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Satpura and Kaziranga 2019


There are many fine Indian trip reports on Safaritalk, so I hesitated about attempting another.

However, MrsQ persuaded me that Satpura has not been covered very often so there was space for another report.




We chose Satpura because we wanted to see Sloth Bears, it is possible to do a range of activities in addition to game drives, and because the number of jeeps in the park is strictly limited. It is not a reliable park for viewing tigers so does not attract such big crowds as some parks.


We chose Kaziranga because we wanted to see the Indian Rhino, wild elephants, and possibly gibbons.






Since our previous visits to India we had become much more interested in birds and looked forward to seeing a good range of these in the different environments.


We went to Bharatpur to see birds.

@elefromoz and @Galago were very helpful in planning the Satpura section of the trip

We were inspired to go to Kaziranga by the trip report of @michael-ibkand @Atravelynn

and then aided (and inspired!) by trip reports from @janzin and @Galana

(Sorry if I have missed anyone out!)


We have visited India many times, usually traveling independently, and usually with very little if anything booked in advance. We have made such trips to Tamil Nadu, Ladakh, Spiti, Kerala and Rajasthan in this way, enjoying the culture and just being in India. We love the country. We love the food. We have also visited Nepal (twice) and Sri Lanka in this way. (I also spent many months travelling independently in the sub-continent when I was young)


We have also had one previous trip to India focussed on wildlife (tigers), visiting Pench, Khana and Bandavgarh. Obviously this sort of trip does require advance preparation and planning. We wanted to do another wildlife based trip, this time focussing on other mammals and also our relatively new interest in birds.


The itinerary

18th Feb Arrive Delhi, a few hours in Delhi, stay at Holiday Inn near the airport

19th  Feb very early flight to Bhopal, car to Satpura, Forsyth Lodge 5 nights

24th Feb activity in Satpura, drive to Bhopal, fly to Delhi

24th Feb 2 nights at Claridges Hotel

26th Feb Early flight to Guwahati, car to Kaziranga, Diphlu River Lodge 5 nights

3rd March Activity in Kaziranga, drive to Guwahati, fly to Delhi o/n Claridges Hotel

4th March Car to Birders Inn, Bharatpur.  Afternoon visit to Keolada National park

5th March Morning visit to Keolada National park. Drive to Delhi, fly home.


When we were planning the trip we had had a difficult year with health issues and bereavements, and decided we wanted a straightforward and comfortable trip. So we booked the majority of the trip through Naturetrek in the UK. (The section where we visited Bharatpur we booked direct with the Birders Inn).   We could have used an Indian agent, or booked it all direct. A couple of weeks before we departed, we were pleased that we had used an agent as Jet Airlines began to go bankrupt (we had our flights to and from Bhopal booked with them). Those flights were cancelled, but our agent found new flights with Air India with similar times with no fuss – so a bit of stress avoided!

Edited by TonyQ
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Delhi (1)

After an overnight flight, we had a few hours in Delhi, so visited Hauz Khas – a large park area – for a little birding and relaxation. We didn't go sightseeing as we had been in Delhi a number of times before.



Palm Squirrel


Common Tailorbird

(I will put some birds into the trip report, but many more are in the Big Year Thread - I will try not to overload non-birders!)


Rose-ringed Parakeet




We stopped for an excellent lunch at Coast Café and then walked back to a different section of the park.


Lesser Goldenback


Interesting to see such a bird in a tree - Peafowl


Oriental Magpie Robin


Common Myna


 We took a taxi back to the hotel (picked to be close to the airport), an early night for a few hours sleep and to the airport for a 05.40 flight to Bhopal. (The flight time never sounds as bad as the check-in time!)

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Thank you MrsQ, for your powers of persuasion.

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Great start, this trip report could not have come at a better time for me as I have just finalised the arrangements for a 5 week trip to India for early 2020. We will be visiting both Satpura and Kaziranga as part of our itinerary, staying at the same lodges, so I am really looking forward to your thoughts and observations, and more of your great images.

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Well done to Mrs Q - this looks like a fascinating itinerary, coupled with Mr Q’s great photos 

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You picked your spots well for the species you wanted to see.  I will be especially interested in Satpura.  Beautiful shots to start out.

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Love India---look forward to this---such beautiful photos already!

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Looking forward to this Tony, great picture of the sloth bear!

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On 7/2/2019 at 1:19 AM, Atravelynn said:

You picked your spots well for the species you wanted to see.  I will be especially interested in Satpura.  Beautiful shots to start out.


Both Satpura NP, and Forsyth Lodge are brilliant.

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Satpura Tiger Reserve (STR) also known as Satpura National Park is located in Madhya Pradesh. It is about 950km south of Delhi. We took an early flight from Delhi to Bhopal (about 90 minutes) and were met at the airport for the drive to Satpura (4 to 5 hours) on mostly good roads. A pleasant drive on mostly good roads (though a little dozing may have happened towards the end of the drive!)


We would be staying at Forsyth Lodge for 5 nights. We received a very warm welcome and were introduced to Sidanthe, who would be our guide for all of our stay. We were shown to our room (a small detached “cottage” – bedroom, spacious bathroom, outdoor sitting area).



A White-throated Fantail greets us outside our room


We then went for lunch – today was one of the days where women from the local village come in to cook lunch.



We sit outside in the shade, and the food is delicious.




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So why Satpura, and why Forsyth lodge?

Although there are tigers in Satpura, they are not reliably seen. Because of this, fewer visitors go there. There are a small number of lodges and only 12 jeeps are allowed in the park. We wanted to focus on other mammals and birds, and have time to do this.


We were also attracted by the range of activities on offer at Satpura and Forsyth Lodge. In addition to the game drives, it is possible to do walking safaris in the National Park, to go on boating or canoe trips on the Denwa river/Tawa reservoir, and to do twilight drives in the buffer zone of the park.



A short break, and on to our first game drive…..

I will not do a game drive by game drive report, but will try to give a flavour of the range of activities and the wildlife present.

Forsyth Lodge is a short drive (about 10 minutes) from the national park. The drive passes through a small village and the surrounding agricultural land.


Women picking chickpeas

We stop at the National Park office and pick up a National Park guide (compulsory). We then drive down to the edge of the Denwa River, park the vehicle and walk across a small bridge where the National Park vehicles are waiting with their drivers.


View of bridge (taken from far side of river) showing parking point for drop off vehicles


National Park vehicles waiting for visitors

Morning drives start at 6.30, afternoon drives at 15.30. So in our vehicle we have MrsQ and I, Sidanthe, the driver and the National Park Guide.  Within the park there are areas of meadow, some stretches of water, hilly wooded areas and some thicker forest.


Sambar stag waiting by pool


Crested Serpent Eagle - common throughout the trip

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A cup of tea by a small lake produced


Grey-headed Fish Eagle


Red-wattled Lapwing


Common Kingfisher


We were also delighted to see


Gaur - huge wild cattle that are surprisingly docile




Baby Gaur


Wild Pig were also quite common



One animal we most wanted to see was the Sloth Bear, so we were excited with our first view, even though it wasn't very clear. A bit distant and hiding amongst the bushes, and the light was going.....


but it was a bear, and it had a baby on its back



Enough to send us happily back to the lodge.

Edited by TonyQ
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On 7/1/2019 at 8:21 AM, TonyQ said:

There are many fine Indian trip reports on Safaritalk, so I hesitated about attempting another.

However, MrsQ persuaded me that Satpura has not been covered very often so there was space for another report.


Just starting this now.  Mrs.Q is right.  excited to read this.

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Canoe Trip

As I mentioned earlier, one of the attractions of this trip was the variety of possible activities.

On the morning when we were due to go on our canoe trip there had been heavy rain, thunder and lightning overnight. Sidanthe came to see us when our morning wake up tea was delivered to say that they were checking the tracks near the river to see if they were still passable. A little while later we got the good news that we could go, but the drive to get to the river would take a bit longer. (It took an hour or so)


So we set off with another couple and their guide, driving through interesting villages and agricultural land. Children would often run out to the side of the road, waving and smiling and shouting “Bye Bye”.



A platform in the field – villagers spend the night here to protect their crops from wild animals


The last section of the track (visible in photo) to the river was very muddy and slippery indeed


Boatman comes across the water to collect us and take us to our canoes


Each couple had a canoe, and a local guide who paddled it. The two lodge guides also had their own canoe (Sidanthe in the front)


The waterway is flooded backwaters from a dam. Dead trees are visible in the background.


The trip was very relaxing (for us as we were not paddling!) and was a great way to see some of the many birds (Apologies for non-birders – this activity is mainly about birds rather than mammals)


Asian Openbill flies past


River Lapwing


Little Tern


A very pretty Little Pratincole

Mostof the birds allow you to get much closer in a canoe than they would with a person walking

Edited by TonyQ
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Osprey on dead tree


Osprey flies past


Great Egret


Great Cormorant


Black-bellied Tern


Great Thick-knee - there is always something special about seeing a Thick-knee!


River Tern

So a very enjoyable activity with blue skies throughout. We stopped for a light breakfast (watched by our friend below) and headed back to the lodge


Rufous-tailed Lark

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Game Drives

As I outlined earlier, we had Sidanthe for a guide for all activities. He was a very good guide and we were happy to be with him. His English was excellent and he was interesting to chat to in breaks and in the lodge.


For each game drive, you picked up a National Park guide and driver. These were allocated in turn. They were tipped at the end of each activity as you didn’t know if you would see them again. All (with one notable exception which I will mention later in the report)) were actively involved and helpful. They worked well with Sidanthe.


Jungle Owlet


Plum-headed Parakeet


Hanuman Langur (Northern Plains Langur)

– our book tells us that Langurs have been split into a number of species. They were fairly common in the edges of wooded areas


Yellow-crowned Woodpecker areas.


Part of the scenery - the park is varied with woods, meadows and lakes


Green Bee-eater huddling together in the cool of the morning

One early morning was quite cold driving to the park, and our fleeces were very welcome. Most of the rest of the time the temperatures were very pleasant.1638377884_INdiaTRSat20-5.jpg.a25929997907aa270906a4c73279c384.jpg

Raquet-tail Drongo


A beautiful place for breakfast

We always had a light breakfast out in the park - sandwiches, biscuits(cookies) tea or coffee. This means less time wasted, and more room for a substantial and excellent brunch or lunch when returning to the lodge.


Crocodile (not at the breakfast place!)


Spotted Deer -  common in many areas of the park



It is easy to pay little attention to herbivores, but I think these are beautiful animals

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Indian Vulture

Vulture numbers have really dropped in India, largely to the now banned due to the use of the drug Diclofenac in treating cattle. Vultures were the main way that cattle carcasses were disposed of. Traditionally there were a lot of cattle carcasses as cattle are not killed in most of India. The drug was poisonous to most vultures, but this was not discovered until 2003. The population of this vulture fell by 95% and the impact on some other species was even greater.


Langur with baby


Wild Pig - cooling off and eating at the same time!




Satpura is called a Tiger Reserve, and there are many in the reserve -  but tigers are not reliably seen here. Here is one we came across – fairly distant and not very active


sleeping in the water


are we going to see it become more active - and perhaps come towards us?


it has a better idea


a big yawn


relax a bit


finally it does get up, but unfortunately for us walks in the opposite direction!


and then has another rest.

This was about the only sighting where there were a number of vehicles, all well behaved, sitting on a track on a ridge looking down at the tiger. There is no off-roading so jeeps cannot go chasing after a tiger.


Edited by TonyQ
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Brown Fish Owl


Crested Hawk Eagle






Spotted Owlet – roosting in their regular tree in the village near the lodge.

Spotted owlets were seen regularly on this trip, but they always managed to look very cute!

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I´ve been looking forward to this report for quite a while now Tony - very happy that Mrs. Q convinced you to do it. Great pictures already, especially love the Fish Owl and the Bee-Eaters huddling together. And good that you saw a Tiger in Satpura! Even if it was not the main objective for this trip it must have been thrilling nonetheless.

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Very entertaining  so far @TonyQ and I do love a fish owl

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Thank you @Towlersonsafari and @michael-ibk

We enjoyed seeing the tiger - but the next encounter we found thrilling!


Twilight/Night Drive


Another possible activity at Forsyth Lodge involves setting out slightly later than usual and heading to part of the Buffer Zone. In this area it is possible to stay out after dark. We went on two of these activities, the first was on Wednesday afternoon when the National Park is closed


We did this activity with another couple (the same couple we did the canoeing with) and took their guide and Sidanthe


We headed out through some different local villages – interesting in themselves, and saw some nice birds


Malabar Pied Hornbill


Green Bee-eater - with bee!


Indian Roller


Indian Robin


Long-tailed Shrike


Edited by TonyQ
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We then headed into the forest. We picked up a Forest Guide at the gate, checked a few areas and then headed to a waterhole. We sat very quietly and waited for quite a while. Two other jeeps were also waiting.


The light was going. And then….


The three bears come walking over a ridge


A mother and two large cubs come down to drink



Unfortunately another jeep arrived, the bears were disturbed and decided to leave



Our guides had a quick chat and decided where they thought the bears would go.


They were right!


Cub number one (the larger of the two) crosses the track directly in front of our jeep


Followed by momma bear. (My software shows her being between 18m and 24m away from us)


You can see her large claws on this photo, used for ripping onto termite and ant nests (the mainstay of their diet, although they will eat fruit). These claws are largely responsible for the name “Sloth Bear” as when the first (dead) specimens were sent back to Europe the claws were thought to resemble those of the Sloth.


Finally the smaller of the two cubs came and crossed the track in front of us.


(The unconcerned bird is a Grey Junglefowl)

The three bears moved into undergrowth and I put my camera down and gave up trying to photograph them any more through the bushes in fading light. However we were still able to enjoy watching them for a few more special minutes


The Sloth Bear was the animal we most wanted to see on this trip so we were both thrilled to have such a good view!


The rest of the night drive was very quiet, but still enjoyable being in the forest at night. A very worthwhile activity!

Edited by TonyQ
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Oh @TonyQ it's very nice to see this little guys again. I'm sure it's the same family we saw in February 2018 as they where very young. It was close to the dam in the buffer zone you saw them. 




Thanks for bringing me back to Satpura, a very special place we loved very much. 

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What an exciting siting.  You got great pictures too.


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