Travel Secrets

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How do I Take Great Wildlife Photos?

Noted photographer Archna Singh gave Travel Secrets writer Nirav Shah a quick tutorial in wildlife photography.



Be extremely patient. I have had to wait for 4-5 hours while a leopard slept on the tree just to catch different expressions on its face.


Maintain distance. This is important to catch the animal in their natural behaviour, to respect them and their privacy and most importantly, for your own safety.

Early morning and late evenings before dusk are the best times to shoot. Most of the animals are out at this time, when the heat is low. The light is also softer.

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Never use your camera flash. It scares the animal away and is disrespectful.

Always keep the camera ready, even a 1-minute break can make you lose a wonderful shot. The animals always catch you off guard!

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Do not just take pretty pictures: try and bring out the emotions that the animals express

A tip for tourists: Guides/drivers at national parks in India will often park their cars in one place and claim that the animal will come here (based on sightings or pug marks). Do not listen to them, but make them take rounds since more often than not, this is a tactic to only save fuel, and you will never end up spotting any animal.

About Archna Singh


Trained at: NIFT, and under acclaimed photographer Akhil Bakshi

In love with: Africa! She’s also a regular at Ranthambhore and Ladakh.

Showcases her work at:

Her Kit (in 2012, when we published the story):

1. Canon camera – 1Ds Mark III (serial no. DS 126161/617957)

2. Canon camera – 1D MARK IV (serial no. DS 126221/1431300181)

3. Canon camera – G11 Power Shot (serial no. 0245200409)

4. Canon Zoom Lens – (EF 800MM 1:5.6) – Serial No. 14634

5. Canon Zoom Lens (100-400MM) – ET-83C (serial no. 462100)

6. Canon lens – (EF 200MM 1:2L) – Serial No. 11216

7. Canon Wide Angle Lens 16-35MM – EW-88 – Serial No. 1063057

8. Canon Lens (24-70MM) – EW-83F – Serial No. 1907442

9. Canon Fisheye lens -15mm – Serial No. 54259

10. Canon Extender 2xIII – Serial No. 8420002650

11. Canon Extender 2xII – Serial No. 132951

All images are with courtesy  Archana Singh

Input: Travel Secrets Correspondent Nirav Shah

Varkala: Kerala’s stunning coastal town. Have you discovered it yet?

With its clean, quiet beaches, Varkala is a secret that Kerala has hugged to itself. Our Correspondent Sarita Santoshini stumbled upon it.

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This coastal town is a five hour bus drive from Cochin and sits 75 easy kilometres from Kovalam, Kerala’s more celebrated beach beauty.


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The lagoons by the long stretches of beach in Varkala are draped in serenity. A century old ashram lets you heal your inner-self, and a temple island draws you towards its quiet beauty.

The town itself is slow and unspoiled; but plenty of adventure awaits you on its fringes. Take lessons in surfing or paragliding in ideal weather between October and May; wander around and stumble upon thriving fish communities that add soul to the place and you will come back with enough stories and pictures to keep you happy till you decide to head back again.

Following a receptionist’s advice,  our correspondent Sarita walked towards “a narrow lane” and to her surprise stumbled on a stunning sidewalk along the edges of a cliff, the North Cliff Beach. Restaurants, cafes and resorts line the road for almost a kilometre, with the vast Arabian Sea glimmering on the other side.

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Here, coconut groves hide another surprise: Black Beach; so named after the colour of its sand. Varkala beach is locally called Papanasam Beach, whose northern part lies below the cliff. At the southern end are the mineral water springs whose medicinal properties attract people from all over the world.
Another gem in the heart of Varkala is the Shiva- Parvathi temple. It is on the uninhabited Ponnumthuruthu Island, midst the lush forest and a chirpy bird life. Here you can reach by boat from Nenduganda Village.

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The historical Anjengo Fort dates back to the East India Company. There’s a lovely view from the lighthouse.

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Driving through this hamlet in the evening you’ll pass through vibrant houses of all sizes, men and women chatting away as they dry their catch of the day, group of church-goers saying their daily prayers and glimpses of beautiful stretches of the sea that the Latin Christian Makuva community lives beside. It’s good to see that the community has held its identity, in spite of tourism slowly commercialising everything.

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This story was published in our Nov-Dec 2013 issue. To subscribe, visit

I am in Shimla and it’s too crowded. Point me to a quiet spot.

Words and Photographs : Aanchal Ahuja

Over a million people visit Shimla every year. Very few know about Annandale. It’s a golf course that sits just five kilometres from the bustling Ridge. And it is a slice of paradise.

Army heritage museum shimla

Located by the tiny village of Kaithu, Annandale stretches over 30 luxurious acres. A British officer Capt. Charles Pratt Kennedy named it after a beautiful young girl called Anna. Combined with “dale,” which means “valley,” the place came to be called Annadale. (The extra ‘n’ is a local corruption!)

Set aside about three hours to visit Annandale, including travel time. You can take a direct cab or catch a local bus from the Vidhan Sabha building, which drops you right at the gates of the Course. If you have the time and stamina, hike up–the walk is beautiful but you’ll need a couple of extra hours.

At the gate, irony hits you when a rifle-toting soldier ushers you into a haven of peace. Step in, and your eyes will widen as they take in the flowers flanking the footpath. So many of them, in such vivid colours!



The flower-laden path leads you to the Army Heritage Museum, which houses mementos and memories of the soldierly life. The uniforms they wear, the arms that they use and the music that they make–it’s a quick and fascinating glimpse into military history; no classroom required!

Wait, there’s more. A quick flight of stairs beside the Museum takes you to the award winning Glass House. Be careful in there: this is a prickly affair! Dozens of cactii bloom here, and some have quirky names. Click “Mother-in-law’s-Cushion,” and show it to your mother- in-law.

shimla army museum

The Museum is open from 10 am till 5pm and closed on Mondays.

Read more about Annandale –

Annadale, in the early days of its discovery, was a popular haunt for the British...

Annandale Shimla : Heavenly Beauty of Shimla

An Enriching Experience at Annandale Shimla

The Army Heritage Museum, Annandale, Shimla

What can I explore in Kashmir’s Zanskar valley, apart from Padun?

Psst… Kavyanjali Kaushik‘s got a secret for you, from the Zanskar Valley. Over to her:

Not many travellers make it to the snowy, harsh and spectacular Zanskar; hidden away, almost abandoned due to roads that are made of gravel and lack of travel information. The few who do dare to take on the back-cracking journey to this part of Jammu & Kashmir, head to Zanskar’s capital Padum which is more likely to disappoint its visitors rather than invite them to dig deeper into the Zanskar valley.

Jammu & Kashmir, India, Padun, Phey, offbeat
Images: Kavyanjali Kaushik

However, if you have the stamina enough for dusty roads, bitter cold and erratic transport facilities, head to the unnoticed village of Phey, just a heartbeat away from Padum.

Jammu and Kashmir, Padun, Pey
The nearly 10-hour taxi ride to Padum starts to culminate with an array of villages appearing on either side of the road. Just 30 kilometres before Padum is Phey, where you will experience the astounding beauty of Zanskar. The village has only four to five homes. The rest is simply beautiful nature. So, you’ll easily find the cosy Zanskari guest house run by the smiling Stenzing Dolma and her very hospitable family.

Jammu and Kashmir, Padun Pey  India travel offbeat
Catch a glimpse of the breathtaking sight of an angry-orange sun slowly making its way down the valley on the left, coinciding with the moonrise on the right in the backdrop of lofty Himalayas – all this on the canvas of the mighty Zanskar river, rows and rows of fields and a cold mist hanging in the air. Phey leaves you speechless, transfixed and deeply touched by nature.

Planning a trip? Read more:

White water rafting and other adventure sport options in Phey

Journey to Zanskar: India’s remote Valley – SandeepaChetan’s blog

Off-beat Mandala – Zanskar Valley Safari

Got a Zanskar Valley secret to share? Tell us in the comments or write to us at

What are Some of the Best Camping Sites in India?

We took the question to Aloke Bajpai, Founder and Partner of The Explorers. A certified mountaineer and skier, Bajpai has also trained in river rafting. His advice:

Being a city dweller with not enough time for extended vacations, I find camping by a lake or in the woods with friends to be a perfect getaway. Fortunately, one is never too far from a great camping spot in India.


Maharashtra, according to me, provides abundant camping opportunities that lie only kilometers away from the bounds of its capital city Mumbai. I have fond memories of a weekend in Tikona Fort that sits on a scenic hill and is accessible through an easy 45-minute trek. Once there, we had uninterrupted views of Pawana Dam and Tung Fort in the day and a clear sky for star gazing at night. Peth Fort in Karjat also makes for a great site owing to the presence of Peth village at the base and the ample open space available to pitch a tent at the top. Tandulwadi is another camping site located very close to Mumbai.

Tandulwadi Image:
Tandulwadi Image:

Those in Bangalore can drive to Madikeri in Coorg for a weekend of camping amidst coffee plantations or to Chikmagalur if you are looking for some adventure and great sunset views. The best experience, however, can be had in a camp site in Bheemeshwari where you can go for fishing, birding and wildlife spotting by the majestic Cauvery River.

Bheemeshwari Image:
Bheemeshwari Image:

From Delhi, you could drive to the hill station of Dhanaulti in Uttarakhand. There, you will find established camp sites on the meadows with a backdrop of the beautiful snow-capped Himalayas. If you are looking for some place even quainter, the valley of Rajgarh that lies 40 kilometres from Solan in Himachal Pradesh is the best option. Longer Himalayan expeditions like Parvati Valley trek and Chandratal trek also provide excellent camping opportunities.

Dhanaulti Image:
Dhanaulti Image:

• Study the map carefully to have an idea of where the motorable roads will lead you.
• When looking for a secluded spot, remember to ensure that there is a water body in the vicinity.
• If possible, camp close to a village that can provide you food as well as safety in case of any emergency.
• Check if your camping spot requires permission of the Forest Department.
• Reach the camping site at least 3 hours before sun down. Once there, get a clear perspective of the surroundings to be able to navigate later in the dark.
• Practise how to pitch a tent well in advance; remember to mark a snake pit around it and light a fire only at an adequate distance.
• Carry essentials like sleeping bag, a good torch, first-aid kit, adequate water, Swiss knife, as well as a stove and food supply if you plan to cook.

 Visit to pick your adventure  trip!

Input: Sarita Santoshini

Q: What should I see and do in Bhubaneshwar?

Tranquil temples set beside pristine beaches, coastal food, tribal culture, traditional arts and handicraft – TS writer Swastika Dash invites you to enjoy the bounties of her  hometown and its surroundings. 

Statue of a lion at the Shanti Stupa at Dhauli looks over the Daya river plains, Bhubaneswar
Statue of a lion at the Shanti Stupa at Dhauli looks over the Daya river plains, Bhubaneswar

Lingaraj Temple, Bhubaneswar:
This 11th-century Lord Shiva shrine stands tall with intricately carved stonework in the old town of Bhubaneswar. . A must-visit for the pious as well as art enthusiasts.


Mukteswar Temple, Bhubaneswar

This ancient Hindu temple is famous for its ornately carved archway. Dating back to the 10th century, the Mukteswar temple is a popular spot to relax – head to the surrounding gardens, sit back and marvel at the stonework.



Jagannath Temple is the star attraction in Puri, but you can chill out at the beach too. (Tip from the locals: Head towards the outskirts of the city for a crowd free stretch of sand). Do not miss Ananda Bazaar – the food villa inside the temple. Gajaa, is a must-try Odiya sweet-delicacy. You can also sample the food of the gods – Abhadha (Cooked rice). Read more here.


Jagannath puri rath yatra Image:
Jagannath puri Rath Yatra Image:

Chilika Lake

Chilika is the largest salt-water lake in Asia and a haven for migratory birds. You can relax on a boat ride and say hello to the winged-visitors from Siberia. (Locals Tip: The Crab curry at Balugaon is not to be missed.)



This UNESCO World Heritage Site is also known as the Black Pagoda. The ruins used to be a temple and the intricate stonework and workmanship can still amaze you. Don’t forget to take a walk at the peaceful Konark Beach, nearby.


Nandankanan Zoo

One of the oldest Zoological parks in the country is home to many exotic animals, as well as a lake. Must-go if you are travelling with kids – they’ll love the boat and toy train rides.


Khandagiri & Udayagiri

The twin mountains, Khandagiri and Udayagiri are divided by four-lane road. Home to a few 2600 year old caves, the mountains feature stone engravings in Bramhi language from King Kharavela’s time. Enjoy a beautiful view of the temple city from the edge of the mountains.


Dhauli Shanti Stupa

Shanti Stupa lives up to its name and stands on the banks of River Gaya, away from the city crowds. The dazzling white peace pagoda was built on the top of a hill in the 70s, by Buddhist groups from Japan.



Ekamra Haat

It’s time for some souvenir hunting after all that sightseeing. Ekamra Haat is filled with Odisha’s handloom and handicraft products. The gallery also hosts several craft workshops. You can meet the artisans and enjoy Odishi dance festivals too. Do not miss the yummy Gupchup and Dahibaraa Aludumm stalls


Read More:

Orissa Tourism

Oriya Food recipies 


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