The Grand India Wildlife Adventure
Arrive in New Delhi and transfer to the Taj Mahal Hotel. This afternoon we explore India's vibrant capital on a rickshaw ride that brings alive the many layers of its complex and captivating history. We also take a stroll through the bylanes of Old Dehli and visit Jama Masjid, India's largest mosque and the architectural magnum opus of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. Built in the mid-17th century, the stunning creation is constructed of alternating vertical strips of red sandstone and white marble, with a vast inner courtyard that can hold 25,000 people. After a thrilling introduction to the country today, we enjoy a welcome dinner this evening and an orientation to our India tiger safari by our Expedition Leader.
Day 2: Raipur / Kanha Tiger Reserve
Fly to Raipur and drive to Singinawa Jungle Lodge in the heart of the Kanha Tiger Reserve. The park offers India’s best tiger viewing, while the grasslands and deciduous forest also support chital, sambar, muntjac (barking deer), chowsingha (four-horned antelope), common langur, wild boar, Indian bison, gaur (the world's largest wild oxen), sloth bear, Asiatic jackal, wild dog, rhesus monkeys and occasionally leopard. Kanha is also home to the world’s last population of barasingha, an endangered swamp deer with 12-point antlers. Once a hunting ground for imperial rulers and viceroys, Kanha is now one of India’s most important wildlife reserves.
Our ecolodge offers a unique experience of central India's jungles with all the comforts of a world-class lodge. Its name, Singinawa, is a Sherpa word that means ‘protector of the sacred forest,’ and is the philosophy that guides its every practice. Located in the tiger heartland of the world, the lodge offers the chance to not only to learn about the tiger and its habitat in depth, but to also experience ecologically responsible tourism and see conservation at work benefitting local communities and the tiger reserve itself.
Days 3-5: Kanha National Park & Tiger Reserve
We spend three days on safari in search of Bengal tigers and other wildlife, on morning and evening excursions through the park in open 4x4 vehicles. Situated in central India in the Satpura Hills, Kanha National Park covers 750 square miles of rich and varied wildlife habitat. The lush sal and bamboo forests, grassy meadows and ravines of Kanha provided inspiration to Rudyard Kipling for his famous novel The Jungle Book. Kanha National Park was established in 1955 and forms the core of the Kanha Tiger Reserve, created in 1974 under India's Project Tiger. The park's landmark achievement is the preservation of the rare hard-ground swamp deer (barasingha), saving it from near-extinction. Stringent conservation programs for the overall protection of the park's fauna and flora make Kanha one of the most exemplary national parks in Asia. At the close of each day we retire to the inviting comfort of our lodge, including a refreshing swimming pool and spa.
Day 6: Raipur / Kolkata
Drive to Raipur this morning and fly to Kolkata (Calcutta), where we settle in at the luxurious Oberoi Grand Hotel. This classic landmark is more than 125 years old, exuding Victorian elegance yet offering every conceivable modern amenity.
Day 7: Kolkata
We spend the morning touring Kolkata, the third-largest city in India and the capital under the British Raj from 1772 until 1911. While the city experienced a melding of traditions during the British Empire, it was also the locus for a fierce movement for Indian independence, prompting the Crown to move the capital to Delhi. Kolkata has a strong literary, artistic and revolutionary heritage, and its creative energy is palpable.
Day 8: Jorhat / Kaziranga National Park
This morning we fly from Kolkata to Jorhat, and then drive to Haroocharai Tea Estate. Following lunch on the grounds, we embark on a tea garden tour where we may observe local workers harvesting leaves, as well as learn how raw leaves are processed into a delicious tea. After our visit, we continue by road to Kaziranga National Park in Assam. The park, which borders the sacred Brahmaputra River, was created in 1926 as a refuge for the one-horned rhinoceros. Once hunted nearly to extinction, today this two-ton beast is a conservation success story, rebounding to more than 1,600. We stay at the new Diphlu River Lodge.
Days 9-11: Kaziranga
Morning and afternoon 4x4 drives reveal the park’s diverse habitat, a mix of elephant grass, thorny rattan cane, tracts of semi-evergreen forest and shallow swamps. The reserve boasts an amazing variety of wildlife, including one-horned rhinoceros, wild buffalo, hog deer, hoolock gibbons, elephants and pythons, as well as the elusive Bengal tiger. Waterfowl abound, too, with egrets, pond herons, river terns, black-necked storks, fishing eagles and pelicans, and in the river one may find otters, gharials and rare Gangetic dolphins.
Day 12: Guwahati / Delhi
We drive a half-day to Guwahati to catch our afternoon flight to Delhi, with the rest of the day at leisure.
Day 13: Agra—Taj Mahal & Red Fort
Early this morning we board the Shatabdi Express train for Agra. First we'll visit the legendary Taj Mahal, built in 1631 by Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial to his beloved wife. Perhaps the most elegant building in the world, the Taj Mahal manifests the apex of Mughal art in its exquisite design details and elaborate gardens. Late this afternoon, as the sun sets its stone facade aglow, we tour the magnificent Red Fort, the locus of Mughal power until the imperial capital was moved to Delhi in 1637.
Day 14: Agra / Delhi / Home
We return to the Taj Mahal for a guided tour at dawn, as the sunrise casts a pink glow on the translucent marble. After breakfast we drive back to Delhi, where day rooms are available for us. This evening we transfer to the airport for flights home.