I was motoring around in ‘Zone Two’ after three consecutive days of no tiger sightings in ‘Zone One’, I bumped into a remarkable Indian lady, her husband and their daughter in another jeep. As usual, the drivers stopped to exchange ‘tiger information’.

One of ‘Spotty’s cubs scent marking by the road…!

The lady asked me where I was from; I said Thailand and then mentioned that I had not seen any tigers yet…she then said, “maybe your luck will change as you (me) are under a banyon tree” and “you need to go into town and buy a coconut, some incense and then make an offering to the small roadside shrine where ‘Siddh Baba’ lives out on the main highway. 

My first tiger in Bandhavgarh: A sub-adult male in ‘Zone Two’…!

We parted company and said our goodbyes. A few minutes later and around the corner like magic, a juvenile male tiger stepped out onto the road and I got some amazing shots of the young striped cat. Boy, my luck changed immediately. My driver and I then went into town for lunch, and we got a coconut and some incense. We were going to pray on the way back but time was limited so we decided to stop by the shrine after the evening safari.

‘Dotty’ on the road in the interior of ‘Zone Two’: My second tiger that lucky day…!

We got to the gate and waited for the 3pm opening. After a half hour, we split up from the other vehicles and proceeded into the park by ourselves. Around a corner, and we mystically bumped into ‘Dotty’, a mature female tiger standing on the road. I was elated to say the least but it did not take long for a bunch of other jeeps to show up and then the free-for-all mayhem began. But I was lucky to get her with no commotion and undisturbed. She then slipped into the forest after all the noisy drivers started shouting and crashing into each other tying to get a glimpse of her. We departed and I felt great. We stopped by ‘Siddh Baba’s shrine on the way back in darkness and payed our respects for my good fortune. I now stop by every time I visit Bandhavgarh. There is also another ‘Siddh Baba’  shrine in ‘Zone One’ several kilometers in by the side of the road.

My first tiger in ‘Zone Three’ in 2017: A sub-adult male in late afternoon…!

I have just returned from Bandhavgarh and got ‘Spotty’ and her two cubs in ‘Zone One’ in the afternoon of the third day shown above. News quickly spread that the three were next to the road. When we got there, some 20 jeeps were packed into a small section following every move they made. The going’s-on was almost deafening all trying to get the best position.

My second tiger in ‘Zone Two’ in 2017: Her name is ‘Solo’ and she was out hunting in the morning sun…!

Funny enough, ‘Spotty’ and her cubs do not pay to much attention to the din. I did however get a few shots but it was difficult to say the least. So that makes 49 tigers I have photographed in India. I did however, get a fresh pile of tiger scat on the rode in the interior of ‘Zone Two’.

‘Spotty’ in ‘Zone One’ in 2017: She is a very popular tiger and very photogenic…!

I also got a leopard on a rocky outcrop shown below just past the ‘Siddh Baba’ shrine not far from the gate at ‘Zone One’. That was just after my guide told me that the ‘ghost of the forest’ are occasionally seen in this patch of forest. Now that’s what I call ‘extreme luck’…!

A leopard spotted in a rocky outcrop not far from the ‘Siddh Baba’ shrine in ‘Zone One’…!

So with that in mind, I recommend giving Bandhavgarh a try but be prepared for some unpleasant mix-ups when a tiger is spotted. The Forest Department here really needs to fix this problem for the future and maybe take-up the new regulations and rules that are now in place in Kanha Tiger Reserve. See my story on my recent trip to Kanha…! (:http://brucekekule.com/photography_abroad/kanha-national-park-the-best-run-protected-area-in-india/) 

Long live the tigers in Bandhavgarh…!!

     

 

 

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Kanha National Park: The best run protected area in India

Tuesday, March 13, 2018 posted by Bruce 10:07 AM

A tiger reserve in Madhya Pradesh

‘Jamun Tola Male’ or T-24 drinking at a small natural waterhole early in the morning…!

If someone ever has an urge to visit one of the best ‘tiger reserves/national parks’ in India, pick Kanha in the southeast of Madhya Pradesh State. The forest department is commended for improving the visitation to the park by both local and international tourists, and my hat is off to them for implementing some great new measures.

‘Naina Female’ or T-76 coming straight at us…!

They have made it a regulation that all forest guides be equipped with a GPS (actually a smart phone with a GPS App.) The authorities can now check the speed limit which is 20 kms per hour and is strictly enforced. If a jeep goes off track or goes too fast, a tough lesson will be learned by both the driver and the guide. It is now very well organized and they pay attention as some have already been red-carded for excessive speed and other infringements. That means anywhere from a seven to fifteen-day suspension, or even longer. The drivers/guides now pretty well toe the line which keeps the dust down, and is much safer and more enjoyable then previously…!

T-24 crossing the road…!

While I was there this past February, sightings were down a bit but the department is creating fire lines by burning fallen leaves on the side of the road that somehow effects tiger sightings. I experienced this same thing in Pench National Park last year where they were doing the same thing burning leaves but now I realized for a good reason. I did not really think about it at the time and did not get any tiger sightings, but did hear several tigers roaring in the dense forest. The big cat just moved away from the road temporally. March is when they expedite this safety program to keep forest fire down to a minimum.

T-76 in the late afternoon just before closing time..!

However, I did get two tigers this time shown here; a female known as T-76 or ‘Naina’ in the afternoon as we were heading back to the gate. We stopped at a T-junction for few minutes and she popped out of the grasslands in front of us for some really great head-on shots. Then the next morning as we were motoring around, we bumped into a bunch of jeeps parked along one side of the road. We slipped into a space and were there for 10 minutes when a male tiger was seen rustling in the bushes directly across from us. He then sauntered down to a natural spring and stayed at the waterhole for more than 10 minutes slurping up a needed drink. I kept on shooting until he moved and in a few minutes, he popped out on the road and as he crossed, I got some good flanking shots of ‘T-24’ known locally as the ’Jamun Tola Male’…I was elated to say the least…!

So, my recommendation is: if you want a great visit with the possibility of seeing a tiger, go to Kanha as it is well worth the trip. Again, well done Forest Department Director Dr Sanjay Kumar Shukla IFS Field Director Kanha Tiger Reserve and staff, and I look forward to future visits to India’s best run tiger reserve and national park. Every park in the country should now take note and follow suit, as most of the other ones continue to have serious problems with jeeps racing for position, and absolute mayhem when tigers are spotted. This will be tough to implement but given time, I’m hoping things will get better in the other tiger reserves scattered throughout India.

 

 

 

 

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FOUR TIGERS IN THREE DAYS

Monday, February 26, 2018 posted by Bruce 10:22 PM

Jim Corbett’s spirit is alive and well

Paarwali tigress in the grass on my last morning in Corbett…!

I have been coming to India since 2013 when I made my first visit to Tadoba Anhari Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park situated in Maharashtra State…it is one of the best tiger reserves in the sub-continent and I managed to photograph seven tigers over nine days on that trip. This was the first of many trips to India after tigers.

A male tiger crossing the road near the grasslands close to Dhikala Camp…!

I have just returned from Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand State in the North, this being my 4th trip to one of India’s greatest protected areas. It is a stunning tiger reserve with many, many tigers. However, these predators like in most places, can be elusive and I was only able to catch one every trip for the first three years but I did get some stellar shots on those previous visits shown here.

Male tiger crossing the Ramnagar River on my 2nd morning in Corbett…!

This trip, I managed to get four tigers in three days in the Dhikala Zone. The first one was a male that crossed the road in front of our jeep near closing time in the grasslands. The second male tiger in mid-morning was caught crossing the Ramnagar River but at quite a distance. And on the third day in the morning, the very famous tigress, Paarwali and her male cub were seen in the rocky section of the river. They both made there way closer to us and then jumped across the road a short twenty meters away. It does not get any better than that…!

Paarwali crossing in front on my jeep on day three…!

So my count now is 44 tigers in India. I have set some camera traps in the Terai Landscape on private land near the Ramnagar River and look forward to seeing the big striped cat on my traps. Leopards, goral, serow, sambar, chital, wild pigs and elephant also frequent the area. Only time will tell but that is another story.  

Paarwali’s male cub jumping in front of our jeep on day three…!

A young tigress chasing after chital deer in the grasslands near to Dhikala Camp on my first trip to Corbett-2015…!

Paarwali tigress with a chital fawn kill on my 2nd trip to Corbett-2016…!

A male tiger crossing the road in the Sal forest near Dhikala Camp on my 3rd trip to Corbett-2017…!

 

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Forty Tigers…!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017 posted by Bruce 4:42 PM

India’s amazing big cats

About 20 years ago when I began wildlife photography, I dreamed of going to India to photograph tigers. The rich biodiversity found on the sub-continent is without equal and boasts the largest population of the big striped cat in the world.

First tiger cub Tadoba

My first tiger in India; one of four cubs around ‘Telia Lake’ in Tadoba-Anhari-2013…!

Tiger sparring cubs Tadoba

Tiger cubs sparring in Telia Lake, Tadoba-Anhari..a once in a lifetime shot…!

The first photographic book in my library on wildlife is titled ‘Wild India’ by the renowned British photographer, Gerald Cubitt and published by New Holland in London. He traveled all over India capturing most of the wild animals on film including the majestic tiger. The urge to go after this big cat burned in me for many years.

Tadoba cub close-up

‘Telia lake’ cub up-close on my third morning in Tadoba…!

In late-2009, I photographed an Indochinese male tiger (though the lens) in Thailand from a blind which is a very difficult feat to accomplish. These carnivores are so smart and extremely wary, and tough to see in the wild let alone photograph. I also camera-trapped many tigers in several protected areas situated around the Kingdom.

Tadoba cub near the road

Tiger cub near the road in Tadoba…!

Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve – Maharashtra State – Count: 11 tigers…!

Tadoba tiger cub hunting

Tiger cub hunting chital at Telia Lake…she was hesitant and missed the deer…!

But the desire to visit India burned in me until I finally made my first trip in April-2013 to Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve and National Park. I was with my good buddy Luke Stokes who is an up and coming photographer in his own right, and he lives in Thailand like me. We made the flight from Bangkok to Hyderabad, and then the 9-hour taxi ride to the park. I was finally in the ‘Land of the Tiger’…!

Old ‘Wagdoh’ (Scarface) at Telia Lake…he still is the dominant male in this area…!

At the time, Tadoba was one of the top reserves for tiger sightings in India with four tiger cub sisters growing up around Telia Lake. On our second morning, I managed to get a once in a lifetime shot of two sisters sparring in the water. I was certainly off to a good start.

Tadoba Wagdoh (Scarface)

‘Wagdoh’ on the third morning by the road…!

Tadoba Wagdoh at the lake

‘Wagdoh’ at the lake the next day,,,!

The next morning, we bumped into the dominant male and father of the four sisters; old Wagdoh (Scarface) out on the road, and a day later, photographed him at the lake. We also got the other two sisters around the lake during the week. Then, we got a breeding pair over in Tadoba National Park as they went about their natural business.

Tadoba tiger breeding pair

A breeding pair over in Tadoba National Park…!

On our next to the last day in the park, one of the sisters (the jumping tiger facing me) made an appearance near the road to say goodbye, and I got some wonderful close-up shots of her.

Tiger cub by the side of the road saying goodbye…she is the same tiger facing me in the sparring shot…!

Then in early-2015, I made a second trip to Tadoba and managed to get three tigers including Maya T12, Choti Tara T17 and finally, ‘Gabbar’ or ‘Leopard Face’ T42 that had been injured in a fight with another male tiger.

Tadoba 'Maya' tigress

‘Maya’ or T12, is a mature tigress in Tadoba, 2015…!

Tadoba 'Choti Tara'

‘Choti Tara’ or T17, another mature tigress on the road in Tadoba National Park…!

‘Gabbar’ or ‘Leopard Face’ or T42 with a radio collar cooling off in a pond in Tadoba National Park…he was badly injured fighting with another male…!

Ranthambore Tiger Reserve – Rajasthan State – Count: 6 tigers…!

In November-2014, I visited Ranthambore that is India’s most famous tiger reserve. On the third morning of my 7-day safari, I managed to photograph the very infamous dominant male tiger named ‘Ustad’ or T-24, and then later that day got another male named Zalim or T-25, and one of his cubs (he was looking after two cubs at that time).

Ustad2 - Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, India

The infamous ‘Ustad’….I caught him in Zone 1 on my third day…!

Then the next day, I got Ustad’s son ‘Sultan’ or T-72 two days in a row. Finally, I snapped ‘Krishna’ or T-19, an equally legendary tigress. Shortly after that, ‘Ustad’ was thrown in a zoo (jail) on trumped-up charges of killing a forest guard. It became a world-class scandal. Poor ‘Ustad’ was out and never to be photographed in the wild again..!

Zalim in Ranthambore

‘Zalim’ out hunting…he had left his two cabs in the bush…!

Zalim's cub in Ranthambore

‘Zalim’s’ cub in thick bush. This was the only shot I got of this young tiger…!

Sultan portrait - Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, India

‘Sultan’ looking bored in Zone 6…one of my favorite tiger shots….! A huge crowd of hundreds of Indian tourist had should up behind me…!

‘Sultan’, son of ‘Ustad’ the next morning, also in Zone 6…!

Sultan in Ranthambore3

Sultan’ saying goodbye in Zone 6…!

Tiger male3 in Ranthambore National Park - India

‘Krishna’, a tigress near the Ranthambore Lake…!

Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve – Madhya Pradesh State – Count: 7 tigers…!

When I made my first trip to Bandhavgarh in November-2014, I was not lucky and did not see any tigers over a four-day visit except for some pug-marks. But in early-2015, I made a second trip to the park and on the finale day of my 4-day safari, got a sub-adult male in the morning and then in the afternoon, photographed ‘Dotty’, a very famous tigress in Zone 2.

Bandhavgarh 1st tiger

A sub-adult male tiger in Zone 2 in 2015…a lucky encounter after 4 days of no sightings….!

'Dotty' in Bandhavgarh

A tigress named ‘Dotty’ in the afternoon on day four…another lucky shot…!

In early March of this year (2017), I made my third visit and caught a sub-adult male in Zone 3 on the very first afternoon. The next morning, I bumped into ‘Spotty’ (sister of ‘Dotty’) and two of her cubs (8-9 months old) in Zone 1. On my next to the last safari, I bumped into ‘Solo’ in Zone 2, a mature female at distance for a nice tiger habitat shot as she sat in the morning sun looking for prey. 

Sub-adult male i Bandhavgarh web

A sub-adult male on my first day in late afternoon on March 2017 in Zone 3….!

Spotty in Bandhavgarh

 On my second day, we bumped into ‘Spotty’ (sister of ‘Dotty’) and her two cubs in Zone 2…!

Spotty's cub1 Bandhavgarh

‘Spotty’s’ cub on the road in Zone 2…!

Spotty's cub2 in Bandhavgarh

‘Spotty’s’ other cub following her sibling and mother….!

Solo in Bandhavgarh

A tigress named ‘Solo’ out in the morning sun waiting on prey….!

Kanha Tiger Reserve – Madhya Pradesh State – Count: 1 tiger…!

In early-2015, I visited Kanha Tiger Reserve. Sightings were down at that time but I finally was able to catch the ‘Budbudi’ female tiger one morning as she walked, roared and scent marked looking for a mate. She came real close to our jeep and crossed in front of us, and then posed on the other side.

Female tiger in Kanha copy

‘Budbudi’ female tiger marking territory in Kanha…!

Kanha Budbudi female

‘Budbudi’ female on the other side of my jeep…!

Pench Tiger Reserve – Madhya Pradesh State – Count: 8 tigers…!

In early-2015, I also traveled to Pench and on the very first morning, got the ‘Patdev’ female tigress and photographed her again in the afternoon. The next morning, I got a sub-adult male. On the third morning, I managed to get some great close-up shots of the very famous ‘Collarwali’, a female tigress with seven litters and 26 cubs to her name.

 Patdev-female-Pench1 web

‘Padtev’ tigress in Zone 1 on the first morning in the bush…!

Patdev female Pench1

‘Patdev’ tigress in Zone 1 in the afternoon (second sighting that day)…!

Collarwali cub2 in Pench Tiger Reserve, India Mar.2016tev

Sub-adult male on my second morning…!

Collarwali in Pench

‘Collerwali’ on the road in 2015 early the third morning….!

In early-2016, I made a second trip to Pench and photographed ‘Collarwali’ and her two cubs. Then, I got the famous ’Raiyakassa’ male tiger the next afternoon.

Collarwali in Pench Tiger Reserve, India Mar.2016

‘Collarwali’ still sporting a collar in the early morning on the first day in 2016…!

Collarwali2 in Pench Tiger Reserve, India Mar.2016

‘Collarwali’ yawning out in the morning sun..

Collarwali cub in Pench Tiger Reserve, India Mar.2016

‘Collarwali’s’ cub and mother resting in the morning…!

Raiyakassa male tiger in Pench T.R. Mar. 2016 M.P. State, India

‘Raiyakassa’ male tiger and ‘Collarwali’s’ mate in Pench near the lake on March. 2016

I just finished my third trip to Pench but after four days, I left empty-handed. The Forest Department had just burnt fallen leaves along all roads to create fire-breaks and I believe this pushed all the tigers into the interior. There were no sightings in the park at all since the burning.   

Panna Tiger Reserve – Madhya Pradesh State – Count: 2 tigers…!

In early-2016, I also traveled to Panna Tiger Reserve. As most people know, Panna lost all their tigers due to poaching sometime in 2009. The Forest Department decided on a reintroduction program and moved several tigers including a female named T-1 from Bandhavgarh into Panna.

Female tiger cub in Panna Tiger Reserve, M.P. State

A female cub from the ‘T-1 female’ introduced from Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve…!

On my very first afternoon, I was lucky and photographed T-1’s female cub at a waterhole. On my third and final day, I got T-1’s other female cub at another waterhole.

Female tiger cub in Panna Tiger Reserve, M.P. State

Another one of ‘T-1’s’ cubs. This was on my way out of the park…she said goodbye…!

Corbett Tiger Reserve – Utterakhand State – Count: 3 tigers…!

Of course, no trip to India would not be complete without visiting Corbett Tiger Reserve in Northern East India. This park is named after the very famous Jim Corbett (naturalist, photographer, author and hunter of many man-eating tigers and leopards in India).

In early-2015, I managed to catch a young female tigress chasing chital deer in the Dhikala grasslands not far from the camp. Throughout that day, we saw her several times.

A young tigress in the Dhikala grasslands chasing chital deer…2015…!

Corbett tiger female w-kill web

‘Parrwali’ tigress near the Ramgangar River with a chital fawn in her jaws…2016…!

Parwalie in Corbett..

Parrwali on ‘Sambar Road’ not far from Dhikala camp…!

In early-2016, I photographed Corbett’s most famous female tiger at the moment named ‘Parrwali’ with a chital fawn kill in her jaws across the Ramgangar River. This is my best shot of a tiger in India so far; predation is tough to get and I was lucky. I then caught Parrwali and an un-named sub-adult male tiger on ‘Sambar Road’ the next two days.

Tiger in Corbett 'Sal' forest

A mature male tiger crossing the road not far from Dhikala camp…a habitat shot…2017…!

I have just returned from a trip to Corbett in Dhikala and Birjani areas. On the second morning in Dhikala, a male tiger crossed the main road through the ‘Sal forest’ in mid-morning not far from camp and I was able to get some nice shots in the morning sun. In Birjani, I did see the famous ‘Sarmilly’ female tiger in the afternoon on the second day but she stayed hidden for the most part and I did not get a photo.

Kaziranga National Park – Assam State – Count: 0 tigers…!

In Early-2015, I traveled to Kaziranga, one of India’s greatest wildlife reserves with some 2,400 Asian one-horned rhinos, 1,300 wild water buffalos and 1,000 Asian elephants. There are suppose to be about 200 tigers in the park. However, I did not get a tiger but only a set of pug-marks one morning.

Satpura Tiger Reserve – Madhya Pradesh State – Count: 0 tigers…!

 In early-2015, I traveled to Satpura but did not see a tiger. They are very difficult to see here.

Vanghat (Private) Eco-lodge – Utterakhand State – Count: 1 tiger…!

I have always wanted to use camera traps in India but the Forest Department does not allow outsiders to do this in any of the tiger reserves, and for the most part is set aside for their own research teams. After some consultations with the owner of an eco-lodge near Corbett, it was decided to set a DSLR camera trap near the Ramgangar River up a mountain ridge line. I managed to get a great shot of a young female tiger on the second night.

Female tiger in Vanghat Private reserve

Young tigress camera trapped in the Corbett landscape up a ridge line near the Ramgangar River….2016…!

You can say I’m hooked on photographing tigers in India. I’ve just finished my sixth trip and got 6 tigers this time. I look forward to future visits to add more tiger shots to my files.

Note: This number is the actual tigers photographed with some duplication. Nikon D3s, Nikon D4s, D3oos bodies and Nikon 200-400  and Nikon 70-200 Telephoto lenses were used plus a Nikon D3000 for the camera trap shot…!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Asiatic Lions of Gir

Monday, March 27, 2017 posted by Bruce 1:22 PM

India’s remarkable conservation success story…!

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Hunting lioness close-up in Gir National Park and Sanctuary (buffer zone)….! 

Once upon a time, the Asiatic Lion (Panthera leo persica) ranged from the Mediterranean through to the northeastern parts of the Indian sub-continent. The lion disappeared from all these areas due to reckless hunting and loss of habitat except for Gir forest where the last few individuals remained.

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Chital (spotted deer) buck passing close to a hunting lioness….!

In 1913, the Nawab of Junagadh and the government became aware that very few lions were left and outlawed all hunting, and began a conservation program to save the species from the threshold of extinction. Due to excellent management and conservation efforts by the Forest Department and immense support from the people of Saurashtra, this carnivore is surviving very well and some 523 individuals now roam in the Gir Asiatic Lion Conservation Area estimated at 22,000 square kilometers in Gujarat State.

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Hunting lioness yawning in a dry stream bed in the buffer zone of Gir National Park …!

I decided that it was time to visit Gir and on my finale safari for this year, I took the flight to Ahmedabad from Delhi and then an 8-hour taxi ride to the Asiatic Lion Lodge near to Sasan-Gir, a town close to the gate of Gir National Park & Sanctuary. Sightings of lions have been down but on my second morning, I got lucky.

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Lioness coming through the trees following chital deer….!

I bumped into a hunting lioness in the ‘Buffer Zone’ very close to a village in a dry stream bed about 7.00am. She was sighted by the driver and was about a 100 meters away lying down waiting for some chital (spotted deer) but did not attack as the deer passed very close to her. She then got up, yawned and started moving towards us, and then crossed in front on my jeep at 5-6 meters staring right at me. She was in hunting mode and just kept going after the deer. I did not have much time at all and only got off a few shots shown here.

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Lioness in Gir web

A male (above) and female lion (below) by Ramesh Sarvani….!

I would like to thank Karan Singh Chauhan, the resort manager and his staff for the great hospitality shown while I stayed at the ‘Asiatic Lion Lodge’ in Sasan-Gir. I would also like to thank Ramesh Sarvani for the use of his lion images for this post. Finally, special thanks goes to Anu Marwah, my agent in India. She has made this all possible and I look forward to future visits to this great country with some of the most amazing wildlife in the world.

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The Plight of the Indian Gharial

Wednesday, March 15, 2017 posted by Bruce 3:31 PM

A rare crocodilian under threat

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A male gharial with fishnet wrapped around it’s snout…!

I have just returned from a crocodile sanctuary in Northeast India where the common mugger and the rare gharial are found in fair numbers. The Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary covers an area of 400 square kilometers and was established in 1975. The protected area is in the Upper Gangetic plain situated in Uttar Pradesh State in Northeast India

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A close-up of the male gharial with fishnet…!

The Katerniaghat Forest provides strategic connectivity between tiger habitats of Dudhwa and Kishanpur in India and the Bardia National Park in Nepal. Its fragile Terai ecosystem comprises a mosaic of sal and teak forests, lush grasslands, numerous swamps and wetlands. It is home to a number of endangered species including the gharial, tiger, rhino, Gangetic dolphin, swamp deer, hispid hare, Bengal florican, the white-backed and long-billed vultures. 

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A female gharial with fishnet…red-whistling ducks in the back…!

One of the best places in the world for seeing the gharial in its natural habitat is the Girwa River, where it is found sympatric with the mugger crocodile. The population of gharials in this stretch was one of the three that were still breeding, when the project to conserve this reptile from the verge of extinction was initiated in 1975. However, between the years of 2001 and 2005, almost all the gharial nests were raided by tribals who consider them a delicacy.

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Another female gharial with fishnet…!

The sanctuary is under the Indian Forest Department’s responsibility, and breeding of the gharial is being carried out at the station next to the lake. This crocodilian was almost wiped out in India by poachers for the crocodile skin trade but was saved by concerted efforts not to loose this important crocodile species. They are breeding quite well here and have been released into the lake. There are about 200 gharial surviving with programs for future reintroduction.

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A young gharial in the breeding center…!

Fishing is strictly prohibited but unfortunately, illegal fishing with nets is being carried out by local and Nepalese fisherman, probably at night when there are no patrolling boats around. I photographed quite a few gharials with fishnets wrapped around their snouts. This is of course is unacceptable and the Forest Department at Katarniaghat needs to abduct any people involved in these activities.

Gharial, mugger and whistling ducks

Gharials, mugger and whistling ducks…!

The gharials need to be captured and this nylon net material removed. It is the duty of the FD to see that these creatures live their life in harmony without any harm coming to them.

 

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Happy New Year 2017

Sunday, January 1, 2017 posted by Bruce 1:14 PM

Hi all: Wishing everyone a wonderful New Year 2017……!!! I was extremely lucky to photograph a tiger cub (No: 2 born in the wild) from the first female tiger (T-1) reintroduce a couple years ago……it was absolutely some of my best tiger encounters in India during early 2016. I will be returning to India in late Feb-early March for one more trip after some particular shots to close out my next book project…hope that all of you will have a great year..!!

Female tiger cub in Panna Tiger Reserve, M.P. State

Female tiger cub in Panna Tiger Reserve, M.P. State

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My ‘Bucket List’ trip to the USA and Canada – 2016

Saturday, November 26, 2016 posted by Bruce 3:49 PM

Places I wanted to see before kicking a bucket…so to speak…!!

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The ‘Grand Canyon’  in Arizona at the ‘South Rim’ in early morning light…!

When I was a kid in kindergarten, we were taught about the ‘Seven Wonders of the World’ and, the Grand Canyon in the USA was one of those places. Our teachers drummed it into our heads. They also talked about an old natural steam geyser in Yellowstone National Park named ‘Old Faithful’…!

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This is the famous ‘Old Faithful Geyser’ in Yellowstone…!

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Lower Yellowstone Falls…!

This natural wonder is in Yellowstone, the world’s first protected area established by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1872. As years past, I often read and saw pictures of these beautiful and great places in America, and wanted to visit as many as possible before I kicked the bucket, so to speak.

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Me and my wife ‘Noi’ and the Dodge SUV at the Intercontinental Hotel close to LAX…!

For my first ‘Bucket List’ trip, no holds were barred. Last year, my wife broke her leg in a fall down some stairs in the house in Bangkok. As I wanted to take her along, I postponed my trip in 2015. But this year, I was bound and determined to do my ‘bucket list’ and we departed Bangkok on the 1st September, 2016. After a long grueling flight, we arrived in Los Angeles and went to the Intercontinental Hotel close to LAX spending two nights resting up.

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A rest-stop on the famous ‘Route 66’ in California…!

We then spent a few more days in LA visiting friends here and there, and then on 5th Sept., we headed off in a rental car (Dodge SUV) leaving early in the morning and traveling on Route 66 to the ‘South Rim’ of the Grand Canyon National Park run by the U.S. National Parks Service, and arriving in the late afternoon. We checked into the Yavapai Hotel for a two-night stay. The weather was cool and clear with no cloud cover – perfect for photography the next morning.

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The ‘Grand Canyon’  further up the ‘South Rim’…!

My wife stayed in bed but I went to the ‘South Rim’ at 5am and waited for sunrise. It was scary out there for me, even with a barrier – many people have fallen into the canyon by being foolish and taking a risk getting too close to the edge which means certain death if you fall in. Eventually light filled the canyon and I got some spectacular shots.

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The ‘Grand Canyon’ 30 miles east of the ‘South Rim’…!

There are many other areas at the ‘South Rim’ of the Grand Canyon to see but time was short and we had to move on. The next stop was the ‘North Rim’ but as we arrived at the turn-off, a big fire was raging and not wanting to be delayed, carried on to our next destination which was Zion National Park in Utah.

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At the ‘South Rim’ of the Grand Canyon in late morning…!

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At the ‘Yavapai Hotel’ in Grand Canyon-South Rim…!

We entered Zion and 10 minutes from the gate, were greeted by a herd of ‘Desert Big Horn’ sheep. They were breeding and several rams were only interested in the females and paid no attention to us. I got some great eye-level shots which are rare for this species; they are usually seen high up on the cliffs. I also managed to get some very nice landscape photos of some interesting geological formations sculpted over millions of years. Our trip to Zion was well worth the effort.

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‘Desert Big Horn Sheep’ by the side of the road in Zion National Park – a lucky encounter….!

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 Some of the weird sandstone formations in Zion National Park, Utah…!

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Sunset at Zion….That is an eagle flying up near the cliff….!

I also managed a side trip to Bryce Canyon National Park near-by to see those natural formations but kept my visit to a minimum as there were many tourists and parking was near impossible. After two days, we left Zion for the long haul to Salt Lake City visiting with friends there and a needed rest stop for the next haul to Grand Teton National Park further north.

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Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah at mid-day…!

The next morning after we had breakfast, we headed out to the Grand Teton National Park. It’s a beautiful place in September with clear blue skies and crisp weather. The mountain range vista of the Tetons is absolutely stunning but I was not lucky, and it was socked in the next morning and so did not get any good photos of the mountain range. After two days, we had to move on to our next destination.

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Grand Teton mountain range in Wyoming during the late afternoon….!

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Having lunch in Grand Teton National Park: it was absolutely beautiful at this spot…!

Yellowstone National Park was not accessible from Grand Teton through the ‘Southern Gate’ due to a large forest fire there. We had to detour around and enter at the ‘Western Gate’ but as we were booked into a hotel there, it worked out OK.

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A common sight in Yellowstone National Park: An American bison or buffalo…!

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A ‘Rocky Mountain’ big horn ram blocking traffic over in east Yellowstone…!

However, it was raining and sleeting when we arrived late in the afternoon, and thought my photography would be washed out. But about mid-morning on the next day, it cleared up and I got some really nice shots of the landscape and buffalo (plenty of them). There were no bears (heading into the interior looking for a hibernation dens) or elk. I saw one bull elk early on the second morning bugling at a distance but no photos.

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Along one of the many tributaries of the Yellowstone River system…!

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Fresh snow laid the night before: elevation about 7,000 feet…!

We went to see ‘Old Faithful’, and ticked off another ‘bucket list’ checkbox. There were loads and loads of tourists (some 1500 plus people sitting around the old geyser) and traffic was bad; specially when someone saw a buffalo, big horn or bear in a tree.

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My top ‘bucket list’ finally ticked off….!

In Yellowstone, there are a couple of areas along the road that was very narrow and just one slip-up meant going over the small curb and thousands of feet down to a certain death. The next day, we left Yellowstone and I look back on this segment of my ‘Bucket List’ trip and believe it came up to my expectations for the entire trip except for poor weather in Grand Teton. I will return to these beautiful places with my family again one day…!

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Our last morning in West Yellowstone: it was cold when we departed…!

I then sent my wife to Boseman, Montana so she could fly over to Seattle to see a Thai friend. I then headed north to a small town called ‘Malta’ for an over night stay at a little motel. The owner was a serious wildlife hunter and has the grand slam of North American Sheep (4 species) and a Rocky Mountain Goat trophy on his wall in the hotel office. We had a nice talk about the situation around Malta. It certainly is a small town on the way to Canada which I did the next day.

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The ‘100’ Canadian speed sign: a conspiracy for sure with no ‘kilometer per hour’ marking…!

Crossing the Canadian border into Saskatchewan was uneventful other then seeing a speed-100 sign and thinking it was miles per hour…it was sometime before I realized I was going in ‘miles-per-hour’…I did get stopped going 115 as the police woman RCMP was trailing a semi-tractor. Her lights went on after I passed her. She gave me warning but let me go.

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Driving into Calgary, Alberta, Canada: It was dark and forbidding…!

I finally found the ‘Kilometers per hour’ switch on the steering wheel column and slowed the heck down driving all the way across Alberta and British Columbia ending up in Vancouver Island to see a friend. After 4-days, I packed-up and made my way back to the U.S. at Port Angeles in Washington State for the drive to Seattle to pick up my wife. We then eventually found our way back to L.A. arriving on the 31st September for the end of this ‘bucket list’ trip. All and all, it was great to finally see and photograph some of the greatest places and most beautiful protected areas in the U.S., and the World for that matter…! Total Distance 4, 484 miles…!

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The Canadian ‘100’ speed sign conspiracy…!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016 posted by Bruce 12:28 AM

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If you ever cross the Canadian border in the State of Montana north of the town named Malta; BEWARE…! I recently was on my ‘bucket list’ travels in North America through this border crossing and was unaware that ‘kilometers per hour’ (kmh) is enforced….I saw the sign above and figured I was still in ‘miles per hour’ (mph)…and thought that the Canadians were crazy to go this fast. I traveled through some twenty small towns at about 80 mph (way over the limit) that are maned by Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) going pretty fast thinking that I was OK….but on a long curve that was legal to pass with a semi-truck in front and two cars behind, I moved on out to pass and sure as Canada is ‘cold in the winter’, I passed a police car driven by a female officer.

Oh boy, I was in the poop now when her lights came on…I of course stopped immediately and handed her my ‘Texas’ drivers license with the ‘California’ (plate) rental car papers. She said I was going 115 and I thought that was not possible…I’ve never been 115 miles per hour in my life except on a jet plane and the ‘Japanese Bullet Train’. But I remained calm and was nice with ‘yes mam-no mam’ and she let me go….whew…that was a close one…an angel overhead was looking out for me….!!

The morale of this story:  watch yourself going into Canada from the U.S….there is a conspiracy to catch American drivers thinking (like me) that they are still driving in ‘miles per hour’ north of the border…the photo of the sign above tells the story….I was lucky and got off with a warning…it could have been a lot worse….!!

 

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