Big Cats of India

Bengal Tiger.jpg
AT A GLANCE
The Big Cats of India have always fascinated wildlife lovers from all over the world. Seeing these regal animals in their natural environment is at the top of every naturalists’ bucket list. That is what this trip is all about.Felidae is the biological family of cats and a member of this family is called a felid or feline. The Felidae comprises two subfamilies, the Pantherinae and the Felinae. The former includes the Panthera species Tiger, Lion and Leopard, and these three regal “big cats” are all found in the wonderfully fascinating country of India.

The Bengal Tiger(Panthera tigris tigris)is the national animal of India and Bangladesh, and has been classified as Endangered with only an estimated 2300 individuals left in the wild forests of the Indian subcontinent. The Bengal Tiger is the largest cat of the family of Felidae, and one of the most iconic animals on the planet. It is considered a flagship species of animals, with huge cultural, symbolic and scientific value.

The Asiatic Lion (Panthera leo persica) is the state animal of Gujarat, with its range restricted to the Gir Forest National Park and surrounding areas. On the IUCN Red List it is listed as Endangered because of the small population size (just over 500) and equally small area of occupancy. It is also called “Indian Lion” and “Persian Lion”.

The Indian Leopard (Panthera pardus fusca) is known as one of the best predators in the world. It is speculated that there are up to 14000 individuals in India, but because of their secretive and elusive nature they are very difficult to “spot”! It is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List .

On this tour we hope to not only see these three magnificent creatures (and many others), but also get a feel for the incredible vibe and passion and colour of the country of India and its people.

OPTIONAL ADDITION : Taj Mahal day visit(1 extra night/2 extra days)

OPTIONAL EXTENSION : Snow Leopard Pilgrimage (9 extra nights/10 extra days)

ITINERARY – BIG CATS OF INDIA
DAY 1: Our Service Starts at Delhi International Airport
You will be met at the Indira Gandhi International airport in Delhi by a company representative and transferred to your hotel where you will sleep for the first night. Time to rest up for a wonderful trip that lies ahead.
Delhi is the capital of India and the second largest urban area on earth. It has been continuously inhabited since the 6th century BC. Through most of its history, Delhi has served as a capital of various kingdoms and empires. It has been captured, ransacked and rebuilt several times, particularly during the medieval period, and modern Delhi is a cluster of a number of cities spread across the metropolitan region. Delhi is famous for its tourist attractions, cultural diversity, lush gardens, stunning temples, huge sport stadiums, the tomb of Mahatma Gandhi, excellent cuisine and its buzzing marketplaces.
In the words of the famous Urdu poet, Mirza Ghalib “I asked my soul what is Delhi? She replied the world is the body and Delhi its life”.

DAY 2: Delhi to Sasan Gir via Rajkot
We will have an early morning transfer to the domestic airport and check in for the flight (almost 2 hours) to Rajkot to the southwest leaving at 05:50 am.
We will arrive in Rajkot and get ready for the 4 hour drive to Sasan Gir.
Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary, also known as Sasan Gir, is a forest and wildlife sanctuaryin the state of India. It was established in 1965, with a total area of 1,412 km2 (545 sq mi), of which 258 km2 (100 sq mi) is fully protected as national park and 1,153 km2 (445 sq mi) as wildlife sanctuary. The park’s fauna list has 38 species of mammals, around 300 species of birds, 37 species of reptiles and more than 2,000 species of insects.
The carnivores group of mammals mainly comprises the Asiatic Lion, Indian Leopard, Jungle Cat, Striped Hyena, Golden Jackal. There are also many other fascinating other fauna species to see in Gir, including Chital, Nilgai, Sambar, Four-horned Antelope, Chinkara, Wild_boar, Indian Crested Porcupine, Mugger Crocodile, Indian Cobra, Indian Star Tortoise and many others.
We will have a late lunch and enjoy a late afternoon game drive in the Park, where we might see our first cat of the tour!
We will have dinner and overnight at the resort in Gir.

DAY 3: Full day in Sasan Gir national park
We will enjoy a full day in the wonderful Gir National Park today, with morning and afternoon safaris in open vehicles in the park itself.
The terrain in Gir is rugged with low hills and the vegetation is mixed deciduous, with stands of Teak, Acacia, Jamun, Tendu and Dhak trees, interspersed with large patches of grasslands. The trees on the hills are sparse and stunted. Within the sanctuary, there are numerous human settlements of cattle herders called Maldharis with an estimated 20,000 head of livestock (which incidentally forms a significant part of the Lion’s diet).
We will enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner at the resort, and also have a good night’s rest there.

DAY 4: Full day in Sasan Gir National Park
Today we will have morning and afternoon safaris in the park again, to maximise our chances of seeing the Asiatic Lion and many other incredible fauna and flora. All meals and our overnight stay will again be at the resort.
The Asiatic Lion is a smaller subspecies of its African cousin, with a unique recognizable stomach fold.
Gir obviously attracts visitors to see the Asiatic Lion in the wild, as it’s the only place in the world where these creatures are now found. Once almost hunted to extinction and listed as critically endangered in 2000, numbers have recovered well due to conservation efforts.
According to the latest census in 2015, the number of Asiatic Lions in Gir and the surrounding area increased by 27% since 2010. The total lion population was recorded at 523, consisting of 109 males, 201 females, and 213 sub-adults and cubs. The next official census will be in 2020.

DAY 5: Sasan Gir  to Ahmedabad
 We will enjoy one last morning game drive in Gir, and after breakfast we will drive to  Ahmedabad, about 330 km (6 to 7 hours) away to the northeast.
Ahmedabad is the largest city and former capital of the state of Gujarat. The almost 6 million people that call it home makes it the fifth most populous city in India. The city is located on the banks of the Sabarmati River.
On arrival we will check into our hotel, and if there is time we can explore the city a little. A visit to the Sabarmati Ashram(once Gandhi’s humble home) is one of the top things to do here, along with shopping at the Law Garden, seeing the vibrating Jhulta Minara or drooling over vintage cars at the Auto World Vintage Car Museum.
Dinner and our overnight stay will be at the hotel in Ahmedabad.

DAY 6: Ahmedabad  to Bera
 This morning after breakfast we will drive further northeast to Bera in Rajasthan, about 290 km (5 hours) away, through beautiful countryside.
On arrival we will check into Castel Bera, a beautiful historic hotel in the hamlet of Bera.
Bera is surrounded by forests where the beautiful Indian Leopards roam free. Running through the town is the river Jawai, with the Jawai Dam built on it. And the resulting beautiful lake is home to some of the biggest crocodiles you will ever see. These areas are not a part of any National Park or sanctuary, making the experience unique as you will sight leopards and other wild animals near or around this sandy village! Bera is an attraction to wildlife enthusiasts from all over India and further afield. All come here to spot the evasive Leopard, the mighty Bluebull, the ever so mischievous Striped Hyena, the graceful Pelican, Greylag Goose, Robin Accentor, Demoiselle Crane and many other interesting fauna and beautiful flora species.
We will enjoy a late afternoon “safari” as we simply sit around and enjoy the animals around us.
Dinner and our overnight stay will be in the stunningly authentic hotel.

DAY 7 & 8: Two full days in and around Bera
 After breakfast each day we will experience the famous golden mornings of Rajasthan. We will have morning and afternoon safaris and return for lunch at the hotel each day.
In Bera we will not only look for Leopards! The crocodiles too make for an unforgettable sight. Big, chunky fellows at over 15 feet in length, they will be very busy with doing what they do best – absolutely nothing! But don’t be fooled with their sleepy demeanor; they are man-eaters.
There are many other interesting things to do here : we could visit the nearby Kumbhalgarh Forst, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, or take a trip to the beautiful Ranakpur Temple. We could go on a rural village excursion or even cycle in the wilderness! There is a lot to do here!

DAY 9: Bera to Jaipur
 After breakfast we will drive northwest to Jaipur, about 400km (7 hours) away.
We will check into our hotel, and the rest of the day is free for your own leisure activities. Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan is colourwashed pink – the color associated with hospitality in Rajput culture.
This Pink City, or the “Venice of the East” has fairy tale palaces, rugged fortresses perched on barren hills and broad avenues, and is very picturesque. Jaipur is a popular tourist destination in India and forms a part of the west Golden Triangle tourist circuit along with Delhi and Agra. Jaipur is home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the astronomical instruments monument at Jantar Mantar and the huge red sandstone and marble Amer Fort.
After some sightseeing in this beautiful city, we will have dinner and a good night’s rest in our comfortable hotel.

OPTIONAL TAJ MAHAL ADDITION

If you opted for the optional Taj Mahal addition to this tour, it will follow tomorrow. We will drive to the town of Agra (4 hours away) to visit the Taj Mahal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New7Wonders of the World. This stunning ivory-white mausoleum was built in the 17th century by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a monument to true love to house the of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It is surely one of the greatest sights in the world to behold. Our local guide will give us some fascinating information about this magnificent marble masterpiece. We will overnight in a hotel in Agra and then continue the rest of the Big Cats of India Tour.)

DAY 10: Jaipur to Ranthambhore National Park
 This morning after breakfast we will drive drive southeast to Ranthambhore National Park, about 180km (4 hours) away.
The land of the Bengal Tiger, Ranthambhore National Park in Rajasthan is spread over 392 sq km, bordered by rocks and ridges. The park is famous for the Wildlife Sanctuary by the same name where one can experience incredible wildlife, history and nature. It is home to some of the most significant tiger conservation efforts in India and subsequently some of the best big cat safaris in the country. At the centre of the park is the 10th-century Ranthambhore Fort, and scattered nearby are ancient temples and mosques. The lakes are filled with crocodiles and huge turtles.
After lunch we will have our first afternoon game drive to The National Park.
Dinner and our overnight stay will be at the Resort.

DAY 11 & 12: Two full days in Ranthambhore
An early breakfast daily is followed by a morning game drive in the park. This could be one the best photography experience you may have on this tour – not just for photos of the Tigers, but for the spectacular scenery in general!
We will return to the resort, rejuvenate and post lunch we head out again for our afternoon safari.
Dinner and overnight stay will be back at the resort each day.
Besides the famous striped royal inhabitants, there are more than 300 species of birds in the park. It is an exceptional place where history and mother-nature entwine to present a stunning sight. A visit here and you won’t look at the land, sky and water the same way you did before. It all starts with the sight of fresh tracks on the road. The very thought that a tiger passed the same road few minutes ago is enough for the heart to skip a beat and for goosebumps to appear.
The park’s deciduous forests are characteristic examples of the type of jungle found in Central India. Apart from the famous Tigers, other fauna include the Indian Leopard, Nilgai, Wild Boar, Sambar, Striped Hyena, Sloth Bear, Southern Plains Grey Langur, Rhesus Monkey, Mugger Crocodile and Chital.
The sanctuary is home to a wide variety of trees, plants, birds and reptiles as well as one of the largest trees in India.
On one of the two days we will also visit Ranthambore Fort, a declared UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a formidable fort having been a focal point of the historical developments of the state of Rajasthan, and is considered an epitome of power due to its history of defending the Rajput Empire against the attacks of foreign invaders. It is likely that the construction of the fort started in the mid-10th century and continued a few centuries after that. The fort is an impressive pink and gravel stone structure with jutting brick lines that looks out majestically over the landscape. It towers over the park with its lofty arches, domes and pillars, silently dominating the area and its inhabitants.

DAY 13: Ranthambore to Delhi
We will have one last morning game drive to the national park and after breakfast transfer to Sawai Madhopur station to board a train to New Delhi at 1230 hrs.
The train should arrive in Delhi at 1840 hrs and you will be transferred to your comfortable city hotel.
We will enjoy a last dinner together and then enjoy a good night’s sleep in the hotel.

DAY 14: Delhi:Home or Next Destination
After breakfast, we will drive to Delhi’s International Airport for your flight back home or to Leh in the northwest of the country on the optional Snow Leopard extension to this tour.

OPTIONAL EXTENSION : Snow Leopard(Panthera uncia)
Truly a once in a lifetime wildlife experience, our Snow Leopard Extension(or as a stand-alone tour) offers an unmissable opportunity to meet Asia’s almost mythical “mountain ghost”. The Trans-Himalayan region of Ladakh, known as ‘Little Tibet’, has been hailed as one of the last frontiers for wildlife tourism. Other rare high altitude wildlife and isolated Himalayan Buddhist communities only add to this tour’s allure. This extension (or stand-alone tour) meets the elements head-on, in an awe-inspiring landscape in the Himalayan region of Ladakh, in search of this magnificent animal.

Do you have a quick question about this birding tour? Speak to a specialist at
info@naturetravelexpeditions.com