Explore the heart of central India and its wonderful wildlife reserves and national parks as we seek magnificent tigers in action, as well as other mammals, both big and small, and many incredible birds. Begin with the amazing cervids, pythons, and waterbirds of Keoladeo Ghana National Park at Bharatpur, including many migrant birds from the north, then be captivated by the cultural marvels of the Taj Mahal, Orchha, and Khajuraho. Spend a glorious week in two famous tiger reserves, Bandhargarh and Kanha national parks, the latter being where Kipling wrote The Jungle Book. Become immersed in the quest for tiger while also enjoying other fantastic wildlife. Soak up the wonderful knowledge and hospitality of India's people while staying in lovely accommodations. By the end of the safari, we will have traveled by bus, four-wheel drive, boat, train, plane, and best of all by elephant!
Companion Safaris and Extensions: Extend your stay in India! Continue on to Kaziranga and Nameri National Parks in Assam for eight days, March 23 to 30, 2013, immediately following this tour.
Cost: $5,047 per person, double occupancy, not including airfare. Review cost details.
Leaders: Naturalists Rajveer Singh and Gail and Doug Cheeseman lead throughout the tour. Two additional excellent naturalists, Ansar Khan and Babloo Ikrar Khan, will join us from Khajuraho to Bandhargarh and Kanha National Park until departure. Also, special cultural guides will lead at cultural sites. We travel in three 4WD Innova Toyotas with resident drivers.
Group Size: 11 participants, not including leaders.
Number of Days: 17 days total, including estimated travel time.
Conditions: A non-smoking safari for people who are very interested in all wildlife and spending the maximum time in the field.
Update: This itinerary was updated in November 2012.
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March 8 - 10, Friday - Sunday: Flights and overnight in Delhi
March 11 - 13, Monday - Wednesday: Sultanpur Sanctuary and Bharatpur (Keoladeo Ghana)
Continue after lunch for another 185 kilometers through this very interesting countryside to check in at the beautiful Hotel Bagh in Bharatpur. Bharatpur is home to our guides, Rajveer Singh and Ansar Khan who will assist Rajveer later in the trip when we switch from a bus to two 4wheel drives to handle the roads at Bandhavgarh and Kanha. Rajveer's ancestors were Maharajas who have protected the marshlands here since the habitat was created in the late 19th century. Most of India's wildlife reserves were once hunting for sport reserves and Bharatpur was the best one for duck hunting until it became a national park with no hunting allowed. The royal family of Bharatpur originally created the area now named Keoladeo Ghana National Park. They diverted water from irrigation canals by building dams and bunds (embankments) around depressions that collected rainwater. The remainder of the park is deciduous forest and grasslands. "Keolade" is the ancient Hindu temple in the center of the park and "Ghana" refers to the dense forest of former times. Sambar, Nilgai, Chital (Spotted Deer), and Blackbuck are present in woodland and grassland and in the shallow waters of the wetlands. Smooth Otters are sometimes active on the lakes. If the weather is right, large Rock Pythons come out of their underground hiding places to sun themselves, appropriately at Python Point beyond the Keoladeo Temple. Golden Jackals call at night and Striped Hyenas, Bengal Foxes, Palm Civets, and Indian Crested Porcupine are also active at night in the sanctuary. Three species of small, shy felids, Jungle Cat, Leopard Cat (Felis bengalensis), and Fishing Cat, are also present, but very difficult to see.
The Bagh is a lovely hotel set in a 200-year-old heritage garden on twelve acres, owned by our outfitters, Exotic Journeys. The birding right on the grounds is wonderful. We'll also have memorable experiences with morning and afternoon game viewing and birding inside the national park, which is twelve kilometers from our hotel. We'll enjoy opportunities to meet park rangers and local conservationist and talk with professionals from every area we visit throughout the trip. At Bharatpur, there are wide trails for walking around the bunds. Darters, cormorants, ducks, geese, egrets, eagles, jacanas, and dozens of other birds are there. Migrants have arrived, including cranes. We hope to take an enchanting boat trip shortly after dawn one morning around one of the lakes, depending on the water levels. If the water levels are too low for a boat trip, instead of having lunch at The Bagh the last day, we'll take a picnic lunch to drive 45 kilometers to Bund Baretha to bird along the lake there and in the vegetation between the lake and the old palace that overlooks it.
March 14, Thursday: Fatehpur-Sikri and the Taj Mahal
After checking into our hotel in Agra, we will spend the afternoon at the magnificent Taj Mahal. Built by Emperor Shah Jehan in memory of his beloved consort Mumtaz Mahal, this mausoleum is pure white marble. Begun in 1631 and completed in 1653, over 20,000 people worked on the buildings and grounds, combining Persian, Turkish, Indian, and Islamic architectural styles. Stay until sunset, a wonderful time to be here with light passing through the multi-cut screens to cast intricate shadows on the wall, certainly one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The gardens are home to Hoopoes and other birds, including falcons that hunt small birds on the Taj grounds.
March 15, Friday: Train to Jhansi, then to Orchha on the Betwa River
March 16, Saturday: Beautiful temples at Khajuraho and on to Bandhavgarh National Park
March 17 - 18, Sunday - Monday: Search for tiger and birds in Bandhavgarh National Park
March 19, Tuesday: To Kanha National Park for great Tiger viewing!
March 20 - 22, Wednesday - Friday: Search for tigers and other wildlife at Kanha
The dominant tree in Kanha is Sal, which is an important hardwood in southern Asia. Bamboo thickets, "Dadar" (grassy plateau), and lightly wooded meadows with many rivers and streams support abundant wildlife. We hope to spot the endangered Hard-ground Barasingha (a subspecies of Swamp Deer), Barking Deer, Spotted Deer (Chital), Gaur, which is the largest bovine, the very shy Chowsingha (Four-horned Antelope), Golden Jackal, Jungle Cat, Common Langur, Sloth Bear, Wild Boar, and the Dhole (Asian Wild Dog). Some of the birds we hope to encounter are Red-naped Ibis, Jungle Owlet, Blue-bearded and Little Green bee-eaters, Crested Bunting, Red Junglefowl, Indian Peafowl, Oriental Darter, Indian Pond Heron, Woolly-necked Stork, Bronze-winged Jacana, Indian Grey Hornbill, Brown-throated Barbet, Lesser Flameback, White-eyed Buzzard, Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Crested Serpent-Eagle, Pied Harrier, Red-headed Vulture, Alexandrine and Plum-headed parakeets, Yellow-legged Green Pigeon, Sirkeer Malkoha, Greater Coucal, Collared Scops-Owl, Grey, Indian and Savannah nightjars, Crested Treeswift, Indian Scimitar-Babbler, Tawny-bellied and Yellow-eyed babblers, Tickell's, Blue and Verditer flycatchers, Asian Paradise-Flycatcher, Olive Tree Pipit, Black-headed Oriole, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Rufous Treepie, Scarlet Minivet, White-rumped Shama, and Red Avadavat.
March 23, Saturday: Fly to Delhi for flights homeward or fly to Kolkata for the Assam Extension
After a dawn outing and breakfast, drive from Kanha to the closest airport, which is at Nagpur, a distance of 266 kilometers. We'll take a picnic lunch and stop en route. If not joining the extension to Assam, board IndiGo's evening flight to Delhi. On arrival in Delhi, transfer to the Radisson Airport Hotel for dinner and dayrooms until about 10:00 pm. Transfer back to the airport for a night flight homeward, arriving home on Saturday, December 1. Most international flights from Delhi leave after midnight. For those continuing on the extnsion to Kaziranga and Nameri National Parks in Assam for Rhino and other wonderful wildlife not found in Central India, board the evening flight to Kolkata with Rajveer, Ansar and Babloo.
For those not continuing on our optional extension to Assam, you will drive to the Raipur airport to fly to Delhi for your connecting flights homeward. We will book the Raipur/Delhi flight for you and add the cost to your final payment. Review flight information.
For those continuing on our optional extension to Assam, you will drive to the Nagpur airport to fly to Kolkata. We will book the Nagpur/Kolkata flight for you and add the cost to your final payment. Review flight information.
Another choice is to stay longer in Delhi. We are happy to assist you with your arrangements. Delhi, the capital of India, has a fascinating history and nonstop action at most every street corner, whether it is snake charmer or dancing bear! The old city, built by Shah Jehan in the 17th century, is basically Indo-Islamic architecture, whereas New Delhi is a mixture of east and west. Attractions include the Jamma Mosque Red Fort, Raj Ghat, Gandhi Memorial Museum, Hamayun's Tomb, Birla Temple, Jantar Mantar, Delhi Zoo, and Connaught Place, New Delhi's main shopping center. We have been to the Gandhi Memorial Museum and Hamayun's Tomb and enjoyed the birds on the grounds as well. Throughout the city Black Kites, excellent garbage collectors, are usually seen overhead. Birds are protected and come to feed on the temple grounds, especially Rose-ringed Parakeets, even White-breasted Kingfisher and several species of passerines. Oriental Turtle-Dove, Common Myna, Yellow-billed Babbler, Dusky Crag-Martin and both Large-billed and House crows are some of the common species in the city. The Tomb of Humayan provides good bird habitat in charming gardens that are said to have inspired Shah Jehan to build the Taj Mahal.
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Payments and Cancellations: All reservations require a deposit due at the time of making the reservation. Upon receiving your deposit and reservation form, we will send trip materials with additional information to help you prepare for your safari. Until the final payment due date, deposits are refundable except for a cancellation fee of $150 per person. This fee may go toward another tour if reserved within six months of the cancelled trip's departure date. There are no refunds given after the final payment due date. If you are a single traveler and desire so, we will find a roommate for you, if we cannot find a roommate we may have to charge you the single supplement fee. We reserve the right to charge for cost increases that occur between now and the date of travel, including changes due to the cost of lodging and transportation.
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To Make a Reservation: Please contact us (there are many methods of contacting us) to assure space availability and to let us answer your questions. Then, print our reservation form, fill out one form per person, and post it to us in the mail with your deposit. Or fill out our handy online information request and we will send you more information.
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Leaders: Rajveer Singh grew-up at Bharatpur near Keoladeo National Park. His family members are descendents of Maharajas and have a reverence for wildlife that fostered his very early comprehensive interest in birds and mammals. He graduated from the University of Rajasthan, has studied nature and wildlife extensively, and has led many wildlife and birding groups throughout India, Nepal, and Bhutan. Rajveer is an excellent guide and an expert on mammals and birds of India with a lot of passion for sharing his love of India's natural and cultural history.
Both Babloo Ikrar Khan and Ansar Khan were born at Bharatpur and come from an important family of foresters who have worked in the Keoladeo National Park for two generations. Both have traveled widely, are experts on the birds and mammals of India, and have extensive experience leading bird and wildlife tours in north, central and east India.
Ansar specializes in wildlife photography. Many of his photographs have appeared in magazines and books and can be seen on his website, Wild Focus India. He is also active with the Life Line for Nature Society, a Bharatpur-based conservation and wildlife awareness nonprofit. Babloo is a member of the World Wildlife Fund for Nature India and was awarded a grant by the Oriental Bird Club to survey the status of vultures in the eastern district of Rajasthan. Both are highly respected among naturalists in India. They will be wonderful guides joining Rajveer to the national parks of Bandhargarh and Kanha and on the Assam Extension to Kaziranga and Nameri National Parks.
Gail and Doug Cheeseman have been leading wildlife safaris since 1978. They have found leading safaris to be a fresh way of blending a desire to observe nature with a wish to inspire travelers towards the values of conservation and education. Doug influenced the lives of many biology majors while teaching zoology and ecology at De Anza College in Cupertino, California, during his 35-year career there. He turned to leading safaris full time in 1998. Gail is a birder and naturalist, plus a meticulous coordinator of trip logistics. Gail and Doug lead as many trips as their schedule can accommodate, including Africa and the Neotropics.
Arrival: Arrive in Delhi (DEL) by the evening of March 10 at the latest. For most, this will mean departing on March 8 or the morning of March 9. From the East Coast, you should fly via Europe to Delhi. There is a choice from the West Coast, with some flights traveling west over the Pacific, crossing the International Dateline.
Departure: For those not continuing on our optional extension to Assam, on March 23 in Raipur (RPR) board IndiGo's evening flight at 7:35 pm that arrives in Delhi (DEL) at 9:20 pm (we will book this flight for you and add the cost to your final payment). Arrange your departure for home from Delhi (DEL) on a late night flight (most flights leave after midnight) on March 23 or very early morning on March 24 (possibly requiring an extra hotel night, not included).
For those continuing on the optional extension to Assam, on March 23 in Nagpur (NAG) board a flight to Kolkata (CCU) (we will book this flight for you and add the cost to your final payment). Arrange your departure for home from Delhi (DEL) on a late night flight (most flights leave after midnight) on March 29 or early in the morning on March 30 (possibly requiring an extra hotel night, not included).
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Transportation and Lodging: We stay in excellent lodges throughout India. We use many forms of comfortable transportation: air-conditioned coaster bus, Shatabdi Express train from Agra to Jhansi, four air-conditioned 4WD Toyota Innovas (three participants per vehicle, plus naturalist and driver), national park open jeeps with three rows of seats in Bandavgarh and Kanha, and airplane.
Climate: Temperatures vary at this season from cool to very comfortable, depending on the time of day. It will be very cool in the early morning and in the evening. It will be the "dry" season, but rain will likely be encountered, as climates are fairly unpredictable these days. Bring a warm jacket that is rain and wind resistant. Insects are not normally a problem in these areas, but we recommend that you bring insect repellant. The extension in Assam will be warmer weather than the part in central India.
Travel Insurance: Emergency Medical Insurance is optional, but encouraged, for this tour. Read about travel insurance and our recommendations and requirements.
Cheesemans' Ecology Safaris is registered as California Seller of Travel #2063050-40. Registration as a seller of travel does not constitute approval by the State of California. Cheesemans' Ecology Safaris is a participant in the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation (TCRC). In event of a client canceling where a refund is applicable in accordance with the schedule above, or in the event that CES needs to cancel the trip, all payments for transportation or travel service not provided to the client shall be promptly refunded, unless the client instructs us otherwise in writing. All client payments are deposited into a trust account in accordance with California law. If for any reason a valid refund is not forthcoming, the client may request reimbursement from the TCRC within six months of the scheduled end of the tour. Please feel free to ask us for more information.
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