.......and Reflections

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Himalayas, Tigers & the Taj Mahal, A birding Adventure to Northern India

Himalayas, Tigers, & the Taj Mahal
A Birding Adventure to Northern India
January 7-26, 2012
No single activity has done more to shape who I am than birding internationally. As the Executive Director of the Lake Erie Nature & Science Center and now in retirement I have traveled to 8 destinations in South and Central America, Asia, Africa, Mexico, and Canada over the last 23 years. Those 22 birding experiences have sharpened my values, deepened my appreciation of birds and nature, provided a unique exposure to different people and diverse cultures, and most importantly kept me sincerely humble.
An international birding experience not only provides a window into natural history, but takes you to places not necessarily included in typical glossy tourist brochures. Birding trips are also windows into the real world, real places where people live, work, and raise their families.
After a very successful trip to Southern Ecuador with Tropical Birding this year, I inquired about a great birding destination rich in culture and wilderness and the first recommendation was Northern India. Tropical Birding is a full service international tour company that provides trips all over the world. They focus on birding and I highly recommend them if you have any interest in any of their many destinations throughout the year……especially if you are bird focused.
The Northern India trip is inherently diverse in habitat and population. A country with a billion people is sure to provide a lot more stimulation than just birds. Tropical Birding has developed a superb itinerary around marvelous birding that gives participants the best India has to offer. Here are compelling reasons to consider this or another trip to Northern India:
Mystical Travel
Tropical Birding describes it this way: “India is a mystical country, epitomizing exotic travel. It is a land of striking contrasts, rich heritage and fabulous culture (and culture shock!) and fantastic and varied food.” Their itinerary is designed to “experience India to its fullest and to celebrate its superb wildlife and birding.”  Our Tropical Birding guide will be Sam Woods. We will also have local guides including one throughout our trip. This is an important combination designed to support the notion of leaving India with a sense of the place.
The best of Northern India birding is possible by visiting the country’s National Parks. We will spend quality time in Corbett National Park, Keoladeo Ghana National Park and take boat trip on the Chambal River. Some of the birds we will likely see include; Painted and Black-necked Storks, Indian Skimmer, Great Thick-knee, Spotted Owlet, Yellow-footed Green Pigeon, and Spot-billed Duck.  Along the way we may see Mugger Crocodiles, Gharial and Gangetic River Dolphins. Our group can expect to see more than 400 species of birds, representing a cross section of Asian avifauna.
Himalaya Mountains
A personal favorite of mine is a chance to see the Himalaya Mountains and learn more about their influence on India’s birds.  From Nanai Tal, nestled in the Himalayan Foothills we will have an opportunity to view from a distance one of planet Earth’s most striking natural and awesome features.
Bengal Tigers: “ghosts of the forest”
Finding and observing wild cats varies from easy to nearly impossible. African Lions, Cheetahs, and Leopards are common but many wild cats are rare, elusive and sometimes inaccessible. Bengal Tigers are rare, local, endangered and declining. There are 3,500 Bengal Tigers remaining in the world. I can’t imagine that anyone wouldn’t want to see this magnificent, iconic animal. Sadly my great grandchildren may only see these animals in zoos.
Tigers are awesome predators with immense power. They have the strength to take down a one-ton Guar (bison) and the agility and speed to catch a peacock in flight. Our group will travel to Bandhavgarh National Park. There we will spend 5 days searching for Tigers in Jeeps and on elephants. We may also see chital, sambar and langurs along our quest for the phantoms of the forest.
Nizamuddin Puri Kalinga Uktal Express
This is, at least in my mind, this is the equivalent of the fabled “Orient Express”. The Uktal Express is an overnight train that will take us from Umaria to Bandhavgarh National Park where we will search for Tigers. I’ll let you imagine this experience: crowded with travelers and families, air conditioned sleeper cars rocking and swaying along its route. I t doesn’t get any more exotic than this.
Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal may be the most famous structure in the world and one of 7 wonders of the world. We will have a guided tour of this unique tribute to a queen. This magnificent palace “will exceed your greatest expectations. Its beauty, serenity, and symmetry are legendary, and with good reason”. This visit is so important to this trip that a whole day is dedicated to showcasing the rich heritage and culture of India.
Chambal River tour & travel by rickshaw
Getting there is half the fun. Every really good birding trip is enhanced by travel. Searching for Tigers on elephants gets my attention. But this tour includes a classic river trip that is usually both relaxing and productive. Even more intriguing is traveling around national parks by rickshaw. Some National Parks are closed to motorized travel and therefore rickshaws will be provided to tour at least one such park.
The Northern India Tour is a customized tour provided by Tropical Birding and created for my selected group. I am limiting this trip to 8 participants. A possible benefit to traveling with a state-side leader is providing some continuity from departure to return to the U.S. Our group will travel together and most of the participants will have traveled with me in the past. We always strive to have good group chemistry and I work hard to make sure everyone is comfortable and getting the most of their experience throughout. Birding, traveling and experiencing natural history should be fun and I am proud to say that this is a high priority with my custom tours.
If you are interested in participating in this adventure and would like more information to see if this trip fits your needs and budget you can contact me at  I can provide more literature provided by Tropical Birding and will answer any questions or concerns about my custom tour. I can also hook you up with former participants who will give you and objective view of other tours we have taken.
Tropical Birding offers this same tour at different times and these tours are open to anyone interested. I recommend you visit their website and check out their global birding opportunities.

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