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ngodeia Jul 12th, 2007 01:08 PM

Can you recommend an agent for tiger safari in India?
Hi everyone,

In another post, I have been asking for advice on which park to visit for a tiger safari in India ( I got quite a bit of suggestions.

Now, can anyone recommend an agent? I have been in touch with two. One seems to not pay attention to my requests. The other one was pure accident. I recalled Kavey on this board recommending Tiger Trails, which is a resort. I apparently was in touch with Wildlife Trails (the India tours are called Tiger Trails) the agent. He is very responsive, but needless to say, I am a bit worried about a random agent that I found on Google.

So, has anyone used Wildlife Trails, the agent? Or can anyone recommend an agent?


Craig Jul 12th, 2007 01:25 PM

I wouldn't be surprised if Wildlife Trails was reputable. Unfortunately they are based in the UK which means that they will subcontract your safari to an India-based agent who may in turn subcontract your safari to someone near whichever park you plan to visit.

You can certainly save some money by booking through an India-based agent but you should also look at booking your accommodations directly and having your lodge arrange your safaris. If you are looking for an Indian-based agency, I recommend Compass Tours. They are very responsive - if you do a Google search the particulars will come up. They will definitely subcontract to someone local though.

ngodeia Jul 12th, 2007 02:19 PM

Craig - Thanks! Is it okay to book accommodations and safari drives directly with the lodges? I kept thinking that it is like in Africa where the lodges prefer to deal with an agent (at least that's my experience). Do the lodges have their own safari guides and vehicles (like in Africa) or do they hire these for me?

Craig Jul 12th, 2007 03:26 PM

The reserves are run by the Indian government. The guides are government employees and the vehicles are government owned. So your lodge would make the arrangements directly with the park. It is ok to book with your lodge but do expect a slight mark-up.

As a disclaimer, my comments are based on my experiences at Ranthambore. I booked through a Delhi agent and stayed at an upscale tented camp (Sher Bagh). Most who stayed there booked through the camp but I booked through the agent. The management seemed to have good communication with the park since they were nearby. They also made sure everyone was properly taken care of. I saw that as a real positive. Although our stay was wonderful, things could have gone wrong for us without much recourse.

gshah18 Jul 13th, 2007 10:19 PM

You can book directly with the lodge you choose unless they are really small in which case you will have hard time getting them payment without the assistance of a local agent.

Each lodge usually has a few different plans - the "Jungle" plan is what usually includes your two rides into the park, entrance fees, guide, etc. When you enter a park, it is mandatory for the park to supply a tracker/guide - some of the lodges also have their own naturalists that go with you - some of the park guides are good - others are just along for the ride - so I prefer lodges with their own naturalists that you can hold accountable for an educational experience.

Some lodges will also arrange transport for you to and from their lodge. If not, you'll have to get that arranged as well. Any travel agent will do really for simple transport. If you want an English driver or guide with you, then there are some places that are better than others.

If you are going to go to Bandhavgarh and Kanha, your best bet is to fly into Delhi, fly to Khajuraho (by all means visit the temples - they are unbelievable) and then drive 5 1/2 hours to Bandhavgarh. From Bandhavgarh to Kanha will then be 7 hours. From Kanha to Nagpur is about 6 hours, and from Nagpur you can fly to either Delhi or Mumbai quite easily. If I were doing the trip, I would book my lodges directly with the lodges that I chose, and then book my transport through a travel agency in Mumbai that I use - Incredible Vacations India (disclosure - my uncle owns it) You can talk to my cousin who runs the tours department - Suniti Kapadia - +91 22 2385 3732. She can handle the lodge booking as well if you want. In the "season", I am in a National Park in India at least once a month - so I have pretty good experience booking through various routes.

Not sure exactly how many days you have, but here's some points on your trip:

1 - Flight gets into Khajuraho at around 1:00 PM - you can visit the temples in the afternoon - give yourself 4 hours at least.
2 - The next morning, you can depart for Bandhavgarh - be there in time for lunch and the afternoon drive
3 - Alternate to the above - wake up really early and get a morning game drive in Panna which is 1/2 hour from Khajuraho - afterwards - leave for Bandhavgarh - whether you make it on time for the afternoon drive is questionable - if you leave by 9 AM and take a pack lunch you should be able to do it
4 - When you're going from Bandhavgarh to Kanha - you won't be able to do a drive at each - you'll need to choose between a morning drive in Bandh or an afternoon drive in Kanha (or a very shortened drive in Bandh before you head off)
5 -There are night flights out of Nagpur, so you can take a morning drive in Kanha before heading out
6 - An alternative to flying to Khajuraho is to fly to Jabalpur on Air Deccan - the drive from there is 4 1/2 hours to Bandhavgarh - I believe the flight is such that you can leave Delhi in the morning and be at Bandhavgarh in time for an afternoon game drive - but you miss Khajuraho, which as I indicated is fantastic (btw - in February each year, they hold a dance festival in front of the temples - some of the best dancers from around the country come to perform classical dance - if you can time it right - this is worth it)

ngodeia Jul 14th, 2007 04:57 PM

gshah18 - Thank you very much for your insight!! If the lodge has its own naturalist, does he accompany you on drives with the government guide?

I have worked out the following plan, what do you guys think?

Day 1: a.m. international arrival in Delhi; land transfer to Agra

Day 2: Agra tour; overnight train to Katni

Day 3: a.m. arrival in Katni; land transfer to Bandhavgarh

Day 4: Bandhavgarh

Day 5: Bandhavgarh

Day 6: Bandhavgarh

Day 7: land transfer to Kanha

Day 8: Kanha

Day 9: Kanha

Day 10: land transfer to Nagpur airport; fly Nagpur to Mumbai; overnight in Mumbai

Day 11: fly Mumbai to Goa

Day 12: Goa

Day 13: Goa

Day 14: fly Goa to Delhi; overnight in Delhi

Day 15: a.m. international departure from Delhi

We are going to Goa to meet up with friends, so that part is pretty confirmed. I am wondering about the first part of the trip. I am leaning toward cutting one night out of Bandhavgarh so I can gain one day in Goa. The agent that I have been in contact with does not agree because that gives too little time in the park. Alternatively, I can do five nights in Bandhavgarh and forget about Kanha? Opinions?

Also, a question about airlines. The agent insists on booking us on either Air India or Jet Airways, saying the budget airlines such as Deccan and IndiGo are unreliable and habitually cancel flights. What is your experience? (I am wondering if I should talk to another agent?)

Thank you very much for everyone's help!!

agtoau Jul 14th, 2007 08:36 PM

Yes, budget carriers like Air Deccan are unreliable. But I would avoid Air India, too, for other reasons. Take either Kingfisher (the finest airline currently in India) or Jet Airways.

gshah18 Jul 20th, 2007 02:26 AM

Your itinerary looks perfect. I'm not sure about all the train timings or flight timings - but I think what you have will work. If you are going to cut to one night in Kanha, I would just not bother at all - it's too much out of the way lose game drives just for 1 night. I like how you've got things.

Whether the naturalist goes with you depends on the lodge. Sometimes, the drivers themselves are pretty good naturalists. The main thing is that if you are not getting the experience you want from your "guide", at least if the lodge is taking responsibility for providing one then you might have some recourse. If you do stay at Junglemantra - see if you can request Bablu as your driver. He doesn't speak very much English, so you'll need to get your education other ways, but he knows the park better than anyone (his father is the head mahout there for 40 years now)

As far as budget airlines go, SpiceJet is outstanding. They have great fares, are reliable, have decent aircraft, and allow you to choose your seat at time of booking. They have limited routes and schedules, but whenever its possible, I use them. Otherwise, Jet, Kingfisher, and Indian are all fine. The others (Deccan, Go, etc.) are really all fine too, but they do once in a while cancel flights on less popular routes - none of which you seem to be taking.

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