This trip is a nature lover’s dream come true!
This fabulous tour of the northwestern Indian states of Rajasthan and Gujarat offers the amazing prospect of seeing not only Tiger and Leopard, but also the rare Asiatic Lion which is unique to the Gir National Park in Gujarat. Other possible stars of this ‘cat fest’ include Jungle and Desert Cats, while other mammals we may enjoy seeing include Asiatic Wolf and Jackal, Indian and Desert Foxes, Striped Hyena, Sloth Bear, Asiatic Wild Ass, Wild Boar, Blackbuck, Indian Gazelle, Blue Bull, Sambar and Spotted Deer and Large Indian Fruit Bat. We should also see Marsh Crocodile, Indian Rock Python and Bengal and Desert Monitor Lizards, and that still leaves a mouth-watering list of up to 300 species of birds! We begin in Keoladeo National Park, a World Heritage Site, better known as Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, with a bird list in excess of 400 species, and ranked number 7 in the world’s top 100 birding sites! At the time of our visit the exotic residents like Indian Peafowl, Sarus Crane, Painted Stork and Pheasant-tailed and Bronze-winged Jacanas are joined by thousands of wildfowl, waders and raptors from further north, including Bar-headed Geese from Tibet. This is also the best place in the world to see Greater Spotted Eagle! We also visit the famous Ranthambore National Park with its iconic Tigers which inhabit the rugged landscape around the majestic tenth century fort, featured in countless wildlife documentaries. With three previous visits to the Indian sub-continent, New Horizons has a 100% success record with Tiger sightings!
For this tour, New Horizons has teamed up with Avijit Sarkhel. Avi is the Director and chief guide for Vana Safaris, which is a member of TOFT (Travel Operators For Tigers) a campaign group run by travel professionals to support the responsible use of wilderness areas in the Indian subcontinent. He has guided clients for several British and American birding companies and is an authority on the birds and wildlife of India.
India is a very special place, a treasure trove, rewarding the traveller with unforgettable experiences, thanks to a combination of a rich heritage with some outstanding architecture, an exotic culture and a diversity of spectacular wildlife. Once you have been to India, you will want to go again and again. So, get your name down soon and prepare for an unforgettable experience.
Day 1 We have an evening flight with British Airways from Heathrow to Mumbai. Dinner and overnight in flight.
Day 2 On arrival in Mumbai we meet our local guide and transfer to the domestic terminal for an internal flight to Jaipur. Once in the ‘Pink City’ of Jaipur, capital of Rajasthan, we have a ‘cultural’ afternoon at the magnificent sixteenth century red sandstone and white marble Amber Fort, where local birds include Laughing Dove, Common and Bank Mynas, Brown Rock Chat and Indian Robin, with the possibility of Black Kites and Indian and Egyptian Vultures soaring overhead. This evening we enjoy a warm welcome at Dera Mandawa, a superbly splendid traditional ‘family home’. According to Trip Advisor, this highly acclaimed small hotel is ranked number 2 out of 468 Jaipur inns! Dinner and overnight at The Dera Mandawa Hotel.
Day 3 We leave the ‘Pink City’ on an interesting drive to Bharatpur, with stops en route for lunch, and birds like Black-necked Stork, Sarus Crane, Greater Painted Snipe and numerous other water birds. On arrival in Bharatpur, we check in to the Laxmi Vilas Palace, an elegant luxury hotel in a former nineteenth century palace and rated the number one hotel in Bharatpur. Dinner and overnight at The Laxmi Vilas Palace Hotel.
Day 4 We have a full day in the world famous Keoladeo National Park, which we shall explore by chauffeur-powered peddle rickshaw and on foot, with lunch at a small restaurant in the park and a chance of listing up to 150 species in just one day! We may see Black Bittern, Darter, Asian Openbill, Painted and Woolly-necked Storks, endangered Siberian Cranes, Black-headed Ibis, Bar-headed Goose, Cotton Pygmy-goose, Lesser Whistling, Spot-billed and Comb Ducks, White-breasted Waterhen, Bronze-winged and Pheasant-tailed Jacanas, Brown, Baillon’s and Ruddy-breasted Crakes, Black and Grey Francolins, Indian Grey Hornbill, Pied Cuckoo, White-throated and Pied Kingfishers, Indian Roller, Little Green Bee-eater, Brown-headed and Coppersmith Barbets, Black-rumped Flameback, Brown-capped and Yellow-crowned Woodpeckers, Tickell’s and Orange-headed Thrushes, Siberian Rubythroat, Dusky, Smoky, Sykes’s, Paddyfield and Yellow-browed Warblers, Red Avadavat, Indian Silverbill and Indian Peafowl, the national bird, and that’s just a small selection! As well as the possibility of a Python basking in the sun, several species of mammals can also be seen, including Sambar, Spotted Deer and Nilgai, the largest of the Indian antelope. Dinner and overnight at The Laxmi Vilas Palace Hotel.
Day 5 This morning we have an interesting two and a half hour train journey to Ranthambore National Park, where we check in to The Ranthambore Bagh, another highly acclaimed small hotel, adjacent to the national park, catering specifically for wildlife enthusiasts. This afternoon, we have our first 4×4 open jeep safari in the national park on the lookout for ‘big game’, including Tiger and Leopard, as well as some of the 270 or so birds which have previously been recorded in this fantastic place, such as Red and Painted Spurfowls, Red Jungle Fowl, Yellow- and Red-wattled Lapwings, Black-shouldered and Brahminy Kites, Crested Serpent Eagle, White-eyed Buzzard, Indian Pond Heron, Black-headed Oriole, Black and White-bellied Drongos, Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, Pied Bushchat, Common, Tawny-bellied and Yellow-eyed Babblers, Oriental Skylark and Purple Sunbird. Dinner and overnight at The Ranthambore Bagh.
Days 6 & 7 We have the privilege of two full days in Ranthambore National Park, with morning and afternoon jeep safaris laid on in this classic ‘Tiger country’, featured in numerous wildlife documentaries. In between safaris, we can enjoy the bird life around our hotel. Dinners and overnights at The Ranthambore Bagh.
Day 8 We drive back to Jaipur airport to check in for an internal flight to Ahmedabad in the western state of Gujarat. After another interesting drive, we arrive at the attractive village-style Rann Riders Lodge near Dasada, where local birds include Shikra, Yellow-footed Green Pigeon, Red-breasted and Asian Paradise Flycatchers, Oriental White-eye and Rosy Starling. The lodge is on the edge of a saline desert with big skies, known as the Little Rann of Kutch, inhabited by Desert Fox, the rare Asiatic Wolf and the unique Asiatic Wild Ass, as well as Yellow-legged and Barred Buttonquails, McQueen’s Bustard, Sociable Lapwing, Cream-coloured and Indian Coursers, Bimaculated and Hoopoe Larks, Long-tailed and Rufous-tailed Shrikes, Common Woodshrike and Desert Wheatear, all of which will be looked for during an afternoon jeep safari. Dinner and overnight at Rann Riders Lodge.
Day 9 We have a full day exploring the Little Rann, including seasonal wetlands which are magnets in this dry landscape for large numbers of birds such as Demoiselle Crane, Lesser Flamingo, Black and Glossy Ibises, Great White, Dalmatian and Spot-billed Pelicans and Oriental Pratincole. In the evening we go out in search of Sykes’s Nightjar and Pallid Scops Owl. Dinner and overnight at Rann Riders Lodge.
Day 10 We drive to Velavadar National Park, with birding stops along the way, to arrive at the excellent lakeside Blackbuck Lodge in time for lunch, followed by an afternoon jeep safari in the national park, which is home to a thriving population of handsome Blackbuck as well as Indian Gazelle, Asiatic Wolf and Jackal, Striped Hyena and Jungle Cat, while possible birds include Montagu’s Harrier, Painted Francolin, Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, Rufous-tailed Lark and the endemic and Sykes’s Lark. Dinner and overnight at Blackbuck Lodge.
Day 11 After a final jeep safari in the national park this morning, we drive to Gir National Park, arriving at Gir Birding Lodge in time for lunch, followed by a jeep safari in the national park. The park is home to a unique population of around 300 Asiatic Lions and about the same number of Leopards. Other big mammals here include Jungle Cat, Asiatic Jackal, Wild Boar and Sambar Deer. In addition to all this ‘hairy excitement’ the park has a list of about 250 birds such as White-backed and Red-headed Vultures, Changeable Hawk Eagle, Pallas’s and Grey-headed Fish Eagles, Bonelli’s, Lesser Spotted, Steppe and Eastern Imperial Eagles, Red-headed Falcon, Spotted Owlet and the endemic Mottled Wood Owl, Oriental Honey-buzzard, Blossom-headed Parakeet, Large Cuckooshrike, Small Minivet, Red-vented and White-eared Bulbuls, Jungle Babbler, Black-naped Monarch, White-browed Fantail, Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher, Ashy, Plain and Jungle Prinias, Ashy Drongo and Rufous Treepie. Dinner and overnight at Gir Birding Lodge.
Days 12 & 13 We have two full days in Gir National Park, with morning and afternoon jeep safaris laid on. In between safaris, we can enjoy the wildlife around our safari-style tented camp, where the lodge verandas offer great viewpoints for watching the wealth of bird life attracted to the surrounding Mango orchard. Dinners and overnights at Gir Birding Lodge.
Day 14 After another jeep safari in the national park this morning, we drive to Rajkot airport to check in for an early evening domestic flight to Mumbai. Dinner and overnight at a hotel near Mumbai airport.
Day 15 We check in for an early afternoon flight with British Airways back to Heathrow, arriving early evening.
What the price includes:
Return flights with British Airways from Heathrow to Mumbai (overnight on the outward leg), domestic flights from Mumbai to Jaipur, from Jaipur to Ahmedabad and from Rajkot to Mumbai, all ground transport in India, thirteen nights full board accommodation, all jeep safaris and entry fees, field checklist and the services of your guides.
Single supplement: £585
The flight to Mumbai takes about 9 hours and the return flight takes 10 hours.
A visa is required for British citizens to visit India.
January enjoys a pleasant climate. This is the cool dry season when daily temperatures range from 10 – 25°C in Rajasthan and 12 – 29°C in Gujarat, with virtually no rain to be expected.
It is advisable to be vaccinated against Hepatitis A and B and Typhoid, and anti-malarial prophylaxis is recommended.
Ground transport in India will be by air-conditioned minibus and trains, with open jeeps in the national parks.
All the accommodations are highly rated on Trip Advisor and have Certificates of Excellence.
There will be excellent photo-opportunities and we should see at least 250 bird species, as well as many mammals.