When guests check into The Ranthambore Bagh resort on the outskirts of the well-known national park in Rajasthan of the same name, the last thing on their minds is a comfortable bed or a warm shower. The visitors, a lot of them photographers, film makers and bird watchers, are more interested in the forays planned by Bagh Safari, the safari wing of the resort.
The Ranthambore Bagh and Bagh Safari were started by Aditya `Dicky’ Singh in 1998. A passionate traveller, especially to wilderness areas since his school days, Singh hails from Bandhavgarh. The civil engineer had cleared the Civil Services exam and had undergone training to be a civil servant for two years. He even worked for the government for a few months after training, but his heart was not in it.
Singh and his sculptor wife Poonam had been planning to set up a wildlife travel business since 1995, and he soon quit his government job. Inspired by his mother’s cousin, who had set up one of the first wildlife resorts in India in Bandhavgarh, he worked as a construction contractor on two projects, to get together the money required to set up The Ranthambhore Bagh and Bagh Safari, 149 km away from Jaipur.
The Ranthambore Bagh resort
At first, they started off with wildlife safaris in the Indian sub-continent. About 10 years ago, they expanded their area of operations to the rest of the world, using all their contacts in wildlife travel and photography. “In other words, we can organise a wildlife trip for anyone to any wilderness destination in the world,” says Singh, and adds that the couple has clearly defined roles. “She is the management brain, while I work more on exploring new areas.” The events organised by Bagh Safari include field trips, training and workshops, excursions to wilderness areas (even those with no travel infrastructure), wildlife filming and wildlife photography assignments.
Photography is an important part of Bagh Safari’s activities, but many of its clients are not photographers. The activities are designed for serious wildlife viewers, and it does not matter if they are not into photography, but many among the photographers and filmmakers who have been here have belonged to the crème da le crème. Bagh Safari has had film maker clients like National Geographic Film and Television, CTL from Ireland and Tokyo Broadcasting Service. Professional wildlife photographers have included Andy Rouse, Theo Allofs and Daisy Gilardini. “The bulk of our clients are people with regular jobs that are not related to wildlife, but who want to go on serious wildlife vacations,” clarifies Singh.
Aditya Singh in Brazil’s Pantanal wetland
A stunning shot from Brazil, a favourite Aditya Singh destination
On assignment in Ranthambore
For someone who has travelled to many places known for their wildlife, entrepreneur-conservationist-photographer Singh says he never gets tired of re-visiting North East India, Ladakh, East Africa and Brazil. But in the same breath, he talks about the stark realisation that has hit him on his travels: more numbers of animal species are now in danger of disappearing faster than ever before. “The natural world is in a serious crisis, and there is little cause for optimism,” he warns. “This is the worst phase of extinction in many hundreds of millions of years.”
Dicky the Photographer
Wildebeest migration in Kenya
Check out travel websites like TripAdvisor and you will find many wildlife enthusiasts attracted to The Ranthambore Bagh, solely on Aditya `Dicky’ Singh’s photography credentials. Singh says he started serious photography only in 2002, four years after he set up his wildlife safari business. Here’s putting the spotlight on the self-taught photographer:
- He was inspired by photographers like Anup Shah, Theo Allofs, NC Dhingra and Jagdeep Rajput.
- One big advantage he did have was that he got to work with some of the best wildlife photographers and filmmakers, all of whom were his clients.
- His first camera – a Canon EOS 5 film camera – was gifted to him in 1999 by Nick Garbutt, shortly after he had won the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year award.
- In Ranthambhore, there were no photo labs, so Singh had to send the exposed film rolls to Delhi once every few months.
- He honed his photography skills by reading books on nature and wildlife photography “like I was preparing for an exam.” Two authors that he found great: John Shaw and Joe McDonald.
- Quote Unquote: “The technical part of photography is easy, what is tough is the artistic part. What you are shooting is not as important as how you are shooting it.”
- Singh’s safety tip for someone starting off in wildlife photography: “If you don’t know much about wildlife, then you will never go far as a wildlife photographer. Wildlife, generally speaking, leaves humans alone. If and when they get disturbed, they give a lot of warning before attacking. You should be able to recognise those warning signs and act accordingly.”