Wildlife tourism - India anyone?

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Jul 26th, 2004, 04:40 AM
  #1
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Wildlife tourism - India anyone?

Starting a new thread with an introduction.
I am an Indian living in Bombay.

Was curious to know if any of the regulars (Sandi, Kavey, RuthieC, LizFrazier, Rocco, divewop etc.) have visited India anytime? If you have, have you been to any of the game reserves - Ranthambore, Corbett, Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Bandipur, Periyar?

Reason I ask is that I recently had a fantastic experience in East Africa, and myself haven't been to any parks in India itself - apart from one (Dandeli near Goa). There is a lot of biodiversity in India and I found a lot of commonalities with Africa - we have elephants (smaller, and in some cases domesticated - you can see them in traffic in Delhi / Bombay and other Indian cities), buffalo (again domesticated and very common), one-horned rhinos in Kaziranga in Assam, tigers (not to be found in Africa), lions (the only lion prides in Asia), gazelle (various types of Indian deer - including the spotted deer) etc. I have seen a lot of birds such as hornbills, ibises, roller birds, jacanas, eagles, kites etc. in Dandeli. We don't have giraffe, zebra, wildebeest though.

Now as with everything Indian, the park maintenance and marketing will not be comparable with Africa. But for true wildlife enthusiasts ( and I have seen enough evidence on this board), that should not really be a deterrent. Just checking to see if anyone has been to India and what their experiences were.

Cheers

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Jul 26th, 2004, 06:16 AM
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Freddy
I'm a British Indian - my parents were born in India and I was born here, in London, England.
So I have visited India often during the last 32 years. When I was a child we'd try and visit once every couple of years. As an adult I haven't managed that frequence but did enjoy a brief week there in November last year to attend a favourite cousin's wedding.
My current intention is to visit India as a real tourist. I have, of course, visited numerous tourist sites (more in Northern than Southern India) but these are slotted in between family stays. I'm keen to see the tigers of India so am dreaming of a longer trip where I can see my relatives for a week of intense visiting around and then spend a week or two as a tourist.
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Jul 26th, 2004, 06:22 AM
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freddy-
My husband and I actually were talking about India a couple of weeks ago.

I can't get Africa out of my head long enough to think of other places I want to visit. Whoa is me...an Africaholic! I wonder if there is a twelve step program to wean me off of wanting to keep returning there.

I admit I'm not as knowledgeable about places to visit in India as I am in Africa. I, like Kavey, would love to do a tiger (along with all the other animals) safari there. Tigers are one of the most beautiful creatures on the earth and to see them in their natural habitat would be incredible.

It is news to me that you guys have
lions though. I never knew that! That makes it all the more interesting.

Since I love the outdoors so much, I would venture more to visit the game reserves than I would to visit the cities. The exception would be to probably visit the Taj Majal since it is so well known.

And of course, to find great Indian food somewhere which is one of my husband's favorite cuisines.

I know I have a lot more to learn about India before I even begin thinking about making plans. And I have got to learn to think outside that @*#$% Africa box.
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Jul 26th, 2004, 06:36 AM
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Freddy,

I am planning to visit India next February and have included 3 nights in Ranthambhore at Udai Vilas, an Oberoi resort, in my itinerary.

While I do expect to see tigers and other wildlife, I have very low expectations for the overall wildlife experience in comparison to Southern Africa. While in Southern Africa the parks are HUGE, the parks in India are tiny by comparison. While in eight nights at Kaingo in South Luangwa and Kulefu in the Lower Zambezi, we did not cross paths with another safari vehicle except once or twice. I expect that in Ranthambhore, we will be crossing paths with other vehicles every few minutes, if not share the roads entirely with other vehicles in site.

However, for the opportunity to see Tigers and to stay at the beautiful Udai Vilas, I am willing to make certain concessions. I will be happy to report on my findings in Ranthambhore, but I think the best thing to do is to go in with the lowest expectations, and who knows, maybe I will be pleasantly surprised.

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Jul 26th, 2004, 07:49 AM
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I was very close to coming to India last January. Had planned on seeing the Taj and then wildlife/tiger safari in 3 parks -- Bandhavgarh, Kanha, and Ranthambore. Unfortuneately lions are only found in Gir Wildlife Sanctuary which is in the far west and not really close to the prime tiger reserves. Of course with Africa type $$ they could be included together. I hope to still take this trip in the next year or two but after booking Namibia/Mozambique for November I'm not sure if it will happen for a while.

Rocco: I imagine you are correct about the experience in some regards of more vehicles/smaller area etc. but I think you will be shocked by the wildlife experience. The phenomenal number of bird species and unexpected/little known mammals such as the dhole - the wild dogs of India. Much less known than even the relatively unknown African wild dog.
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Jul 26th, 2004, 08:37 AM
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PredatorBiologist,

Wow...I had never heard of the Indian wild dog before. That would be an incredible sighting.

Thanks.
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Jul 26th, 2004, 09:32 AM
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Thanks Kavey!
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Jul 26th, 2004, 01:51 PM
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Freddy,

My husband and I are India addicts who have now also got to deal with the Africa drug! We have been to India 4 times so far and loved every trip.

The most memorable trip was a few years back when we stayed in some of the old forts and palaces in Rajastan - an incredible experience.

During this trip we stayed at Ranthambore for just one night and were lucky enough to see a tiger. Now, I am currently planning the 4th safari to Africa in 2 years, but I would say that this one sighting was the most incredible yet. The whole atmosphere in the park seemed to change around us as we saw the tiger strolling through the undergrowth less than 25 meters away. That animal was awesome - so huge, arrogant and in control of everything around it ......... what an experience.

Overall of course the game viewing is nothing like Africa - but for this one sighting, it will always rank alongside our african safaris.

By the way, the thing that finally convinced my husband that he might enjoy a safari was a 1/2-day elephant safari in Sri Lanka ...... he's now as much of an addict as I am!
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Jul 26th, 2004, 08:32 PM
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So good to know that many of you have either been to India or are planning to. I am attaching 2 links for those who want to know more..

http://www.theindiatravel.com/travel...ites/wildlife/

http://www.travelmasti.com/Wildlife-sanct/

Both provide a decent overview of parks in India and the kind of wildlife one can see.

Rocco - you are quite right about parks in India being smaller - most are in the sub-500 sq km range, but then I expect the number of tourists will also be lesser than in Africa. Reason being that wildlife tourism hasn't really caught on as yet - not many Indians I know have been to parks in India (myself included), and I doubt if too many international tourists depart from the standard Taj - Rajasthan palace circuit, or the Goa beaches circuit. Based on the one park I went to, I expect you would not cross paths with too many vehicles, even in a small park like Ranthambore.

The other absolutely unique experience would be doing a safari on the back of an elephant. As I'd mentioned in my earlier post, elephants are part domesticated in India, so in most of the parks like Corbett, Kanha, Kaziranga etc. you have the option of using a jeep, or going on elephant back (behind the mahout - who will manage the elephant for you). Its absolutely safe - I have been on one! I don't know if RuthieC's post referred to watching elephants in Sri Lanka or watching other animals on elephant back. In Indian parks, elephants are often used to track tigers...

Overall, I'd agree you will not see as many animals as you would in Africa. Fewer numbers, and another reason is that Indian cats for instance are much more elusive / shy - tigers are rather like the leopards in this respect. I know of people who spent a couple of days in Corbett but saw only a tiger tail disappearing in the bush!

Divewop - the last Asiatic lions (the only known species outside of africa)are to be found in the Gir forest sanctuary. There are about 400 lions remaining as on date. The catch is that the same ecosystem will not support lions and tigers (only one cat on top of the chain). In the rest of Indian parks / jungles, tigers are top of the pyramid. To see lions you will have to go to Gir.

Finally, (since this is after all an Africa forum!), it takes a lifetime to 'see India'. I've lived all my life (30 plus years) here, and I can only scratch the surface. Its a bit like Europe in this aspect - that if you travel a 100 kms in any one direction, you will come across a completely different language, culture and a couple of thousand years of distinct history from where you started. If you plan a couple of weeks trip, best thing to do is to stick to one small part (say the Taj / Rajasthan part with places like Ranthambore, Sariska, Bharatpur thrown in for the wildlife). Kerala is another great option - you get beaches, the Periyar wildlife sanctuary with its ellie herds and the unique backwater lagoon ecosystem thrown in. Madhya Pradesh with a trip to the unique Khajuraho temples and Bandhavpur / Kanha is another good choice. I could go on, but guess I will stop here.

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Jul 27th, 2004, 02:48 AM
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Although it is an African Forum, it was interesting to me as I will have about 2 1/2 days in India. I land in Cochin (sorry, I can't remember the proper Indian name) and can do "Something" and pick up the ship a couple days later in Mumbai (Bombay). I have always wanted to go to India, but for some reason my husband hasn't. It May be the only time so should I opt for the Touristy Taj (which everyone says is magnificent) or ???????? Which is the least touristy place to do the Tigers? What would be your 1 pick.
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Jul 27th, 2004, 03:11 AM
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BAMonahan - 'the only time in India?'Well in that case, the answer's easy - go see the Taj! You did give me only 1 pick...

Am not clear on your itinerary - are you 'landing' by ship in Cochin? Are you on a cruise or something?

India is a big country - so flying is the only way you can get from Cochin to Agra to Bombay within 2 1/2 days. Not sure there is a Cochin - Agra direct flight either - you may have to route through Bombay / Delhi.

If you think you can return for a second trip, then you could skip Taj (save it for the next time) and spend the time very fruitfully in Kerala, without having to fly around all over the country.

From Cochin, head out to Alleppey (about 2-3 hrs by road) and rent a 'kettuvallam' (literally means a rice boat). These are large houseboats with a complete ensuite bedroom and a porch, propelled by 2 boatmen with punts; cook accompanies you on the trip. Take a leisurely 2 day tour on the backwaters / lagoons; at night you anchor in one of the large lakes, with a kerosene lantern for lighting. Can't think of a more relaxed way to spend a couple of days. And do try out an Ayurvedic massage in Kerala!
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Jul 27th, 2004, 10:09 AM
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How Cool! We love every kind of boat and find rides on all kinds wherever we go, But. I think getting off a 30 day cruise for a 2 day boat ride won't be #1. Since I can't guarantee a return trip, I'd better opt for the Taj. Thanks for the info!
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