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BIRDS & TIGERS OF NORTHERN INDIA

Birdquest's Birds & Tigers of Northern India tour is a classic birdwatching trip that samples all the major habitats of northwestern India, from the Himalayas at Naini Tal south through the foothills and the piedmont at Corbett to the Chambal River and famous Bharatpur in the Gangetic plains and the dry thorn-forest of Ranthambhore in Rajasthan. It is also the perfect trip for anyone who yearns to see the magnificent Tiger in the wild, visiting at the prime time of year for sightings!Our Northern India tour features a large bird list, including such special birds as Cheer Pheasant, Pallas’s Fish Eagle,  Indian Skimmer, Painted Spurfowl, Painted Sandgrouse, Mottled Wood Owl, some splendid mammals, including the wonderful Tigers of Ranthambhore, great scenery and the incomparable Taj Mahal.

Friday 2nd March — Tuesday 20th March 2018
(19 days)


Leaders: Hannu Jännes and local bird guides

Group Size Limit: 8

Tour Category: Mostly easy walking and comfortable accommodations

Northern India provides a wonderful all round birding and wildlife experience, with a large variety of habitats and species. Among the more localized and difficult species we will be hoping to see is the large and impressive Tawny Fish-Owl (Craig Robson)

Northern India provides a wonderful all round birding and wildlife experience, with a large variety of habitats and species. Among the more localized and difficult species we will be hoping to see is the large and impressive Tawny Fish-Owl (Craig Robson)

Northern India offers some of the finest birding (and mammal-watching) in the world amidst some superb scenery. Not only is the local avifauna extremely rich, but the birding here is unsurpassed in Asia terms of the sheer number of rather tame and approachable birds that one encounters. The interest for birdwatchers is enhanced still further during the winter months by the large number of avian visitors from northern Asia.

This classic journey, which is distilled from decades of personal experience in the region, will take you through a cross-section of the environments of Northern India from the fertile plains of the Ganges, that most Indian of all the country’s regions, to the arid landscapes of Rajasthan and finally to the Himalayas, the ornithological treasure house of the subcontinent. The hills and plains of Northern Indian and the adjacent Himalayas are generally considered to offer some of the best birding in the Oriental region, offering both a remarkable number of species and much easier and more diverse birding than more forest-orientated tours in tropical Asia. As well as providing some wonderful birding and the opportunity to see some exciting mammals, our travels will show us something of the ‘real’ India that, in some places, is only slowly coming to terms with the modern world, while in others it has embraced it with enthusiasm.

There is something indefinable about India which makes many westerners who have been there long to return. Perhaps it is the vastness of the country and its timeless quality, perhaps it is the strange mixture of peoples and vibrant, colourful, larger-than-life cultures which strikes a hidden chord in us, for whom it seems so alien and yet so fascinating, or perhaps it is the way that man and nature are so closely linked, co-existing in a way that seems intrinsically impossible. Here one sees tiny ponds on the edge of a crowded village thronged with herons and other waterbirds, all unmolested and unconcerned by the stream of people coming to wash clothes or water their animals. In any event this has always been a favourite country of ours – constantly appearing in reminiscences about birds and travel.

It is not often that a Birdquest tour gives equal billing to a mammal, but one has to make an exception for the magnificent Tiger, surely one of the most evocative creatures that still shares our crowded planet with us (but for how much longer?).

To see Tigers well and repeatedly it is necessary to spend plenty of time and also to visit the very best places at the very best season for Tiger sightings. By far the best time of year is from mid-March to late May, when the variety of water sources has diminished and the Tigers are concentrated close to the remaining water. This results in an average number of sightings per visitor, over any given period, some two to three times as high as during the Indian winter period from November to February.

There is no finer and more reliable Tiger reserve than Ranthambhore National Park in Rajasthan. This huge park, situated in the rocky Aravalli and Vindhya ranges of north-central India, protects a vast tract of largely deciduous forest which still holds many Tigers. For many years Ranthambhore has been recognized by wildlife enthusiasts and photographers as one of the very best places to go if one wants close and regular encounters with Tigers. Here you can expect, not just hope, to get close to these extraordinary and beautiful predators! Staring into the huge, cold eyes of a Tiger just a short distance away is an awesome experience, and Ranthambhore is where it can happen.

We start our North Indian travels at Delhi, where we will explore nearby Sultanpur Jheel, home to Indian Courser, Sind Sparrow and Brooks’s Leaf Warbler, as well as many waterbirds including the impressive Black-necked Stork.

From Delhi we will travel across the densely populated Gangetic Plain to the base of the Himalayas and the forests and grasslands of Corbett National Park, the richest place for birds and mammals in northern India. The park is a haunt of Pallas’s and Lesser Fish Eagles, Slaty-headed Parakeet, Tawny Fish Owl, Hodgson’s Bushchat, Nepal Wren-Babbler and Black-chinned Babbler amongst others, not to mention a wide selection of mammals including Asian Elephant and even the magnificent Tiger.

Then, after checking for Ibisbills along one of the rivers, we will wind our way up into the beautiful mid-Himalayas to explore the surroundings of the hill station of Naini Tal, home to Cheer Pheasant, Scaly-bellied, Himalayan and Rufous-bellied Woodpeckers, White-tailed Rubythroat, Blue-capped Redstart, Streaked Laughingthrush, Spot-winged and Himalayan Black-lored Tits, Black-headed Jay, Pink-browed Rosefinch and many other interesting birds.

From the Himalayas we will travel southwards to the Agra region of Uttar Pradesh to explore the wonderful National Chambal Sanctuary, a little-known reserve on the Chambal River that is the haunt of Gangetic River Dolphins, two species of crocodile (including the long-snouted Gharial), Indian Skimmers, Red-naped Ibises, Great Thick-knees and Black-bellied Terns. We will also have the opportunity to see the ethereal Taj Mahal, that pinnacle of human achievement.

Eventually we head westwards to the remarkable wetland reserve at Bharatpur, one of the ornithological wonders of the world. Here we will be looking for everything from Painted Stork, Indian Spotted Eagle and the huge Sarus Crane to Indian Thick-knee, Dusky Eagle-Owl and the localized Marshall’s Iora.

For our exciting finale we will penetrate further into the dry landscapes of Rajasthan and explore the rugged, jungle-clad hills of the famous Ranthambhore National Park, overlooked by a brooding Rajput fortress, definitely now one of the very best places to see the endangered Tiger as well as a superb selection of other mammals and some exciting birds, including Painted Spurfowl, Jungle Bush Quail, Mottled Wood Owl and White-naped Woodpecker, while the surrounding arid country holds Painted Sandgrouse, Rock Bush Quail and Indian Courser.

All in all, this combination of superb localities and sufficient time at each makes for the ultimate northern Indian birding and tiger-watching experience.

Birdquest has operated tours to northern India since 1982.

What makes the Birdquest Northern India tour special? Several things, not to mention an extraordinary depth of experience and knowledge. Firstly, the Birdquest group size limit is significantly lower than for most other bird tours visiting Northern India, making for a superior experience. Secondly, we don’t keep costs down by making you suffer nights in second class (open, not compartment) sleeping car carriages on Indian railways, which are no fun to put it mildly, never mind the lack of security! Lastly, we have four nights at Ranthambhore, which means there is enough time for both multiple great Tiger sightings and seeking out the special birds of the area.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels/lodges are of good standard almost throughout. The lodge at Dhikala in Corbett National Park (where we spend two nights) is very simple, but all rooms have private bathrooms. Road transport is by small coach. Roads are variable in quality.

Walking: The walking effort is mostly easy, but there are a few moderate walks.

Climate: Typically it will be pleasantly warm or fairly hot, dry and sunny in the lowlands and base of the Himalayas, but early mornings are typically cool. In the Himalayas at Naini Tal it is generally cool or even quite cold. Although overcast weather is not infrequent, rain is uncommon at this season.

Bird/Mammal Photography: Opportunities are very good.

Tour Price: £4390, €5180, $5750 Delhi/Delhi. Single Room Supplement: £756, €892, $990. Deposit: £550, €660, $720.

Includes surface transportation, accommodations, meals, water, entrance fees and tips/gratuities.

Base prices for this tour are in US Dollars. The exchange rates applied at the time of costing were: £1 = $1.310 and €1 = $1.110.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.

The magnificent but endangered and fast-disappearing Bengal Tiger is nowhere easier to observe than at Ranthambhore National Park in northern India  (Mark Beaman)

The magnificent but endangered and fast-disappearing Bengal Tiger is nowhere easier to observe than at Ranthambhore National Park in northern India (Mark Beaman)

Ranthambhore's fairy-tale settings sometimes lead to scenes like this one, with a Tiger resting on a fort wall!  (Mark Beaman)

Ranthambhore's fairy-tale settings sometimes lead to scenes like this one, with a Tiger resting on a fort wall! (Mark Beaman)

Waterbirds are a feature of the tour. The spectacular Black-necked Stork is now considered to be globally threatened (Pat Wileman)

Waterbirds are a feature of the tour. The spectacular Black-necked Stork is now considered to be globally threatened (Pat Wileman)

There are many more great mammals to be seen in Northern India. These rare Indian Wolves were found on our 2006 tour and we will be hoping for a repeat performance in the future! (Craig Robson)

There are many more great mammals to be seen in Northern India. These rare Indian Wolves were found on our 2006 tour and we will be hoping for a repeat performance in the future! (Craig Robson)

In spite of its many visitors, the ethereal Taj Mahal still has a special magic. How many love stories are commemorated like this?  (Mark Beaman)

In spite of its many visitors, the ethereal Taj Mahal still has a special magic. How many love stories are commemorated like this? (Mark Beaman)

Northern India is a great tour for owls. Brown Fish-Owl, can often be found at its daytime roost (Pat Wileman)

Northern India is a great tour for owls. Brown Fish-Owl, can often be found at its daytime roost (Pat Wileman)

Mottled Wood Owl is a sought-after species that breeds at Ranthambhore (Mark Beaman)

Mottled Wood Owl is a sought-after species that breeds at Ranthambhore (Mark Beaman)

Jungle Owlet is generally active by day in the Himalayan foothills (Craig Robson)

Jungle Owlet is generally active by day in the Himalayan foothills (Craig Robson)

... whilst sharp-eyed local guides often know of roosting nightjars such as this Large-tailed Nightjar (Craig Robson)

... whilst sharp-eyed local guides often know of roosting nightjars such as this Large-tailed Nightjar (Craig Robson)

Star avian attraction at the Chambal River is the rare and declining Indian Skimmer  (Mark Beaman)

Star avian attraction at the Chambal River is the rare and declining Indian Skimmer (Mark Beaman)

That strange 'carrot' of a bill is quite something!  (Mark Beaman)

That strange 'carrot' of a bill is quite something! (Mark Beaman)

Great Thick-knees haunt the river islands  (Mark Beaman)

Great Thick-knees haunt the river islands (Mark Beaman)

As do fish-eating Gharial crocodiles  (Mark Beaman)

As do fish-eating Gharial crocodiles (Mark Beaman)

Throngs of handsome Bar-headed Geese are a feature of the Chambal  (Mark Beaman)

Throngs of handsome Bar-headed Geese are a feature of the Chambal (Mark Beaman)

Indian Peafowl is well-known to most as a domestic species, but seeing a male in its natural setting is something special (Pat Wileman)

Indian Peafowl is well-known to most as a domestic species, but seeing a male in its natural setting is something special (Pat Wileman)

The localized White-naped Flameback is a speciality we often see at Ranthambhore (Craig Robson)

The localized White-naped Flameback is a speciality we often see at Ranthambhore (Craig Robson)

The lovely Tickell's Blue Flycatcher is also to be found at Ranthambhore  (Mark Beaman)

The lovely Tickell's Blue Flycatcher is also to be found at Ranthambhore (Mark Beaman)

It is extraordinary how close one can sometimes get to Tigers (Mark Beaman)

It is extraordinary how close one can sometimes get to Tigers (Mark Beaman)

The rare Lesser Fish-Eagle is often seen well at Corbett National Park at the base of the Himalayas (Craig Robson)

The rare Lesser Fish-Eagle is often seen well at Corbett National Park at the base of the Himalayas (Craig Robson)

Black-headed Jay is a localized endemic of the Western Himalayas (Craig Robson)

Black-headed Jay is a localized endemic of the Western Himalayas (Craig Robson)

... where we will also find more widespread species such as the spectacular Great Barbet (Craig Robson)

... where we will also find more widespread species such as the spectacular Great Barbet (Craig Robson)

... and with just a bit of luck the attractive Cheer Pheasant (Craig Robson)

... and with just a bit of luck the attractive Cheer Pheasant (Craig Robson)

Many of the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOL Certificate

Birdquest Ltd is Registered in England, Company No. 01568270. The address of our registered office is Two Jays, Kemple End, Stonyhurst, Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7 9QY

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