My Comforting Yet Challenging Journey Into The Wild

From a mundane newsroom job to an adventurous life in the wild, I have visited all 7 continents, both the north and south poles to document nature and wildlife. But has the journey been easy? 

Simran Gill
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Simran Gill | Image provided by the author

A loud growl startled me out of my sleep, and I quickly looked outside my cottage window.  It was the crack of dawn, and the sun was just coming up on the clear blue skies, in the middle of a forest in Alaska. I looked around to see where the noise was coming from, another loud growl literally made me fall off my bed. Wow! Just right in front of our cottage was a Grizzly bear…I quickly tried to grab my camera; excitement took over fear and I rushed towards the door to film this huge male making his way into the forest. This was one of my many encounters in the wild.


And today, when I happily narrate many such close encounters to my family and friends, they worryingly suggest that I should find another job. But I smile and say, “I feel safer in the forest than I will ever feel in any of the cities.” 

Like they say, you don’t choose wildlife; it chooses you. 

My love for animals started very early thanks to my mother. Be it dogs, cats, birds or even pigs. She adopted them all and that very same environment of universal love transcended to me as well. While I wanted to be a filmmaker from a very young age, I was even more clear that it has to have a clear wildlife focus. 

But life had other plans for me. Having graduated in journalism and mass communication, I landed my first job in a business news channel in 2009 and the mundane life started catching up on me. I started visiting wildlife national parks in India with my friends hoping to manifest some luck for myself… but it wasn’t until 2016 that my luck changed. 

One gloomy day in Mumbai, I got a call from my friend, Nikhil Nagle who asked me if I could help him set up his online wildlife channel. This meant travelling across the world to document the various species on our planet. I grabbed this opportunity in a split second, and we started an online wildlife channel called Gypsy Tiger. 

And today as I begin to tell my story, I have visited all 7 continents, both the north and south poles to document most of the species. But has the journey been easy? 


Simran Gill

My tryst with the wild

Venturing into the wild meant it was time to leave behind all the comforts of city life. It didn’t take too long for life to show me what I was getting into. My first trip was to Ladakh, India where we were going to stay for over a month in the peak of winters to scout for and document Snow Leopards. This elusive big cat is also known as the ghost of the mountains, and I understood why only after I experienced it first-hand. 

It was like life was throwing an open challenge, trying to tease me, hoping I would give up. 

The initial days were exciting, I was with my camera in my hand documenting the gorgeous landscapes and animals, but soon the days began to turn into hardship and the nights unbearable. It had been 12 days, and we hadn’t seen any Snow Leopards. 

Being a woman traveller in the wild comes with its own challenges. We were staying in homestays which had just enough water to help us carry through the day, bathing was like a distant dream. On most days, the temperature would hover around -15 degrees and nights freezing at -20 degrees or less. The sleeping bags would provide some warmth, but hardly any comfort. The toilets were basic, to say the least. I would eat one meal a day so that I could avoid using them, I would stop drinking water after dark so that I don’t have to go out in the cold at night!


As a filmmaker, you do not have the comfort of deciding which day you want to rest; you have to always be prepared in Nature. Come snow, wind, or sunshine, I would spend hours with our trackers to help find the big cat. Soon this got to me, I was exhausted, and I was on the verge of giving up. 

Simran Gill 2

It had been almost a month since I connected to my family members as there was no mobile network. I decided to call my father using the only available telephone line in the village which was a costly affair. As soon as I heard my father’s voice, I started crying profusely. I said, “Papa, I cannot do this anymore.” The voice on the other end was calm, and he replied, “Mind over body!” And he repeated. That line stuck with me, and I began to focus on my goal, to find these cats. 

It was the next day when I was busy having my Maggie noodles, totally unprepared, our tracker shouted Snow Leopard, Snow Leopard! My bowl fell, I rushed to grab my cameras and there we could see right on top of the huge mountain, a Snow Leopard walking… This furry whitish-grey colour cat with black spots was looking down right at us and an Ibex which was unaware of its presence. The cat sat down to see if there was any chance of catching its prey… my heart was pounding fast, am I going to see a hunt? But suddenly the Ibex smelt its presence and ran downhill while the Snow Leopard moved its glance towards us and walked away. It was too far for my camera to capture in proper detail but it was a mind-numbing experience to just watch the whole thing. 

I was so excited; our hard work had paid off. At that moment all my struggles went away, and I knew I had made the best decision of my life. 

Wilderness challenges for women


Being in the wild is challenging for all, even more so for women, but it’s these unique experiences you come across every time you go to the forest that makes your journey exhilarating. Going to the forest is like rebooting myself from the stressful city life. Each day you learn something new – how the elephants protect their own, how a tiger will not hunt if he is not hungry, how each species has a role to play, and they play it perfectly. 

Since then, there have been days where I am burning at 50 degrees sitting in a jeep in Ranthambore National Park, waiting to get one glimpse of my favourite tigress, Arrowhead; or freezing at -30 degree Celsius at the North Pole to see the Polar bears; or crossing hurricanes to get to South pole to see the Penguins... It’s the passion that keeps me going in this field. 

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It’s like an intoxication – hearing a mother Jaguar calling out to her cubs, a herd of elephants protecting their own, a tiger charging at a herd of deer; or Snow Monkeys’ funny antics, Polar Bear cubs rolling on snow, or Orangutans peeing on us from treetops… for me, this is what dreams are made of and I am fortunate to be experiencing it all. 

It’s been 7 years as a wildlife filmmaker and this journey has only just begun for me. Through the course of this series, I will share with you my experiences as a woman filmmaker, constantly in search of my next awe-inspiring story. 

Simran Gill is a journalist turned independent Wildlife and Non-Fiction filmmaker. Views expressed by the author are their own. All images are provided by the author.

Suggested Reading: Meet 23-year-old Aishwarya Sridhar, First Indian Woman To Win Wildlife Photographer Of The Year Award 

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