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Land of the Tiger

 

Overview

Northern India is home to many wonderful wildlife parks. On this safari we spend our.
Time in three of the most outstanding parks, in order to get the best opportunity for quality viewings. Ranthambore, the former hunting reserve of the Maharajas of Jaipur, boasts large numbers of sambar and chital as well as tigers. Kanha is teeming with varieties of deer, monkey, langur, wild boar and leopard, and the 'hard ground' barasingha can also be seen. Bandhavgarh, one of the smaller national parks, is also the most diverse and is set amid an impressive setting with a stunning cliff-top fort overlooking grasslands, birch forests and bamboo that provide cover for the indigenous wildlife. All these parks are ideal for viewing both predator and prey, and with eleven game drives included and more optional ones, the chances of seeing the magnificent Bengal tiger are greatly increased. In addition to all this we visit the most famous of India's monuments, and arguably the most romantic building in the world, the Taj Mahal.

 

 

Day 1
You begin in Delhi. In the afternoon, your journey really starts, as you are transferred to the railway station to catch the train to Ranthambore National Park, a journey of approximately 5 hours.


Day 2
You will make your game drives today; the first will be early in the morning, and the second will take place in the evening. Two drives are necessary to increase your chances of seeing a tiger. Game drives are undertaken in large open trucks called canters, from which you will have unobstructed views of the park and the animals. Ranthambore is one of India's tiger reserves under Project Tiger. Sadly, after the project’s initial success, poaching has drastically reduced the tiger population, though groups are known to have spotted wild tigers there. There is a huge array of other wildlife, such as several species of monkey, deer, crocodile and bird life. This, along with the magnificent scenery, makes for a fascinating and exciting day.


Day 3
In the morning, you will head back into the park in search of tigers, returning to the hotel before lunch. In the afternoon, you will have time to take an optional visit to the ancient forts, temples and villages in and around the park.


Day 4
You will depart from Ranthambore in the morning, and travel to Bharatpur by train. You will then continue the journey to Agra by road, visiting Fatehpur Sikri en route.


Day 5
No stay in Agra would, of course, be complete without a visit to the beautiful white marble Taj Mahal. The Moghul Emperor Shah Jahan had this beautiful marble landmark built in memory of his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died in 1631. The Taj is serenely beautiful and never fails to amaze a first time visitor; the white marble exterior changes colour according to the position of the sun during the day, the beauty of which is matched only by the rich interior detail. You will also visit the nearby Red Fort of Akbar, the third of the Moghul emperors. The mighty sandstone walls of the Red Fort enclose the beautiful white marble Pearl Mosque, and the palaces, halls, courtyards and fountains of his sons and successors, Jehangir and Shah Jahan. It is here that the latter spent his final years, imprisoned by his own son Aurangzeb. This afternoon is left free for individual sightseeing. In the evening you will catch the overnight train to Jabalpur.


Day 6
You will arrive in Jabalpur in the morning, where you will have some breakfast before transferring, by road, to Kanha National Park. Although the distance is not too great, the poor road surface means that the journey will take approximately 5 to 6 hours. On arrival at the hotel, the evening may be spent as you wish.


Day 7 - 9
Created in 1974 and often described as India's greatest wildlife reserve, Kanha is vast. Covering approximately 1945km2 of undulating terrain, the elevation ranges from 450m to 900m with expansive grasslands, plateaus and dramatic rocky escarpments providing a home to literally hundreds of species of wildlife. The tiger population has been affected by poaching in recent years, but the huge abundance of animals makes the game drives a memorable experience. The park signifies the start of India's attempts to protect the tiger, and was the site of the first ever scientific study by zoologist George Shaller. Nowadays, the park is seen throughout India as a model for excellent wildlife management. During your time in Kanha, you will undertake 4 game drives, but for those who wish to do more, there is time for 3 further optional drives which should be booked and paid for locally. The game drives in Kanha are undertaken by jeep.


Day 10
You will leave Kanha National Park after breakfast and drive to Bandhavgarh, stopping off en route for refreshments. The total journey time is approximately 6 to 7 hours. On arrival, the remainder of the day and evening are free for you to spend as you wish.


Day 11 - 13
At only 437km2, Bandhavgarh is one of the smallest and least-visited national parks, but nonetheless enjoys an impressive setting with a stunning cliff-top fort overlooking grasslands, birch forests and bamboo. These provide cover for the plentiful indigenous wildlife. In common with many other parks, Bandhavgarh is home to a wide variety of game including leopard, sloth bear, gaur, sambar, chital, wild pig and, of course, tiger. The population of approximately 60 to 70 animals means that this park has the highest tiger density of any of India's reserves. Game drives in Bandhavgarh are undertaken by jeep. Aside from the game and the tigers, the park also plays host to up to 150 species of bird, including many on the migratory trail, such as the Steepe eagle. The itinerary includes 4 game drives during your stay in this beautiful rugged national park, but for those who wish to do more, there will be time for 3 further optional drives which should be booked and paid for locally.


Day 14
The drive to Katni Railway Station takes approximately 3 hours. You will stop for refreshments, conveniences, and any photo opportunities along the way. This evening you will catch the overnight train to Delhi.


Day 15
On your early arrival into Delhi you will transfer to the hotel and have some breakfast. You will then have a tour of the capital. In Old Delhi, you will visit the Red Fort and Jamia Masjid (India's largest mosque), while New Delhi will offer you its fine colonial buildings. Built by the British Raj in the early years of the last century, and set in spacious tree-lined avenues, these now house various Indian governmental departments. The afternoon will be free for further individual exploration of India's capital, or for relax at the hotel.


Day 16
After Breakfast, Depart Transfer

Profile
Travel by bus or minibus and air-conditioned sleeper train. Canters, jeeps and sometimes elephants (optional) are used in the parks. We only carry 4 group members per jeep on the game drives in Bandhavgarth and Kanha allowing you more space and comfort.


Accommodation
13 nights hotels, 2 nights air-conditioned sleeper train.


Food
All breakfasts and 11 dinners included.


What to Expect
There will be some long days of travelling, especially when taking the overnight trains, but also when driving from park to park. The condition of the roads may hamper our journey, but the roads are generally pretty good. Local traffic and/or road damage after the monsoon can sometimes slow us down. However, we travel on comparatively quiet roads for at least half of the journey. The tour is not overly demanding, but some of the days can be busy, particularly where travelling is combined with sightseeing.


Group size and age
Normally min. 7, max. 16, plus leader, driver and local guides as necessary. Minimum age 16.


Wildlife
Trips may be wholly wildlife focused, or contain an element of wildlife viewing within a less specific itinerary.


Special Interest
For those who have a passion for archaeology, food, flowers, languages or yoga. Solar eclipse departures and specialist conservation holidays are also included.

What kind of food should I expect?
There is a real mix available and you won't be disappointed! The local cuisine is predominantly vegetarian, with lots of rice. You can enjoy everything from traditional spicy curries to stalls selling tasty sweets and desserts and even some Western food, if you want some home comforts. Vegetarians and 'non-spicy' food people are easily catered for, and the leader will make sure a wide range of dishes are ordered for each meal.


What is the overnight train like?
The overnight trains in India are nothing if not an experience! You will normally be booked in 2-Tier sleeper A/C, although this can vary depending on business. All seats are pre-allocated at the time the tickets are issued, meaning that we are not able to guarantee the whole group are together on the train but your leader will manage this as best as possible and will always check on you during the journey. You could end up sitting beside a Mumbai businessman or a sadhu on pilgrimage! There is usually a stream of friendly hawkers, chai boys and fascinating faces passing through at all hours, which makes for a memorable experience and one you won't forget!


Will the hotels have towels?
The hotels you stay at will all be good quality, with en suite facilities. As such, towels are usually provided but it's always a good idea to pack an emergency one in the end of your bag as well, just in case. You may have an odd night where the standard is slightly lower but this will usually be due to where you are and, as such, limited by what is available.


Any good shopping tips for India?
Where do you start?! Half the joy of shopping in India is the sheer scale of what's on offer, from upscale boutiques in New Delhi, Mumbai and Calcutta to the crowded and sweaty markets of pretty much any town or village you come to. Handicrafts, art, leather goods, spices, hand carved statues, silk, the list goes on - all the way to cheap knock offs of western brands!
Remember, outside of the proper shops, haggling is the key but don't waste your time trying to split the difference over a few pence - the best result is when everyone comes away happy!


What is the best way to take money to India?
The India rupee is a closed currency, meaning you can only get it upon arrival in the country. There are exchange facilities at all arrival airports, and ATMs are available pretty much everywhere as well in case you need to top up along the way. You can bring cash from your home country or travellers’ cheques too.


Do you have any advice about malaria and rabies?
We strongly recommend you contact your GP or a Travel Health Clinic at least 8 weeks prior to departure for up-to-date information.


Can I catch a Bollywood movie?
Fancy a night out in India just like the locals? Head to a Bollywood movie and join the local in an evening packed with entertainment. The Bollywood masala movies are a mixture of dance, drama and musical with a break in between as many of these movies run 3 hours movies. This gives you the option to leave the theatre discreetly should you wish. The songs and dances give the films a 60s musical feel, and you may well find the locals singing and dancing to all the songs. Movie theatres that you may want to visit are; Raj Mandir in Jaipur, Odeon in Canaught Place, New Delhi, Filmistan, Karol Bagh in New Delhi - but all cities have theatres. A word of warning--try to avoid the rush when entering and exiting the theatre and the crowded area and keep valuables with close to you zipped at all times and enjoy


I have some free time in Delhi - what should I see?
Akshayadham temple. Situated on the outskirts of New Delhi in the embankment of River Yamuna, this sprawling Swaminarayan Akshardham spreads over 100 acres of land and is renowned for its carved pillars, water fountains and 20,000 statues. Made from white marble and pink stone this new temple was only completed in 2005 which makes it less well known by Western tourists or the guide books. A visit to the temple is the perfect way to explore the amazing world of Indian culture and get a unique view of the Hindu religion.
Another option is the Gandhi Smriti, a museum dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi. This building (also known as Birla House) was where Gandhi spent his last days and also the site where he was assassinated on 30 Jan 1948, giving the name of the whole street Tees (30 in Indian language) January Road. The Museum houses pictures and articles associated with the life and death of Gandhi. You can take a tour of the building including the room where he once lived and visit the garden sight where he was shot. This visit can be combined with a visit to Indira Gandhi Museum and the market of Canaught Place which are both about 10 minutes drive away.


Can you recommend a good restaurant in Delhi?
A popular restaurant situated in Old Delhi on the ground floor of Hotel Broadway is the Chor Bizarre Restaurant. It has good selection of North Indian and Kashmiri cuisine. The hotel also regularly has Indian Cultural programme in the evenings that you are recommended to check with the hotel/restaurant beforehand for reservations should you want to watch it. Also being a popular restaurant it is advisable that you make an advance table booking to avoid disappointment.


Is it possible to get visas upon arrival?
No. Indian visas must be pre-arranged in advance. Check the Indian embassy website for details.

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