Photography…everyday

Photography has been a deep instilled passion along with my love for birds, wildlife and in recent times, the night sky! Living at the foothills of the Nilgiris (literally translates to blue mountains), I am thankful for the opportunity to make images on almost a daily basis.

The journey thus far has been wonderful and the learning never stops. In the past few months, I have been nurturing my skills in Astrophotography and landscape photography. I stumble upon inspiring works almost every single day.

On the occasion of #WorldPhotographyDay which was celebrated on 19th August, I am sharing a small collection of images, a short Milky Way time lapse video, and a self portrait đŸ™‚

1. Spot-bellied Eagle-Owl | This beautiful species (which also happens to be my favorite) had just hunted a Grey Junglefowl and was taking refuge in the canopy of a tall tree. To watch this spectacular specimen from close quarters for over an hour was nothing short of disbelief! Oh, I almost forgot to mention, the sighting was at a spot few minutes from home.

Spot-bellied Eagle-Owl with a Grey Junglefowl kill | Nikon D850, 600 F4 VR + 1.4 TC II

2. Milky Way | Something I picked up only a few months ago, has turned into a full blooded pursuit. Watching the night sky and especially the Milky Way galaxy is a feeling I hope to put in words in upcoming blog posts. Here, a lone leafless tree stands its ground against the backdrop of the Milky Way along with Jupiter and Saturn…magical!

Lone Tree & Milky Way | Nikon D850, 18-55mm

3. Star trail | I have always wanted to make images of star trails using a single exposure. A dark and still night allowed me to make one with the back drop the hills and the lone tree.

Nikon D850 + 50mm 1.8 (exposure about 16 mins)

4. Neowise | The comet was in the news for a majority of the month of July. Instagram had loads of spectacular images of the comet. Residing in Southern India, the chances of seeing Neowise was going to be difficult due to the monsoon. Dark clouds would cover the sky leaving absolutely no visibility. On a couple of occasions, the sky cleared and I made the best of the opportunity presented.

Neowise | Nikon D850, 50mm 1.8

5. Smooth flow | Fascinated by images of silky smooth waterfalls and flowing streams, I thought it would be a good idea to experiment this genre of photography too. I got myself a 10 stop ND filter and got cracking on some images. This was one of the initial ones. A lot of reading, trial and error went into making these long exposure photographs.

Smooth flow | Nikon D850, 50mm 1.8, Nisi 10 stop ND filter

6. Silky fall | I was wrapping up after the shoot and as I lifted my tripod, the camera swung downwards swiftly from the ball head and hit the metal frame of the tripod. It resulted in a hairline crack and that was the end of the 10 stop filter. After that incident, I make sure the ball head knobs are tight and leave no room for costly errors!

Silky fall | Nikon D850, 50mm 1.8, Nisi 10 stop ND filter

7. Milky Way time lapse | Watching videos of a Milky Way timelapse always gives me goosebumps. Though it is a short video, I am sure you will enjoy this incredible spectacle of the night sky.

8. Self portrait | Well, I am rarely seen in front of the camera, which of course is intentional! On this rare occasion, amidst the forest and a river wild, I felt a self portrait would be fitting!

Self portrait | Nikon D5300, 18-55mm

#WorldPhotographyDay

Black nape, crest and rosettes

I was home on a short break and thought I’ll head to Bandipur for a safari. For a change, I got a seat in the Jungle Lodges jeep as opposed to the customary canter. My companions for the drive were a pilot from Hong Kong and his girlfriend and a photographer from Bangalore. Exchanged pleasantries and we set off into the lush green jungles with our driver/guide Muddu and naturalist Nagendra.

It was the third week of August and presence of the monsoon very much there, though I hoped it wouldn’t rain during the drive.

The pilot, Jeff and his girlfriend were keen birders and naturalist and dear friend Nagendra was doing his best in showing them the variety that Bandipur has to offer.

We came across a black-naped hare, sitting out in the open. Strangely, this one didn’t bolt soon as the vehilce came in sight. The long ears and prominent black nape in display, perfect opportunity for portraits.

Black-naped Hare| Bandipur Tiger Reserve, Karnataka, India

We must have driven maybe a kilometer from the hare, when Nagendra spotted rose-ringed parakeets on a tall tree beside the track. Jeff and the rest of us were looking at the birds when Muddu called out…leopard!

We saw a tail disappear into the lantana bushes. We got into position knowing well that the leopard would walk onto an open patch. Everyone held their cameras tightly. A minute later, boom, out walked the leopard! Ever so cautious, she took a few steps, stopped, looked towards our vehicle and then swiftly went into hiding. We moved further back anticipating her movement yet again, but in vain.

Leopard | Bandipur Tiger Reserve, Karnataka, India

By now a light drizzle had started. As we approached a waterhole, I spotted a crested hawk-eagle on a tree. The raptor seemed comfortable with our presence and posed for a long photo session. Drizzle in the background made for some nice images.

Crested Hawk-eagle | Bandipur Tiger Reserve, Karnataka, India

As we were exiting the park, a sloth bear also marked attendance. In all, a very pleasing safari.

All images made with Nikon D850 and 600mm F4 VR lens – August 2019

An evening with Parrots

I entered the sunflower field and stood there, confused. So many hanging parrots feeding on the seeds, I wondered where to start from. I slowly edged forward and took a comfortable position to photograph the birds. 

Camouflage amidst sun flowers

In no time, I was lost behind the camera, watching the parrots gorge away on the seeds.

Delicious seeds

Carefully, I moved further into the field and tried a closer approach.

Balancing act

A loud sound reverberated across the hills surrounding the field. I lifted my head off the camera and waited. Another one followed. This time my phone went off too! My wife was on the line and excitedly asked me ‘Did you hear it?’ Yes, I replied. ‘There’s a tiger somewhere!’ 

I scanned the hills looking for anything in orange and black. Except for the loud roars, there was nothing in sight. Grudgingly, I moved ahead with the job in hand. Parrots were waiting to be photographed.

Spot of Red 

While the target was Hanging Parrots, occasionally Plum-headed and Rose-ringed parakeets would make an appearance too. But they would remain camera shy. Any sort of movement and they would take to the sky. 

Hanging tight

I took my time and made as many images as I could. The sheer experience of knowing there was a tiger close-by and its numerous roars, added to the thrill. Until next time!

All images made with Nikon D850 along with a 600 F4 VR lens and on occasions with a 1.4 TC II teleconverter attached to the lens. 

Week 3 – lockdown 21

We are into the third week of the nation wide lockdown and same with my series. Not all days are fruitful, sometimes activity is less, and at other times, there is nothing to make a photo appealing.

I was updating my blog on the 20th day and PM Modi announced that the lockdown will be extended until 3rd May. This adds to my dilemma on what to post everyday.

Here is the collection from week three.

Day 15

Thirsty

It was a pleasant surprise to see a Streak-throated Woodpecker (female) land softly on a nearby tree and then at the saucer for a water break. Last week’s post had images of the male.

Forest floor

I spotted the melodious White-rumped Shama from my window. This shy species usually sticks to bamboo thickets but came out into the open to forage on the forest floor for worms and insects. A spot of the white rump is visible here.

Day 16

Glowing yellow

Soft short whistles announce the arrival of yet another delightful species called the Yellow-browed Bulbul. Glorious morning light took this image a notch higher.

Crown prince

In recent times, I have noticed regular activity of the Yellow-crowned Woodpeckers. Pecking on barks of trees, drilling holes on the trunk, the male would find a tasty snack and feed the female. This one here is the male.

Day 17

No grey areas…just colors

Last week, I posted only the tail, this time it is the full bird. Yet another vibrant species. While the name is Grey Junglefowl, this one has an astounding array of colors.

Mirror effect?

For a change, both the White-cheeked Barbets stood their ground and posed for a few seconds.

Day 18

Unexpected visitor

Out of nowhere, this Malabar Grey Hornbill landed, sat for a few seconds and took off. This is the male (notice the orange bill), the female has a pale coloured bill. In another sighting, I saw two Bronzed Drongo’s chasing a hornbill too. I guess expect the unexpected in the wild. 

Spiky hairdo

Lesser Goldenback Woodpecker male (full red crest) lands on the ground for inspection.

Day 19

The brahmin

An interesting name given to this species…Brahminy Starling. If you notice the extensions on the black head, that is what gives the bird its name.

Lesser gold

A female Lesser Goldenback Woodpecker (half red crest) takes a break from drilling the branch while looking for some titbits.

Day 20

Filling the blank

A purple sunbird (female) fills the spot by landing on the branch which had no pods on it. One can gauge the size of this tiny bird in comparison to the pods.

Junglee

A puffed-up Jungle Myna contemplates its next move.

Day 21

Play of light

Yet again the barren rock has an occupant. Spotted Dove in lovely morning light.

Woodie

The streak-throated woodpecker (female) latches onto a tree trunk before alighting to the nearby saucer to quench its thirst.

That concludes my three week quest to make images and post every day during the lockdown. To all my friends, family and viewers – stay safe!

All images made with Nikon D850 along with 600 F4 VR lens.

WEEK 2 – LOCKDOWN 21

As another week goes by, the number of cases keep rising. I continue with my quest to make a new image everyday and appreciate nature’s wonders at such dark times. Here is a small collection from week two.

Day 8

Hello purple

It was late evening when the Purple Sunbird (male) decided to drop by for a shot of nectar. In the process, he obliged the photographer waiting patiently.

Backlit romance

I noticed a pair of Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike moving from one leafless branch to another. As the two of them shared a moment, I managed to click a few frames. The round bokeh circles added more drama to the background.

Day 9

Green with envy

I was keeping watch on the coral tree brimming with activity when some movement on the adjacent tree dew my attention. Rising from my chair, I slowly made my way towards the tree. Couple of green birds were perched together. Looking through my lens, I discovered that they were Jerdon’s Leafbirds. This one is the male.

Lady purple

The lady Purple Sunbird sat poised, after a shot of nectar, before taking off and raiding other flowers.

Day 10

Streaky throat

A colourful woodpecker i.e. Streak-throated Woodpecker with shades of yellow, green, red. Based on my observations, this species spends quite a bit of time on the ground looking for tasty meals in comparison to other woodpeckers.

In full view

Here, one can clearly see the variety of colours on the streak-throated woodpecker. The red cap on the head differentiates the male from the female who has a black cap.

Day 11

Coppersmith

In recent times the ‘tuk tuk tuk’ call of the coppersmith has been resonating in my backyard. That evening, the Coppersmith Barbet stepped out into the open and displayed its incredible colours.

Hoodie

Striking yellow and black accompanied by a lovely call… that is the Black-hooded Oriole (male) for you. Usually shy, this one made a quick visit to the coral tree.

Day 12

Rooster’s tail

When light hits the tail of the Grey Junglefowl, it reveals the mind bogling colours that make up the rooster’s tail. I always wonder, why was this species given such a drab name!

In a spot of light

It is early morning and beautiful soft light hits the surface of a rock. Moments later a Spotted Dove alights on it to take the spot.

Day 13

Go green

A bird you hear almost all day long in the jungle and even in urban settings. While I was in Bangalore, I had a White-cheeked Barbet regularly visiting an avocado tree just outside my apartment window. This one however is a junglee!

Angry bird

Probably the nosiest birds (in my opinion) one can come across. Typically moving around in batches, they create quite a racket too. Looking at the expression of the bird here, I think Angry Birds drew their inspiration from the Jungle Babblers.

Day 14

Life on top

For a couple of weeks, this Crested Hawk-eagle has been surveying the area from the top of that tree. Staying motionless for hours except occasionally moving its head to the left or right. I enjoy making such images of the solitary species when the opportunity presents itself. 

Calling out to the lovely ladies

Yet again a late evening encounter with the Purple Sunbird (male). The metallic colors were on display as he was calling out (probably to the lovely ladies out there).

That is all for week two of the lockdown series. I look forward to sharing more pictures and stories for the coming week.

All images made with Nikon D850 along with a 600 F4 VR lens.

Week 1 – lockdown 21

On 23rd March, Tamil Nadu state had implemented a lockdown and restrictions across the state until 31st March as a precautionary measure to stop the spread of the Corona virus. The next day, PM Modi announced lockdown of the entire country for a duration of three weeks starting 25th March onwards. Social distancing was the weapon they hoped would contain spread of the virus.

I had just come out of social-media distancing (thanks to a friend who tagged me on a photo challenge). I thought to myself, how about posting one new image every day through the lockdown period.

A couple of coral trees were in full bloom and attracted a large number of winged wonders. I decided that would be a good place to start. Here is a small collection of images from the first week.

Day 1

Colors

A long time desire to make a satisfactory image of the colorful Plum-headed Parakeet (male) finally came true on day one.

Orange and Green

The pretty Vernal Hanging Parrot inspects the bunch of flowers before gorging on them.

Day 2

Spot of Purple

The usually busy Purple-rumped Sunbird (male) stopped moving for a few seconds while perched next to a bunch of coral tree flowers, allowing me to freeze a few frames.

A shade of Grey

An equally busy and tiny bird like the Purple-rumped Sunbird is the Cinereous Tit. This one too, took a break from constant branch-hopping and posed for the camera.

Day 3

A spot of White
Sparkling Bronze

The first image is of a White-bellied Drongo and the one below it, Bronzed Drongo. Both the drongo’s were competing with each other trying to catch flying insects, and at times, ambushing other birds who were preying on insects on the ground.

Day 4

Plum and a Pod

After flowers on a coral tree fall, pods form and offer a variety of birds, especially Parakeets, an unlimited food supply. Here, a female Plum-headed Parakeet feeds on a pod.

A long bill

Yet another variety of Sunbird. This time a Loten’s Sunbird (female). Also known as the long-billed sunbird, hence the caption!

Day 5

Handsome and Colorful

Orange flowers along with incredible colors on this handsome male Plum-headed Parakeet made for a striking image.

Day 6

Splash of paint

What would have otherwise been an ordinary image of a Red-vented Bulbul, changed due to the setting. Blurred coral flowers and green leaves in the background created a lovely paint like effect here.

Surprise visitor

Seeing a branch shaking on the adjacent tree, I was taken by surprise when I saw a Palm Squirrel feeding on a bunch of flowers. Though the squirrel didn’t stay long, I managed some images. First time, I saw a squirrel visit the coral tree.

Day 7

Color of the day
Lady Minivet

The ‘always on the move’ minivets took a break, and on separate occasions allowed me a few frames before going about business as usual. Orange is male and yellow is the female of the species.

Thats all for Week No.1 of the Lockdown. I continue my quest to make at least one image a day and present the second series in seven days.

All images made with Nikon D850 along with a 600 F4 VR lens. Few images have been made attaching a 1.4 TC II teleconverter.

Along rolled a tiger

It was safari number five and overcast conditions loomed over us as we entered the Moharli gate. While there was a cool breeze, some dark clouds hovering above us screamed of certain rain.

Ratan (our driver guide) proceeded towards Jamunbodi Lake with the hope of finally showing us a tiger. We stopped at the view point and I made a few images of the beautiful setting. A panoramic view of the lake is what I hoped to capture. My only regret was that it was overcast and the beautiful afternoon light that transforms the lake into a magical place, was absent that day.

A little ahead on the road, we noticed that a jeep had stopped and the occupants were looking upwards at a higher branch. As I was wondering what bird it could be, an Indian Roller took flight and flew right over us. Hoping the bird would perch close by, I kept my eyes on it. While it did land on a branch near me, it took off within seconds. A disappointment indeed.

Vikram excitedly announced ‘roller dikha toh tiger definitely dikhega’! No sooner had he spoken those words, our guide pointed to the right and said tiger! I strained my eyes and looked in the direction he pointed. I saw some movement in the bushes and soon a tiger emerged from the foliage.

From the foliage

Our guide identified the tiger as a female who is popularly called Maya. She slowly walked out into the open, giving everyone present, a grand view. In no time, from just a handful of jeeps, about 10-15 lined up there. Excitement knew no bounds for driver, guide and tourists for it had been almost three days since a tiger had been spotted.

She neared the jeeps, with clear intentions to cross the road. Armed only with a telephoto lens, all I could manage was a portrait of this beautiful tiger as she trudged along and finally crossed the track.

Deep focus

She crossed the track and seemed focused on something. Scanning the surrounding area, we discovered where her focus lay. A couple of Sambar Deer grazed, oblivious to the fact that a tiger had them in sight.

Person of interest

We were expecting some action, but unfortunately for the tiger and us, the sambar let out an alarm call. They had finally spotted her. Slowly, she made her way into denser foliage and then out of sight.

Where them sambar at?

As we were soaking in the sighting with smiles and handshakes, heavy drops fell on us and moments later we were in the middle of a cloudburst. All of us were drenched to the bone in that heavy downpour. Even the rain jacket didn’t help much to me and the equipment. We drove out and took shelter at a forest department office until the rain receded. We made one more round to the area we saw the tiger. No sign of movement, we decided to exit the park.

After we returned to our homestay, I immediately wiped all the equipment and put it out to dry. All was well..no issues!

It was later that evening, Vikram narrated to us about his unique connection between an Indian Roller sighting and a tiger. Every time he has seen that bird, he has spotted a tiger. Incredible!

Tadoba is a jungle close to my heart and it has rarely disappointed. That evening our stars aligned and thanks to the Indian Roller, along rolled a tiger.

From my trip to Tadoba in October 2019. All images made with Nikon D850 along with a 600 F4 VR lens.

A year on and still Sulking

As I sit in the hide, a familiar call takes me back to a little over a year ago. An evening session and an uncalled visitor; the Scimitar Babbler .

That evening, without warning the babbler showed up, sat on the perch meant for woodpeckers and in a jiffy dived into a water basin behind the hide, splashed and quenched its thirst and then restlessly visited every perch set up and in the end, settled on a branch of a neighbouring tree.

I can tell you quite honestly, I probably held my breath the longest, the camera tightest and prayed the hardest! All because getting this sulker out in the open and sit patiently is not an easy job.

Everyday I hear the scimitar sing, everyday I hope that he visits, everyday I hope for at least a guest appearance, everyday I am left wanting! It has been a year now, and the scimitar still sulks!

Here’s to maybe a visit, maybe a tease, maybe a sighting, just maybe a photograph!

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Image made with Nikon D750 + 600f4 VR atForest Hills Farm and Guesthouse

Monsoon Magic

I love the game drives into Bandipur during the monsoons. Wildlife amidst lush green surroundings and drops of rain is such a refreshing sight. On more than a few occasions, I got lucky witnessing some interesting behaviour and action, other times, pure joy of making images in the rain drenched forest. I have picked a few such moments!

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Headless | Bandipur Tiger Reserve, Karnataka, India

Off with your head! A jungle myna displays its hapless victim.

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Bandipur Tiger Reserve, Karnataka, India

Stripe-necked Mongoose devours a snake that saw no escape

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King Pool | Bandipur Tiger Reserve, Karnataka, India

A long gone king poses in his pool close to the safari track

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Heavy soaking | Chital – Bandipur Tiger Reserve, Karnataka, India

A beautiful stag stands still enjoying the generosity of the rain gods

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Kingfisher | Bandipur Tiger Reserve, Karnataka, India

Post rains, a white-throated kingfisher contemplates its next move.

This year the monsoon has finally made its presence felt. Time to make the best of what the jungles have to offer. Bandipur, Kabini…we just have to see!

 

Folktale of the Marula tree

Legend has it that the Marula Tree is a revered tree in African jungle.

An interesting story as narrated by Nick. In the olden days every house had a marula tree, and if not the houses, the village had a tree. If a family member was leaving home to pursue a job or new venture in the city, the bag would be placed under the marula tree by the grand parent or an elder and the family would offer prayers for the wellbeing and safety of the traveling member. And also that the he or she be successful in their endeavours.

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Marula Tree | Kruger, South Africa

When the city dweller returned, the bags again would be placed under the tree and prayers would be offered. After seeking blessings and thanking the revered one for keeping their family member safe, the family would invite all the near and dear to their home and serve them liquor brewed from the marula fruit. The festivities which included song and dance would continue into the wee hours of the morning. Such is the significance of the marula tree.

While it is revered by the the natives, the leaves and fruits are relished by elephants, baboons and other herbivores. Rumour has it that elephants have even gotten intoxicated feeding on fermented marula fruit which is also used to make liquor. Witessing an elephant standing under the marula tree and feeding on it leaves while out on a bush walk only made the folk tale sweeter.

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Elephant and the Marula Tree | Kruger, South Africa

The only regret during my sojourm in Kruger is that I didn’t try the famous Amurula liqueur which of course is made primarily with the marula fruit. Well, that is left for another time. Maybe try the local marula brew too đŸ™‚

In search of the Shaheen

On a beautiful afternoon, we ascended to ‘shaheen point’. Mahesh, Avinash and I were doing a trip after a long time. A short walk through tea bushes and we reached our vantage point i.e. a cliff with beautiful landscape around it. Dusky Craig Martins and Swallows hovered around us but none wanted to give their wings a break and perch on the ground for us.

We laid our cameras on the ground and soaked in the fresh air, soft sun and beautiful scenery. The falcons are usually seen on that rock, Sivalingam Anna mentioned. We looked across to another hill and saw a couple of rock protrusions. That is quite a distance away, I thought! We shall go across to that hill once we sight the falcon. Activity typically happens after 4.00 PM, Sivalingam added to his previous statement.

Thus began the waiting! Since the martins and the swallows wouldn’t give us an opportunity to shoot, we pulled out our phones and made pics of the the landscape. We added a few selfies too! There was excitement momentarily, when Sivalingam heard the falcons and pointed in their direction. Far across the hills, a tiny speck was flying and it was gone before I could see it.

Little after 4 PM, Mahesh pointed towards a rock. There is something on it, he said. Sivalingam looked through his binoculars and confirmed, Shaheen Falcon! The picture below is shot with a 600 mm lens and will give you an idea of how far we were.

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Shaheen Rock | Shaheen Falcon, Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu, India

The next thing I know, the four of us moved swiftly across to the opposite hill, walked again through tea bushes, a couple of culverts and loose soil. As soon as the falcon was within our sights, we relaxed the pace and slowly moved to a safe distance before we set up our cameras.

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Poser | Shaheen Falcon, Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu, India

The falcon, aware of of our presence sat unflinchingly and posed as we made images.

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A beauty | Shaheen Falcon, Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu

A closer look of this mid-sized raptor.

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Powerful Talons | Shaheen Falcon, Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu, India

The entire sighting must have lasted about 20-30 minutes and towards the end, another falcon swooped down and our friend on the rock finally took to his wings and soared into the skies.

The best part: I was seeing this species for the first time. A day which started with the search of the Kashmir Flycatcher, ended with an incredible sighting of the very beautiful Shaheen Falcon!

Thanks to the unrelenting efforts of Sivalingam Anna, birding and wildlife enthusiasts have the pleasure of seeing and making images of such species.

Walk the African bush

We are going to walk the bush where the Big 5 roam, so listen carefully to my instructions because it could be dangerous.” These words of Nick (Nicholas) I remember very distinctly. And not just me, the entire group who joined the bush walk, remember!

While Nick was giving us this briefing, we heard the familiar sound of loading guns and snapping the barrel back in place. We turned around to see Andrew getting geared up before the bush walk began. Now this felt like we were venturing into a dangerous war zone. Time for further instructions.

  • Do not talk while on the walk! (definitely no talking, don’t want guns pointing in the direction of noisy people)
  • Andrew and I will lead, rest of you follow closely and in a tight line (as long as the person in front of me has no body odour)
  • If anyone of you wants to attract our attention, whistle or tap on the side of your thigh. Do not shout! (that is going to be difficult, we are used to shouting aloud). Even if you want to tie your shoe lace…everyone looked at their shoes and promptly bent to check and retie their laces. Hilarious! (don’t want to lose a shoe or trip on a lace while a buffalo is close on your heels)

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    Guides and Gunmen | Bush Walk, Kruger National Park, South Africa

Once the briefing was done, Nick pointed out to an elephant grazing at a distance, we are going to get a closer view, he said. Though referred to as gentle giants, the huge African elephant didn’t appear so gentle when walking towards it on foot. Trusting Nick and Andrew, we set off on our walk.

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Off on our Bush Walk | Kruger National Park, South Africa

Not approaching the elephant directly, we reached a vantage point and Nick motioned us to stop. No sudden movements, he said. Nick went on to explain that we had approached the elephant with the wind blowing toward us hence the elephant was oblivious to our presence. Had the wind been blowing from our direction towards the elephant, he would been alerted after smelling our presence. It could have led to two things, either the elephant would move away or walk in the direction of the scent. Since none of that happened, I clicked a few pictures and soon we were continuing our walk.

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Grazing peacefully | Elephant – Bush Walk, Kruger National Park, South Africa

Nick handed over the reins to Andy and we proceeded further. Stopping at a small waterhole, Andy and Nick went on to explain how a small puddle caused by an elephant foot gradually evolves into a larger waterhole. First an elephant foot creates a puddle, a warthog comes along and sits in it and wallows, making it bigger, then come a few buffalo who do the same and the waterhole becomes larger, as water collects over a season, the process repeats with the elephants, warthog, buffalo and other wildlife. All this explained beautifully by Andy and Nick.

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Making of a waterhole | Bush Walk, Kruger National Park, South Africa

As we proceeded, Andy stopped to explain marks on trees too. Some by lions and leopards, others by buffalo and elephants. A few trees essential for the herbivores were shown and a brief explanation was offered.

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Marks on a Tree | Bush Walk, Kruger National Park, South Africa

An uneventful walk (in terms of encounters, thankfully we did not come across agitated elephants or angry buffalos) was coming to an end. Nick and Andy motioned us to stop and dropped a bomb on us “do any one of you have an idea which direction our jeep is parked?” All of us were stumped and proceeded to point in all directions. That is when both explained why it is extremely important to have some idea of the direction in case one gets lost or beat a hasty retreat. My only recollection of the jeep is in the picture below. Hahahaha!

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Andy, Jeep and I | Bush Walk, Kruger National Park, South Africa

Back at the jeep, Andy and Nick answered our questions patiently.  A few pictures with an elephant in the background and thereafter back to the lodge for a glass of beer.

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Gunmen guides with the bushwalker friends | Kruger, South Africa

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The gunmen guides, new friends from Kruger and I | Kruger, South Africa

Despite having done many walks and hikes in my backyard (Forest Hills, Mudumalai, India), this one was very informative, enjoyable and definitely ‘a walk to remember’!