Incredible Photos of Traditional Honey Hunters in Nepal by Andrew Newey

Andrew Newey is a documentary travel photographer based in the southwest of England. He started traveling the world in his early twenties which sparked a passion for photography. After returning to college to study the craft of photography, he embarked on a year-long trip around the world to put the theory into practice. He began his career with shooting landscape and travel images for the stock photography industry and now focuses on commissions, photo expeditions and personal projects documenting traditional cultures around the world.

The ‘Gurung Honey Hunters‘ is a great example of one of Andrew’s projects in which he documents traditional practices. The Gurung people live in the Himalayan foothills of Nepal around the Annapurna mountain range. Twice a year they harvest the honey from the world’s largest honeybee that can be found on the cliffs in the mountains. This difficult and dangerous activity is part of an ancient and sacred tradition, and the skills required for honey hunting have been passed down through the generations.

Copyright © Andrew Newey. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright © Andrew Newey. All Rights Reserved.

Unfortunately, there’s a decline in the number of bees and honey hunters. The young Gurung people may leave the villages and find work in the big city, leaving no one to take over the tradition from the previous generations. Moreover, the practice is being threatened by the commercial interests of the tourist industry and environmental changes. The honey hunting trips that are organized for tourists take place throughout the year and lead to excessive harvesting, whereas traditionally the honey hunting only took place twice a year to give the bees time to return and restore their hives. The paths being cleared for tourists also lead to the cutting down of rhododendrons, a source of nectar for the bees.

These problems raise an ethical dilemma concerning Andrew’s job. On the one hand, it’s important to raise awareness through photography and to preserve a record of a tradition that may disappear in a number of years. On the other hand, Andrew’s pictures may actually encourage more people to visit the area for themselves. For this reason, Andrew does not disclose the location of these pictures. It took him several weeks to find this remote village that wasn’t yet touched by tourism, so hopefully these people will be able to continue their traditional lifestyle for a long time to come.

Here’s a selection of Andrew’s photos of a honey hunting trip and the Gurung lifestyle surrounding this practice.

Copyright © Andrew Newey. All Rights Reserved.

Before the hunt can begin, the cliff gods must first be appeased through a ritual that involves the sacrifice of a goat and the offering of fruit, rice and flowers. The Gurung also pray to the cliff gods for a safe hunt.

Copyright © Andrew Newey. All Rights Reserved.

The honey hunter descends from the cliff by a handmade rope ladder.

Copyright © Andrew Newey. All Rights Reserved.

The honey hunter has to wait while smoke drives away the bees from their hives.

Copyright © Andrew Newey. All Rights Reserved.

With a long, sharp stick, called a ‘tango,’ the hunter cuts off parts of the beehive.

Copyright © Andrew Newey. All Rights Reserved.

A Gurung elder watches as wild honey is harvested by the hunter 200ft above.

Copyright © Andrew Newey. All Rights Reserved.

The honey hunter catches the honey in a basket. It’s an extraordinary (and risky) endeavor to simultaneously hang on to the ladder, cut the hive and catch the honey, while surrounded by bees and smoke.

Copyright © Andrew Newey. All Rights Reserved.

The hardships of the hunter’s job include blood, blisters and bee stings.

Copyright © Andrew Newey. All Rights Reserved.

Back in the village, the honey is divided equally among the people. This honey hunter enjoys his well-deserved piece of honeycomb.

Copyright © Andrew Newey. All Rights Reserved.

After the hunters have come back, one of the first things they do with the honey is make honey tea.

Copyright © Andrew Newey. All Rights Reserved.

A Gurung boy enjoys fresh wild honey. The pieces of honeycomb that aren’t caught by the honey hunters will be eaten by the children lingering at the bottom of the cliff.

To see more of Andrew’s work or to order prints, visit his website. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter.




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2 Comments on "Incredible Photos of Traditional Honey Hunters in Nepal by Andrew Newey"

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Full Name...shantaram b. bamhane
Guest

very nice photo.

Anthony Rampersad
Guest

Stunning pictures and a very admirable project. It’s great that these old traditions can still be documented, if not preserved, for sharing.

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