India wildlife tour - so much more than just tigers!
India Tour - is a car and your own driver the best way to see India?
After enjoying my first tiger safari in Ranthambhore way back in 1997, I can fully understand how this wonderous animal attracts so many people to take an India wildlife tour. However for this blog today I would like to ‘bring to life’ some other amazing India safari experiences we have enjoyed over our last 17 years visiting this amazing country.
One of the real highlights in India is to have your own car and driver (you will want to take him home by the end of your trip!) and take the quieter back roads through Rajasthan visiting palace, after fort, after haveli; on your very own historical tour, and one in which you can actually stay in the palaces, rather than just visiting it as a museum. Try to move away from the crowds at Agra and Jaipur and instead head into western and southern Rajasthan. Two classic drives to consider are the one from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer, via the magnificent spectacle of hundreds of Demoiselle Cranes at Kichan, where you can stay at a beautiful Haveli called Lal Niwas. From here you drive further west towards the magnificent Thar Desert and the incredibly well preserved fortified city of Jasialmer. If you are travelling here in February, you have the chance to enjoy the amazing spectacle that is the Jaisalmer Desert Festival.
Another classic car journey which also starts from Jodhpur is the beautiful route which takes you to the famous temples at Ranakpur, before climbing spectacularly up to the famous Kumbalgarh Fort; whose magnificent walls stretch an amazing 36km, and enclose a large number of temples and palaces. Stay close by in one of the excellent local hotels and walk to the fort to get a greater appreciation of scale. From here it is a wonderful drive south to Udaipur; although as we did back in 2004, you may decide to stay at the romantic and stunning Devi Garh for a couple of nights Then if the budget allows, finish off your Rajasthan journey at the Lake Palace Hotel. We’ve visited when the lake was full and also when it was empty - which made the boat transfers rather interesting! You really cannot beat the feeling of staying in a hotel with ‘real’ history. It may not offer the over the top luxury of the Oberoi resort opposite, but this is genuine history you are touching not make believe and it feels all the better for that.
One of the best Indian wildlife tours I organised was my monsoon tour back in 2009, which for the first time had be staying in India during July. A pretty hot time to be in the country, which was brought home to us as we started our 1 month adventure in the back of Mr Vipul Jains open jeep! One of the highlight of the trip was the drive south from Kota, where after an amazing boat safari on the Chambal River, drifting through beautiful rock formations and spotting large numbers of rare vultures, we spend a wonderful night at the historic Bhainsrorgarh Fort; a beautiful boutique hotel which overlooks the river. From here we took a fascianting drive up a deserted plateau, where we only met one lone shepard and Rhesus Macques hanging off the cliff edges. The road trip continues to enthrall with stops in Bhopal, Tadoba Tiger Reserve (an up an coming tiger sanctuary at that time, whch was open during July!), Pachmari, Satpura, Madhav National Park and finally back to Ranthambhore. This journey was not just about what we saw, it was the travelling with friends, the many, many cups of Chai, and the way the land and its people changed when they felt the first monsoon rains on their faces.
I would encourage all of you to book your own vehicle and driver for a road trip through India and see a side to this beautiful country that you will definitly miss on a rushed group tour. This is a true India wildlife tour that will live long in the memory.