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14 days - meant to be a Tiger Safari..............with a bit of culture

14 days - meant to be a Tiger Safari..............with a bit of culture

Old Jun 21st, 2009, 10:53 AM
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14 days - meant to be a Tiger Safari..............with a bit of culture

This is my first trip report here on Fodors and I ask all Fodorites for some kind of merci if I don't match your expectations...............

On 28 May/01.00am we landed in New Delhi and were pretty much wondering why on earth all personnel was wearing face masques to obviously prevent them from catching Swine flu. Our arrival cards had to be filled in and the officials wanted to know whether we had visited countries in which swine flu cases occurred.

All these people wearing these masques were quite a scary sight.

Anyway - our driver and guide were waiting for us and soon we checked in to the Taj Palace hotel. Actually a nice lobby and great lawns but the rooms need a refurb soon and the bathrooms are quite tiny.
breakfast in the restaurant reminded me of coffee shops in the 70ies in Bangkok. So the experience was quite disappointing in some regards.

We did a city tour to al the touristy sights. SAt 14.00hrs I asked to be brought back to the hotel because the temperatures had reached 48°C and I was simply longing for an A/C environment.

Last stop was at the market close to the great mosque where I bought these handmade paper envelopes in which Indians handout cash gifts - thank you so much to these fodorites who pointed out these envelopes when I asked for easy to carry and typical gifts.

We enjoyed lunch at the hotel before we were picked up by our driver/guide at 17.45h for the ride to the train station where we boarded MEWAR Express and our A/C first class sleeper compartment for the ride to Ranthambore which was due to leave at 19.00hrs. The train left on time and the journey was very pleasant. 2 berths, clean linen and fresh pillows.
We arrived at Sawai Madhopur/Ranthambore around 01.00am - almost 2 hours late. A short 15 min. drive to the Taj Sawai Madhopur Lodge where we would stay for 2 nights - or rather 1 1/2.

The lodge was the Maharaja's hunting retreat in the earlier days - a stuffed leopard in the "lobby" was a witness of this obscure hobby.
The room was huge as was the bathroom. Interior design was quite pleasant bur far from being luxurious. We had expected some more of a Taj property because Taj is marekted in Europa as a 5* hotel chain. Soon we experience that Taj is anything else but certainly not a 5* hotel brand.
We sorted out our camera equipment before we went to bed because the game drive for the next day meant getting up at 05.00am followed by a ride to the park. So not much sleep that night.

No our tiger safari was due to start.............

We were picked up at 05.30am and told by the guide that we need to rush to another hotel to pick up 3 more guests before we head for the park.

At the park the guide "checked-in" and got route #2 but told us route #4 had the best tiger sightings.

We came back to the lodge around 10.30am and had breakfast which had an extremely limited choice - all normal "hotel" dishes incl. baked beans, somekind of scarmbled eggs and only one choice of cheese: wrapped kind of artificial stuff which is normally used for hamburgers.

Somehow we assumed our safari in India might be very different in every aspect .

The route system was quite strange and completely different from any African Safari:
For the morning drive one is allocated a certain route. No communication between the guides. One has to stick to that particular route.
At 10.00am the park closes and on check-out the guide learn whether and where there was a sighting.

Game drives are conducted either in Suzuki Gypsy jeeps (6 pax plus guide and driver) or in top less buses which carry 28+ pax.

Based on park opening times the crowds gather for these 2 game drives which were at that time of the year (school holidays in Rajastan) unpleasantly crowded - and LOUD
There were only a few "Westerners" but loads of Indians travelling with children and even babies.

Frankly - I consider doing game drives in these gypsys rather questionable and I wonder whether they had already unpleasant incidents.

For the afternoon game drive which started at 16.00pm (we had again 2 more people in the car) we were allocated route #4. This time we saw 2 sub-adult tigers (one male, one female). The explanation to the cubs we got from the "naturalist" was rather strange: The father of the cubs killed the mother when she was trying to defend the male cubs which the father wanted to kill in order to get rid of a competitor. OOPS - I would have loved to learn where this "naturalist" got his education.

One of the tiger cubs started hissing when the topless bus arrived - for good reason. The crowd was unbeliefably loud, jumping, shouting......

I would have wished for a more quite first tiger sighting. The atmosphere was more like a zoo or circus - but certainly not a National Park.

The next morning we were due to leave for Agra.................

08.00am breakfast - again disappointing - and 08.30am off were drove towards Agra.

These drives were suicidal. There is no rule at all except when 2 vehicle which are driving towards each other in the middle of the road. Then they remember that they are supposed to drive on the left side of the road............

Goats, sheep, cows, children and adults walking, dogs and sometimes pigs - besides buses, trucks, cars, rickshaws, bicycle.........all in the road. Some people were even sitting at the edge of the road. All have one thing in common: They react to the horns!
Avery truck, bus and even rickshaw has got a sign in the back: HORN PLEASE!

I am still amazed that we made it to our different destinations.
We watched dogs and goats which were killed in the roads.......but thanks god (or shiva or whoever) nothing major happend. It often was scarce and most of the cars had the outside mirror either retracted or it was missing.

At "Midway" (a restaurant clean and serving good Indian and also Western dishes midway between Ranthambore and Agra) we had lunch at around 15.00pm we reached the old Fort where our guide Philip was already waiting for us.

The beggars and vendors were extremely pushing and therefore annoying. I wanted to buy some fans but left without any purchase because of the pestering crowd.

Walking the Fort was quite interesting.

We reached the Gateway Hotel at around 17.00pm, brought the luggage up to the room and off we went to the obviously unavoidable Taj Mahal.

The weather was perfect: A bit cloudy so that we witnessed a pretty dramatic sunset.

The Taj is simply beautiful. The white marble and the semiprecious stones incorporated is absolutely unique and quite worthwhile the drive to Agra.

Interesting that still the successors of the original builders (incorporating semiprecious stones into the marble) who originally came from Iran are still working in that field in Agra.

We spent almost 2 hours walking the grounds but not getting into the tomb. This we left for the next morning.

To be continued.........
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Old Jun 21st, 2009, 01:26 PM
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I enjoyed reading about the tiger safari as this is on my list, sorry that your experience turned out to be rather disappointing.

I was excited to see that Andbeyond had joined up with Taj hotels for the Tiger Safari experience, but it seems that Taj Sawai Madhopur Lodge is not one of these lodges.

How did you book your trip?
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Old Jun 21st, 2009, 01:42 PM
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Hi Femi
You are perfectly right about andBeyond and that was the force to get us to India. We know their African Lodges/camps and LOVE their attitude towards wildlife, conservation and also guests.

Ranthambore is out of wuestion for andBeyond because that park does not allow "private" cars into the park. Andbeyond was very much interested into opertaing Sawai as well but decided against it because of the park regulations on cars.
As you might very well know andBeyond is quite particular about game drives and vehicles. So operating a lodge close to Ranthambore without being able to execute the game drives themselves was not an option - understandably.

Ranthambore is a park in a hilly environment in which the gypsy's drove like madness - 60km/h a suicidal driving speed in that environment and the game drives there almost guarantee a sighting/2 drives are mandatory at least! But at what cost! As I wrote - the safari experience one has from Africa must be completely forgotten in order to not become disappointed.

I will later write about Panna, Bandavgarh, Kanha and Pench.

Let me tell in advance: IF one wants to watch tigers in the wilds India is a MUST! But one has to sacrifice the African way of enjoying a safari - all the crowds and the insane park regulations which have nothing to do with conservation at all but with making money on the animal expense.

We are glad we did the trip as we wanted to see the tigers...........BUT.....

SV
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Old Jun 21st, 2009, 01:46 PM
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i am enjoying this read, thanks for posting
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Old Jun 21st, 2009, 01:47 PM
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Sorry Femi I forgot to inform on the TO which was http://www.indiantravelpromotion.com/

If you contact them - TONY is the owner and he is a marvelous guy, ask for SANTOSH to be the driver for all ground transportation. They work with local TO but these cannot provide English speaking guides which was a pity! We changed guides at one point because if you are having 5 and 6 hours transfers you need to have an English speaking reliable guide in order to learn about things along the way.
Santosh is a very defensive driver which might save your life at one point ;-)
Whatever company you choose: INSIST on ONE guide to become familiar with so that he knows exactly what you want so see, hear and experience. And ENGLISH is a MUST!

SV
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Old Jun 21st, 2009, 02:20 PM
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Now let's continue.........

We had 2 nights in Agra which was nice as we hat time to BREATH after being chased through Delhi and Ranthambore.

In Agra I would definetly choose the Oberoi! They have golf carts to take guests to the Taj Mahal which makes its almost unnecessary to have a tour guide or hiring a taxi.

The next morning we left the hotel at 05.30am to watch the sunrise at the Taj which was stunning.
No crowds this morning and so we walked into the tomb which was kind of interesting but not overwelming - on my part.
I enjoyed much more walking around the grounds and let my phantasy wander.........

After return to the hotel at around 08.00am we had breakfast - not a great experience because here the choice was again very limited unless one sticks with the Indian dishes which were quite large.

We went to the Agra Fort - interesting but again the beggars and vendors were annoying.

Shortly after noon we returned and had an relaxing afternoon at the hotel's pool before we again went for sunset to the Taj Mahal............

Next morning at 07.30h we were fetched and taken to the train station for our trip to Jhansi on Shatabadi Express leaving Agra at 08.17am SHARP! It took us 2 3/4 of an hour in an A/C first class compartment and this time we had the pleasure of watching Indian villages fly by while being carried in a very pleasant way to Jhansi.

Driver/guide were waiting for us and off we went towards Khajuraho via Orchha.

Enroute we stopped at ALIPURA PALACE www.alipurapalace.com for lunch. A very pleasant "hotel" (10 rms 3000INR/per room, A/C and large with bathroom in a "living" Maharaja Palace) with a large restaurant . We asked for some PANEER dishes which became our favourite Indian dish (buffalo cheese-very delishes!). We had 5 different dishes and 4 cokes for 560INR which was the most favourable meal we had in India! A very nice experience!

In Khajuraho we were accommodated at the Chandela Hotel - also a Taj property. We and another couple were the only guests and the whole experience were a bit spooky.

Next morning we went to the temple which is very well known for its Tantra and Kamasutra engravings and displays.
We were quite puzzled about the phantasy these guys had hundreds of hundreds of years ago and frankly - they must have been very agile to follow these passions ;-)

Around 11.00am we were finish with the temple and could head for the second tiger safari at Panna National Park...........

Taj Pashan Garh Lodge is brandnew and the chalets are fantastic! Built of beige-ish stones (all broken out of huge blocks on site) and the interior is absolutely stunning: blue and rosé cement as layout the windows and doors, chairs, table etc in leather finish and sliding windows leading to a gazebo. The grounds are going to be finished by October - now they are still quite rough. But the Lay-out of the lodges is awesome!
Bathroom huge with rain shower, double sinks and ward robe to take in the stuff of a 2 weeks stay to say the least. Cloth hangars in leather finish. So much effort put in to any detail!
The boutique, the restaurant, the lounge, the swimmingpool..............just wonderfully done!

The park itself is 30 min drive which are done either in a VAN (if weather is not that suitable) or in a TATA kind of landcruiser.

When we arrived we were greated like old friends visiting friends! They typical andBeyond way.

We learned that the last male tiger which lead a lonely life for more than 4 years left at the beginning of 2009 (whereabouts unknown and park authorities give a damn to search for a cat) but 2 tigeresses were released in April. Now these 2 cats are collared and their whereabouts is monitored. (almost 550skm/2 cats!)
But all monitoring doesn't prevent them from leaving also as all the parks are not fenced. And as soon as they leave the (more or less ) secure park area they fall victims to poachers or villagers.

Needless to say that we did not have one sighting in 3 game drives here.

But because we still had 3 more parks to visit we were quite optimistic...........

to be continued.

SV
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Old Jun 21st, 2009, 08:59 PM
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keep it coming
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Old Jun 24th, 2009, 12:44 PM
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Thanks for the info. We'll be staying in some of the places you've stayed. Hope you eventually got some good tiger views!
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Old Jun 24th, 2009, 03:28 PM
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June04 to 06 Bandavgarh NP
The road transfer lasted again 5hrs on Indian roads..........suicidal!
Anyway - we again made it and arrived midday at Banjar Tola lodge. That lodge is located only 2 min from the park entry. A completely different feel. The lodge is in a bamboo forest. The chalets are more "woody" with karge bedroom with a living area, a large wardrobe, 2 sinks, a bathtube and a shower. A huge terrase is in front of the chalet. Very comfortably furnished and excellent A/C which we needed in an environment of 45+ °C but very dry - no humidity. The walkways between the dining room and the chalets are lit in the evenings with lanterns - pretty risky in that dry environment.

Here we did 4 game drives in these Tata kind of landcruisers. At the park entry for the morning drives one gets a route to which the visitors have to stick to. The park opens at 06.00am. The gamedrives were booked in advance so when we arrived we could just slip in. no hussle at all.
At around 09.00am one had to check in at "centre point" - loads of Gypsy cars were there - every morning. The advantage of that system is that at centre point the guide get information on where the sightings were between 06.00am and check in at centre point. After that the guides can take whatever routes they wish until the park closes at 10.30am.

The crowds were unbelievable - also because the park opening times (06.00-10.30am and 16.00h until 18.30pm) means crowds have to focus onto these opening times. If they were to open the parks full day also the visitors would not be forced to cramp into these restricted hours. The masses could stretch which would also be a relief for the tigers.
Some tiger sightings meant at least 30 if not 40 cars in one sighting.

Here we watched one single tigeress the first afternoon and the next morning that same tigeress had obviously found her groom - so they both were on Honeymoon which was absolutely fantastic to witness. A HUGE tiger and that lady mating (the growl of a lion at least five times.that's the tiger's love bite growl!) ..........we watched the two at least for half an hour. These cats are so beautiful and powerful that the road transfers, train rides.....everything was wothwhile to undertake to wee them in the wilds.

When we were driving towards the park exit we suddenly heart chains ratteling...........huge chains.
I asked the guide to pull back a bit because I wanted to check what it was.
It was an elephant cow in a walking chain ratteling as she tried to get further meter by meter. And her calf. Estimated 2 years old. The calf had both forelegs chained and could only hop.
I won't forget that sight for the rest of my life.
It was so disgusting seeing these gentle animals being chained.
Taking into consideration how cheap labour is in India I would have expected the park personnel to take care and guide the elephants instead of putting them into chains.

The TIGER SHOW.................

Some of the companies call them Elephant Back Safaris - but it's called appropriately TIGER SHOW!
Even http://www.toftigers.org/
support elephant back safaris. Supporting these has nothing to do with conservation at all!
The park authorities give a damn about the tigers as long as they can cash in on these.
As I said: No park is fenced so all the tigers are extremely vulnerable to poaching - at the latest when they leave the parks which they can do at their liking!

Sending tourists on tiger safaris doesn't support any conservation as there is no concept of conservation in India at all!
Only 1100 tigers are left in the wild. A thorough census cannot take place as the whereabout and travel routes of all the tigers are simply unknown.
They are not collared.
The whole tiger safari tourism is solely to fill lodges of which some try to make a difference in trying to get park authorities to change into conservation - without success yet.
Bandavgarh e.g. has estimated 60 tigers in 550 skm. So inbreeding is commen place. Stress because of lack of individual territories is huge. But the park authorities simply refuse to think about translocation of tigers in order to refresh the bloodlines also in other parks and offer some relief to the existing 60 tigers population.

One lodge manager said it might take another generation to get the conservation idea into official's heads.

But these remaining 100 tigers will be gone within the next 10 years if they don't change their minds soonest.........


The Mahouts and their elephants find a tiger - not necessarily far from the tracks - and everybody who wants to take photos has to get on to the elephant being lead to the tiger, takes pictures for max. of 2 minutes and make space for the next elephant.
at least 6 people fit into that basquett on the elephant back.
Of course we refused to take part in that kind of circus and preferred to find the tigers ourselves.

If one is kind of unlucky and a tiger is laying right in a track - it might be the case that park officials simply block off the tiger and force anybody to join the tiger show in order to make some extra money. Additionally to the giypsy car entrance fee (3.200 INR for max of 6 pax plus the driver and park guide) foreign tourists have to pay 600INR, residents 100INR for participating in that circus.

I would like to ask anybody who travels to India not to participate in any of the tiger shows. The treatment of the elephants is cruelty and requests asks for more elephants to be domesticated for that kind of entertainment.

When we left one afternoon there was an elephant mom with a tiny baby - estimated 3 - 4 month old. The mahout with his stick was approx. 15 metres away from the tiny family. When he tried to approach the two the elephant mom started blowing sand from the ground towards him. The baby was trying to seek shelter her mom's belly getting completely confused at one stage and ran around like mad.
The elephant did not trompet at all. All she did was blowing sand. Obviously it does ask for a task to break an elephant's will. And obviously that mom's will was broken thoroughly.

I almost bursted into tears when I witnessed these two incidents.

How can people who believe in re-incarnation treat animals with such a cruelty? How can they risk - based on their believe - putting their ancestors into such a miserable lifes? It's just beyond me........

So in Bandavgarh we were lucky and able to watch tigers on all 4 game drives.

On 06 June we left for Kanha NP...............

To be continued.

SV
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Old Jun 24th, 2009, 03:54 PM
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Thanks for the report. I believe the lodge in Bandhavgarh is Mahua Kothi, isn't it? You're lucky to have seen tigers on all 4 game drives. Our ranger estimated that he saw tigers on 1 out of 3 game drives there. We loved the drive to Bandavgarh from Khajuraho since there's always so much activity on Indian roads to watch. Looks like the plan to link all andbeyond lodges by air still hasn't come to pass.
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Old Jun 24th, 2009, 06:18 PM
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Hmmm not quite the same experience as an African safari. I would still like to go on a tiger safari, but am happy to realize I need to change my expectations now, rather than only realizing the difference after I get there.

I found the dancing bears distressing when I was in India. I don't quite understand what was going on in the elephant scene you witnessed, but I know the way they get elephants to do their bidding is indeed to break their will. It seemed harsh when I was watching a training session in Laos. I think it will gradually stop when they realise that Western tourists really don't like to see animals treated roughly.
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Old Jun 25th, 2009, 03:27 AM
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Marija
You are right: It's Mahua Koti and we loved the lodge. This setting within the bamboo forest is quite special!
And Yes - we consider ourselves lucky regarding the sightings. Especially because we watched the honeymoon couple which; our guide had never witnessed that before.
We also LOVED the sights, smells and sounds of the country sides. But despite all that the drives are NERVE WRECKING!
Yes - the othet two andBeyond loges are coming..............
And YES - they have plans to connect all 4 lodges by kind of charter. Even Fedair was interested in doing these. But this is as I stated earlier: The Indian government seems to be quite not interested nor supportive to companies who invest a lot of money into lodges to enhance upmarket tourism and throwing stones into any effort to make it more marketable.
But I am positive at one stage they will manage. Till then one has to drive on end and fly. But till end of May Jet Airways serves all these airports and Jet is outstanding!

Femi
India is a MUST if you are keen on seeing tigers in the wilds. One has to sacrifice all "amenities" in view to game drives and surface travel. But still - IF you desperately want to see the tigers - go rather sooner than later.
Each and every year the number will be declining. It's too sad.
I hope the UN environment body is going to do something about it or make the government listen because these gracious cats is not really an INDIAN asset but must be considered a world heritage!
Femi - and one of the advantages is - India is still far more favourable (surface travel, domestic flights, tipping and also lodges in off season) than Africa.
I would never go during peak season between Oct and March because the sightings are much better in May and June because everything is bone dry! It's the school holidays in Rajastan and Madya Pradesh and this means domestic tourists instead of foreign tourist and therefore noisy - but still the advantage of the dry is huge.
Besides the fact that during and after the monsoon spiders (huge creatures but harmless), scorpions and snakes are quite in abundance.....

Go ahead with your plans. Rather postpone Africa than India for the reasons given above.

Frankly - I visited once and I am glad we did it. I won't go back soon. But the sighting of a tiger in the wilds cannot be substituted by anything - except a snowleopard or Sibirian tiger

SV
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Old Jun 25th, 2009, 06:06 AM
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India is definitely much more affordable in the off peak season (well at least the Andbeyond lodges are). All I had considered was the heat, but I may rethink that.

I took advantage of the Dollar:Rand exchange rate, and so my travel for this year is focused on Africa. Andbeyond has become a favorite agency of mine, and their lodges in Africa are definitely more affordable than India. It will be interesting to see what they come up with for South America. I'll be comparing those lodges with the cost of going to India.

I've been to India before, and never thought I would go back anytime soon till Andbeyond joined up with Taj.
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Old Jun 25th, 2009, 10:39 AM
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Femi
Yes, andBeyond has great specials for Africa till the end of 2009.
Regarding the heat: We had up to 48°C but no humidity. The temp dropped during night to 25/28°C and their A/C were fantastik.
Regarding the expenses - just to give you and idea besides your experiences:

all our road travels came up to 6000INR for 2 pax. The Air India ticket Nagpur-Delhi was 5.800INR per pax.
Tipping was far too much as we did not take into consideration their cost of living and labour. We handed over 500INR for the driver/up to 7hrs drives and 200 dfor short transfers.
The guides at the lodges got 500 per drive and the park guide got 100INR from us plus soem Backschisch from the lodge guide.
All that under consideration that a employee in the country side earns 50INR/day!
Also the Taj/andBeyond lodges charged something around 350US$/day all inclusive. I know that's a fortune in Indian terms but hey - they are fantastic and I would not go to another venue in Bandavgarh but would choose the Oberoi for Ranthambore instead of the Taj venue because the Taj lodge as got a not so skilled management.
I would not got to Pench and Panna - definately not because of lack of cats. Kanha might be better but that park is huge with its more than 2000skm in which one has to be lucky to find the cats.

In Delhi I would certainly choose the Trident which is a fantastic place. Regrettably we had only lunch (while staying in The Park for our last night before departure which was aweful as a venue and also ages away from the airport) there but the rooms, lobby, restaurant - exceptionally nice and relatively close to the airport.
I would also choose the Trident over the Taj Palace.

In case you just want to check with a TA in Delhi: Our trip was created by http://www.indiantravelpromotion.com/ TONY is the owner and a great guy. Very supportive.
Any TO/DMC should make sure you stick with ONE driver for the duration of your trip and that driver should speak English or whatever language you prefer!

You are very welcome to send me an email in case you want to know more details especially regarding the tigers because all these bits and pieces cannot be reported here.

SV
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Old Jun 25th, 2009, 05:04 PM
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Thanks for the tips.
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Old Jun 29th, 2009, 12:17 PM
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A 6 hrs drive and we reached Kanha NP.

Again the drive was kind of suicidal and at one stage I asked our driver to slow down a bit especially when driving thru villages and doing the serpentines.
While I write the report I am still wondering that we made it via surface transfers and not ending up in some kind of waste dump.

The Taj Banjaar Tola Lodge is tented - in June still 9 HUGE tents
but from 01 October 09 there will be 9 more means 18 tents.
The tents look like space ships. Unbeliebaly huge and kind of nautilus shape.

Parquet flooring, a huge bamboo panel platform with indirect lighting where the mattress is laying on. A huge deck without reling towards the river, huge bathroom with XL separate rain shower, bathtub, a panel where two sinks (one on each side) are installed, and separate toilet.
Exquisite interior!
The lodge opened in Feb 09 and all smelled really "new".
A very pleasant dining room and XL deck where we had breakfast. On safari we always skip either breakfast or lunch. Here we skipped lunch because it was HOT. So I cannot comment on the lunch.

One night we had a private dinner. All the way from entrance to the bathtub were candles and flower bulbs lined up. Even in the bathtub on top of the foam were flowers.
A champagne cooler with our favourite wine and glasses were waiting next to the bathtub.
Dinner was served course by course on our deck.
Here also - strictly Indian cuisine.

Gamedrives are similar to Bandavgarh - but without the tiger sightings.
A German student who we met at the Bandavgarh gate (we took him with us on game drives because he did not have the founds to hire a Gypsy (3000INR) for himself) told us he did a game drive at Kanha. There he was blocked off a sighting right in the road so that he either had to join the tiger show or was denied to approach the sighting.

3 gamedrives here - no tiger sighting.

Then we proceeded to Pench NP - 4 hours drive.

Taj Bagh van lodge

This is an older lodge to which andBeyond added some typical andBeyond touches.

The chalets have got a real "entrance" leading to a bedroom (nicely furnished but not outstanding; no fridge but they deliver a champagne cooler to the room with preferred drinks) which is connected to the bathroom by a wooden walkway. Here you also have a gazebo which the staff covers with mosquito netting if you prefer to sleep out.

Bathroom has got 2 sinks, wardrobe, a shower plus an outside shower, separate toilet.

A very nice and spacious dining room, swimming pool and a platform on which the Langures had siesta which was interesting to watch: the completely behave like humans laying on the side putting their heads into their "hands" and putting one leg over the other. Cute!
They don't get chased off because they don't enter the dining room and are not annoying to guests - compared to baboons or vervet monkeys which can be some kind of a pest.

In Pench the tourism zone had no filled water whole. As a result that was almost an empty space. We were told the non-tourism zone has got "working" water wholes. Tiger shows are conducted only in the non-tourism zone;-)
By now that was self-explanatory.
No tiger sightings here.

We did one game drive and skipped the other 2 for the next day. We preferred to sleep in (by now I had a bad cold), organise or luggage for the flight to Delhi.

Transfer to Nagpur airport took almost 2 hours.

Indian Airlines from Nagpur to Delhi was quite good serving also a meal and drinks.
Duration of flight: 1 hour 15 min.

In Delhi we were fetched by ITPL driver and guide.

The Park hotel was extremely disappointing! Again a "design hotel" which proved to be designish but uncomfortable (2 tables attached to the "couch" (or rather bench) which did not allow a decent dinner, a luggage bench reaching into the room on which we hit our legs a couple of times.
The aircon could not be adjusted which meant either FREEZING or HOT. The same with the shower (rain shower of approx. 40x40 cm square): shampoo and conditioner rinsing took AGES! Hair blower hat countless power cuts.

Here my cold became worse due to the A/C.

The packed breakfast (equivalent to American buffet breakfast) consisted of an apple and one cheese sandwich. No water, no juice.

The staff was "neutral". Not enthusiastic nor friendly. Just acting to their individual to-do-list.

Next day we departed for Germany.

Resumee:

Indian safaris are completely different to African safaris.
The country side is interesting as well as the architecture of temples etc.

Especially Rajasthan is very colourful. If there are 4 women walking the streets means a firework of colours, sparkling stones and tiny mirrors incorporated in to their saris. Fantastic.
One has to be able to cope with beggars and extreme poverty.
For vegetarians it's a paradise if one loves Indian spices.
In Rajastan particularly one has to be careful when eating homemade meals: They can be EXTREMELY HOT!
I LOVED the PANEER dishes (homemade buffalo cheese).

When we returned I was sure I won't go back to India. I have seen it - I am finished with it.
But now I think I might go back one time.........

SV
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Old Jul 2nd, 2009, 05:13 AM
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"all our road travels came up to 6000INR for 2 pax" Did this include the road transportation between the lodges?
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Old Jul 2nd, 2009, 09:28 AM
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YES Marija as far as road transfers were concerned.

Ranthambore - Agra//Jhansi - Khajuraho - Panna - Bandavgarh - Kanha - Pench

There is a poster here who gave a whole lot of advises for travelling India. I forgot his name. He also is a TO/DMC and rents cars with drivers and as far as I remember the avergae rate on his website was 25 or 30$/day incl. driver.

Guide
Pleasure!
THX for the link. I'm sure there are LOADS of reports and details differ due to personal preferences.

I just wanted to report mainly on the tigers and means of travel.

But good you liked it.

SV
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Old Jul 2nd, 2009, 09:34 AM
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Marija
http://www.fodors.com/community/profile/rajuindia/
That's the poster I mentioned. Maybe he can halp you further.

SV
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Old Jul 2nd, 2009, 10:58 AM
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You traveled at least 800km (500 miles). The distance alone from Khajuraho to Bandhavargh is 280km. from Bandhavgarh to Pench 380 km. I can't see how 6000INR could cover the gas.
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