An In-Depth Nature Odyssey in Search of Wild Tigers & Other Rare Wildlife
Day 1: Delhi, India
Arrive in New Delhi and transfer to the 5-star Taj Mahal Hotel. This afternoon, explore India's vibrant capital on a rickshaw ride that reveals the many layers of its captivating history. Stroll through the bylanes of Old Delhi 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 striking edifice is constructed of alternating vertical strips of red sandstone and white marble, with a vast inner courtyard that can hold 25,000 people. After this exhilarating introduction to the country, enjoy a welcome dinner this evening and an orientation to our India tiger safari by our Expedition Leader.
Day 2: Jabalpur / Bandhavgarh National Park
Transfer early this morning to the Delhi airport for our flight south to Jabalpur and continue by road through the countryside of Madhya Pradesh en route to Bandhavgarh National Park. An essential stop on any serious tiger safari, Bandhavgarh is renowned for one of India’s highest concentrations of magnificent Bengal tigers. Check in to Kings Lodge, surrounded by wild natural forest just outside the park boundary, then set out on our first wildlife drive in open 4x4 safari trucks.
Days 3 & 4: Bandhavgarh National Park
Over the next two days, we explore Bandhavgarh’s varied habitats on morning and afternoon wildlife drives. Originally established as a national park in 1968, Bandhavgarh was declared a protected tiger reserve under Project Tiger in 1993. At 444 square miles, it is a relatively small park with a thriving tiger population, offering guests a good chance of encountering them, as well as other wildlife distinctive to India. Predominantly covered with sal and mixed deciduous forest, thickets of bamboo and expansive grasslands that line the stream valleys, the park’s hilly terrain harbors one of the highest densities of tigers in the world. Bandhavgarh was once a prime hunting reserve for the Maharajahs of Rewa, where Maharaja Raman Singh himself shot an astounding 111 tigers by 1914. Today it is one of the premier pacesetters in tiger protection. With tigers at the apex of the food chain, Bandhavgarh’s rich biodiversity includes a multitude of other wildlife. We'll hope to see a sampler of its 37 mammal species, among which are leopard, jungle cat, civet, wild boar, sambar, spotted deer, muntjac (barking deer), sloth bear and Asiatic jackal. If we're very lucky, we might even spy dhole (wild dog). Some 250 bird species, 70 different butterflies and various reptiles round out the diverse wildlife population.
Day 5: Bandhavgarh / Kanha National Park & Tiger Reserve
After an early morning wildlife drive in Bandhavgarh, continue to Kanha National Park. Situated in central India in the Satpura Hills, the park covers 750 square miles of rich and varied wildlife habitat. Its lush sal and bamboo forests, grassy meadows and ravines provided inspiration to Rudyard Kipling for his famous collection of stories in The Jungle Book
. Kanha was established as a national park 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 barasingha, an endangered swamp deer with 12-point antlers, saving it from near-extinction. Strict conservation programs for the overall protection of the park's fauna and flora make Kanha one of the most exemplary national parks in Asia. From our ecolodge base in the tiger heartland of the world, learn in depth about the Bengal tiger and its habitat and observe how conservation travel directly benefits local communities and the tiger reserve.
Days 6 & 7: On Safari in Kanha National Park
Spend two more full days in search of Bengal tigers and other wildlife on excursions in open 4x4 vehicles. Scenic Kanha, once a hunting ground for imperial rulers and viceroys, is now one of India’s most important conservation reserves. With ideal habitat for tigers and their prey, it offers some of India’s best tiger viewing, though it can take effort to locate them in the sun-dappled scrub forest that provides superb camouflage for many species. Greet dawn each day with an early wildlife drive, entering the park just as the sun’s rays break over the jungle. The open meadows where herbivores graze attract tiger, leopard and wild dog to the edges of the clearings, and we'll hope to see some of these predators on the hunt.
The Banjaar River, which forms the park’s southwestern border, provides a steady water source for wildlife. Dense jungle interspersed with vast grassy meadows called maidans
support a range of species similar to those found in Bandhavgarh. Other mammals we might see here include chowsingha (four-horned antelope), common langur, gaur (the world's largest wild oxen), rhesus monkeys and occasionally leopard. At the close of each day, we retire to the relaxing comforts of our lodge.
Day 8: Kanha / Raipur / Kolkata
As the morning mists recede, a last sunrise game drive reveals more of Kanha's wildlife. After breakfast, we drive a half-day to Raipur, then fly to Kolkata. Our luxury hotel provides a restful layover after a long day of travel as we transit from one region of the country to another. The first hotel in the world to be registered by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change for Carbon Emission Reductions, the ITC Sonar provides a resort-like urban oasis on the edge of one of India’s largest cities. The beautifully designed gardens are shaded by more than a million trees and accented with serene ponds dotted with water lilies. Though its architecture is sleek and minimalist, the hotel’s decor and ambience celebrate the golden age of Bengal during the reign of the Pala dynasty, an era of extraordinary cultural advancement. Located outside the city center, our accommodations offer convenient access for our airport departure tomorrow.
Day 9: Jorhat / Haroocharai Tea Estate / Kaziranga National Park
Fly from Kolkata to Jorhat, the tea capital of India, then drive to Haroocharai Tea Estate. Following lunch on the grounds, we tour the gardens and tea fields. Observe local workers harvesting leaves, and learn how raw leaves are processed into tea. Continuing by road into far-eastern India, we reach 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 2-ton beast is a conservation success story, rebounding to more than 1,600 individuals. Two-thirds of the world’s population is found within the park, and we're sure to see plenty of them grazing in the open. In addition to the rhino, Kaziranga is home to some of India’s other largest mammals including Asian elephant, Asian water buffalo and barasingha. Stay at the Diphlu River Lodge, whose verdant grounds contain more than 40 species of trees and some 200 species of shrubs, creepers and climbers.
Days 10 & 11: Kaziranga National Park
Morning and afternoon 4x4 drives reveal Kaziranga’s diverse habitats—a mix of elephant grass, thorny rattan cane, tracts of semi-evergreen forest and shallow marshes. Stretching from the banks of the Brahmaputra River to the dense forests of the Mikir Hills, the reserve boasts an impressive variety of wildlife. In addition to one-horned rhinoceros, keep a close eye out for buffalo, elephant, wild boar, hog deer, hoolock gibbons, sloth bears and pythons, as well as the elusive Bengal tiger. The national park has been declared an Important Bird Area by Birdlife International and is home to a great variety of resident and migratory birds. Drawn to the life-giving artery of the Brahmaputra River, waterfowl abounds, and we may see egrets, pond herons, river terns, black-necked storks, fishing eagles and pelicans. In the river, look for otters, gharials and rare Gangetic dolphins.
A special event during our time in Kaziranga is a chance to meet the park's working elephants up close. These elephants, which accompany rangers on regular patrol missions, are accustomed to interacting with guests. Conditions permitting, one afternoon an elephant will be brought to our lodge where we can touch it and help wash it under the guidance of its handler. On our final evening, revel in memories of our Indian safari adventures as we gather for a farewell dinner.
Day 12: Guwahati / Delhi / Depart
After breakfast, drive to Guwahati to catch our afternoon flight to Delhi. Day rooms have been reserved for the remainder of the afternoon at your leisure, with a transfer included to the international airport to meet departing flights later this evening.
Please Note: National parks in central India are closed on Wednesday afternoons. Should a portion of our visit to Kanha or Bandhavgarh fall on a Wednesday, we will have alternate afternoon activities planned in place of a wildlife drive.