Bengal Photo Tour – A journey through the diversity

12 Days – Bengal Photo Tour

Bengal – a journey through the diversity

This Bengal Photo Tour of 12 days will unfold the rich cultural and natural diversity of Bengal, which finds its existence in history as early as 300BC. Our journey will start in Kolkata – a center of the Cultural Revolution and Renaissance then take you further south to the estuary to experience the magical and mythical Mangroves. The journey from here to the northern part in hills in Darjeeling will present a sharp contrast with the magnificent view of valleys, tea gardens, mountains, and incredible hospitality. This tour will also include 2/3 days hiking in the highest part of Darjeeling – the Singalila National Park.

Highlights

  • Food & history walk
  • Mangrove cruising
  • Rural experience
  • Hiking in the mountains
  • Tea garden Experience
  • Steam train ride

Places covered:

Kolkata – A center of the Indian Independence movement, and once the center of modern Indian education, science, culture, and politics — Kolkata’s recorded history began in 1690 with the arrival of Job Charnock, an agent of the English East India Company, at three swampy villages named Sutanutee, Gobindapur and Kolikata. From diverse points of view, Kolkata is considered a unique, bewitching city, a place riddled with contradictions between order and chaos, a place that consistently keeps attracting the tourists from near and far for its food, culture, and vibes.

Sundarbans takes you to a different world surrounded by myths and mysteries. The vast mangroves in the southern part of Bengal are a natural playground of The Royal Bengal Tiger apart from a large variety of birds, diverse collection of reptiles, mammals, and fish. During your tour, you will be taken to various islands through narrow creeks and canals which are only navigable with the time of tides, and you can experience myriad life forms of the great delta ecology.

Darjeeling, “The Land of Thunderbolt’ or popularly known as “The Queen of Hills” is regarded as one of the best Hill Retreats in the world for its pleasant climate, great views of the highest mountains, beautiful tea gardens producing world’s finest brews, Himalayan Heritage Steam Train, old monasteries and charming people.

Sandakphu The highest point of Bengal in picturesque Singalila National Park and a fascinating hiking trail known for a vibrant Rhododendron Valley with a sweeping view of a 360-degree panorama of greater Himalayan Range, which includes top mountain peaks of the world as Mt Everest and Mt Kunchenjungha.

Chamong Tea Garden, the first of the Chiabari Tea Retreats opened to the public, started out as a tea garden back in 1867 when J. A. Wernicke, the German owner the nearby Lingia estate (now a part of the Chamong Group) planted the estate around a temple to Tamsa Devi, a local deity. A perfect retreat to soak in the nature. Stay in the sprawling bungalow, walk in the tea garden, meet the local tea workers, interact with garden manager, taste different tea.

Images from the 

Bengal Photo Tour

Itinerary of the Bengal Photo Tour

Day 1 – Kolkata arrival day

On your arrival at Kolkata International Airport, you will be greeted warmly by our representative, who will give you a short brief on the tour and on the city and help you to get on the car. We take you to your pre-booked hotel and assist you to check-in. Our wonderful Bengal Photo Tour starts. Choose to take lunch at your hotel or go outside in the city center and explore the traditional Bengali cuisine in the Esplanade area. Or just simply stay back at the hotel and try to get rid of the jetlag after a long flight. Or if you are in full of energy and can’t wait to hit the city, we would recommend you to go for a visit to the New Market area, the busiest market place that brings life in Kolkata, and enjoy its mazy historical shop filled alleys to get accustomed with the city life.

Day 2 – Full day city tour in Kolkata

After breakfast, we will try to cover most of the prominent landmarks of the old heritage city.

  • The flower market at Howrah is the largest flower market in Asia. The essence of the old Kolkata can be found at this place as you walk down the alleys full of flowers. The Flower Market will steal your glances for a series of colorful street photographs that you would happily flaunt to your friends once you go back home.
  • Howrah Bridge The iconic Howrah Bridge on Strand Lane in Kolkata is one of the breathtaking architectures built during British India. Howrah Bridge is an example where art meets architecture for its sheer beauty and stoutness.
  • KumorTuli (The Potters’ village) A part of North Kolkata is filled with dingy lanes and as you stop by any of them the aroma that draws your attention at once is the rustic smell of wet clay. This is the wonderland where the Gods and Goddesses of Bengali’s are given face and shape, and the busy kumors or the potters of this locality keep the idol-making business going with ardor and allegiance.
  • Culinary Walking Tour in Kolkata – 3hrs

It’s not only Italians who love to experiment with spaghetti and pizzas. Or if you have been thinking that it’s French and Mexicans who’ve got a taste for various preparations then visit Kolkata for once to break the myth. Believe it or not, but food addiction of Bengalis is no less impressive than that of any Italian, French, American, or Mexican. From homemade preparations to street food items, Kolkatans never fail to impress you with their culinary creativity. Bengalis have always possessed a dynamic culture and the various food items found across this state showcase a unique blend of fervor with flavors.

Today we will experience and take snaps of traditional dance forms of Kerala. An early morning visit is needed to join a training schedule of Kalaripayuttu, ‘the mother of all martial art’, originated in 2nd century BC, and still now religiously practiced by dedicated young gymnasts.  The visual experience of grace and swiftness is really a challenge to trap on your lenses! In the evening visit the performance and make-up session of ‘ Kathakali’– the most gorgeous and famous dance of Kerala. In between visit to the Mattancherry  – the trade center of spices, where the Jews built up a  synagogue and Dutch constructed an ornate palace for the king, to get hold of the immensely lucrative supply of spices in 17 century! Visit both the monuments, and take snaps.

Day 3 – Kolkata to Sundarbans transfer by privet car 3hrs and privet cruise 1.5hr

Today on our Bengal Photo Tour, we have breakfast at your hotel and check out by 8 AM. Our representative will meet you at the reception and take you to the car. Start driving to Godkhali Jetty by privet car. The journey runs through the typical rural Bengal and small country markets. The noise of modernization fades away as you drive along the countryside road towards Sundarbans. You will have an optional stopover to local tea shops and villages. Within a 3hrs of a drive, we reach the Jetty where our local representative will receive you and brief about the day’s plan. Here we board on the privet motorboat and cruise through the waterways – the communication lifeline for the local people living in the delta. After a sailing of approx one and a half hours, we reach our destination village on an island. We check-in at the camp resort in the island village. Hot lunch will be served here. After lunch, you have the time to get accustomed to the environment and then we take you for a cruise through the natural creeks and canals to Sajnekhali Watch Tower mainly for bird watching and animal sighting.  The afternoon is ideal for bird watching as you can see many of them return to their nest in a flock and the sun sets in the horizon with a splash of color in the river water. This is also a good time for the photographers to catch the mood of the place.

Day 4 – Full day cruise and Village tour in Sundarbans

The early morning light is the best for photography purposes and also for bird watching. Wait for the right moment for a lifetime shot of sunrise with the backdrop of mangroves and golden creeks that shine with the sun. This is also a good time to catch the early day village activities. The fisherman at the net or the village women bringing drinking water from the freshwater pond will definitely add a story to your photo frame. Stay at bed till 7oclock and you are surely going to miss the early morning flavor. The day-long cruise starts at 8.30 AM and guided by our naturalist explore the world’s largest mangrove delta in the best way possible. We take you to some of the most important islands – Netidhopani and Dobanki, which are mainly known for Tiger spotting. From the top of the watchtowers in these two places, you can try your luck to spot the majestic Royal Bengal Tigress playing with its cubs in the distant meadow. The photographs posted on the walls of the watchtower will at least give you the feel of how a playful tigress with the cubs looks like. The sight is tempting but is a rare occurrence. So we do not encourage you to expect too much.

Talk to the boatman with the help of our guide and listen to his spine chilling experience about a tiger encounter as we slowly return to our camp with another fascinating sunset in the background.

The warmth of your room awaits you at the camp. Get refreshed and we serve you dinner. Get a book on the Sundarbans from the small but well-stocked camp library and soak into the natural history of the place as the night deepens with a distant call of an owl.

Day 5 – Morning exploration of village and return to Kolkata

Early breakfast and go for a guided village tour. Here you will have the opportunity to interact with the villagers, know about their way of life and survival strategy. Learn how they go to the forests to earn their livings – to collect fuelwood or honey or for fishing and how they keep themselves safe from various dangers – the human ‘loving’ tigers, crocodiles, snakes and sometimes even pirates. Well, most of the times they successfully return to their family to share their experience and get ready for the next day’s survival. See their local handicraft, cuisine and even visit a small local primary school. You may also be interested to meet the youths who have turned into environment workers leaving behind their poaching activities. Have an early lunch at the camp and we return to Kolkata (2hrs boat and 3hrs drive).

Day 6 – Kolkata Airport transfer and fly/drive to Darjeeling

Today on our Bengal Photo Tour we take you to the airport for the morning flight to Bagdogra. Arrival at Bagdogra and Transfer to Darjeeling (Alt 6825Ft / 2050M) – 90kms in 3hrs. On your arrival, you will be greeted warmly by our representative, who will give you a short brief on the tour and hand you over the travel documents before taking you to the car. The journey runs on the traditional Hill Cart Road snaking its way through the Sal forests of Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary and then slowly climbing up the hills to Kurseong – a tea-growing area dotted with lush green garden. The narrow gauge Himalayan rail track follows you as you cross several small picturesque villages on your way. You will also have the opportunity to see the toy train running on a heritage steam engine. The view of the snow-clad mountains on the horizon gets prominent as you climb up the hills towards Darjeeling. On arrival, we assist you to check-in at Hotel. In the evening you can go for a short walk to the Mall or Chowrasta to get a feel the daily buzz of local life. This is an important social gathering place in Darjeeling where the tourists as well as the local people come, meet, shop, and dine.

Read more Day 7-12

Day 7 – Full day Darjeeling City tour

Today on our Bengal Photo Tour we go for a city tour in Darjeeling and cover the following places.

·        Tiger Hill tour – 3 to4 hrs by car both ways. Ideal time from 4 AM to 7.30 AM. To get a fascinating Sun Rise over the Highest Himalayan Mountain Peaks you must visit Tiger Hill on top of the Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary. Brave a chilled morning and wake up at 3.30 AM to drive to Tiger Hill in 45min drive. We will organize some hot tea or coffee at Tiger Hill to keep you warm. On clear weather, you can see the magical display of colors on the snow ridges at dawn.

·        DHR (Darjeeling Himalayan Rail) Joy Ride. A ride in the heritage Himalayan toy train run by 100 years old steam engine is perhaps the most lucrative experience in Darjeeling. The ride starts from Darjeeling and takes you to Ghoom with a stop to picturesque Batasia Loop and Ghoom Station with a visit to the museum. The train runs 4 times a day but the morning shift is most attractive as it gives a nice view of the mountains passing through the tea garden, market, and village houses. The train returns to Darjeeling in 1.5hrs covering a total distance of 18kms.

·        Ghoom Monastery. If you are interested in Buddhist Gompa (Monastery) the 160years old Yiga Choeling Monastery at Ghoom is a place you must visit. This is near the Ghoom railway station on the Hill Cart Road and can be reached on your way back to Hotel from Tiger Hill or on your way to Gangtok, Mirik, or Bagdogra. Built-in the year of 1875 the monastery belongs to the yellow sect of Gelugpas Buddhists and holds some rare collection of scriptures and images of Lord Buddha.

·        Mahakal Temple and cave. The oldest temple of Lord Shiva, locally known as Mahakal Temple is located on the observatory hill above Darjeeling Mall. It takes about 15 minutes uphill walk to the temple from the mall and you can see the coexistence of Buddhist and Hindu religion. A walk through the thickly wooded hills is rewarding on a clear day when you can see a vast panorama with several snow peaks on the horizons. Walk down a few steps and you can see the primitive cave with several Hindu idols placed inside it.

Day 8 – Darjeeling to Singalila National park 2hrs drive and 3hrs hike

This day we go for fascinating hiking in the highest point of Darjeeling in the Singalila National Park. We start from Darjeeling by car to Tonglu (2900M/9657Ft)  in about 2hrs and from here we start hiking to Kalepokhri (3081M/10260Ft),– 11kms in 3hrs. From Tonglu we descend to Tumling – a small village on the Indo-Nepal Border and then to Joubari village all along with the Nepalese territory. On the way, you will see the simple village people busy with their daily household work – trudging up the hills with a load of fodder to feed their cattle or plowing the difficult terrine on the rugged hill slopes. Spend some time in the scenic village and meet the villagers. Another half an hour trek from here will take you down to Gairibans at 2620M. Situated on a low basin like terrain with forested hills on all side Gairibans is a very important area in Singalila National Park for its rare population of Red Panda. The reach vegetation of Bamboo, oaks, and chestnut forests is a natural home of this magnificent little creature. This place also shelters other rare Himalayan species like Himalayan Black Bear, Himalayan Goat, leopard, and many species of rare birds. Satyr Tragopan, Monal Pheasant are some of the most interesting feathered creatures. Today’s accommodation is in the Trekkers hut in Gairibans. Get refreshed and after lunch walk around the forest and try to take a rare shot of a Red Panda or Tragopan in the wild.

Day 9 – Kalepokhri to Sandakphu (3636M / 12108Ft)

Trek Distance – 10 km in 4hrs,

A chorus of birds chirping from the surrounded forests wakes you up in the morning. We serve you breakfast and start the day’s trek to Sandakphu. This part of the trek has some sharp bends as you follow the village road till Bikebhanjang at 3346M /10978ft. From here the road ascends sharply to Sandakphu as you trudge up through the prime forests of Rhododendron and Magnolia to the highest point in Darjeeling Hills. The brilliant view of the snow-capped mountains stretched across the horizons will never allow you to feel the strain of walking. We reach Sandakphu by afternoon and take you to your room at a small lodge. Get refreshed and we know you are hungry.

Sandakphu commands a magnificent view of the entire snow ranges of the Kanchenjunga Mountains. All major peaks of Kunchenjungha range with Mt Everest and Makalu in far western Nepal, Donkyala Pass, and Chola Range in Tibetan Frontier with Chomlohori Range in Bhutan are distinctly visible in a clear day. Watch the splendors of nature – as the day progresses mists coiling up from the valley below to form a vast sea of clouds beneath your feet. It is now time to go back to your lodge to seek the warmth of the room.

Day 10 – Sandakphu (3636M / 12108Ft) to Srikhola (2450M/8160Ft) trek and drive to Chamong Tea Garden

Trek Distance – 13kms downhill in 4hrs and 3hrs drive,

It is another beautiful morning at Sandakphu. Wake up early to see the magic being created over the horizons with the early rays of the sun gently touching the summit of the world’s highest mountains. If you are lucky you can see an unbelieving span of 320kms of whole snowy ridges of Nepal-Sikkim-Tibet and Bhutan. Spend some spellbound moments watching at the vast mountains as nature pours its colors on the snow ridges and you will forget everything else. We serve you breakfast and start for the day’s trek to Gurdung – a small beautiful village on a ridge surrounded by forest. After lunch at Gurdung, we continue our trek to Srikhola. This part of the trek is fairly easy as it is almost a level walk until Srikhola River. In Srikhola you will get the car which will take you to Chamong Tea Garden in another 3hrs drive. Check-in at the Bungalow with warm traditional tea hospitality of the garden people.

Day 11 – Full day in the tea garden – relax in the retreat or explore the garden

Today we explore the garden with the manager and experience the entire process of tea manufacturing with tea plucking, factory visit followed by tea testing of various blends of Darjeeling flavor. Visit Tea Factory where our Estate Manager will take you for a guided tour on how the leaf is brought in from the fields, weighed, and then taken through the processes of Withering, Rolling, Fermenting, Drying and finally, Sorting. Walk or drive through the tea fields with one of our guides, who will give you an insight into how the tea bush is grown and looked after. Learn how to pluck the “two leaves and a bud” – that is later manufactured into the tealeaf that ends up in your teacup! During the winter season, learn about the different types of pruning that is undertaken to increase the yield of the coming season. Interact with the Estate workers as you move from one part of the estate to another. Enjoy the multitude of birdlife, butterflies, and flora that add to the diverse landscape that makes up a tea estate. The day ends with a Tea Tasting Session, where one can discover the differences in aroma, flavor, and appearance of tea manufactured in different ways, and during different times of the year. The session also includes tasting teas from other parts of India and the world, together with examples of flavored and blended teas.

Day 12 – Return to Bagdogra – 55 km in 2hrs

After Breakfast, we will take you to the garden where you can plant a Tea plan in your name and then we will check out from the garden. Now we drive back to the airport via Mirik – another scenic destination in Darjeeling Hills with a nice Lake guarded by forested hills on all sides. The beautiful drive also passes through some lush green tea gardens in Darjeeling. We bid you farewell in Bagdogra and from here we take the onward flight to Kolkata for your international connection. End of our Bengal Photo Tour

Questions about this tour?
Email me tim-vollmer@gmx.de
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Bengal Photo Tour

US$ 4995
(private min. 2 People)

per person in a double room

US$  

single supplement

Dates:

September through April

Duration:

12 days/11 nights

Photographic themes:

Landscape, wildlife, villages, mountains, culture, people,

Places:

Kolkatta,

Sundarbans,

Darjeeling,

Sandakphu,

Chamong Tea Garden

Private Bengal Photo Tour

included:

  • Transfer from/to airport upon arrival and departure
  • Accommodation on full board
  • Return flight Kolkatta – Bagdogra
  • Vehicle support throughout with driver in Kolkata and in Darjeeling
  • Special story walker for walking/food tour in Kolkata
  • Accompanied English speaking guide for all days
  • Privet Motor Boat in Sundarbans with mangrove cruise
  • Toy train ride in Darjeeling
  • During Trek in Sandakphu service of personal porter will be provided
  • All activity as mentioned in the plan with flexibility
  • All entrances and Tax as applicable
  • All GOVT Tax, toll fees, parking etc
  • Professional Photographic Guide Tim Vollmer

Not included:

  • International Airfare
  • Alcohol
  • Travel insurance, health insurances.
  • Items of a personal nature such as laundry, drinks, camera or video fees at any sites etc.
  • Tips for your guide and driver (discretionary)
  • What is not mentioned as included

Getting there:

You will organise your own travel to and from Kolkatta.

Join me on the

Bengal Photo Tour

Photography Instructor for the Bengal Photo Tour

Bengal Photo Tour
Tim Vollmer

Tim has devoted his life to photography. Photography has been his long-held hobby and great passion. Tim has always felt himself drawn to the power and beauty he finds in nature. Tim has been leading photo tours and workshops in Iceland and many different countries over the years. He has had the world as his workplace. He is Photographing everything from the dramatic landscape in Iceland, to the native people in the remote corners of the world and the culture that are unique to each country. His journeys have taken him around the world in pursuit of memorable travel experiences and the creation of compelling images. His work has been featured in international publications. His images and stories are shared on various internet outlets. As a driven artist, professional, entrepreneur and an adventurer, Tim is eager to share his passion, knowledge in photography and travel through the tours he designed on his own, or through his partnership with professional photographers from around the globe. Tim and his family lived 11 years in Iceland. Now they are based in Czech Republic.

Call Tim Vollmer Now : (00420) 732 203 764