As an Expedition Leader for Nat Hab’s India Tiger Safari: A Photo Pro Expedition, Conan Dumenil wears a lot of hats. This eleven-day trip is part of the Photo Pro series, and Conan’s hands-on tips, knowledge and expertise bring a fresh perspective to the proceedings.

His passion for conservation, culture and adventure comes across vividly when he speaks about the different legs of the journey.

Making the rounds by rickshaw in New Delhi sets the stage, before taking in the colorful architecture of Jaipur and then spending four days exploring Ranthambore National Park in search of Bengal tigers.

Throw in a balloon ride, a leopard reserve, the Taj Mahal and a stay at an authentic safari camp, and a bigger picture comes into focus.

The wild tiger population in India is the largest in the world. It has doubled in size since 2006, two years after Conan started guiding. Tiger reserves and national parks including Ranthambore allow for the upswing.

One of the biggest issues facing the Bengal tiger is human conflict. The cats fall prey to train accidents when crossing railway lines, and farmers hunt and poison the cats because they prey on cattle.

Inside the park, tigers hold sway. During Conan’s last trip, he talks of seeing a mother and her cubs among ancient ruins that served as a hunting ground for the Maharajahs of Jaipur.

While traversing along the nearby water’s edge, the tigress stopped, hissed and stood her ground against a threat below the lake’s surface. The crocodile lying in wait is one of the natural rivals that tigers often battle. Being deft swimmers, tigers hold their own in the water, but more often than naught prefer to walk away.

Here are some select highlights of our conversation with Conan about the trip, his recommendations for photographers and the local protocols regarding safety.

Regarding Gear

Conan’s kit includes a mix of the classic and modern, changing between an SLR, digital camera and a variety of lenses. His go-to choice in close quarters is his phone, using it in city settings instead of carrying around more cumbersome equipment.

Conan stresses that people should take the time to know their gear and its settings: being unfamiliar with your camera or a piece of new equipment can lead to missed photo opportunities in the field.

He also recommends that travelers bring a cotton drawstring bag or the equivalent to evade dust.

Nat Hab travelers photograph a tiger in India.

Photography Resources

When asked, Conan’s top primers for photographers remain close to home. Nat Hab’s photography webinars are a fruitful resource. In addition, Richard de Gouveia, a fellow Nat Hab Expedition Leader and collaborator out of South Africa, has developed a series of wildlife photography guides with Sony that Conan highly recommends.

The Park and Favorite Days Out

Each trip is capped at six people, split between three jeeps with a driver and guide. Like other parts of the world, park guides are local and required inside the park.

The Nat Hab team arranges the logistics, so the same local staff stays with the tour the entire time they are in the park, putting travelers side by side with experts in their own backyard. The number of vehicles inside the park is limited, and guides visit different areas each day to reduce overcrowding.

Conan’s favorite days as an Expedition Leader are hard to choose, but ‘free’ days in the park make it to the top of the list. Due to special permits, two of the days in the park don’t follow the assigned routes or time frames normally required of tours. This translates into more time chasing tigers on their home turf.

Bengal tigers inside the park number just above 90 according to unofficial census numbers released in 2021. Conan is quick to point out that the numbers fluctuate between the census and the actual points on the map being covered.

He also adds that tigers stick to their own territory. Until pushed out by younger cats, guides recognize individual tigers by their markings in established zones, early in the day before the heat sets in.

A tiger in Ranthambhore National Park.

The Big Five

Conan’s bucket list of species to spot during this photo safari gives credence to the diversity found in the wilds of northern India. In addition to big cats, over 300 species of birds live here, as well as large predators on land and in the water.

1. Bengal Tigers

Growing to lengths of more than 9 feet and weighing in at as much as 500 pounds, Bengal tigers make a regal first impression. Aside from their ability to swim, tigers leap distances of 16 feet. Each has a distinct personality and many live for as long as 25 years.

The stripes and color of Indian tigers stand out, unique to each individual. Markings and patterns act like fingerprints, used to identify tigers in their respective territories and keep track of each couple’s offspring.

Tigers and people in the villages that surround the park frequently clash. Older cats get pushed out of their hunting grounds and cross the borders of the reserve in search of new frontiers. Seeing tigers in the wild puts a fresh face to the problem and leads the way to new conversations about what can be done.

2. Indian Leopards

During the first days of this safari, travelers visit the Jhalana Leopard Reserve inside the city of Jaipur. The 8-square-mile oasis is a haven for wild leopards—its forests shelter more than twenty of the cats. It’s one of the best places to photograph leopards in India, conveniently located in the midst of 3 million people.

Conan uses this excursion as a first-hand introduction to the challenges conservation initiatives face in the country. The growing populations of both humans and wildlife pose threats to all involved.

3. Mugger Crocodiles

Crocodiles are one of the few predators in Ranthambore National Park that make tigers nervous. Lying in wait offshore, the lightning-quick reptiles attack animals on land with little regard for size and shape. Spotting them is half the battle; catching them on film is another adventure altogether.

4. Indian Pitta 

Often seen at outlooks around the park, the Indian pitta’s bright plumage blends from green and yellow to red and black. An apt subject for wildlife photographers of all levels, its frequent appearance bodes well for those in search of avian pictures.

 5. Sloth Bears

Spotted in different zones throughout the park, sloth bears seldom fail to impress. While their gait is cumbersome, they move quickly when prompted and can hold their own against tigers if threatened.

Baloo, from Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book, takes his appearance from the sloth bear. Sloth bears’ shaggy black fur and white snouts lend themselves to portraits and action shots, standing out against the native tundra and overhanging forests of the surrounding area.

Practicalities and Essentials

Accommodations during each section of the trip have top-notch amenities and staff; including internet, international menus, manicured gardens and swimming pools.

When exploring the park, a classic safari camp on the border of the protected area serves as a home base for meals, including lunch and debriefing after each day’s activities. Meals and meetings might take place outside to take advantage of the exotic surroundings, giving Conan and travelers a chance to catch up and compare notes before the next day’s adventure.

Trips run between April and June before the monsoon season. It’s the spring season in name only—expect warm weather and bring a bathing suit to cool off in the pool.

India's national parks are full of flowering trees and wildlife.

India’s national parks are full of lush vegetation and intriguing wildlife.


This is a tailor-made trip that focuses on photography—each day there are new land and cityscapes, iconic monuments, and natural wonders to capture. Conan’s ability as a photographer and his experience helping others discover new ground, both literally and through the eyes of the camera, puts this adventure in a class of its own.

Conservation and Sustainable Travel

Conservation is at the heart of every Nat Hab safari in India and beyond. Our partnership with World Wildlife Fund gives our guests a front-row seat to the wilderness and wildlife that makes India so appealing.

Conan and the team of guides, drivers and support staff are passionate about India and showing those who visit the beauty of this country and its people. Their knowledge and know-how reveal new discoveries around every corner.

The trip highlights both nature and culture, exploring the relationship between the staggering population and the growing animal kingdom. This is an experience that inspires and educates, bringing together the best of two worlds and asking the question, “Where do we go from here?”

All photos © Conan Dumenil