Trip to Tal Chappar

“'I’m bored’ is a useless thing to say. You live in a great, big, vast world that you’ve seen non-percent of.” Louis C.K.

Much of the world remains unseen and unexplored. One will need multiple births to discover nature’s untamed and constantly evolving landscapes, its beauty, opulence, splendour and inaccessible habitats. Photographs go further than just capturing a great image, they document that distant place in a single frame and tell us it’s origin, its history and it’s story. Although photographs can only bring forth a small portion of these unchartered territories, they do present us with that tiny glimpse of our awe-inspiring world. Maybe that’s why they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. They educate us about people, the differences and commonalities of their culture, and inspire us to travel.

In October 2022, two of my nature enthusiast friends (Jayant Sethi & Parag Khare) and I planned an 11 hour long road trip from Uttarakhand to the Tal Chappar Sanctuary, located in the Churu district of north-western Rajasthan, the largest Indian state by area comprising mostly of the Thar Desert. It is home to the blackbucks and some amazing migratory birds of prey. I had just bought my second Nikon gear - a D850 camera and 70-200mm lens set - and was super excited to travel and capture the colourful scenic lands of Rajasthan, the ‘Land of Kings.’

We had started out very early in the morning and in-spite of our 3-4 stoppages, thanks to the remarkable highway roads, we did not realise how the distance just flew past. We were well on track when we saw some deer in an enclosure. Excitedly I jumped out of the car trying to zoom in on them with my new lens and that’s when I realised that these were black bucks; we had arrived at our destination.

We drove into a place called the Gaushala, which was more an open semi-baren land with spaced out trees and cows every here and there. At the entrance was a huge puddle of water where we saw our first surprise, a Tawny Eagle. Funnily enough, it seemed like it was being scolded by a raven with some cows playing audience. There were plenty of small birds bathing in the puddle and it was a delight to click them against the setting sun. Since it was getting dark and as we had had a long journey, we decided to retire for a fresh and early start next day. We were staying at the Raptors Inn, a sustainable comfortable family homestay, located in close proximity to the Tal Chhapar Sanctuary.

It was a 3 day, 4 nights trip and what we witnessed in the next few days was a sheer delight and a treat to the eyes and soul. Apart from just the action shots of the raptors and migratory birds, there was so much more to absorb and cherish. There was this young, rescued Chinkara (Indian Gazelle) roaming near the safari gate playing the perfect host by welcoming the guests but never leaving its safe vicinity. There were five or more spotted owlets secretly nesting inside a small opening in the tree trunk awaiting for dusk to set in, thousands of adorably curious spiny tail lizards popping their heads out of the holes in the muddy road just like in the game of ‘pop the weasel’; some boldly sunbathing, unmindful of all the dangers around, while others would quickly disappear into their holes as soon as the vehicles got too close for comfort. The Lesser Kestrel (a migratory bird) sat on a tree stump preening herself with perfection, the tall Woolly-necked Stork was drinking water at a water hole with droplets falling from its beak hitting the ground like exclamation marks, flocks of small birds playing hide and seek in the canopy of a dense and lonely tree underneath which a Nilgai stood protecting its skin complexion from the scorching sun, deer walking in straight lines as if lining up for the assembly in school and then suddenly jumping over each other as if practising for the Olympic athletics, the elegant Long legged buzzard was trying its best to evade the paparazzi aka us, the Indian spotted creeper was calling out to its mate in the most melodious voice from its delicate long curved beak.

Then there was the Tawny Eagle and the Common Kestrel enjoying a grasshopper feast, the Marsh and Pallid Harrier sitting in the middle of the road ambushed with high grass on both sides forcing photographers to leave their vehicles to kneel before them for eye level shots, gladiator Blackbucks cutely snoozing, stretching or engaging in horn fights, Egyptian Vultures effortlessly taking off, displaying their beautiful wing span or landing on the smallest tip of the tree trunks balancing like beautiful ballet dancers, the dessert fox cleverly concealing itself in the bushes waiting to jump on its prey and walking away slyly with its catch, silhouette of flying birds against the setting sun, the Lagger Falcon scooping the spiny tail lizard out of its hole and dissecting it organ by organ on the tree top and feasting on its tail like a scrumptious bone marrow, the White Eye Buzzard scurrying on the dust filled road trying to get to the slithering snake it just spotted and skilfully capturing the beast, the list just goes on…

Apart from the warm hosts and excellent experienced guide Atul, we were lucky to meet and converse with Mr. Vipul Ramanuj from WildArk, a professional wildlife photographer and an expert at herps. If you cherish the joys in small things then Tal Chappar is like the magician’s hat where every minute there’s a new surprise popping out. I can’t wait to get back to this miraculously mindboggling place. Travel changes you and enlightens you, so if you can’t travel, let the photographs of others be your travel bags. Mine can be found on Instagram @eunoiasur.

The tourist sees what the tourist has come to see while the traveller sees far beyond and deep within. Once the travel bug bites, there is no known antidote, and I know that I shall be happily infected until the end of my life.


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