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India - Tigers and Birds Itinerary

Day 1

You will arrival at India’s bustling capital city of New Delhi and will be transferred to nearby accommodation. Activities for the evening, including your dinner, will be planned according to your arrival time. 


Day 2

After breakfast we will make a long transfer by road to the Ranthambhore National Park, for a 3-night stay. We will break our journey for lunch and possible birding if opportunity arise. We will arrive at our lodge, located in the vicinity of the park, in later afternoon, in time for some rest and birding. 


Days 3-4

We will spend two full days exploring the Ranthambhore National Park, an area of rocky hills, clothed in dry, deciduous forest, grassland and scrub and dotted with several small lakes. This scenic area is one of the very best places on Earth to see the endangered Bengal Tiger and we will concentrate our efforts to see these cats. The park is also home to plethora of other superb mammals that we will hope to encounter: Sloth Bear, Caracal, Leopard, Sambar, Spotted Deer, Southern Plains Grey Langur, Ruddy Mongoose and Jungle Cat. The rich woods and meadows offer excellent birdwatching and we will keep our eyes open for Painted Spurfowl, Jungle and Rock Bush Quails, White-naped Woodpecker, Indian Scops Owl, Alexandrine, Rose-ringed and Plum-headed Parakeets, Rufous Treepie, Indian Silverbill, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Sirkeer Malkoha, Painted Sandgrouse, Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, White-browed Fantail, and Rufous-fronted Prinia, to name just a few. Birds of prey might include Indian Vulture, Pallid Harrier, Bonelli’s Eagle and Crested Serpent Eagle. 

Our daily trips to the park will be conducted in the open-safari jeep and will commence in the morning and continue in the afternoon, with a break in the middle of the day at our lodge. 


Day 5

After breakfast we will depart for Bharatpur, with birdwatching along the way, as the opportunity arise. Our lodge is strategically situated in the vicinity of Keoladeo National Park, also known as Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, where we will stay for the next two nights. In the afternoon, we will continue birdwatching and have an introduction to this amazing park and its inhabitants. 


Day 6

We will spend the entire day exploring the Keoladeo Ghana National Park a stunning birdwatching locality that ranks alongside the best in the world. The extensive series of shallow ponds, artificially created as duck-shooting preserve by a former Maharaja of Bharatpur, is now a wetland sanctuary attracting thousands of resident and wintering waterfowl, waders, cranes and raptors. We will explore the reserve on foot and in the cycle-rickshaw with an expert birding guide accompanying us throughout. With his experienced eye, we should be able to see an interesting array of birds, including the tallest bird in the world, the elegant Sarus Crane, iridescent Bronze-winged and graceful Pheasant-tailed Jacanas, Bar-headed Goose, Indian Spot-billed Duck, and more challenging species such as Black and Cinnamon Bitterns, Greater Painted-snipe and Siberian Rubythroat. The woodland, thorny acacia scrub and grassland surrounding the wetland also support rich population of birds and we will be on the look-out for White-eared Bulbul, Yellow-footed Green Pigeon, Black-rumped Flameback, Grey-headed Canary-Flycatcher, Purple Sunbird, Baya Weaver, Yellow-crowned Woodpecker, Indian Grey Hornbill, Hume’s Leaf Warbler, Tree-Pie, Indian Robin, and localized Marshall's Lora. Various migrant flycatchers, warblers and thrushes will also be present. The park is excellent for raptors, and as the temperature rises in the morning, seeing five species of Aquila eagles souring high in the sky, is not uncommon. These might include Indian Spotted, Eastern Imperial, Bonelli’s, Steppe and White-browed Fantail. We will also search for the nocturnal residents at their day roosts, including the Dusky Eagle-Owl, Spotted Owlet, Indian Scops Owl and Large-tailed Nightjar. The sanctuary is also home to excellent variety of mammals, and we will look for the largest Asian antelope, the Nilgai, as well as the largest Indian deer, the Sambar, as well as Spotted Deer, Golden Jackal, the attractive Northern Palm Squirrel and Smooth Indian Otter. The sanctuary is also one of the few places in India to see the rare Fishing Cat. Reptiles such as the huge Flap-shelled Turtle and Asian Monitors are often seen sunbathing on the dry land, and if we are lucky, we may even come across an Indian Rock Python. 


Day 7

After breakfast, we will head for the Chambal sanctuary. En route, we will make a few stops in the arid countryside to pick up on some farmland birds, particularly larks (e.g. Greater Short-toed Lark, Bimaculated Lark, Indian Bush Lark, Ashy-crowned Sparrow-lark and Oriental), as well as Indian Courser, Yellow-wattled Lapwing and Desert Wheatear. 

We will also stop at Fatehpur Sikri (the City of Victory), a magnificent fortified ancient city and the World Heritage Site, built during the second half of the 16th century by the Emperor Akbar. It took 15 years to build, but, after only 14 years, it was abandoned, because the water supply was unable to sustain the growing population. Today, the complex of numerous monuments and temples, including one of the largest mosques in India, the Jama Masjid, are open to visitors. 

We should reach our safari lodge in time to check on Brown Hawk-Owl, Indian Flying Foxes and Common Palm Civet which all roost on the lodge’s grounds. At night, we might spot some nocturnal visitors, such as an Indian Hare and a Collared Hedgehog. 


Day 8

In the morning, we will drive to the Chambal River where we will undertake a boat cruise. The Chambal River forms part of the National Chambal Sanctuary and is one of the country's most beautiful and least polluted. Our ride on the calm waters, combined with the dramatic landscape and close-up views of the amazing wildlife, will be a unique experience. We should be rewarded here with sightings of several interesting birds, including Red-naped Ibis, Small Pratincole, River Lapwing, Great Stone-curlew, Great Thick-knee and the endangered Indian Skimmer, which often roosts on the sand-bars accompanied by River Terns and Black-bellied Terns, not to mention the Bonelli’s Eagle, which breeds on the cliffs alongside the river. In this pristine river ecosystem, we have a great chance to see the endangered and rare Ganges River Dolphin, whereas, on the river banks, the critically endangered Gharial, together with Mugger Crocodile and Flap-shelled Turtle, will be an additional attraction. If we are lucky, we might even encounter River Otters, which finds their home here too. 

In the afternoon, we will visit the beautiful white marble monument of the most iconic UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Taj Mahal. This epic monument to love and one of the finest examples of Islamic architecture in the world, was built between 1631 and 1648 by order of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Taj Mahal, who died during the birth of their 14th child. We will enjoy a guided sightseeing tour of this historical monument, but birds will not be ignored. The Yamuna River at the back of the monument, is always full of waterbirds and we will have a look there too. 

Our tour will take us now north, to the spectacular foothills of Himalayas, but in order to get there, we will have to stop overnight on the outskirts of Delhi. 


Day 9

After breakfast, we will continue our 5/6-hour journey further north. En-route, we will stop for lunch and, if time allows, some birding. We should reach our resort with plenty of time to relax in this gorgeous location and do some birding on our doorstep. 


Day 10

We will explore the Corbett National Park today, a large valley of dense deciduous forest and the famous chaur grassland, with the beautiful Ramganga and Kosi Rivers flowing through. We will undertake morning and afternoon safari drivers in the open jeep/safari vehicle with a break at the lodge for lunch and rest in between the drives. With 60 mammals recorded in the park, we surely will have some exciting encounters, and these are likely to include the Bengali Tiger, Asian Elephant, Rhesus Macaque, the elegant Tarai Grey Langur, Golden Jackal, Spotted and Hog Deers, Northern Red Muntjac and Sambar. 

A visit to the rivers and wetland floodplain will be rewarding, and encounters with Stork-billed and Crested Kingfishers, Little Heron, Green Magpie, Plum-headed and Slaty-headed Parakeets, Scarlet Minivet and Hodgson's Bushchat, are likely. The forest edge and extensive grasslands provide excellent habitat for the shy Black Francolin, scarce White-throated Bush Chat, Blue-capped Redstart, and Pygmy Wren Babbler. A selection of owls is interesting here, with likely species including the Tawny Fish Owl, Brown Fish Owl, and Jungle Owlet, whereas likely birds of prey might include Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Pallas’s Fish Eagle, Rufous-bellied Eagle, Lesser Fish Eagle, Himalayan Buzzard, and Griffon and Cinereous Vultures. 

We will also visit an area outside the park, where we expect to top up our list with species such as Ibisbill, Black and Himalayan Bulbuls, Little and Spotted Forktails, Yellow-bellied and White-browed Fantails, Crested Laughing Thrush, Black-winged Cuckooshrike, Wallcreeper, Red-breasted Parakeet, Short-billed and Long-tailed Minivet. 


Day 11

Today, we will penetrate further into the Himalayan landscape to reach Pangot of Nainital district. En route, though, we will stop at two birding destinations, Kaladhungi and Corbett Falls. Kaladhungi has interesting and varied scenery and the forest here are famous for its birds. It isn't a designated reserve, so we will be able to walk in the forest, unlike at Corbett. Corbett Falls, on the other hand, are only 20 metres high, but they are nestled in the middle of the thick jungle which teems with birds. 

As we enter the Nainital district, different vegetation zones become more prominent, from tropical to sub-alpine foothills of the snow-capped Himalayas. Mixed forest here is dominated by thick Rich Oak, pine and rhododendron and covers most of the area, providing excellent birding opportunities. Pangot, is one of the most reliable birding spots in the area, and we settle for two nights in a comfortable resort with stunning views. 


Day 12

We will devote the entire day birdwatching around the Pangot area. Walks will be undertaken through Rich Oak and rhododendron forests, where a number of woodpeckers (Brown-fronted, Himalayan, Stripe-breasted, and Rufous-bellied), flycatchers (Ultramarine, Verditer, and Tickell’s Blue), warblers (Golden-spectacled and Grey-hooded), Laughingthrushes (White-throated, Striated and Chestnut-crowned), tits (Spot-winged and Himalayan Black-lored) and many others will be recorded. We will see here some excellent Himalayan species, such as a Lammergeier, Himalayan Griffon, Himalayan Woodpecker, Spotted & Slaty-backed Forktails, Himalayan Bluetail, and a beautiful Rufous-bellied Niltava. At higher elevations, we will look out for Altai Accentor, Upland Pipit, Blue-winged Minla, Whiskered Yuhina and our target species, a beautiful Koklass and a vulnerable and elusive Cheer Pheasants. 


Day 13

We depart the Himalayan mountains after breakfast and head south to reach the outskirts of Delhi in the afternoon. While much of the day will be dedicated to travel, we will break for lunch and the occasional birding en route. This evening we will have a final celebratory dinner before heading for the airport and home.  

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All the pictures below are a
courtesy of Ghani Singh
@Ghani Singh

Hunting Palace in Ranthambhore national park

Bengal Tigers

Sloth Bear

Tigers

Black-headed jay

Indian Robin

white throated kingfisher Bharatpur

Grey Bushchat

Indian Courser in Bharatpur

Sarus Crane

Grey nightjar Bharatpur

Himalayas

Himalayas

Oriental pied hornbill Corbett

kalij Pheasant at Pangot

verditer flycatcher at Pangot

Long-tailed shrike  Corbett

Wallcreeper in Corbett