we´ve been back home in Austria for nearly 3 weeks now. About time we praise you for all the effort and comittment you and your staff put into our holiday. Short version: It was absolutely wonderful, we already have and will definitely recommend you to friends and family who are interested in India.
Longer version: As you know we visited Ranthambhore, Bandavgharh, Kanha and Corbett with Delhi, Jaipur and Agra on the way. From the moment we arrived at Delhi Airport to our departure at the same place three weeks later everything was organized perfectly. After each train or plane travel your people were there on time (like a clock), the cars were comfortable and the drivers very good. Which was important because Indian traffic is really wild, we wouldn´t have liked to drive even a short distance ourselves. As Vejay told us, you really need "good brakes, good horn and - good luck". Speaking of Vejay it must be said that he was just outstanding. The perfect driver: Always polite, always there, very knowledgeful and an artist on the streets. You really have a great asset in him and we were absolutely delighted when he returned for us to drive us to Corbett after he was with us in Rajasthan. The other drivers were good too, but Vejay really deserves special mention.
Delhi, Jaipur and Agra were loud, chaotic and a challenge for all senses, but absolutely fascinating. We had very good guides in all three cities and think we´ve learned quite a bit from them. All of them spoke perfect English, could answer all our questions and did everything to make the city tours as interesting as possible. Honorary mention goes to Vinay(?) in Agra who not only put extra effort in showing us the best places and angles for good photos, he also brought our post cards to the office (all arrived safely in Austria) and waited with us for the train, which was about four hours late.
With all the noise and hecticness in the cities it was really important to have good, quiet hotels to relax in the evenings. You delivered totally on that account, the Meridiens in Delhi and Jaipur and the Jaypee Palace in Agra not only met, but surpassed our expectations. Luxuriuos, comfortable, with great restaurants and attentive staff. Andreas had his birthday in Delhi and the hotel even deliverd a birthday cake in the morning!
Out of all the monuments we visited we probably enjoyed Fort Amber and - of course - the Taj Mahal the most. Just extraordinary buildings. Of course one has seen the Taj on photos and movies but it is something entirely else having the privilege to see it for yourself.
Our main objective, however, were the national parks. Wonderful, just wonderful. We saw lots and lots of animals and - most important - had great tiger sightings, too. Especially in Bandavgharh when three young cubs of one year came out of the jungle one after another and we could watch them for almost 45 minutes. Pure magic, and one of the most unforgettable experiences of our lives.
So we very really happy when we got to Bandavgharh and had a jeep to ourselves or to share with two others. It was our favourite park, and not only because we had the best tiger sightings there. Tiger´s Den offered us wonderful accomodations, delidious food and the staff there is just amazing. Special mention must go to Milan who really made us feel like we were old friends and very special guests. What made the safaris so enjoyable was Jagat, however. Everything a naturalist should be, knew even every bird even from its voice, had incredible keen eyes (I will never understand how he could spot all the things he did) and made perfect choices concerning where to go to see the tiger. Outstanding, and if we ever return to Bandavgharh we definitely want to drive with him again.
No tiger luck on our three drives in Kanha but we almost didn´t mind. The park itself is a marvellous beauty and all the little ponds with the barsinghas or the gaur herds on the wide meadows were sights to behold. We even saw a leopard chasing after some langurs! Our driver there, a young man whose name we unfortunately forgot was very, very good, too. Very knowledgeful, very well-spoken and took every effort to show us as much as possible. Kanha Chitvan Lodge was perfect in every way, of course. The "rooms" are more like little houses, with terrace, living room, bed room, dressing room, bathroom and outside shower. Great place to just relax! We also enjoyed our walk through the jungle to the nearby river. Chitvan´s Sam, who went with us, must be recommended, too for all the little details he showed us there. A little safari on its own!
As were told by you before accomodations in Dhikala in Corbett Park are very basic, indeed, but we didn´t mind. It is the only possibility to stay deep inside the park and that´s the most important thing. The view from Dhikala on the Ramganga is just breathtaking we were standing by the fence almost every free minute and were watching deer, elephants, otters, turtles, crocs, wild boards and all the incredible bird life. Corbett is an incredible experience, the park has an archaic and awe-inspiring feel to it. Though vegetations is incredibly thick there (it´s amazing how one can even overlook elephants 20 metres away) we saw lots of animals there, especially by the lake where the huge herds of deer give the place an almost African savanna feeling. The elephant ride was fun, too. And we saw a tigress there, just 200 m outside of our camp, almost seeming to wait for us in the morning! The only thing I have to criticize is Asif, our driver/naturalist. Not really his fault but his English is quite bad and we had a hard time communicating with him. Didn´t take away from our enjoyment, though, we absolutely loved Corbett! And we really have to mention the young man who took us on a little bird watching tour when we stayed in the Wild Crest. Very pleasant guide, and his enthusiasm for birds of any kind was infectious.
So, it was nature we wanted to see in India and that´s what we got. Plenty of! Tiger, Leopard, Jackal, Wild Elephant, Gaur, Nilgai, Chinkara (Indian Gazella), Chital, Sambar, Barasingha and Barking Deer, Wild Boar, Black-Faced Langur, Rhesus Macacque, Mungoose, Otter, Palm Squirrel, Mugger Crocodile, Gharial, Black Cobra, Flapshell Turtle, Bengal Monitor Lizard, Little Grebe, (Great and Indian) Cormorant, Darter, Pond Heron, (Cattle and Great) Egret, Openbill, (Wooly-Necked and Black-Necked) Stork, Lesser Adjutant, Lesser Whistling Duck, Ruddy Shelduck, Gadwall, White-Eyed Buzzard, Changeable Hawk Eagle, Steppe Eagle, Pallas´s Fish Eagle, Red-Headed Vulture, Crested Serpent Eagle, Common Kestrel, Grey Francolin, Kalij Pheasant, Red Junglefowl, Peafowl, Red-Wattled Lapwing, Wood Sandpiper, Black-Winged Stilt, Yellow-Legged Green Pigeon, Spotted Dove, (Alexandrine, Rose-Ringed, Plum-Headed and Slaty-Headed) Parakeet, Spotted Owlet, Indian Scops Owl, (Crested, Common, Stork-Billed and White-Throated) Kingfisher, Green Bee-Eater, Indian Roller, Hoopoe, (Grey and Great) Hornbill, Brown-Headed Barbet, Blue-Throated Barbet, Black-Rumped Flameback, Long-Tailed Shrike, (Golden and Black-Hooded) Oriole, (Black and Racket-Tailed) Drongo, (Common and Bank) Myna, Rufous Treepie, Scarlet Minivet, Red-Whiskered and Red-Vented Bulbul, Jungle Babbler, Orange-Headed Thrush, Prinia, White Wagtail. Amongst others. ;-)
So, our holiday was all we hoped it would be and more. We definitely want to return to India some time in the future, and we definitely want to book with you again.
Please send our regards to Manjeet, Vejay, Vinay, Milan and all the others who helped to make our holiday so pleasant!
All the best from Austria,
Andreas and Michael