THE chairman of Lincolnshire Wildife Trust has revealed how a stomach bug almost cost him his life on an exotic bird photography holiday overseas.
At an RSPB group meeting in Cleethorpes, Geoff Trinder described how he suddenly collapsed and cracked open the back of his head after the bug struck.
He was rushed to a Trinidad hospital where doctors and nurses were horrified not just by the extent of the head wound but also by the downward spiral of his blood pressure.
But, now fully recovered, neither Geoff nor his wife, Chris, were put off by the mishap. Back in January, they flew out to India for a similar wildlife photography holiday - one of 45 since he retired from his job as an art teacher.
An audience of about 50 in the Corpus Christi hall on Grimsby Road enjoyed a fascinating illustrated talk on some of the wildlife of this remarkable country.
Although Geoff acknowledged that it is generally more rewarding and less expensive to seek out birds on your own initiative, they decided to engage guides for the obvious reasons that local experts would know what species to look out for and where to find them.
Among the scores of birds the couple saw were: Snake eagle, brown hawk owl, Siberian rubythroat, bluethroat, copper barbet, white-eared bulbul, rufous treepie, spot-billed duck and various shrikes and plovers.
But the highlight was a 40-minute encounter with a family of magnificent tigers which came within feet of the open-top vehicle in which they were passengers.
"It blew me away,"enthused Geoff. "To see one of the big cats so close-up in the wild was magical - probably one of the most memorable experiences of my life."
Geoff is not a fan of towns or cities, but he and Chris made a point of visiting the Taj Mahal which he described as "probably the most beautiful building" he had ever seen.
On the downside, the couple were horrified to be told that any unaccompanied woman who went out in Mumbai after dark "would be raped".
The urban traffic was so congested, noisy and dangerous as to be described by Geoff as "unnerving and ridiculous".
Particularly disturbing was to see some individuals resting their heads on the road, as if it were a pillow, as vehicles zoomed past just inches away.
Although he did not find India as poverty-stricken as when he visited Madagascar on a previous holiday, there were other disturbing sights - including that of pigs roaming urban streets to forage on garbage and women washing their clothes in filthy river water.
Because of hygiene concerns, the couple decided against eating any meats, salads or cold vegetables, sticking with cooked vegetables throughout.
They also took with them plentiful supplies of anti-bacterial gel to disinfect their hands, especially after coming into contact with coins or notes - hard currency being notorious for spreading bugs.
Geoff said he regarded it as important not to b e a slave to his camera on the holiday.
"It doesn't make sense to spend all your time looking at that little rectangle at the back of it ,"he observed. "Sometimes you have to put it to one side and enjoy the fuller picture."
When he was taking pictures, he sometimes rested the long lens on a beanbag on the roof of the vehicle so as to keep the camera stable if he was not using a tripod.
The couple have been to Africa no fewer than 12 times, but would they go to India again?
"Probably not," said Geoff. "Our next visit will be to Romania."
* Pictures below courtesy of Wikipedia Commons and the following photographers:
:Siberian rubythroat: JJ Harrison
:Rufous treepie: Munish Jauhar
:Coppersmith barbet:Jay Dalal5