All photos by Robert van Koesveld
Photography Tour of Bhutan 18 September – 2 October 2015
Leaders Matt Brandon, Robert van Koesveld and Libby Lloyd. Suitable for all levels of adventurous photographers & travelers.
Twice I have been able to shoot with Robert van Koesveld in extreme locations. The first time was on the overland trip from Lhasa to Kathmandu, the second was last month in Ladakh, India and each time I was amazed at both his patience with people and his ability to draw people out in a conversation. This last trip to Ladakh Robert was joined by his wife Libby Lloyd. Robert and Libby are experts on Bhutan and it’s culture and thus quite knowlegable about Buddhism as well – always handy while traveling in Ladakh. You can’t travel with these two without hearing of their many travels to the mystical land of Bhutan. In fact they have published a gorgeous book on Bhutan titled, Bhutan Heartland. If you have ever travel with me you know Bhutan has been on my bucket list for sometime. So it is with great excitement that I announce the Photography Tour of Bhutan 2015 co-lead with Robert van Koesveld & Libby Lloyd.
Traveling in Bhutan involves glorious Himalayan scenery. We will see valley villages and farms, kind friendly people, beautiful Buddhist temples, colorful religious festivals with masked dancers, and extraordinary stories from the people who once lived under a feudal monarchy.
All this amazing and visually stunning culture and landscape will come alive for you with Robert and Libby as our tour escorts. If that isn’t enough, we have the skills, knowledge and good humor of head Bhutanese guide, Namgay, and his reliable and caring team of guides and drivers, who understand the needs of photographers. This tour has been run in the past with sellout success and the secret has been the many exclusive opportunities to interact with Bhutanese, and the flexibility possible by having a small group of cars, each with two guests, a guide (including myself, Robert, Libby and Namgay) and a driver. This is an ideal combination for photographers of all levels of experience, who are also curious travelers who enjoy gathering and hearing stories.
The Tour winds through rural valleys, passing icy rivers, into dense forests and over passes strewn with prayer flags. Along the way we will explore the delights of the townships of Paro and Thimphu, the elegant riverside dzong of Punakha and the earthy mountainside dzong of Trongsa, before arriving in the fascinating Bumthang valleys of central Bhutan.
Every day there will be opportunities to meet the locals and hear their extraordinary stories of times gone by. Joining with the Bhutanese communities to witness the amazing ancient rituals of their festival dances will be a colorful and delightful experience. We will observe the contrast of the intimate festival at Tamshing Lhakhang with the granduer of Gangtey Gomba festival.
A highlight for guests will be the very special experience of staying in the small once-feudal village of Ogyencholing. We will sleep in the guesthouse next to the stately 16th century palace. There will be time to visit in the homes of the locals and walk along the paths to witness the daily rhythms of rural life. Unique to our tour is the chance to join with the locals in their traditional archery, darts and dancing, as well as raise some tall prayer flags while a local monk performs the moving rituals.
‘Every day, every minute was extraordinarily perfect. No travel experience we have ever had has achieved that. This was amazing. We fell into bed every night with huge smiles on our faces. [We] did so much, learned so much and found the whole country a very happy place to simply ‘be’.’ ~ Jo, Australia
Along the way Robert and Libby will reveal to you some of their most treasured places and experiences as well as guide you in capturing the images and stories that are the essence of this beautiful kingdom. Robert and I will provide teaching sessions as well as being available every day to support your image making.
Although this tour is designed to meet the special needs of photographers anyone interested in experiencing Bhutan will readily enjoy themselves. All participants will enjoy the best of both worlds: access to two professional photographers as well as to local guides and drivers who understand the needs of travelers with an interest in photography. You will be well oriented to each day’s photographic possibilities and have sufficient background to make sense of what you are seeing. In addition, with two guests to each of the 5-7 vehicles, (along with a driver and either a Bhutanese guide or one of the international leaders), there is flexibility that increases the options for stopping for photos that interest you. By changing cars each day you will access the unique knowledge of all three leaders and all the guides and drivers as well as meet interesting fellow guests over meals to debrief and discuss; you are never stuck in a bus! Again, this is a tour for travelers and photographers, though experience as a photographer is not a prerequisite.
Bhutan, Robert van Koesveld, Libby Lloyd, Namgay, me and you – a match made in heaven! Join us.