Naturally India

This adventure takes you off the tourist routes of India and into the woods and jungles to explore the rich wildlife and landscapes that are the home of endangered species such as royal Bengal tiger, Asian elephant and sloth bear. It takes you into rural villages and communities for rewarding encounters. You will long remember this journey into India's wild places.

Country Information

India

Naturally India Enrichment Series

(Countries Visited)

India


(Interest Type(s))

Safari Tours

,

Adventure Travel


(Tour Length)

15 Days


Tour Highlights

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  • Take the road less traveled on this thrilling safari adventure into the jungles and along the rivers of India’s interior
  • Explore in depth four of India’s finest wildlife parks in search for the magnificent royal Bengal tiger as well as sloth bears, leopards and hundreds of bird species
  • Savor encounters with locals in nearby  villages to gain insight into the lives of these rural villages, where about 70 percent of India’s live
  • Explore these wildlife havens on safari vehicles, by boat and canoe, and on foot to get close to the unique flora and fauna of central India
  • Travel by train from Delhi to Agra to take in the fabled Taj Mahal

Day 1: Delhi
On arrival at Indira Gandhi International airport terminal, you are welcomed by a representative at the aero-bridge, who takes you through immigration, baggage collection and customs. You will them be transferred to your hotel, The Oberoi. The hotel is a harmonious blend of tradition and contemporary sophistication and comfort, and it overlooks Delhi’s prestigious Golf Club on one side and the heritage site of Humayun’s Tomb on the other. The remainder of the day is at leisure to relax. The Oberoi – Luxury Room

Day 2: Delhi / Agra / Delhi
This morning, you transfer to Nizamudin Railway Station to board your train for the trip, about three hours, to Agra. Upon arrival at Agra, a representative meet at the station. You set out to experience the fabled Taj Mahal. The magnificent mausoleum, which Emperor Shahjahan had built for his queen, Mumtaz. This bejeweled masterpiece is on the list of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. Let your storyteller guide weave tales of Agra’s and the mausoleum as well as the romantic story of Shahjahan and Mumtaz. After you experience the Taj Mahal, return to Delhi by road. The Oberoi – Luxury Room (B)

Day 3: Delhi / Bhopal / Satpura National Park & Tiger Reserve
Early morning transfer to Delhi Airport to board your flight for Bhopal. On arrival at Bhopal airport terminal, a representative will greet you at the visitor’s lounge. You will then drive to Satpura National Park & Tiger Reserve in a private vehicle. Upon arrival at Satpura check into your accommodation. The total travel time is about three and a half hours.

This afternoon, you can enjoy canoeing on the river Denwa, which flows right through the national park. Paddle quietly along the shore, drifting into little inlets and bays to look for animals drinking at water’s edge and search for water birds hunting in the shallows or crocodiles basking on a riverbank in the sun. Away from the hustle of cities, the gentle ride helps you settle nto the unhurried rhythm of the forest. Reni Pani Lodge offers you options that include game viewing by jeep, jungle walks, elephant safaris* and safari by boat. Located in the heart of Satpura National Park, your lodge’s luxurious accommodation is the perfect end to an active day in the wilderness. Named after the ‘reni’ tree that grows rampantly in the vicinity, Reni Pani is set in a landscape of teak forests interspersed with agricultural lands, which draw herbivores like sambhar, chital, barking deer, nilgai and occasionally big cat predators. The property is also home to a number of bird species and smaller creatures. This lodge plays an active role in the preservation of the forest, its wildlife and the local communities depending on them. Restoration of the forest and its wildlife, employment for locals and spreading awareness on the importance of conservation have been among the lodge’s primary activities. The staff is also working closely with forest officials to promote a completely natural and sustainable experience in the park and reserve. The want to secure the long-term sustainability of the forest as well as benefiting the local community and encourage sustainable travel. Reni Pani Lodge – Cottage (B,L,D)

*Elephant-back safaris: Please note that Big Five does not participate in any elephant-back safaris. The decision was made due to the abusive way some of animals are trained. Based on our founding principles, our approach to animal welfare issues, and our sustainable principles, we are in agreement many others who are against any abusive methods of training or mistreatment. Please note that this decision does not reflect on those properties and parks who do things the right way.

Day 4: Satpura National Park
Today you will enjoy early morning and late afternoon safaris in a 4x4 vehicle accompanied by a naturalist. These safaris usually set out about dawn and around dusk to experience the forest in its different moods. The vehicles are modified to allow for excellent observation and photography. The terrain of the park is extremely rugged and consists of fascinating deep valleys, sandstone peaks, narrow gorges, rivulets, waterfalls, thickly dense green forest of Sal and other medicinal herbs and Tawa, a vast reservoir. Highest peak in Satpura is Dhoopgarh at an altitude of 1,400 m/4,500 ft.

The diversity of flora in the park is stunning with more than 1,300 plant plants, including teak, sal, tendu, mahua (Indian butter-tree) and bamboo as well as lantanas and other medicinal plants. The park’s fauna encompasses a wide range of animals including spotted deer, gaur (Indian bison), leopards, wild boar, sloth bear and black buck, which is unique to this park as well as, of course, India’s famed royal Bengal tigers. Bird watching is rewarding here with several species of eagles, herons, storks, cranes and more than 18 types of ducks.

You can also opt to go on a walking safari to truly understand the ways of the jungle. To appreciate the inner workings of the forest, you learn to spot the signs and tracks wildlife leaves and learn to interpret these as well as savor the smells and sounds of the wilderness. It’s freeing to get out of the vehicle and go off track, striking out across the forest and allowing the wild to envelop you. This is a thrill in any wild place but more so in tiger country. Reni Pani Lodge – Cottage (B,L,D)

Day 5: Satpura National Park
You set out once again on safaris in the early morning for late in the day accompanied by a naturalist, or, select one of the other options available. Explore several small villages near the lodge. The adjoining village with the same name as well as Magariya, Urdon and Nayapura constitute a village network representing typical central Indian village life. Walk with your guide through these villages to gain a glimpse into the life of these rural villages. About 70 percent of India’s live in villages and rural areas. The houses are based on very interesting architecture typical of the locality. Several residents here create handicrafts that you can buy if you like.

The Denwa River flows into the mammoth Tawa Dam downstream and attracts a variety of bird species and is home to Indian fresh water crocodile. Enjoy the majestic view of the Satpura Hills on a leisurely boat cruise. Upstream from the camp, Son Bhadra River flows down all the way from Panchmari. The Son Bhadra view point, accessible by boat, offers stunning views of the valley. Boat safaris are ideal for a leisurely evening of bird watching, crocodile spotting and are also perfect for soaking in the beauty of a canopy forest view with the Satpura Hills in the background and the sun glittering over the Denwa River in the opposite direction. Reni Pani Lodge – Cottage (B,L,D)

Day 6: Satpura National Park / Pench National Park
After breakfast, you set out on a drive to Pench, about a six-hour drive. Upon arrival, check into your accommodation. Jamtara Wilderness Camp sits on Pench National Park’s northern periphery. The luxury tented camp in the rural village of Jamtara provides exclusive access to the park via Jamtara gate, just 2 minutes from the camp. The camp strives to provide the perfect balance between a rustic, wilderness experience and a comfortable stay. The camp’s 12 Africa-style luxury tents in the heart of rural Pench are surrounded by tall Arjuna and an ancient Banyan rooted on a dry riverbed. Each luxury tent is designed to feel light and open, allowing you optimum views of nature. With the option of rolling up the front panels of the tent, you can bring the outside in but still enjoy privacy. Although, these are tented rooms, the bathroom has been made into a permanent structure for the comfort of the guests. While many may sleep inside the tent, you can choose to sleep out on the patio to feel more connected with nature. Mosquito netting will keep the bugs away, and quilts and hot water bottles will keep the cold away. relax in quiet surroundings. The remainder of the day is at leisure. Jamtara Wilderness Camp – Luxury Tent (B,L,D)

Day 7: Pench National Park
Begin you discovery of Pench National Park during an early morning safari by 4x4 vehicle with a natural guide. Nestled in the lower southern reaches of the Satpuda Hills, and is named after Pench River, meandering through the park from north to south. The area of the present tiger reserve is part of the original setting of Rudyard Kipling's most famous work, The Jungle Book. The rolling landscape supports a montage of vegetation and ranges from sheltered valleys to open, dry deciduous forest. The reserve is dominated by open canopy, mixed forests with considerable shrub and open grassy patches, which favors herbivores. Indeed, with more than 1,200 species of plants, the park has highest density of herbivores in India (90.3 animals per sq km). The area is especially famous for large herds of gaur (Indian Bison), cheetal, sambar, nilgai, wild dog and wild pig. The key predator is the tiger, of course, followed by leopard, wild dog and wolf. Other animals include sloth bear, chousingha, chinkara, barking deer, jackal, fox, palm civet, small Indian civet, jungle cat, hyena and porcupine.

A birdwatcher’s haven, the park supports more than 285 species of resident and migratory birds, including the Malabar pied hornbill, Indian pitta, osprey, grey-headed fishing eagle and white-eyed buzzard. In winter thousands of migratory waterfowl including Brahmini duck, pochards, barheaded geese and coots visit the tanks and the Pench Reservoir within the park. Pench Tiger Reserve is also among the best areas for bird watching. Four species of the now endangered vultures – white-rumped, longbilled, white scavenger and king vulture – are seen in good numbers in the reserve. Later, you can set out again on a safari to see animals active in the evening hours. Over the next two days, your jeep safaris will cover the three different zones of the Pench National Park. Jamtara Wilderness Camp – Luxury Tent (B,L,D)

Day 8: Pench National Park
Continue your nature exploration on morning and afternoon safari drives in the company of a naturalist. You can also mix safaris drives with other activities offered by the camp from exploring Indian pottery to mountain biking to farming. You can further explore India’s rural lifestyle in the remote villages that surround the camp. They use minimal transportation, electronics and machines. You are truly transported away from your high-tech world. Farmers grow corn and, when it is not corn season, other vegetables and beans for their daily use. And at the end of the season before the monsoons, they make jaggery, a traditional cane sugar. After the corn has been picked, sugar cane is then grown to make unrefined sugar. The process of making jaggery is a communal effort, and uses huge cooking pots (20 feet circumference). The resulting sweet jaggery is used for a variety of items, which vary by region. Jamtara Wilderness Camp (B,L,D)

Day 9: Pench National Park / Kanha National Park
After breakfast, you drive about five hours to Kanha National Park, and check into your accommodation. Kanha National Park was one of the first areas in India to come under the Project Tiger conservation program to try to save the royal Bengal tiger. This is the largest national park in the state of Madhya Pradesh in the heart of India. The national park boasts abundant mammal populations and diverse bird life. It shelters the endangered barasingha deer, also called swamp deer, which once had a wide range but now is found in northern and central India in fragmented populations and two isolated populations in southwestern Nepal. The presence of these deer is largely due to research by George Schaller, author of The Deer and the Tiger, which he wrote in 1967, highlighting the plight of the species. This led to a first-of-its-kind stockade breeding of the barasingha within the national park boundary, and the populations rebounded in 1972-73.

On the afternoon’s safari accompanied by a naturalist you search for animals that are active late in the day. Tonight, your tented suite overlooks the heart of the park. The luxurious yet lightweight en suite tents have been designed in a contemporary style with pressed bamboo wall panels, gorgeous bamboo floors and locally crafted furniture hewn from the timber of exotic Indian trees. The textiles have been designed in tones of delicate saffron and acid-washed green, with rich block-printed Madhya Pradesh cottons and silks. Taj Banjar Tola – Tented Suite (B,L,D)

Day 10: Kanha National Park
Begin your exploration of the park on and early morning safari and then again in late afternoon, accompanied by a naturalist. Kanha has numerous zones making it ideal for discovery the specially adapted 4x4 vehicles. The dirt tracks that wind through the forest allow you to break away from the other vehicles to improve your chances of wildlife sightings. The key animals to look for here are endangered Barasingha, the royal Bengal tiger, leopard, Chausingha, or the four-horned antelope, honey badgers, the very rare Indian wolf, stripped hyena, rusty spotted cat and the pangolin. Taj Banjar Tola – Tented Suite (B,L,D)

Day 11: Kanha National Park / Nagpur
After leisurely breakfast, you begin your drive to Nagpur, which takes about six and a half hours. Nagpur was founded in 1703, and later became a part of the Maratha Empire. Upon arrival, check into your hotel. The Radisson Blu Nagpur is a perfect getaway. Relax, enjoy the pool, whether you are hoping to dive into India’s rich culture or just planning to relax and take a dip in the pool, the Radisson Blu Hotel Nagpur is the perfect getaway. You can also make use of the fitness center, or savor a relaxing spa treatment. Enjoy one of the hotel’s fine restaurants. Radisson Blu – Premium Room (B)

Day 12: Nagpur / Tadoba National Park
This morning, you set out for a drive to Tadoba National Park, which takes about three hours. Tadoba National Park, also known as Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve, is one of India's 47 project tiger reserves. This park is less commercialized than other leading parks in India and still has a pristine ecosystem. Upon arrival, check into your accommodation, Svasara Jungle Lodge, spread over 10 acres of verdant beauty close by the reserve. According to the latest estimates, there are only about 3,900 tigers left in the wild on the entire planet. Of all the big cats, tigers are the most endangered.

After lunch, discover the dry, deciduous landscape and the rich wildlife found here. Tadoba Tiger Reserve is a rare jungle jewel among India’s reserves and national parks due to its high number of tigers – recent estimates suggest there may be up to 72 tigers spread over 625 square kilometers. There are three zones – Moharli (Mohurli) Zone, Tadoba Zone, and Kolsa Zone – in the reserve that have access for 4x4 safari vehicles. There are about 195 species of birds that include honey buzzard, crested serpent eagle, the shy jungle fowl and paradise flycatcher. Reptiles include the endangered Indian python, terrapins, star tortoise and cobra. During the monsoon season, spiders abound including giant wood spider, signature spider and red wood spiders. The rich array of other mammals encompass cats from Indian leopards to small Indian civet as well as sloth bears, gaur, nilgai, dhole, striped hyena and a number of deer species.

Return to your lodge for dinner of local specialties and flavors with fresh vegetables from Svasara’s organic farm. This evening you can also visit the Teakhouse’s open-air Jungle Cinema to catch a presentation on by the lodge’s naturalists or a BBC/Discovery Channel documentary. Svasara Jungle Lodge – Standard Room (B,L,D)

Day 13: Tadoba National Park
Morning and afternoon 4x4 safari vehicle accompanied by a naturalist. The Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve contains some of the best forest tracts and is endowed with rich biodiversity. The Andhari River meanders through the forest gives. While there are many variety of woods here, including ain, bija, dhauda, semal and tendu, it is bamboo and teak that dominate the landscapes. Unique to Tadoba are the ‘ghost trees,’ which have unusual white bark. You may have the opportunity to see sloth bears sleeping near a waterhole after having their fill of the creamy white flowers off the mahua tree. Once the sweet juice of the tree is digested, it becomes alcohol. Svasara Jungle Lodge – Standard Room (B,L,D)

Day 14: Tadoba / Nagpur / Mumbai
Savor one more morning safari before setting out on a three-hour drive to Nagpur Airport to board your flight for Mumbai. Upon arrival at Mumbai, check into your accommodation. Taj Santacruz, ideally located near business centers, famous landmarks, museums and galleries across the city. The hotel has an array of dining options, a health club, pool, Jiva spa and salon. Taj Santacruz – Luxury Pool View (B)

Day 15: Mumbai / Depart
Transfer to Mumbai Airport to board your flight for onward destination. (B)

Land price, per person, double occupancy: Price starts from US$900 per person per day.

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