Indian is a country which has somehow got me hooked like no other and always leaves me wanting more. My first visit in 1991 was hard work. Great birding, generally friendly and welcoming people; a complete travel experience. Yet that first visit was just too much. Too much hassle. Too much poverty. Too much red tape. Too much like hard work. Too much diarrhoea! I left vowing never to return, and in 30 years of worldwide travel covering over 50 countries, no other country has left such a strong impact on me.
However, despite the feelings engendered by that first trip I was tempted to return in 1998, a trip to Goa. A somewhat softer option compared to the rigours of the north, but I really did enjoy it. Three further trips in Goa and excursions through the southern states of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadil and I have become firmly hooked. I have been returning for varying lengths of time almost every year ever since with visits to far flung parts of the country including Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Gujarat there are only a few states which have yet to receive my attention. My latest trip was as a guide for a small birding group covering the same itinerary that I opted for back on that first trip in 1991. I have traveled this circuit on half a dozen occasions now and it never ceases to inspire me.
Entering the magnificent Corbett National Park always inspires. The first of the parks to be set up and protected by Project Tiger this area is home to an impressive 200 or so Tigers and a wonderful array of birds. Limited to moving around the park by open-top vehicles called Gypsies it can be a bit frustrating, but you soon find an excellent selection of birds and mammals and have a good chance of finding the iconic Tiger. Highlights on this most recent trip included a Brown Fish Owl dozing on a branch in the early morning sunshine, a diminutive Collared Falconet perched high in a tree on the forest edge, a Changeable Hawk-eagle having just finished its meal of an egret and of course the three Tigers we saw plodding slowly across the track in front of our vehicle.
Moving on to the hill station of Nainital the increased elevation brings you in range of a different selection of birds and with magnificent views of the distant, snow-covered peaks of the high Himalaya this wonderful area provides a fine array of superb birds. Quiet spells are interspersed by periods of dynamic activity as mixed feeding parties of birds move through the trees, fast-flowing streams and rivers are home to gorgeous White-capped Water Redstarts and Spotted Forktails. Precipitous grass-covered slopes attract the globally threatened Cheer Pheasant, whilst wheeling flocks of Altai Accentors can be most confiding.
Dropping back down onto the plains this classic itinerary takes in the world famous Keoladeo National Park at Bharatpur, whilst a visit to this part of India would not be complete without a visit to the incomparable Taj Mahal.
For the wildlife enthusiast there is little not to like on this itinerary. Superb opportunities for seeing some of the most wonderful birds and mammals on the planet plus a bombardment of rich experiences unlike no other country in the world. Simply fantastic.
This latest trip was with Birdwatching Breaks and a birding trip report can be found here.
If you are interested in visiting India then I am available to arrange and guide birding trips throughout the country, so contact me for more details.