A self-taught wildlife photographer, 29-year-old Varun Aditya from Coimbatore, conjures up images that can only be described as other-worldly. Back in 2013, he had won a National Geographic contest that took him to Costa Rica and Panama, and since then there has been no looking back. In this interview, he talks about some of his favourite wildlife destinations. By Kasturi Das

 

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Tell us about your favourite places to shoot in India.

The first place that I fell in love with is Kabini Wildlife Sanctuary in Karnataka. It consists of the south-eastern part of Nagarhole National Park. For people who haven’t been there, I would describe Kabini as a magical place. There are many teak trees, which gives it a mystical look. It also happens to be one of the most expensive national parks in India. Bandipur National Park is another place that I love. I have practised most of my photography in these two places.

Anamalai Tiger Reserve is another gem that lies in the Western Ghats. It is home to exotic endemic wildlife such as the lion-tailed macaque. Kanha National Park is another favourite because of the towering sal trees, which make for amazing backgrounds in photos. Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary in Rajasthan is another favourite. It is one of those places where you can hire a cycle and explore the place. It is a paradise for bird lovers and photographers. Next is Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand. There you can see hundreds of elephants from April to June. The Ramganga river that passes through the park is also a sight worth witnessing.

 

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… and across the globe?

My first love and my second home is Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. It is a mecca for wildlife photographers. It’s rich in wildlife, and the sunrise and sunset are stunning. Another favourite of mine is Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. It is the only place where one can see tree-climbing lions.

Amboseli National Park in Southern Kenya, which is known for its large elephant herds and spectacular views of Mount Kilimanjaro, across the border in Tanzania, is another terrific place.

Borneo in Indonesia is also a great place to see and photograph orangutans. But it is extremely sad that palm oil plantations are leading to loss of habitat of orangutans and there are very few of them remaining in the world now.

 

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Which is the best season for wildlife tours in India?

My choice of places to shoot depends on the season. Every park or sanctuary has its own charm. I love to visit Kaziranga National Park in Assam during the monsoons – just before the park closes – to experience the true beauty of Kaziranga. During this time, the park is full of pink spider flowers that bloom on rhino dung. It makes for a beautiful sight.

People usually visit Jim Corbett in May to see herds of elephants. But if you want to see the real beauty of the forest, December and January is the time to visit. You won’t get to see too many elephants, but the forest looks stunning!

Ranthambore sees a rush of tourists from March till May. I usually go there during the off-season, when a few zones are open. During this time it’s hard to spot a big cat, but when you see a bright orange tiger against lush greenery, it makes the visit worth it.

Kabini and Bandipur again are at their best when it’s foggy. I like to go there by the end of the rainy season or during winters.

 

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One underrated place?

Madagascar. It should be on the list of every wildlife enthusiast. You will find the rarest species in Madagascar. More than half the world’s chameleons and dozens of species of lemur can be found here. The inhabitants of this country are so kind and innocent. The only problem is erratic flight services in Madagascar.

 

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One thing that wildlife lovers should watch out for during a trip?

Alarm calls – it is the most serene experience one can have in an Indian forest. Animals make alarm calls when they sense predators. It’s a clue for you to stay put and expect to see a tiger or other predators. If you happen to visit a tiger territory in the monsoons or winters when the forest wears a mystifying look, and you hear an alarm call – it’s just incredible.

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