India Wildlife Encounters

Journey through rural India learning of efforts to protect the elusive tiger in Panna, Bandhagarh, Kanha and Pench National Parks. Contribute to initiatives to open wildlife corridors, walk with the Pardhis to help support this unique community, and understand the active research to ensure sustainable livelihoods for both people and wildlife.  

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Day 1

Upon arrival in Delhi, you will be met by a Luxury Trips representative and transferred to your airport hotel where you will stay for one night. 

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Day 2

Transfer to the airport for the scheduled flight to Khajuraho. 

Upon arrival you will proceed to visit The Khajuraho Group of Monuments, a group of Hindu temples and Jain temples which are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The temples are famous for their nagara-style architectural symbolism and their erotic sculptures.
Most Khajuraho temples were built between 950 AD and 1050 AD by the Chandela dynasty.  Historical records note that the Khajuraho temple site had 85 temples by the 12th century, the Khajuraho group of temples were built together but were dedicated to two religions, Hinduism and Jainism, suggesting a tradition of acceptance and respect for diverse religious views among Hindus and Jains in the region.

The Eastern Group of temples are quite different from the other temples in Khajuraho, and are dominated by the Jain temples.  The Western group of temples, are made of fine grained sandstone which is pink or pale yellow in color.  

After sightseeing drive to Sarai at Toria (1 hour).  Upon arrival, check into at Sarai at Toria. Sarai (or Serai) is an ancient Persian term for a roadside inn or caravanserai.  Toria is the nearby village. The luxurious Sarai at Toria plays a positive role in the economic and social development of the local area; it also exists as a base for conservation activities and for wildlife and climate change research.

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Day 3

This morning you will be driven to Panna National Park for a game drive. Panna was the fifth Project Tiger reserve of Madhya Pradesh and the twenty second tiger reserve of the country under Project Tiger. Located on the banks of the River Ken, the park is lush green with deep ravines, cascading waterfalls and thick teak forests. The
park area is mainly plateau with the flatlands punctuated with hills, deep valleys and gorges. The terrain is largely rocky and uneven covered with scrub and grass. The region mainly has mixed dry deciduous forests with short grasses and open woods. Lower altitudes are characterized by taller grasses and closed woodlands. 

After lunch partake in an afternoon safari by 4×4 jeep accompanied by a resident naturalist and forest guide.

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Day 4

This morning you will take a walk with a guide from the Pardhis community.  “Walk with the Pardhis” is an initiative undertaken by the Last Wilderness Foundation in association with Panna Tiger
Reserve Management. This venture aims at not only being an alternative source of income for the Pardhi community members by channelizing their the age-old knowledge of the forest and the skills
of identifying the animal tracks and signs, but will also help visitors reconnect with the wilderness and ‘read’ the forest as the community members do. The walk is a unique experience in with the people of the forest and tourists will also be privy to some spectacular stories from the heart of the jungle. 

Return to the lodge for lunch, followed by an afternoon boat ride on the Ken River. The peace and serenity of a float on the Ken River at sunset is unsurpassed ‘a Zen Experience’. The tranquil paddle down this ‘river garden’ is also rewarding for the birdwatcher as kingfisher, storks, ducks and even an eagle owl are all part of the landscape.

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Day 5

Depart on another morning safari, before our departure for Bandhavgarh. It would be preferable to do an early brunch, since it will be a 5 hour drive to our next destination. Upon arrival in Bandhavgarh, check in to Bandhavgarh Jungle Lodge. 

Set among The Vindhya Hills in Madhya Pradesh, Bandhavgarh
consists of 168 sq miles of Sal and a mixed forest of bamboo,  grassland, and a complex of deciduous forests. There are at least 150 species of birds in the park, along with other mammals such as Tigers, Sloth bear, Langur monkeys, Wild boar, Mongoose, and three species of deer – Chital, Sambar and Barking deer. 

Bandhavgarh has been the backdrop of numerous wildlife documentaries where legendary tigresses have raised over 20 cubs to adulthood. Sita, was one of these star tigresses. Bandhavgarh boasts one of the highest density of tigers anywhere in the world, in a beautiful setting which are set among Vindhya Hills.

Since we have had a long travel day, you can take time to relax at the lodge, or if you prefer, take a nature walk with a naturalist guide. 

Our first evening would be an introduction to Wilderness of Central India. It is important to understand how national parks in India are managed and run. With a little over 20% of the country under Forest cover and the ever-expanding national parks of the country, India has successfully protected the highest number of tigers anywhere in the world. There are challenges, which every country face when protecting wildlife, and we will study this from an Indian prospective.

We will also do an orientation to Bandhavgarh National Park and its history. There is a 500 acre fort on the top of the mountain which has been abandoned. Nature has slowly taken over the fort, and it is truly a scene out of an Indiana Jones movie. The visit to the fort is not always possible as tigers move in and out of the fort as well, and the forest department generally does not like many people on foot when the tigers are present.

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Day 6

Spend the next two days exploring Bandhavgarh National Park.

Wake up to misty mornings and sounds of birds calling, for an exciting
start to your day.  As soon as dawn breaks, leave for your Jungle Safari, accompanied by a resident naturalist and forest park guides in 4x 4 Jeeps.  In the winter months morning safaris require warm clothes and woolen caps and gloves to keep you warm from the wind chill factor in your open jeep. We provide blankets and sometimes
even a hot water bottle to keep you comfortable.

Return to the lodge for lunch, followed by an afternoon safari.

Our evenings are dedicated to educational lectures. Your naturalist
is equipped to answer any questions you may have. We will try to focus on 2 key subjects:

– The Story of the Indian Tiger Today – The challenges our national parks face from poaching, deforestation, loss of habitat, man animal conflict. We will do a comparative study between India and Africa, and understand how conflict management issues are tackled. The resources given to our forest department have been challenging and the vast areas they manage with skeleton staff. What is the future of Indian Wildlife? Are there solutions? Not just for Tigers, but Wild Elephants, Rhinos, etc. We have successfully gone from 200 remaining Rhinos to over 2000. What worked?

– Studying government policy around tourism. Wildlife tourism is such a small contributor to overall tourism growth in India, but the growing domestic travel and an interest in seeing wildlife of our national parks, has increased the numbers to our national parks. Has that helped or just crowded India’s national parks? We will look at
how tourism has played a vital role in protecting India’s last remaining Tigers .

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Day 7

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Day 8

After one more morning safari in Bandhavgarh National Park, we drive to Kanha (6 hours).  Our drive takes us through rural countryside doted with colorful towns and villages.  Stop in the sleepy town of Mandla – the sacred city for the Gond tribes – where the Narmada River, second holiest to the Ganges, is the center of activity.

En-route enjoy a picnic lunch and arrive in Kanha this evening. 

Set on The Chhota Nagpur Plateau in Madhya Pradesh, Kanha
provides breath taking vistas of grassy plains and strands sal forests. This 366 sq mile preserve was set to save two endangered species, the tiger and the Barasingha.  One of the largest and
most scenic National Parks in India, Kanha is an ideal habitat for both tigers and their prey.  The lush sal and bamboo forests, grassy meadows and ravines of Kanha shelter a significant population of rare species such as tiger, leopard, Sloth bear, Barasingha, and Wild
dog to name a few. Kanha’s mixed forests are interspersed with vast meadows known as maidens. Perennial streams run through a number of such meadows, providing a source of water for the wildlife even in the hot summers. Kanha meadow, with its
hundreds of chital grazing on a carpet of green grass against the backdrop of the majestic Sal forest, has been aptly referred to as ”the Ngorongoro of India”. Kanha is particularly well known for its endangered swamp deer, or hard water barasingha, which populate the large open tracks of grass amidst the forests of teak and bamboo. Brought back from the brink of extinction, these handsome animals are a remarkable conservation success story for Kanha.

Sal trees and open grasslands dominate the lowlands of Kanha. These grasslands, are results of once relocated villages under Project Tiger. This is was a country wide project launched in 1971 to
protect the tigers and its habitat. One of its initiatives was to control man animal conflict by moving villages from core areas into the buffer, so that corridors can be linked once again. Hence, these maidens are live examples of successful relocation of villages
which have now turned into grasslands allowing a successful growth of prey base for predators.

After lunch, we will take the opportunity to stretch our legs and walk down to the Banjar River while our naturalists identify the local flora and fauna and make your familiar with the surroundings. The termite mounds, flying squirrels, butterflies, etc will fascinate you. This is where Rudyard Kilping got his inspiration to write The Jungle Book.

A little about your host family:

– A man who balances his passion for nature with his  entrepreneurial spirit, Tarun has twenty years of experience in wildlife tourism. As the manager of the Kanha Jungle Lodge, he
is responsible for ensuring that your stay is as comfortable and memorable as possible. He goes the extra mile by not only taking care of your logistical needs, but he takes pleasure in accompanying
you on park safaris. An encyclopedia of knowledge, with a particular interest in tigers and birding, he is an incredible source of information. With wildlife in his blood, it is no surprise that Tarun’s
own family represents a manifestation of his love for the natural kingdom.  At first glance, one merely sees a twelve year old boy, interested in talking to new people, playing cricket in the afternoon and trying out new games. But there’s more to Jai than meets the eye. The little naughty naturalist has been born and raised at the Kanha Jungle Lodge, receiving an education in warning calls, tracking skills and how to identify the abundant flora and fauna that no classroom in the world could teach him. For recess he doesn’t play on the swings, but explores Mother Earth in all her glory. Kanha’s real life Mowgli is truly at home in a wildlife park.

– The lady of the lodge is a self-taught naturalist known for her
never-ending interest in learning new things. And whatever
Dimple learns, she loves to share with her guests. The first person to publish a book on Kanha wildflowers, she continues to research and
document information on common butterflies in the area. When she isn’t taking you on bird and butterfly stroll, she is showing
you the wonders of the stars through her telescope, teaching you how to savor the flavors of Indian cooking and relax your mind and body through yoga. The woman’s touch at Kanha Jungle Lodge, you will be inspired to discover all there is to learn in your own backyard.

Our evening will be spend orienting ourselves with the national park. We will look at some maps, understand what is a buffer area and core area and get a good understanding of the areas we will do our safaris in. Your expedition leader would know all the national parks you are visiting very well. Together with the naturalists of the camp, they will answer any questions that you may have.  A focus in this park is to also study the return of the Barasingha. A swamp
Deer that almost went extinct, and has been brought back by successful breeding program inside the national park.

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Day 9

Spend two days exploring the Kanha National Park. 

An early morning knock at the door with tea or coffee starts the day.  Wake up to misty mornings and sounds of birds calling, which will make an exciting start to your day. As soon as dawn breaks, leave for your Jungle Safari, accompanied by a resident naturalist and forest park guides in 4x 4 Jeep.

Enjoy a picnic breakfast in the middle of the Jungle with a cup of hot tea or coffee. The rest of the morning is at leisure to engage in one of the many activities at the camp. Whether you want to learn to tie a Sari, learn to cook Indian food, visit a nearby school or village, or go for a nature walk to find dragonflies or butterflies, just ask your expedition leader or a team member at Kanha Jungle Lodge. 

After lunch, depart on an afternoon jeep safari once more. 

We are staying with the family whose heritage dates back three generations in Tiger Conservation. Kailash Sankhala, was the founder director of Project Tiger, under which the inceptions of the Project Tiger Reserves in India took place. Their grandchildren run and manage Kanha Jungle Lodge and also own the travel company you
are traveling with in India. We will have the first hand opportunity to interact with them and spend an evening watching the Award winning documentary Tigerland.  Produced by Discovery Channel, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, the film focuses on two passionate people trying to save the Tiger. One of  whom is Kailash Sankhala.

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Day 10

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Day 11

After a morning jungle safari in Kanha National Park, drive to Pench
(4-5 hours).  The Satpura-Maikal region consists of seven tiger reserves and five corridors stretching through three states (Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh) in central India. The area is one of the country’s strongholds of wildlife protection and natural resource-based livelihoods. 

The Kanha-Pench landscape provides important ecosystem services through its hydrology and biodiversity. A diversity of
human communities utilize the forests in the area with varying intensity, ranging from minimal forest extraction in reserves to rapid road, agriculture and mining development outside protected areas. The Kanha-Pench landscape thus requires active research and management to ensure sustainable livelihoods for people and protection of the wildlife alike, and offers an ideal case study of the complex environmental and social issues facing the Satpura-Maikal region, and India at large.

Pench National Park, located in the Central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, is the 19th Project Tiger Reserve and has been one of the best – kept secrets among wildlife enthusiasts who have long been acquainted with and bedazzled by its immensely varied flora and fauna. No wonder the area providing a backdrop for it’s animal character dominated by fairly open canopy of mixed forest, predominantly teak, with open grassy patches, the park with its undulating land boasts the highest density of herbivores in any Indian park. It has a large diversity of wildlife, including leopard, tiger, Jungle cat, dhole (Wild dog), Sloth bear, Wild boar, mongoose, gaur and the highest density of Herbivores including Cheetal (Spotted deer) and Sambar.

Upon arrival check-in to Jamtara Wilderness Camp.  Situated in the Village of Jamtara, Jamtara Wilderness Lodge is a 10 luxury tented property in the heart of rural Pench.  Surrounded by tall Arjuna
Trees and an ancient Banyan rooted on a dry riverbed, each tented room overlooks the forest which set the perfect background to this jungle experience. Each luxury tent is designed to feel light and open, allowing guests the optimum view of nature. With the option of rolling up the front panels of the tent, the guests can bring the outside in but still enjoy the privacy of their own room. 

If you wish to connect with nature you have the option of sleeping under the stars on your patio, under the protection of mosquito netting. warm quilts and hot water bottles to keep the cold at bay. 

In support of the local farming community, a starbed experience on a machaan can be booked. These machaans are built on the land of the farmers and proceeds are paid directly to the farmer.  For centuries, villagers have been sleeping out in their machaans to provide protection for their crops against wildlife.  This has resulted in the destruction of wildlife corridor. So Jamtara Wilderness
Camp and village of Jamtara have come together for an initiative that is one of its kind. By compensating the villagers for their crops, allowing wildlife pass through their land, the star bed initiative aims to reestablish the corridor in a 2-3 years. So far, guests that have experienced the star beds have seen wild dog, leopard, Sloth bear, deer, Wild boar, owls, and have heard the music of the jungle come to life, especially with the sunrise.

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Day 12

Spend two days enjoying Pench National Park on morning and afternoon jeep safaris with local guides and naturalists. 

During the evening, before and during dinner, guests convene together to engage in conversations with your naturalists. Some topics of interest include:

The Diversity of Indian Wildlife
Africa boasts the Big 5, but traditionally, India has many of the species Africa has and more, such as the Asiatic lion, tigers, Snow leopard, One-horned rhino.  There are over 1200 species of birds.  India has every kind of terrain – mountains, desert, rainforest, etc. hence it’s interesting to study how our forest department patrols, study’s species throughout these landscapes. The idea is to look beyond Central India and see what India, as a whole, has to offer.

Project Tiger
You are staying in the lodges which are owned by the grandson of
founder director Project Tiger, which was started by Indira Gandhi during her tenure. This Project, made the Project Tiger Reserves of the country. We will study how Project Tiger came about, and weather this initiative has been successful. One of the main aims
of the Project was to remove villages from inside protected areas, while reducing man animal conflict to a minimum. We will address this issue and talk in more detail while being among lodge staff who all come from the nearby tribal areas and at one time thought that wildlife was a menace.

Wildlife Corridors
The Jungles of Central India, were some of the biggest networked
jungles 50 years ago. Development has resulted in dividing these corridors for development of highways and even mine’s. Court battles have been fought between forest department and National highway authority. We will study one of these cases and what the take of our government is, on all these issues. When we drive from Pench to Kanha, we will see the live result of what we talk about.

Community Partnerships
Why it is important to put our community’s that live around these parks on the center stage. These communities will still be here long after we are gone as travelers. It is important to empower them with the right tools in conservation.

 

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Day 13

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Day 14

After breakfast, transfer by road to Nagpur Airport (3 hours) for the scheduled flight to Delhi.  Upon arrival you will be met and transferred to your airport hotel where you will stay for the night. 

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Day 15

Transfer to Delhi Airport in time for your departure flight.

Included

  • All meals except in Delhi – breakfast only
  • Transport by air-conditioned vehicle for all transfers, drives and sightseeing.
  • Assistance at airports and at the hotels at the time of check in/out in all the major cities.
  • Services of English Speaking resident naturalist services at
  • Panna, Bandhavgarh, Kanha & Pench National Parks.
  • Jeep Safaris are on exclusive basis as mentioned in itinerary (except upgrade options / available on request). 
  • Entrance fees.
  • Government Service Tax (subject to change without notice).

Excluded

  • Meals, drinks, laundry, entrance fees, porterage, tours/excursions and transfers not specified;
  • India entry visa
  • Any scheduled flights and related taxes not specified;
  • Cancellation, baggage and medical insurance – which is essential;
  • Staff gratuities;
  • Any new gov. taxes, levies, fuel or industry increases which are beyond our control;
  • Any items of a personal nature or anything not specifically stated as included;
  • International airfare.