A personal itinerary was prepared by Tiger Trails to give the optimum chance of observing tigers this being the main object of the trip. A 6 night stay at Ranthambhore, 3 nights at Bharatpur, 1 night at Agra and 2 nights in Delhi proved a perfect balance for the mammals, birds and culture. Ranthambhore included 11 park safaris in our "own" jeep plus a half day trip to Devpura for blackbuck (not found in the park) and Lake Surwal, also several miscellaneous excursions with the services of a driver and guide throughout. Bharatpur included 3 entrance fees (200 rupees each) and a full days guided birding whilst Agra had a guided sunset tour of the Taj Mahal with entry fees paid, all transfers and rail journeys were included. Accommodation in Delhi (first and last nights) was the Bajaj Homestay with breakfast (400 rupees evening meal and drinks for two) at Ranthambhore the Regency was full board and in Agra the 5* Clarks Shiraz included breakfast (1200 rupees evening meal and drinks for two). All these hotels were of a very high standard with en suite and A/C which cannot be said of the accommodation at Bharatpur, originally booked into the Birders Inn we were told on arrival that they had a "sanitary" problem and we were being transferred to the Eagles Nest, although the room was clean enough this place is not recommended. On our return to Delhi we notified Mr Bajaj director of Perfect Travel, Tiger Trails Indian agent and he immediately refunded our additional outlay in Bharatpur (eating out and drinks) laid on a taxi to Okhla Barrage at no charge and gave us a complimentary evening meal and drinks. He was unaware of the circumstances at Bharatpur and said he would rectify the situation regarding the Birders Inn and without our input he would have been oblivious to what had happened. The whole holiday was run on a "voucher" system, issued in Delhi with vouchers being removed from the "book" at each "stage" this working perfectly in practice. I would have no hesitation in recommending Tiger Trails or Perfect Travel for any visit to India and the cost of £750 each represented excellent value.
A direct flight with Virgin was chosen at a cost of £489 each including all taxes booked through flynow.com, flight time on the Boeing 747 (named High as a Kite) was approximately 8.75 hours each way.
We were advised to allow 28 days for the visa (£30 each) but using special guaranteed delivery postage at c£5 each way these arrived 7 days after application.
The Okhla Barrage is a wetland situated on the outskirts of Delhi and well worth a visit, there are two driveable promontories, extending from the noisy and busy road, which make ideal "scanning" points, a taxi and driver for 4 hours was provided by the hotel at a cost of £15.
A full days trip to the excellent Baretha Dam some 40k from Bharatpur was arranged by our first class guide Sarvjit Singh Sohi at a cost of £30 (in an A/C taxi), Sarvjit seemed to gain more pleasure from showing us a flying fox roost and Indian Skimmers etc; than taking our money, a brilliant naturalist. ( to prove the point he spent the final morning with us at Bharatpur for free). Government registered man-powered rickshaws cost 50 rupees per hour, cycles can also be hired and Bharatpur is easily "walkable".
The drivers at Ranthambhore are on a rota system and expect a tip for each drive (100 rupees) but more if they find tigers and this is quite reasonable considering their circumstances. Vipel Jain our tiger-mad guide is an absolute expert on the mammals and not bad with birds (he doesn't like lbj's ),Vipel also derives great pleasure from showing visitors the abundant wildlife and culture, we were greatly indebted to him and felt we had to show our sincere appreciation.
Temperatures varied between 35 and 42 degrees centigrade with the humidity seeming to increase substantially at Bharatpur, an evening "electric" storm here was a truly incredible sight.
The exchange rate was 67 rupees (average) to £1 sterling.
Rupees are not allowed to be taken in or out of India and to exchange sterling a passport is needed, problems were encounted in Bharatpur where the hotels did not have enough cash to convert £20 so a visit to the bank was necessary where it took the best part of an hour to exchange currency.
We did not eat fish, meat, salad or peeled fruit and encounted no real health problems.
Mozzies were present but not really evident.
Tiger Trails www.tigertrails.co.uk
telephone 01946 841495
Sarvjit Singh Sohi telephone 0091 5644 26171
March 29th Took off at 22-00 hours from London Heathrow for overnight flight to Delhi.
March 30th Arrived Delhi at 11-45 local time, met at airport and transferred to Bajaj Homestay for overnight accommodation. Visited Okhla Barrage in the afternoon.
March 31st Transfer to railway station for the 07-15 departure to Sawai Madhopur (2nd class A/C), arrived at 13-15 and met at station for short journey to the Ranthambhore Regency. Afternoon jeep safari inside Ranthambhore National Park.
April 1st Morning and afternoon jeep safaris in the park, birding the helipad area between.
April 2nd Morning and afternoon jeep safaris in the park with a guided tour of the cliff-top fort between.
April 3rd Morning excursion to Lake Surwal and the tribal villages of Devpura with afternoon jeep safari in the park.
April 4th Morning and afternoon jeep safaris in the park, late evening drive looking for wildlife outside the park.
April 5th Morning and afternoon jeep safaris in the park.
April 6th Morning jeep safari followed by transfer to Sawai Madhopur railway station to connect with the 13-00 hours train to Bharatpur (2nd class A/C). Arrived at 15-35 where we were met and transferred to accommodation before spending the rest of the afternoon birding the park perimeter area.
April 7th Full day birding in park with guide.
April 8th Full days excursion to Baretha Dam and surrounding area with late evening spent looking for nocturnal mammals.
April 9th Morning in Bharatpur with taxi pick up at 14-00 hours for the one hour journey to Agra, this drive was marred by the many chained "dancing bears" along the route. Late afternoon guided tour of the Taj Mahal until sunset.
April 10th Our proposed excursion to Chambal was cancelled so we opted to be driven to Delhi spending the late afternoon at Okhla Barrage.
April11th Transferred to Delhi Airport with full "check-in" assistance for the 13-30 flight to Heathrow.
The advice, patience and understanding of Allan and Kirsty at Tiger Trails in "getting it right for us" prior to booking the trip was exemplary and anyone looking for an individual itinerary should look no further.
Perfect Travel the agent in India provided excellent organisation and is a genuine and trustworthy company.
Ranthambhore Regency, we arrived at this hotel as guests and left as friends --- brilliant.
Bharatpur, "slack" time for birds but we still managed over 100 species on our days guided walk despite sitting for some 2 hours waiting for the pythons to emerge from their hole. Water levels were low but the benefit was dozens of birds on "puddles" at the roadside giving the opportunity to obtain excellent views.
Taj Mahal, to me best thing about this place was the peregrine which came in to roost on the dome, still I did have my photograph taken on "that" seat.
Our final trip to Chambal (for river dolphin) had to be cancelled and as we had a pre-booked evening train journey we chose to be driven to Delhi for a second visit to Okhla the 220k journey took over 6 hours including a visit to the Krishna Temple. Driving along the dual carriageway you can expect anything (including cows) to be approaching you on "your" side, our driver was unfamiliar with Delhi and this added to the journeytime although I cannot blame or envy him for the drive. Three things are required for driving in Delhi -good horn, good brakes and good luck!!! but then the Indian people are so warm and friendly there's no road rage whatever.
We have so many people to thank for making this trip such a wonderful experience, the obvious highlight being the 9 individual tigers seen at Ranthambhore. Observing Sarus Cranes eating Indian Skimmer eggs also created a lasting memory.
ROLAND & KEVIN BROWN
Great White Pelican, 80+ Lake Surwal
Little Cormorant, common
Indian Cormorant, 1 present on successive days Ranthambhore.
Little Grebe, common
Great White Egret, fairly common
Intermediate Egret, common
Little Egret, common
Cattle Egret, fairly common
Grey Heron, common
Purple Heron, common
Striated Heron, 1 Ranthambhore
Indian Pond Heron, very common
Black Bittern, 1 adult Bharatpur
Black-crowned Night Heron, fairly common
Woolly-necked Stork, 2 Ranthambhore, 2 Bharatpur
Black Stork, 1 Ranthambhore, 1 Bharatpur
Asian Openbill, 2 Baretha Dam
Painted Stork, common. max 200 Lake Surwal
Black-necked Stork, 1 Okhla, 8 Bharatpur
Spoonbill, fairly common. max 100+ Lake Surwal
Black-headed Ibis, fairly common
Glossy Ibis, fairly common Bharatpur
Black Ibis, 1 adult Baretha Dam
Greylag Goose, 2 Lake Surwal, 1 Baretha Dam
Bar-headed Goose, 100+ Lake Surwal, 50+ Baretha Dam
Lesser Whistling Duck, 70+ Ranthambhore, 60+ Bharatpur
Comb Duck, 2 Lake Surwal, 6 Bharatpur
Ruddy Shelduck, common, max 100+ Okhla
Pintail, 2 Okhla, 4 Ranthambhore
Teal, fairly common
Spot-billed Duck, common
Gadwall, 4 Okhla
Wigeon, fairly common
Cotton Pygmy Goose, common
Crested Honey Buzzard, common Ranthambhore, 1 Bharatpur
Black-shouldered Kite, fairly common
Black Kite, common, Delhi and Agra
Shikra, 1 Ranthambhore 1 Bharatpur
Sparrowhawk, 1 Ranthambhore
Common Buzzard, 1 Ranthambhore
Changeable Hawk Eagle, 1 Ranthambhore
Steppe Eagle, 3 Bharatpur, (1 adult)
Spotted Eagle, 1 Bharatpur, (sub-adult)
Lesser Spotted Eagle, 1 Bharatpur
Osprey, 2 Ranthambhore
Red-headed Vulture, 1 Ranthambhore, 2 Bharatpur
Egyptian Vulture, 2 Okhla, 3 Bharatpur, 3 Agra
Long-billed Vulture, common (breeding) Ranthambhore
White-rumped Vulture, common (breeding) Ranthambhore
Marsh Harrier, 2 Okhla, 1 Bharatpur
Peregrine, 1 Agra
Kestrel, 1 Bharatpur
Painted Spurfowl, common Ranthambhore
Grey Francolin, common
Jungle Bush Quail, 6+ Ranthambhore
Blue Peafowl, common
Sarus Crane, 20 Bharatpur, 2 Baretha Dam
Demoiselle Crane, 1 Lake Surwal
White-breasted Waterhen, common
Brown Crake, 4 Ranthambhore
Coot, 6+ Okhla
Purple Swamphen, 20+ Okhla, 10+ Ranthambhore, 100+ Bharatpur
Pheasant-tailed Jacana, 10+ Ranthambhore (inc. breeding plumaged adults)
Bronze-winged Jacana, common
Stone Curlew, fairly common
Great Thick-knee, common (breeding)
Avocet, 2 Lake Surwal, 1 Baretha Dam
Black-winged Stilt, very common
Small Pratincole, 2 Baretha Dam
Oriental Pratincole, 1 Baretha Dam
Indian Courser, 3 adults + chicks Devpura
Yellow-wattled Lapwing, 2 Devpura
River Lapwing, 6 Okhla (breeding)
Red-wattled Lapwing, very common
Little Ringed Plover, fairly common
Kentish Plover, 2 Baretha Dam
Black-tailed Godwit, very common
Ruff, very common
Curlew, 1 Lake Surwal
Spotted Redshank, very common
Redshank, 2 Bharatpur
Greenshank, fairly common
Wood Sandpiper, very common
Green Sandpiper, common
Common Sandpiper, 1 Okhla
Painted Snipe, 10+ Bharatpur (inc. breeding plumaged females)
Common Snipe, 2 Ranthambhore, 1 Bharatpur
Little Stint, common Okhla and Bharatpur
Temminck's Stint, very common Okhla and Bharatpur
Slender-billed Gull, 4 Okhla
Black-headed Gull, 2 Okhla
Brown-headed Gull, 6 Okhla inc. 2 breeding plumaged adults
Great Black-headed Gull, 4 Okhla inc. 3 breeding plumaged adults
River Tern, fairly common
Gull-billed Tern, fairly common
Little Tern, 1 Lake Surwal, 1 Baretha Dam
Whiskered Tern, common
Indian Skimmer, 16 Baretha Dam (breeding, an unusual occurrence at this site).
Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, 7 Ranthambhore
Painted Sandgrouse, 10 (4 males) Ranthambhore
Red-collared Dove, 6+ Bharatpur
Collared Dove, fairly common
Laughing Dove, common
Spotted Dove, fairly common Ranthambhore
Yellow-footed Green Pigeon, 11 Ranthambhore, 1 Bharatpur
Plum-headed Parakeet, fairly common Ranthambhore
Alexandrine Parakeet, 9 Ranthambhore
Rose-ringed Parakeet, very common
Asian Koel, 2 (male and female) Ranthambhore
Greater Coucal, fairly common Bharatpur
Brown Fish Owl, 1 Ranthambhore
Dusky Eagle Owl, 1 Bharatpur
Collared Scops Owl, 5+ at "staked out" roost sites
Spotted Owlet, fairly common
Little Swift, common
Crested Treeswift, 1 Ranthambhore
Indian Roller, fairly common
Pied Kingfisher, fairly common
Stork-billed Kingfisher, 1 Ranthambhore
White-breasted Kingfisher, common
Common Kingfisher, common
Little Green Bee-eater, common
Brown-headed Barbet, 1 Delhi, 1 Bharatpur
Coppersmith Barbet, fairly common
Indian Grey Hornbill, 1 Bharatpur, 1 Agra
Black-rumped Flameback, common
Brown-capped Pygmy Kingfisher, 5 Bharatpur
Marshall's Iora, 1 Bharatpur (breeding plumaged male)
Indian Bushlark, 3 Devpura
Ashy-crowned Sparrow Lark, fairly common
Oriental Skylark, 1 Devpura
Crested Lark, fairly common
Plain Martin, Baretha Dam (breeding)
Dusky Crag Martin, Baretha Dam (breeding), c4 Ranthambhore
Wire-tailed Swallow, fairly common
Red-rumped Swallow, common
Black Drongo, common
White-bellied Drongo, fairly common
Common Woodshrike, 1 Ranthambhore, 1 Bharatpur
Southern Grey Shrike, 1 Devpura
Long-tailed Shrike, fairly common
Bay-backed Shrike, 3 Ranthambhore (2 males)
Brahminy Starling, common
Asian Pied Starling, common
Bank Mynah, very common
Common Mynah, very common
Rufous Treepie, common
House Crow, common
Large-billed Crow, common
Small Minivet, 2 Bharatpur (breeding plumaged males)
Red-vented Bulbul, very common
White-eared Bulbul, 4 Bharatpur
Jungle Babbler, common
Large Grey Babbler, fairly common
Common Babbler, 3 Ranthambhore, 2 Bharatpur
Striated Babbler, 2 Okhla
Red-breasted Flycatcher, 1 Ranthambhore (breeding plumaged male) 2 Bharatpur
Tickell's Blue Flycatcher, 1 Ranthambhore (breeding plumaged male)
Asian Paradise Flycatcher, 1 Ranthambhore (white male)
White-browed Fantail, 4 Ranthambhore, 1 Bharatpur
Ashy Prinia, 1 Bharatpur, 1 Okhla (both males)
Plain Prinia, 1 Bharatpur
Zitting Cisticola, 1 Devpura
Clamorous Reed Warbler, common at Bharatpur
Blyth's Reed Warbler, very common at Bharatpur
Paddyfield Warbler, 1 Bharatpur
Common Tailorbird, fairly common
Lesser Whitethroat, fairly common
Chiffchaff, 4+ Bharatpur
Bluethroat, fairly common
Black Redstart, common
Brown Rock Chat, 2 Ranthambhore (breeding at hotel), 1 Baretha Dam
Oriental Magpie Robin, common
Indian Robin, very common
Pied Bushchat, fairly common at Bharatpur
Orange-headed Thrush, 2 Ranthambhore
Great Tit, fairly common
Olive-backed Pipit, 1 Baretha Dam area
Paddyfield Pipit, 1 Baretha Dam, 1 Bharatpur
White-browed Wagtail, fairly common
Grey Wagtail, 1 Baretha Dam
White Wagtail, 2 Ranthambhore, 4 Bharatpur
Yellow Wagtail, 3 Okhla, 4 Bharatpur (all grey-headed)
Citrine Wagtail, common
Oriental White-eye, 20+ Ranthambhore, 2 Bharatpur
Purple Sunbird, common
Red Avadavat, Baretha Dam area-breeding colony
Indian Silverbill, 2 Ranthambhore
House Sparrow, common
Chestnut-shouldered Petronia, common
Black-breasted Weaver, 60+ Baretha Dam area
Common Rosefinch, 6+ Ranthambhore (inc. 2 breeding plumaged males), 1 Bharatpur
Crested Bunting, 50+ Ranthambhore
White-capped Bunting, 3 Ranthambhore (inc. 1 breeding plumaged male)
Tiger, Panthera tigris
12 sightings of 9 individuals. Ranthambhore
Rhesus Macaque, Macaca mulatta
fairly common. Bharatpur
Hanuman Langur, Presbytis entellus
Sloth Bear, Melursus ursinus
1 Ranthambhore ( during the day)
Golden Jackal, Canis aureus
2 Bharatpur (during the day)
Bengal Fox, Vulpes bengalensis
1 Ranthambhore (on night drive)
Common Palm Civet, Paradoxurus hermaphroditus
5 Bharatpur (late evening)
Indian Grey Mongoose, Herpestes edwardsii
Ruddy Mongoose, Herpestes smithii
daily sightings of singles. Ranthambhore
Wild Boar, Sus scrofa
fairly common. Ranthambhore
Chital, Cervus axis
Sambar, Cervus unicolor
Nilgai, Boselaphus tragocamelus
fairly common Ranthambhore, few at Bharatpur
Blackbuck, Antilope cervicapra
Chinkara, Gazella bennettii
Northern Palm Squirrel, Funambulus pennantii
Indian Hare, Lepus nigricollis
5+ Ranthambhore (on night drive)
Flying Fox, Pteropus giganteus
roost with some flying short distances in daylight. Baretha Dam
REPTILES & AMPHIBIANS
Marsh Crocodile, Crocodylus palustris
Indian Python, Python molurus
Checkered Keelback, Xenocorophis piscator
3 of these water snakes catching fish. Ranthambhore
Brooks Gecko, Hemidactylus brooki
common in buildings (inc. hotel rooms)
Common Garden Lizard, Calotis versicolor
Indian Monitor, Varanus bengalensis
Indian Toad, Bufo melanostictus
6+ Ranthambhore (grounds of the Regency)
Turtles, various species Bharatpur