On Assignment in India

I never dreamt of going to India, in fact it was so far off my radar that I had absolutely no prior conceptions or expectations. It did not even feature on my creased and coffee stained map of the world, which forever lies sprawled out on my bedroom floor. In my dreams I had journeyed to far off lands, conversing in tongues that have yet to be jotted down in pen. I had battled the rough seas and traipsed deep gorges. I was an explorer.

With the exception of watching the Life of Pi a couple of weeks ago, and spending hours glued in front of the television watching the South African cricketers ply their trade in the IPL, I must admit I knew nothing about this spicy land. Nothing of its people, its culture, its landscapes or it animals…okay I lie, I knew one thing; India was the home to magical Tiger!

I have heard various interpretations as to the meaning of the colours shown on the Indian flag. I liked this one: Saffron - a symbol of courage White - peace, purity and honesty Green - hope, joy and fertility The spinning wheel - the spreading of spiritual blessings and well being.
I have heard various interpretations as to the meaning of the colours shown on the Indian flag. I liked this one:
Saffron – a symbol of courage
White – peace, purity and honesty
Green – hope, joy and fertility
The spinning wheel – the spreading of spiritual blessings and well being.

I have set myself a wonderful goal in my lifetime – to see as many of the cats, in the wild, as possible. There are currently thought to be 36 of them and I have managed to see twelve thus far. Emphasis must go on the WILD part, as it is this that will mean I shall get to explore, adventure, travel, learn and head off to remote locations in their pursuit. An idea sprung about by a passion for cats and a realization that it is not only the destination or the goal, but also the journey, which enriches life.

I consider myself a bit of an Indiana Jones of the Cat World. A Big Cat fanatic who intends to carve out a living observing, filming, photographing, writing, promoting and conserving these animals; teaching others about them, where to view them and why I find them so fascinating. So, when I got an exceptionally kind invitation to go to India, and venture into the area renowned for the fact that it supports one of the largest, most stable, wild populations of tigers left today, I jumped at it like Richard Parker did for land!

The first destination was the Sher Bagh lodge, bordering on the Ranthambhore National Park, found in the cultural hotbed of Rajasthan. The brief was to work hand-and-hand with the locals and family that owns the lodge to document (via the use of images, film and text), an account of what happens on a day-to-day basis at this remarkable camp. To explore avenues to show the world that this luxury, family owned lodge is situated in probably the best wild Tiger viewing location in the world.

The picture of the Sher Bagh swimming pool, shown on the website, is so alluring - I can promise you that it is even better in real life!
The picture of the Sher Bagh swimming pool, shown on the website, is so alluring – I can promise you that it is even better in real life!.

I boarded the plane and in a heartbeat found myself landing on the tarmac of Indira Gandhi International Airport. The plane door opened and I was immediately bathed in the aroma and sounds of New Delhi. It was chaos and I loved it! It is worth going if only to see how talented the drivers are. The kindest, warm hearted and most colourful people welcomed me, with open arms, into their vibrant country. Day one and the pessimistic side of me was already hooked… a true explosion of senses.

Immediately I could tell that this was going to be a spiritual reawakening for me.
Immediately I could tell that this was going to be a spiritual reawakening for me. Unexpected surprises around every corner. Magic!
My first glimpse of a tiger was in a painting found in the National Museum
My first glimpse of a tiger was in a painting found in the National Museum
India Gate in central New Delhi
India Gate in central New Delhi

After a few nights in the outskirts of Delhi I boarded a train and headed south. I spent six hours glued to the window, soaking it all in, watching a foreign life flash before my eyes. Foreign, but yet uncannily like my homeland of South Africa. The city sprawl gradually turned into farmland and then eventually in the distance a mountain range stood proud.

Waiting at the train station, just minutes after watching the sunrise over Delhi. A sensory overload.
Waiting at the train station, just minutes after watching the sunrise over Delhi. A sensory overload.
A rough map showing the locations of the two luxury lodges I would be filming at. The first, Sher Bagh, is found on the periphery of the Ranthambhore National Park. The second destination will be The Serai. A luxury tented camp in cultural hotbed of Jaisalmer
A rough map showing the locations of the two luxury lodges I would be filming at. The first, Sher Bagh, is found on the periphery of the Ranthambhore National Park. The second destination will be The Serai: a luxury tented camp in Jaisalmer

Two sandstone hillocks guard one of the only safe passages up the cliff face. The remains of a famous fort, believed to be over 1000 years old, sit high up on the apex of the left most cliffs…together these cliffs make up Ranthambhore “Place of the pillars of war”. I grabbed my luggage and stepped out onto the noisy siding. I looked just like a movie set.

My heart was beating fast…I had just arrived in the land of the Tiger!

Follow my accounts over the next few weeks as I journey around Rajasthan: the Land of Kings

A distant view of a portion of the fort sitting right at the top of the cliff.
A distant view of a portion of the fort sitting right at the top of the cliff.
A close up of the Ranthambhore Fort
A close up of the Ranthambhore Fort
A picture of me holding my camera mounted on a 3 foot glider. One of my goals was to film a short promotional video for the two lodges run by Sujan. These tools, camera and glider, will become extensions of myself over the following weeks. Usually I consider myself a photographer, but for this trip I am concentrating on movement rather than stills.
A picture of me holding my camera mounted on a 3 foot glider. One of my goals was to film a short promotional video for the two lodges run by Sujan. These tools will become extensions of myself over the following weeks.

Written and photographed by Adam Bannister

33 thoughts on “On Assignment in India

  1. Adam after following you on the Londolzi site and enjoying your writing and photographs, I am now looking forward to your reports and photos from India.This one is a great starter!

    1. Thanks Pat. It was an absolutely incredible experience. I look forward to hearing what you have to say about some of the moments…

  2. Nice blog Adam, great to hear more about your adventures and see the wonderful country of India from your perspective. I agree with you that the Sher Bagh swimming pool is even better in real life!!

    1. Hey Rich! Thanks! It gets even better with the summer setting and no one wants to leave it, unless to go on a Game Drive. Hope you are well!
      Best…

  3. Adam, what are the 12 cats you have seen in the wild and what is next on your list? This looks like an incredible place and an amazing journey. I look forward to the next post…

    1. Hi Gavin. So far: Cheetah, Tiger, Leopard, Lion, Jaguar, Margay, African Wild Cat, Ocelot, Jungle Cat, Caracal, Serval and I included a domestic cat for arguments sake. Next is hopefully some Jaguaraundi, Pantanal Cat and Puma…and then the ultimate Snow Leopard. You will see one of the posts coming up is dedicated solely to Big Cats…enjoy

      1. I am so happy to have found you! I am interested in India, and your writing makes it come to life for me.
        And the snow leopard, my favorite of all the wild cats!
        Can you send me to your photos of them??
        Looking forward to reading more… great job!

  4. Great blog and photos Adam .
    I will be following your accounts on this amazing country it’s wildlife and hidden treasures .
    Can’t wait for the next blog .

    1. Thanks Anat. Good to see you on this blog too. I hope I can keep you and many others entertained. I think we aim on putting one post up every Tuesday and Friday

  5. Great piece of writing Mate and amazing photography! Miss the adventures….Hugely look forward to the forthcoming articles!

  6. I would follow you around the world. And it seems as if that is what you are doing. India is on my list and your writing and photographs as always have taken me there until I can actually get there.
    I look forward to more of your photographs of the BIG CATS especially now the tiger. I also look forward to your writing and learning about the animals you photograph.
    Sujan like Londolozi appears to be a wonderful destination. I look forward to learning more and seeing more of your videos ad photography.

    1. Thanks Irene for the very kind words. I am sure you will enjoy the one post dedicated to pics of the Big Cats

  7. This is wonderful Adam,i really enjoyed the blog you ran at Londolozi for so long and look forward to more from India,thanks for sharing.

  8. Hey, Adam,
    Thank you for sharing your wonderful experiences and photos with us. I loved reading your blgs and of course your amazing book about the Sabi Sand wildlife and especially the cats. I had always hoped we might at some stage meet up there. But who knows, eh? All the best, I hope you get to see many more amazing things and especially the big cats!

  9. Well done Adam. Really looking forward to all of your blogs, but the snow leopard is most anticipated. All the best.

  10. Wow, Adam, what great adventures you’ve had – and ever greater ones ahead! I’m looking forward to sharing your experiences and some of your photo techniques, too! We’ll be at Londolozi next month and at Sher Bagh in Jan 2014. I’ll be jealously poring over your tiger shots til then!

  11. Hi Adam,
    I was in Londolozi a few years ago and have enjoyed your blog and I have your enthusiastic E-book about the lions.. Read it in one swoop.
    We just came back from 4 weeks Rajasthan and visited Ranthambore where we saw Machalli…sensory overdrive is all of the above. India is indeed incredible and it’s people as wonderful as the people from South Africa . Make sure you meet the people of India, as much as the seeing the wildlife. You get the kindest and the best smiles on camera. And when in Jaisalmer meet the folks who organized “I love Jaisalmer” and cleaned up the city walls . Inspirational. Only one caution, be careful not getting a tendinitis whilst taking your pictures as I did, since I could not stop taking them in my four weeks in India and came back with eight thousand of them….and I had missed thousands I wish I had taken… You are in for the journey of your life. Enjoy and keep blogging. Love it. All the best. JE

  12. Thanks so much for all the comments everyone. Glad you enjoyed. I’m sure that you will all enjoy the next installment on Friday

  13. Hi Adam, very interesting blog. Also, got a crucial info about the total number of current existing cat types. Curious to know what are the 36 types of cats.. :)

  14. I am incredibly jealous… but more importantly elated that you are having such a great time. It is a dream of mine to visit India and your blog is successfully feeding that fire. Thank-you my friend. I look forward to the next piece.

  15. Hi Adam,

    One of the reasons why we opted to go to Londolozi last August was because of your blog. Just like you, India is far off my radar. Maybe you will change my mind too about it, Great blog and looking forward for more.

    1. Maria that is very special that you say that. It really makes my work, my writing, filming and photography seem all that more rewarding. I hope you enjoy this series of posts and maybe, just maybe, can lure you into the magic THAT IS INDIA!

  16. HI Adam, wonderful to read your blog again.I´ve never been to India, but your blog really maakes me want to go there on day. In our country we have one sort of a wild cat, the lynx which is very rare to be seen
    I´m looking forward to Friday to read more of what you have experienced. good luck Elisabeth

  17. Awesome blog Ad, great to see you carrying on the good work!
    Am very jealous of your travels!
    Keep me posted for when you plan a trip to see a snow leopard, and let me know if there’s space for one more person…

    Jamo

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