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Trip Report Safari in India to Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Corbett; plus Delhi & Agra

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In preparing for my first trip to India, I wanted to know about some of the past kings, such as the famous Ashoka who was transformed through Buddhism from a ruthlessness ruler to one of great virtue. In honor of this king, the Ashoka Chakra wheel graces the center of the Indian flag . And of course I learned about Shah Jahan, “King of the World,” who built the Taj Mahal in memory of his wife who died in childbirth with their 14th child.

What I didn’t know was that I’d be treated like a king (queen in my case) during my stay by Wild World India, the Delhi-based travel company I used.

Both Vikram, the owner of the company, and Guarav, an associate, joined me for portions of the trip. At times I had an entourage that made me feel like Jo-Lo, minus the Gigli credits and “Most Beautiful Woman in the World” title. Guarav also accompanied me on the train to Agra and provided me luck in Bandhavgarh with his presence. My last hours in India were spent in his home meeting his lovely family and enjoying one of the best meals I had in India, compliments of his wife. Her special kidney beans were so renowned that a nephew came over specifically for them, smart lad!


Designed to optimize the chance of seeing a couple of tigers, along with other Indian wildlife, plus the Taj Mahal, this trip exceeded my expectations.

1 nt Delhi day of Delhi sightseeing and overnight train
4 nts Kisli section of Kanha National Park
2 nts Mukki section of Kanha National Park
4 nts Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve
1 nt Delhi, after overnight train to Agra to see Taj Mahal and Agra Fort
2 nts Corbett National Park-Biranji section
2 nts Corbett National Park-Dhikala section

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    Day by day:
    26 Mar, 11/Sat: Direct 14-ish hour American Airlines flight from O’Hare to Delhi

    27 Mar, 11/ Sun: Arrive Delhi
    Ahuja Residency –

    28 Mar, 11/ Mon: Day tour of Dehli, Delhi rail station Hazrat Nizamuddin to Jabalpur by overnight train (depart 1525, arrive 0715)

    29 Mar, 11/ Tue: Arrive Jabalpur then by road 4 hours to Kanha (Kisli) in time for afternoon drive
    Tuli Tiger Resort –
    30 Mar to 01 Apr, 11/ Wed to Fri: Kanha National Park (Kanha Kisli)

    02 & 03 Apr, 11/ Sat & Sun: Kanha National Park, morning drive in Kisli, afternoon game drive and transfer to Mukki (Mukki)
    Royal Tiger Resort –

    04 Apr, 11/ Mon: Morning drive in Mukki, Kanha. Drive 5.5 hours to Bandhavgarh National Park by road
    Nature Heritage Resort –
    05 to 07 Apr, 11/ Tue to Thu: Bandhavgarh National Park

    08 Apr, 11/ Fri Morning drive in Bandhavgarh. Drive 2 hours to Katni rail station and catch overnight train to Agra (depart 1710; arrive 0415)

    09 Apr, 11/ Sat: Arrive Agra in early morning with day room at Mansingh Palace, visit Taj Mahal & Agra Fort – Drive to 4.75 hours to Delhi for overnight
    Ahuja Residency

    10 Apr, 11/ Sun: Delhi to Corbett by road, 7.25 hours, with afternoon bird walk in Biranji zone
    Camp Forktail Creek –
    11 Apr, 11/ Mon: Corbett (Bijrani zone)

    12 & 13 Apr, 11/ Tue & Wed: Corbett Morning game drive between Biranji and Dhikala (Dhikala zone)
    Dhikala Forest Rest House -

    14 Apr, 11/ Thu: Morning drive in Dhikala, Corbett to Delhi by road, 8 hours, and depart for onward destination -

    15 Apr, 11/Fri: Fly back to O’Hare through Brussels, arriving midday. A direct flight AA would again have been possible.

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    Femi, you snuck in there! Thank you for waiting.

    My Planning Thread
    Lots of detailed advice was given to me here: was a helpful site also.

    The Taj Mahal is closed on Fridays.

    For the best chance to see tigers or other wildlife, March or later is better due to limited water sources forcing animals congregate in smaller areas. I was told repeatedly that into May it gets too hot. But that is when a lot of the professional photographers come.

    Indians have told me that it is great viewing into June, if you can stand it. Most of the parks close when the monsoons start in June. If the monsoons come early, then the parks close in May.

    Controlled burns that are conducted in the parks generally start in April and continue into May. These make some parts inaccessible and it can be hot and uncomfortable driving when flames are shooting up on either side of the road, but I did not find the burning, which was done sparingly, to be a big distraction.

    February is best to see the most birds. March and April have the advantage of resident birds, some winter hangers-on and early arrivals for summer.

    The Flame of the Forest tree with its orangey flowers, blooms in March and still has blossoms in April.

    Toward the end of April and into May, the light gets harsher for photography but the light is softer in March.

    Some photographers prefer November because the backdrop is very green and contrasts nicely with the orange tiger, whereas dry orange leaves (March-June) blend in with the tiger. But the thick vegetation makes it harder to see animals in November. November is also when the famous camel fair takes place.

    The first couple weeks after the parks open up again in Sept or Oct, the animals are more skittish.

    As you get into April, foreign tourism drops off due to heat and the majority of the park guests are Indian.

    Avoid national holidays to reduce crowds. Holi is a big one in March. On the other hand, you may want to visit during Holi to partake in the unique Festival of Colors. So it may be a tradeoff of avoiding crowds vs. enjoying the festival experiences. Some links to festivals:

    Avoid school holidays. That is harder to figure out. Apparently, earlier in March is usually better to avoid them.

    Between Christmas and New Years and during Holi are the busiest times in the parks.

    Check out Cokesmith’s report to even further flung destinations than I went, also with Wild World India. He went Dec-Jan, during a busier time when thicker vegetation makes seeing the forest inhabitants tougher. But none of that seemed to hinder his trip one bit when looking at the quality and diversity of photos.

    To have the best chance to see elephants in Corbett, go March through May.

    Avoid going to the parks on weekends if possible. I did notice additional people in the more remote Mukki section of Kanha on Sunday compared to Monday. In Bandhavgarh, limits are imposed every day of the week so that no more than 10-11 visitor vehicles are allowed on each of three open tracks in the Tala zone, for a total of 32 vehicles. While permits may be harder to get on a weekend than a weekday due to higher demand, the crowds cannot soar out of control with the limits. During the weekdays I was in Bandhavgarh in the popular Tala zone, I noted some days the limit was reached and some days not. So if planning way ahead in time to secure permits, a weekend in Bandhavgarh would be ok.

    As of April 1 this year, the Madyha Pradesh parks (including Bandhavgarh, Kanha, Pench, Panna, Sanjay to name a few) are closed on Wednesday evening.

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    Visa, packing, flight
    When I was investigating Indian visa requirements for US citizens, several sites stated in bold: Do not purchase airline tickets before obtaining a visa. That is a potent warning and one I could not heed since I had already bought my tickets and made a deposit on the trip when I started investigating visas.

    I used Travisa Outsourcing in Chicago to obtain my visa and went there in person. To maximize confusion, there are two businesses in Chicago named Travisa Outsourcing and they are only several blocks apart. One does the Indian visas and the other does something else entirely.

    The Travisa Outsourcing rules, regardless of the location, are strict and I observed first hand that they are enforced. By appointment only, no purse, no snacks, no brief case, no backpack, no folder, no books/magazines to read while waiting. All visa/passport materials in a clear plastic bag. No waiting outside the office door before business hours or you will be shoed away. You must bring your receipt back for your second visit when the visa is picked up. One-day service is possible but not guaranteed and was suspended when I went so I had to return a few days later.

    There was a direct, non-stop American Airlines flight from Chicago to Delhi that took around 14 hours. Very convenient, many current in-flight entertainment options (and not the kind described in the next paragraph), lots of food served, and it was not full. A return non-stop option was available too, but I opted to go through Brussels for savings.

    Moments after boarding this AA flight to Delhi I made my way to the restroom to ready myself for the long flight in my window seat. When I opened the door showing green/unoccupied, to my surprise, there was a gentlemen standing there in the midst of business. I quickly shut the door and the startled look on my face prompted the flight attendant to console me with, “Don’t worry; that’s our in-flight entertainment.”

    The carry-on rules posted on the AA website had an exception for flights to India--only one carry-on bag, not a purse/laptop plus a carry-on. I followed those rules which meant I had to check a bag, so I brought a roomy suitcase and didn’t worry about trying to cram everything into my carryon. That meant I could bring not only the local delicacy of dried cranberries for gifts but some locally made jellies and jams as well.

    I should have used the extra space to bring my monopod, in addition to my home-made bean bag. Not packing it was a mistake. The monopod omission was quickly rectified by my first naturalist, Rajan, who kindly offered me the use of his--not only while he was guiding me, but throughout the trip. I gave Rajan’s monopod back to Wild World India at the end of my trip. In the open Gypsys, especially if it is a private vehicle, a monopod is worthwhile. Thank you Rajan! In keeping with the “treated like royalty” theme, it was as if I had been bestowed with my monopod scepter upon commencing my reign. (Since I mentioned bean bags, I’ll also mention Wild World India would provide them for you if you ask.)

    Lots of people carried two items onto the airplane, despite the “one carry-on only” rule posted on the American Airlines website and at both check-in and boarding. The carry-on rules may have been relaxed though, because the plane was only about 80% full on the way over and only slightly more crowded on the way back.

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    How Hot? & What to Wear
    Here's Kanha weather. Bandhavgarh was the same and Corbett just a shade cooler.

    I had feared the heat would be accompanied by humidity, similar to what I had experienced in other parts of Asia as early in the year as June. To help combat the dreaded humidity, I made sure all my clothes were 100% cotton. In retrospect such extremes in fabric were not needed. March-April, not being summer yet, is pre-humidity, so morning and afternoon outings were pleasant and midday temps of a dry 85-90 Fahrenheit heat were tolerable back at the lodge.

    Most of my accommodations, except those in Corbett, were air conditioned, but not once did I turn it on. Some also had a big fan and water contraption, which also went unused. Occasionally I did enjoy the breeze of the ceiling fan. The materials used in construction of these lodgings kept them cool in the daytime and warm enough during the night. In fact, at Nature Heritage in Bandhavgarh it could be baking outside in the afternoon sun, but inside it was naturally cool enough that I needed a long-sleeved shirt!

    Very similar to dry season East and Southern Africa, early mornings could be brisk, especially zipping along at 5:45 am in an open Gypsy, so sometimes I wore a wool headband and even gloves. Not many people did this. Some mornings I might have been the only one, which made me laugh because I knew I had endured winters far colder than any of the Indian drivers or naturalists around me. However this past winter in India, temperatures apparently dropped into the negatives (Centigrade.) The hint of brown, dead leaves mixed in with the vibrant green foliage in the forests of Sal trees was testament to the harshness of the previous winter that was still a topic of conversation in April.

    As to clothing color, I saw signs posted at park entrances and brochures in hotels requesting neutral shades be worn in the parks. Beige, brown, green, and gray were suggested. I was mostly beige and saw lots of forest green, along with every other shade in the color wheel. Unlike some African countries that ban camouflage, it seems to be ok in India and I saw a variety of camouflage.

    I had wondered about trousers, zipoffs, and/or capris, to balance airflow and comfort with modesty and insect protection. I saw no shorts on women but lots of capris, including mine. While I did encounter mosquitoes in the evening and in enclosed spaces, they were not a problem in the Gypsys and did not devour my ankles or shins that were exposed in the capris.

    I wore capris and sandals in the afternoons only, preferring the warmer shoes and trousers for the chilly mornings.

    At the lodges, there were not a lot of mosquitoes, but there usually was at least one flying bug that whined loudly as it whirred past my ear in the night. I used a technique that has allowed me to sleep soundly at home when tormented by an annoying mosquito or similar throughout the night.. I put a buttoned-up blouse over my head but left one of the buttons undone where my nose and mouth were, to breathe. The rest of me was under the covers. So nothing was exposed to any insect looking for a bite. It worked in India for a peaceful night’s rest, just like in Wisconsin where we joke that the state bird is a mosquito. At Tuli Tiger, I could tell by the hook in the middle of the ceiling that a mosquito net was an option so I requested one.

    I read after returning home that a fanny pack/bum bag at the Taj Mahal is a gauche accessory marking one as an obvious tourist. My Taj photos show I not only wore a small fanny pack/bum bag but a larger camera bag strapped around my waist. However, I maintained custody of those items buckled to my body, in contrast to a water bottle which became a casualty of inattention to my possessions while in the presence of such an awe inspiring architectural marvel.

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    Other Companies Consulted
    I chose Wild World India and am very happy with the results. There were also some other companies I dealt with that provided helpful advice and itineraries and that were professional in their correspondence with me. Wildlife Trails in the UK was very responsive with lots of info. Legends and Palaces had some great insights and recommendations and VP Singh, gave additional helpful advice on Fodors.

    Some Parks I Didn’t Choose
    As a solo traveler who wanted a private vehicle, Ranthambore did not fit well because private vehicles are more expensive in Rathambore than other places and not guaranteed to be private. Going by cantor (large truck) is an option, though. If you were a group or even a couple, then Rathambore would work better for your own vehicle. If I ever do a group trip to India, I’ll look for Rathambore in the itinerary.

    I think Pench and Tadoba would be great, but I wanted to maximize my chances of seeing a tiger and that is the only reason I did not seek out these less crowded parks. Maybe another time.

    Kaziringa has elephants and the one-horned rhinos, but it takes more time and effort to get way over to the northeast, whereas Corbett (which I did choose) is more accessible for elephants, but Corbett does not have one-horned rhinos.

    I did not include any of the southern reserves such as Kabini, Nagarhole and Bandipur in the state of Karnataka, but I bet these will become much more publicized and popular due to the recent tiger census which shows Karnataka has the most tigers in India.

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    For tips and other transactions, rupees are preferred, though I found US dollars were accepted in a pinch. I changed money at the airport, where I was able to request bills as small as 100 rupees. I used ATMs in Jabalpur and Mandla. It was the first time I ever had an audience of cows overseeing my ATM transaction. Denominations from ATMs varied and weren’t necessarily small. There were no opportunities to change money at the lodges where I stayed, nor were the lodges able to change large denominations of rupees into smaller bills.

    Suggested tipping by Wild World India, provided upon my request:
    “Tips for accompanying guides at the park - INR 500 or USD 10 per drive, drivers at the park - INR 200 or USD 4 per drive. Tips at hotels can be a consolidated INR 1000 or USD 20 at each lodge. Drivers may be tipped INR 500 or USD 3 per transfer at the city. Mahouts at the parks may be tipped INR 200 or USD 4 per elephant ride. All other tips to bell boys etc. may by INR 50 or USD 1.”

    (I had almost no luck in getting 50s)

    When I went last for the elephant ride and got to a much longer outing, I increased the suggested tip.

    Since I was alone, sometimes a second naturalist would join us. I appreciated their added expertise and eyes and gave them 100 rupees per outing.

    All lodgings had a tip box for consolidation except Corbett. At Forktail Creek in Corbett I gave the tip to the resident naturalist. At Corbett’s Dhikala Forest Camp, I gave tips individually, which was their policy.

    Quote of the Trip
    (All my reports have one)
    Rather than a verbal quote, this time it is a series of numbers: 260/9, 231/10, 274/6, 277/4, 1706,16%, 1411, 70, 25, 14-ish, 17, 6, 2, which will appear (in blue) throughout the report.

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    Tiger Census
    Before I had seen my first tiger or even pug mark, Naturalist Rajan in Kanha told me the 2010 tiger census figures had just been released. The results were approximately 1706 tigers live in the forests of India. That was a 16% increase from the previous census figures released in 2007, which showed 1411 tigers. The current census included 70 tigers not previously in the count, located in Sundarbans. 1411 x 1.16 = 1636.67 +70 = 1706.67.

    The Indian state of Karnataka, in the south, had the most tigers and Madhya Pradesh had a decrease in tigers, therefore Karnataka has earned the title of Tiger State, relinquished by Madhya Pradesh. Upon release of that report there were rumblings in Kanha that the count was in accurate and a recount was in the works.

    My OwnTiger Census
    Census Methodology: If I saw the same tiger in the morning and again in the afternoon, that was two sightings. If I saw it from the elephant in an area that vehicles could not access and then later saw it by vehicle when no elephants were around, that was 2 sightings. When I arrange and pay for the trip, I make the rules on how to count the tigers.

    I had a total of 25 tiger sightings of 14-ish different cats and had an audio only of 1.

    17 in Kanha
    (8 drives in Kisli resulted in 10 tiger sightings from the vehicle and 6 tigers from 3 elephant viewings called tiger shows, 1 tiger growl in the jungle for no apparent reason that was very cool to hear; 4 drives in Mukki resulted in 1 tiger from the vehicle.)

    6 in Bandhavgarh
    (6 drives in Bandhavgarh resulted in 6 sightings of 5 tigers from the vehicle and 1 tiger from 2 tiger shows. On my first tiger show in Bandhavgarh, the tiger moved away by the time we arrived and I did not see it.)

    2 in Corbett
    (7 drives in Corbett resulted in 2 brief sightings from the vehicle, both in the Dhikala zone.)

    All but the Mukki tiger were possible to photograph, though perhaps not with Nat Geo quality.

    For one of the Corbett tigers, I could have gotten a snap but declined because viewing required me to perch atop the Gypsy, straddling the two narrow bars that serve as the frames for the windshield and back of the cab. While I did have a nice view of a tiger tummy from that precarious position, I feared that adding the task of photography to my balancing act might result in me taking a topple. The other Corbett tiger photo was a streak of orange obscured in a jungle of green à la “Where’s Waldo?”

    In Kanha, we enjoyed two private tigers; in Bandhavgarh we had one private tiger which I spotted first!, and in Corbett we had the Waldo tiger to ourselves for the few seconds before it disappeared, after which a fleet of other vehicles appeared and surrounded us.

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    There will be photo links at the end of the report, eventually

    Other Wildlife Sightings, Beyond Tiger

    Wild dogs (Dhole): While there were packs of dogs in the Kisli section, the Mukki section of Kanha had been reporting almost daily sightings and that is where I saw them. There was a pack of 3 and a pack of 11. Our viewing began when we saw 2 members of the pack of 3 briefly as they ran into the forest. Naturalist Ashok employed his excellent tracking skills and intuition and we located them as they exited on the other side of the swath of forest. Alarm calls within the forest kept us updated on their path.

    The dogs decided to rest in the shade of a bush upon leaving the forest, so we waited about an hour for them to advance into the open and were well rewarded. For 20 minutes they darted around in short grass and on the road, making the occasional rest stop and putting on a show in front of us and one other vehicle.

    Jackals: In Kanha we saw at least one jackal about every other drive and spent 30 minutes with one that had just made a young chital (spotted deer) kill, joined only momentarily by another vehicle. That phenomena was unique enough that Rajan wants the photos sent to him. I saw about 4 jackals in Bandhavgarh. Enroute to Corbett we saw one with carrion in its mouth, but no jackals in Corbett.

    Elephants: There are no wild elephants in Kanha or Bandhavgarh, but many hundred in Corbett. Huge monsoons last year meant the normal routine of grass burning was suspended because whole meadows were left as piles of sand from the river. Therefore elephant viewing conditions were below average for my trip and I still saw several herds in the grass, crossing the river, and in the forests. The herds attracted 3-6 other vehicles, well spaced, and the individual elephants we had to ourselves.

    We were charged for about 100 meters by one disgruntled ele who suddenly popped out of the jungle. Fortunately she was not moving at full speed and fortunately I had a very skilled driver who could drive backwards in a hurry, so while tense, it was not a heart-pounding experience. I was impressed with the preemptive caution that was always taken to avoid elephant problems, even if it meant maintaining a distance that compromised photos or keeping the motor running.

    Elephants were a priority for me in Corbett, even sacrificing some potential tiger sightings. Afternoons were far more productive for herds of elephants, although I had some morning sightings of lone eles. I saw all the elephants in the Dhikala zone, which is typical, though ele sightings in Biranji are possible.

    Leopard: We saw one scoot up a tree, chased by a tiger in the Kisli section of Kanha! Very exciting for us and I am sure for the leopard. The tiger just seemed annoyed. Based on the comments of other naturalists, seeing this was a once a decade opportunity.

    Jungle Cat: One brief sighting in tall grass in Kisli of this elusive cat that closely resembles our domestic friends.

    Gaur (Indian bison): All my gaur sightings were in the Kisli section of Kanha. Bandhavgarh has them but they were in an inaccessible area while I was there. The largest herds I saw were about a dozen and lone bison or pairs of them were common. I found it challenging to get appealing pictures of these bovines, though I did find their white stockings attractive. Gaur are the largest of the bovine species, which was not as evident with the cows and calves. But the large black bulls were enormous along the side of the road.

    Sloth bear: Only pug marks, in all 3 parks I visited--Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Corbett. Another guy saw a sloth bear while I was in Bandhavgarh, though.

    Peacocks: I was surprised that these birds were everywhere, seen numerous times on every outing in every park. Displaying peacocks were less common—about 3 times in Kisli and once in Bandhavgarh.

    Chital (Spotted Deer): Even more of a presence than the peacocks. It was the first wild animal I saw on the trip. Biggest herds were in Corbett. Their spotted coats were especially lovely in dappled light under the trees.

    Sambur Deer: Seen almost every drive in small numbers, but somewhat shy and they like to hide in the forest. These are India’s largest deer and their antlers are impressive, though I noticed some asymmetrical racks.

    Muntjac (Barking Deer): Seen every 2-3 drives, but more so in Corbett. They seemed less shy in Corbett.

    Hard Ground Barasinga (Deer): These are a Kanha special. It is a sanctuary for them. I saw some at least every other outing in both Kisli and Mukki. The bachelor herds with all those massive antlers were striking. We even saw the remains of one in Mukki, which fell prey to the wild dogs. I asked if there was a better or worse season for seeing Barasinga and the answer was no.

    Chousingha (4 Horned Antelope):
    In the Mukki section of Kanha is an area called Bishaupura Meadows that looks like African savanna. The very elusive Chousingha lives here. On our transfer between Kisli and Mukki, we spotted one female and even managed a photo that does reveal 4 horns. From the hushed tones of both congratulations and of recounting this sighting to others, I knew this was very lucky.

    Wild Boar:
    Almost every drive at least one could be seen darting through the tall grass or into the thicket. The best place for me to see relaxed wild boars was the open fields in Dhikala in Corbett during the early mornings. I watched three of them on separate occasions near the side of the road digging furiously for roots and insects. They were so absorbed in their rooting that they lost any apprehension of vehicles.

    Hog Deer:
    Such an unattractive name for such a sweet little deer. These are in Corbett, not Kanha or Bandhavgarh, and prefer tall grass, which can pose a challenge for viewing and photography. They graze with the chital and can be hard to pick out. You have to look for a lack of spots and a lighter coat. Mornings were the best time to find them from my experience.

    Rhesus Monkeys:
    These are all over the roadsides and at the monuments and those venues afforded me better views and photo ops than the parks. Rhesus are almost never seen in Kanha and I saw none there.

    Langur or Blackfaced Monkeys:
    Their abundance, luxurious fur, and relaxed demeanor around vehicles—even with babies in tow—make them a photogenic subject. I thought they looked like the vervets’ more attractive cousin.

    A complete bird list for Kanaha/Bandhavgarh and for Corbett appears at the end. Corbett has the most birds interesting birds, including the Kalij Pheasant, of which I had two sightings and even a photo. A stretch of trees along a creek near the road in Biranji has to be one of the most productive birding stretches anywhere. In about 2 hours we saw around 40 in that one small area, half of the species I saw in all of Corbett.

    One interesting and frequently seen bird in Kanha and Bandhavgarh was the Rufous Treepie, aka the Tiger Bird. The name comes from its orange and black colors and because it has been known to promote good oral hygiene in tigers by picking the meat out of the their teeth. I made a mental note in case I lost both of my dental flosses.

    All the naturalists were excellent with the birds.
    Corbett has two kinds of crocodiles: Gharial with the long noses and the more common looking Muggers or Marsh Crocodiles. Most were seen at crocodile lookout points driving between Dhikala and Biranji. At times they were fairly near each other for comparison. Even when submerged, the water was shallow and clear enough for a photo to turn out.

    Lizards, Snakes, Turtles:
    I saw monitor lizards in Corbett and Bandhavgarh that resulted in one photo. Corbett Naturalist Harise’s tremendous spotting skills were showcased with his sighting of the gray monitor in the shadows of brown/gray mud, peeking out of its shaded hole. Harise managed to spy this guy as we were moving at a fast paced clip on flat road.

    We had two sightings of rat snakes in Kanha with one producing some photos. Right after leaving the designated breakfast spot in Kisli Naturalist Rajan and I heard a rustle in the dead leaves at the base of a tree. Rajan’s sharp eyes quickly picked out the yellowish snake and we watched it slither around under the leaves for 15 minutes, rarely exposing itself. This was just one example of the attention given to all species that happened our way and not just those that were orange and black striped.

    A gorgeous python was sunning itself near the road in Corbett for prolonged close-up views. One Turquoise Turtle in Corbett, expertly spotted by the driver, sat in the middle of the road until it was good and ready to cross. Only my final accommodation in Corbett had any of those little lizards that adhere to the walls like ornaments.

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    Taj Mahal and Agra Fort
    To make the most of limited time in India, that overnight train, Gondwana Express, which arrives in Agra just after 4:00 am is great. It allows ample time to get to the Taj Mahal right when it opens, at 6:10 am (that was opening time in April) for nice morning light.

    From the train Wild World India rep Guarav and I were driven to Mansingh Palace, a hotel about 15 minutes away from the Taj Mahal. We had about an hour to freshen up. Then we departed from the hotel at 6:00 am in our vehicle to where the auto-rickshaws took over. (A more festive or romantic option for couples visiting “The Temple of Love,” instead of the auto-rickshaw, might be one of the many horse or camel drawn vehicles.)

    Then we walked the last 10 minutes, warding off hawkers, from the point where no more vehicles are allowed to the entrance gate. Vehicles are limited to reduce the effects of air pollution on the Taj.

    The list of no-no’s for a Taj Mahal visit is a lengthy one. No lipstick, no markers, no knives, no nail files, no liquids other than water, no gum, no chocolates, no cigarettes, no lighters, no matches, no tripods, no monopods. The security was fairly thorough and I saw one woman forced to relinquish her lighter. She could have been sent to end of the entrance line as further punishment.

    If getting a photo with no people in it was the goal, you’d want to be in line well before 6:10 am (opening times may change with seasons) and then move at a very fast pace through the Great Gate to the reflecting pool. It still might be tough to get no bodies in the photo. The light at 6:30 am was very soft for good photos. About an hour later it was nice too and produced sharper reflections in the pool. (Again, from a single reference point of April 9.)

    Not only was the Taj guide arranged by Wild World India extremely knowledgeable about the building’s history, he knew the best vantage points for photos. I handed over one of my cameras to him and let him snap away. With the guide taking pictures, it also meant numerous photos with me in the foreground, including that Princess Diana-on-the-bench shot. The guide took more keeper photos than I did.

    I had a nice outfit packed for my Taj visit, but I could tell by how my knees were feeling that the sandals that went with the outfit were a bad idea because they did not support my orthotics. I anticipated a lot of walking on unforgiving cement and marble so I needed my tennis shoes & orthotics combo. And the tennis shoes, worn with my Wigwam socks, would have looked really dorky with my intended outfit. As a result, I was feeling a bit dowdy in the presence of the exquisite splendor of the Taj, wearing my easy-to-pack baggy tie-at-the-waist pants, an old yellow blouse, and sneakers with Wigwams, not to mention the bulky gear wrapped around my midsection in the form of fanny packs/bum bags.

    Then midway through our visit a group of Indian gentlemen came to the rescue to subdue my dowdiness. They each requested a photo of themselves standing next to me in the foreground with the Taj in the background. How very flattering!

    I must admit the cynic in me pondered if this could be a setup. But with both Guarav and my Taj guide overseeing, I felt confident that I could relax, smile, and enjoy the photo shoot. Still, I kept a tight grip on both bum bag and the larger camera pack and hoped their lenses did not focus too closely on my fingers clutching my bags. (My passport, credit cards, and larger bills were in a money belt on the inside of the dowdy outfit.) After that little uplifting session I embraced my Wigwams and bum bag look as perfect attire for an outing to the Taj!

    One more comment on footwear—if you enter the Taj, you must either go barefoot or wear paper covers over your shoes. The covers were provided in a little Taj-bag that my guide brought with us.

    I spent about 90 minutes at this world wonder that really lived up to that status in my view, and I understand how anyone could spend all day. There is even an opportunity for a night time visit during the full moon I was told, but no photography during that visit.

    Back to the very conveniently located Mansingh Palace for breakfast and then on to the Agra Fort, where Taj builder Shah Jahan had been imprisoned by his son, Aurangzeb. (And you thought your family was dysfunctional!) The fort provided nice views of the Taj Mahal in the distance for me, just as it had for imprisoned Shah Jahan, though photos were tough through the haze that was present the day I went.

    Again back to the hotel for a brief rest, and then a departure for Delhi at 10:30 am with driver/exceptional birder CB, plus Guarav, and Wild World India owner, Vikram, all accompanying me in the car.

    I felt the span from 4:10 am to 10:30 am was a brilliant use of my time to leisurely enjoy these magnificent monuments at a perfect time of day for good light, fewer people, and less heat. From the overnight train, to the vehicle driven by CB who picked us up at the train station, to the prearranged auto-rickshaw, to the expert and easily understandable local guide, to the conveniently located hotel with the day room, to the marble craftsmen we met at a workshop next to the hotel, it all worked perfectly. Though not a World Wonder in the same league as the Taj Mahal, this well coordinated plan certainly deserves honorable mention!

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    Delhi Sightseeing
    The earlier you depart the better for minimal crowds, less heat, and better light for photos. I left the Ahuja Residency (a fine place to stay in Delhi with meals available and high speed Internet access) at 8:15 a.m. First stop was just down the street—Humayun’s Tomb, a World Heritage Site and the forerunner of the Taj Mahal. If optimal photo conditions are important, an even earlier start would be advised (at least in late March), so as not to be shooting into the sun. Hardly anyone was around at this early hour.

    Next we visited Qutab Minar, the tallest brick minaret in the world and also a World Heritage Site. The famous Red Fort was closed on Mondays, but we admired it from the street. We stopped by the solemn national monument, the India Gate with the names of over 80,000 Indian soldiers who lost their lives in World War I. Made some quick stops at the Parliament Buildings and then on to Old Delhi before noon. Later in the day maneuvering around Old Delhi in a vehicle can be nearly impossible. Every scene was a worthy photo in Old Delhi, but I did not feel comfortable snapping pictures of the people going about their daily business there. I had those same feelings about much of my travel around India.

    For lunch I enjoyed Malai Kofta--cottage cheese dumplings deep fried and cooked in creamy cashew sauce, served with rice; a salad, chipati bread; and chocolate fudge cake for dessert at The Panchshila Rendezvous. My city tour guide said the restaurant was a favorite of his in Delhi and I was pleased to see he ordered the same thing as I did, without knowing my selection. A brief check of their website after arriving home shows I could even have added something Tex Mex!

    All those activities of internationally famous sites and I still had plenty of time before the Gondwana Express departed at 1525 for Jabalpur. A Wild World India employee, who hopped into the vehicle enroute to the train station, was very helpful in carrying my bags up a huge flight of stairs, down the platform, and straight to my compartment, making sure I was settled aboard the correct train. I could not have managed the confusion of the Indian rail station--with only some signs in English and thick computer printouts of schedules thumb tacked to bulletin boards--on my own, despite having taken trains and subways, unassisted, all over the world and regularly negotiating the bustling maze of Chicago’s Union Station, even during the chaotic Thanksgiving holiday. I was feeling rather silly about that inability until I discussed it with several other travelers I met who shared their confusion at the railway stations.

    Taking the Train
    Since I like train travel and realize trains are an integral part of Indian transportation--even part of the culture-- and the schedules worked well to save me both time and money, I took a couple of trains. Plus I had seen that curiosity of an Indian tourist adventure movie, The Darjeeling Limited.

    Both of my train trips were in the first class compartment, which was air conditioned and had fans. On the overnight 16-hour Delhi-Jabalpur trip, I shared a 4-bunk compartment with a congenial Australian couple who live in Singapore. We met up again briefly in Kanha.

    On the 1710 to 0415 overnight train to Agra, I was joined by Wild World India associate, Guarav, who navigated the signs and platforms and got us on the right train, and then kindly took the top bunk, leaving me the more comfortable lower bunk. Across from us was a businessman who passed the time in deep slumber and remained undisturbed despite the conversation between Guarav and myself.

    An attendant provides clean linens and a pillow on the overnight trains and even makes up the bunk. I found a half of Bonine prevented motion sickness and there was indeed ample motion as we bumped along the tracks. I fell asleep to the motion while reading my Jim Corbett stories and the Indian travel taleThe Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Tahir Shah, and then slept soundly and comfortably throughout the night on both trains.

    On the first train trip I carried only a bunch of bananas for my supper, since I had eaten a huge lunch. On the second trip to Agra with Guarav, a bunch of bananas supplemented a boxed meal prepared by the lodge where we had just checked out. As the train slowed to a halt for our Agra stop, Guarav and I were standing with our luggage in the vestibule, ready to disembark when suddenly I remembered the bunch of bananas that I had left in our compartment. Guarav went back to retrieve them but the door was now locked from the inside. Apparently the businessman had awakened and bolted the door when we left. We joked that he must be devouring our bananas behind locked doors!

    Two train trips were just right for my 3-week itinerary. But without the assistance provided by Wild World India I’d still be on the platform with my train ticket and bananas wondering where to board.

    A discussion that raises cautions regarding Indian trains and gives instructions on use of the loo is posted here. In light of some of the comments in the that thread, I feel the need to mention I got by fine on the train without surgical gloves and not one cockroach did I spy, despite the lure of bunches of bananas.

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    Oh wow, another brilliant trip report, atravelynn!

    I thought I'd browse through the India topics, as it's looking like I may be headed that way for work in the coming months; it's always so interesting to read about your journeys. Thanks for all the details and suggestions on where to begin trip research; it will be very helpful, should I end up going and should I be able to work in any personal travel to supplement the work obligations.

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    Great information here for anyone planning a trip to see the tigers. Thank you so much for all of the little details and the pearls of information they contain! Who would think that you couldn't bring lipstick to the Taj Mahal?! And regarding your photo shoot - I imagine that there are now poster-sized photos of you, white-knuckled, hanging up in their living rooms ;-)

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    Sounds like an amazing trip. How would you compare to other wildlife trips that you have taken. I really want to see the tigers but have heard so much mixed opinions about the safaris in India. I am concerned about the crowds and and worried about how the disrespect for the animals is going to impact a trip. In every place I have ever visited even if there were crowds, people were respectful and the animals treated kindly. I love to hear your thoughts. Our next trip is to Madagascar and then we were looking at Sri Lanka but those tigers keep calling.

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    Well worth the wait. Extra points once again for being so organized.

    Looks like you found the weather tolerable and I was tempted once again to take advantage of lower rates in June, but not after I saw the temperatures from the link you posted!

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    Thank you for the comments. White knuckle posters of me with no lipstick at the Taj, ha ha.

    Lhgreenacres, I'll be awaiting your Madagascar thoughts. I had your same concerns, but was pleasantly surprised. Your question is a great lead-in for the next topic comparing Africa and India safaris.

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    Comparisons between Indian and African safaris
    I had heard and read that my expectations for India should be held clearly in check after going on African safaris. I had been warned about cheering sections when a tiger was spotted, people tumbling out of vehicles, and general pandemonium. I was cautioned to be prepared to be “horrified.”

    Far from horrified, I was impressed and enchanted. What helped, I believe, was going at a non-peak time (not Christmas/New Years and not during Holi), allowing Wild World India to negotiate all the paperwork and secure all permits for the parks, paying extra for a private vehicle, and having outstanding naturalists that had been selected by Wild World India. But the people I encountered who did not have quite the exclusive arrangement that I did also seemed to be very happy and some of them were wildlife enthusiasts who travel the world.

    What also helped me and will help everyone else is within the past year or so Bandhavgarh (which was the source of some of the worst stories) changed the rules to limit the number of vehicles and where they may go.

    The tiger sightings did generate a gathering in all three parks I visited, with much maneuvering of vehicles, plus some standing atop the Gypsy. But all the vehicles stayed on the road, or shoulder so there was no surrounding the tiger and it was not possible to pursue the tiger off-road. Everyone remained in/on the vehicle, and I heard no shouts.

    Other than tigers, I was alone for almost all other sightings--and the list of other sightings above is extensive. With most vehicles on a tiger mission, having other animals or birds to myself was not hard. When non-tiger sightings were shared, usually it was just another vehicle or two at most.

    I was surprised at how many of the same species of birds, or very similar species, were present in both locations.

    From the sheer standpoint of visual impact, not much from any country or continent compares with the tiger!

    Some differences between African and Indian safaris included:

    Those little Gypsy vehicles in India were great and more maneuverable than Land Rovers or Cruisers.

    The forested terrain makes sightings tougher than the openness of the African savanna, although there are meadows in the Indian parks.

    Listening for alarm calls and observing animal behaviors to spot predators was more prevalent in India. Waiting in areas that seemed promising based on alarm calls took up a greater percentage of our outings in India than Africa and more times than not, the wait did not produce a predator. The type of habitat in Indian parks meant we had to work harder and have more patience for our sightings than in most parts of Africa.

    Even though my list of mammals and birds is extensive, there is not the variety or abundance of the typical African safari destination.

    That queue at the park gates in India in advance of starting times does not occur anywhere I have been in Africa. However at the larger African lodges, the jumble of vehicles departing in the mornings or afternoons may number the same; but just lack the organization of an official queue.

    There is a definite emphasis on seeing the single species of the tiger in India, whereas in Africa the emphasis is diffused among a greater number of predators. In both places, I found the naturalists were responsive to expanding the fauna emphasis to all creatures great and small.

    In Bandhavgarh (though not in Kanha or Corbett) vehicles are assigned to a specific track, which is not the case in Africa. Not only must they remain on that track or route, but they need to maintain a designated distance between vehicles (except for tiger sightings or I suppose leopard or sloth bear). That means you cannot linger to your heart’s content at non-tiger sightings. I found that after a tiger had been spotted, then it seemed that the rules were relaxed for maintaining the designated place in line. The result of these rules is that rarely do you encounter another vehicle during the outing, unless there is a tiger sighting that can draw in up to 10 or 11 vehicles from your track.

    The ability to view predators from an elephant is unique to India (and other Asian destinations), although I saw a hyena from a camel once in Africa and there are places such as Abu’s and Amalinda where it is possible to ride an African elephant. Longer elephant safaris that last a good part of the day, or even several days are possible in Corbett, though I didn’t partake. I was pleased to learn that mother tigers with young cubs are not approached by elephant. The demeanor of the tigers when viewed by the elephants varied from complete disinterest, to sleeping soundly, to a hiss and a departure from the area.

    At the parks and lodgings I stayed at in India, I did not have the remote, secluded tented camp experiences that I have enjoyed in Africa. But I think it is possible for a price.

    Speaking of price, India was not as expensive as Africa.

    Food at the lodges in India was primarily Indian, with a rare appearance of continental cuisine, whereas in Africa food tended to be continental, with a few choices of African dishes. Most of the Indian dishes were not excessively spicy.

    When taking a packed lunch, that wobbly sausage that often is found in the African lunch boxes was nowhere to be found in the Indian packed lunches, which were predominantly vegetarian.

    Both offered rewarding and exhilarating nature and wildlife and the fact that I am so privileged as to be able to even offer comparisons between these two remarkable locations is something I do not take for granted.

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    Kanha, Kisli section:

    Kisli is generally more crowded with more lodges and vehicles than Mukki. Animal density also tends to be higher.

    Renowned naturalist Rajendra (Rajan) Jhariya and driver Seren picked me up from the train in Jabalpur. Our first afternoon out, we waited for 90 minutes in an area where Rajan, along with 15 other vehicles, believed a tiger could appear, and it did. My first tiger sighting was an 18 month old cub at a distance under a tree. Then the cub’s father appeared from the opposite direction. The regal and relaxed demeanor of this dominant male reminded of Jim Corbett’s description of the tiger as “a large hearted gentleman with endless courage.”

    As the light faded, the male tiger walked past two male peacocks, undisturbed by his presence. Tigers and peacocks--that is the stuff of Rudyard Kipling! My awe for this park continued throughout my 6 days here.

    In addition to providing excellent guiding, Rajan kindly invited me into his home a few times to use his Internet, which I appreciated. Plus he took some great pictures with the camera I let him use. I’d recommend that practice of sharing an extra camera with your naturalist, if they are in agreement. His tremendous enthusiasm never waned, even when our outing in the park meant he missed most of India’s at bat in the India-Pakistan Cricket World Cup Semi-finals.

    With a start time of 2:30 pm, the match lasted until about 11:00 pm, including a 45-minute break. So at least Rajan and the other naturalists/drivers got to see the last part of the game.

    At Tuli Tiger Lodge, they set up a TV in the spa for staff and any guests interested in watching the India-Pakistan semi-final. I asked the bar tender what drink goes with a cricket semi-final and he produced a Vodka Gimlet. The Gimlet and I cheered with about a dozen staff members for wickets #1 and #2 by Pakistan, but I didn’t understand what I was cheering for until wicket #3. A British fan of the sport stopped by briefly and gave me some pointers, along with his disapproval of the new “hip” version of cricket, where matches do not last five days and uniforms are not entirely white. We never got to what he thought of the vuvuzelas.

    I took a break from the spa/sports bar for my evening meal in the restaurant. I had just sampled my soup when I heard what sounded like shots near the perimeter of our lodge. Normally I would be concerned, but under these circumstances I surmised it was merely the result of wicket #4 and resumed my meal. Shortly thereafter the waiter confirmed my speculations with enthusiasm.

    After dinner, I was able to watch the thrilling conclusion, where the Indians (aka Men in Blue) bowled very well and won. Celebrations of the final score, India 260/9 Pakistan 231/10, were still going on as I headed off to bed.

    Besides a spa that converted to a sports bar for the Cricket World Cup, Tuli Tiger had lovely grounds with a large pond next to the restaurant. Rooms were in groups of 4, two at balcony level and 2 at garden level. My garden level room, which was part of the Termite Mound group of 4 was spacious and very attractive. The Termite Mound block would be ideal for a family with young kids who might want to play in the small playground right across from it.

    There was some good bird activity and it was about 12 minutes from the Kisli park gate, now called the Katia gate.

    Meals were buffet style with several choices of Indian dishes and once in a while a pasta entrée . The manager offered to have the chef prepare a dish to order if I wished, but there was no need with the excellent choices offered.

    Though I dined alone, I had plenty of dinner conversation, so much that I had to be careful my chapatis did not get cold while I was visiting. All the waiters and the resident naturalist stopped by the table to chat briefly about sightings or the park. I was treated like a celebrity—or perhaps a member of the royal family. And once they found out about my attendance at the semi-final match with my Gimlet, then we had the wide world of cricket to discuss as well. On that topic I mostly just listened and nodded.

    Of the places I stayed, Tuli Tiger was the fanciest, and I was just in the lodge part. They also had a tented camp section that the manager told me was the 2nd best tented camp in India. I walked around that area and it was more secluded and elegant. Tuli Tiger, like all the places I stayed, suited me very well and I’d recommend it.

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    Kanha, Mukki section:

    Mukki generally has fewer guests and vehicles, and fewer but more expensive accommodations than Kisli. The wildlife density is less in Mukki than Kisli. But dhole sightings were more common, at least during my stay.

    In Mukki my naturalist was Ashok, Rajan’s brother, and equally renowned naturalist who took over the camera that Rajan had used. Seren remained our talented driver. The transfer/game drive between Kisli and Mukki took about 3 hours and produced one of our private tigers—the mother of three 18-month old cubs we had viewed earlier. It also took us to a lookout point and tower and to the infrequently visited Bishaupura Meadows, inhabited by the elusive four-horned antelope, the chousingha. We were lucky to see one.

    As we were enjoying the chousingha, Sri Lanka was batting in the finals of the Cricket World Cup and Ashok and Seren were still a couple of hours away from settling in to watch this spectacle, which had shut down much of India. To their credit, they remained focused on nature and wildlife and we did not rush or shorten our afternoon transfer and game drive.

    When we arrived at Royal Tiger, Manager Narren greeted me and invited me to join him for supper. This hospitable gesture was elevated to new heights considering that the India-Sri Lanka final match of the Cricket World Cup was playing as we dined. I kept telling Narren to feel free to excuse himself and go check the score as often as he wished. I wasn’t sure where there might be a TV, but figured they must have one turned on somewhere. He declined my invitation to step out, but lamented that after Pakistan’s formidable 274 points, India was not faring well at the moment with an early 2 wickets and only 30 points.

    My cursory reading of the sports sections in the days leading up to the final match saved me from despair because I knew the tremendous depth of India’s batters and that two of Sri Lanka’s best bowlers were out with injuries. And to think 5 days earlier I thought cricket was a noisy insect.

    I went to bed not knowing the outcome of the match and I must have slept soundly through celebrations that followed the final score: Sri Lanka 274/6 India 277/4.

    Prior to leaving home, Narob from Fodors invited me to lunch at the lovely Chitvan Jungle Resort, where she and her husband were staying. Thanks to the chauffeur service of Ashok, we had a delightful lunch and visit and I learned about Narob’s fascinating experiences on their month-long journey through India.

    My own lodge, Royal Tiger, offered basic, clean accommodations with good food, and a most hospitable manager. It was very close to the Mukki gate, maybe 7 minutes. The grounds were spacious enough that the morning after my arrival, which had been in the pitch dark, I needed assistance finding where to board the vehicle. Royal Tiger, like all the places I stayed, suited me very well and I’d recommend it.

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    The general safari routine for Kanha in April:
    Depart lodge at 5:15 or 5:30 am. Coffee, tea, and biscuits were available. Arrive at the park gate and then wait in the queue as other vehicles arrived until the gate opened at 5:45 am. Morning game drive until about 8:00 or 9:00. Then it was time for breakfast.

    At Kisli breakfast was at a central compound. Packed breakfasts included a couple of hard boiled eggs, banana, orange, juice, sandwiches that might contain an omelet or tomato or cheese, and samosa-like finger food. All food was eaten inside a structure, to avoid aggressive crows outside, with lots of tables.

    This compound also had an interesting and smartly constructed natural history museum and a 10 minute realistically animated “night in the jungle” show in a dark room that was clever for all ages, but would really appeal to kids, though not too young. The 2- and 3-year olds who attended during my showing were terrified and cried throughout.

    There was a clean bathroom available with western and squat toilets and an ever present attendant who appreciated tips.

    At Mukki the packed breakfast was served outside on the hood/bonnet of the vehicle. Birds were not a problem in Mukki. There was no compound with a museum in Mukki. There were no bathrooms but there was a straw fence for privacy.

    At breakfast you find out if a tiger show is possible, based on whether the mahouts located any tigers that day, and you pay for it then.

    After breakfast, the game drive continues and if you are doing the tiger show, you arrive at that point in time for your turn on the elephant.

    Vehicles needed to be out of the park at 11:00 I believe.

    Lunch back at the lodge, relax, use the pool, etc.

    In Kisli depart again at 2:45 for the gate which opened at 3:00 pm; and in Mukki depart again at 3:45 pm for the gate which opened at 4:00 pm. Stay in the park until 6 pm. No tiger show in the afternoon.

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    I know of three ways and employed two of them.

    #1 A ladder can be leaned against the dangling wooden footrest on the elephant saddle. Make sure the driver or someone keeps the slanted ladder from sliding along the dusty ground by placing a foot in front of it at the base to prevent any slippage. The bigger the rider, the more important that procedure, from what I observed.

    #2 Another way is to climb up on top of the Gypsy and then make the step onto the dangling wooden footrest and into the wooden box that serves as the seat on the elephant. In Kanha, I found this method to be preferable because it was quick and easy. What I didn’t realize was that Kanha elephants are smaller than those in Bandhavgarh.

    Fast forward to my first tiger show in Bandhavgarh where the boarding procedure was from the top of the Gypsy. I was urged to prepare my gear immediately and hurry onto the elephant because the tiger was moving and we had no time to spare. The elephant was quickly approaching with two riders already aboard and by the dimensions of the towering beast and of my short legs I could tell boarding might pose a challenge. Because time was of the essence, as a precaution I issued the order to driver Puneet, “You can push my butt.”

    In the mad scramble to ascend the ele speedily, I don’t recall if my butt required pushing or not, but I do know it landed safely in the wooden seat and we were off. Unfortunately the tiger we were hoping to see did not stick around.

    The odds of not seeing the tiger in the tiger show increase if you are one of the last participants. However, the viewing time can be much longer (20 minutes rather than 5-10) if you are last, so there is a tradeoff. I both benefitted from doing the last trip and lost out.

    If 5 or even 20 minutes is way too short of time on the elephant for your liking, half day or several day elephant safaris can be done in Corbett. I did not do any elephant outings in Corbett but think they would be appealing. I met an Indian couple who had been coming to Corbett for 30-some years and always did lengthy elephant safaris.

    #3 In Corbett I saw several permanent stands with easy to climb stairs. The elephant would stand next to these.

    For the 3 tiger shows in the Kisli section of Kanha, I had my own elephant. As we headed out I felt rather like royalty, in my private wooden box. I even gave the queen’s wave, with cupped hand and a brief twist of my wrist, to Rajan as the elephant departed. Mukki did tiger shows, but I preferred to look for wild dogs in that region. In Bandhavgarh I shared the elephant with others both times and did not perform the queen’s wave.

    For the tiger show wear a Croakie or similar on your sunglasses or leave them behind. On the first tiger show my sunglasses ended up on the ground, knocked off my face by a branch. After I was delivered back to the vehicle, the mahout and ele returned to get them. I left the sunglasses in the vehicle after that. Though I just felt like a queen, if any actual queens go for an elephant ride, I’d suggest the tiara be left behind as well.

    Photography from the back of the elephant can be difficult due to the movement and shade of the jungle. I was thrilled with the photos from my Sony DSC HX1 because I used a special button available on this model. It is the “anti-motion blur” button shown as a little hand with squiggly parentheses around it. All decent P&Ss now have image stabilization, but this is in addition to that standard feature. The camera takes 6 photos and then combines them somehow to avoid the blur. It takes about 8 seconds for the combining to happen, so there is a lag. But without this feature I’m sure most of the tiger show photos would have been very low quality and hardly worth saving. Maybe this is a standard feature on many cameras, but I had not seen it before. It’s certainly something to consider if you plan to photograph tigers from an elephant and want decent results.

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    Thanks for the comparison with African safaris. I found my enjoyment of safaris in Sri Lanka was very dependent on the guides. Seems obvious, but there is very little emphasis placed on the quality of the guides. I see you were careful enough in your planning to include expert naturalists. I'll have to insist on this for future trips to the sub-continent.

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    I agree, the guides make such a difference. You cannot control the weather or the animals, but you can control that all important link between you and what you invested so much to see, and that is the guide.

    In April the yellow Mahua Flowers were dropping from the trees everywhere and local people could be seen gathering them. The honey from the flowers is used to make a wine that is potent and popular in equal parts. Brothers Rajan and Ashok both told me this same story about Mahua wine: When friends and families gather, the guests could be served many vegetable dishes, mutton, chicken, chipatis, fruit, and desserts; but if there is no Mahua wine, the guests will likely comment, “We had nothing. Nothing at all.”

    Likewise, Rajan and Ashok both continued the story: Visitors to the parks may see many species of monkeys and deer, and even rare animals such as the jungle cat or sloth bear, but if they do not see the tiger, their response to, “Did you see anything?” is often “No, nothing. Nothing at all.”

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    After a final shortened morning drive in Mukki, Ashok and I departed, along with the transfer driver for Bandhavgarh. From Royal Tiger in Mukki, Kanha to the Bandhavgarh entrance gate, it took 5 hours and 20 minutes of actual driving time, not including our lunch at a restaurant, and another 7 minutes to get to Nature Heritage Lodge. Half way through the transfer, the roads became more winding and hilly and I realized I would need to pop half a Bonine to avoid car sickness.

    For Ashok (and the driver) the round trip amounted to over 10 hours of road travel, all to ensure I had no problems during the trip or when I checked in to Nature Heritage. Ashok’s assistance at a crowded ATM machine in Mandla, a citiy between Kanha and Bandhavgarh, was very helpful and it was reassuring to have him along for the ride and visit with him.

    In Bandhavgarh there are four sections:
    Tala--highest tiger density, 32 visitor vehicles allowed in 3 Zones (B, C, D). That’s where I went.
    Magdhi--66 vehicles allowed
    Khitauli--32 vehicles allowed
    Panpatha Sanctuary that I was told was near the buffer zone and I don’t know how many vehicles are allowed there.

    In Tala, Zone A was not currently accessible. Zones B and C had 25 km each of road and Zone D’s road was 20 km. The B in Zone B must stand for Bouncy or Better secure your sports Bra, ladies!

    The general safari routine for Bandhavgarh in April:
    Depart lodge at 5:30 am. Coffee, tea, and biscuits were available. Arrive at the park gate and then wait in the queue as other vehicles arrived until the gate opened at 6:00 am. Puneet was always my driver (and a very attentive one) and our naturalist would differ from game drive to game drive.

    Each vehicle is randomly assigned to two of the three tracks for an outing (B, C, or D. A was out of commission during my visit). That meant there were 10-11 vehicles per track (not the 40-some that were the stuff of past horror stories). There was no contesting the route assignment in the morning. In the afternoon if the two routes were the same as the morning, it was possible to get new ones. But other than extra bumps in the B Zone, no route appeared better or worse than the others.

    Not only are the routes assigned, but vehicles are required to stay several minutes apart. The advantage of this rule is that as you drive through the park, no other cars are usually visible. The disadvantage is if you wish to linger at something other than a tiger, you will be urged to move on after a couple of minutes. I managed to enjoy some nice sightings of sambur, langur monkeys, an Adjutant Stork, a Night Jar, and a nesting Brown Fish Owl, along with scenery and other things, while still adhering to the rules. This “mind and maintain the gap” law seemed to be relaxed after the vehicles from the zone had seen a tiger.

    There is a center point where vehicles congregate between their two assigned tracks and this is where you sign up for the tiger show, stretch your legs, and use the bathroom. For ladies there were 3 porcelain squat toilets behind a straw fence.

    I made an error here that could have come back to haunt me. Since we had stopped mid-morning in Kanha for breakfast each day, I mistakenly thought our halt at the center point was breakfast time. There were outdoor grills enclosed by fencing, which I assumed were part of the breakfast preparation, since we had not brought a packed breakfast. My driver, Puneet, asked me if I would like some Pakoras for breakfast. I clearly heard the word breakfast, but did not catch the Pakora part, not that it would have mattered. I replied, “Sure,” to the Pakoras and Puneet returned with a bowl full of tasty bite sized fried batter. I ate it all.

    We continued on our game drive and returned back to the lodge about 10:30 am and breakfast was served shortly thereafter, which made me wonder, “So what was that I ate in the park?” It was then I realized it was something I probably should not have eaten, since I was limiting myself to only food from the lodges or restaurants chosen by my guides for hygiene reasons. The Pakoras had tasted good and fortunately I suffered no ill effects. I declined the mid-morning serving of Pakoras on future drives.

    Lunch at Nature Heritage began about 1:00 pm. I didn’t need two heavy meals just a couple of hours apart so I usually had either just breakfast or lunch. Or I’d have only soup for lunch. Once I had just two bananas for lunch.

    Depart again at 3:00 for the 3:30 to 6:45 afternoon game drive. No tiger shows in the afternoon.

    On my first morning, I missed a male tiger sighting by about 10 minutes and was not successful during the tiger show. “No big deal,” I figured, “I’ll have plenty more chances.”

    During the following two and a half days of my stay, an unusual phenomenon occurred: the tigers vanished from Bandhavgarh. The naturalists had not experienced disappearing tigers during that time of year before, though they had in December. I asked about phases of the moon or shifts in weather, but nothing explained the sudden lack of tigers.

    For five drives, including one tiger show, no tigers in Bandhavgarh. In Kanha I had visited with a long-time park and wildlife advocate. She recounted how twice in Kanha’s history the tigers had disappeared for about a week, pug marks and all. The park officials were so concerned that they contacted members of the local Baiga tribe and asked them to perform a ritual to ask the tigers to make themselves visible once again. Apparently it worked—both times.

    I was ready to ring up the head Baiga and request he make a hasty road trip to Bandhavgarh and talk to the tigers. Intellectualy I knew that demands of tigers or Baigas, or of guarantees, are out of place when dealing with nature . But emotionally, 90 minutes into my sixth and final game drive in Bandhavgarh without seeing a tiger, I could sense the growing presence of my “inner pout.”

    Over the course of the previous few outings, I kept interpreting various events as a lucky sign that a tiger would appear: the rustling of a monitor through dried leaves; the fact that Guarav who came to join me for my last two days in Bandhavgarh had the same camera and binoculars as I did; the audible prayers from one of the naturalists as we departed. None of these provided sufficient luck, though.

    Then, with an hour and a half gone on the last drive, I spotted a pair of barking deer and was about to call them out as my latest potential good luck symbol when Driver Puneet and the naturalist announced with great excitement, “Tiger, tiger, tiger!”

    That was an accurate description as there were three grown cubs ambling along. After Puneet had stopped the Gypsy for photos, he turned around and gently grabbed my arm, signaling his relief that I would not leave after a four night stay in Bandhavgarh without seeing a tiger. There were about 9 other vehicles in the vicinity and the tigers were visible for 15 minutes. A very good sighting.

    An hour later I saw a tiger coming down the road and we had a private viewing for the few minutes that it approached us and then slipped into the jungle. Examining the photos afterward revealed one the tiger’s eyes was injured, and I hoped not missing. The tiger had been moving normally, though, a positive sign.

    We joined another line of about 8 vehicles to see a tiger walk across a creek on a log through thick foliage and then disappear. Later Guarav and I shared an elephant with two other people for a view of that same tiger, sound asleep. While photos were poor due to the darkness of the tiger’s jungle retreat, the sound of its snoring could be heard loud and clear. I was glad the tiger felt undisturbed enough to sleep so soundly that it snored. That was the final audio-visual of a tiger in Bandhavgarh and it wrapped up an action packed and exciting three hours of tigers

    Nature Heritage is a really nice lodge, active with birds. All the room locations seemed equally good. The first afternoon that I was out looking for tigers (and missed them), one came looking for me and apparently could be seen in the open area behind the lodge. The staff generously offered me the use of their Internet, when it worked, for some quick emails home. From omelets at breakfast to gulab jamun (dessert) after the evening meal, the food was great. Nature Heritage, like all the places I stayed, suited me very well and I’d recommend it.

    Even in Bandhavgarh seeing tigers is a special privilege and cannot be taken for granted. I had initially toyed with the idea of 3 nights in Bandhavgarh, thinking that would certainly be enough time to see some cats there. I’m glad I stayed 4 nights or I would have missed a tiger in Bandhavgarh because with tigers, nothing is certain.

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    Thanks for a great report. We went to Bandhavgarh three years ago because we were told chances of seeing a tiger were best there. Upon arrival we were told that tiger sightings were really down and that the guide had been seeing a tiger roughly one out of three drives. Doesn't sound like it's much better now, even in the dry season. Fortunately we got to see both tigers and plenty of school children! Sorry you missed the children but hope all those tigers were at least a small compensation...

    Femi--the park naturalist is an "extra" who goes with your guide. We were taken a back when the "official" park naturalist told us to stand on the jeep seats to get a better view of the tigers.

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    In Bandhavgarh I had the park naturalists, different each drive. In Corbett and Kanha I had my assigned naturalist who was with me throughout. There is less interaction with the park naturalist and no continuity because it is a different person each time. The continuity and interaction aspect is accomplished with the driver, who remained with me in Bandhavgarh. I also had the same driver in Kanha and Corbett.

    I found each of the the many Bandhavgarh naturalists to be sharp-eyed and interested in finding animals. No complaints about them. But I preferred having the same naturalist day after day.

    My assigned naturalist in Corbett, told me to get up on the top of the vehicle and straddle the windshield and cab frames to see a tiger. It was not visible otherwise. I declined at first, but he was insistent (in a good way so that I wouldn't miss anything) and offered me his steady hand.

    Standing on the vehicle seats was the normal routine everywhere, with shoes on.

    Marija, I kept looking for the school children, but they were more elusive than the tigers!

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    Lynn--in Corbett and Kanha you didn't have to have an official park naturalist accompany your naturalist? In Bandhavgarh we had the lodge naturalist and driver but we still had to have an official park naturalist.

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    We often did have an official naturalist accompany us in Kanha, but not each time. In Corbett no park naturalist ever went with us.


    Guarav and I were driven from Nature Heritage in Bandhavgarh at about 2:00 pm to Katni, which took 2 hours, where we boarded the Gondwana Express that took us by rail to Agra. Earlier in the report are the details of the Agra visit. I was impressed with the logistics that allowed me to see 5 different tigers and the Taj Mahal at a relaxed pace, with the added feature of Indian rail travel, all within about 24 hours!

    After the Taj Mahal, Gaurav, Wild World India Owner Vikram, Driver CB and I drove to Delhi. Thank goodness for CB’s excellent attentive driving skills during the 4.75 hour trip. At the Ahuja Residency in Delhi I said good bye to Vikram and Guarav, though later I would have the privilege of visiting Guarav’s home and family.

    To beat some of that Delhi traffic, CB and I got an early start for Corbett the following day at 5:30 am. Our daybreak departure and the fact that it was a Sunday helped us make the door to door journey in only 7 and a half hours, which included a 25 minute break near the midpoint between Delhi and Corbett where there is a nice restaurant and a nice restroom and grounds to walk around and stretch your legs. The other pit stop I requested during the 7.5 hour journey required a hop into the roadside bushes.

    After I settled in to Forktail Creek in the Biranji section of Corbett, CB and I went off looking for birds. I was amazed CB still had energy for a couple hour bird walk after getting up before 4 a.m. and driving me 7 hours. But birds are his passion and he was ready to show me some beauties.

    In about two hours, along a stretch near of not even 300 meters, we saw about 40 different and interesting birds. Highlights included prolonged views of the Collared Falconlet, watching a pair of Red Breasted Parakeets feed their chick, seeing a Great Hornbill fly by, and getting nice views of a pair of Kalij Pheasants, which I was hoping to see. A complete bird list appears at the end of the report.

    Corbett Accommodations:
    It is possible to stay in the jungle in Corbett by booking the government rest houses. From my brief experience, the rest houses I encountered were indeed in the jungle, but in an expansive cleared, compound of numerous buildings, enclosed by a fence. The location is great because you do not have to travel to a gate to enter the park, but your room is not ensconced in jungle. On the other hand, I did stay in a place where narrow paths through the forest led to each cottage and the dining area. That was Forktail Creek on the edge of the park in the Biranji section.

    More on Forktail Creek: Of the places I stayed, this offered the most secluded, personalized lodging--fine dining with the staff; sitting around the campfire in the evening and enjoying a hot cup of soup after a day in the park; wandering the camp’s paths through thick vegetation. The fact that I was the only guest for my two night stay probably helped the personalization.

    A bird bath near the “Thatch” as the main gathering area was known, was always active with fantails or sunbirds or other species The rooms were great, taking advantage of solar lighting. No electricity, but the staff charged my batteries. If you are not a sound sleeper, the four domestic dogs that lived at Forktail Creek could awaken you with their frequent barking rants in the night.

    The drive from Forktail Creek to the Amdanda Gate to enter the Biranji section of Corbett was 40 minutes, with the road leading directly to/from Forktail Creek quite steep and rugged. To avoid the lengthy midday drive to Forktail Creek for lunch and then back to the park, we spent the 11:00 to 3:00 lunch/downtime at the cleared and developed complex in the jungle that included the Biranji Forest Rest House. Also available in the complex were bathrooms with seats or not, a small store with snacks, an enclosed dining room, a small library, a shaded rest area with benches, and the mahout’s home and elephants.

    Some people brought pillows with them for a more comfortable nap. The children (ages 5-10) of the mahout liked to visit and practice English and invite guests to sit in their home, so that offered a nice pastime after my packed lunch was eaten.

    The transfer between Biranji and Dhikala took about 3 hours at a leisurely pace that allowed for wildlife stops, which were almost as plentiful as a regular game drive. It was on the transfer to Dhikala that I saw my first wild Indian elephant. The transfer also provided the best views of the crocodile species in the Ramganga River, especially at the lookout points.

    More on Dhikala Forest Rest House: This is a large open complex with about 4 buildings of very simple rooms, a cafeteria, and a library. Of the many rooms, I thought mine in the “Annex,” on the end overlooking the meadows had the best view. Last year’s extra strong monsoon meant I was overlooking expanses of sand (reminding me of the Kalahari Desert) rather than meadows where deer and elephant usually grazed.

    I was not the only one who liked that room because I was forewarned when I got to Corbett that it was likely a VIP would be removing me from it. My protests that I too was a VIP who had booked probably way before these Johnny-come-lately VIPs were in vain. At the government lodges, you are at the mercy of the government.

    Fortunately there was another place for me to stay in the complex—a sizeable (bigger than my room) storage/laundry/kitchen unit with the same bathroom facilities as my room in which a newly made cot was set up. Just as Aurangzeb had exiled his father, Shah Jahn, to the confines of the Agra Fort, I was being removed to the storage unit. Shah Jahn was able to gaze out of his prison at the magnificent Taj Mahal he had built. I could gaze at the adorable suction cup footed lizards that adorned each of my two windows. My journey was uncannily similar to the lives of the kings! Unlike Shah Jahn’s chamber in the Agra Fort, my storage room had boxes of toilet paper that might have lasted a lifetime, so I had no fear of running out during my brief exile.

    While not frequent, such displacements can happen at the forest lodges. VIPs hanging around for a week after the Cricket World Cup contributed to my ouster.

    One hint for Dhikala Forest Rest House: bring your own carton of water bottles, unless you routinely drink filtered water in India. Bottled water is not available at Dhikala. I asked for and was given a carton of bottles.

    For both Forktail Creek in Biranji and Dhikala Rest House in Dhikala, as well as everywhere I stayed, the accommodations suited me very well and I’d recommend them.

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    Marija on May 9, 11 at 11:34am

    Lynn--in Corbett and Kanha you didn't have to have an official park naturalist accompany your naturalist? In Bandhavgarh we had the lodge naturalist and driver but we
    still had to have an official park naturalist.

    atravelynn on May 9, 11 at 12:47pm

    We often did have an official naturalist accompany us in Kanha, but not each time. In Corbett no park naturalist ever went with us.

    Your question and my response got me to thinking some more. Harise, my naturalist throughout the entire Corbett trip, might have also been a "park naturalist." In the vehicle was the driver, Harise, and me. Harise was not a World Wide India employee. In Corbett, there was a guy named Yogi (I think) who I met at the start and end of the Corbett safari who oversaw that part of the trip. I thought Harise worked for Yogi, but maybe he was a Corbett staff member. I know Harise had worked his whole career of about 15 years in Corbet--and his experience showed.

    Since each park's setup was a little different, and everything was going well, I just thought that's how it was done in that park and did not give it any more thought.

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    The general safari routine for Dhikala, Corbett in April:

    Depart the rest house at 6:00 am and stay out until 8:00 or 9:00 am. Come back for breakfast in the cafeteria, which included eggs. Go out again right after breakfast until 11:00 or 11:30. Down time and lunch until 3:00 pm. Into the park again until around 6:30 pm.

    The size of Corbett and variety of landscapes could easily occupy a week or two of travel, especially if you do one of those extended elephant back safaris. There are two other zones to explore in Corbett, beyond Biranji and Dhikala, where I was. Those are Jhirna and Durga Devi, which I was told were superior for birding. And if I went there in search of birds, I’d want Corbett Naturalist Harise with me to find them. No bird escaped him, or anything else.

    I had thought seeing elephants in India would consist of glimpses in thick jungle, so I was pleased to see herds out in the open in Dhikala. There were two areas, one by the river and one in a particular meadow, where herds could be seen predictably. The no off-road rules meant that some herds were meant to be admired at a distance.

    When it was time to leave this diverse and beautiful park, I was nowhere near ready.

    End of the trip:
    The afternoon weekday transfer back to Delhi from the Amdanda Gate took around 8 hours of actual driving, plus a lunch stop at the midpoint restaurant.

    I noticed some gatherings and festivities along the way and asked CB about them. He explained to me the significance of celebrating the April 14 birthday of Dr. Ambedkar, who was the first highly educated and politically prominent member of the untouchables caste. Dr. Ambedkar dedicated his life to removing stigmas, fighting social injustice, and promoting equality through education. He continues to be remembered and honored for his contributions to equality for all in India.

    As a farewell, Guarav graciously invited me to a wonderful dinner at his home with his family before my night flight out.

    From start to finish, this was a trip fit for a king. I’d also recommend it for any wildlife enthusiast traveling to India.

    The End
    except for the bird lists

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    Bird List
    Bird List Between Agra and Delhi:
    Sarus Crane

    Bird list Kanha and Bandhavgarh:
    Alexandrine Parakeet
    Asian King Vulture or Red Headed Vulture
    Black Crowned Night Heron
    Black Ibis
    Black Necked Stork
    Black Redstart
    Black Rumped Flameback
    Black Shouldered Kite
    Blue Eared Kingfisher
    Brown Fish Owl
    Brown Headed Barbet (Usually Just Heard, But We Saw It)
    Changeable Hawk Eagle
    Common Hoopoe (My Favorite, Great Close-Ups)
    Common Kingfisher (But Not As Common As The White Throated)
    Common Sandpiper
    Common Wood Shrike
    Crested Serpent Eagle
    Crested Serpent Eagle
    Eurasian Golden Oriole
    Eurasian/Indian Roller
    Eurasion Thick Knee
    Gray Breasted Prinia
    Gray Hornbill
    Great Tit
    Greater Coucal
    Green Bee Eater (Everywhere)
    Green Pigeon
    Grey Headed Fish Eagle (I was told there was only 1 in Kanha)
    Grey Hornbill
    Indian Pond Heron
    Indian Shikra
    Jungle Owlet
    Lesser Adjutant (All Over Bandhavgarh)
    Lesser Whistling Duck
    Long Billed or Slender Billed Vulture
    Mountain Hawk Eagle
    Night Jar
    Oriental Honey Buzzard (Around because it was honey bee nest building season)
    Oriental Magpie Robin (All Over)
    Oriental Turtle Dove
    Painted Francolin
    Paradise Flycatcher
    Pied Kingfisher
    Pied Kingfisher
    Purple Sunbird
    Red Jungle Fowl (Everywhere)
    Red Spurfowl
    Red Vented Bulbul
    Red Wattled Lapwing (Everywhere)
    Red Whiskered Bulbul
    Richard’s Pipit
    Roufus Treepie (aka Tiger Bird)
    Sirkeer Malkoha
    Small Niltava
    Spotted Bellied Eagle Owl
    Spotted Dove
    Spotted Owlet
    Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher
    White Eyed Buzzard
    White Rumped Shama
    White Throated Kingfisher (Everywhere)
    White Throated Munia
    Wooly Necked Stork

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    Bird list Corbett
    Ashy Bulbul
    Ashy Prinia
    Alexandrine Parakeet
    Black And White Fantail
    Black Bulbul
    Black Crested Bulbul
    Black Drongo
    Black Francolin
    Black Lored Tit
    Black Shouldered Kite
    Blue Common Kingfisher
    Blue Eared Kingfisher
    Blue Whistling Thrush
    Brown Fish Owl
    Brown Fronted Woodpecker
    Brown Hawk Owl
    Changeable Hawk Eagle (Seen with parakeet in talons)
    Chestnut Headed Bee Eater
    Chestnut Headed Starling
    Collared Dove
    Collared Falconlet
    Common Green Magpie (a favorite)
    Common Hoopoe (my favorite)
    Common Myna
    Crested Kingfisher (biggest kingfisher, saw one with a fish)
    Crested Serpent Eagle
    Crested Tree Swift
    Crimson Sunbird
    Dark Throated Thrush
    Dollar Bird (a favorite)
    Eurasian Wryneck
    Gray Headed Fish Eagle
    Gray Winged Black Bird
    Great Hornbill (impressive)
    Green Flycatcher (everywhere)
    Greenbacked Tit
    Himalayan Bulbul
    Indian Shikra
    Kalij Pheasant (my goal to see)
    Lesser Fish Eagle
    Lineated Barbet
    Long Tailed Shrike
    Oriental Magpie Robin (all over)
    Oriental Pied Hornbill
    Oriental White Eye
    Pallas’s Fish Eagle
    Paradise Flycatcher
    Pied Bushchat
    Pied Hornbill
    Pied Kingfisher
    Pintailed Pigeon
    Plummeted Parakeet
    Puff Throated Warbler
    Purple Sunbird
    Red Breasted Parakeet
    Red Jungle Fowl (all over)
    Red Vented Bulbul
    Red Wattled Lapwing (all over)
    River Lapwing
    Rose Ringed Parakeet
    Rosie Minivet
    Ruddy Shelduck
    Rufous Fronted Woodneck
    Rufous Woodpecker (impressive)
    Scarlet Minivet
    Slaty Woodpecker (largest woodpecker, very impressive)
    Southern Gray Shrike
    Spangled Drango
    Speckled Piculet
    Tickell’s Thrush
    White Crested Laughing Thrush (a favorite)
    White Eyed Buzzard
    White Rumped Shama
    White Rumped Vulture (In nest with chicks, enroute to corbett)
    White Throated Kingfisher (all over)
    White Wagtail
    Yellow Backed Tail
    Yellow Crowned Woodpecker
    Yellow Wagtail

    Photo link will be posted eventually.

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    "guide had been seeing a tiger roughly one out of three drives"

    Even those are very good odds for such an elusive creature. That was approximately the ratio in Corbett too--2 out 7.

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    According to the &Beyond guide, in the past, few people left Bandhavgarh without seeing a tiger but that's was changing. As you noted, even with a stay of three days you can't count on a tiger appearing. Do they still have the signs telling you not to worry if you don't see a tiger because the tiger will see you?

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    Thank you so much for your trip report. I look forward to following in your footsteps in 2013....I know I'm not the first person to follow in your footsteps so you must be doing something right! You have inspired me to move this trip up on my list and I'm so looking forward to it.

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    Lynn, Amazing trip report!!!!! I've been to wonderful Nagarhole in the South, but never to the areas you describe/ Wow!!!
    If you don't mind much was the cost of the trip with Wild World India (not including airfare from USA)--i.e. for lodging, drivers, meals ,etc? Did you pay for it as a "package"?

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    I can imagine there are several of us who would like to order one of Lynn's 'packages'! I'll have two Alaska, one India, and a couple Pantanals. I've already got a side of Phinda coming up! :D

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    And I in turn will follow in your footsteps for that 2013 journey, Cjryan in ring-around-the-rosey fashion.

    Femi, you have me all figured out! The side of Phinda looks interesting! When and how long?

    While in India, I was informed that all park fees would be doubling from the equivalent of about $50 USD to $100 USD, so my trip's cost will be low. I paid for it all as a package. Feel free to email me, CaliNurse, on costs. I am at hotmail, same name. Email is on my profile.

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    Welcome home, Lynn. I've been eagerly waiting for this report. Have only got through the 1st couple of days so far, but have put it aside for a long and comfy session this weekend. Sounds like things went well with you - I'm so glad!
    And about the railways and platforms etc, - welcome to India :) I get lost too, and I was born there.

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    Thanks for the lovely comments about the lunch we had at Chitvan Jungle Lodge in Kanha. India was an unbelievable experience. If anyone wishes to see the photos, our email is [email protected] We'll send a copy of our smilebox.

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    Lynn, what a spectacular trip! Thanks for the wonderfully detailed report. We are thinking of possibly doing something similar sometime, more for the mammals than for the birds (although we certainly wouldn't close our eyes if one flitted through our field of view!) So your info will be invaluable for planning purposes, especially for Corbett and Kanha both of which we've not been to yet.

    In retrospect, are there areas you would have liked to spend more or less time?


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    Great smilebox, Narob. I got to visit the parts of India that were not on my itinerary.

    Ovenbird, more time would have been better. Narob was in India 5 weeks. I did not visit many cultural attractions, which is a huge aspect of India. So devoting several days to even weeks in Rajasthan would complement the wildlife part of the trip.

    The Dhikala section of Corbett could have used a 3rd night. Time devoted to the elephants, the different antelope species of the hog deer, and the extra effort it took in Corbett to find tigers all add up to more days being worthwhile. Also you could spend one whole day on elephant back in Corbett.

    But given my 21 day max, I would not have altered the itinerary or taken one day from here and put it there.

    If your trip was just Kanha and Corbett, I think a week in Kanha (split 5 Kisli and 2 Mukki) then 6 nights Dhikala (split 2 Baranji, 4 Dhikala with one day on an elephant in Dhikala) would make a great itinerary. I'd also consider Kasaringa, which is more remote, another time.

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    Fantastic report, I have been waiting to hear how the trip went and it suddenly occurred to me that I wouldn't find it on the Africa forum afterall … how silly.

    It sounds like just the sort of trip I would like to do so I too will have to "follow in Atravelynn's footsteps".

    Can't wait to see your photos.

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    Thank you Twaffle. I plan to do an India-Africa safari comparison that I'll post on the Africa forum once I have a photo link, which should materialize no later than tomorrow.

    I'd even retrace these footsteps--or in this case maybe pug marks--as the tiger prints are called. A wonderful trip.

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    Some of the Kanha and Bandhavgarh shots were taken by my naturalists with my second camera. I’d recommend that practice. All combined, there were 3700 photos taken in the 3-week trip.

    Kanha, both Kisli and Mukki – 115 photos, labeled
    #1-24 are tigers; tiger show photos are indicated.

    Last 22 photos are accommodations, facilities, and mounting/dismounting the elephant for the tiger show.

    #115, the last photo, is the all important ADAPTER, used throughout the trip successfully to recharge camera batteries. I am proud of the setting I managed for my adapter photo-shoot.

    Bandhavgarh, Train, Delhi, Taj Mahal – 50 photos, labeled
    #1-12 are tigers; no photos from the tiger show.
    Accommodations, train, Delhi, Taj are the last 18 photos.

    Corbett, both Biranji and Dhikala – 75 photos, labeled
    #75, the last photo, is a tiger in a Where’s Waldo shot.
    Photos #65-#74 are accommodations and facilities.

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    I just stayed up past my bedtime to read your report. Riveting from start to finish! I think I will have to go to seep before I look at all the photos--work tomorrow. But I have peeked at the tiger pics from Kisli and they are excellent. And the dholes, wow!

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    Great photos. You got some lovely shots of eles crossing the river too.

    You are indeed fortunate to be able to take such trips (and so often! I am jealous!!!), but I sense that your interested, appreciative attitude improves not only your experiences but those of the people you encounter. It certainly makes your reports delightful to read.

    Where to next, Lynn?

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    Thank you Leely! I just got back from North Dakota, maybe that's where you'd want to go in 2012. Teddy Roosevelt National Park was stunning with lots of North American wildlife. Africa beckons me back for my next trip in Sept. Nothing definite after that, but those migrating bats in Zambia have my attention. Maybe that's my 2012 trip.

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    Thanks for this fantastic trip report and the wonderful photos. I am truly impressed with your experience and like cjryan have moved a tiger safari up to 2013.

    Tigers, eles, dhole and all of those wonderful birds - what a fantastic trip.

    Thanks for sharing,


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    Birds of Northern India by Richard Grimmett and Tim Inskipp worked well.

    There is also a Southern book, but I was only in Northern India. The same authors have a birds of India, plus a couple of neighboring countries book.

    I did not take a mammal book.

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    Finally got the chance to take a look at the pictures. Don't think I'd ever heard of dhole or knew what they were before this. Shots of the Jackal with his kill are very nice. Love the Langur in the tree hole and the owlets are also very cool.

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    Adorable little tiger cubs, Treepol. Hope they grow up in good conditions with adequate habitat and die of old age. (That's a good wish for all creatures things, actually.)

    Until my investigations into an India trip I thought Dole (Dhole) was pineapple.

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    The best Places to stay in Kanha and Bandhavgarh are TAJ CC AFRICA LODGE . But there are some very charming and unique places as well.
    Kanha : Singinawa Lodge
    Bandhavgarh : Samode Lodge

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    Lynn, what a fantastic gallery of photos, especially the tigers! Mounting and dismounting elephants looks quite challenging, but judging from your photos the ele parties are well worth the acrobatics!

    I've bookmarked your trip report and will use it to help plan our next (2013?) trip to India. Like yours, it will focus on the wildlife. I see that many of the places you visited, which we didn't, are "musts" for this type of trip. Thanks again for all the detailed information.

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    Hi there atravelynn

    Wow Gee What a trip huh !
    It sounds as though you really enjoyed it, above all else.
    The Corbett sections were of main interest to myself, I prefer Corbet much more than the other parks.
    It was a shame about the sand on the Chaurs in Dhikala, my man Ramesh says this will now take years to recover.
    The remarks about a park approved guide caught my attention, and others too it seems. It is mandatory to have a park appointed guide while inside the park. The fact that the guides in Corbett kept changing would have bothered me.
    With Ramesh ( can maintain that continuity. He and all the guides he supplies are park approved, and will stay with you for the duration.
    Campforktail is a very remote place to be based, better would be in Dhikuli Garjia, which is 10 minutes from the Bijrani gate, and about 20 from the Dhikala entry gate.
    Those things apart I really enjoyed your report.
    When will you return do you think ?

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    I just looked at your photos Lynn.
    In the words of Tony the Tiger, They're Greeaattt !!

    The photo of the tiger in the "upper right" was superb.
    Totally typifies India.

    There are 4 video clips at this link,
    One of them has a magic tiger that appears and disappears before your very eyes.
    See if you can guess which one it is.
    Anyone who has been on a tiger safari will relate instantly to these clips.

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    Thanks for the clips Frank and "Tony." I'll check them out.

    I had the same naturalist and driver throughout my time in Corbett and they did not change. The naturalist was from Corbett and had always worked there.

    I hope to return some day, not sure when, and will post again if I do.

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    Hi Lynn
    I am getting too old to be reading all of this small print.
    I just re read your entire report, and again I thoroughly enjoyed it.
    I apologise for my error about the guides changing, I must have snoozed off somewhere, and then re started again having missed something out.
    Its called old age, and not at all related to your report.

    Harise is one of the best, if not the best, guides and naturalists you could have had.
    Harise is actually one of Ramesh's finest guides, and a close friend too.
    Ramesh also guided partys for the Wild World India company before setting about his own local projects.

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    Lovely clips of tigers and all the other interesting creatures in Corbett. Wish I had gotten such good views of that big guy. In Corbett I just captured the disappearing tiger you referred to. Your clip of your own disappearing cat reveals the magic of the camouflaging stripes.

    I returned to your report on Corbett and recalled reading it and commenting.

    Glad to learn you think highly of Harise. He was a master spotter.

    One particular incident I recall was fun to watch him in action. Another guide told us that he had seen Brown Hawk Owl fly into a tree. Harise was not about to depart the tree until he located the bird. We searched and searched the leafy branches with determination and after about 15 minutes Harise triumphantly announced he had found it. The owl was initially very obscured but hopped around at last for better views. That was the only Brown Hawk Owl of the trip.

    Please tell Harise hello from Lynn, the guest who was planning to stay in the dormitory if need be to remain in Dhikala (but ended up getting a large storage room) when the VIPs kicked her out of her room. You can see if he remembers the Brown Hawk Owl and the sunning python that I posed for pictures with.

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