There is nowhere in the world quite like the Indian subcontinent! So rich is the region in flavour and variety, whether it is the scenery, culture, history or wildlife which most appeals to your taste, that every visit is packed with unique and unforgettable memories. City life in modern India may outwardly sport all the trappings of the 21st century, but underlying this is a unique culture which has developed over thousands of years and permeates every aspect of society. Delhi has had many rulers during a long and turbulent history, whereas the machinations of life in the fabled city of Kathmandu were virtually unknown to the rest of the world until comparatively recent times and it has been described as a city with more temples than houses and more gods than people. To travel through the Himalayan foothills between these two diverse cities is one of the most beautiful and fascinating journeys in Asia — a journey that encapsulates the sheer variety of this magnificent subcontinent.
We begin our tour in India’s capital, New Delhi, then board an overnight train to visit Corbett National Park. A mouthwatering menu of sub-Himalayan birding is on offer at Corbett, but the park also holds a wealth of mammal species, amongst them Indian Elephant and that most supreme of Asian predators, the Bengal Tiger. Arguably one of the most picturesque of India’s national parks, Corbett was named in honour of the late Jim Corbett, a legendary hunter-turned-conservationist who played an important role in helping to create the reserve. Many of the birds we are likely to see in Corbett are characteristic of the Himalayan region and include a number of Palearctic rarities to set pulses racing!
After spending four nights in Corbett, we travel next to Bardia National Park, situated in the lowlands of western Nepal. Comprising magnificent Sal and riverine forests, and extensive grasslands, Bardia’s 936 square kilometres are home to Tiger, Leopard, Elephant, Rhino, a few Blackbuck, Spotted Deer, Sambar, Barking and Hog Deer, Nilgai, Wild Boar and Sloth Bear, as well as Marsh Mugger Crocodile and the endangered fish-eating Gharial. Nearly 400 species of birds occur in the park and during our 3-night stay here we will hope to find such species as Great Slaty and Streak-throated Woodpecker, Crested Kingfisher, Wallcreeper, Large-billed Leaf Warbler and Greater Racquet-tailed Drongo. Bardia is bordered to the west by the Karnali River, one of the largest in Nepal, and this enables us to explore the park by raft, as well as by jeep and on foot. An inflatable raft trip down to the southern boundary of the park is a tranquil way of viewing the birdlife and water-oriented animals such as Smooth Otters and both Mugger and Gharial Crocodiles. The Karnali River is also one of the best areas in Nepal to view the highly endangered Ganges River Dolphin.
In order to break the long journey to Chitwan, we will spend one night in Lumbini and explore the fascinating complex of ancient temples and modern stupas which mark the birthplace of Buddha. We will then continue to Chitwan National Park. This magnificent reserve is one of the few remaining undisturbed vestiges of the ‘terai’ region, which formerly extended over the foothills of India and Nepal. It has a particularly rich flora and fauna, protecting populations of both One-horned Rhinoceros and Bengal Tiger as well as many other mammals and a stunning variety of birdlife. A diversity of riverine and forest habitats, interspersed with open grassland, ensures that there are always new areas to explore during our stay and ever present in the distance are the snowy summits of the Himalayan giants which stretch across Nepal in an unbroken line from east to west. We will spend four nights close to the park, in order to explore a full range of habitats.
We head finally to the capital of Nepal, Kathmandu, pausing along the way to scan for Ibisbills, White-capped Riverchats and other waterside birds that frequent the fastflowing Trisuli River, the course of which the road follows. After a sightseeing tour of Kathmandu, we conclude a memorable tour with a birdwatching trip to the forested slopes of Phulchowki which, at 2,740 metres, is the highest mountain in the valley. Many species typical of the high Himalaya occur here and, with access facilitated by a road, we can enjoy searching for these without recourse to mountaineering or trekking!
For those wishing to extend their holiday, we offer an extension east from Chitwan to Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, one of Asia’s finest wetlands. Here, a remnant population of wild Water Buffalo may be seen, as well as other mammals such as Ganges River Dolphin, Jungle Cat and Golden Jackal. From the delightful Koshi Camp up to 160 bird species may be seen in a single day, amongst them such local specialities as Red-necked Falcon, Striated Marsh Warbler and the endangered Swamp Partridge and Bengal Florican. It is a restful and rewarding spot to conclude a holiday!