Exotic India: The Spirit of Varanasi – Northern India Photo Tour Part 2
Into the Spiritual Capital of India
Prelude: Before I met my guests for the Ranthambore section of our tour, and therefore the beginning of our Tigers & Varanasi Photo Tour 2019, I arrived a few days earlier in India to visit Varanasi for 2 full-days to familiarize myself with the city in order to have proper direction to offer my guests as I had not been to this city before.
I had been told from a variety of people accounting their experiences to me that Varanasi is amazing to Varanasi being the complete opposite of that. I was told that it was going to be overwhelming as there are so many people, that it is crowded, dirty and to just not do it.
A wise man once told me that I need to let go of what everyone has said of Varanai, the good and the bad, and just let myself open up to the experience. If I don’t do so, then I am only letting myself down as it would end up being an experience I would be denying myself to embrace and make my own journey and connections with.
Well, my initial feelings of trepidation were fleeting and fell away as soon as we landed in Varanasi and started our drive to the hotel. Accompanied by Bablu, our wonderful guide who is with ORYX for all our Tiger tours, my eyes grew bigger and bigger with each passing moment as I wanted to absorb as much as I was seeing as possible.
The next two days were a whirlwind of incredible experiences. Very personal and very spiritual! Yes there are a lot of people and therefore it is not the cleanest city, but the colours, the people, the calm and happiness I saw. I was overwhelmed in the best way possible and it affected me very deeply. I spoke to my twin nearly every day about this, so she can attest to the power Varanasi had over me!
We watched and photographed Aarti; a beautiful Hindu ceremony thanking the mother Ganges for providing water and life and bids her goodnight. We explored and photographed the 11thcentury architecture and ruins of Sarnath; a place that resonated a lot with me and home the Dhameka Stupa which marks the place Buddha preached his first sermon. From exhilarating rickshaw rides that left us all with fast heartbeats and hysterical laughter, the street photography opportunities keep us constantly busy as the explosion of colours and wealth of people and activity was never-ending.
I have not laughed so much, shared so many meaningful conversations and moments, had many light and fun conversations and learnt so much than what the 11-days in India gave us. The Tigers & Varanasi Photo Tour was not just a photographic tour, it was connecting with our surroundings, with one another, sharing stories and visions, creating memories and friendships. Exploring the beauty of these destinations on a personal level as well as with one another. This is what I always strive for for all my tours.
No one says it better than the people who experienced it all first-hand! Please do take a look at their blog posts that are filled with beautiful encounters, personal experiences, our daily humour, their photographic visions and more:
I’ve just returned from another Oryx adventure – this time to Ranthambore and Varanasi. This is my second time travelling with the lovely Penny Robartes – the first being to the Mara a few years ago. Penny continues to surprise and raise the bar.
From the organisation and logistics, to the photographic opportunities and tuition from Penny, and the group that was thoughtfully put together for this trip – everything was just perfect. The itinerary was a wonderful combination of wildlife and culture. I’d never seen a tiger in the wild before and this has been on my bucket list for ages – and thanks to the ace trackers and guides I got to see a tiger on almost every drive – 14 sightings of 11 different tigers and cubs – what an adrenaline rush that was. And thanks to Penny, I think I got some pretty decent images …
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Astrid Stevie Winberg
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Is there such a thing as a perfect trip? My recent trip to Ranthambore National Park and Varanasi, India with Oryx was nothing short of fantastic and exciting! Tiger sightings in Ranthambore were spectacular and Varanasi was sublime. It was simply an unparalleled experience made all the more enjoyable as all ground arrangements from transport, hotels and local guiding were impeccable. Everything went off smoothly and without a hitch.
In no small part the trip was memorable because of our photography lead, Penny Robartes. This is the third trip I have gone on with Penny. She is just the most wonderful person to travel with. She is personable, cheerful and caring, always making sure everything went off smoothly. She is very generous with her knowledge and expertise…
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This tour was truly filled with indescribable moments and memories, laughter and unbreakable connections.
We have built on foundation of this tour to offer an even greater photographic and experiential exploration of Northern India by adding in the magnificent and inspiring Taj Mahal!
For more information on my exciting India – Best of Northern India Photo Tour 2021, please click on the tour name and you will be redirected to the tour page.
If you are interested in visiting India, definitely make a stop at Varanasi. Better yet, join me in 2021 and I will show you even more and guide you on your photography!
This tour can be booked as a private group departure for yourself and your friends or family, or join other like-minded individuals on this photographic exploration. We are your India travel partners!
I hope to share the excitement, visual splendour and endless photographic opportunities of Northern India with you!
Stay passionate and never stop exploring,
Your Photo Tour Leader, Penny Robartes