Tamil Nadu, India. June 2014.
India’s Nilgiri villagers still today practice a centuries- old tradition whose secrets have been passed down generation to generation: honey-hunting among the trees and cliffs of their native Tamil Nadu. It is dangerous work, bordering on heroism, that oft requires not only days of hiking through dense forests but also scaling steep escarpments and towering trees. Once the hunters locate the nesting places of the giant rock bees, smoky fires are lit to encourage the bees to abandon the hive. At this point the honey hunters climb the soaring trees or vertical cliffs – barehanded and barefooted – to harvest the prized honeycombs.
Much more than just a livelihood, honey hunting defines the man, compelling him to climb more for the glory than for the money. It is a demonstration of courage, skill and knowledge that can perhaps best be described as an art form: one that weaves together elements of tradition and economic potential.