Julian Sykes Wildlife Holidays

India – Tigers & Taj Mahal

Indian TigerThis fabulous 14 day Indian adventure visits two incredibly special areas in the north and centre of the country. Our holiday starts in the bustling city of Delhi with the fabulous Sultanpur Jeel wetlands - famous for its host of wiildfowl and waders along with the magnificent Nigai or Blue Bull. The following day we drive south to India ’s most famous wetland reserve - Bharatpur (or Keoladeo National Park). This 29 km² sanctuary is home to an incredibly varied mix of wildlife including huge numbers of waterbirds, raptors, mammals and reptiles. Sadly in recent years there have been several failed monsoons, which has had an impact on large concentrations, however the diversity of species you can see here in just one day is still very impressive. An absolute must for any visitor to the Indian Sub-Continent.

Painted StorkAfter this exciting start we go for a boat trip on the mighty Chambal River, which is an interesting experience seeing much of the wildlife at quite close quarters. On sandbanks you should get good views of Gharial (a fish-eating crocodile) along with its more widespread cousin the Marsh Crocodile or Mugger. Indian Skimmers patrol up and down, the shores can hold Greater Stone-plover, River Lapwing, Small Pratincole or maybe an Open-billed Stork. All the time watching out for Indian River Tern, Black-bellied Tern and Pallas’s Gull, which can patrol up and down the river.

Taj MahalA holiday to northern India isn’t complete without a visit to the world famous Taj Mahal and this is no exception. This incredible monument incredibly changes colour according to the time of day and strength of the sun. A quick visit to the Yamuna River should yield River Lapwing and Ruddy Shelduck whilst Small Indian Mongoose can be observed in the grounds.

Now it is time to head south to the central forests of Tadoba natural park, and an exciting overnight sleeper train journey will ensure we get there refreshed and ready for our next four days.

Bengal Tiger
Tadoba is a relatively new natural park and is arguably the best place to see Royal Bengal Tiger. There are grassy meadows surrounded by forest, which teem with wildlife and its here you have a very good chance of seeing the magnificent Big Cat. This ultimate jungle predator shares its home with many other sought after mammals - Sloth Bear, Wild Dog and Leopard included but these can be difficult to see. Surprisingly, Swamp Deer occur here, a rare subspecies adapted to living on drier ground. Bee-eaters and Rollers swoop above the grass to catch insects disturbed by the deer. The forest is alive with songs and calls of orioles and barbets, Jungle Fowl and Peacocks. As night falls the owls and nightjars will test your sound-identification skills. This really is Kipling country; it's likely he found inspiration for his Jungle Book here or in the nearby forests of Pench Tiger Reserve.

Day 1:- Overnight flight from a London Heathrow.

LangurDay 2:-  Arrive Delhi in the morning. If we arrive early enough we might be able to arrange a visit to the Sultanpur Jeel wetlands that first afternoon. These seasonal lakes can be fabulous for waterbirds and an excellent way to start our Indian adventure. Nilgai (Blue Bull) are regular here and can be seen at the side of the water along with a host of bird species which could include Tawny and Eastern Imperial Eagles, Painted and Black-necked Storks, Spot-billed Duck, Garganey, White-tailed Red-wattled Lapwings, Citrine Wagtail, Greater Flameback and Black Drongo to name a few. This will be a fabulous start to the holiday. Around lunchtime we shall return to Delhi and check in to our hotel where we shall catch up on some much needed sleep before the evening meal and another good rest. Night in Delhi

Day 3:- After an early breakfast we will drive to Bharatpur, a journey of approximately five hours if we miss the rush hour traffic. Check in at your hotel, have lunch and then spend the rest of the afternoon visiting some local areas to the hotel, which on previous visits have yielded Brown Wood Owl, Yellow-wattled Lapwing, Greater Painted Snipe and Barred Button-quail. 3 nights in Bharatpur.

Indian Scops OwlDays 4 & 5:- The next dayand a half will be spent with our experienced Indian guide inside Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, also known as Keoladeo National Park. This famous reserve is currently being restored to its former glory after many years of drought have left water levels low but now its being supplemented from the Chambal River. We shall walk the paths and trails that cut through this vast area and you should see Sarus Crane, Painted Stork, Open-billed Stork, Spot-billed Duck, Lesser Whistling Duck, Bronze-winged Jacana and many other species. At least three species of owl can be seen in scrub/forest areas and along the tracks; Dusky Eagle Owl, Spotted Owlet and Collared Scops Owl along with Long-tailed Nightjar, Black-rumped Flameback, Indian Golden Oriole and Orange-headed Thrush. This can be a long and tiring day so we will engage the services of one of the rickshaw drivers to stay with our party in order to give us a rest from walking. The next morning will first involve another visit to the National Park, this time to the drier areas on the north side. In these grassland you’ll look for Indian Silverbill, larks, pipits and hopefully see the vividly coloured Red Avadavat. Expect to see some mammals too, including Nilgai, Spotted Deer and possibly Golden Jackal.

After lunch we load the minibus and head off for Agra to visit one of the most famous landmarks on earth - The Taj Mahal. The next few hours we walk around this wonderful mausoleum and its grounds until the setting sun beautifully illuminates the pale marble. After this we drive to our lodge situated near the mighty Chambal River where we spend the next couple of nights.

Indian SkimmerDay 6:- After breakfast we’ll leave for a 3 hour boat trip along the River Chambal in a small open topped boat and the adventure begins. Target species for us include the charismatic and very localised Indian Skimmer, Small Pratincole, Greater Stoneplover, Indian River Tern, Pallas’s Gull, Black Ibis, various larks, pipits and perhaps even a Crested Bunting. In addition you should get close views of Gharial (a scarce fish-eating crocodile) along with its more widespread cousin the Marsh Crocodile (Mugger) and if you are lucky you might catch a glimpse of the rare Ganges Fresh River Dolphin.

Then after lunch we will visit areas around the hotel and also the grounds itself, which can be excellent for both birds and mammals. We will stay around the lodge buildings until dusk in the hope of seeing the resident Indian Palm Civet.

Overnight at the Chambal River Lodge.

Day 7 & 8:- Again this morning we will spend time around the Chambal River Lodge until lunch then we head off to another famous landmark of Agra - The Red Fort. We stay here for a couple of hours wandering round this 11th century building.

Late afternoon we drive the short distance to Agra Train Station before boarding the overnight train to Jabalpur. You’ll be provided with a packed dinner and bed linen for the bunks on the train, making for a completely new and very exciting experience. Night on 1st class air-conditioned sleeper train.......

.......Arrive at Jabalpur station around 07.30 hours where you will be met on the station platform by your guide and driver. From here you will be taken to have breakfast at Hotel Jackson (in Jabalapur itself), then you will be driven (approx. 4 hours) to Kanha. Check in at your safari lodge, have lunch and then enjoy an afternoon birding around the resort with your guide. Kanha NP is closed on a Wednesday afternoon. Expect to see Golden-fronted Leafbird, Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, Chestnut-tailed Starling, Jungle Owlet, Indian Grey Hornbill, Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpecker and Common Langur Monkey to name just a few candidate species. Four nights at the excellent Svasara Lodge.

Jungle CatDays 9 - 11:- Enjoy the rare splendour of Tadoba National Park on morning and afternoon safaris each day. Home to the ultimate jungle predator, the Bengal Tiger, close-up views of this, the most majestic of the big cats is an unforgettable life-time experience. As well as Tiger, Kanha is an excellent place for Gaur, Swamp Deer, Wild Dog and Jungle Cat.  Sloth Bear and Leopard are occasionally seen, but require more luck!

Your guides will be looking for fresh Tiger pug marks along the tracks and listening for the alarm calls of Sambar and Spotted Deer as well as other inhabitants of the forest, like the Langur Monkeys.  When you hear those alarm calls the feeling of excitement is quite indescribable and that’s before you even see a Tiger!  Whilst it would be inappropriate to guarantee a sighting of any wild animal, your chances of seeing Tiger here are high. It is all very exciting!

This tour is not all about Tigers, as Tadoba is bursting with biodiversity and boasts an impressive bird and mammal list. 

TigerBirds abound and species include some rather gaudy unforgettable ones like Scarlet Minivet, Red Avadavat, Orange-headed Thrush, Verditer Flycatcher and Plum-headed Parakeet. Species come in all shapes and sizes, from the elegant Asian Paradise-flycatcher and Greater Racket-tailed Drongo to the rather ugly yet eclectic Lesser Adjutant stork and the impressive Changeable Hawk-eagle. Silhouetted against the sky hornbills are prominent with both Indian Grey and Malabar Pied possible, the latter of which is near-threatened.  As you turn a corner you might come across Red Spurfowl or Red Junglefowl along one of the forest trails.  And the list continues….

.......however, if we have seen Bengal Tiger and most other mammals and birds we may use our jeep to explore some of the areas outside of the park.

Day 12:- Spend a final few hours (early morning) with your guide having a last look around the lodge area (on foot). Then later in the morning we will be taken to Nagpur Airport (5 ½ hours) to check in for an early evening flight back to Delhi. On arrival in Delhi we’ll collect our bags and will head for our last meal at a hotel near the airport before checking in for our international flight home.

Day 13:- Our early morning flight departs Delhi.

What's been said...

The trip to India was truly memorable with such a long list of highlights it is hard to pick the best. The sightings of the Gangetic River Dolphin from the boat on the Chambal River were unbelievably good and the Gharial was fascinating. I enjoyed the tour of the Taj Mahal and found it even more stunning than it appears in pictures or on TV. It must have been good as Rob was impressed! The overnight train journey and the traffic in Delhi were both experiences which might not be classed as highlights but they made a lasting impression. The bird count exceeded expectation and favourites are hard to choose. Of the more common birds I loved the owlets, the Golden-fronted Leafbirds, the minivets and Purple Sunbirds. We notched up a creditable 52 lifers and top of the list for me were Indian Courser, Ultramarine Flycatcher and the star bird Siberian Rubythroat. With the stay at Kanha National Park we added a whole range of wildlife to our list. The Earth Lodge was the perfect place to start and end each day and Mahesh and Sukra made our safaris a real pleasure. Setting off early, fortified by hot tea and with the benefit of hot water bottles, we were in a high state of anticipation in our search for a tiger. However, nothing could have prepared us for the thrill of seeing Muna emerging from the lake, stalking through the grass and crossing the track only feet away. As you can imagine it was an unforgettable experience. We enjoyed great birds, great food, great company and great guides. Many thanks for a brilliant holiday! Take care

Kathy & Robert Dowsett

Sorry this is a bit late coming in! I only do email under extreme duress. We had a brilliant trip. Ken was a superb guide -- ably supported by Ganesh and Rahim (our jeep driver) and I gather that the other driver was excellent too? As well as the Tigers at Kanha our extension to Chambal River and Agra was fabulous too and will definitely be booking another trip next year.

Jim & Fiona Allcock

I greatly enjoyed the trip - Tiger, Leopard, Indian Wild Dog, deer, etc, together with super birding. Our accommodation at Kipling Camp was excellent and my thanks indeed to Ken for looking after the group so well. It was fabulous.

A Cairns


Cost £2225
Based on sharing a twin/double room.

Single Supplement - £450
Deposit - £300
Minimum Group Size - 4

Price Includes:

  • Internal flight
  • 12 nights en-suite accommodation.
  • All meals from lunch on Day 2 till breakfast on Day 14
  • All transport costs
  • Taj Mahal entrance fee
  • Red Fort entrance fee
  • Boat safari with local bird guide
  • 8 Jeep safaris in Tadoba
  • National Park entrance fees
  • Info pack and daily checklist.
  • Use of field guides & maps
  • Experienced leaders/guides.

Price does not Include:

  • All flights
  • Travel Visa
  • Travel Insurance
  • Extra Camera/camcorder where not included in the entrance fee
  • All drinks (except water)
  • Phonecalls
  • Laundry
  • Tips & items of a personal nature

Flights are not included in the prices quoted, however we are more than happy to help with finding suitable flights.

15th - 28th March 2015
(see icon guide)

Highlights -

  • Royal Bengal Tigers in Tadoba NP
  • Leopard, Sloth Bear, Jungle Cat, Wild Dog all possible
  • Boat safari for Gangetic River Dolphin, Gharial, Indian Skimmer
  • Half day at the Taj Mahal and Red Fort - what more can I say!
  • Rickshaw rides in Bharatpur NP, the famous wetland reserve in India
  • Evening visit for Indian Courser and Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse
  • A train journey to remember!!!

Target Species:

  • Royal Bengal Tiger
  • Leopard
  • Indian Palm Civet
  • Jungle Cat
  • Sloth Bear
  • Dhole (Wild Dog)
  • Indian Bison
  • Nilgai (Blue Bull)
  • Spotted Deer
  • Sambar Deer
  • Indian Muntjac
  • Hanuman Langur
  • Rhesus Macaque
  • 5-stripe Palm Squirrel
  • Golden Jackal
  • Gangetic River Dolphin
  • Indian Grey Hornbill
  • Sarus Crane
  • Indian Red-naped Ibis
  • Lesser Adjutant Stork
  • Painted Stork
  • Spot-billed Duck
  • Yellow-wattled Lapwing
  • Greater Painted-snipe
  • Bronze-winged Jacana
  • Pheasant-tailed Jacana
  • Changeable Hawk-eagle
  • Oriental Honey Buzzard
  • Indian Courser
  • Greater Stone-plover
  • Little Pratincole
  • Indian Skimmer
  • Black-bellied Tern
  • Siberian Rubythroat
  • Dusky Eagle Owl
  • Jungle Owlet
  • Indian Scop's Owl
  • Brown Hawk Owl
  • Long-tailed Nightjar
  • Brown-capped Woodpecker
  • Rufous Woodpecker
  • Black-rumped Flameback
  • Greater Racket-tailed Drongo
  • Coppersmith Barbet
  • Scarlet Minivet
  • Asian Paradise-Flycatcher
  • Orange-headed Thrush
  • Plum-headed Parakeet
  • Gharial
  • Mugger Crocodile
  • Indian Python
  • Monitor Lizard


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