Discover the wonders of India—amazing birds, mammals, and landscapes as we travel to three key national park areas and the rich habitats of this colorful country. India is a top destination for mammals as well as birds, and our carefully crafted itinerary highlights both. We have chosen Nameri, Kaziranga, and Kanha as three totally different environments to explore; our tour is a national park sampler rich in wildlife. For those with more time, highly recommended is the Red Panda pre-extension. We search for Red Panda in the rhododendron-cloaked foothills of the mighty Himalayas – an adventurous experience not to be missed!
Discover Kaziranga National Park on safari, keeping your eyes peeled for Indian Elephant, Indian Rhinoceros, and possibly even Bengal Tiger. Ponds and lagoons scattered throughout the park host thousands of wintering waterbirds, forming a spectacular backdrop to the mammals – Bar-headed Goose, Falcated Duck, Indian Spot-billed Duck, Greater Adjutant, Black-necked Stork, Bronze-winged Jacana, and Stork-billed Kingfisher. Fruiting trees laden with ripe figs attract Yellow-footed Green-Pigeon, Green Imperial-Pigeon, Blue-throated Barbet, Lineated Barbet, and sometimes even the impressive Great Hornbill.
Then, we head off to Kanha Tiger Reserve in the center of India, where we stay at a lovely African-style tented camp set in beautiful bird-rich gardens. The forest here might seem vaguely familiar if you have watched the movie or read The Jungle Book – the novel is based on the jungle of this reserve. Herds of Spotted, Sambar, and Western Swamp Deer roam here, along with Blackbuck, Dhole (Indian Wild Dog), Northern Plains Gray Langur, Indian Peafowl, Indian Vulture, Indian Gray Hornbill, Jungle Owlet, and (of course) the majestic Bengal Tiger.
Our main tour is designed for two weeks plus your travel time. But since you’ve traveled all the way to India, we encourage you to make the most of your time at another top national park and maximize your chances to see Red Pandas by adding our Red Panda pre-extension—take a peek!
- Find endemic and regional specialty birds in habitats ranging from seasonal monsoon forest to rhododendron cloaked foothills
- At Kaziranga, have the chance to see wild Indian Elephant and Rhino
- Spend time exploring the Brahmaputa River, one of the great rivers of the world, for Gangetic River Dolphin
- Wonder at herds of large mammals while searching for Bengal Tiger at Kanha Reserve, the forest depicted in Rudyard’s Kipling The Jungle Book
- Seek adorable Red Panda in rhododendron forests on the pre-extension
- Gaze at the stunning Himalayas near your lodging, including Mount Kanchenjunga – tallest peak in India!
Day 1: Kaziranga National Park
Established as a national park in 1968, Kaziranga is a World Heritage Site with vast expanses of tall elephant grass, marshlands, and tropical broadleaf forests criss-crossed by four major rivers. This protected floodplain hosts almost 500 species of bird; the park is a vitally important IBA (Important Bird Area), home to 14 near-threatened and Endangered species. Notable residents include Swamp Francolin, Lesser Adjutant, Pallas’s Fish-Eagle, Great Hornbill, Dusky Eagle-Owl, Stork-billed Kingfisher, and difficult but possible Red-necked Falcon, Striated Babbler, and more. Kaziranga is also famous for its nesting colonies of the Spot-billed Pelican.
On our safari drives, we search for mammals, including Indian Rhinoceros, Wild Boat, Indochinese Hog Deer, Bengal Tiger, Smooth-coated Otter, Asian Elephant, Wild Water Buffalo, Western Hoolock Gibbon, and Barasingha. On each of our three full days here in Kaziranga we enjoy morning and afternoon safaris in the national park —these drives are in open four-wheel drive jeeps. It is incredible to enjoy large mammals ambling among the rich bird life, and, if the weather is good, even the distant Himalayas as a backdrop. On one of the days, after the morning safari and a quick picnic breakfast at the park gates, we drive for about an hour to enjoy a boat ride on the Brahmaputra River to look for the critically endangered Gangetic Dolphin.
On our afternoon safari drives, we look for more birds and mammals. We may also be lucky to find the rare King Cobra or a basking Burmese Rock Python and other reptiles like the Water or Bengal Monitor.
Accommodations at The Infinity Lodge or similar (B,L,D)
Day 2: Kaziranga | Jorhat | Kolkata | Raipur
We say goodbye to Kaziranga this morning after breakfast. Today is primarily a travel day. We leave Kaziranga and make the four-hour drive to Guwahati airport for flights to Kolkata. This is a short flight, just over an hour. We rest for a while at the airport before connecting onward to Raipur in central India. Raipur, the capital and largest city of Chhattisgarh State in central India, is home to a sacred monument dedicated to Lord Rama. Upon arrival at Raipur, we drive to a nearby hotel in the city where we stay for the night.
Accommodations at The Hyatt or similar (B,L,D)
Day 3: Raipur | Kanha Tiger Reserve
We depart early this morning to make the four and a half hour drive to Kanha. We hope to do some birding along the way to the reserve, visiting agricultural fields and lagoons for species which we will not be able to see at the reserve itself. These may include Bluethroat, Ashy-crowned Sparrow-Lark, and Rosy Starling. After we arrive at our atmospheric lodge – Shergarh Lodge – on the fringe of the park, we take our time to enjoy lunch before taking our first jeep safari into the reserve.
Accommodations at Shergarh Tented Camp or similar (B,L,D)
Day 4: Kanha Tiger Reserve
Kanha Tiger Reserve is a magical place in the heart of India, a mixture of evergreen broadleaf forest interspersed with meadows. As one look upwards at the canopy for birds and mammals, make sure to take note of the many Vanda orchids clinging to the branches of trees. The forest here might seem vaguely familiar if you have watched the movie or read Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book – the novel is based on the jungle of this reserve. Kanha is also the first tiger reserve in India to officially introduce a mascot, the critically endangered Barasignha (Swamp Deer).
The park is home to Bengal Tiger, Leopards, Indian Wild Dog (Dhole), Sloth Bear, Western Swamp Deer, Sambhar (Barasingha), the largest wild bovid—Indian Gaur, herds of Spotted or Chital Deer, Wild Boar, and other mammals. Kanha also features over 300 species of bird, many of which we hope to see while looking for mammals: Indian Peafowl (the national bird of India), Yellow-footed Green-Pigeon, Common Hawk-Cuckoo, Yellow-wattled Lapwing, Red-naped Ibis, Red-headed Vulture, Indian Scops-Owl, Indian Gray Hornbill, Brown-headed Barbet, Indian Yellow Tit, Indian Scimitar-Babbler, and so many more.
Our intimate and lovely Africa-style tented camp is located near to the park in a natural forest with a number of birds on the grounds. The tents are spacious and fan-cooled and have adobe-like porches for sitting and watching the wildlife. In the evening hot water bottles and extra blankets and duvets are provided to keep us warm, as needed. The camp is run by the local community, with active participation from the owners and a team of naturalists. Shergarh has running hot water, laundry facilities, and, for those who need to get in touch with their family and friends. Shergarh serves a mix of Indian and continental cuisine (and can manage special dietary needs for those who need it). We gather for meals in a lovely dining area adorned with local art and furnishings. A fireplace is lit up in the evenings and everyone gathers around to share conversation and learn from each other over tea and drinks. Shergarh also supports a couple of artists from the local Gond community whose art (Gond Art) is well known in some parts of the world. For those who are interested, Shergarh can call the artists and people can meet the artists, as well as buy an art-piece directly from the artist.
Accommodations at Shergargh Tented Camp or similar (B,L,D)
Day 5: Kanha | Raipur | New Delhi | Departures
After breakfast today, we pull ourselves away from beautiful Shergarh Lodge and the lovely Kanha Reserve area to Raipur Airport, where we catch our flight to New Delhi. Once we arrive at the airport in New Delhi, everyone continues onward to connecting flight or other destinations. (B,L)
Day 6: Arrival in New Delhi
Welcome to India! You are met on arrival at the airport and are transferred to our nearby hotel. As the group arrives, we assemble for dinner to get to know each other and our guides. New Delhi is the national capital of India, located in the north-central part of the country. Some may wish to arrive early, to rest up from travel and see cultural highlights of the city; if so we can help you with plans and ideas to explore.
Accommodations at The Andaz New Delhi or similar (D)
Day 7: New Dehli | Guwahati | Nameri
After breakfast this morning, we drive to the airport to connect to our flight to Guwahati in the state of Assam. Upon arrival, we meet up with our driver and continue onwards to Nameri (approximately six hours drive time). Once we arrive at Nameri, we check into our lodge and enjoy a bit of relaxed birding on the outskirts of the park. In the afternoon, Wreathed Hornbills occasionally fly past the Jia Bhoreli River in this area. If the elephants are not out and around, a bit of night birding may be possible – perhaps Spotted Owlet and Brown Boobook.
Accommodations at Nameri Eco Camp or similar; fan-cooled tents (B,L,D)
Day 8: Birding in Nameri
Established in 1998, Nameri National Park lies in the foothills of the Himalayas and features moist, semi-evergreen forest rich in clump-forming bamboos, lianas, and epiphytic orchids. The Jia Bhoroli River is the lifeline of the national park, winding through the park and creating a mosaic of rich wetlands and rocky shingle riverbanks. It features over 400 bird species, in addition to a wide variety of large mammals such as Bengal Tiger, Sambar, Wild Boar, Capped Langur, and Gaur.
This morning, we embark on a rafting trip on a river through the national park, scanning the rocky shingle riverbank for Small Pratincole, River Lapwing, Great Thick-knee, River Tern, and more. We keep a special eye out for Ibisbill, a colorful shorebird with a downcurved bill that is unique enough to belong in its own bird family. After our morning excursion, we return to our lodge for lunch and a short rest. For those that are keen, the grounds of the lodge often receive visits from a number of barbets like Lineated, Blue-eared, and Blue-throated.
Afterwards, we head back to Nameri National Park to explore on foot. By walking the trails slowly and listening to the sounds emanating from the forest, we hope to see a variety of bird species: Pin-tailed Green-Pigeon, Wreathed Hornbill, White-winged Duck, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Greater Flameback, Scarlet Minivet, Black-naped Monarch, Sultan Tit, Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch, and Small Niltava are all possible.
Accommodations at Nameri Eco-Camp or similar; fan-cooled tents (B,L,D)
Day 9: Nameri | Kaziranga National Park
After a short birding session in the vicinity, we drive to Kaziranga National Park from Nameri (about a three hour drive). Upon arrival, we check in at the lodge and get settled into our rooms before enjoying our first jeep safari into the park – likely, a visit to the eastern end of the park where a lagoon teems with life. Sitting on the floodplain of the Brahmaputra River, the lagoon is home to hundreds if not thousands of wintering waterfowl such as Bar-headed Goose, Cotton Pygmy-Goose, Falcated Duck, Indian Spot-billed Duck, and Ferruginous Duck. Stately waders such as Greater Adjutant and Black-necked Stork tiptoe above Gray-headed Lapwing, Indian Pond-Heron, and Pheasant-tailed Jacana. We may also see Pallas’s Fish-Eagle and Dusky-Eagle Owl. Ambling through all of this commotion should be our first views of the magnificent Indian Rhinoceros. Kaziranga National Park is the last stronghold of this Endangered species and hosts two-thirds of the world’s population.
Accomodations at The Infinity Lodge or similar (B,L,D)
Day 1: Arrival in Delhi | Bagdogra | Birding in Latpanchar
Upon arrival at Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, you will be met by your leader. After a short rest at the airport, we will board our connecting flight to Bagdogra in northeastern India. Once we arrive at Bagdogra, we travel to Latpanchar for a couple of hours where we will be able to explore for the rest of the afternoon.
Accomodations at Hornbill’s Nest or similar (B,L,D)
Day 2: Birding at Latpanchar
The Latpanchar area of Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary features wet montane forest with an average elevation of 4200 feet in the Kurseong Hills, actually foothills of the mighty Himalayas that rise even higher to the north. The entire foothill region of the Himalayas is a biodiversity hotspot for birds, with approximately 980 species occurring along the length of these mountains.
We head out early in the morning to see some of the avian riches these mountains hold, including Mountain Imperial-Pigeon, Red-headed Trogon, Great Barbet, Long-tailed Broadbill, Common Green-Magpie, Green-backed Tit, Himalayan Bulbul, Rufous Sibia, Slaty-backed Forktail, Sapphire Flycatcher, and Streaked Spiderhunter. Rufous-necked Hornbill is one of the very special birds we hope to see here, a magnificent and large hornbill of foothill forest and the northernmost species of hornbill in the world.
Accomodations at Hornbill’s Nest or similar (B,L,D)
Day 3: Latpanchar to Singalila National Park
After breakfast, we depart from Latpanchar and head further into the Himalayan region via vehicle for approximately for hours. Once we arrive at the town of Manebhnjyan and perform permit formalities, we continue up to the settlement of Tumling – our base for the next few nights – while birding along the way. The lodge is located on a ridge, so it does get very cold at night and early in the mornings. Frost and perhaps even snowfalls are possible, so it is important to be prepared for cold weather. Hiking boots and walking poles are important, as are thermals.
Overnight at Shikhar Lodge (B,L,D)
Days 4 – 7: Outstanding Singalila National Park
Established in 1992, Singalila National Park lies in the Darjeeling district of India. At an elevation between 7000 and 12000 feet, it features thick forests of magnolia and rhododendron typical of the Himalayan foothills. The famous and well-worn Sandakphu trekking route runs through it.
With the luxury of ample time, we spend the next four days exploring on foot and by safari vehicle looking for the iconic Red Panda and other mammals, as well as myriad birds. We spend most mornings out exploring until mid-day, taking a packed lunch to eat along the trail. We return to our lodge in the late afternoon or early
evening to relax, freshen up, and explore the lodge grounds. Hikes are typically out and back, giving us the chance to perhaps spend long hours watching and photographing the Red Pandas. Other mammals that we may see here include Jungle Cat, Himalayan Serow, Wild Boar, Assam Macaque, Hoary-bellied Squirrel, Orange-bellied Squirrel, and more.
As we are in the wet foothills of the Himalayas, the birding is excellent. Cooler weather and higher elevation also mean that the birds are also quite different from those at Latpanchar. Birds we may see on our daily excursions include striking gamebirds such as Kalij Pheasant and Satyr Tragopan, adorable Yellow-bellied Fairy-Fantail and Gray-crested Tit, and a bevy of laughingthrushes such as Striated, Spotted, Black-faced, and Chestnut-crowned. Feeding flocks traveling through the rhododendron forests often contain White-tailed Nuthatch, Hoary-throated Barwing, Rusty-flanked Treecreeper, Red-blled Leiothrix, and more.
The lodges in this area are basic, but offer awesome views, a clean bed and bathroom, and simple, home cooked food for our dining. On clear mornings, one can see Mount Kanchenjunga across the road from the lodge – a spectacular and memorable sight. Birds also frequent the viewpoints near the lodge, and we should keep an eye out for unruly gangs of the lovely Yellow-billed Blue-Magpie, as well as Blue-fronted Redstart, Himalayan Buzzard, Himalayan Griffon, Rufous-breasted Accentor, and Plain Mountain-Finch that do not frequent the forested habitats lower down.
Accommodations at Shikhar Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 8: Singalila | New Dehli
After a relaxed morning (with some explorations), we drive back to Manebhanjyang and switch vehicles to drive back to Bagdogra to connect to our flight to New Delhi. Upon arrival at New Delhi, you will join the main tour participants.
Photo credits: Banners: Red Panda, Avijit Sarkhel; Birders, Naturalist Journeys Stock; Tiger, Peg Abbott; Market, Naturalist Journeys Stock; Mahouts, Naturalist Journeys Stock; One-horned Rhino, Avijit Sarkhel; Siberian Rubythroat, Avijit Sarkhel; Habre's Nest, courtesy Habre's Nest; Peacock, Naturalist Journeys Stock; Mahout, Naturalist Journeys Stock; Women Walking, Naturalist Journeys Stock; Tiger Family, Avijit Sarkhel; Brown-winged Kingfisher, Narca Moore-Craig; Rhino, Avijit Sarkhel; Primate, Naturalist Journeys Stock; Greater Necklaced Langhing Thrush, Carlos Sanchez; Raquet-tailed Drongo, Peg Abbott; Puff-throated Babbler, Peg Abbott; Siberian Rubythroat, Avijit Sarkhel; Morning Birding, Naturalist Journeys Stock; Tiger, Peg Abbott; Common Myna, Carlos Sanchez; Elephants and Mahouts, Peg Abbott; Hoolock Gibbon, Avijit Sarkhel; Jackals, Peg Abbott; Giant Squirrel, Bud Ferguson; Tiger, Peg Abbott; Red Panda, Avijit Sarkhel; Red-billed Leothrix, Avijit Sarkhel; Vehicle in Singalila, Avijit Sarkhel; Jeep at Singalila, Avijit Sarkhel; Birding, Avijit Sarkhel; Chital, Narca Moore-Craig; Horned Lark, Avijit Sarkhel; Elephant walks, Naturalist Journeys Stock; Jeep, Avijit Sarkhel; Red Panda, Narca Moore-Craig; Stripe-throated Yuhina, Naturalist Journeys Stock; Tiger, Avijit Sarkhel; White-collared Thrush, Naturalist Journeys Stock.