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Planning a Tiger Safari in India...need suggestions

Planning a Tiger Safari in India...need suggestions

Old Jul 20th, 2009, 06:08 PM
  #1  
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Planning a Tiger Safari in India...need suggestions

We have just started planning for a very long awaited trip to India and at first glance it apprears that we will probably have to do a couple of trips to get in all that we want. Anyway one of our first goals is to do a Tiger Safari and are looking for suggestions as to the best time to go and if anyone has a suggestions as to a company to use...I have been in touch with World Big Cat Safaris who do an 8 day (not including travel time) trip with a 4 day elephant safari in the Corbett National Park and visits to Unchagaon, Agra and Delhi. Has anyone used this company? We are considering adding on another 10-12 days to do a more normal tour...of Northern India highlights with possibly a flight to Varanasi.....we also hope to visit Pushkar during the Camel Festival but that will probably have to be another time....anyway any suggestions/comments etc. would bew greatly appreciated. Thanks to all of you, Bob
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Old Jul 21st, 2009, 12:10 AM
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As for the Corbett National Park, the best time to visit is from March to say the second week of April. Thereafter, the weather gets very warm both outside & inside the Park / December & January will be bitterly cold inside.
The logic that water holes attract animals / tigers & hence the warmer the climate the better the sight seeing does not apply to CNP for the perenial Ramganga flows in the core area & the animal can drink anywhere, closest to his vicinity. Moreover, the staff has become very strict & will not allow you to occupy the tree / watch towers inside the jungle overlooking the water holes. The high watch tower (No. 1??) overlooking a water hole at the back & the river in front, can be occupied safely with packed lunch, but once you climb up, you can only return at the time of evening WL safari - 6 hours- without toilets & monkeys to steal your lunch!!
The visibility has improved many folds for the Lantana is being removed, on a permanant bases, from the park.
If you are into angling, you could enjoy a day's excellent fishing on the Ramganga for Golden Mahaseer & Indian trout.
Corbett is perhaps the most beautiful of all the north Indian parks & the tiger yet wily & exquisitely beautiful, in their rich winter coats, but owing to the vastness of the park & hilly terrain, you may not be assured of a sighting!
As for the elephant safaris, let me assure you, that apart from the Lohachaur & Durga Devi side, the elephant safari routes pass through the drier areas of the park, dusty & not conducive to good viewing of the forest inhabitants & you pay a fortune for visiting the old FRH's, which exist solely for the Forest officer's routine travels since 1934!
Your best bet for catching sight of a tiger is on jungle firetracks around Dhikala / Khinanauli Chour / Sarpduli & along the main road right from Sultan FRH onwards. At other locations, quite possible but not probable!!
Finally, get an Indian agency to plan it for you...the cost defferance for the same quality of vacation will amaze you.
Corbett fits admirably well with Rajasthan & Agra itinerary.
Happy shooting!
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Old Jul 21st, 2009, 02:18 AM
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Hi,
Season wise Late Feb / March + October-November shall be most convinient ...
Tiger sightings are not good in Corbett due to the thick fo;iage and grass and I have noted better sightings in Bandavagarh over the last few years.

So I would suggest Bandavgarh visit for Tiger Safari and than tour of the other northern areas Like Khajuraho, Jhansi, Agra, Jaipur, Jodhopur , Udaipur and back to Delhi.

If you wish to add Pushkar Fair than your tour has to be in November (as the fair in 2010 is from 13-21 Nov).

For agency recommendations it is best to look for earlier India trip reports on this forum - see what agencies have been recommended and than contact them for a quote and compare what they offer.
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Old Jul 21st, 2009, 06:28 AM
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Here is my trip report from last June
http://www.fodors.com/community/asia...of-culture.cfm
also recommending a TO.

Regarding best times for sightings:
I would swallow the (dry) heat (we had up to 48°C but could cope very well as it was bone dry!) and go on May and early June as the grass is low and animals are forced to use the water holes.
That time of year was also excellent in view to almost total absence of mossis!

Happy Planning!

SV
Our sightings were very good in Bandhavgarh - mating tigers!
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Old Jul 21st, 2009, 06:49 AM
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The best place for viewing tigers would be Bandhavgarh in central India.

I would suggest you try and time it for end Feb / early March when the schools and colleges will be having their exams - thereby having no crowds in the park.

Further the weather will also be pleasant , and tiger sightings will be better.

Bandhavgarh can be very crowded during the weekends and holidays, and it would be wise to use a period when their will be less or no crowds.

While the park opens in October / Novemeber , depending upon the monsoons , the best period is still from Feb onwards.
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Old Jul 21st, 2009, 10:09 PM
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Some random thoughts:

1. I think most of us here would say that you do not need a tour and can arrange most things on your own. (India is different from Africa in that respect where a safari agent seems to be necessary in many cases.) If the tour is just a good deal on airfare and local transport, perhaps that is OK. I would suggest that you be the one with the choice over hotels, rather than vice-versa as you have to pick carefully in India. I would not do an organized tour of Agra, Delhi or Varanasi. I understand that & Beyond (which used to be CC Africa) has now branched into India and IMO they might be an outfit to consider using for just the safari portion. See http://www.andbeyondindia.com/. Other well-known outfits for India generally would be Cox & Kings and Abercrombie & Kent which are long established in India, and if you feel you want to go the tour route, you should probably look at them.

2. I cannot stress enough that a “safari” experience in India is completely different from one in Africa. In the first place, there are no private concessions in India, so you are in public game parks and subject to their rules. No off-roading to follow game (elephant transport may allow this is a limited manner), no night drives and no crowd control. Moreover, you will not see the huge numbers and variety of wildlife that you can on a drive in Africa. It is very beautiful countryside, but rather barren in comparison to what you may be used to seeing in Africa. The focus is on smaller wildlife like birds, and individual animals rather than herds. So just please adjust your expectation, especially with regard to the fact that you may not see any tigers at all. If your trip would be ruined by not seeing any tigers, than IMO your expectations are not adjusted enough. This may be a reason to include things like the Puskhar camel fair, so you can enjoy other aspects of the trip and not merely focus on tiger in the hot weather, which may result in a trip which is a disappointment, IMO. India is a fantastic country with so much to see and do, that to focus simply on tigers is too narrow, IMO, and simply may not happen on your trip.

3. Time of year is a big issue in India. While the relative advantage of seeing tiger at different times of year can be debated (my only tiger view in 4 trips to Ranthambore was in January), there is no doubt in my mind that you do not want to do a general sightseeing tour of India in the hot weather. Agra and other parts of north India in April and other pre-monsoon months can and do top 100 F every day, and generally are over 105 F. Temps of 115F are not at all unusual. While it is a dry heat (they are waiting for the monsoon) it is also a brutal one as there is bright sunshine and little escape from it when at tourist sights. I personally don’t choose to travel as a tourist at that time in India (it’s hard enough to make business trips during those hot months). The best months temp wise are late October through about mid-March, so bear that in mind. I would avoid monsoon months because transport can be severely affected (as I imagine can game-viewing); however the monsoon does lower temps and in the desert areas where many of the tiger parks are located the actual rainfall amounts are small. The monsoon generally arrives in early to mid-June and stays through about early September (however this year it was late and seems to be heavier than usual in consequence). The east coast of India has heavy rains in the fall months as they get part of the North-East monsoon pattern. See weatherbase.com and other weather websites for information.
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Old Jul 21st, 2009, 10:18 PM
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Sorry for the underlining, should have checked this before I posted it.
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Old Jul 21st, 2009, 10:57 PM
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Though Bandhavgarh,Corbett & Ranthambore are the usual tiger trails.I would recommend Karnataka & Tamilnadu.Often overlooked.Bandipore,Nagarhole & Mudumalai.Wayanad in Kerala.
I did stay with Jungle Lodges & Resorts,a chain of eco-lodges,owned by the govt of Karnataka.The stays at K.Gudi,Bhadra(saw a tiger)& Kabini were memorable.An amazing variety of flora & fauna.They have over a dozen properties in pristine forests.
The link:http://www.junglelodges.com/V2/kabini.htm
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Old Aug 4th, 2009, 07:15 PM
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Thanks to all of you for some very wonderful and comprehesive suggestions....I always marvel at the great help this web site has become. We're still reviewing all your suggestions and talking with suggested web sites. We have decided that trying to do a better Tigar Safari should be considered at a later date with, perhaps, a trip to S. India. In the meantime we are looking at two possible companies and would appreciate any comments concerning proposed itineraries/cost etc. They are:

Easy Tours of India: A 23 day trip/To include Delhi,Agra,Rathambore,Jaipur,Pushkar (for Camel Festival),Udaipur,Mumbai, Aurangebad,Cochin,Mahabelipuram and Varansi. The cost to include all in-country travel is approx. $6,200. It does not include flight from U.S.

General Tours: An 18 day tour/ Similiar to one above but does not include a tour to the Southern India locations. Cost in approx. $6,000.

While I have no qualms about a private tour my wife wants to travel with a small group. That is why I am looking at one of the above tours. And again would greatly appreciate further comments etc. as to the above. Thanks so much, Bob
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Old Aug 8th, 2009, 04:01 PM
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I don’t know either tour group; I would say that most of us on this board prefer to travel independently rather than via a tour. There is no need to join a tour for India, as English is widely spoken and signage is in English in train stations and airports, etc. It is quite safe and people are friendly. You can hire a car and driver very cheaply for the day or for a tour of an area. You really do not need a tour guide for the Taj Mahal, and the same is true of other sites in India provided you have done some reading so you have at least a basic understanding of Indian history, and have a good guidebook. (DH/Eyewitness are excellent; there are dozens if not hundreds of good books both fiction and non-fiction, for background history. If you have not read Midnight’s Children, get that for a start. Also White Mughals or virtually any book by William Dalrymple. Jan Morris has several excellent books on Indian colonial history. ) However, if for some reason you want the congeniality that a tour may perhaps provide, that is another issue. I would try to choose one which lets YOU pick hotels rather than vice versa, and which gives you a god bit of free time, as opposed to packed days which may involve more stops at “handicraft” shops than you want (which is one guy making a rug and 5 guys trying to sell you a rug).

If you really feel you want a tour, you might look at Cox & Kings and Abercrombie & Kent, both of which are long-established in India and have a good reputation. You should be able to find both with a website search. They can also custom design tours which would just be hotels (you choose), local tour guides where necessary and perhaps some ground transport by road when necessary. (For longer distances you want to use airplanes or trains; I love India but do not like to be more than 5 hours per day on any Indian road . It is not so much a safety issue, although that is a concern, as it is an exhaustion issue even just as a passenger.)

One tour group which you may want to consider would be Oxford ATG tours, which are walking tours. They have limited ones in India. I have not taken any of their Indian tours, but have done some in Europe and they are well-organized, interesting and enjoyable. http://www.atg-oxford.co.uk/discovering.php#worldwide. Walking would certainly be a good way to really get a feel for India.

Be sure to consider time of year. The Puskar fair is generally in November, which is very good time weather wise for almost all of India, other than Chennai and the south east coast. See weatherbase.com for information so you have idea of whether for the time of year you are planning your trip.

Either itin above looks interesting, although both contain way more than I would try to do on my own travels to India, esp the 18-day tour which includes 11 places if I am counting correctly. Seems like a short time in them all. I personally would cut out Mumbai as it is a huge huge city with few tourist sites to justify the time spent there IMO (and time spent in traffic). I am assuming that Aurangabad is actually a trip to the Ajanta/Ellora caves and not just to Aurangabad. For Ranthambore, if you are only spending 1 night, it’s a long way to go for probably 2 rides at most. Wildlife rides are only permitted in the park twice a day, at sunrise and then again from about 2-5 pm. So look at how much time you would actually get to spend in the park, and decide whether that is worth it. If the itin does not specifically state how many rides you would have, you should ask. If you can you may want to extend your time there, as I know wildlife is a focus of your trip.

Also consider a reasonable flight path. There is no need to go into and out of the same city on your international flights, as this only means backtracking. Also look at options like flying to/from Cochin to Singapore (via Silk Air) and then connecting to a non-stop to/from the US, as this may be just as easy as trying to head back to a major city like Mumbai or Delhi at the end of a trip to connect to a US-bound flight from there. There is service a few times a week between Varanasi and Bangkok on Thai Airways (may be a code share with Jet, and excellent local airline), which may work well if you can get good flights to/from Bangkok, and Varanasi would be an interesting place to begin or end a trip to India.
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Old Aug 9th, 2009, 09:41 AM
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The following site gives you loads of information - also links to TO/TA. Also regarding the best time for tiger safaris which they state is in the really dry but hot time of the year: May/June.

I highly support that information based on experiences last June.

http://www.toftigers.org/

SV
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Old Aug 12th, 2009, 12:41 AM
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Hi,
I have a travel agency in Delhi. We do tailor made tours to suit to clients needs. If you want to use my agency for hotel booking, transport , guides, safaris while in India please dont hesitate to contact me. All the places mentioned by you is possible to see in one go provided you have the time. If you let me know how many days tour you are looking for I can then make a good itinerary for you.
In the mean time you can also look at my agency's website
www.wondersofindia.info
jessica
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Old Aug 12th, 2009, 01:02 AM
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Hi jessmanuel: just before your advertising is removed -

Re: your perfectly ordinary website offering the same perfectly ordinary tours as everybody else - I note that nowhere, and I mean NOWHERE, on your site is there an contact phone number OR an address.

Pfft.
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Old Aug 12th, 2009, 07:45 AM
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oops - one more tipp for ANY park/safari:

Don't allow the gypsy car operator to get more people into your car. Check out the rates for the car incl. number of people.
Some of the operators LOVE to sell the seats for approx. 3000INR per pax but that's the cost for the whole car - doesn't matter how many pax!

Just make crystal clear that you won't agree to the gypsy filled up to the max load of people in your car! These cars are tiny but can fit up to 6 adults - cramped! They don't hesitate to try to make the max!

SV
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Old Aug 12th, 2009, 10:28 AM
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you can contact me ++9810243469
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Old Oct 13th, 2009, 06:13 PM
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BYoung,

How are you coming on your tiger safari planning? I'd be very interested in what you've learned so far. In return, when I learn something, I'll share that. So far I don't know too much.

Thanks to everybody for all the advice so far.

So let's say one person wants to go on a tiger/wildlife first trip to India with a bit of culture as well.

Group trip is one option and there seem to be quite a few with a nice variety of itineraries. I probably wouldn't pick one of the big, expensive tour companies like A&K, but there seem to be some wildlife focused agents in India that look good. Plus there are US-based (where I'm from) nature companies with trips.

But if you do not do a group trip, how do you get good guides in jeeps reserved in advance in the parks? For parks I'm thinking Bandhavgarh and Kanha for sure and maybe Ranthambore and somewhere else for other animals too.

If I do reserve a jeep, I see I should make sure I know how many others are going. With the possibility of a whole bunch being forced into the vehicle with me, then a group tour seems more inviting.

For the culture part, I think I'd like someone to accompany me around. I sure as heck will not be driving myself in India.

Are there agents that set you up with a private guide in the different places you are going and coordinate all that? Don't know if I could afford that.

Or do you find the accommodation you want in each park and contact them and then they book your jeep and arrange transport from the airport or wherever to the park?

Thanks for this site, SV
http://www.toftigers.org/

If anyone can explain this to me from an Africa safari planning perspective, I think I'd get it. I know the trip to India, itself, from the wildlife to the cultural aspects, is not similar to Africa.

If I check out a couple of India guide books at the library that would help too.

Dhanyabad for any help.
atravelynn is offline  
Old Oct 13th, 2009, 06:15 PM
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BYoung,

How are you coming on your tiger safari planning? I'd be very interested in what you've learned so far. In return, when I learn something, I'll share that. So far I don't know too much.

Thanks to everybody for all the advice so far.

So let's say one person wants to go on a tiger/wildlife first trip to India with a bit of culture as well.

Group trip is one option and there seem to be quite a few with a nice variety of itineraries. I probably wouldn't pick one of the big, expensive tour companies like A&K, but there seem to be some wildlife focused agents in India that look good. Plus there are US-based (where I'm from) nature companies with trips.

But if you do not do a group trip, how do you get good guides in jeeps reserved in advance in the parks? For parks I'm thinking Bandhavgarh and Kanha for sure and maybe Ranthambore and somewhere else for other animals too.

If I do reserve a jeep, I see I should make sure I know how many others are going. With the possibility of a whole bunch being forced into the vehicle with me, then a group tour seems more inviting.

For the culture part, I think I'd like someone to accompany me around. I sure as heck will not be driving myself in India.

Are there agents that set you up with a private guide in the different places you are going and coordinate all that? Don't know if I could afford that.

Or do you find the accommodation you want in each park and contact them and then they book your jeep and arrange transport from the airport or wherever to the park?

Thanks for this site, SV
http://www.toftigers.org/

If anyone can explain this to me from an Africa safari planning perspective, I think I'd get it. I know the trip to India, itself, from the wildlife to the cultural aspects, is not similar to Africa.

If I check out a couple of India guide books at the library that would help too.

I'm thinking March/April of 2011.

Dhanyabad for any help.
atravelynn is offline  
Old Oct 13th, 2009, 06:18 PM
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Oh no!

My double post, done by accident, makes me look a little desperate. With this it's a triple post. What's beyond desperate?
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Old Oct 13th, 2009, 11:41 PM
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Beyond desperate is replying to posts that are three months old and long forgotten.
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Old Oct 14th, 2009, 12:02 AM
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Why don't you start a new post with your queries, atrav.?
And click on spassvogel - there's a report there that explains a lot.
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