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Birds, Tigers and the Taj Mahal
16th Nov - 2nd Dec 2017
This classic Northern India tour takes us from the foothills of the mighty Himalayas, through the fertile plains of the Ganges to the arid landscapes of Rajasthan. Along the way offering some of the most diverse birdlife found in the sub continent. We will spend the first week in the Himalayan foothills, visiting Corbett NP, Pangot and Sattal, which offers some of the richest birdlife in the whole of Asia. Moving south we will enjoy the sights and sounds of Keoladeo National Park, undoubtedly India's most famous bird sanctuary. Close by the beautiful Chambal River again offers fantastic birding as well as the opportunity to see the rare Ganges River Dolphin and Gharial Crocodile. A completely different avifauna as well as the highly sought-after Bengal Tiger awaits us at the spectacular Ranthambhore reserve, perhaps the easiest place in the world to see Tigers in the wild. India is of course also well known for its rich culture and history and no visit to Northern India would be complete without a visit to the world famous Taj Mahal.
Our flight to Delhi arrives late in the evening and from the airport we transfer straight to a nearby hotel to ensure we are rested for the following morning.
After an early breakfast we depart for the Himalayan foothills and the renowned grasslands of Corbett National Park. Our journey takes us from the hustle and bustle of Delhi through a mix of landscapes, where we quickly get a taste of the real India and all its beauty. We will also see a good selection of common Indian birds including Black-headed Ibis, Indian Pond Heron, White-throated Kingfisher and Bank Myna. We arrive at Corbett in time for Lunch and afterwards spend the rest of the day birding along the edge of the park in roadside forests, here we will hope to find species such as Great Hornbill, Green Magpie, Maroon Oriole, Ashy, Black-crested and Black Bulbuls, Red-breasted Parakeet, Green-tailed Sunbird and Orange-bellied Leafbird.
Days 3 & 4
Two full days at Corbett, which lies where the avifauna of the Himalayas merge with that of the Gangetic plains, making this one of the richest birding areas in the whole of Asia, with a bird list of over 550 species, 18 of which are globally threatened. Much of Corbett is accessible only by open jeep and we will slowly drive many of the quieter trails, through the dense Sal jungle and along the Ramganga River accompanied by an expert guide. Here we will search for Red Junglefowl, Lesser Coucal, Great Slaty Woodpecker, White-rumped Shama and Collared Falconet. Corbett is also excellent for raptors, boasting the highest diversity in India and we hope to find Grey-headed, Lesser and Pallas's Fish-eagles as well as Red-headed Vulture. Other key species include Kalij Pheasant, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Pin-tailed Pigeon and Puff-throated Babbler. While back at the lodge we may encounter Long-tailed Nightjar, Jungle Owlet, Spot-bellied Owl and Crimson Sunbird. These safaris also offer a great opportunity for viewing a host of mammals, the most prized being Tiger, Leopard and Asian Elephant in their natural habitat.
After breakfast we depart for Nianital, in the Middle Himalayas, stopping en route at Pangot, at an altitude 1920m. Set in a landscape of incredible natural beauty and tranquillity, Pangot is a birders paradise, with over 500 species recorded in the oak and pine forests bordering the village. We will spend the afternoon looking for species such Greater Yellownape, Speckled Piculet, Slaty-headed Parakeet and Large-hawk Cuckoo. Several species of Tits are possible including Rufous-naped, Black-throated, Yellow-browed, Black-lored and Green-backed, whilst amongst them we may also find White-tailed and Chestnut-bellied Nuthatches and Bar-tailed Treecreeper.
Three nights in Nianital.
A full day at Pangot and the surrounding area, where we are likely to encounter Crested Serpent-eagle, Mountain Hawk-eagle, Whiskered Yuhina, Orange-flanked Bush Robin, Blue-capped Redstart, Grey-hooded Warbler and Brown-fronted and Rufous-bellied Woodpeckers. Flycatchers here include Rusty-tailed, Ultramarine, Verditer, Tickell's Blue and the stunning Rufous-bellied Niltava, while Laughingthrushes include White-throated, Striated, Streaked, Variegated and Chestnut-crowned. Perhaps the real draw of Pangot however is the additional montane specialities such as Scarlet Finch, Yellow-breasted Greenfinch, Pink-browed Rosefinch, Altai Accentors, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Black-crested Tit, Himalayan Woodpecker, Black-chinned Babbler, Koklass and Cheer Pheasants, Himalayan Griffon, Lammergeier and Collared Owlet.
After breakfast we will visit Sattal (1450m), with our journey taking us along some of the most spectacular mountain roads in the region. We will pass through the Cheena Peak Range, Snow View Point and Kilbury, all of which offer excellent birding opportunities and in clear conditions incredible views of the high Himalayas. Once at Sattal we will explore this oasis, created by seven interconnected lakes and the moss-draped woodland which surround them. Here the dense undergrowth around lake-edges provides unrivalled habitat for Rufous-bellied Niltava, Blue-winged Minla, Red-billed Leiothrix, Himalayan Shrike-babbler, Chestnut-headed Tesia, Rufous-chinned and White-crested Laughingthrushes, Pale-rumped and Buff-barred Warblers and Himalayan Flameback. Several shallow mountain streams dissect the area and are home to riverine species including Plumbeous and White-capped Redstarts, Brown Dipper and Crested Kingfisher, as well as Spotted, Little and Slaty-backed Forktails
We will enjoy our final morning in the middle Himalayas, where scrub-filled ravines support Himalayan Rubythroat, Golden Bush-robin, Himalayan Bluetail, Blue-capped and Blue-fronted Redstarts and Rufous-breasted and Black-throated Accentors. While other targets include Grey-backed Shrike, Himalayan and Mountain Bulbuls, Black-throated Thrush, White-collared Blackbird, Blue Whistling-thrush, Great and Blue-throated Barbets, Slaty-headed Parakeet, Rufous Sibia, Yellow-billed Blue Magpie and Asian Barred Owlet.
After lunch we return to Delhi.
Departing from Delhi early, we arrive at the Chambal River by midday for a leisurely boat-trip along the river. The Chambal is one of India's least polluted rivers and hosts a wide range of species, most notably the endangered Ganges River Dolphin and Gharial Crocodile, both of which have strongholds here. It is also a haven for many birds, amongst which it is best known for the patchily distributed Indian Skimmer. While others include Bar headed Goose, Great Thick-knee, River Lapwing, Black-bellied and River Terns, Demoiselle Crane and Crested Bunting. Afterwards a late evening walk around the lodge may produce Brown Hawk Owl and Spotted Owlet as well as Common Palm Civet.
Another early departure will see us arrive at the renowned Taj Mahal just after sunrise and we will spend the morning admiring this cultural wonder. Afterwards we depart for Bharatpur, spending the remainder of the day at the much celebrated Keoladeo Ghana National Park, a wetland site of international importance and a designated UNESCO and RAMSAR site. This is undoubtedly India's most famous bird sanctuary and is of importance to over 400 species of resident and overwintering birds.
The full day will be spent at Keoladeo NP where we can observe an overwhelming number of wetland birds. Painted Stork breed in good numbers and we will visit the noisy colony, while Asian Openbill, Woolly-necked and Black-necked Storks occur in smaller numbers. Sarus Crane should be easy to spot, but we need a keen eye to locate the elusive Black Bittern. Amongst the masses of familiar wintering wildfowl we will look for Indian Spot-billed and Comb Ducks, along with Lesser Whistling-Duck and Cotton Pygmy-Goose. While others may include Oriental Darter, Bronze-winged and Pheasant-tailed Jacanas, White-tailed Lapwing and the beautiful Greater Painted-snipe. The sheer numbers of birds also attract good number of raptors, including Steppe, Tawny, Spotted and Eastern Imperial Eagles.
In addition to the wetlands, a mosaic of dry woodland, acacia scrub and open grasslands support many interesting passerines including Bay-backed Shrike, White-browed Fantail, Red-vented Bulbul, Hume's Warbler, Common Tailorbird, Ashy Prinia, Yellow-eyed Babbler, Oriental Magpie-Robin, Indian Chat, Siberian Rubythroat, Orange-headed Thrush, Tickell's Thrush, Brahminy Starling, Chestnut-shouldered Petronia and Red Avadavat. While other notable birds may include Yellow-footed Pigeon, Greater Coucal, Dusky Eagle-Owl, Indian Grey Hornbill, Green Bee-eater, Indian Roller, Coppersmith and Brown-headed Barbets, Yellow-crowned Woodpecker, Black-rumped Flameback and Plum-headed Parakeet.
After another morning at Bharatpur we leave for Ranthambhore in the desert state of Rajasthan. A former hunting preserve of the Maharajas, and later the British, Ranthambhore is dominated by an imposing 11th century fort and dotted with crumbling ruins that make it uniquely atmospheric. It is however best known for its Tigers and over the years has earned the reputation for being the most reliable site for observing this magnificent cat in the wild.
Day 13 – 15
Three days of morning and afternoon safaris in exclusive jeeps for Tiger tracking. These safaris take us through a distinctly arid landscape, with extensive grassland dissected by jungle-filled ravines and rocky outcrops. As well as Tigers other mammal we may encounter include Striped Hyena, Sambar Deer, Chital, Nilgai, Blackbuck, Chinkara, Gray Langur, Rhesus Macaque, Jackal, Jungle Cat, Wild Boar, Five-striped Palm Squirrel, Indian Flying Fox and Indian Porcupine. The birdlife here is also plentiful and is a rich combination of desert species and common forest birds; these include Painted Spurfowl, Grey Francolin, Chestnut-bellied and Painted Sandgrouse, Indian Courser, Yellow-wattled Lapwing, Indian Peafowl, Sirkeer Malkoha, Alexandrine Parakeet, Rufous Treepie, Common Iona, Ashy-crowned Sparrow-lark, Sulphur-bellied Warbler, Small Minivet and White-capped Bunting.
A final morning of birding outside the Park, before we depart for Delhi. Later we arrive at Delhi and transfer to a hotel to freshen up and rest before our flight back to the UK early on day 17.
|Total Cost £2950
Single room supplement £650
Air Price £450
Ground Price £2350
All Flights, All ground transport once in India, 16 nights accommodation, All meals, Reserve entrance fees, Tiger Tracking Safaris, Chambal River Safari and Guiding services throughout .
Visa, Insurance, Tips and Items of a personal nature.
Dave Read & Local Guide
Maximum of 12 plus leaders
The tour will be run at a moderate pace with no long treks. Temperatures are likely to be hot in the lowlands but cooler in the foothills, particularly at night where snow is a possibility. There are a number of health requirements and you must consult your GP in this respect. Accommodation is in comfortable hotels and wildlife/birding lodges with private facilities. Visas are required.
Many of the flights and the flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more information about financial protection and the ATOL certificate go to www.atol.org.uk/ATOLCertificate
Greater Painted Snipe
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