The first part, i.e the`cultural` part, was particularly enjoyable and made so by our driver/guide for the 6 days. His name was Jay and he was a delight; a very nice man who we would rate in the same class as the wonderful Vijay himself. He went `the extra mile` to ensure everything ran smoothly, was always there at the right time, and even included a few `extras` of his own, e.g a flower market and a horse temple en route. We would highly recommend him.
The places we stayed were all very comfortable and supplied reasonably priced food; probably Blackberry Hills was the highlight, probably because of the location, and the tea plantation area around Munnar was stunning. The visit to the plantation itself was very interesting. Although the houseboat was a little cramped in terms of thebedroom and bathroom, the whole experience was excellent. Kerala waterways are stunningly beautiful, and the two gentlemen who who looked after us from Evergreen Tours were great. Jacob, the cook, came up with some wonderful food.
All the guides were good, with Prabu at the Meenakshi Temple being our favourite.The temple was magnificent. In truth, whilst I enjoyed the stories of the gods and manifestations, there was probably one temple too many for Mary, but we are not complaining at all.
As said, whilst we thought all the hotels were a good choice with good food and accommodation, the Parc at Chennai need to be mindful of their prices for food and drink. In all the other hotels we paid between 1200 - 2000 IR for a meal for two. At the Parc we paid approx. 5300 IR totalincluding small individual bottles (330ml)of Kingfisher beer being 325 IR each. Most places charge 125-175 IR for a large version (500ml).The food howeverwas excellent. We thought you needed to know that for future reference.
On to the game drives...... Tadoba, Kanha and Bandhavgarh.
In terms of the best photo opportunities for the big cats, it has to be Tadoba. Albeit we were very lucky to see3 leopards and one tiger with some great shots (for us that is). Our guide there was Rishin who we would rate in the same league as Jagat, and the manager and his wife were very nice people ( Ranjeet I think?). The whole experience there was good, although we do prefer Kanha and Bandhavgarh asthey are more attractive.
Kanha has to be a big disappointment, although we believe that we were probably the only ones there who didn`tsee a tiger whilst we were there! However Chitvan is a wonderful place and we love the people, Ashwani, the new Chef who is delightful and such a good cook, and all the other lads who made it yet another memorable stay. We felt sorry for Mahesh, he really did his best for us, but we were very unlucky. On reflection, if we had booked earlier, we could have had more options with the various zones.
Banhavgarh was much more of a success in terms of sightings. This was due of course to the skill and knowledge of the wonderful Jagat. We saw 4 tigers and two sloth bears, plus some terrific bird shots. The last day with Jagat finding us 3 tigers was memorable. Tigers Den,like Chitvan, was like meeting old friends... Gynendra and Maneesh made us very welcome, and we had one of the best rooms this time (as we did at Chitvan). The new assistant manager was a nice young man and he arranged a cooking demonstration on the Wednesday afternoon, which was very interesting.
UnfortunatelyMary had a stomach upset on the plane coming home but she is fine now.
All in all another memorable Indian Holiday..... we keep saying it has to be the last, as there are so many places in the world we wish to see, and we are getting older.However, we are not THAT OLD YET and no doubt the call of the wild and the need to see old friends and our beloved tigers yet again willbring us back again....one more time!
Please find attached a selection of images we have just downloaded. We won`t bore you with too many.
We will keep in touch. Please tell Manjeet he will be welcome to visit us in England, but he will need to give us plenty of notice, just in case we are on holiday!!
With many thanksand our kind regards
Graham & Mary