Birdwatching Tour of Rajasthan

Birdwatching in Western India is a feast for all senses. Rajasthan – the land of Kings and to the most romantic and famous building in the world, the Taj Mahal, the diversified landscapes of the Thar desert, the fertile plains of the Yamuna river, and the wooded Aravali Hills are home to over 600 species of birds. Culturally rich backdrops provide some of the richest birding in the world. Come join in the adventure and join our Bird Tour of western India.

Best time: October to March

Outline Itinerary

Day 01: Delhi
Day 02: Delhi – Jodhpur
Day 03: Jodhpur
Day 04: Jodhpur – Kheechan – Jaisalmer
Day 05: Jaisalmer
Day 06: Desert National Park
Day 07: Jaisalmer – Jodhpur
Day 08: Jodhpur – Ranthambore Tiger Reserve
Day 09: Ranthambore Tiger Reserve
Day 10: Ranthambore Tiger Reserve – Jaipur
Day 11: Jaipur
Day 12: Jaipur – Bharatpur Keoladeo Ghana National Park
Day 13: Keoladeo Ghana National Park
Day 14: Bharatpur – Agra – National Chambal Wildlife Sanctuary
Day 15: National Chambal Wildlife Sanctuary
Day 16: National Chambal Wildlife Sanctuary – Delhi

The Journey

The first morning of your trip will begin with a visit to the Sultanpur National Park is located in the state of Haryana close to Delhi. This small area was declared a National Park and over 250 species of birds, migratory and resident, have been identified here. In the afternoon you will be taken on a guided tour of the capital of India, Delhi.

Delhi is named after Dilu, a king who built a city at this location in 50BC. A city of 25 million people, India’s capital is filled with relics of lost empires. Medieval fortifications, some of the finest examples of Colonial and Mughal architecture, some of the greatest bazaars in the sub-continent all vie with modern architecture in all seven of Delhi’s cities. Especially noteworthy is the area called New Delhi planned by Lutyens. Delhi is becoming the centre for Art and Culture in India, and hosts the most renowned Art, Book and Fashion festivals.

You then travel to Jodhpur, the Blue City or Sun City of India. Jodhpur has some of the most beautiful historic buildings including one of the newest palaces in India – the Umaid Bhawan Palace. With a backdrop of the Mehrangarh Fort, and houses all painted in blue, Jodhpur is a photographers delight.

From Jodhpur you travel to Jaisalmer stopping enroute to see Demoiselle Cranes in the thousands at the village of Kheechan. Ratanlal Maloo, the Bird Man of Kheechan, had fed the Demoiselle cranes for over 40 years. In peak season, 12000 birds have been recorded in Kheechan. Ratanlal estimated that you need 100 kgs of grain for a 1000 birds, which amounts to 432000 kgs of grain a year. The cranes are fed in an fenced area called a “Chugga Ghar” or “Feeding Home”. Ratanlal and his wife were supported by the village community and prosperous traders from the ‘Jain’ community to raise funds and grains to feed the Cranes. Ratanlal passed away in 2011 and the community at Kheechan continues to feed the cranes that continue to visit Kheechan.

From Kheechan, you travel to the desert city of Jaisalmer. Also known as the Golden City because of the extensive use of yellow sandstone for the construction of the fort and other buildings. The Jaisalmer fort looms out of the yellow sands of the Thar desert and contains the Palace and several ornately carved Jain temples that have been declared a World Heritage Site. Jaisalmer is the base from which you will visit the Desert National Park.

The Desert National Park lies in the sand dunes of the Thar desert and is one of the largest protected areas in India. The Park hosts an astounding variety of animals and birds including the endangered Great Indian Bustard. A community called the ‘Bishnoi’ live in this region. These people practice conservation as a religion and revere nature and wildlife as gods based on the 29 principles of their spiritual leader Guru Jambheshwor. Eight of these tenets have ben prescribed to preserve biodiversity and include a ban on killing animals, felling green trees and providing protection to all life forms.

You will then journey onwards to the world renowned Ranthambore Tiger Reserve in the desert state of Rajasthan. The Reserve is famous for its tiger population and the picturesque Fort that serves as a backdrop to the Reserve. About 272 species of birds are found here many of which you will encounter on safaris in the Reserve.

From Ranthambore Tiger Reserve you will travel to the Pink City of Jaipur. The state capital is an enthralling amalgamation of history and culture. The city was planned according to the Indian prinicples of Vaastu and Shilpa Shastra. Monuments like the Amer Fort, the Ciry Palace, the Hawa Mahal and the Jantar Mantar are recognized Heritage monuments. During the rule of Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh, the entire city was painted pink to welcome Edward, Prince of Wales. Today much of the ciry remains painted pink giving the city a distinctive appearance.

From Jaipur you travel to the Keoladeo Ghana National Park, a wetland site of international importance and a designated Ramsar site. This is a manmade and managed wetland area home to 336 species of birds, and every year thousands of migratory waterfowl visit the area for winter breeding. The sheer number of birds has often led to the region being declared one of the richest bird areas of the world.

The journey continues to the city of Agra to see the Taj Mahal. The Taj Mahal is considered one of the most beautiful buildings ever created. The Taj was created in pristine white marble set with precious stones and offset by buildings of red sandstone. The Mausoleum was built by the Emperor Shah Jehan for his wife Mumtaz Mahal who he married in 1612. Mumtaz Mahal died in childbirth in 1629 and the court went into mourning for two years. The Emperor decided to build a monument in her memory and the Taj Mahal was created. The building is over 20 storeys high and took 22 years to complete with a work force of 20,000 craftsmen. The uniqueness of the Taj lies in its remarkable innovations. It is a perfectly symmetrical building and lies at the end of a beautifully laid out quadripartite garden that lends depth and perspective to the viewing of the monument. The long water body in the centre of the garden perfectly reflects the building.

From the Taj, you continue south to the Chambal Wildlife Sanctuary. The Chambal is one of India’s most pristine rivers. Part of this river was declared a protected area and hosts an amazing riverine faunal assemblage including 2 species of crocodile, 8 species of freshwater turtles, smooth coated otters, the gangetic river dolphin, skimmers, black-bellied terns and over 250 species of birds.

The Indian Skimmer or Indian Scissors-bill (Rhynchops albicollis) is one of three species that belongs to the family of skimmers. The species was formerly widely distributed in the rivers of the Indian Sub-Continent and along the rivers of Myanmar and Mekong. The population is now estimated to be between 6000-10000 individuals and it is considered endangered. Breeding colonies are known from the Chambal river area. After relaxing interludes birdwatching on the river you end your trip and return to Delhi.

Detailled Itinerary

Day 0: Arrive New Delhi
Arrive at Delhi International airport. You will be met and transferred to the hotel. Day at leisure.

Day 01: New Delhi
Birding at the Sultanpur National Park a guide in the morning. Afternoon guided tour of New Delhi visiting India Gate, drive past President House, Qutab Minar & Humayun’s tomb. Overnight at Hotel.

Day 02: Delhi-Jodhpur
Full Day guided sightseeing tour at Jodhpur. Overnight at hotel.

Day 03: Jodhpur
Morning at Leisure. Flight at Noon to Jodhpur. Morning arrival at 0700 hours. Transfer to the hotel. Visit the sites on sand stone hill surrounded by a strong wall, approximately 6 miles long with 7 entry gates. Sightseeing of the city includes visit to Meherangarh Fort, drive through the old city and past the Clock Tower near the largest spice bazaar in the sub-continent, visit the Jaswant Thada Cenotaph, the royal cremation site and then proceed to see the most magnificent, modern 20th century Palace, the Umaid Bhavan Palace and its museum – a treasure trove. Overnight stay at Hotel.

Day 04: Jodhpur-Kheechan-Jaisalmer
Morning Village Safari(By Jeep)- A memorable outing in Jeeps visit various traditional villages seeing local handicrafts viz. stone carvers, pottery, hand weaving and also men in their traditional attire, women clad with ancestral silver jewellery, etc. Drive to Jaisalmer stopping en route at Kheechan to see large congregation of demoiselle cranes and other species. Arrive Jaisalmer in the evening. The drive is through the dry desert scrub and very productive for raptors. Overnight stay in Hotel.

Day 05: Jaisalmer
Morning guided tour of Jaisalmer. Permit application to visit Desert National Park requires appearance in person at the office of District Magistrate. Rest of the day birding in and around Jaisalmer. One can find Isabelline, Variable and Desert Wheaters, Common Kestrel, Shikra, Chestnut-bellied sandgrouse etc. Overnight stay.

Day 06: Desert National Park
Full day excursion to Desert National Park to look for Great Indian Bustard, Stoliczka’s Bushchat, Cream-colored Courser, Greater Hoopoe Lark. Eagles such as Lesser Spotted, Bonelli’s, Short-toed, Imperial are found here. Plain leaf warbler and trumpeter finch can be found here. Overnight stay in Hotel.

Day 07: Jaisalmer-Jodhpur
Drive to Jodhpur, stopping en-route for cultural sites and birding. Overnight stay in Hotel.

Day 08: Jodhpur-Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve
Connect train to Ranthambhor at 0555 hours, arriving at 1335 hours. In the afternoon you enter the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve and continue bird watching there. The birds that one can expect to see include Grey francolin, Sirkeer Malkoha, Painted Sandgrouse, Indian Courser, Yellow-wattled Lapwing, Southern Grey Shrike, Isabelline Wheatear, Desert Wheatear, Variable Wheatear,Ashy-crowned Sparrow Lark, Greater Short-toed Lark, Blue Rock Thrush, and Common Buzzard. Overnight stay at Lodge.

Day 09: Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve
Morning & afternoon safaris are planned for this day for tiger-tracking. You also have the option of visiting the 1000-year old fort. Overnight stay at Lodge.

Day 11: Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve-Jaipur
Last safari drive at Ranthambore. By now you will have seen many of the larger animal species found in the Reserve including Sambar and Cheetal Deer, Tiger, Leopard, Sloth bear, Crocodiles and the Hanuman Langur. Drive to Jaipur. Overnight stay at Hotel.

Day 12: Jaipur
After breakfast journey back in time at the deserted 17th Century fortress of Amber. Ascend to the fort to various Palaces with rooms of stunning beauty including the World’s finest Chamber of mirrors and the temple of Kali. Evening is free for learning about Rajasthan handicrafts & Arts. In the evening you visit Chokhidhani an ethnic village. A village fair is recreated on the sprawling grounds. While Folk dancers and Musicians entertain, tangy the mouth watering snacks whet the appetite for a very sumptuous and traditional Rajasthani Meal. Overnight stay in a hotel.

Day 13: Jaipur-Bharatpur
Transfer to Bharatpur (3 hours), arriving Bharatpur by noon. At Bharatput you visit the Keoladeo Ghana National Park, a wetland site of international importance and a designated Ramsar site. This is a manmade and managed wetland area home to 336 species of birds, and every year thousands of migratory waterfowl visit the area for winter breeding. The sheer number of birds has often led to the region being declared one of the richest bird areas of the world. Check into Lodge and after lunch go into the Keoladeo Ghana National Park on foot or cycle rickshaws with a birding guide. Overnight in the hotel.

Day 14: Bharatpur
Full days of birding in Keoladeo Ghana National Park on foot and cycle rickshaws with a birding guide. The birds to expect are Indian Courser, Sarus Crane, Dusky eagle Owl, Large tailed Nightjars, CommonPochard, Great white Pelican, Greylag and Bar headed Goose. Overnight at Lodge

Day 15: Bharatpur-Agra-National Chambal Sanctuary
Drive to Agra visiting Fatehpur Sikri en route. you visit the City of Fatehpur Sikri. This is a world heritage site and was built by the Mughal Emperor Akbar in 1569. The city was built to serve as the capital of the Mughal Empire but was abandoned soon after its inception due to the paucity of water. The buildings built primarily in red sandstone with independent pavilions arranged in formal geometry. The imperial palace was over two miles long is largely intact and surrounded by a wall five miles long. Lunch is followed by a visit to the Taj Mahal and then you drive onto the Chambal Wildlife Sanctuary. Overnight in Lodge.

Day 16: Chambal
Morning boat cruise with a guide to see Indian skimmer, black-bellied tern, flocks of migratory waterfowl, cranes such as common, demoiselle and sarus; fish-eating crocodile and marsh mugger; Gangetic dolphin; turtles etc. Afternoon birding on the banks of the river. Overnight stay at Lodge.

Day 17: Delhi
Drive to Delhi. Hotel near the airport for wash and change. Transfer to the International terminal for flight back home


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