Safari in India

Jun 27th, 2010, 05:39 AM
  #1  
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Safari in India

We plan go on a safari in India next October. We have been looking into a company out of London called Bales. Has anyone ever used them before? If you have done a safari in India can you please share your experiences with us?

Thank you
tj3685 is offline  
Jun 27th, 2010, 07:30 PM
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I see you have received a reply on your other posting on whether October is a good month to go. Some of that of course will depend on whether the monsoon has been good (esp. in north India). If you are planning a trip in October of this year, IMO it is a bit early to tell, although it seems that so far the rains have been good. However, I would agree that as a general matter, going right after the rains is probably not ideal. If you can postpone until November, that may help a bit. If you go in Jan and Feb as has been recommended to you in the other post, you will be in high tourist season, which may not be as attractive to you. November is more shoulder season, as the weather is not hot, but not quite as pleasant and cool as it will be in the winter. (October can be hot in places, esp. the south. You have not mentioned exactly where your trip would be.)

I have done three safaris in India and one in Africa. All my safaris in India have been in the winter dry season. I did a South African safari in March 2008, which is also just after the end of the rainy season. The grass was long, and I would say that viewing smaller animals was more difficult, but still we managed to see a lot, so I am not sure that it makes a huge difference. In addition, India, esp north India is much drier overall than many of the game park areas of Africa, and long grasses and thick vegetation don’t exist in many areas; however in the dry season the animals tend to congregate around water holes which does make viewing easier.

This also brings me to my next point. A “safari” in India is nothing at all like a safari in India. The amount (in term of herd sizes) and variety of game to be seen in India is significantly less than Africa. There are also no private game reserves in India, and all game drives are taken in the national/state parks, and the system is not well-developed at this point. Overall, the game drive system can seem chaotic and disorganized, and at places like Ranthambore in high season, you can get crowds of jeeps and larger jitneys chasing one lone tiger. To the best of my knowledge, there are no night game drives allowed, which is one of the highlights, IMO, of game drives. If you go to India with the expectation of having an African safari experience, I am afraid you will be disappointed. There may be more than one game ride in which you will see only a few animals. It is quite possible that you will not see a tiger at all. I would hope that you are planning to see other parts of India, as that would greatly add to the enjoyment of the experience, IMO. India is a fascinating and beautiful country with so much to see and do, but I would not say that game park safaris are their strong suit. I would not recommend, for example, that you plan 2 weeks in India going exclusively to different game parks. (One night in Agra to see the Taj Mahal is probably part of any tour; I am not sure it is worth the time and hassle of getting to Agra, as there are no game parks near it other than Barataphur.) I would say that a safari is a pleasant side excursion as part of a trip to India, but not the main point. Sort of the opposite of Africa. In Africa, you might make a trip to Capetown as a side trip to a safari.

I don’t know Bales, but would say that as a general matter, you don’t need a tour agent do to a trip to India. It is not like a safari to Africa, where the use of an agent seems to be required (at least that is my experience, esp. as making transport arrangements for private flights, etc seemed to require an agent). You can make bookings directly with the game lodges and hotels, and can arrange transport on your own (hotels can also help with this). India has a well-developed rail and air transportation system, and hiring drivers for short distance trips is quite inexpensive. A travel agent can do the same for you for a fee, and take some of the hassle out of it, but in general, travelling in India is quite easy and you can make arrangements on your own. I suppose if a travel agent can get you a really good deal on airfare, then it is worth using them, but you may want to look around yourself to see what prices you can get on airfares.

The only commercial outfit which seems to be doing anything on the same scale as in Africa is & Beyond, which recently tied up with Taj hotels in India to operate their game lodges. I used them in Africa and thought they were good, but if I were going to India, I would try to just book directly with Taj or the lodges operated by &Beyond, or perhaps buy a package directly from them rather than a travel agent. See http://www.tajhotels.com/ and http://www.andbeyondindia.com/. If you want to splurge, Aman and Oberoi have some very nice resorts near game parks as well, generally at Ranthambore, see http://www.amanresorts.com/ and http://www.oberoihotels.com/. They can also arrange packages for you.

I looked at some of the Bales’ itins, not sure which you would be considering. My first thoughts are that they include some quite long drives to reach the parks on the itin. Even they admit that some of those drives are over bad roads, which is an understatement, IMO. One park is the Bharatphur bird park, which you may not find that interesting, unless you have a strong interest in birds. As for cultural sights, other than the Taj Mahal and Orcha, which are interesting, they have chosen to sightsee in Khajuraho, which I would skip. If you want to go to Bandhavgarh National Park, you can fly to Jabalpur from Delhi in about 1.5 hours, and then drive to the park by car in 3-4 hours. You can also take a train from Delhi or Varanasi, a very interesting place that IMO should be on every first-time travelers’ itin. (The train will take 15 and 10 hours from Delhi or Varanasi, but are mostly during the day, which means you see a lot, and a long train trip in India beats a long car trip in India every time, IMO.) You can fly non-stop to Varanasi from Delhi and Mumbai. This is are just an example of how you can arrange to get a game park on your own. There are other game parks, like Corbett, which you could also arrange to see on your own.
Cicerone is offline  
Jun 27th, 2010, 07:32 PM
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Sorry, that should say that a safari in India is nothing like a safari in Africa!
Cicerone is offline  
Jun 27th, 2010, 10:29 PM
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What kind of a safari you are talking about? Is it wildlife safari or is it a Himalayan jeep safari?
October is early for a wildlife safari. Some of the parks, like the Corbett, open in the month of November (15th). The best part of it is that you stay inside the park. The old FRH's were built by the British, in the days when one went about doing his duty on horseback. Therefore you have an FRH located where the officer would probabaly arrive by sunset. These are dotted along the river Ramganga. The best or rather the best from the point of view of WL is Sarpduli, Khinanauli & Dhikala. Dhikala is touristy but has all basic aminities like a restaurant, general merchandise shop etc. In case you arrive in Dhikala on a weekday the picnicrs from Delhi shall be absent for these guys are busy making a living! The Khinanauli grasslands,fall between Sarpduli & Dhikala, this area can be covered from both Dhikala & Sarpduli. Sarpduli FRH is excellent destination but you need to carry your rations along & the cooking is done by the old forest gaurd, on a small gratuity.
The lantana is dense in the month of November & though the forest department is making great efforts to remove it but virulent as it is, will take a few years to get eradicated finally. The best time to arrive here is February end to early April. Thereafter it gets hot.
The fact that visibility is poor in Corbett however is compensated by the fact that the animals, so it seems to me, call a lot in this area. It could well be attributed to suspicion of any movement seen close-by, before it is identified.It is a pleasure trying to identify these sounds!
Bandhavgarh, Ranthambhore, Kanha parks are fine for the month of November. The monsoons have died down & the bright sunshine has killed off the brushwood, making visibility quite good & animals can be seen from a longer distance.
November & late March is mating season for big cats. It is time when tigers could be heard calling in search of a mate.It is also the time when a tiger, shows up boldly on the fire tracks, on account of sexual excitement. All these destinations have fine luxury & mid-range hotels, outside of the parks.
Leopards are seen far less frequently in jungles inhabited by tigers. These animals can be spotted at various revenue-lands in Rajasthan & afford fine photographic oppurtunities.
It is advisable to research thoroughly your trip beforehand & furnish it to a reliable Indian agent to review & organise. It will work out much cheaper.
Happy Hunting!
vp_singh is offline  
Jun 29th, 2010, 11:36 PM
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In Dec 2008, we stayed at Cicada Resort in Nagarhole nr the village of Siddapura. They have jeep safari rides into the forest every morning and evening, and a boat on the lake (from where we we saw crocs and a tiger) every evening. Ownership has changed (Caffe Coffee Day now owns Cicada) but i hope it is just as good-- the cottages and jeep trips were wonderful. We saw loads of elephants in the forest. A higher end (much more $$) place across the lake is Orange County Nagarhole, and The Jungle Lodge, run by the govt, is also nearby and on the lake.
The weather was perfect when we wree there in mid-December: warm enough to use the swimming pool, but not scorching hotl. Not sure about October, but you could write and ask them.
CaliNurse is offline  
Jun 29th, 2010, 11:42 PM
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oops, i meant Karapura, not Siddapura. Going through the village is itself an experience!I t hik the Jungle Lodge is called Kabini River Lodge. We loved Cicada and if we're ever in the area again , will return for sure!
CaliNurse is offline  
Jul 1st, 2010, 09:47 PM
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Safari outside of India would be a better choice!
solosingle is offline  
Jul 1st, 2010, 10:27 PM
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The Tiger enjoys the place of pride on an Indian safari...just read what Robert Ruark, the famous African hunter, has to write about him!!
vp_singh is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2010, 01:29 PM
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solosingle on Jul 2, 10 at 12:47am
Safari outside of India would be a better choice!


But not if you want a safari inside India.

What kind of a safari you are talking about? Is it wildlife safari or is it a Himalayan jeep safari?
Let's read some more about this Himalayan jeep safari, Vp Singh. Or a link would be fine too.
atravelynn is offline  
Jul 7th, 2010, 10:38 PM
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The Himalayan Jeep safari begins from Shimla & ends in Leh. The best time to do this safari is from end of June to end of September. It could also begin from Manali but the most beautiful & adventurous route is along the river Satlej to Sangla. On the way you overnight at Sarahan, from where the views of the snowclad mountains are fabulous, pay your obeisance at the Bhimakali temples & proceed to Ribba, the greenest village before you hit the cold desert conditions. Sangla lies in a valley with high mountain cliffs on three sides & river Baspa, on the fourth. Treks to Rakcham & Chitkul takes you through meadows & wild orchids.
The other destinations on this route are Kalpa, Tabo, Kaza, Losar, Kunzum pass, Jispa, Serchu & Leh. Some of the oldest buddhist monasteries could be found at Ki, Kibber & Dhankar, near Tabo. Luxury tents have sprung up at Sangla, Tabo & Kaza. The most spectacular sceneries are found near Batal. An overnight at Chandra Tal lake is right in order, in the lap of nature.
This roads hits the main Manali-Leh highway at Gramphoo, takes you over the high paases of Baralacha & Tungla to Leh.
An SUV is the best way to do this tour.
vp_singh is offline  

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