Day 1 :
Arrive Delhi airport where you will be met and taken to your hotel. Provided you arrive on an overnight flight then your first day will begin with a visit to flooded grasslands at Basai, where a range of commoner species will provide our introduction to Indian birds. When we have seen what we can there, we will visit the Sultanpur reserve on the outskirts of Delhi. This is a small but very productive wetland with a mix of woodland and open thorny scrub; you can expect to see a lot! Among the more obvious birds will be the commoner egrets and herons, Black-necked and Painted Stork, Asian Openbill, Glossy and Indian Black Ibis, a variety of ducks and shorebirds, White-throated Kingfisher and Hoopoe. In the wooded areas we should find Spotted Owlet, Black-rumped Flameback, Common Woodshrike and Red-breasted Flycatcher. Open areas are frequented by Black-winged Kite, Bay-backed and Long-tailed Shrikes, Pied Bushchat, Indian Roller, Green Bee-eater, Purple Sunbird, Tawny Pipit and Ashy Sparrowlark. Sind Sparrow is a special bird of the area, being a recent colonist from further west, and we will make a particular effort to locate it. Further special species that we have a chance of finding include Indian Courser, Indian Thick-knee, Verditer Flycatcher and Brook’s Leaf Warbler. You may also see Nilgai, the largest antelope in India. The combination of these two sites might give you 100 species of bird or more!
Day 2 :
Transfer by road to Chambal. This is a five to six hour drive. We aim to arrive in time for lunch followed by a leisurely walk around the gardens and fields where we will find more birds. It is a good place for owls – on a recent visit we found three species in a 150m square area! We should also see Flying Fox.
Day 3 :
In the morning we will visit a good area for Sarus Cranes. The cranes are the main draw but we will look for other species as well. In the afternoon we go to the Chambal River, where we take a boat trip. We will hope to see elegant Black-bellied and River Terns, Great Thicknee and Small Pratincoles and if we are lucky the somewhat strange-looking Indian Skimmer. Other species regularly seen on these trips include Long-legged Buzzard, Bonelli’s Eagle, Western Osprey, Pallas’s Gull and more. We should also find Marsh Mugger and Gharial Crocodiles and with much luck we may perhaps also catch a sighting of the rare Ganges River Dolphin.
Day 4 :
After breakfast we leave for Agra and a visit to the Taj Mahal, this being about one to two hours’ drive. (This cultural visit is optional, but it is on our way!). After visiting the Taj, and looking for more birds on the Yamuna River, we travel to Bharatpur, about two hours away. In the afternoon we will visit local sites for more bird species, including a look for Painted Snipe.
Days 5 & 6 :
We spend two whole days in the world-famous Keoladeo National Park. This spectacular wetland was once the hunting preserve of the Maharaja of Bharatpur and the abundance of birdlife in this oasis amongst a sea of surrounding agricultural lands, is simply breathtaking. Wildlife watching here is a delightful experience as we are taken around by bicycle rickshaw, stopping for short walks to watch the rich diversity of wildlife. The extensive flooded areas support huge flocks of wildfowl with the more interesting species including Garganey, Ferruginous and Knob-billed Duck, Cotton Pygmy-goose and Bar-headed Goose. Pheasant-tailed and Bronze-winged Jacanas, Grey-headed Swamphens also paddle in the shallow water along with the much larger Black-necked, Woolly-necked and Painted Storks and magnificent Sarus Cranes. A selection of waders should include White-tailed and Red-wattled Lapwing, Green and Wood Sandpiper and others. Dusky Eagle-owl is a particular speciality here, but other owl species may include Brown Hawk-owl, Indian and Oriental Scops-owls. Nightjar species that inhabit the park can sometimes be found at their daytime roosts, with Large-tailed and Jungle the most likely to be seen. The area is a magnet for birds of prey and eagles are particularly well represented. We can expect Steppe, Eastern Imperial and Greater Spotted and perhaps we will also see Booted, Short-toed Eagles. Other raptors include Shikra and Marsh Harrier. In the more wooded parts of the park we will hope to find Yellow-crowned and Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpecker, Indian Golden Oriole, thrushes such as Tickell’s, Black-throated and the stunning Orange-headed and if we are lucky we may encounter the often tricky to find Marshall’s Iora. A nice selection of commoner warblers include Siberian Chiffchaff, Blyth’s Reed, Greenish and Hume’s, and with luck we may also see Smoky, Dusky, and Sykes’s. Further possibilities among a long list of other commoner species we should find are Black-crowned Night-heron, Striated and Purple Herons, Indian Cormorant, Oriental Darter, Eurasian Spoonbill, Streak-throated and Wire-tailed Swallow, Bluethroat, Olive-backed Pipit and much more. Over 400 species of bird have been recorded at Keoladeo. You may also see Nilgai, Chital, Sambar, Wild Boar, Jackal and Rhesus Macaque.
Day 7 :
Today we have a five to six hour drive to our hotel from where we will visit the Ranthambore Tiger reserve. After lunch we will go into the tiger reserve for our first game drive.
Days 8 & 9 :
Each day we will undertake drives into the park where the focus will be to try and see a Tiger. This is one of the best places in Northern India to see a Tiger, so we have an excellent chance of being successful. Other mammals will of course feature with Spotted and Sambar Deer, Grey Langur, Wild Boar and Nilgai all present here. The birds are excellent and among the wide variety of species we hope to encounter are Painted Spurfowl, Jungle Bush Quail, Brown Crake, Brown Fish Owl, Stork-billed Kingfisher, White-naped Woodpecker, Tickell’s Blue and Taiga Flycatcher, Crested and White-capped Bunting and much else besides. Outside the park we will spend some time exploring arid areas in search of Painted Sandgrouse, Variable Wheatear, Southern Grey Shrike among other species.
Day 10 :
After breakfast we will visit the nearby Soorwal Dam where we will find more birds. After lunch we will transfer to the railway station for our journey onwards to the old city of Jodhpur. The train leaves at 14.25 and arrives in Jodphur at 22.10, so we will take a packed meal with us – train travel is certainly a part of Indian travel that you should experience! On arrival in Jodhpur we will transfer from the station to our comfortable heritage-style hotel.
After breakfast we go to visit the Jaswant Thada and the Mehrangarh Fort. This spectacular fort dominates the old city, and is a fascinating place to visit. After lunch we have a three to four hour drive to Bera, where we will stay in a charming tented camp in a beautiful wild setting. This is a real experience of rural Rajasthan. This part of the Aravali hills is especially good for Leopard viewing and we have a very good chance of seeing these beautiful cats. There will be more bird and animal species to find here as well.
Day 12 & 13 :
The next two days will be an early start for our first chance to see Leopard. Then after breakfast we can visit the Jawai dam, or you may wish to see traditional rural Rajasthani life on a village visit. Late afternoons we go off for night drives to look for Leopard again, and whatever other nocturnal species we can find.
Day 14 :
Another early start to look for Leopard. After breakfast we have a three to four hour drive to the airport at Udaipur for our flight to Delhi, where you check into your last hotel.
Day 15 :