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North India & the foothills of the Western Himalaya

Ranthambhore - Bharatpur - Chambal River - Kumaon Himalaya: Sattal & Pangot - Corbett 

 

Overview

 

North India is an incredible are for birds, where the close proximity of lowland regions to higher altitudes as the foothills of the Western Himalaya rise sharply out of the plains ensures that distinct communities of species can be found within easy reach of one another. 

 

Our 16-day itinerary takes us from the semi-desert of Ranthambhore National Park, where we will enjoy a variety of birds and a good chance of Tiger on jeep safaris, to the world renowned wetlands of Bharatpur, and in search of Indian Skimmer and Ganges River Dolphin along the Chambal River, the lifeline of India's agricultural heartland.  From here we make our way into the foothills of the Western Himalaya, where a completely new combination of birds will present themselves at the mid-altitude hill station of Sattal, and higher Pangot, finally descending to Corbett National Park to explore the rich avifauna of the forests of the terai, with excellent opportunities for sightings of large mammals here, including a further chance of Tiger.

 

A thoroughly enjoyable tour that offers a comprehensive overview of the exceptional birdlife of northern India's varied habitats.  This is an excellent introduction to India's birds and other wildlife, passing through a variety of landscapes, with a backdrop of north India's rich culture and historical architecture, which includes a visit to India's most iconic monument, the Taj Mahal.

 

Outline itinerary:  

Day 01 - arrive Delhi, Delhi to Ranthambhore 

Day 02 - Ranthambhore 

Day 03 - Ranthambhore to Bharatpur 

Day 04 - Bharatpur 

Day 05 - Bharatpur to Agra to the Chambal River 

Day 06 - Chambal River to Delhi 

Day 07 - Delhi to Sattal 

Day 08 - Sattal

Day 09 - Sattal to Pangot

Day 10 - Pangot

Day 11 - Pangot to Corbett

Day 12 - Corbett

Day 13 - Corbett

Day 14 - Corbett

Day 15 - Corbett to Delhi

Day 16 - depart Delhi

 

 

Tour focus:  Birds, along with a host of large mammals including Tiger, Asian Elephant and Ganges River Dolphin

 

Best time to visit:  November to May

 

 

Highlights:   

• Comprehensive coverage of the habitats represented in north India, from semi-desert to mid-altitude Himalayan forest

Relatively easy birding with a rich and varied birdlife - expect 370+ species

Opportunites of some of India's most sought-after mammals

A variety of birding experiences - on foot, open jeep and boat

A brief visit to the Taj Mahal at Agra

Spectacular views of the Great Himalaya which on clear days extend to Nanda Devi, India's highest peak

Comfortable accommodation and excellent north Indian cuisine

 

Tour info

 

Tour code:  NI001

 

To register:  Contact us, or see our tour calendar for forthcoming dates and prices, or to arrange a custom tour

 

Duration:  15 nights / 16 days

  

Arrival & departure:  This tour starts and ends in Delhi.

Arrival in Delhi must be by 1000hrs on day 1, departure from Delhi may be at any time on day 16.  You may require additional domestic flights and accommodation before/after the tour which we would be happy to arrange for you.

  

Tour price:  On enquiry

 

Prices:  Our tour prices are inclusive of all road transport and domestic flights, accommodation, all or most meals, all birding/wildlife activities, park entry fees, and guiding throughout by one of our professional bird tour leaders.

 

Tour documents:  Participants will receive detailed tour information with important details regarding health precautions, accommodation, clothing & what to bring, spending money, the visa application process etc., as well as a comprehensive species checklist and list of recommended field/sound guides.

  

Maximum group size:  10

 

Key species

 

Key birds:  

• Indian Courser

• Sarus & Common Cranes

• Black-necked Stork

• Indian Skimmer

up to 9 species of Vulture

Golden Bush-robin

Himalayan & Siberian Rubythroats

Long-billed Ground-thrush

Great Slaty Woodpecker

Cheer & Koklass Pheasants

Collared Owlet

Wallcreeper

Ibisbill

Spotted, Little & Slaty-backed Forktails

Great Pied Hornbill

Collared Falconet

numerous Laughingthrushes

 

Key mammals:  

Tiger (good chances at two national parks - Ranthambhore and Corbett)

Asian Elephant

Gharial

Ganges River Dolphin

 

Itinerary

 

Days 1-2: arrive Delhi, Ranthambhore National Park  

Arrive in Delhi, departing on an evening train to Sawai Madhopur (5hrs), a busy town on the periphery of Ranthambhore National Park.  Situated in a region of semi-desert interspersed with rocky outcrops, sheer cliffs, and grasslands dissected by jungle-filled ravines, Ranthambhore's birdlife is a rich combination of desert species and the more widespread of north India's forest birds.  Key species include Painted Spurfowl, Painted Sandgrouse, Indian Courser, Sirkeer Malkoha, Sulphur-bellied Warbler, and 6 species of vulture.  Ranthambhore is home to an array of mammals, including Tiger, that congregate around the park's fiver perennial lakes during the dry winter months.  Although the number of Tigers in Ranthambhore is relatively low given the park's area they have become so accustomed to human company here that this is one of the most assured sites in the country for a sighting of this otherwise elusive cat.  Spend the following day exploring Ranthambhore from open jeep or canter, with some time birding on foot in surrounding scrub.  Nights in a wildlife lodge on the edge of the park.

 

Days 3-4: Ranthambhore to Bharatpur  

Spend the morning of day 3 at Ranthambhore before departing by road for Bharatpur (6hrs) to spend the following day exploring what is undoubtedly India's most famous bird sanctuary on foot and cycle-rickshaw.  Successive and prolonged regional droughts throughout the last decade have effected a marked decrease in the numbers of birds wintering in the artificial marshes.  However, although densities may appear low the park hosts an impressive selection of species, most notably Black-necked Stork, Sarus Crane, Glossy and Black-headed Ibis, Bar-headed Goose, Comb and Indian Spot-billed Ducks, White-tailed Lapwing, Greater Painted-snipe, and Black Bittern, with numerous passerines in the intricate mosaic of mature woodland, sandy acacia scrub, and open grassland surrounding the wetlands.  Nights in a birding lodge on the outskirts of the reserve.

 

Day 5: Bund Baretha and the Taj Mahal  

Spend the morning at nearby Bund Baretha (1hr), scanning the expansive reservoir, its islands and sand banks for waterfowl and raptors.  Return to Bharatpur, departing after lunch for Agra (2hrs) and a visit to the Taj Mahal, before continuing on to Jarar village (1hr).  Jarar lies at the heart of the agricultural region sustained by the perennial Chambal River, its fields and open woodland home to species such as Brown Hawk-owl and Indian Grey Hornbill, which we will search for before dusk.  Spend the night in a cosy wildlife lodge.

 

Day 6: Chambal River, Jarar to Delhi  

While the Chambal River is the lifeline to this agricultural region it is equally invaluable in ecological terms, in recognition of which a 400km stretch of the river and its banks are protected, primarily to support Ganges River Dolphin and a re-introduced population of Gharial.  The river is also home to a diverse avifauna that includes Indian Skimmer, our primary target here, alongside Black-bellied Tern, Indian Black Ibis, River Lapwing, Indian Stone-curlew, and Great Thick-knee, with Crested Bunting, Sand Lark, and Desert Wheatear along the shore and in the thorn scrub of the Chambal's unique mud ravines.  Spend the morning exploring the river by boat, before departing for Delhi (6hrs).  Night in a city hotel.

 

Days 7-10: Delhi to Sattal, Kumaon Himalaya: Sattal and Pangot  

Depart Delhi early morning for the long drive to Sattal (6hrs), to spend four days birding in the foothills of the western Himalaya, a region that contrasts starkly with the plains in terms of topography, climate, vegetation, and birdlife.  To enable us to thoroughly explore the range of elevations, accompanying habitat types, and their associated species we will spend two nights in Sattal (1450m), before climbing into the higher hills to Pangot (2610m) to focus on more altitude-dependent montane specialities of the region.  In winter months resident species are joined by migrants from higher altitudes, and with a high density of birds moving in mixed flocks birding here is exhilarating, particularly at bird-rich mid-altitudes.  A mix of temperate forests, mature Sal and Oak woodland, Rhododendron, Chir Pine, lakeside scrub, grassy slopes and cultivation provide habitat to an astonishing variety of species and Himalayan specialities, most notably including Himalayan and Bearded Vultures, Koklass and more elusive Cheer Pheasants, White-crested, White-throated and Striated Laughingthrushes, Long-billed Ground-thrush, Himalayan and Siberian Rubythroats, Golden Bush-robin, Blue-winged Minla, Rufous-bellied Niltava, Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, Himalayan Greenfinch, Black-throated, Rufous-breasted and Altai Accentors, Spot-winged Grosbeak, and Himalayan Pied Woodpecker.  The entire region is dissected by by shallow mountain streams home to some distinctive riverine species including White-capped River-chat, Plumbeous Water-redstart, and three species of Forktail: Spotted, Little, and Slaty-backed.  Nights in a mountainside hotel or birding camp at Sattal (group size dependent), and birding lodge at Pangot.

 

Days 11-15:  Corbett National Park  

Descend through the foothills to Corbett National Park (4hrs), to spend four days birding on foot and from open jeep in this uniquely picturesque wilderness, nestled against the foothills in the terai region of Uttarakhand where the avifauna of the Himalaya merges with that of the Indo-Gangetic plains.  This location, combined with the great diversity of habitats, from deciduous forest to vast savannah grasslands, makes Corbett one of the richest birding areas in Asia, key species including Great Pied Hornbill, Great Slaty Woodpecker, Common Green Magpie, Maroon Oriole, White-throated Bushchat, Himalayan Pied Kingfisher, Wallcreeper, Ibisbill wintering along the boulder-strewn banks of the Kosi River, and 50+ species of raptor, including Grey-headed, Lesser, and Pallas's Fish-eagles and Collared Falconet.  One of the great advantages of Corbett is the persistence of many exceptional woodland areas, in particular at Mohan and Kumeria, outside the park boundaries and the possibility of exploring these on foot, often from the road, significantly increases our chances of finding some of the more skulking of Corbett's birds including Yellow-browed and Chestnut-headed Tesias.  Over 50 species of mammals find a home here, including Asian Elephant and Tiger, necessitating our use of open jeeps within the park boundaries.  Spend three nights in a comfortable wildlife lodge outside the park with one night in a simple forest rest house idylically located at Dhikala within the grasslands of the park's western range, overlooking the floodplain of the Ramganga River.  Drive to Delhi in the afternoon of day 15 (6hrs).

 

Day 16: Depart Delhi  

Depart Delhi on your onward journey.

 

What to expect

 

In summary 

Easy to moderate walking requirements

Comfortable en-suite accommodation throughout - two nights in Forest Rest House

Road transport in modern, comfortable car, jeep or minibus

• Roads mostly good, some long distance drives

Variable weather - warm to hot in lowlands, cool to cold at altitude

Highest altitude - Pangot at 2610m

Good photographic opportunities throughout

Exciting birding with knowledgeable guides

 

 

Tour grading & health requirements

The walking requirements of this tour are easy to moderate, and although much birding is on foot no long treks are involved.  Some birding will be from open jeep or canter (open lorry-bus) by necessity.  There are no specific health considerations providing you are in good health and can walk reasonable distances at a normal walking pace.  Mosquitoes are not prevalent at altitude where temperatures are cooler, however suitable precautions should be taken at lowland sites.

 

Travel

All road travel will be in modern, comfortable car, jeep or minibus.  There will be some long drives but roads are generally good and we will stop to break the journey where we can, usually for some en-route birding.  In the hills there will be some short stretches of winding mountain roads.

 

Climate

Lowland sites are likely to be warm to hot by day with cooler nights and early mornings.  Conditions in the foothills are inherently variable - temperatures are likely to be markedly cooler, and may be cool, cold, at times warm in the sun, but often dropping below freezing at night.  Precipitation is unlikely in the lowlands, but should be anticipated at altitude as rain, hail or even snow in the coldest periods.  The variability of weather in the foothills at this time of year makes for interesting birding, as species move up and down the altitudinal range to avoid inclement conditions.  Dense morning mists may occur in the plains at this time of year.

 

Accommodation & food 

Accommodation throughout the tour will be in comfortable, good quality hotels, birding and wildlife lodges and permanent tented camps.  Nights spent in Dhikala Forest Rest House will be in more simple accommodation, although the complex has been recently refurbished and is comfortable.  All accommodation is en-suite.  Meals are often provided as a buffet incorporating a range of delicious local dishes, with Indian, Chinese and Continental cuisine available.  On some days breakfast and/or lunch may be served as a picnic in the field.

 

Special requirements

None.   

 

Map

 

Click the blue location balloons to learn more...

 

Images

 

Great_Barbet Slaty-headed_Parakeet Himalayan_Vulture Red-billed_Blue_Magpie Wallcreeper
Great Barbet Slaty-headed Parakeet Himalayan Griffon Red-billed Blue Magpie Wallcreeper
         
Orange-flanked_Bush-robin White-throated_Laughingthrush Sarus_Crane Hodgsons_Bushchat Indian_Courser
Himalayan Red-flanked Bush-robin White-throated Laughingthrush Sarus Crane White-throated Bushchat Indian Courser

 

 

Click here for more photographs from northern India in our tour gallery...