Female-Led Wildlife Photography Travel: A Detailed Guide

Female-Led Wildlife Photography Travel: A Detailed Guide

Wildlife photography is an industry that has arguably been dominated by men. While there are a lot of reasons for this imbalance, safety (or lack thereof) for women traveling alone is often the most common reason. 

But, the magical and rich biodiversity that the Earth offers just begs to be captured, and wildlife photographers will travel to any corner of the world to get that perfect frame. However, not every corner of the world is safe, especially for women. 

Some countries are less advisable for women traveling alone, photographer or not. And one of the countries topping this list is India.

Let’s learn more about the realities of solo travel for women to India and how you can combat this issue as a wildlife photographer.

India and Its Women Travelers

India has had its share of the limelight in the global news for all the wrong reasons. The dangers for women traveling alone in India are many and undisputed.

While Incredible India is a country rich in culture and history, it is equally rife with safety concerns for women. Unfortunately, news about eve-teasing, groping, staring, stalking, and rape are common. These are some of the daily threats that women — both locals and tourists alike — have to face. 

And these threats are enough for anyone to skip a visit to India and look for any other, safer country to explore.

However, India also has thriving wildlife that is magnificently beautiful. And wildlife photographers often set aside any fears to capture that idyllic still frame of relaxing Asian lions, Ganges river dolphins, and Nilgiri Tahr.

Suffice to say, this love for nature and wildlife has birthed some excellent female wildlife photographers in India, such as Rathika Ramasamy, Latika Nath, Nisha Purushothaman, and Aishwarya Sridhar. 

Safety Tips for Female Travelers in India 

Every country has its flaws and challenges. So, to typecast India, a country of more than one billion, as categorically unsafe for women may seem like a disservice. However, the realities of certain threats to women’s safety cannot be ignored. 

While you cannot change the world around you, you can implement a few simple tips to travel smart and keep yourself safe. 

#1. Understand the Country 

When visiting a new country, there’s a silent, unspoken rule to learn as much as you can about your destination. India is not an exception. 

Given how vast and diverse the country is, it only makes sense for you to do your homework before even booking a flight. Every state, every city, and every village in India is different. So, make sure you have a general idea of the different cultures, beliefs, and traditions. 

Take the time to research, read the news, and be informed about the latest laws or events you may need to be mindful of. Skip regions with high crime rates, especially if it is drug-related. Keep a list of emergency numbers and be aware of different modes of transportation. 

And as much as you’d want to go on your own adventure, be smart about your travel choices and try to stick to the well-traveled path and tourist areas, heading off to remote areas only when necessary.

#2. Be Mindful of Your Interactions 

When you’re traveling to a diverse country like India, you inevitably want to soak in as much of the culture as you can. So, you might want to chat with the locals for hours on end and spend more time with both local women and men. But, this may not always be a wise idea. 

A woman traveling alone in India will, unfortunately, encounter uncomfortable conversations with some men in India. You may be at the receiving end of unwanted invitations and insinuations that’ll make you want to bolt.

You need to be conscious of your actions and words, particularly when interacting with men. What may feel like an innocent form of communication like touching the shoulder while talking may be interpreted in a wrong way. Interacting with men in India is a delicate balance of remaining pleasant and polite while always keeping your guard up. 

Pepper your conversation with hints of a husband, brother, or father who’s waiting for you or is expecting to receive your call. It’ll keep people around you aware that you’ll be missed if anything happens to you. Such small embellishments of truth might just end up keeping you safe. 

Yes, these are unnecessary steps for a simple human interaction. But it’s always better to err on the side of caution. 

#3. Dress Conservatively

India is a largely conservative country. Be respectful of this fact, and dress conservatively. Skip the tank tops and shorts and make sure your outfit covers your legs, shoulders, and cleavage.

Of course, in metropolitan cities and affluent areas, most people won’t bat an eye. But, when you’re traveling to small towns, villages, or any remote areas, it is better to cover up. You can consider purchasing a “kurta” from the local market to blend with the crowd. You want to blend with the locals and not stand out. A good idea is to just copy the local women. 

It should be noted that a conservative garb does not 100% guarantee your safety, but it should allow you to blend in. Clothes have little or no effect on how the men will behave towards you, but dressing like the locals will draw the least possible attention, which can make a lot of difference.

#4. Be Linguistically Prepared

Most people in India, especially in major cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, and Hyderabad speak English fluently. So, you can rely on English as your main language of communication in these areas.

But when traveling to other parts of the country, it’s better to learn a few essential words in Hindi or any other language of that area. 

You also have to consider that there are 22 languages (more if you count the various dialects) spoken in India like Bengali, Marathi, Telugu, Tamil, Urdu, and Kannada. This is where your homework will come into play. Find out which language is spoken in certain areas and list down some key words and phrases like “Thank You,” “No,” and “Help” in that language. 

#5. Be Assertive and Confident

This is a practical piece of advice for single women travel, especially in India.

When you are a solo female traveler, you are responsible for keeping yourself safe. And the way you carry yourself can make a lot of the difference. Not just in India, but in many parts of the world, if you look unsure of yourself, you might look like a target for men. 

When you’re traveling to new places, you want to be polite and pleasant to everyone and don’t want to put people off by being rude. But being assertive does not mean you have to be rude. Just make sure you don’t make yourself look weak or like someone who won’t put up a fight. 

Look like you know what you’re doing. Act confident even if you don’t feel like it. 

#6. Best to Travel In Groups

Despite giving off an air of confidence, being alone still makes you an easy target.

So, first-time female travelers are safer traveling with a group of friends or a tour group with all women or men and women. Instead of freestyling your way around India, join a tour to help you get accustomed. 

Women traveling together have the advantage of safety in numbers. There are fewer instances of you founding yourself alone in some shady area, and you have peace of mind knowing that someone is looking for you.

And one of the most significant considerations for women traveling alone is to rely on their instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, trust your gut and remove yourself from that situation. 

#7. Travel Smart and Know Your Transportation Options

This is one safety tip that will keep you safe even before you land in India. 

When you begin your travel plans to India, make sure you avoid arriving in India at night. Look for flights that land any time before dusk, preferably before noon. This will allow you enough time to get your bearings and travel to your next destination safely without having to worry too much. 

Once you land in India, make sure that you have someone picking you up at the airport. If you are traveling solo, you can make arrangements with the hotel or guesthouse you will be staying in. Most places are aware of and understand the risks for female travelers and will accommodate such requests. 

Within India, you will have plenty of transportation options. There are auto-rickshaws, taxis, trains, buses, and Ola (the Indian version of Uber). That last one will not be an option in small towns and remote places. 

If you’ve been out late, have someone you trust to get you a taxi or walk you to the auto-rickshaw. You can also call someone and make sure that the driver hears you sharing the plate number or identification of the taxi. When traveling by train, opt for an upper berth. It’s not just about keeping your luggage secure but will also give you more privacy in an otherwise crowded situation.

Even when riding the always-crammed local trains in India, try to protect your bag or purse and your body. This is an adventure we would advise against — it’s not for the faint of heart. Everybody wants to get on the train, and once everyone is inside, there is no space for a pin to move. Although most local trains will have a separate women’s compartment, so you don’t have to worry about groping or any such behavior. But, if you lose your belongings on a local train, the chances of you recovering them are slim to none. 

#8. Always Be Reachable

When you’re traveling alone, you need to always be on the radar. It’s highly recommended to keep your family or close friends informed of your itinerary and general travel plans. You can also share your whereabouts with them in real-time so that someone always knows where you are.

One of the easiest and most convenient ways to do this is to get a local Indian SIM and always have your smartphone with you. This is not just for your well-being but also for accessibility.

You should also consider sharing who you are with at any given time, be it a quick text to your friend or even a social media update. While oversharing on social media is generally frowned upon, this is one instance where a selfie will keep you safe. For example, you can upload a photo of yourself with whoever you’re traveling with and add a caption of where you are. It’ll keep your family and friends back home informed about your general whereabouts. 

You may also consider having a contingency plan with your family or friend in case they don’t hear from you for a certain period of time.

Important Safety Tips for Female Wildlife Photographers in India

While we’ve given you a brief overview of the general safety tips to follow when you’re traveling alone in India, the rules are a little different for wildlife photographers. Safety is a major barrier to women in this field. 

Wildlife photographers have to be alone, often for long stretches of time, putting them at greater risk. While this is true for both women and men, women arguably face more dangers. 

We’ve put together a list of some essential safety tips that women wanting to venture into the field of wildlife photography should consider. 

1. Research the Area

As a wildlife photographer, you will be traveling to remote and obscure destinations. Perhaps even places you may never have heard of before. It’s a good idea to research as much as you can about the geography, climate, people, and culture of that area. 

In the age of technology we live in, there’s no dearth of information. Look up the place online, go to the library to get maps, hit online forums, and search for guide books. It’s also a great idea to talk to the locals about what you can expect to find (wildlife, weather, potential dangers, etc.) in any given area. 

Scope out every bit of information about the location you’re interested in. It’ll help keep you prepared, thus boosting your confidence. 

2. Blend In

You might think that wildlife photography involves walking the wilderness to capture that perfect shot. And you’re not wrong. But, wildlife photography is a form of visual storytelling, and humans or human impact on different habitats is a large part of it. 

Even to get around or reach those elusive locations, you will find yourself having to talk to different people. As a photographer, you will anyway stand out with your camera. It’s a good idea to do your research on the area and dress like the locals to not call too much attention to yourself. 

3. Update Your Family/Friends About Your Itinerary

This is a simple but smart travel strategy that can come in very handy, especially for female wildlife photographers. Since you will often be traveling to very remote places, make sure you keep your close ones updated on your location. 

Always make sure you have a proper travel plan and avoid traveling to different places on the fly. Do not change your travel itinerary at the last minute unless absolutely necessary. And if you do, tell someone. 

4. Tell Someone Where You’re Going

Building on that last point, always tell someone where you’re going. 

Wildlife photographers tend to be loners, obviously. When you’re out in the field, patiently waiting to capture your shot, you don’t want another person around to scare the wildlife away. However, what you can do is tell someone where you’re heading off to, preferably in which direction you will be going, and when they should expect you to return. 

A lot of things can go wrong in the wild. Having someone know your whereabouts can prevent a bad situation from becoming worse. 

5. Carry Survival Tools and Personal Protection

Apart from your camera equipment, you also need to carry some essential tools for survival. 

Items such as a compass, knife, fire starter, torch or LED light, a first-aid kit, and water-purifying tablets will take up only a little room in your bag but can prove to be the difference between life and death. 

You should also carry pepper spray for your own personal protection when you’re not in the dense forests. 

6. Prepare For the Unexpected 

Wildlife photography is a field that throws some curveballs your way. A lot of things can go wrong — your travel plans might not pan out, you may have to camp out in unexpected places, your batteries may run out, or your equipment might malfunction. 

Make sure you have a plan for such situations. You should also consider looking into what kind of wildlife you can expect to stumble across in the location you’re going to. For example, you may just come across a snake while waiting for a deer, and in such cases, you need to be able to identify whether that snake is venomous and what you should do in case you get bit. 

The Best Places to Visit for Female Wildlife Photographers

The wildlife that India offers is as diverse as its landscape. This is one of the major reasons why females — whether solo or women travel groups — take up the challenge of navigating their way through this labyrinth of a country to explore nature in all its glory.

Beginners can make the best of wildlife photography tours through the abundance of sanctuaries and national parks across India. Here are a few places to include in your itinerary for your next Indian wildlife photography adventure.

#1. Bandhavgarh National Park

The park has a high density of tigers and sightings are frequent.

Situated in Madhya Pradesh, Bandhavgarh National Park is another opportunity to spot the Bengal tiger in its natural habitat. When it comes to photographic safaris, India’s Bandhavgarh stands second to none. 

With sal and bamboo forests providing shade to the great beasts in the reserve, the safari you take can get you close-up shots of many creatures. The Sambar, Indian Wolf, the gray Langur, the spotted Deer, and the python are a few other animals that will get caught in your frame here. 

#2. Kaziranga National Park

Located in Assam, this park is known for its “big five” — the elephants, rhinos, swamp deers, tigers, and wild buffalos, and is also home to the threatened one-horned rhino. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its Eastern Himalayan biodiversity, this is one place you do not want to miss.

The best time to visit Kaziranga is in the middle of November and April.

#3. Sundarbans National Park

Head to West Bengal for a one-of-a-kind wildlife adventure, home of India’s national animal, the Bengal tiger. You may also be surprised to learn that there are no jeep safaris here — you travel through and around the park on a boat.

With saltwater crocodiles floating in the wetlands to give you a sense of added thrill, the Sundarbans provide one of the best opportunities for photography.

#4. Eravikulam National Park

Nestled in Munnar, Eravikulam National Park is home of the vanishing Nilgiri Tahr. You can also find South India’s highest peak within the park, the Anamudi Peak. Every 12 years, this summit is sheltered in a beautiful deep blue of the Neelakurinji blossoms. The last blossoming was in 2018.

#5. Sariska National Park

A haven for wildlife photographers, Sariska National Park in Rajasthan houses the largest population of peafowl and is home to numerous other residents including striped hyenas, serpent eagles, jackals, and various big cats.

Sariska National Park is best visited from October and May and during the winter months.

And for a side adventure in Rajasthan, drop by the town of Bhangarh and Neemrana Fort Palace — these are touted as India’s most haunted areas.

#6. Jim Corbett National Park

A place that needs no introduction, Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand is one of India’s oldest national parks and was named after India’s first tiger conservationist. This is where you can find the regal Bengal tiger, sloth bears, leopards, and red foxes.

The majestic scenery of blue water bodies, verdant plains, and lavish forests will make an ideal background for snapping those once-in-a-lifetime images.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which Indian destinations Are Safe For Women?

Exploring India solo is an experience unlike any other. And the good news is that there are places that are safer for solo women travelers compared to other cities, perfect for your first destinations to give you a better sense of the country. 

●      Mumbai

●      Bangalore

●      Chennai

●      Goa

●      Kerala

●      Meghalaya

●      Mizoram

●      Pondicherry

●      Rishikesh

●      Sikkim

When Is the Ideal Time to Visit India?

India has distinct weather patterns that also vary depending on which part of the country you’re in. You’ll be sweating bullets in the hot and humid Mumbai weather and get drenched in an outpour in Meghalaya in the same week. The climate of India is also tropical so expect the summer months to be sweltering hot. 

The best time to visit India is from October to March.

Conclusion

India is a rather tricky destination to explore. It’s a wild mix of welcoming and humble people, untouched natural beauty, and the risk of finding yourself in uncomfortable, often dangerous, situations. And this landscape gets even wilder for female wildlife photographers. 

In recent years, the field of wildlife photography has been seeing an influx of women wanting to explore the unknown. So, if you too have a passion to capture the great outdoors in that perfect still frame and wish to explore the sprawling diversity of India, don’t let anything stop you. Travel with an open mind, travel safe, and always trust your instinct, or simply TRAVEL WITH ME.

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