Wild Photography Holidays - Photographic Adventure Travel: Undiscovered South India – A Photographic Journey Through Tamil Nadu and Kerala’s Cardamom Hills

Chinese fishing nets, Cochin

Undiscovered South India – A Photographic Journey Through Tamil Nadu and Kerala’s Cardamom Hills

Highlights include…

  • Ancient Cochin
  • Chinese fishing nets
  • Arunachala, one of the world’s great spiritual power centres
  • Tiruvannamalai and locations around Mount Arunachala
  • Visit to the famous temple of Thanjavur (Tanjore)
  • See India’s temple statues being made by hand
  • Chettinad Mansions
  • The tropical forests of the Western Ghats
  • Emerald green tea plantations
  • Exciting cycle rickshaw ride through old Madurai
  • Coracle boats & fishermen
  • Flower markets
  • Rural cattle market
  • Spice plantations

General Summary

An innovative and exciting photographic adventure visiting both Tamil Nadu and Kerala. This is one of our signature Indian adventures and true to the Wild Photography Holidays ethos, it is unique to us. Without exception we stay in some lovely and very special hotels that provide a secure oasis far from the madding crowds. For over two weeks we will be immersed in the vibrantly colourful, spiritual and bustling heart of this mystical sub-continent. South India’s culture like its people is a rich mosaic, vibrant, chaotic, a land of incredible contrasts and paradoxes: a singularly beautiful land offering abundant opportunities for landscape, people and architectural photography; a fantastic challenge to those of us hoping to capture its essence in images. By immersing ourselves in the moment and approaching each day with curiosity and flexibility we will come to understand that India is truly one of the world’s most stunning photography locations; we will no doubt return home with some truly striking adventure travel images.

Accompanying us throughout will be Martin Sammtleben and Geraldine Westrupp joined by various local experts who will ensure that we are in the right place at the right time for those superb and unusual images. We stay in beautiful hotels full of character giving us tranquil space to relax, work on our images and enjoy some wonderful Indian hospitality.

The Locations


A region of South-West India well known for its lush natural beauty. Bordered by the tropical rain forest of the Western Ghats on the east, and the Arabian Sea on the west, Kerala is covered by tropical vegetation and the fragrant spice and tea plantations of the Cardamom Hills.

Tamil Nadu

Home to an ancient and little changed Dravidian civilisation, it is less frequented than its more visited neighbour Kerala; a remarkable and intensely rewarding place to explore, the Tamils are a welcoming, curious and friendly people. The coast of the Gulf of Bengal offers long and lovely beaches where traditional fishing aboard catamarans is common, you will find, rice-fields, coconut groves, market garden produce, cotton plantations, sugar cane, tobacco, mangoes and bananas. We were described in a Times Travel article as the only operator to run this type of holiday here.

Brief Itinerary

For full details please download the trip description PDF

Day 1: Chennai-Mahabalipuram

Transfer from Chennai International Airport to Mahabalipuram to our delightful beach side resort. If you would like to arrive a day early or stay on for a day afterwards, please ask when booking, we can arrange this but it is not included in the trip cost.
Accommodation: Beachside Hotel

Day 2: Tiruvannamalai

This morning we rise early to photograph sunrise on one Mahabalipuram’s most interesting fishing beaches. After exploring some of the towns ancient and fascinating rock art we head for Tiruvannamalai a tranquil eco resort; our base for the next four nights.
Accommodation: Tranquil Garden Hotel

Day 3–5: Tiruvannamalai

Our base in Tiruvannamalai at the foot of Arunachala offers fine opportunities to experience Southern India at its ancient best. The holy mountain of Shiva, Arunachala rises directly for almost 3000ft from the flat plain and the majestic Goparams of Arunachalaswaram Temple dominate the skyline. During our four days here we capture bustling markets; myriad colours, the peaceful tranquility of Sri Ramana Ashram at dawn and dusk. We see women in brightly coloured saris planting rice, orange robed Sadhus, weird fortresses rising abruptly from the shimmering forested hills. There are ancient shrines, peacocks, monkeys and hermits caves. Small village farming communities are hidden away in the hills where life has changed little for thousands of years. Bullocks are still used for ploughing the fields and transport. Our own local knowledge of this area is excellent. Our specialist guide David Godman (Geraldine’s brother) has lived here for thirty years and is a veritable font of knowledge.
Accommodation: Tranquil Garden Hotel

Day 6-7: Tanjore

This morning we travel to Thanjavor (Tanjore) the “Rice bowl of Tamil Nadu”, an area at the confluence of several rivers resulting in an especially lush environment. It is also famous for the Brahadeeswarar Temple constructed more than thousand years ago by the King Rajarajan; an architect’s marvel.
Our lovely river view hotel is located along the banks of Vennar a branch of river Cauvery three kilometres away from the city limit of Tanjore; it’s a cool and calm place surrounded by a large landscape of semi-jungle paddy fields. During our two days here we visit the awesome and famous temple of Thanjavur (Tanjore), photograph the bullocks and carts taking sand from the river and spend time watching and photographing India’s temple statues being made by hand. We also pay a visit to a remote village where there is still no electricity or running water. The villagers are farmers and live in immaculate mud and thatched huts with very few possessions. We have made many friends here over the years.
Accommodation: River Side Hotel

Day 8: To Karaikudi

Today we make an interesting road journey of three hours to the Chettinad district well known for its cuisine, mansions, and temples. Chettinad is rich in cultural heritage, art and architecture, its old authentic mansions are embellished with marble and Burma teak, wide courtyards and spacious rooms. We stay in a beautiful and authentically renovated mansion where our local hosts also act as our very knowledgable guides.
Accommodation: Mansion Hotel

Day 9-10: Madurai

Today we have a busy schedule. Morning will see us making the drive to Madurai, an ancient and prestigious city bursting with remarkable places to visit. Over two days our locations include some of Madurai’s important and iconic sights including the temple and an exciting bicycle rickshaw ride through the old part of the city crammed with fascinating subjects and locations. We visit weavers, bamboo artisans, banana markets and riverside laundries. Our hotel is an excellent base; an luxury oasis away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Accommodation: Heritage Hotel

Day 11-13: Kerala and Munnar

This morning we drive high into the Western Ghats, and Kerala. This is a fascinating journey that will take us steadily uphill, through coffee and spice plantations, huge expanses of symmetrical, emerald green tea plantations, past granite domed mountains. The photographic opportunities here are diverse and will include several of the highest tea estates in the world where women in colourful saris harvest the tea shoots with deft fingers into large baskets, the planters houses that dot the hillsides, the vegetable, spice and meat markets of Munnar, forest and mountain exploration. The hills are densely forested and sunrise mists are common. The various protected areas support a large number of exotic species of flora and fauna and Eravikulam National Parka is home to a rare endangered species of mountain goat the Nilgiri Tahr; elephants and tigers also roam the forests here. We spend three nights in a lovely eco resort with fabulous vistas over the Western Ghats
Accommodation Mountain Hotel

Day 14-15: Ancient Cochin Kerala

This morning we drive steadily downhill from the cool Cardamom Hills to the exotic old seaside city of Cochin. Our locations include, winding streets crammed with ancient Portuguese houses, synagogues, palaces, forts all spread over a charming cluster of Islands and peninsulas. Chinese fishing nets are particularly interesting. We will take rickshaws through the narrow bustling streets making close contact with the local people that work and live here. Some outstanding and different photographic opportunities.
Our Hotel in Cochin is a ‘Beautiful Secret’! Close to all our best locations but hidden away in a quiet peaceful lane. Here we can relax, laze in the pool and enjoy a final celebratory dinner together.
Accommodation: Secret Garden Hotel

Day 16: Airport Transfers

This morning we transfer to Cochin International Airport for homeward flights.

Flight Information

There will be included transfers from Chennai International Airport on Day 1 to our first night Hotel in Mahabalipuram and to Cochin International airport on Day 16. Please contact the office for clarification if needed.

What’s Included

  • Hotel 15 nights
  • All food
  • Airport transfers
  • Transport
  • Local English speaking guide
  • Water while travelling

What’s Not Included

  • Insurance
  • Tips
  • Soft drinks and alcoholic drinks
  • Anything not mentioned above

Complete Itinerary and Full Details

This page is only a brief summary. A complete itinerary and more details can be found in our trip description PDF
It is important that you read this full day-to-day description and further information for this holiday before making your booking.