AT A GLANCE
India. The world in one country. It is home to over 1.3 billion people, but also hosts 9% of all mammalian, 14% of all avian, 8% of all reptilian, 6% of all amphibian, and 6% of all flowering plant species of the world. A country that conjures up images of colour, diversity, culture, mountains, food, texture, tigers and excitement. We will experience all this and much more on our Northern India Birding Tour.
Full Itinerary – North India Birding Tour
Delhi to Ramnagar
Namasté! Welcome to incredible India! Your fantastic birding tour in one of the most wonderful countries in the world will start at the Indira Gandhi International airport in Delhi. Most international flights arrive in the early morning hours, but if you arrived earlier or spent some extra time pre-tour in Delhi, we can pick you up at your city hotel.
Delhi is the capital of India and the second largest urban area on earth. It has been continuously inhabited since the 6th century BC. Through most of its history, Delhi has served as a capital of various kingdoms and empires. It has been captured, ransacked and rebuilt several times, particularly during the medieval period, and modern Delhi is a cluster of a number of cities spread across the metropolitan region. Modern Delhi is famous for its tourist attractions, cultural diversity, lush gardens, relentless pace, stunning temples, huge sport stadiums, the tomb of Mahatma Gandhi, excellent cuisine and its buzzing marketplaces. In the words of the famous Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib, “I asked my soul what is Delhi? She replied the world is the body and Delhi its life”.
You will be met your guide and driver who will help load the luggage into the vehicle and we will start the drive out of Delhi. Luckily we will miss most of Delhi’s (notorious) traffic as we head northeast towards the town of Ramnagar in the state of Uttarakhand. You will soon learn that the traffic in India follows a sort of “organised chaos” system, but luckily everyone gets to their destinations safely despite the hooting and close proximity of cars, trucks and motorbikes! Most of our drive is in the state of Uttar Pradesh (literally translates as “northern state”), India’s bread basket. It is mostly agricultural flatlands around us, with wheat, maize, rice and sugar the main crops.
On the way to the northeast, it might be a good idea to learn a little more about where we are. India is the second-most populous country, the seventh-largest country by land area, and the most populous democracy in the world. India is a megadiverse country (one of only 17 in the world) with its various ecosystems ranging from the Himalayas in the north to the evergreen rain-forests in the south, the desert sands of the west to the marshy mangroves of the east. It also enjoys extreme climatic swings, from snowfall in the north to boiling tropical heat in the south, and of course annual monsoons.
As a result it contains many endemic fauna and flora species. India is a habitat for about 9% of all mammal species, 14% of bird species, 8% of reptile species, 6% of amphibian species, 12% of fish species, and 6% of all flowering plant species on the planet! The country has 7 Natural World Heritage sites, 11 Biosphere Reserves in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves and 37 Ramsar Wetlands of International Importance. The country boasts iconic species that include (Bengal) Tiger, (Indian) Leopard, Snow Leopard, (Asiatic) Lion, Asian (Indian) Elephant, Great Indian One-horned Rhinoceros and many more. Luckily the Indian Government realises the importance of conserving their fauna, flora and unique and huge biodiversity. As of 2019, there are 870 protected areas including 104 National Parks, 551 Wildlife Sanctuaries, 88 Conservation Reserves and 127 Community Reserves covering a total of approximately 5% of the country surface.
In birding terms, India is a dream destination. The country’s current total number of birds (according to BirdLife International) is an astounding 1,210 species, including 75 endemics and 93 globally threatened species. Some authorities put the total number of birds at an even higher number, exceeding 1,300 species! The main birding habitats in India are forests, scrub, grassland & farmland, deserts and wetlands. Each of these varied systems is home to a characteristic population of bird species.
We will stop en route for breakfast/lunch/tea/coffee as needed. On the way there we will enjoy our first sightings of Common Myna, White-throated Kingfisher, Black Kite, House and Jungle Crow and many waterbirds along the roadside, including Indian Pond Heron, Eastern Cattle Egret, Little Cormorant and more. We will also cross the legendary and sacred 2,704 km (1,680 mi) long Ganges river as it makes its way from the western Himalayas all the way to the Bay of Bengal.
We will arrive at the town of Ramnagar, considered the gateway town for the nearby Jim Corbett National Park. The town is situated at 345 metres (1,132 ft) above sea level in the foothills of the Himalayas on the banks of the Kosi river in the state of Uttarakhand. Apart from the nearby “Corbett”, as the locals call the park, the town is also famous for two ancient Hindu temples, Garjiya Devi and Maa Sita Bani.
We will meet our local guide and hop into our open game-viewing vehicle. We will head for the sacred Garjiya Devi temple on the Kosi river where we hope to see two very special birds: the stunning Ibisbill and the enigmatic Wallcreeper. This is also a good area for Red-wattled Lapwing, Great, Indian and Little Cormorant, Red-rumped Swallow, White-capped and Plumbeous Water Redstart, Common Greenshank, White-browed and White Wagtail, Pied Kingfisher and even Gadwall.
Our dinner and overnight accommodation is in a comfortable hotel in Ramnagar. We will get together for our Nature Travel Birding welcome dinner in the hotel restaurant and set out our target species for the trip, ensuring all participants a fantastic time.
We will get our first taste of the delicious food of northern India tonight. The cooking, recipes, spices and techniques can vary widely in this region, but some staples remain constant. Murg makhani (butter chicken) is probably the best known, but also try rogan josh (lamb stew), palak paneer (spinach and cottage cheese) or rajma dal (red kidney bean curry). This region is also home to the tandoori roti and naan (bread made in a clay tandoor oven), stuffed parathas (flaky Indian bread with different kinds of vegetarian and non-vegetarian fillings) and kulchas (a type of mildly leavened flatbread). Enjoy!
After dinner we are off to bed for a good night’s rest; tomorrow the birding tour starts in earnest!
Jim Corbett National Park
We will enjoy a hearty breakfast and some good coffee or strong tea (masala chai) at the hotel and then check out.
This morning we will commence our first Indian “safari” of the trip as we enter the famous nearby Jim Corbett National Park. The park is India’s oldest national park (established in 1936) and has been a haven for wildlife lovers from all over the world for decades. It is named after British hunter-turned-conservationist Edward James Corbett (1875 – 1955). The 521 km2 (201 sq mi) park comprises hills, riverine belts, marshy depressions, grasslands and a large lake. The elevation ranges from 1,300 to 4,000 ft (400 to 1,220 m) above sea level. It houses around 110 tree species, 50 species of mammals, 580 bird species and 33 reptile species.
We will traverse the Sal tree forests alongside the Ramnagar river on our way to our home for the next two days, Dhikhala Forest Lodge. Our drive in might yield specials like the diminutive Collared Falconet, Changeable and Mountain Hawk-Eagle, and Red Junglefowl (the ancestor of all domestic fowl) and Kalij’s Pheasant crossing the road. We could also see India’s national bird, Indian Peafowl, on our way in.
We will make several stops on the way to Dhikhala, looking for birds as we enjoy the spectacular scenery from our open vehicle. We will enjoy lunch at Dhikhala and venture out again into the park in the afternoon for another game drive. The rooms at Dhikhala are comfortable with basic amenities. A good restaurant caters to the need of visitors, serving buffet meals with a good choice of quality foods. A small canteen is also available for buying cold drinks, bottled water and so on.
Our local guide and driver will attempt to show us as much of the park’s diverse habitats as possible, and we will try to see as many species as we can. We will look for Great Slaty Woodpecker, Great Hornbill, Lineated and Brown-headed Barbet, Common Emerald Dove, White-crested Laughingthrush and even Chestnut-headed Tesia in the forested areas, while the grasslands are good for Black Francolin, Golden-headed Cisticola and Hen Harrier.
Birding along the river and at the lake area may also yield Stork-billed Kingfisher, Indian Pond Heron, Pallas’s and Lesser Fish Eagle, Brown Crake, Red-headed Vulture, Tawny Fish Owl, Black-necked Stork and many more.
The park is also home to a diverse range of reptiles (including Mugger Crocodile and Indian Gharial) and mammals, including indicus subspecies of Asian Elephant, Hog, Spotted and Sambar Deer, Northern Red Muntjac, Indian Grey Mongoose and Yellow-throated Marten. With a lot of good luck a game drive may even yield the elusive and rare Tiger, one of the world’s most iconic species. It is by no means guaranteed, but don’t worry, we will have much better chances of seeing this regal Indian flagship species later on in the tour. Other rare species that occur in Corbett that we may be lucky enough to see are fusca subspecies of Leopard, Dhole (also called Asiatic Wild Dog) and Sloth Bear.
We will return to Dhikhala in the late afternoon to freshen up. We will get together in the jovial communal restaurant to enjoy dinner and to update our trip lists. Then we are off to bed for a good night’s rest; tomorrow we have a full day in Corbett!
Jim Corbett National Park
This morning we will be up early for coffee and breakfast, after which we check out and jump into our “baby Jeep” for our morning birding safari.
Corbett is one of the thirteen protected areas covered by the World Wide Fund For Nature under their Terai Arc Landscape Program. The program aims to protect three of the five terrestrial flagship species, the Tiger, the Asian Elephant and the Great One-horned Rhinoceros, by restoring corridors of forest to link 13 protected areas of Nepal and India, to enable wildlife migration. Corbett was also the first to come under the Project Tiger initiative, a tiger conservation programme launched in 1973 by the Government of India during Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s tenure.
The park has also featured in popular culture. The 2005 Bollywood movie Kaal has a plot set in the Jim Corbett National Park, and large parts of the movie were filmed at the park as well. In August 2019, Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi appeared in a special episode of Discovery Channel’s show Man vs Wild with the host Bear Grylls, where he trekked the jungles and talked about nature and wildlife conservation with Grylls. The episode was filmed in Jim Corbett National Park and broadcast in 180 countries.
We will attempt to cover as much of the habitats as we can to ensure a good list of local birds. We will look for Western Osprey, Oriental Pied Hornbill, Himalayan Flameback, Greater and Lesser Yellownape, Blue-throated Barbet, Large Cuckooshrike, Blue Whistling and Black-throated Trush, Lesser Racket-tailed and White-bellied Drongo, Black-crested, Black, Ashy and Red-vented Bulbul, Common Iora, Black-hooded Oriole, Paddyfield, Rosy and Buffy Pipit, Oriental Skylark, Ashy Prinia and many others.
We will once again return to Dhikhala for lunch and a short break. Don’t forget to scan the huge expanse of riverine landscape (the Patli Dun valley) in front of Dhikhala for interesting birds and mammals. In the past we have seen a Tiger and her two cubs hunting deer from the lookout point! There are also usually River Terns elegantly swooping over the water.
We will go out in the afternoon again, looking for species we may have missed so far or trying to get better photographs of ones that we may have seen. We will look to add species like Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle, Pin-tailed Green Pigeon, Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker, Jungle, Yellow-eyed and Black-chinned Babbler, Jungle Myna, White-throated Laughingthrush, Rose-ringed and Plum-headed Parakeet, Scarlet and Long-tailed Minivet, Grey Bush Chat, Crested Treeswift, Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike, Black-throated Bushtit, Yellow-breasted Greenfinch, Indian White-eye and many more.
We will get together for dinner and to update our trip lists. Afterwards we are off to bed for a good night’s sleep.
Jim Corbett to Nainital
After a final breakfast at Dhikhala this morning we head out of the park, birding as we go.
Once out of the park we are heading further east towards the lower foothills of the mighty Himalayan mountain range. We will traverse the rich agricultural soils of the state of Uttarakhand before heading upward on a winding and dizzying mountain pass. We will also pass several temples and drive through busy, seemingly chaotic small villages. Take it all in; this is India!
On the way we might add some species to our growing lists, including Spotted Dove, Himalayan Bulbul, House and Russet Sparrow, Grey Treepie and others. Our destination today is the hill station of Nainital, set in a valley containing a beautiful lake and surrounded on all sides by mountains. The popular tourist town, at an altitude of 2,084 metres (6,837 ft) above sea level, has a decidedly European feel to it, but with the life force only India can provide. The town is named after Hinduism’s Mother goddess Parvati’s emerald green eyes (“naina”) and was once the summer holiday destination of the British Raj of the northern provinces.
After meeting our local guide we will drive and walk along the many paths zig-zagging up and down the hills, looking for birds. The unique avian fauna of this district include Altai Accentor, Red-fronted Serin, Black-chinned Babbler, Green-backed and Coal Tit, Black-throated Bushtit, Great, Lineated and Coppersmith Barbet, Lemon-rumped Warbler and many more.
Woodpeckers will also be high on our target list, with Brown-fronted, Grey-capped Pygmy, Stripe-breasted, Streak-throated, Brown-capped Pygmy, Grey-headed, Himalayan and Rufous-bellied all possible. Two other big targets for this area are the beautiful Hill Partridge and Koklass Pheasant.
In the late afternoon we will head to our conveniently-located and history-rich accommodation (and our home for three nights) in a high spot overlooking Nainital, where we will have dinner and a good night’s rest.
Nainital and Pangot
We will have an early wake-up call, jump into the vehicle and head off.
Today we head even further skywards (up to 2,600 metres/8,530 ft above sea level) and go and look for some classic Himalayan species. We will enjoy a packed breakfast while we bird next to the road and footpaths in the area of the hill station of Pangot, situated about 15 kilometres northwest of Nainital. We might even bird in the snow; a unique experience!
The little village of Pangot is famous for two things… Firstly it provides stunning views of India’s highest peak, Nanda Devi, in the distance. At 7,816 metres (25,643 ft) above sea level it is the 23rd highest peak on Earth; it really is a stunning sight! Secondly Pangot is famous for its birds, as almost 600 species have been recorded here! Mixed forests dominated by thick Banj Oak, pine and rhododendron cover most of the area and surrounding hills.
We can see Himalayan and Bearded Vulture, Black Francolin, Streaked and Rufous-chinned Laughingthrush, Red-billed Blue Magpie, Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler, Rock Bunting, Mistle Thrush, Rufous-breasted and Altai Accentor, Spotted and Slaty-backed Forktail, Little and Alpine Swift, Blue-winged Minla, Brown Bullfinch, Dark-breasted Rosefinch and many others.
The numerous creeks and wooded areas are home to an amazing array of flora and fauna, including Leopard, Masked Palm Civet, Northern Red Muntjac, Sambar Deer and Himalayan Goral. We will also enjoy truly breathtaking views of the mighty Himalayas in the distance; nothing can prepare you for the feeling of utter insignificance when you see this famous mountain range in real life for the first time.
We will enjoy lunch at the famous Jungle Lore Lodge in Pangot, where White-throated Laughingthrush, Golden Bush Robin, Slaty-headed Parakeet, Eurasian and Black-headed Jay, Yellow-breasted Greenfinch and Rufous Sibia are plentiful in the gardens.
In the afternoon we might find a variety of thrushes, Slaty-blue Flycatcher, Whiskered Yuhina, Himalayan Buzzard, Steppe and Black Eagle, and with a whole lot of luck and patience we could even see the vulnerable and long-tailed Cheer Pheasant.
We will return to Nainital in the late afternoon where we will once again enjoy the warm hospitality and excellent cuisine at our hotel. We will get together to update our lists around the dinner table and then get a good night’s rest after an exciting, high-altitude day of birding.
Nainital and Sattal
We will start our day with a quick breakfast and coffee at the hotel and then we go birding!
We head a short distance east today towards beautiful Sattal (Hindi for “seven lakes”), an area containing an interconnected group of seven freshwater lakes near the town of Bhimtal.
We will enjoy many short drives and walks in the area during the day, and a packed lunch will be provided, which we normally enjoy in a beautiful lakeside setting. The area is a biodiversity hotspot, with 20 species of mammals, over 525 species of butterflies and over 11,000 species of insects having been recorded here in the past. The flora of the Sattal area also covers a wide and diverse range of plants ranging from Bryophytes, orchids, rare climbing plants, ferns, lichens, fungi, medicinal herbs and shrubs.
In birding terms, Sattal is another top stop on our tour, as over 500 avian species have been recorded here. It is one of the best places to see middle-elevation western Himalayan species, and it is also a paradise for migratory species, so anything could turn up!
Some of today’s special birds are Blue-winged Minla, Crimson and Green-tailed Sunbird, Brown Fish and Brown Wood Owl, Mountain Scops Owl, Asian Barred Owlet, Red-billed Leiothrix, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Common Rosefinch, Slaty-headed and Red-breasted Parakeet, Greater Yellownape, Grey Treepie, Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Lesser Whitethroat, Slaty-blue and Little Pied Flycatcher, Lemon-rumped Warbler, Crested Kingfisher, Olive-backed Pipit, White-throated Fantail, Himalayan Bluetail, Grey Wagtail, Rufous-bellied Niltava, Whistler’s, Greenish and Western Crowned Warbler, Bar-tailed Treecreeper and the skulking Scaly-breasted and Pygmy Cupwing, among many others.
We might also see another incredible bird of the area, the Brown Dipper, as it dives and feeds underwater in the cold mountain streams.
After a long day of ticking, we head back to our hotel in Nainital. We will freshen up, have dinner, update our lists and socialise into the evening.
Nainital to Delhi
Today we start with breakfast again and then check out and pack the vehicle.
After breakfast we embark on our drive back to Delhi. It will take us about 6 to 8 hours to reach the capital, depending on traffic conditions. This will be a time to catch up on some sleep or a time to put pen to paper and coordinate our birding lists or other notes. We will enjoy lunch at one of the many roadside restaurant and service areas; you’ll notice even the McDonald’s franchises have a distinct Indian look, feel and menu here!
We will need to keep our eyes open for various raptors during our drive, as well as waterbirds along the many rivers we will cross.
Our stopover destination for the evening, the greater Delhi area, is home to almost 25 million people and through most of its history has served as a capital of various kingdoms and empires. It is also an ornithologist’s haven, with more than 450 species of birds having been recorded here, second only to Nairobi when it comes to bird-rich capital cities of the world. So we need to keep our eyes open!
Our hotel for the evening is on the outskirts of Delhi and will offer very modern and comfortable accommodation, as well as authentic Indian and international cuisine.
We will get together for dinner and to chat about our trip so far. We have been together for about a week now, so it might be time to start thinking about future trips to other exotic and bird-rich places on the planet. There is so much to see out there!
Delhi to Bharatpur (optional Taj Mahal excursion)
We will have an excellent buffet breakfast at the hotel, followed by packing and checking out.
Today we drive south on the comfortable 6-lane, US$1.8 billion Yamuna Expressway towards the city of Bharatpur in the state of Rajasthan. It is the largest Indian state by area and the seventh largest by population. Rajasthan comprises most of the inhospitable Thar Desert, also known as the “Great Indian Desert”. Rajasthan literally means “The Land of Kings”, and it has played a very important role in the history of the country. The oldest reference to Rajasthan is found in a stone inscription dated back to 625 A.D.
It will take us about 4 hours to reach the city limits of Bharatpur. The city has an average elevation of 183 metres (600 ft) above sea level and is also known as “Eastern Gateway to Rajasthan”. A major highlight in the city is the impressive 18th century Lohagarh Fort (or Iron Fort), one of the strongest ever built in Indian history.
We will meet our local guide and visit the Sur Sarovar Bird Sanctuary on the eastern outskirts of the city. It is a small (8 km2) but important bird sanctuary and very rich in avifauna, with 165 species on its list. It consists of Keetham Lake surrounded by lush vegetation and artificially created islands. Here we hope to catch up with Greater Flamingo, Bar-headed Goose, Indian Spot-billed Duck, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, Mallard, Green-winged Teal, Eurasian Spoonbill, Eurasian Coot, Black-headed and Red-naped Ibis, Dalmatian and Great White Pelican, Painted Stork, River Tern, White-breasted Waterhen, River Lapwing, Small Pratincole, White, Citrine, Western Yellow and White-browed Wagtail, Common and Spotted Redshank, and many more.
Those that have chosen the optional Taj Mahal excursion (we can recommend this very highly) will then travel to the nearby town of Agra on the banks of the Yamuna river. Agra is a major tourist destination because of its many Mughal-era buildings, most notably the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri, all of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Agra is included on the Golden Triangle tourist circuit, along with Delhi and Jaipur, and the Uttar Pradesh Heritage Arc, a tourist circuit of Uttar Pradesh, along with Lucknow and Varanasi.
Our afternoon will be spent visiting the stunning Taj Mahal, literally “Crown of the Palace”, one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. It was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 for being “the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage”. It was built in the 17th century as a magnificent monument to true love and is one of the greatest sights in the world to behold. Our expert local guide will give us some fascinating information about this magnificent marble masterpiece; we guarantee you will remember your two hours at the Taj forever!
After our Taj visit we will make the short trip to our hotel in nearby Bharatpur. It is our home for the next three nights, and you will soon see why we chose it for you! This owner-run establishment is set in 12 acres of beautiful, two hundred year-old gardens. We have a good chance to see Large Grey Babbler, Indian Grey Hornbill, Oriental White-eye and Rufous Treepie in the gardens! There is even a resident Jungle Cat and if we are lucky we could see an Indian Civet prowling around before settling in for the night.
We will update our lists and have dinner in the excellent restaurant in the gardens, afterwards chatting the evening away before we head to bed after an exciting day.
Chambal river cruise
The morning will start very early with a quick cup of coffee and a quick breakfast.
Afterwards we will drive southeast to the National Chambal Sanctuary, situated on the 1,024 kilometre (636 mi) long Chambal river. It is a river of legend and mystery, and finds mention in many ancient scriptures. It is considered pollution free and hosts a dazzling array of fauna, including three critically endangered animals: Ganges River Dolphin, Indian Gharial and Red-crowned Roofed Turtle.
At least 320 species of birds inhabit the beautiful 5,400 km2 (2,100 sq mi) tri-state riverine sanctuary. Within the sanctuary, the pristine river cuts through mazes of ravines and hills with many sandy beaches. The sanctuary was established in 1979 and is protected under India’s Wildlife Protection Act of 1972.
We will go out on the river by boat and hope to see Indian Skimmer, Black-bellied Tern, Sarus and Demoiselle Crane, Pallas’s Fish Eagle, Brown Hawk Owl, Indian Courser, Greater and Lesser Flamingo, Red-crested and Ferruginous Pochard, Greylag Goose, Comb and Indian Spot-billed Duck, Northern Pintail, Lesser Whistling Teal, Red-crested and Common Pochard, Pied Kingfisher, Greater and Lesser Coucal, Chestnut-bellied and Painted Sandgrouse, Common Snipe, Eastern Curlew, Spotted and Common Redshank, Common Greenshank, Green, Terek, Common and Marsh Sandpiper, Little and Temminck’s Stint, Greater Painted-snipe, Eurasian and Great Thick-knee, Black-winged Stilt, Pied Avocet, Pacific Golden, Common Ringed, Long-billed, Little Ringed, Kentish and Lesser Sand Plover, Baya and Black-breasted Weaver, Sand Lark and many others.
Apart from the three keystone species mentioned above, we might also see Mugger Crocodile, Smooth-coated Otter, several turtle species, Rhesus Macaque, Nilgai, Blackbuck, Indian Hare and many others. The boat excursion will also offer many vantage points for photography of birds (in the water and along the shoreline) and beautiful riparian landscapes.
We will return to our hotel in Bharatpur in the late afternoon for some more authentic Indian cuisine and a good night’s rest.
Keoladeo National Park
We will rise early and have breakfast and coffee and set off.
Today we will spend a full day in the famous Keoladeo National Park, probably India’s best known bird sanctuary. It was once the duck-hunting forest of the local maharajas but was declared a protected sanctuary in 1971, a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance in 1981 and a national park in 1982. This UNESCO World Heritage Site (inscribed in 1985), locally known as “Ghana”, is home to many mammals and reptiles, but birds, especially water-associated birds, are the main attraction.
Keoladeo is 29 km2 (11 sq mi) of man-made forests and wetlands that boasts over 400 species of birds. Also recorded are 27 different mammals, 379 floral species, 50 species of fish, 13 species of snakes, 5 species of lizards, 7 amphibian species, 7 turtle species and much more!
We will spend our time here either by foot or on cycle-rickshaws as we look for many, many species. We will enjoy lunch at one of the many small establishments set in the lush gardens and grassy areas of the park. Ornithologically, Keoladeo is very important due to its strategic location as a staging ground for migratory waterfowl arriving in the Indian subcontinent before dispersing to various regions.
A day’s birding at Keoladeo can easily yield 150 species and we will hope to tick Egyptian Vulture, Greater and Indian Spotted Eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle, Spotted Owlet, Grey Francolin, Indian and Oriental Magpie Robin, Yellow-footed Green Pigeon, Plain and Ashy Prinia, Asian Pied, Brahminy and Rosy Starling, Yellow-throated Sparrow, Jungle and Yellow-eyed Babbler, Black Bittern, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Purple Sunbird, Bluethroat, Indian Pond Heron, Common Tailorbird, Blyth’s Reed Warbler, Hume’s Leaf Warbler, Black Redstart, Eurasian Coot, Bay-backed and Brown Shrike, Great, Little and Intermediate Egret, Northern Shoveler, Bronze-winged Jacana, Woolly-necked Stork, Black-crowned Night Heron, Indian Scops Owl, Sarus Crane and many others.
Additional fauna species we might see today include Rhesus Macaque, Grey Langur, Nilgai, Spotted Deer, Wild Boar, Javan Mongoose, Indian Python, Indian Flying Fox and others. There used to be Tiger here, but the last sighting was quite a few years ago. But you never know…
We will be tired but satisfied after today and will head back to our hotel for our last night in Bharatpur. We will get together for a fantastic dinner and update our trip lists before settling into for a good night’s sleep.
Bharatpur to Ranthambore National Park
We will enjoy breakfast at our hotel, pack our bags and check out, thanking the wonderful staff as we say goodbye.
We then leave Bharatpur and drive southwest to our final top spot on the tour, the world renowned Ranthambore National Park. It is a drive of about 5 to 6 hours, depending on traffic of course.
The “Land of the (Bengal) Tiger”, Ranthambhore National Park in the state of Rajasthan was established as a game sanctuary in 1955 by the Indian government and was declared one of the “Project Tiger” reserves in 1973. It became a national park in 1980 and was enlarged twice, in 1984 and 1991, to its current size of 1,334 km2 (515 sq mi). To protect the fragile environment only a limited section of the park is open to the public.
At the centre of the park is the magical 10th-century Ranthambhore Fort (after which the park is named), and scattered nearby are ancient temples, mosques and burial tombs. The park lies at the edge of a plateau and is bounded to the north by the Banas river and to the south by the Chambal river.
It is home to some of the most significant Tiger conservation efforts in India and subsequently visitors can experience some of the best big cat safaris in the country. In fact, it is probably the best place in the world to see the Tiger in its natural habitat. Currently there are about 75 Tigers in the park. Probably the most famous of Ranthambore’s Tigers was a female named Machli (1996 to 2016), considered to have been the most photographed tigress in the world. She played a key role in the regeneration of the Tiger population in the park in the early 2000s, and was celebrated with titles such as Queen Mother of Tigers, Tigress Queen of Ranthambore, Lady of the Lakes, and Crocodile Killer. She was considered India’s most famous tigress and on her death was considered the world’s oldest tigress living in the wild.
Ranthambore really is an exceptional place where history and mother nature entwine to present a true bucket list experience. A visit here and you won’t look at the land, sky and water the same way you did before. It all starts with the sight of fresh tracks on the road. The very thought that a Tiger passed the same road few minutes ago is enough for the heart to skip a beat and for goosebumps to appear…
If we arrive in time for an afternoon safari we might do a short drive in the park, otherwise we will settle into our home for the next three nights, a resort-style lodge. We will get together for dinner after a long day on the road and get to bed early; tomorrow we go looking for Tigers!
Ranthambore National Park
We start our day with an early breakfast and then head out on our small jeep safari vehicles into the park.
We will spend the full day in Ranthambore in search of the “king of the jungle”, as well as looking for many of our feathered friends. We will, as at Jim Corbett, return to our lodge for lunch and some “down time”, before heading out on another game drive in the afternoon again.
We will try to cover as much of the habitat in and around the park as we can, from the steep limestone cliffs and open grasslands to the dry deciduous forest mixed with riverine woodland, as well as the bamboo thickets and various lakes and wetlands that dominate the park and surroundings.
We have the help of a local guide to show us some of the 320 species of birds that have been recorded here. Some of the most important birds include Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle, Crested Honey Buzzard, Greylag Goose, Asian Openbill, Black Stork, Indian Skimmer, Black and Great Bittern, Greater Painted-snipe, Great Stone-curlew, River Tern, Indian Courser, endemic Painted Spurfowl, Black Francolin, Rain Quail, Painted Sandgrouse, Indian Grey Hornbill and many others.
Apart from the famous Tigers, other fauna in the park include (Indian) Leopard, Jungle Cat, Nilgai, Wild Boar, Chinkara, Sambar and Spotted Deer, Striped Hyaena, Sloth Bear, Southern Plains Grey Langur, Rhesus Macaque, Five-striped Palm Squirrel, Indian Crested Porcupine, Mugger Crocodile and many others. The sanctuary is home to a wide variety of plants, insects and reptiles, as well as one of the largest Indian Banyan trees in India.
Tonight we will have dinner, update our lists, socialise and sleep at the resort again.
Ranthambore National Park
We will enjoy another early breakfast and head out in the morning and afternoon again.
Today, unfortunately our last full day of the tour, is another full day in and around the park, and depending on which birds and animals we still need to see, we can discuss the various options with our local guide.
If we still haven’t seen a Tiger we’ll concentrate our efforts to find one today! It is an experience one always treasures and remembers. We might even be lucky enough to see a Leopard, statistically an even rarer sighting that that of a Tiger!
Other avian species we could pick up today in the park and surrounds include Indian Peafowl, Shikra, Spotted Owlet, Sarus Crane, Woolly-necked and Painted Stork, Purple Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Indian Pond Heron, Little Grebe, Oriental Darter, Black-winged Stilt, Gadwall, Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Grey-headed Swamphen, White-breasted Waterhen, Ruff, Grey Francolin, Yellow-footed Green Pigeon, Red-wattled and Yellow-wattled Lapwing, Rose-ringed, Plum-headed and Alexandrine Parakeet, Common, Pied and Bank Myna, Brahminy Starling, Jungle, Common and Large Grey Babbler, Rufous Treepie, White-bellied and Black Drongo, Green Bee-eater, Common Kingfisher, Indian Bush Lark, Black-breasted and Baya Weaver, Tawny and Tree Pipit, Indian Silverbill, Cinereous Tit, Common Chiffchaff and many more.
In the early evening we will all get together in the lodge’s restaurant and have our Nature Travel Birding farewell dinner, after which we will update our trip lists and socialise into the evening, having made friends for life.
Return to Delhi via train and Departure
After a final breakfast we will pack our bags, check out and say our farewells to the friendly staff at the lodge.
Then we will drive to the nearby Sawai Madhopur railway station to board an airconditioned sleeper class train to Delhi, travelling on part of the 1,386 kilometres (861 mi) Delhi-Mumbai line. The day-long journey will be super exciting, allowing us to see the Indian countryside from a completely different perspective and at a totally different speed. We will go thorough the cities of Gangapur, Hindaun, Bayana, Bharatpur, Mathura (believed to be the birthplace of major Hindu deity Krishna) and Hodal on our way north.
We will arrive at the Hazrat Nizamuddin railway station in south Delhi in the late afternoon or early evening.
Depending on the time of your onward or homeward flight, we will either transfer to a comfortable hotel (for your own cost) close to the airport or take you straight to the departure terminal at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (about 45 minutes away to the west), where our trip-of-a-lifetime began 2 weeks ago.
Here we will say our sad goodbyes after a wonderful birding tour in Incredible India!
*Please note: there is an option to add an exciting full day of birding in Delhi to this tour. This can be arranged either before the tour officially starts or as an extension when the tour ends. An expert guide will accompany you and you will visit several key birding spots in the capital, including Yamuna Biodiversity Park (Red-crested Pochard, Great Crested Grebe, Tufted Duck, etc.), Suraipur Wetland and Forest (Bengal Florican, Painted Stork, Indian Golden Oriole, etc.), Aravalli Park (Paddyfield Pipit, Spotted Owlet, Eurasian Eagle-Owl, etc.), and more. Please enquire directly with us if you are interested in this option.
Do you have a quick question about this birding tour? Speak to a specialist at