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STALKING THE TIGER
THERE WAS A TIME when the vast plains of the North were covered with forest and grasslands and the wilderness crouched at the edge of every settlement. Hunts, shooting parties and game drives were
popular sport and records of these expeditions list a phenomenal number of kills. But the pressure of population and deforestation eventually took its toll and the wounded forests retreated. Fortunately, there were many among the hunters who realised, before it got too late, the importance of preserving the natural heritage of the land. The Corbett National Park, set up in 1936, became India’s first wildlife sanctuary.
Project Tiger was initiated in 1973, a concerted effort directed towards increasing the tiger population of the country by preserving its habitat. Today, a network of about 80 National Parks and 441 Sanctuaries, covering four per cent of its land area. Attempts are being made to link these increasingly isolated pockets of wilderness by creating ‘corridors’ that will allow animals a much greater range. There are also, in some parks, large areas of pristine forest where any kind of human intervention, even the picking of dry twigs, is prohibited.
Every one of these parks provide ample opportunity for wildlife viewing. From camouflaged machans, boats, jeeps and elephant back you can watch the jungle go about its business. The thrill of coming upon, in its natural habitat, a herd of wild elephants on its way down to water or a tiger crouched behind a rock, selecting his evening meal from amongst the herd of deer grazing in the meadows, cannot really be matched. The majority of these parks are in Northern and Central India. You will be travelling through the untamed jungle heartland of India.
DAY 01 ARRIVAL Reception and welcome at Delhi airport followed by transfer to your hotel.
DAY 02 DELHI Take the first day to get a feel of the country through a tour of capital. Delhi is not one but an amalgamation of several cities over time and space. In this. it mirrors the country, where at any given moment, it is possible to glimpse different layers of time living comfortably together.
DAY 03 DELHI ~ RANTHAMBORE Travel to Sawai Madhopur by train in the morning, from there by road to the 275 km National Park sprawled in the shadow of the 1000-year old Ranthambore.fort.
DAY 04 RANTHAMBORE Scout and track the tiger by jeep or elephant back, there is a wealth of wildlife to see.
DAY 05 RANTHAMBORE ~ BHARATPUR After reading tiger tracks in the pale morning light, travel to Bharatpur and the Keoladeo Ghana Bird Sanctuary. Punting the river or taking a cycle rickshaw through the park is the best way to get maximum birdwatching pleasure.
DAY 06 BHARATPUR ~ AGRA Go out into the park on cycle rikshaws in the morning, then drive to Agra stopping at Fatehpur Sikri en route.
DAY 07 AGRA ~ UMARIA Tour Agra, particularly the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort before boarding an overnight train for Umaria.
DAY 08 UMARIA - BANDHAVGARH Arrive in the morning and transfer to the Bandhavgarh National Park by road.
DAYS 9 & 10 BANDHAVGARH Two days to enjoy the jungle.
DAY 11 BANDAVGARH ~ KANHA Morning drive to Kanha National Park, one of the largest and best-managed parks in the country.
DAYS 12 & 13 KANHA You have two full days to learn how to see through the camouflage and spot the tiger.
DAY 14 KANHA ~ JABALPUR ~ DELHI Transfer to Jabalpur station for the overnight train journey back to Delhi.
DAY 15 DEPARTURE Arrive Delhi in the morning and check in at the hotel. Transfer to the airport in time for your flight out.
OPTIONAL 2-DAY EXTENSION DAY 15 DELHI ~ CORBETT Transfer from Delhi to Corbett National Park.
DAY 16 & 17 CORBETT Take two days to explore the true wilderness of the reserve forest before driving back to Delhi on day 17.
DAY 18 DEPARTURE Transfer to the airport in time for your flight out.
OPTIONAL 3-DAY EXTENSION DAY 14 KANHA ~ PENCH Drive to Pench to enjoy the jungles Mowgli made his home in Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book.
DAY 15, 16 & 17 PENCH Listen to the voices of the wild, they will reveal its secrets.
DAY 17 NAGPUR~ DELHI Drive to Nagpur to take a flight back to Delhi.
DAY 18 DEPARTURE Transfer to the airport in time for your flight out.
Birds of a Feather
A THRIVING AVIAN POPULATION hops and feeds and wings its way about the many national parks and reserve forests. Particularly rich in birdlife, over 500 different species having been spotted here, are the evergreen forests that fringe the western coast of peninsula India. Naturally this makes the region a birdwatchers paradise. Enthusiasts flock here to spend time spotting and photographing some of the most sought after Indian birds.
This itinerary takes you to the National Parks of Periyar, Eravikulam, Top Slip and Mudamalai. However, these are not isolated forests. The entire region, as your drive to Munnar and Ootacamund will reveal, has extensive tree and ground cover, a lot of it made up of the lush tea estates and spice plantations that the region is famous for. Moreover, there has been, in recent years a deliberate policy to link forest reserves to allow for the natural movement of wildlife from one forest reserves or national parks to another, without coming into direct contact or conflict with human habitation. This also provides the avian population, both resident and migratory with extensive habitat, a lot of which is protected.
Your tour has been planned to ensure that you have an excellent chance to see most of those species regarded as endemic to South India, as well as a representative selection of the region’s birds: Grey-breasted Laughing thrush, Malabar Grey Hornbill, Great Hornbill, Ceylon Frogmouth, Great-eared Night jar, Spot-bellied Eagle Owl, Brown Fish Owl, White-rumped Needletail to name just a few. And as you ramble through the forest or crouch behind your hide who knows which jungle inhabitant could walk nonchalantly by.
DAY 01 ARRIVAL Reception and welcome at Mumbai airport followed by transfer to your hotel.
DAY 02 MUMBAI Visit the caves at Elephanta before taking a tour of Mumbai that captures the essence of this busy commercial centre.
DAY 03 MUMBAI ~ COCHIN ~ PERIYAR Fly out to Cochin. Freshen up at a local hotel, then drive across Kerala’s scenic countryside to the Periyar Tiger Reserve.
DAY 04 PERIYAR Spend the day exploring the reserve. Walk around the varied habitats on the periphery of the reserve before taking a boat out onto the lake. The variety of bird life to be seen is amazing.
DAY 05 MUNNAR Drive to the tea gardens around Munnar after breakfast, stopping en route at likely birding spots. In the secondary forests that abound, you can see much of the regions typical avian life.
DAY 06 MUNNAR A day’s excursion to Eravikulam National Park, home of the Nilgiri Thar, the only mountain goat found south of the Himalaya, and the rare Nilgiri Pipit.
DAY 07 TOP SLIP Situated in the Anaimalai Hills, ‘Top Slip’ or Indira Gandhi National Park, is one of the best birding spots in South India.
DAY 08 TOP SLIP ~ OOTACAMUND A full day to appreciate the Park and its inhabitants before traveling to Ooty.
DAY 09 OOTACAMUND Surrounded by tea estates and secondary forests, the old colonial hill station of Ootacamund, or ‘Ooty’, is a great favourite with birdwatchers.
DAY 10 MUDAMALAI Spend half-a-day in the the tropical evergreen montane forests of Avalanche Forest Reserve, then drive to Mudamalai National Park.
DAY 11 MUDAMALAI You have the day to make the most of the verdant wilderness.
DAY 12 KOCHI Return to Kochi, stopping along the way at a number of excellent birding spots. Watch a superb performance of Kalaripayattu, the traditional martial art, in the evening.
DAY 13 KOCHI Cruise the backwaters to see the Chinese fishing nets then explore Fort Cochin.
DAY 14 DEPARTURE Transfer to the airport in time for your flight out.