India: The North – Tigers, Amazing Birds and the Himalayas January 2021/2022/2023
Dates and Costs
27 January – 12 February 2021
Price: US$6,395 / £4,815 / €5,527 per person sharing, assuming 4-8 participants.
Single Supplement: US$915 / £689 / €791
* Please note that currency conversion is calculated in real-time, therefore is subject to slight change. Please refer back to the base price when making final payments.
25 January – 10 February 2022
Price: US$7,035 / £5,297 / €6,080 per person sharing, assuming 4-8 participants.
Single Supplement: US$1,006 / £757 / €869
24 January – 09 February 2023
Price: US$7,740 / £5,828 / €6,690 per person sharing, assuming 4-8 participants.
Single Supplement: US$1,110 / £836 / €960
Duration: 17 days
Group Size: 4 – 8
Tour Start: Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi
Tour End: Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi
All accommodation (as described above)
Meals (from lunch on day 1 until breakfast on day 17)
Drinking water – two bottles of mineral water per day per person from our tour vehicle, please bring a refillable water bottle (if taken from the hotel this will be at your own cost)
Expert tour leader
Local bird and wildlife guide fees
Monument entrance fees and monument guide (Taj Mahal grounds and Fatehpur Sikri grounds)
National park/birdwatching reserve entrance fees and jeep safaris
All ground transport and tolls while on tour, including airport pick-up and drop-off
Flights to/from New Delhi International Airport
Items of a personal nature, e.g. gifts, laundry, internet access, phone calls, etc.
Optional tours (e.g. extra monument entrance fees not included above such as entrance into Taj Mahal building and associated additional travel expenses)
Any pre- or post-tour accommodation, meals, or birding/sightseeing/monument excursions
Camera (still/video) permits
Personal travel insurance
Gratuities (please see our tipping guidelines blog)
Featured Guide:Dylan Vasapolli
Brown Fish Owl
Indian Scops Owl
Birding Tour India: The North – Tigers, Amazing Birds and the Himalayas
India, with its fabulous scenery, incredible wildlife, fascinating culture, and wonderful monuments, must truly be on any world-birder’s and traveler’s wish list! This small group birdwatching tour will visit world-famous national parks such as Ranthambhore, Keoladeo Ghana (formerly known as Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary), and Jim Corbett National Parks and spend time in the breathtaking scenery of the Himalayan foothills at Pangot and Sattal. A visit to this part of India would not be complete without taking in the majestic UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Fatehpur Sikri and the Taj Mahal, and we will visit both of these very impressive places to soak up the sights and sounds. India is well-known for its amazing food, and we will sample a great deal of different, interesting, and tasty local dishes throughout the tour.
Bengal Tiger is the big mammalian target on this trip.
The tour gives the possibility of connecting with numerous exciting birds, such as Ibisbill (a monotypic family), Indian Skimmer, Indian Courser, Kalij Pheasant, Koklass Pheasant, Cheer Pheasant, Painted Spurfowl, Bearded Vulture (Lammergeier), Indian Vulture, Indian Spotted Eagle, Collared Falconet, Sarus Crane, Painted Sandgrouse, Black-bellied Tern, River Tern, Tawny Fish Owl, Brown Fish Owl, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Great Hornbill, Sirkeer Malkoha, Great Slaty Woodpecker, Himalayan Woodpecker, Long-billed Thrush, Spotted Forktail, Slaty-backed Forktail, Little Forktail, Brown Dipper, Golden Bush Robin, Himalayan Bluetail, Himalayan Rubythroat, Rufous-breasted Accentor, Altai Accentor, White-capped Bunting, and Wallcreeper (another monotypic family). Furthermore the tour offers the chance to search out one of the world’s most highly sought but elusive big cats, the Bengal Tiger, with a supporting cast that could include Indian Leopard, Asian Elephant, Ganges River Dolphin, Gharial, Mugger, and Indian Python.
You could combine this tour with our preceding Birding Tour India: The South – Western Ghats and Nilgiri Endemics and with our following tours: Birding Tour India: The Northwest – Lions and Desert Birding in Gujarat followed by Birding Tour India: The West – Forest Owlet Extension, which is followed by our Birding Tour India: The Northeast – Spectacular Birds and Mammals that visits the mountains of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. We can also easily offer you extensions at each location if you would like to extend your stay in this wonderful and vibrant country.
Ibisbill is the sole member of its own family and a huge target bird for any family listers or world birders.
Itinerary (17 days/16 nights)
Day 1. Arrival in New Delhi, nearby afternoon birding
After your late-morning arrival in New Delhi we will transfer to our nearby hotel for check-in (check-in is usually at noon). After lunch we will spend the first afternoon of the tour birding at a fantastic wetland site near New Delhi, where we could see some interesting species such as Painted and Black-necked Storks, Bar-headed Goose, Knob-billed Duck, Indian Spot-billed Duck, Northern Shoveler, Garganey, Ferruginous Duck, Eastern Imperial, Indian Spotted, and Booted Eagles, Brook’s Leaf Warbler, Sind Sparrow, Striated Babbler, Citrine Wagtail, Baillon’s Crake, Spotted Owlet, and Moustached Warbler. This site is a great introduction to Indian birding and is the perfect first birding site for those who have never been to India/Asia before, but it is also really enjoyable for those who do already know the birds of the region. Our guides love visiting this site time after time, and a great afternoon will be had by all.
Overnight: New Delhi
Day 2. Travel to Ranthambhore and tiger safari in Ranthambhore National Park
As New Delhi wakes up we will take the early morning train out of the city and head south to the Ranthambhore area, where we will arrive in time for lunch in our luxurious hotel on the outskirts of the national park. We will keep our eyes peeled along the way in case of any birds close to the train. Sometimes we get close views of waders/shorebirds, raptors, and storks during the train ride.
During the afternoon we will take our first game drive (called ‘safari’ in India), our prime target being the majestic Bengal Tiger. Seeing one of these incredibly huge and stunningly beautiful big cats is sure to be an early trip highlight. Ranthambhore is a great place to find them, yet they are generally never easy, and patience and careful scanning will be required; it is amazing how such a large animal can hide in grass! However, it is definitely worth the effort.
Certainly one of our biggest avian targets in Ranthambhore, Painted Spurfowl
Day 3. Ranthambhore National Park, all day birding/wildlife watching
We will have a full day in and around Ranthambhore National Park; this will include two game drives to look again for Bengal Tiger and other wildlife. Target birds include Indian Peafowl, Painted Spurfowl, Plum-headed, Alexandrine, and Rose-ringed Parakeets, River Tern, Rufous Treepie, Citrine Wagtail, Indian Vulture, Yellow-legged Buttonquail, Small Minivet, White-browed Fantail, White-bellied Drongo, White-naped Woodpecker, Crested Serpent Eagle, Yellow-footed Green Pigeon, Bluethroat, Bay-backed, Long-tailed, and Southern Grey Shrikes, Indian Bush Lark, and Large Grey Babbler. In addition to looking for Bengal Tiger we will also keep our eyes peeled for the Mugger crocodile, Rhesus Macaque, Southern Plains Grey Langur, Sambar, Chital (Spotted Deer), and Wild Boar.
Day 4. Ranthambhore to Bharatpur
Today we will transfer between Ranthambhore and Bharatpur but will make several birding stops along the way, depending on local water levels and our local knowledge of current bird distribution. Birds we will look for during the course of the day include Indian Stone-curlew, Painted Sandgrouse, Yellow-crowned Woodpecker, and Variable Wheatear near the hotel, and then Greater Flamingo, Indian Skimmer, Brown Crake, Great Stone-curlew, Black-bellied Tern, Small Pratincole, Isabelline Wheatear, Greater Painted-snipe, and Yellow-wattled Lapwing on the way. We are likely to arrive in Bharatpur in the late afternoon.
Day 5. Keoladeo Ghana National Park (formerly known as Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary)
We will spend the full day birding around the incredible Keoladeo Ghana National Park, one of the best-known birding sites in the country, and with good reason; this is a great place and always popular, with good views of a range of species possible. We will spend the day moving around this vast area on cycle-rickshaws, which is an excellent way to see the site. Time will be spent birding in a range of habitats such as scrub, woodland, lakes, and marshes to try to maximize the number of species seen. Some of the species possible during the day from the wooded/scrubby areas include Grey Francolin, Indian Peafowl, Indian Scops Owl, Dusky Eagle-Owl, Spotted Owlet, Eurasian Hoopoe, Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher, White-eared Bulbul, Pied Myna, Brahminy Starling, Tickell’s Thrush, and Indian Robin, while the wetlands may produce Bar-headed Goose, Ruddy Shelduck, Black-necked Stork, Black Bittern, Oriental Darter, Sarus Crane, White-tailed Lapwing, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, and Pied Kingfisher. We may also find Western Marsh Harrier, Black-winged Kite, Egyptian Vulture, and Indian Spotted Eagle, Greater Spotted Eagle, and Eastern Imperial Eagle hunting or scavenging over the wetlands.
We should find Bar-headed Goose in Keoladeo Ghana National Park.
Day 6. Bharatpur to National Chambal Sanctuary via Fatehpur Sikri
We will have an early start today to look for Indian Courser, a difficult and local species. We will also keep our eyes peeled for other open-country species such as Black Francolin, Sarus Crane, Isabelline (Daurian) Shrike, Desert Wheatear, and a range of larks, pipits, and wagtails such as Ashy-crowned Sparrow-Lark, Greater Short-toed Lark, Indian Bush Lark, Oriental Skylark, Citrine Wagtail, Western Yellow Wagtail, White-browed Wagtail, Tawny Pipit, and the stunning Indian Roller.
The beautiful Indian Courser can be found in agricultural fields near the town of Bharatpur.
After the morning birding session we will commence our journey to the delightful Chambal Safari Lodge for our two-night stay, visiting the very impressive Fatehpur Sikri World Heritage Site along the way. Fatehpur Sikri is one of the best-preserved collections of Mughal architecture in India, the fort was actually (amazingly) abandoned in 1585, only 14 years after the huge building project was completed. We will arrive at our hotel in the late afternoon and look for Brown Hawk-Owl and Indian Scops Owl in the hotel grounds in the evening. Sometimes there are interesting mammals around the cabins too, such as Common Palm Civet.
Day 7. National Chambal Sanctuary
We will have the full day to explore this area, which is very different from other areas on the tour and gives us the opportunity for a wide range of interesting species of birds and other animals. We will take an early-morning boat ride along the Chambal River, where we will look for Indian Skimmer as well as River Lapwing, Great Stone-curlew, River and Black-bellied Terns, and the huge Pallas’s Gull. It is not just birds here, however, as we will keep our eyes firmly peeled for the incredibly rare and Endangered (IUCN) Ganges River Dolphin as well as the Critically Endangered (IUCN) Gharial. We will spend time checking out the scrub around the river, where we may find the secretive and skulking Sirkeer Malkoha, Crested Honey Buzzard, Bonelli’s Eagle, Plum-headed Parakeet, Yellow-eyed Babbler, and White-capped Bunting. Farmland in this area can also hold some interesting species, and we will have time there as well as in the wooded grounds of our accommodation to look for numerous species.
Day 8. Chambal to New Delhi via Agra and the Taj Mahal
We will do some early-morning birding around the hotel grounds before we swap birding time for some culture. After breakfast we will start the journey back to New Delhi. However, along the way we will stop for a tour of the outside grounds of the majestic Taj Mahal World Heritage Site, allowing you the chance for that ‘must have’ photo souvenir in front of this iconic building. The Taj Mahal was completed in 1648 and is said to be the world’s finest example of Mughal architecture. This architectural masterpiece was described by the poet Rabindranath Tagore as ‘the tear on the face of eternity’. We will spend the late morning here, enjoying the various pavilions, forts, and other attractions of the Taj Mahal, but keep your binoculars with you as there are often interesting birds flying around the grounds and along the river out back.
After lunch in Agra we will continue our journey to New Delhi, arriving in time for dinner.
Overnight: New Delhi
The majestic Taj Mahal
Days 9 – 10. By train from New Delhi to Kathgodam, continue to and birding at Sattal
We will wake early in the morning and check in at the station for our morning train ride to the city of Kathgodam in the north. Here we will experience an altogether different yet incredibly exciting birding experience in the cooler and stunningly beautiful Himalayan foothills as we make our way to Sattal. On arrival at our hotel around lunchtime we will be immediately impressed by the landscape, cooler air, and a whole suite of new birds. After lunch we will spend the rest of the day, and the whole of the next day, birding in this fascinating and bird-filled area.
Possible highlights during our time in Sattal may include Jungle Owlet, Great, and Blue-throated Barbets, Speckled Piculet, Greater and Lesser Yellownapes, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Slaty-headed Parakeet, Black-headed Jay, Red-billed Blue Magpie, Grey Treepie, Yellow-bellied Fantail, Chestnut-headed Tesia, Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler, Red-billed Leiothrix, Himalayan Rubythroat, Siberian Rubythroat, Golden Bush Robin, Himalayan Bluetail, Spotted Forktail, Rufous-bellied Niltava, Blue Whistling Thrush, Slaty-blue Flycatcher, Crimson Sunbird, Russet Sparrow, Rufous-breasted Accentor, Olive-backed Pipit, Common and Pink-browed Rosefinches, Yellow-breasted Greenfinch, and White-capped Bunting. There will also likely be a number of laughingthrushes to keep us entertained: Rufous-chinned, White-throated, Streaked, and Striated Laughingthrushes (the latter is often voted one of the birds of the trip as it is rather nice-looking).
The Spotted Forktail is one of the most beautiful in the whole family.
Day 11. Sattal to Nainital and Pangot
The day will be spent birding around Sattal and Nainital, finally arriving at our wonderful lodge high in the mountains in Pangot. We will have a second chance at some of the species listed above, as well as many others, including Kalij Pheasant, Green-backed Tit, Himalayan Black-lored Tit, Himalayan and Black Bulbuls, Black-throated Bushtit, Rufous Sibia, Bar-tailed Treecreeper, Small Niltava, Slaty-backed Forktail, Blue-capped Redstart, Plumbeous Water Redstart, White-capped Redstart, Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush, Crested Kingfisher, Chestnut-headed Tesia, Long-billed Thrush, Green-tailed Sunbird, and so many more!
The grounds around our accommodation offer some great birding, and either today or tomorrow we will be sure to pay them due attention. We could find Black Francolin, Black-headed Jay, Great Barbet, Grey-headed and Brown-fronted Woodpeckers, Striated Prinia, Altai Accentor, White-throated Laughingthrush, Blue Whistling Thrush, and Rock Bunting here, as well as plenty more. A photographic hide also gives good photo opportunities.
Day 12. Pangot
There will be an early start this morning to gain some further elevation to allow us to focus on some high-elevation key targets, which will include both Cheer Pheasant and Koklass Pheasant along with commoner and more widespread Kalij Pheasant, Hill Partridge, Bearded Vulture (Lammergeier), Griffon Vulture, Himalayan Vulture, Altai Accentor, Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Himalayan Woodpecker, Himalayan Bluetail, (Spot-winged) Coal Tit, and White-tailed Nuthatch. We will also hope to get some great landscape views of the even higher snow-capped Himalayan mountain ranges, which really are spectacular. We will have the full day to explore this area, and it could be one of the best days of the trip with some very special birds.
The beautiful Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush.
Day 13. Pangot and Nainital to Jim Corbett National Park
After some final birding in the Nainital/Pangot area, where we will look for anything that we may want to concentrate our final efforts on, we will head to the Corbett area after lunch. Time permitting we will likely explore the Kosi River area to look for two beautiful and highly sought monotypic species, Ibisbill and Wallcreeper. We could also find Brown Dipper, Little Forktail, Pallas’s Fish Eagle, Brown Fish Owl, Red Junglefowl, Besra, Himalayan Swiftlet, Nepal House Martin, White-capped Redstart, Plumbeous Water Redstart, Blue Rock Thrush, and Blue-bearded Bee-eater here. The grounds of our hotel also offer good birding, and we will look for Collared Scops Owl and Crimson Sunbird among many others over the next few days.
Sighting after sighting, northern India produces so many extraordinary species and never ceases to amaze. Pictured here is a Crimson Sunbird.
Days 14 – 15. Jim Corbett National Park
We will have two full days to explore the areas within and around Jim Corbett National Park (potentially even spending one night inside the park itself). There are numerous great birds to look for here, and we will also look for some of the park’s most spectacular wildlife, maybe getting further sightings of the regal Bengal Tiger, with the added possibility of Indian Leopard, Asian Elephant, and an assortment of other creatures such as Indian Crested Porcupine and Yellow-throated Marten.
Some of the birds we will look for over these two days will include Red-headed Vulture, Cinereous Vulture, Jungle Owlet, Asian Barred Owlet, Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Tawny Fish Owl, Great Hornbill, Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo, Collared Falconet, White-rumped Spinetail, Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Banded Bay Cuckoo, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Himalayan Flameback, White-crested Laughingthrush, Rosy Pipit, Maroon Oriole, Common Green Magpie, Grey-bellied Tesia, and Crested Bunting.
The vividly colored Common Green Magpie.
Day 16. Corbett to New Delhi
After some time birding around our hotel in the morning we will commence our journey back to New Delhi. Depending on exact timings we may grab another opportunity to look along the river for Ibisbill, Wallcreeper, and Indian Cormorant and will keep a lookout for any other new and interesting species along the way. After our final day birding together we will enjoy another great meal and think about our trip highlights before saying goodbye, as the main tour concludes in New Delhi.
Overnight: New Delhi
Day 17. Departure from New Delhi
You will be transferred to the airport for your flights home or your continuation on the Northwest India tour.
Overnight: Not included
Please note that the itinerary cannot be guaranteed as it is only a rough guide and can be changed (usually slightly) due to factors such as availability of accommodation, updated information on the state of accommodation, roads, or birding sites, the discretion of the guides and other factors. In addition, we sometimes have to use a different international guide from the one advertised due to tour scheduling.
This is a sample trip report. Please email us ([email protected]) for more trip reports from this destination.
BIRDING TOURS INDIA: GENERAL INFORMATION
PASSPORT AND VISA
Most people will require a visa for visiting India depending on your country of origin or length of stay. Please check your government’s advice; this may be achievable via the e-visa system (there is a small fee for most visas). Your passport must be valid for a period of at least 6 months after the date of your arrival in India. Please make sure that there is at least one empty page available in your passport. Please make sure that you also bring a photocopy of your passport, to be kept in a different location from your hard copy of your passport, in case of loss/damage.
Passports should be kept on your person for safety and ease of use. You will need to show passports and give passport details at most accommodation, trains, and national park entrance gates.
Note: If your passport changes between the time you book a tour and provide your information and your trip you must let us know ASAP so we can update the details on the national park and train tickets. Failure to do so could result in difficulties on arrival at parks or train stations.
For details on visa see the following website: https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/index.html
We strongly recommend that you purchase trip cancellation insurance to protect yourself against accidents, medical, illness, loss of valuables, luggage, etc., and travel interruptions or delays of all kinds.
Please consult your doctor regarding any vaccine requirements. All travelers should be up to date with routine vaccination courses and boosters (e.g. tetanus). There is no risk of yellow fever transmission in India; however, there is a certificate requirement if travelers have visited/come from any of the following countries: http://www.who.int/ith/2015-ith-annex1.pdf?ua=1. Some travelers may require Hepatitis B, Japanese Encephalitis, and Rabies. Risk of Malaria is considered low, although you should seek the recommendations of your doctor and please read https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2018/infectious-diseases-related-to-travel/yellow-fever-malaria-information-by-country/india#seldyfm879 carefully. Please also read https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/india or a UK site that gives great info as well: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/india/health. Note that these pages are only a guide, so do consult your usual source for travel health advice.
Sunscreen should be carried, and a hat should be worn to protect from the powerful rays of the sun with sunglasses to help prevent glare. A plentiful supply of water should be carried at all times to maintain hydration. Insect repellent is recommended.
Due to air pollution in and around New Delhi it is advised to purchase a face mask to reduce the potential for breathing in dirty air. These face masks can be purchased from most chemists. A bandana can also help reduce dust intake in dusty areas such as in national parks if they are dry.
lease make sure that you are covered by medical insurance in case of an emergency while on this trip. Without insurance the cost of medical care can be extremely high. Please notify us at the time of registering for this tour of any medical conditions you think we should know about (including allergies, heart conditions, epilepsy, etc.). This will greatly help us to cater to your needs and update emergency services if required.
Indian Rupee. Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted, including for drawing cash from ATM’s (as everywhere, bank charges may apply). Note: US dollars or British pounds cannot be used for purchases. We will be able to exchange or draw money at the airport upon our arrival and in the various cities we pass through. But it is worth noting that ATMs will give you large denomination notes, and getting smaller change (e.g. useful for tips) is quite difficult to obtain. Most ATMs only allow a maximum withdrawal of 10,000 rupees in one go. The ATM at the airport (in the arrivals lounge) can be a bit temperamental but does accept Visa and MasterCard cards.
We will experience a range of temperatures in India, including some cold/very cold mornings in the mountains of the north on the North India and Northeast India tours. Game drives here can be very cold in the early morning (the jeeps are open-top). It is advisable to bring layers, including a warm coat, woolen hat, gloves, etc., for these tours. Birding sites south of New Delhi will be hot during the day but can drop to be fairly cold overnight and early in the morning, and it may get a bit chilly in the southern Indian hills on the Western Ghats tour. A bandana or face mask would be helpful for time spent near New Delhi due to pollution but also for keeping dust out of your face while in any of the national parks on the jeep safaris.
230 V at 50 Hz. Two- or three-pronged round sockets. Adaptors are needed for overseas appliances. See the following link for details and photos: https://www.power-plugs-sockets.com/india/. Types D and M seem to be the most common sockets where we stay on our tours. The electricity can go off unexpectedly due to power shortages. A decent torch (flashlight) is essential. Power surges can be common, so ensure your devices are suitable to withstanding these.
LENGTH OF DRIVES
Whenever there are moderate or lengthy drives they are broken up where possible with birding stops and stops for refreshments, etc. Driving in India is not as good as in most of the rest of the world and can take some getting used to. Our drivers are used to the road conditions and driving style and do a great job of keeping everyone safe. Distances traveled are not particularly huge in most cases, but the roads are often in a poor condition, making drives take longer than they would in more developed areas. Many roads are in the process of getting upgraded, and there are a few very good toll roads we will likely use.
Many but most certainly not all of the places visited on our tours have WIFI in some form. This may just be in the hotel lobby and can be a bit hit-or-miss. If you want more reliable internet connection it is possible to purchase a SIM card at the airport, e.g. Airtel works well through most of the country and is fairly cheap.
WHAT TO BRING
This is not a fashion statement trip! Casual and informal, practical dress is fine in the hotels. Loose lightweight field clothing works best, with a warm fleece or jacket for cooler weather and warm clothing for early-morning game drives. Shorts and T-shirts are fine in the south. You will also need to bring some warmer clothing and a rain jacket. Rain is always a possibility, so an umbrella and/or rain gear is always useful to have. Early mornings can feel very chilly in some areas, so come prepared, especially in the northern mountains at higher elevations.
Sunglasses, sunhat and sunscreen (rated SPF 30 or higher) are useful. A pair of pants/trousers or a long skirt and a long-sleeved shirt should be included to help protect against forest vegetation and the sun. Swimwear can be brought as there are swimming pools at some of the hotels.
We would recommend lightweight walking boots when out on foot. You might like to consider sandals/trainers (tennis shoes) for use in the vehicles and for walking between your room and restaurant in the hotels and lodges.
Do not forget – Binoculars, prescription drugs (also bring the generic names for these drugs), toiletries, prescription glasses (and a spare pair), insect repellent, sunscreen and sunglasses, camera, flashlight (torch), batteries (for electronic equipment and chargers for re-chargeable batteries if required), converter plug set if needed and plug adaptors, alarm clock, money pouch, field guide(s), daypack. While our guides typically carry a scope, if you have your own scope you might wish to bring it too as this will speed up observations.
Key Documents and Cash – Passports, your travel or health insurance cards, photocopies of which can be carried by the tour leader in case of emergency, credit cards (see info above). US dollars, euros, or British pounds can be exchanged into Indian rupees if you prefer not to simply draw cash from ATMs for drinks, gifts, tips, items of a personal nature, etc., which are not included in the tour cost.
>Due to restricted space in the vehicles please pack as lightly as possible. A medium soft-sided duffle bag (not the hard-sided cases) works best for packing in the vehicles. This allows us to better fit the bags. Please bring a daypack to keep items that you wish to use or need on a daily basis.
There are several dangerous animals in India such as tiger, leopard, and Asian elephant. We will endeavor to see these beautiful creatures but remain a respectful distance from them. There are several species of venomous snakes in India, so all snakes should be viewed from a safe distance with care taken when walking in forests, scrub, and grassland (e.g. check where you are putting your hands and feet).
India is generally a safe place to travel with very friendly people. However, as anywhere in the world it is advisable to take care and remain cautious and observant for the unexpected, especially in busy areas with lots of people, e.g. train stations, airports, markets, monuments, etc.
English is widely spoken. Our local guide will assist with communication with some jeep drivers who may not speak English.
It is expected to tip practically everyone who provides any form of service in India, so try and get as many small notes as possible as early as possible (but this is not always easy!). The following is a guide, and if you feel like a service provided was better/worse than expected you can adjust accordingly. Note: Examples of tips below are per group (2-4 persons) and not per traveler and are in Indian Rupee (INR). Nature Guide (full day) 750-1250 INR, Jeep Guide (3 – 5 hours) 200 – 300 INR, Monument Guide (full day) 500-1000 INR, Monument Guide (half day) 300-500 INR, Driver 500-1000 INR/day, Hotel porters 50 INR/bag/porter (extra if lots of heavy bags), Hotel Staff (2 to 3 nights duration of stay) usually 250 INR per room per night as a consolidated amount to be put into the box or handed to the hotel manager to share among his staff, Hotel greeting staff 50-100 INR for car door opening at plush hotels, Railway porters (pay them once they have shown you to your seat and carried your bags into the carriage) expect around 100 INR/bag but agree about the price in advance, Rickshaw guides (Bharatpur) 500-750 INR per day.
The entrance fees for monument visits (e.g. Fatehpur Sikri, the Taj Mahal, and any others we may decide to visit) are not included in the tour price and are to be paid on arrival at the monument. For example, on the Northern India tour at the Taj Mahal a local monument guide is included in your tour price (he will talk to you about the history of the building, and point out interesting features etc.), but the actual entrance fee is not included.
Note: On the Northern India tour the visit to the Taj Mahal is just to walk around the outside with lots of nice photo opportunities, but it does not go inside as there simply isn’t enough time for this. If you would like to go inside the Taj Mahal we can arrange a pre- or post-tour extension where this would be possible.
Some of the places visited are ‘dry’, i.e. they do not serve alcoholic drinks. Some places will allow you to bring purchased alcohol into their restaurants, others will only allow it in your room. There are bottle shops in most towns we go through, so it is easy to buy wine, beer, or spirits here. The local Sula red/white wine is quite nice, especially in the cold evenings in the north!
There are many good photo opportunities on our tours, ranging from natural and human-made landscapes to birds and other wildlife. Depending on the size of your camera (e.g. if you have a huge lens) you may be charged a fee at some locations. The fees for this are usually very small.
GENERAL USEFUL INFORMATION
Take a toilet roll from the first hotel with you for roadside/emergency stops; there are plenty of toilets at gas stations but most are basic with no toilet roll.
Take a bottle of hand sanitizer and use after shaking people’s hands and touching money/doors/taps etc., and use it before eating. General hygiene and sanitation levels in India are much lower than in most of the rest of the world.
Never drink any water coming out of taps. Only drink bottled water or purified water. You will be provided with a couple of bottles of water by your local guide each day. Note that sometimes hotels will provide a couple of bottles of water for free, but sometimes additional bottles will be charged for, so just be sure what is or isn’t included by discussing it with the hotel.
Laundry services are available at a number of hotels we stay at during our tours, and the costs for this are fairly reasonable.
On arrival you’ll be met by our ground agent, who’ll take you to your hotel or wherever you need to be. They will have a sign with your name.
Ensure that you arrive at the airport three hours before your international flight, as there is a lot of red tape to go through and it can take a while getting through check in, immigration, and security. There should be no departure tax, which should be included in your flight ticket, but it’s worth it confirming this with your chosen airline.
Dylan is an excellent birder and so at ease with all ages and skills and personalities. He’s comfortable in new situations and very organized and made the tour a pleasure. I can’t believe how young he is! Deepak was great! We were so fortunate to have him with his good English, local knowledge of birds and culture, and he was such a help to me personally.
Betty Siegel — Alaska, USA