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WINGS Birding Tours – Information

India: Ranthambhore, Bharatpur, Nainital and Corbett

Tour Information

Note: The information presented below has been extracted from our formal General Information for this tour.  It covers topics we feel potential registrants may wish to consider before booking space.    The complete General Information for this tour will be sent to all tour registrants and of course supplemental information, if needed, is available from the WINGS office.

ENTERING INDIA: All U.S. citizens need a passport, valid at the date of entry and with at least one blank page for a visa, and valid Indian visa to enter and exit India for any purpose. U.S. citizens seeking to enter India solely for tourist purposes, and who plan to stay no longer than 30 days, may apply for an electronic travel authorization in lieu of applying for a tourist visa at an Indian embassy or consulate.  Please visit the https://www.indianembassy.org/pages.php?id=120 for additional information regarding the eligibilities and requirements for this type of visa. 

COUNTRY INFORMATION: You can review the U.S. Department of State Country Specific Travel Information at http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/country/india.html , and the CIA World Factbook background notes on India at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/in.html

PACE OF TOUR: On a number of days there will be optional pre-breakfast walks. Most of these will start at 6.30 am or 6.45 am and may last for up to three hours. Most days we should finish at dusk, around 6.30 pm, and we usually manage to have about a one hour break before the checklist and dinner. There may be one or two days when we get back after dusk, and we may therefore require a shorter break before dinner. At Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve safari or game drives start in the early morning (we may have to leave the hotel before dawn – around 6:15 m) and usually last for about three or three-and-a-half hours, after which time we will return to the hotel for breakfast. On several days there will be a further game-drive in the afternoon (they usually run from about 2:45 pm to 6:00 pm). 

There is a reasonable amount of walking involved on this tour, although none of it is particularly strenuous. Sensibly, we are not allowed to walk on foot inside Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve, and instead we will explore the sanctuary using either open-topped jeeps or a large, open-topped truck fitted with rows seats. We anticipate birding at several small sites just outside the reserve entrance where we are allowed to walk. These walks will be short and easy.   

At Bharatpur the layout of the park is ideal for long, gentle walks, as the entire place is criss-crossed with good, level paths and tracks. We can expect to complete walks of three or four miles here. We will spend one night and parts of two days at the Chambal Safari Lodge where we’ll take a boat ride on the nearby Chambal River and make a few short walks close to the lodge itself. Again, none of these activities will be strenuous. 

At Ramnagar we’ll walk along a braided riverbed which will involve uneven, boulder-strewn terrain and possibly the need to cross shallow bits of the river on stepping stones. At the Quality Inn outside Corbett National Park we’ll go for quite a long walk that takes all morning to complete, although included in this are numerous stops for birds. During this walk we’ll follow the path of a small stream for some time, and although the trail is a good one, we may need to scramble over a few large rocks in some places. This walk, and all the others on the trip, can be easily undertaken by anyone with a reasonable degree of fitness. 

At Nainital, although we are in a mountainous area, there will only be a few uphill walks and these will be taken at a gentle pace. We reach altitudes of about 8000 feet at Nainital. If you have any questions about your ability to take part in any of the walks, please contact the WINGS office. On at least one of the three full days that we spend at Nainital there will be a very early start and we’ll depart in our jeeps at about 4:45am (almost one-and-a-half hours before sunrise) so as to be a good site for Koklass Pheasant (and possibly also Cheer Pheasant) at dawn. As with most of our early departures, this one will be optional. 

HEALTH: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all travelers be up to date on routine vaccinations. These include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot.

They further recommend that most travelers have protection against Hepatitis A and Typhoid. Please contact your doctor well in advance of your tour’s departure as some medications must be initiated weeks before the period of possible exposure.

The most current information about travelers’ health recommendations can be found on the CDC’s  Travel Health website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/india

Malaria:  There is a malaria risk in India (lower elevations).  Please consult your physician. 

Yellow Fever:  There is no Yellow Fever risk in India 

Altitude:  Most of the tour is at low elevation but we reach 8000 ft when in Nainital. 

Smoking:  Smoking is prohibited in the vehicles or when the group is gathered for meals, checklists, etc. If you are sharing a room with a non-smoker, please do not smoke in the room. If you smoke in the field, do so well away and downwind from the group. If any location where the group is gathered has a stricter policy than the WINGS policy, that stricter policy will prevail. 

Miscellaneous: Biting insects, except the occasional mosquito, are virtually non-existent on this tour. Tap water is not safe to drink and should be avoided at all times. Bottled water (which the leader provides at meal times), soft drinks and beer are widely available. Do not eat any salads or unpeeled fruit. Mild upset stomachs, often brought on simply by a change of diet, can be hard to avoid in India. We suggest bringing anti-diarrhoea medicine such as Imodium. Gatorade or other electrolyte-replacement drinks in powder form are also worth bringing as they replace the vital salts and minerals lost during a bout of diarrhea.

CLIMATE: Our days at Bharatpur and Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve should be very pleasant with temperatures in the 60°F-80°F range by midday. However the early mornings and late afternoons, times when we will be out on games drives at Ranthambhore, can be quite cold with air temperatures possibly as low as 37°F and a significant wind chill.  Once we leave the plains we will climb higher and the night-time temperatures drop. Moreover although the days can still be very warm, there is an increased chance of rain. You should expect early morning frosts at Corbett Park and around the Quality Inn immediately outside. At Nainital, colder weather is likely, at least in the early mornings and rain, sleet or even, exceptionally, snow is possible. Once the sun goes down, the temperatures here will plummet and, even though there are heaters in the rooms and hot water bottles are provided in the beds, the hotel, which is designed to stay cool in the hot summers, can feel very cold. 

ACCOMMODATION: At both Sawai Madhopur (near Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve) and Bharatpur we will stay in a nice, medium-sized privately run hotels, both of which are about 15 minutes drive from the park entrance. At both of these hotels, the well-appointed rooms have private facilities, including showers. There’s also internet access at the reception and both properties also have outdoor swimming pools (though the one at Bharatpur is often too cold for us to use). Leaving Bharatpur we will drive, via Agra, to the Chambal Safari Lodge. We will spend one night here in clean but fairly simple accommodation. We will stay in the lodge’s cabins – each will have two beds, an en suite bathroom with western toilet and showers. There are occasional power cuts here – but most of these are brief, and the hotel has its own stand-by generator. The accommodation here is adequate, the location good and the food superb. We will have a boat trip down the Chambal River in the afternoon. The following day we will have a five or six hour drive from Chambal north back to Delhi where we will have dinner and access to two day-rooms in a hotel close to the railway station. We will spend the night on an overnight sleeper train that will take us up towards Corbett National Park. 

In Corbett National Park we’ll spend two nights at Dhikala Forest Lodge, where the rooms are spartan, and the supply of electricity and hot water, from past experience, can be erratic: Please be aware that the accommodation here is poor by western standards. The Quality Inn just outside Corbett Park where we spend two nights is often the favourite place of many people on this tour. The rooms are large and the bathroom is fitted with a water heater. In Nainital we’ll be staying at a good, recently refurbished modern hotel. Please note that at Quality Inn and especially at Nainital, we can expect cold nights. The hotel at Nainital is designed for summer use and both the bedrooms and the dining room are not heated. A small electric or fan heater is provided in each bedroom, but this has limited effect. You will find thermal underwear and pajamas useful here, if not essential. 

Leaving Nainital we will again take an overnight sleeper train back to Delhi. Arriving early the following morning we will transfer straight to our hotel.  

Both of the overnight train journeys should take about seven hours and on the first we expect the train to leave Delhi at about 9:40pm and to arrive in Kathgodam, at the foot of the Himalaya, at about 4:50am the following morning. We will than have breakfast in a nearby guest house, and have access to our luggage before driving slowly on to our next hotel. The timings of the return train journey are roughly similar. Conditions on these two trains are adequate, but only that. There are four beds in each cabin, two upper and two lower bunks. Each room has a sliding door that can be locked from the inside and each railway carriage usually has between six and eight four-berth cabins. There are toilets at either end of the cabin (one western, one continental hole in the floor style) but these are rarely very good.  We will be provided with two sheets (and upper and a lower sheet) plus a blanket on the train. Please note that private cabins are not available and that while we will attempt to segregate men and women this may not be possible.  Note also that because we will attempt to segregate the sexes couples might have to be separated for the night we are on the train.             

Single rooms cannot be guaranteed at either Bharatpur or Dhikala. 

Internet Access:  Several places we will visit have wireless internet available in the rooms or in common spaces within the hotel. Our hotel at Ranthambhore has a cheap wireless service that works in the dining room and adjacent areas. It does not work in the room. Our hotel at Bharatpur also has wifi and that works in the room and throughout the hotel compound. Our hotel near the Chambal River also has a (free) wireless service, but it’s rather poor and very slow. There is no internet at either our hotels in and around Corbett Park but a good service at the hotel in Nainital and  in Delhi. 

FOOD: Throughout the tour we are served a wide variety of good quality Indian food. Salads or salad garnishes are frequently offered, but we suggest these should always be declined or left on the edge of your plate. The food we are served always includes a good selection of vegetarian dishes. In some of the places that we stay meals are buffet-style, with several different dishes available, while in other places set meals are provided. However a typical Indian set meal actually consists of a choice of three or four different dishes. 

We appreciate that not everyone likes to eat Indian food (which can occasionally be a little bit spicy) everyday or even at all. Almost all of the places we visit will, if requested, provide western food. If a buffet is being served, this normally includes a western-style dish or two. However if you require western-style food and cannot eat Indian food please advise the WINGS office in advance and the leader once you are on the tour. Even when a western-style meal is provided, it must be said that obviously our meal preparers are able to cook Indian food to a much better standard than they cook western food.

Food Allergies/Requirements: We cannot guarantee that all food allergies can be accommodated at every destination. Participants with significant food allergies or special dietary requirements should bring appropriate foods with them for those times when their needs cannot be met. Announced meal times are always approximate depending on how the day unfolds. Participants who need to eat according to a fixed schedule should bring supplemental food. Please contact the WINGS office if you have any questions. 

Drinks:  Bottled water and/or a soft drink, beer or wine is provided at lunch and dinner, as is coffee or tea. All other drinks or ‘personal’ drinking water for use in your room etc. is the responsibility of the individual. 

TRANSPORTATION: We use trains on this tour for some of the longer journeys, travelling by train between Delhi and Ranthambhore, Ranthambhore and Bharatpur, and then between Delhi and the north, and back. Delhi to Ranthambhore takes about five and a half hours, and Ranthambhore to Bharatpur almost three hours. We will have seats in some of the best accommodation that is available and there will be porters on hand to help with bags. 

Inside Ranthambhore Tiger reserve we will be in a small open topped bus. These 15 or 21 seater vehicles invariably have poor suspension and the unpaved tracks inside the reserve are rough and often strewn with large boulders. An inflatable cushion might prove useful and in the past people have occasionally borrowed a pillow from their hotel bedroom. Inside Bharatpur we travel around the reserve in one of the park’s 16-seater electric buses or the local bicycle-rickshaws. Outside Bharatpur, when we visit Chambal, Agra and for the journey back to Delhi, we will use a modern coach. 

Travel between Delhi and the Himalayan foothills at Kathgodam will be in an overnight sleeper train. On arrival at Kathgodam we’ll be met by a fleet of Gypsy jeeps and transferred to a nearby guest house where we’ll have access to our luggage and will have breakfast before setting off for Quality Inn, birding on the way. We stay with these jeeps for our time inside Corbett (where we will also be on foot and on elephant-back) and throughout our time up at Nainital and back to Kathgodam, where we’ll then take the same overnight sleeper train back to Delhi. 

During the longer drives bottled mineral water will be provided on the vehicles. The leader will arrange a seating rotation. Participants should be able to ride in any seat in tour vehicles.

Updated: July 2015