Atravelynn

You bet your WILD ASSES India has LIONS & TIGERS & BEARS, Oh My!

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Posted (edited)

WILD ASSES –Little Rann of Kutch

 

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LIONS (the only wild lions in Asia) – Sasan Gir National Park

 

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TIGERS – On this trip, Bandhavgarh was the tiger park

 

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BEARS – A sure bet for bears is The Agra Bear Rescue Facility near Agra for rescued sloth bears. But sloth bears can be seen in the wild as well, and I had a brief sighting in Bandhavgarh.

 

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Oh My! – Taj Mahal, anytime of day!

 

 

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Plus (on this trip):

 

Black Buck, Nilgai (Blue Bull), Chinkara (Indian Gazelle), Muntjac (Barking Deer), Wild Boar, Leopard, Jungle Cat, Striped Hyena, Indian Wolf, Indian Fox, Desert Fox, Gharial Crocs, Mugger Crocs, Monkeys, Mongoose, and many beautiful and rare birds, including the site of the most roosting harriers in the world.

 

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Black Buck in Velavadar .........................................................................................,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,........................................................ Indian Fox Kits in Little Rann of Kutch

Edited by Atravelynn
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Lovely pics Lynn. Hope I have just as much luck as you next year!

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Posted (edited)

Alphabetical Bird List:

 

 

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Flamingos and Demoiselle Cranes at Nawa Talab Lake in Little Rann of Kutch

 

 

 

 

Driver/guide CB told me we could have seen half again as many birds if that had been our prime focus. With his spotting skills, I believe him.

 

 

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From balcony at Tiger Lagoon, Bandhavgarh, Green Bee Eaters

 

Adjutant stork

Alexandrine parakeet

Ashy prinia

Asian koel

Asian paradise flycatcher

Bar headed geese (favorite)

Black bellied tern

Black crowned night heron

Black drongo

Black headed darter

Black headed gull

Black redstart

Black winged stilt

Black/red naped ibis (mating pair in a tree)

Blue bearded bee eater (favorite)

Blue rock thrush

Brahminy starling

Brown Fish Owl (saw a pair from last year)

Cattle egret

Chestnut bellied sand grouse

Chestnut shouldered petronia

Comb duck

Common babbler

Common bush shrike

Common Crane

Common kestrel

Common moorhen

Common myna

Common teal

Coppersmith barbet

Cotton pygmy geese

Crested lark

Crested serpent eagle

Demoiselle cranes

Egyptian vultures (mating)

Eurasian crag martin

Eurasian Marsh harrier

Eurasian spoonbill

Eurasian thick-knee

Eurasian wigeon

Gadwall

Glossy ibis

Gray breasted Prinia

Gray capped pygmy woodpecker

Gray francolin

Gray heron

Gray Indian night jar

Gray legged geese

Great tit

Greater coucal

Greater flamingo

Green bee eater

Honey vulture

Hoopoe (favorite)

Indian black robin

Indian blackbird (first for guide)

Indian Cormorant

Indian courser (favorite)

Indian Skimmer (2 at a great distance, 1 was preening)

Indian spot billed duck

Jungle babbler

Jungle crow

Jungle owlet

Lagger falcons (pair, rare sighting on Chambal River)

Lesser flamingo

Lesser whistling duck

Little cormorant

Little egret

Little grebe

Long billed pipit

Long-legged buzzard

Montagu harrier

Mottled owls (rare sighting in Gir)

Northern pintail

Northern shoveler

Open billed stork

Oriental Honey buzzard

Oriental white eye

Osprey

Painted stork

Pallid harrier

Peacock

Plum headed parakeet

Pond heron

Purple gallinule/swamp hen

Purple heron

Purple sunbird

Racket tail drongo

Red jungle fowl

Red throated flycatcher

Red vented bulbul

River lapwing

River swift

River tern

Rose ring parakeet

Rosy blackbird

Rosy starling

Ruddy shelduck

Rufous tailed lark

Rufous treepie

Sarus crane

Shorteared owl

Small minivet

Spotted dove

Storkbilled Kingfisher (cool bird)

Striated night heron (first for guide)

Tawny eagle

Tickell's blue flycatcher

Tree pipit

Western reef egret

Whistling teal

White breasted water hen

White browed fantail

White eyed buzzard

White throated kingfisher

Wooly necked stork

Yellow wagtail

 

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Indian Roller and Sikra, both in Bandhavgarh

Edited by Atravelynn
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Posted (edited)

Itinerary

 

2012

 

Day 01/ Mar 11/ Sun: Depart Chicago in afternoon on Air India

 

Day 02/ Mar 12/Mon: Arrive Delhi early eve. O/nt Amarya Villa

 

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Lobby of Amayra, it smelled even nicer than it looked

 

 

Day 03/ Mar 13/Tue: Delhi – Agra, Drive 4.5 hours Delhi to Agra to the Agra Bear Rescue Facility inside the Sur Sarovar Bird Sanctuary (Keetham Lake), then a 45 minute drive to The Retreat in Agira, very near Taj, 4 pm visit to Taj Mahal, o/nt The Retreat

 

Day 04/ Mar 14/Wed: Drive 1.25 hours Agra to Chambal River for morning boat trip that lasted until noon. Agra to Katni (By 12412, Gondwana Express Train – 1850 / 0515 Hrs) o/nt on train in 1st class compartment.

 

Day 05/ Mar 15/ Thu: Upon arrival in rail station, drive 2 hours Katni to Bandhavgarh, pm Bandhavgarh game drive, o/nt Tiger Lagoon

 

Day 06/ Mar 16/ Fri: Bandhavgarh 2 game drives, o/nt Tiger Lagoon

Day 07/ Mar 17/ Sat: Bandhavgarh, 2 game drives, o/nt Tiger Lagoon

Day 08/ Mar 18/ Sun: Bandhavgarh 2 game drives, o/nt Tiger Lagoon

 

---Next part of the trip was in the western state of Gujarat, which has the parks of Sasan Gir, Velavadar, and Little Rann of Kutch. It took a full day in transit from the state of Madhya Pradesh to Gujarat.

 

Day 09/ Mar 19/ Mon: Drive 4 hours Bandhavgarh to Jabalpur to fly Jabalpur – Delhi (By IT 4376 – 0915 / 1115 Hrs) Delhi– Mumbai (By IT 310 – 1410 / 1610 Hrs) all on Kingfisher Air, o/nt Hotel Transit near airport.

 

Day 10/ Mar 20/ Tue: Fly Mumbai – Diu (By 9W 2500 – 0555 / 0825 Hrs) Jet Airways, Drive 2.25 hours to Gir in time for pm game drive, o/nt Gir Birding Lodge

 

Day 11/ Mar 21/ Wed: Gir 3 game drives, o/nt Gir Birding Lodge

Day 12/ Mar 22/ Thu: Gir, 3 game drives, o/nt Gir Birding Lodge

 

Day 13/ Mar 23/ Fri: Morning game drive, Drive 4 hours Gir to Velavadar, pm game drive, o/nt Black Buck Lodge

 

Day 14/ Mar 24/ Sat: Velavadar, 2 game drives; o/nt Black Buck Lodge

 

Day 15/ Mar 25/ Sun: morning game drive, Drive 5 hours Velavadar to Little Rann of Kutch, pm Game Drive, o/nt Rann Riders

 

Day 16/ Mar 26/ Mon: LRK, 2 game Drives, o/nt Rann Riders

 

Day 17/ Mar 27/ Tue: LRK am game drive, Drive 2 hours LRK to Ahmadabad, Ahmadabad– Delhi (By 9W 7002–1410/1540) Jet Airways. The plan was to spend time in Delhi before departure.

 

Day 18/ Mar 28/Wed: Delhi departure at 12:20 am on Air India and arrive Chicago same day in morning.

 

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Edited by Atravelynn

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Kittykat, you snuck in there between posts. Do you have your itinerary and # of days yet?

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wowowow, I wish I had known this was coming, I would have made a note in my calendar.

 

Can't wait, Atravelynn :D

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I'm just glad you could mark your 2012 calendar, Super LEEDS, and not 2103. I was a little slow getting on this thing.

 

Wild World India Again

 

Here is the link to a previous very successful, enjoyable trip with Wild World India.

 

http://safaritalk.ne...-and-then-some/

 

 

Here are just five specific examples of Wild World India's fine service throughout this trip:

 

1) When Nature Heritage Resort did not work out in our original itinerary, we were upgraded to Tiger Lagoon at no extra cost.

 

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Red-naped Ibis at lagoon at Tiger Lagoon

 

2) Upon arrival at Chambal River, driver/guide Rakesh spotted the sought after bird, the Indian Skimmer far away near the river. Despite a bum leg that hampered his walk, he charged out in the direction of the two Skimmers and urged us to quickly follow. We hurried behind him for about 10 minutes and focused in the direction he pointed, to see a pair of Indian Skimmers on the distant river bank. These were the only Skimmers around during our entire Chambal River outing; and thanks to Rakesh's spotting skills and difficult dash across the countryside, we caught a glimpse of this special bird.

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Gharials in Chambal River

 

 

3) I had a last minute flight change that meant an unanticipated long layover in Delhi, enroute to Mumbai. When I called WWI so they could notify my Mumbai driver that I'd be late, Randhir took the message, then informed me that he'd be at the airport with a driver in 30 minutes so that I'd be entertained during the layover. We had an impromptu tour of Hauz Khas, a stop at the WWI office to use email, a cold mango juice, upon my request an explanation of WWI's snow leopard trip, and a quick shopping excursion. What a nice surprise and far better than sitting at the airport!

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Alexandrine parakeet near Hauz Khas, Green bee eater from my balcony at Tiger Lagoon Brown fishing owl in Bandhavgarh

 

4) In Velavadar, we were following a striped hyena when it ducked out of sight right at park closing time. Driver/guide CB asked the park ranger if we could delay our departure a few minutes in hopes of another sighting of the hyena. Permission granted so I got another 20 minutes in the park and CB worked overtime.

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Nilgai, which unlike striped hyenas, were easy to see in Velavadar

 

 

5) On an afternoon drive in Little Rann of Kutch, where it gets into the 100s Fahrenheit, my guide, CB, and local guide, Babulal, offered me their one and only new, cold bottle of water. When I declined, they thoughtfully offered to top up my warm bottle with the cool water from their newly opened cool bottle.

 

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LRK

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Posted (edited)

Air India

 

The Indian movies with subtitles in English were a great way to pass the time on the flight . If there had not been a passenger seated next to me, I would have enjoyed some restrained seat dancing to the 90 minute segment of Bollywood music videos.

 

Air India provided the only nonstop Chicago-Delhi flight at a price better than flights with stops. The departure/arrival times were most convenient too.

 

Several meals and snacks were provided, mostly Indian food.

 

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Agra Bear Rescue Facility

 

Home to 300 rescued sloth bears, and source of employment for many of the former dancing bear masters, The Agra Bear Rescue Facility offers hope to end a life of cruelty for captive sloth bears. The Kalandar are semi-nomadic people that for centuries had captured sloth bear cubs from the forest by killing the mother and trained them to provide entertainment to passersby in exchange for money. This cruel practice was their livelihood, a tradition handed down over generations. To save the bears from this horrendous existence, the Kalandars had to be offered an alternative way to provide for their families, which is one of the goals of the rescue facility. No photos/video are permitted to be posted online, though you can take both for your own use for a modest fee. (I forget how much). Opportunities for sloth close-ups were plentiful.

 

The facility is 15 km before Agra, on the Delhi-Agra Hwy. From the main gate of Sur Sarovar Bird Sanctuary to the bear facility's entrance is 20 minutes. We spent 90 minutes in the rescue facility watching a short informational video, taking a tour by a helpful staff member, looking at the bears in large pens and forested paddocks, and buying some items, such as a T-shirt and jewelry made be the Kalandar women. You could spend under an hour and see several bears or linger for a couple of hours.

Edited by Atravelynn

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Posted (edited)

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Taj Mahal in afternoon

 

Always a spectacle anytime of the day. Compared to my previous morning visit last year, there were way more people in p.m. vs. a.m. The quality of the light was about equal. Lucky no heavy haze or fog either time.

 

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Amir was again the local guide and did a great job on this visit. He said he had worked on some new angles for photos over the past year. The pictures he took with my camera definitely supported his claim. The Retreat is a new hotel just 10 minutes from the Taj, very convenient and very nice.

 

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Edited by Atravelynn

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Posted (edited)

Baby Taj

 

Also in Agra is the tomb of Itmad-ud-Daula, considered to have been a draft for the Taj Mahal.

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The Baby Taj, Tomb of Itmad-ud-Daula

 

Not only is the building beautiful and uncrowded, the Rhesus monkeys in the area are highly active subjects.

 

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One of the young monkeys took the elasticized blue paper protective shoe cover and stuck it on his head. With limited visibility he walked around on his two hind legs with his arms waving in front of himself in a playful manner, just like a child would.

 

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Edited by Atravelynn

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Wow Lynn!! My wife and I just got in from dinner and are blown away. She's been talking about an India trip and I've wanted to see Asiatic lions. Scrolling through your first posts my first reaction was holy cow (bad pun intended)!! I absolutely love the lion picture - looking into his eyes, he look like a wise old soul. Just beautiful - and the Taj to boot (oh yeah, tigers too). I can't wait to read/see more. Did you happen to get any pictures of Indian wolf?

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Posted (edited)

Chambal River

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Eurasian Thick-knee, Comb Duck, Egyptian Geese (right after mating), RuddyShelduck on Chambal River

 

About 75 minutes from Agra , the part of the Chambal river we visited lies in the Dholpur district and is the eastern most edge of Rajasthan bordering Uttar Pradesh & Madhya Pradesh. The small, private charter motor boat we used is operated by Madhya Pradesh Tourism though technically we were in Rajasthan. It was a tri-state experience.

 

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Gharial crocs on Chambal River

 

 

Mornings are best for the birding and croc viewing. I have seen Gharial and Muggers (the 2 croc species) in the Indian parks of Corbett and Gir, but not as good of views as on this river. Really good croc viewing on the Chambal River!

 

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Muggers on Chambal River

 

 

This is a favorite location for the Indian Skimmer. Though both our driver/guide Rakesh, who joined us on the boat, and the boat captain/guide tried their best to find skimmers on our river trip, the only sighting of this striking bird was a fleeting glance at a great distance before boarding the motor boat. If Indian Skimmers are a goal, I'd suggest an overnight near the Chambal River to allow 2 mornings and one afternoon on the river.

 

Sometimes pink dolphins are also spotted, but our only sighting was a dead one floating by. Poor little guy.

 

Especially near where we launched, the human activity rivaled that of the birds and reptiles. Excavation with bulldozers and cranes, clothes washing, cattle watering, and sitting on an inner tube and fishing with magnets for coins dropped from the bridge for good luck all took place within view of crocs and ducks. A video at Brian's Art for Animals captures the diverse scene well.

 

 

]

 

 

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We had great luck with the rare Laggard Falcons, though, high on the cliffs. Their coloring blends in so well with the bird guano dripping down the rocks that my first 10 photos accidentally focused on the poop rather than the birds.

 

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Laggar Falcon Pair

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Edited by Atravelynn
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Posted (edited)

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Flocks of Bar-headed Geese on Chambal

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Edited by Atravelynn

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PT123,

 

It's very likely to see the Asiatic Lion in Gir. They started offering 3 game drives a day just before I left so I did that on my two full days. That meant in 3 nights I had 8 drives and saw 20 lions. I was fortunate with the Indian Wolf in Velavadar, about 4 hours away from Gir. It is typical to see wolves there. No wolves for me in Gir. The only other predator I saw in Gir was a leopard. Great momentary views, but no real photos.

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Posted (edited)

You're always hitting jackpot, Lynn! Good for you. Did you manage any decent sightings of the striped hyena after all? Btw, you look great in the shalwar-kameez :)

Edited by Sangeeta

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Posted (edited)

Bandhavgarh

In April 2011 when I was in Bandhavgarh, I heard rumors that all eligible tigresses were pregnant and those that were not would likely be before the end of the monsoon. Doing some math, I figured if I could return about March, there might be some tiger cubs out and about. It was a gamble, but one worth taking.

 

The Gondwana Express Train (from Delhi and Agra) is scheduled to arrive Katni at 5:15 am. , then it is a 2 hour drive to Bandhavgarh. So during the planning stages of the trip I hoped we might have time for an abbreviated morning drive, starting by7:45 am, perhaps in a zone other than Tala, where a permit could be bought last minute. We kept that as a pay-upon-arrival option, but I was warned the game drive would likely not happen and it did not. Late arrivals are typical, and that morning the train was an hour late. Despite looking like you can squeeze in a morning drive from the train station, it doesn't work.

 

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A working elephant at Bandhavgarh getting a bath in his private outdoor bathtub

Tiger Lagoon is about 12 minutes from the Tala Entrance gate. It was an elegant place with rooms so spacious you could run wind sprints in them. Then you could cool down in the outdoor bathtub if you wished. Lounging on my private balcony overlooking the lagoon was how I spent some of my downtime, not sprinting. When Nature Heritage did not work out, Wild World India provided this free upgrade.

 

 

 

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Observed from my Room Tiger Lagoon balcony

 

 

In the dry season, room number 107 or higher seemed to be best because some of the lagoon's water was siphoned off for farmers in the area, I was told. Rooms lower than 107 overlooked more mud and less water. Earlier in the season, when there was more water in the lagoon, the lower numbered rooms would be fine.Great food and one night we had an outdoor extravaganza/feast where local folks arrived to prepare chapati and entertain us with song and dance. The highly skilled singers, drummers, and dancers/acrobats were unique and captivating. Participation was encouraged but optional for the grand finale dance, no acrobatics or even coordination required. It was fun and only mildly aerobic.

 

 

 

 

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We had the same naturalist for the entire Bandhavgarh stay-- Rajesh. I believe he was a tiger in his last life because he so successfully anticipated their movements. His good rapport with park security, maintenance staff, and managers helped our cause as well. A wonderful naturalist and person! Our skilled driver throughout was Baloo. They made a fine team. I hoped with Baloo in the driver's seat, that we'd send out positive sloth bear vibes (Baloo was the bear in Jungle Book) and catch a glimpse of that creature. That's exactly what happened.

Edited by Atravelynn
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You're always hitting jackpot, Lynn! Good for you. Did you manage any decent sightings of the striped hyena after all? Btw, you look great in the shalwar-kameez :)

 

No jackpot for Indian Skimmers or a (live) pink dolphin. Thank you for the shalwar-kameez compliment. That was something from home that I wore to Taj, but I bought two real ones there. I saw 2 striped hyenas in Velavadar. Probably the same one in morning and at night. The morning sighting was good enough for a photo!

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Posted (edited)

Tala Zone Bandhavgarh drives:

 

#1 afternoon = 0 tigers. Male sambur with the biggest antlers we ever saw. They had better set a world antler record because while we were admiring his rack, the only tiger sighting of that afternoon took place about 100 meters behind us.

 

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Mr. Giant Antlers and his lady friend, who also appreciates them

 

 

#2 morning = A whopping 8 tigers. Mother Kankatee with three 7-month old cubs, one of them carrying around prey in its mouth; and then Mother Banbayee with three 13-month old cubs.

 

 

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The injured eye of Kankatee is very visible. Her cub is barely visible, behind her.

 

 

 

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#3 afternoon =1 tiger. Kankatee at a distance in an open meadow eyeing up the chital with her one good eye. A brief sighting of sloth bear. It appears the bear had been chasing a peacock, which could be a scene right out of Jungle Book.

 

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............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................ It is possible to see the bear's eyeball

 

 

#4 morning = 0 tigers. An oversized male sambur, one running jackal, wild boar.

 

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Edited by Atravelynn
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Posted (edited)

#5 afternoon = 1 tiger. We had a very short wait until Rajabehera emerged from the thicket for a drink in a pond hidden from view. Fortunately her entrance/exit/spraying were unhurried and photogenic.

 

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#6 morning = 3 tigers. We saw the three 7-month old cubs but their mother eluded us in the jungle. A female brown fish owl was sitting atop the same nest that I saw the previous year and the male was nearby. Our best peacock sighting of the trip—a male perched on a tree stump with tail feathers luxuriously draped in the sun.

 

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#7 afternoon = 2 tigers. After a lengthy wait for a possible tiger in the forest, which allowed me enough time to take a short dose in the heat, we moved out and came upon one of the 13-month old cubs in the road and had prolonged views. One other sibling was also briefly present.

 

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In sum I had 15 sightings of 9 cats in 7 outings, spanning 4 nights.

 

With one more day to spend in Bandhavgarh than my itinerary, Brian from Brian's Art for Animals had an additional two game drives and saw even more.

 

If you ever have an opportunity to share a vehicle with Brian or go on a trip that he leads, take advantage of it. A great person to travel with!

 

His video account of the trip up through Bandhavgarh, as posted on safaritalk, can be found here:

 

http://safaritalk.net/topic/8396-safari-india/

 

 

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Crested Serpent Eagle

Edited by Atravelynn
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Will finish the report by early June. The rest of the trip went great.

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Got to love your methodical writing. Makes a trip report enjoyable and informative at the same time. Love your pictures from the "tri-state experience", especially the baby Ghariyal. Those monkeys are fun to watch, but can be quite mean when it comes to snatching things from people. Many get so aggressive that they have to be put down.

 

The sloth bear rescue in Agra sounds promising. I myself have witnessed sloth-bear traders flocking not less than 50 bears in transit to a fare, both in Rajasthan and Maharashtra. I was kind of shocked to see the "herd" the first time around, they just looked like pet labradors...Good to see things are progressing on a different and a positive note.

 

And am glad to hear your flight with Air India was enjoyable. Yes, bollywood movies are your best friends during the 15 hrs. of the journey :D

On that note, a quick suggestion for the folks who get into such varied time zones while travelling: I get these homeopathic tablets called "Jet One" from Whole Foods that helps to recover from the lag and fatigue. No side effects and completely benign. Been using them for years now and they work really well.

 

Can't wait for the rest of it. Thanks a lot for sharing!

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Posted (edited)

Lynn,

 

Thanks a lot for the report - awesome as usual!!!

 

Couple of quick questions - I do realize Bandhavgarh has a route system in place for game drives to limit vehicle movements - did you think most routes have the possibility of Tiger sightings?

 

Also, it's a smaller park from what I read somewhere did you think some sightings were congested?

 

I'm glad you had a good experience with Air India ...... they've had a rough month currently, and not many people willing to fly with them at the moment. Acquisitions of tipsy pilots, one of them...

 

Hari

Edited by madaboutcheetah

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Great, Lynn. Entertaining and informative and beautifully illustrated. Well up to the standard we expect.

 

I still have trouble spotting that third tiger, even with the assistance, but I do believe it was there.

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Got to love your methodical writing. Makes a trip report enjoyable and informative at the same time. Love your pictures from the "tri-state experience", especially the baby Ghariyal. Those monkeys are fun to watch, but can be quite mean when it comes to snatching things from people. Many get so aggressive that they have to be put down.

 

The sloth bear rescue in Agra sounds promising. I myself have witnessed sloth-bear traders flocking not less than 50 bears in transit to a fare, both in Rajasthan and Maharashtra. I was kind of shocked to see the "herd" the first time around, they just looked like pet labradors...Good to see things are progressing on a different and a positive note.

 

And am glad to hear your flight with Air India was enjoyable. Yes, bollywood movies are your best friends during the 15 hrs. of the journey :D

On that note, a quick suggestion for the folks who get into such varied time zones while travelling: I get these homeopathic tablets called "Jet One" from Whole Foods that helps to recover from the lag and fatigue. No side effects and completely benign. Been using them for years now and they work really well.

 

Can't wait for the rest of it. Thanks a lot for sharing!

 

 

Really? Do you take the pills before and after the flight? or do the pills just help you sleep on the plane and you are all set when you get off the long flight?

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Great photos Lynn, I'm enjoying your trip memories and wondering how soon I can get to India...

 

The tiger cubs are a treat, although I can't see the middle one, I'm sure its there. Beautiful bird photos and a much greater diversity of species than I had ever imagined.

 

 

Regards,

 

 

Pol

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