NW INDIA TOUR
The Indian Subcontinent offers some of the most exciting birding in the world, with more than 1,350 species, including over 150 endemics. Storks, cranes, bustards, coursers, sandgrouse, bee-eaters, hornbills, barbets, babblers, and sunbirds are just a few of the exotic families to be seen. We will see 5 or 6 storks, many species of diurnal raptors, 3 cranes, 3 or 4 species of sandgrouse, and several owls. We'll also be seeing the Indian Wild Ass, mongoose, deer, antelope, monkeys, and even have a chance of seeing a tiger and the Indian lion. The scenery is magnificent, ranging from high deserts and sand dunes to thorn forests, deciduous forest, teeming marshes, and the exotic grandeur of the Taj Mahal. The entire trip will produce over 300 species.
India is always exciting birding with its large numbers of very tame roadside birds. Hindu traditions abhor killing any animal, resulting in little or no harassment in many places. One of the world's largest pheasants, the Indian Peafowl, struts majestically, without disturbance, through the villages. Sarus Cranes feed in the cultivated fields near the road. It's refreshing indeed to be treated to so many close-ups of such a wide range of fascinating species.
Winter is the best time to see birds on the plains of India and the northwest is where to find the best concentrations of both local species and Palearctic migrants. We spend our time exploring the deciduous and thorn forests, plains, wetlands, cultivation and high deserts of Gujarat and Rajasthan.
BEN KING, president of KingBird Tours, has led 48 tours to the Indian Region and is one of the most experienced bird-tour leaders on the subcontinent, having spent over 3 years birding there. He has written A Field Guide to the Birds of South-East Asia and Checklist of the Birds of Eurasia. He has seen over 2,100 species of birds in Asia, including all but 17 of the 1,356 species known to occur in the Indian Subcontinent. His knowledge of the birds, their habits and where they are found assures you of the best possible birding experience in India.
THE BIRDING SITES
The GIR FOREST (3 days) is the last stronghold of the Indian Lion, an endangered species. With luck, we'll see one. The area is grassland interspersed with deciduous thorn forest and a few lakes. Birdlife is prolific here, with: Red-naped Ibis, Oriental Honey-Buzzard, Red-headed Vulture, Shikra, White-eyed Buzzard, Booted Eagle, Crested Hawk-Eagle, Grey Francolin, Barred Buttonquail, Sarus Crane, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Pintail Snipe, Great Thick-knee, Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, Plum-headed Parakeet, Brown Fish-Owl, Eurasian Wryneck, Black-rumped Flameback, Black-headed Cuckooshrike, Variable Wheatear, Orphean Warbler, Asian Paradise-Flycatcher, and Rosy Starling. Accommodation and food basic.
The LITTLE RANN OF KUTCH (3 days) is a vast, featureless dry plain, home of the endangered endemic Indian Wild Ass, which we should see. We'll travel by open jeep around India's largest wildlife sanctuary. Some of the more interesting of the likely birds are: Eurasian White and Dalmatian Pelicans, Western Reef-Egret, Greater and Lesser Flamingos, thousands of Common and Demoiselle Cranes, Yellow-wattled Lapwing, good numbers of Palearctic shorebirds, Indian Courser, Tawny Lark, Indian Robin, and Booted Warbler. We could find an Indian Skimmer, Houbara Bustard, or Sociable Lapwing. Other possible mammals are: Black Buck, Nilghai, Chinkara, Jackal, Jungle Cat, etc. Accommodation is basic with excellent hospitality.
UDAIPUR (2 days) is famous for its palace perched on an island in the middle of a large lake. The palace has been converted to a hotel and we'll stay there, commuting by boat to birding sites at the edge of the lake. Our primary goal here will be to find the rare, local endemic Black-and-White Tit (Parus nuchalis) which is occasionally seen here. Other possible birds are Rock Bush-Quail and White-bellied Minivet, another rare and local species. Some of the commoner birds are Indian Peafowl, Small Minivet, Brown Rockchat, and Large Grey and Jungle Babblers.
JODHPUR (2 days) is situated at the beginning of the high desert area of western Rajasthan. Here we'll stay in a magnificent sandstone palace atop a high hill. This palace is one of the youngest in India and perhaps the best maintained. You'll get a real taste of how the maharajas lived in our brief stay here. Meanwhile we continue our drive west deeper into the desert. Our birding will all be roadside as it was on the way here. Raptors are prominent with 6 vultures (including Eurasian Griffon and Monk Vulture), Short-toed Eagle, Pallid Harrier, White-eyed Buzzard, Long-legged Buzzard, Tawny Eagle, and Lagger Falcon. Other species are Painted Sandgrouse, Tawny Pipit, Isabelline Wheatear, Hume's White-throat, Orphean Warbler, and Grey-hooded (maybe) and House Buntings.
JAISALMER (3 days) is situated in the Great Thar Desert, a beautiful and very scenic, yet desolate area. Birding is excellent with Laggar Falcon, the endangered Indian Bustard, Houbara Bustard, Spotted and Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Cream-colored Courser, Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark, Desert Lark, Greater Hoopoe-Lark, Bimaculated and Hume's Larks, White-browed Bushchat (maybe), Desert Wheatear, Moustached and Desert Warblers. Accommodation at Jaisalmer is a basic structure, with fairly good food. Transportation will be by jeep, often away from roads. Jaisalmer is one of the most picturesque cities in India.
RANTHAMBHORE (3 days) is one of the 11 or 12 special reserves of Project Tiger. Its rolling hills are covered with deciduous and acacia forest interspersed with grassland and a few fine lakes and marshes. We'll try to see a tiger and may succeed. Along the way we'll see some fine birds: Red-headed Vulture, Bonelli's Eagle, Jungle Bush-Quail, Painted Spurfowl, Brown Crake, Yellow-footed Pigeon, Alexandrine Parakeet, White-naped Woodpecker, Rufous-tailed Lark, Chestnut-breasted Bunting, Chestnut-shouldered Petronia, etc.
KEOLADEO NATIONAL PARK AT BHARATPUR (3 days) is one of the world's finest waterfowl reserves. The birding is easy and exciting with Painted Stork, Asian Openbill, Wooly-necked and Black-necked Storks, White Spoonbill, Greylag and Bar-headed Geese, Ruddy Shelduck, Comb Duck, Red-crested and Ferruginous Pochards, Indian and Greater Spotted Eagles, Steppe and Imperial Eagles, Pheasant-tailed and Bronze-winged Jacanas, White-tailed Lapwing, Dusky Eagle Owl, Yellow-eyed and Common Babblers, etc. etc.
THE TAJ MAHAL (1 day) is one of the world's most magnificent structures, a monument to love unparalleled on earth. It is easy to just sit and stare for hours. And there are a few birds there.
Arrive Mumbai (Bombay). Overnight Orchid Hotel
Visit Taj Mahal at dawn. Drive Agra/Delhi. Overnight Ambassador Hotel
AIR CONSIDERATIONS: The tour begins in Mumbai and ends in Delhi. We will be purchasing your internal India tickets in order to insure keeping the group together. Please plan to arrive in Mumbai a day or two early to ensure timely arrival and have some time to get over jet lag.
LAND PRICE/NUMBER OF PARTICIPANTS: The land price is based onthe number of participants. The maximum number of participants will be 10.
LAND PRICE INCLUDES: Land price includes all ground transportation, double occupancy hotel rooms, all meals, bottled water/soft drinks at meals, guides, tips, fees, and foreign airport taxes when accompanied by the leader. NOT INCLUDED are airport taxes when not accompanied by the leader, passports, visas, service charges for obtaining visas, excess baggage charges, camera fees, laundry, personal tips, alcoholic beverages, fruit juice (except at breakfast), room service charges, items not on menu of included meals, personal items, souvenirs, sightseeing not included in the itinerary, insurance of any kind, and telephone calls. For those joining only part of a tour, meals taken before and after leaving the group are normally not included.
LAND AND AIR RATES: All prices are based on current tariff and exchange rates for this tour. Price changes, due either to alterations in tariffs or exchange rates, will be reflected in the prices charged for the tour. KingBird Tours' planning, promotional and operating costs are included in all tour rates.
ACCOMMODATIONS: Based on two persons sharing a twin-bedded room. Single rooms will be available at the supplement charge quoted. In some of the more remote areas, however, single rooms are unavailable. We'll supply roommates where possible, but cannot guarantee to find roommates for all desiring them. If no roommate is available, the single supplement will be charged for any person utilizing single accommodation. First class hotel with private bath and air-conditioning is provided in Delhi. However, all other accommodation will be basic to primitive.
MEALS: All meals will be provided, i.e. breakfast, table d'hote lunch, and dinner. A la carte meals will be provided in several places. Box lunches will be utilized on some days.
TOUR ESCORT: The leader of your tour, Ben King, will be with you during the entire tour from the time you reach Mumbai until you depart from Delhi. There will also be a representative of the local tour company with the group at all times to assist wherever he may.
TAXES AND GRATUITIES: All necessary gratuities to hotel staff, waiters, local guides, drivers, etc. are included in the tour price. Thus it is NOT necessary to tip anyone on the entire tour. However, if you wish to tip anyone for special services, or because you like them, it is quite all right. All local government taxes are included in the tour price.
LOCAL FEES: All park entry fees are included in the tour price. Still camera fees are included. Video and movie camera fees are NOT included. (Most parks have camera fees, the video and movie camera fees often excessive).
BAGGAGE: International flight baggage allowance from New York to India is two pieces with a maximum total dimension (length, width, height of both pieces added up) of 106 inches. Note that most USA-based airlines now allow only 23 kg (50 lbs.)/bag—there will be a surcharge for any excess up to 32 kg.(70 lbs.). On many foreign airlines, each bag may weigh up to 32 kilograms (70 pounds). However, all internal flights in India allow a maximum of 20 kg. (44 lbs.). They are likely to weigh your luggage carefully at least once or twice and perhaps each time. You will be responsible for any excess baggage charges. You are allowed one carry-on bag on all flights. Technically the 44-pound limit includes your carry-on bag and occasionally a zealous agent will demand that the rules be followed. Air carrier's liability for baggage loss is limited and therefore baggage insurance is recommended and available at nominal rates.
SMOKING RULES: (1) NO smoking in vehicles. (2) NO smoking at meal tables. (3) NO smoking in bedrooms if your roommate does not smoke. (4) The smoker is expected to see that his smoke does not move toward other tour members, at all times. (5) Anyone smoking will be last in line on single-file paths or trails.