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WINGS Birding Tours – Information

India: Ranthambhore, Bharatpur, Nainital and Corbett

Tour Information

Note: The information presented here is an abbreviated version of our formal General Information for Tours to India. Its purpose is solely to give readers a sense of what might be involved if they take this tour. Although we do our best to make sure that what follows is completely accurate, it should not be used as a replacement for the formal document sent to all tour registrants, whose contents supersedes any information contained here.

TRAVEL TO INDIA: This tour is organized by our British company, Sunbird, and starts and ends in Delhi.

ENTERING INDIA: United States citizens will need a valid passport and a tourist visa. These can be obtained from the Indian Embassy in Washington, D.C. or Consulate in New York. Visas can also be obtained through a visa service, such as CIBT. Citizens of other countries may need a visa and should check their nearest embassy. Your passport should be valid for six months after you plan to return from India.

MAPS AND COUNTRY INFORMATION: You can view maps of India in the University of Texas series here. You can review the U.S. Department of State Country Specific Travel Information here, and the CIA World Factbook background notes on India here.

HEALTH: The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) currently recommend taking an anti-malarial drug when visiting India. The drug of choice for India is Lariam (mefloquine). Further, the CDC currently recommends the following vaccines: Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG); typhoid vaccination is particularly important because of the presence of S. typhi strains resistant to multiple antibiotics in this region; and as needed, booster doses for tetanus-diphtheria and measles, and a one-time dose of polio for adults. You can review the latest CDC advisories here.

CLIMATE: The temperatures throughout this tour will vary dramatically. 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. Once we leave the plains, the night time temperatures drop as we climb higher, and although the days can still be very warm, there is an increased chance of rain. Expect early morning frosts at Corbett and Quality Inn. 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 will feel very cold. Thermal underwear will be greatly appreciated here. Gloves, scarves and a warm hat are essential.

PACE OF TOUR AND DAILY ROUTINE: On many days there will be optional pre-breakfast walks. Most of these will start at 6.30am or 6.45am and may last for up to two or three hours. Most days should finish at dusk, around 6.30pm, and we usually manage about an hour’s 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 just at dawn — around 6:15am) and usually last about three 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 (usually from about 3:30pm 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 in stead we will use open-topped jeeps or a large, open-topped truck fitted with rows seats to explore the reserve. We anticipate birding at a couple of small sites just outside the reserve entrance and are allowed to walk here. 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’ll spend one night and parts of two days at the Chambal Safari Lodge. Here 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 Quality Inn we go for a long walk that takes all morning to complete, although there are lots of 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 5:00am start so as to be a good site for Koklass Pheasant at dawn. As with most of our early departures this one will be optional.

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

Conditions on the trains are just adequate. Each room has a sliding door that can be locked from the inside, and each car usually has between six and eight four-berth cabins. There are four beds in each cabin, two upper and two lower bunks. We’ll be provided with two sheets and a blanket. There are toilets at either end of the cabin, one western and one hole-in-the-floor style; they are rarely very good. Private cabins are not available, and though we attempt to segregate men and women (meaning that couples might have to be separated for the night), this may not be possible.

In Corbett National Park we’ll spend two nights at Dhikala Forest Lodge, where the rooms are spartan and our experience has found the supply of electricity and hot water erratic: the accommodation here is poor by western standards.  Single rooms cannot be guaranteed at either Bharatpur or Dhikala.  In contrast, the Quality Inn just outside Corbett Park, where we spend two nights, is often the favorite place of many participants. The rooms are large and the bathroom has a water heater.  In Nainital we’ll be staying at a good modern hotel.  Please note that at the Quality Inn and, especiallly, at Nainital, we can expect cold nights. The hotel at Nainital is designed for summer use, and neither the bedrooms nor the dining room are heated. A small heater is provided in each bedroom, but it has limited effect.  You’ll find thermal underwear or pyjamas very useful here, even essential.

Leaving Nainital, we’ll take another overnight sleeper train back to Delhi. Arriving early the following morning, we’ll transfer straight to our hotel. We expect to arrive in Delhi in the early morning of our last full day, and will have two day rooms in a hotel close to the international airport.

DRESS: Dress is informal throughout.

TRANSPORT: This tour uses trains for the longer journeys between Delhi and Ranthambhore, between Ranthambhore and Bharatpur, and between Delhi and the north and back. Delhi to Ranthambhore takes about five hours, Ranthambhore to Bharatpur almost three hours. We’ll have seats in some of the best accommodation that is available, and porters will be available to help us with our luggage.

Inside Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve, we’ll be using a small open-topped bus. These 15- or 21-seat vehicles invariably have poor suspensions, and the unpaved tracks inside the reserve are rough and often strewn with large boulders.  An inflatable cushion might prove useful; in the past, people have occasionally borrowed a pillow from their hotel room.

Inside Bharatpur we travel around the reserve in one of the park’s 16-seat electric buses, or by bicycle rickshaw. Outside Bharatpur, on our visits to Chambal and Agra and on the journey back to Delhi, we will use a modern coach.

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

Both of the overnight train journeys should take about seven hours. On the first, we expect the train to leave Delhi at about 9:40 pm and to arrive in Kathgodam, at the foot of the Himalaya, at about 4:50 am. We’ll have breakfast in a nearby guest house, and have access to our luggage before driving slowly on to our next hotel. The timing of the return train journey is roughly similar. Conditions on the trains are just adequate. Each room has a sliding door that can be locked from the inside, and each car usually has between six and eight four-berth cabins. There are four beds in each cabin, two upper and two lower bunks. We’ll be provided with two sheets and a blanket. There are toilets at either end of the cabin, one western and one hole-in-the-floor style; they are rarely very good.Private cabins are not available, and though we attempt to segregate men and women (meaning that couples might have to be separated for the night), this may not be possible.

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.

SMOKING: Smoking is not allowed 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, we ask that you do so well away and downwind from the group.

TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF WINGS AND SUNBIRD TOURS: Please take a moment to read the About WINGS Tours portion of our website. This section contains important information about how we conduct tours, e.g., what is included in the tour price, refund and cancellation policies, pace of the tours, and other information that will help you prepare for the tour.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: A more complete General Information for Tours to Northern India will be sent to each registrant on rceipt of their booking. Final information with instructions for meeting the group, hotel addresses, etc., will be mailed about three weeks before trip departure. Other news will be communicated as necessary. If you have any questions, please contact us.

Updated: February 2014