India is blessed with countless wildlife experiences, from the jungles, to the deserts, and everything in between. Whilst Bubo Birding concentrates on the fabulous and diverse birdlife of this amazing country, even the most hard-core birder dreams of seeing a Tiger in the wild! This tour to Central India covers two reserves, Bandhavgarh and Kanha, with excellent populations and reliable sightings of tigers. Not wishing to compromise on the birds however, we start with India’s most famous bird reserve, Keoladeo National Park, or Bharatpur, which guarantees spectacular wetland birding and a brilliant selection of the birdlife of India.
From Bharatpur, we add to the all-round wildlife that this tour provides with a boat ride along the Chambal river, the best place in India to see the fish-eating crocodile Gharial, Ganges River Dolphin, and two highly threatened birds, Indian Skimmer and Black-bellied Tern. It’s not just wildlife on this tour either, for from Agra we include two Indian must-dos: a visit to the majestic Taj Mahal, followed by the Indian Railways experience with an overnight sleeper train.
There is little doubt that this two-week tour is the perfect itinerary for birdwatchers wanting to enjoy India’s birds whilst giving themselves the best possible chance of seeing wild tigers!
Day 1: Arrive in Delhi
You will be met and transferred to the hotel.
Depending on your arrival time, we can arrange some birding in the Delhi area, most likely at Okhla Bird Sanctuary. Despite the pressures of an urban population approaching 20 million people, this small sanctuary on the banks of the polluted Yamuna River offers some excellent birding, with a good chance of the resident Striated Grassbird, Striated Babbler and possibly White-tailed Stonechat.
Day 2: Delhi to Keoladeo National Park, Bharatpur, via Sultanpur National Park
Leaving early this morning we first stop at Sultanpur National Park. This superb small wetland has excellent all-round birding that could provide us 100 species in the morning, including some difficult to see species, such as White-tailed Lapwing, Brooks’s Leaf Warbler and Sind Sparrow. We then drive to Bharatpur where we still stay for the next three nights.
Days 3 – 4: Keoladeo National Park, Bharatpur
Keoladeo National Park, better known as Bharatpur, has a history of large-scale hunting, but became a World Heritage Site in 1985. One of the most outstanding wetland reserves in Asia, it attracts large numbers of wildfowl, herons, storks, cranes, waders, owls and raptors, after the monsoon has refilled the shallow ‘jheels’.
A full day birding in the park could well produce us 150 species of birds. There is so much to see that we won’t leave for lunch, but will get a hot lunch delivered directly to us to enjoy the best of food and birding combined! You will also probably experience your first ever cycle-rickshaw birding!
Depending on our success on the first day, we can decide to spend some of the second day birding areas outside of the park. Options include visiting a colony of Indian Vultures where we should get fantastic views at close range, with the chance of ‘Shaheen’, the Indian resident race of Peregrine, also. Although we will be visiting the Chambal Wildlife Sanctuary in Uttar Pradesh tomorrow, those especially keen on not missing out on Indian Skimmer – which can be hit and miss as they patrol sections of the river many kilometres away at times – may want to visit the Chambal River south of Bharatpur as well. A boat trip has a good chance of superb views of both these and Black-bellied Terns, with Marsh Mugger crocodiles and the fish-eating Gharial and, if we’re lucky, a Ganges River Dolphin.
Day 5: Bharatpur to National Chambal Gharial Wildlife Sanctuary
Post-breakfast we will drive to the Chambal Safari Lodge just outside the National Chambal Gharial Wildlife Sanctuary. Birding around the lodge is excellent, with both Brown Hawk Owl and Indian Scops Owl likely at daytime roosts, plus Verditer and Red-breasted Flycatchers, and a good chance of Brooks’s Leaf Warbler.
During the afternoon we can take a drive to some wetland areas near Etawah, famous for their large populations of the spectacular and revered Sarus Cranes. Little explored for birding, we can guarantee other good sightings here!
Day 6: Chambal to Agra and Taj Mahal, overnight train to Katni
An early morning boat cruise along the Chambal river, one of India’s cleanest rivers, is a lovely experience, and we are likely to come up close (but not too close!) with both Marsh Mugger and Gharial crocodiles. Keep your eyes alert for a briefly surfacing Ganges River Dolphin; once widespread through river systems of Nepal, India and Bangladesh, this freshwater dolphin, which is blind and hunts using ultrasonic sounds much like bats, is unfortunately now highly endangered. Indian Skimmers and Black-bellied Terns are the key target birds here, but we should also see River Lapwing, Great Thick-knee and a few confusing Pale, Sand or Grey-throated Martins!
After checking out we will drive to Agra for a late lunch. Even though we’re concentrating on the birds, a trip to this part of India would seem incomplete without a visit to one of the most iconic man-made structures in the world, the Taj Mahal. We will spend some time this afternoon visiting the Taj, before catching our air-conditioned sleeper train which will take us overnight to Katni, the nearest main station to Bandhavgarh.
Day 7: Katni to Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve
After our early morning arrival, we will drive to our lodge at Bandhavgarh in time for lunch and our first afternoon safari in the National Park.
Days 8 – 10: Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve
Whilst birds have been the focus of our first week, we now switch our attention to the best of Indian mammals!
Bandhavgarh National Park and Tiger Reserve is situated in the Vindhyan Hills of Umaria district in Madhya Pradesh. The name Bandhavgarh (literally “Brother’s Fort” in Sanskrit) comes from the largest hill in the area, and the prominent fortress at the top. The landscape is a mix of hills and plains, with mixed forests and grasslands. There is a wide range of flora and fauna here, with one of the highest densities of tigers in the world. It also has a good population of leopards, and a large prey base of Spotted Deer or Chital, Sambar Deer, Barking Deer, and Nilgai. Sloth Bear, Wild Dog, Striped Hyena and Four-horned Antelope or Chousingha may also be seen with a bit of luck, whilst rarer mammals include Caracal. Gaur are present in the park having been introduced from Kanha – the native population unfortunately all died from a disease passed on from domestic cattle.
We have three full days with morning and afternoon safaris in different ranges of the park, which will maximise our chances of seeing tigers. (Note that the park is closed for safaris on Wednesday afternoons, so if our stay here includes a Wednesday, we will have the afternoon for some local sightseeing or birding, or at leisure.)
Day 11: Bandhavgarh to Kanha Tiger Reserve
After an early breakfast we will drive to Kanha and check in to our lodge there for a late lunch, and the first of our safaris in Kanha Tiger Reserve.
Days 12 – 13: Kanha Tiger Reserve
The most famous and largest of the national parks in Central India, Kanha Tiger Reserve hosts a similar array of wildlife to Bandhavgarh, but also herds of Swamp Deer or Barasingha. The “hard-ground” southern subspecies, which is found exclusively here, was once close to extinction but now thrives in the picturesque Kanha meadows.
Our two full days will include morning and afternoon safaris. (Note that, as with Bandhavgarh, the park is closed for safaris on Wednesday afternoons.)
Day 14: Kanha to Jabalpur and Delhi
After breakfast it is time to check out and drive to Jabalpur, where we will catch a late afternoon flight back to Delhi, and transfer to the hotel there.
Day 15: Depart from Delhi
Depart Delhi for your onward journey. If your flight is afternoon or evening, we can arrange some productive local birding in the Delhi area beforehand.
View species bar chart on eBird.
As with all Bubo Birding tours, your booking is handled by Asian Adventures.
This tour is guided by Mike Prince, plus local birding guides.
- Prices quoted are per person, assuming an exclusive 2 person tour. Larger group sizes attract a discounted per person price, which we will confirm to you on enquiry.
- International flights are excluded.
- We may change the itinerary described due to various reasons such as latest birding information, availability of accommodation, state of the roads, and other unexpected factors that, this being India, do pop up from time to time!
- The final price and itinerary will be confirmed before booking and depending on your expected arrival and departure plans.
See Asian Adventures for full tour details, including accommodation, what's included, other exclusions, prices for larger groups, single room supplements, and booking details.