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32 minutes ago, TonyQ said:

@Soukous they are closely related but not the same species

White Mustard; Brassica hirta

Black Mustard; Brassica nigra

Rape Seed; Brassica napus


But in time of lockdown, you could try Rape Seed oil on your hair :)

If only that was possible 😁, to do that I'd need hair.

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@TonyQ thanks for sorting out the mustard question.


Day 9


Chambal River Lodge


This morning I learned that Denash is away for a week because his wife had a baby last night. Our new guide is Hari Om, the same guy that guided @janzin in Corbett. Jane and Jo are having a lazy morning at the lodge so I am joining Dave, Joan, Peter and Ros for the morning cruise. The drive is about 45 minutes through markets selling everything from fresh fruit and veg to refrigerators and motorcycles before we turn onto a narrow road that twists through ravines to the river. Vikram told us that the upper reaches of the Chambal River are still relatively clean and good for wildlife which bodes well for the morning cruise. Indeed, the wildlife proves to be so prolific that its easy to get more than one species in a photo.  


The relative peace of Chambal will be compromised by a new bridge currently under construction.




Locals use the ferry or a low footbridge to cross between Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.






The yellow crop in the background is mustard. Our first birds are these Bar-headed Geese, the highest flying geese in the world that annually traverse the Himalaya to winter in India. 




Crested Larks hop around the boat station and a Grey Heron kept watch from the bank.






A pair of Red-naped Ibis fossick along the river watched by a White-throated Kingfisher.






A family of Nilgai (aka Blue Bull) graze on the high bank above a Red-Wattled Lapwing.






A young Masked Crocodile staked out a spot near a family of Black-winged Stilts and a River lapwing. 








Ruddy Shelducks kept a watchful eye on the boat while Egyptian Vultures enjoyed a dust bath.




Eurasian Spoonbills flocked together close to a Gharial haul out, the distinctive snout bumps are obvious on this male. 






Gharials and Marsh Crocodiles (aka Muggers) are good neighbours.






A White-browed Wagtail grazed on insects near the water’s edge and a Pied Kingfisher took about 5 minutes to subdue its catch which looks like a fish cigar.








This River Tern was also having difficulty taming its catch, whilst being ignored by a dapper Black-fronted Tern.










A Great Cormorant sits near the river. 




Chambal Reserve is home to people as well as wildlife. This man has harvested local grasses which he twists into the strong fibre ropes used for charpoys, the ubiquitous roadside ‘beds’ found throughout India.




Camels carry firewood to a nearby village while back on the bank, a Common Sandpiper and Black-bellied Tern watch the river.






We hoped for Ganges Dolphins on the return trip and were rewarded with a glimpse as individuals broke the surface but were impossible to photograph.




Downstream Indian Tent Turtles basked and a Eurasian Thick-knee watched from a grassy bank.








After this successful morning on the river we returned to the Lodge for lunch and an extended rest because the afternoon safari was delayed until 2.30 due to the heat. The first sighting was a Pied Kingfisher with a kill, followed by a medley of Ruddy Shelducks and Great Thick-knees.






An Indian Soft-shelled Turtle makes slow progress to the river.




A Painted Stork and Eurasian Spoonbill stand tall in the afternoon sun, a White Wagtail fossicks along the bank while a Comb Duck (aka Knob-billed Duck) takes it easy.






The Gharials and Muggers are still on their shared haul-out and a Common Greenshank fishes at a safe distance.




A pair of Pallas’s Gulls fly over the river before landing for brief views. This gull is named for Peter Simon Pallas (1741-1811) a German zoologist who spent years in Russia and Monglia, the summer home of this species.




These Nilgai are grazing where they shouldn’t be and are sure to attract the attention of an irate landowner.




Over on the opposite bank a pair of Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse potter about in the shadows.




A Golden Jackal struts purposefully along the river at sunset.






Chambal Safari Lodge offers a unique experience. Comfortable accommodation, a rural location, spacious grounds and excellent food combine to provide a retreat from the cacophony and chaos of travel in India. The river safaris provide excellent birding with good views of reptiles and some mammal species. It’s also possible to visit nearby Sarus Crane and Blackbuck Reserves. A 3 night stay would be a good amount of time to explore the lodge area and local attractions.


Tomorrow we leave for Agra to visit Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal.


Wedding season


Winter is wedding season in India when the cooler days encourage finery and feasts. During the 5 weeks we were in India we saw many weddings and much regalia. Weddingz is the largest company in India and brides to be can check on the latest styles in the Wedding Trunk magazine.


Indian weddings can be lengthy affairs with several days preparations and rituals before the ceremony. Pre-wedding photos are treasured memories of the occasion.






Wedding venues are decked out a treat with fairy lights, swathes of soft wall-hangings and even a central row of indoor fountains.








Grooms dressed in their wedding finery wait nervously outside, surrounded by well-wishers while guests roll up in the hundreds.






Decorated carts and mobile ‘bands’ promise a memorable celebration, which at Chambal was still going at full voice at 2.45 a.m.




















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Cruising on the river looks wonderful. What sort of boat were you in? You saw an excellent range of birds and other creatures.

The lodge you stayed at looks really good.

I enjoyed seeing your photos of the people - the trucks with the sound system bing back many (noisy) memories!


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It looks as though had much better weather than we did at Chambal. There was a heavy cloud of pollution when we were there. 

I think you missed a trick not visiting Bateshwar while you were at Chambal. It's a pretty cool place, with lots of holy men and a whole riverside lined with temples. When we were there we found ourselves the centre of attention and got interviewed for the local paper. It was a hoot.

Bateshwar, Rajasthan


Bateshwar, Rajasthan


Bateshwar, Rajasthan


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@TonyQ Chambal River Lodge is a wonderful place to stay. We were in an open dinghy type boat, Jo found this photo which will give you some idea.





@Soukous I certainly did miss Bateshwar, what a shame as it looks so interesting. Oh well, I will have to return some day.



Day 10




We left Chambal Safari Lodge at 9 am for the 90 minute drive to Agra passing through rural villages where local industries included threshing cane for cattle food, brick making and cooking fuel made from cow pats. Most families have cows and water buffalo which provide the raw materials for the cooking fuel.














Some domestic animals have hessian bag ‘coats’ and goats looked smart in ‘cast off’ orange and green jumpers worn with front legs through the sleeves.


Many villages had celebrated weddings yesterday and today was clean-up or post-wedding party day. We saw one house where gifts of a washing machine and refrigerator were stacked outside as we got closer to Agra.  The veg stall had been raided by marauding rhesus macaques while the vendor's back was turned.






Agra Fort is a walled city which served as the residence of the Moghul Emperors until the capital moved to Delhi in 1638. The Fort was built for Emperor Akbar on an existing site of 94 acres along the Yamuna River between 1565-1573 and is just 2.5 km from the Taj Mahal. The 20m high red sandstone walls at Agra Fort contrast with white marble mosques, audience halls and private apartments that lend an exotic backdrop to this foremost military edifice.




Jehangir’s Palace is an impressive building within the fort.




Nearby, these Naked-rumped Tomb Bats have found a comfortable shelter.




The grandeur of life within the fort is reflected by the cool marble halls of public and private audience and the filigree inlaid Musamman Burj.



Diwan-i-am (Hall of public audience)



Diwan-i-khas (Hall of private audience)



Musamman Burj


Shah Jahan was imprisoned in the fort for his final 8 years by his son Aurangzeb. His apartment in the Round Tower had a view across the river to the Taj Mahal.




After lunch we visited the exquisite riverside I'timad-Ud-Daulah or Baby Taj which was commissioned by Queen Nur Jehan (the wife of Jehangir) as a tomb for her parents. Constructed between 1622-1628, it pre-dates the Taj and is exquisitely decorated, perhaps it provided some inspiration for the grander building?





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The Taj Mahal is an architectural triumph and one of the seven wonders of the modern world. It was commissioned by Emperor Shah Jahan as a tomb for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal and completed in 1643. Possibly the most recognisable building in the world, the Taj Mahal was majestic in the late afternoon when we visited to marvel at this marble masterpiece. 

















The Trident Hotel is our home away from home in Agra and the visit to the Taj Mahal was the topic at dinner. Tomorrow we are visiting the SOS elephant refuge and the abandoned city of Fatehpur Sikri.








Edited by Treepol
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Wonderfully entertaining account of your trip @Treepol and great to see so much of the architecture and culture as well

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Thanks for reading along @AfricIan there is more architecture today.


Day 11




The Wildlife SOS Elephant Refuge is about 45 minutes outside Agra and is home to 24 elephants rescued from circuses, temples, poachers and event organisers.


The visit began with a confronting video presentation after which our guide showed us around. The Refuge leases about 40 acres of land where the elephants are walked twice a day. Their morning routine includes a foot inspection, scrub time, medical treatment if needed and then enrichment activities. These include grass being placed in upright pipes outside the yard which required a good trunk stretch whilst another required trunk dexterity - the elephant has to manipulate the trunk through a small circular opening in a wire cage in order to retrieve a snack.






A pierced blue barrel hung over the ‘bathroom’ and every now and then inquisitive trunks would hit the barrel in the hope of dislodging a treat.




A foot bath is incorporated into scrub time.




Another activity exercises olfactory skills to sniff out treat-filled lengths of sugar cane buried in sand.  Most of the elephants have foot problems as they have spent years walking on hard surfaces, so a simple daily foot check identifies any problems that need treatment. A generous supply of peanuts gets the eles through this daily ritual.



The elephants looked peaceful and didn’t demonstrate any stress related rocking or swaying while we were there. The pens are clean with a pool deep enough for an ele to wallow.






Healthy watermelon, cabbage, cauliflower, green fodder and sugarcane was ready for lunch.








The Refuge employs 75 people supplemented by volunteers and is supported by high profile organisations such as the Born Free Foundation, Ford Foundation, San Diego Zoo and the Humane Society International.


After a morning with the eles we have something completely different for the afternoon. Fatehpur Sikri is an abandoned Mughal capital located 40km west of Agra. Fatehpur Sikri is one of the Mughals finest follies and was founded in 1571 by Akbar, the third Great Moghul emperor. Akbar chose the site following a visit to a famous Sufi seer at Sikri who accurately predicted the birth of a male heir.  


These elevated rooms and cool open spaces were Akbar’s private quarters including his bedroom with an Emperor-sized stone bed.








Akbar was woken by music and singing performed from the Anup Talao, the ornamental platform with 4 bridges after which he appeared on the upper level of his quarters to show the Prime Minister and courtiers that he had lived through the night.




The city includes an elaborate mosque and three palaces one for each of his favourite wives, one a Christian and the other two Hindu and Muslim respectively. Jodha Bai, the Hindu wife enjoyed the most palatial living quarters in deference to the majority religion of India.


Mariam’s Palace aka Birbal’s House.




The Muslim wife’s palace has a screened summer palace ‘annexe’ which faced a garden of roses and jasmine and was fanned by a breeze cooled by a ceremonial tank.






The Diwan-i-Khas or hall of private audience is a significant building with 4 rooftop chhatris. It is famous for the Lotus Throne supported by an octagonal shaft where Akbar would sit above his guests.






The Panch Mahal is a 5 storied palatial building possibly built for the ladies of the court.




The bristling Hiran Minar is a memorial to Akbar’s favourite elephant, although more recently it has been suggested that the tower was the first post in a system to measure distance.



There are numerous decorative features throughout Fatehpur Sikri, these were amongst my favourites.


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We arrived back at the Trident in the late afternoon which left enough time for a walk through the ‘Fairy Forest’ a large vacant space on the hotel block that is home to urban wildlife and an impressive vegetable garden.





Red-wattled lapwing



Indian Grey Mongoose



Yellow wagtail



Plain prinia



5 striped Palm Squirrel




Tomorrow we have one last look at the Taj Mahal and a visit to the Wildlife SOS Bear Rescue centre before heading into Rajasthan.










Edited by Treepol
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Fascinating description of Fatehpur Sikri @Treepol, I'd not heard of it before but it looks a good place to visit if you are in Agra

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This is such a fascinating report, so glad to see the cultural sights and your excellent commentary! I feel like we have really neglected the culture on our India trips and will need to rectify that in future.


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@AfricIan Fatehpur Sikri is an amazing site, its in good condition and was built to last.


@janzin India has so much to offer, its a surprising country with a medley of wildlife, culture and architecture to intrigue curious visitors. You and your camera will have a field day! Glad you are enjoying the non-wildlife days as well as the national parks.



Day 12 





Next morning our first stop is the Mehtab Bagh (aka Moonlight Garden) for an early view of the Taj Mahal across the river.




The birdlife included House Crows, Black Drongo, Grey Wagtail and Rufous Treepie.


House crow



Black drongo



Grey wagtail


The drive out of Agra was slow, however, we reached the Wildlife SOS Bear Rescue Centre in good time. The Centre is in a unique position because its goals have reportedly been achieved with the eradication of the dancing bear industry in both India and Nepal.




The former dancing bear stories are heart-breaking, however the rescued animals now live in peace, enjoying well deserved comfort, safety and security in clean, spacious and sunny accommodation.










Patient “parents” teach rescued bears natural behaviours such as climbing, digging and sniffing out food, skills that they didn’t learn as dancing bears.




Staff at the Refuge work hard to devise enrichment activities to reinforce natural behaviours and prevent boredom. Most enrichment activities are developed in-house due to the limited number of international bear refuges and opportunities to share ideas.


The bears eat a healthy porridge containing grains, eggs, honey and fruit twice a day as well as an afternoon fruit snack.






This Large Grey Babbler had made a home at the Bear Refuge.




The Refuge employs 5 vets, one of whom stays overnight to provide onsite medical care if needed. We saw many examples of kindness such as the puffed rice and jaggery balls fed as a special treat ‘to spoil them’, cooled sleeping pens during summer, 24/7 access to indoor and outdoor areas and the separation of blind bears to reduce their stress. 




The visit ended with a short video on the plight of the dancing bears that was introduced by Jane Goodall.


SOS offer educational and empowerment opportunities to Kalandar families who have surrendered dancing bears to the refuge. These include education for children and training in handcrafts and sewing for women aimed at making them secondary income earners. Micro loans for small business start-ups may also be available. This was a feel good visit, knowing that the Kalandar people have moved on to other sources of income and that no more bears will be sold into a painful dancing life and boredom at the end of a 4’ length of rope. Once we had finished at the Bear Centre, Shankar turned west and we were headed for the colourful state of Rajasthan, the abode of the Rajas. 


Rajasthan – the Jewel in India’s crown




Before independence in 1947 the region was called Rajputana, the land of the Rajputs and comprised over 20 princely states. Rajasthan is a land of maharajahs, feudal forts, palaces and tigers and is India’s largest state located on the northwestern border. Battle-scarred forts embody a rich warrior tradition and many of the grand palaces are now grand hotels and museum treasure-houses.


Jaipur is the rose pink capital and gateway to Rajasthan, there are also ‘blue’ and ‘white’ cities at Jodhpur and Udaipur in this most colourful state.  Its impossible to ignore the colours of Rajasthan where fire-engine red, emerald green, sky blue and canary yellow sarees and turbans brighten the streets, markets and monuments. Lucky visitors may even catch a glimpse of orange in Ranthambhore NP.












Our Jaipur accommodation, Barwara Kothi is a former city residence of the Barwara royal family and is now a pleasant homestay. It is so homely that some return guests wore dressing gowns to breakfast.







Tomorrow the Amber Fort is our first stop, followed by the Tiger Fort, City Palace and the Royal Chhatris.







Edited by Treepol
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@Treepol, so much fun seeing India through your eyes, there's just so much going on everywhere, wherever you look. I think the hardest thing in planning for India is choosing which parts you most want to see. The little reclining Sloth Bears are hilarious, how heartwarming to see them and the Elephants living out their years in comfort and safety, equally terrific is the employment and educational opportunity offered to the local people caring for them. I hope they can manage to battle through Covid. Lucky you, seeing and hearing the whole wedding spectacle.

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Great report- enjoying reading the day by day account. Separately, on the sloth bears in post #35 above I came across this interesting article today that some of you might like. 
How to make peace with the world's deadliest bears
Sloth bears feed on ants and termites, but often attack people when startled. As human populations in India grow, violent conflict is rising.

Read in National Geographic: https://apple.news/ANinkyERVSCyzx5o8eSnv-g


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@elefromoz there is so much to do and see in India that makes putting an itinerary together quite a challenging task. However, I have a 5 year visa and hope to get to places like Kazaringa, Pench and Gujarat.


@AKR1 thanks for the link to the interesting NG article. It seems as though some good lessons have been learned from the Gujarat project and hopefully these successes can be tried in other rescue centres.


Day 13 - Jaipur


Today was an exhausting city day, if our tired feet are anything to go by. We arrived at the Amber Fort about 0915 after a jeep, rather than elephant ride.






There were far less elephants this time than in 2001 and Jane said that the number had dropped since her 2016 visit. There are regulations that limit the number of hours each elephant can work - 4 hours per day in winter and 2 in summer. The metal ankus is no longer used and each elephant is supposed to have a vet check and be approved for work each day. The number of people each ele can carry is now limited to 2. Judging by the number of jeeps jammed into the car park, it seems that most people go up to the Amber Fort by vehicle.  


We stopped at the Panna Meena Ka Kund, a square-shaped stepwell, with adjoining stairs on four sides - more on stepwells later.


Many of the buildings within the Amber Fort were built by Raja Man Singh I in the 1600s, near an earlier settlement dating from around 1030. The Raja was a trusted general of Emperor Akbar and enjoyed a high status at the royal court.  The Fort was abandoned in 1727 when the capital moved to Jaipur. Amber Fort is constructed of sandstone and marble and consists of a series of four courtyards, palaces, halls and gardens.


The Fort is laid out in the traditional style with the Maharajah’s private living quarters, the zenana (women’s quarters) and Diwan-i-kaus (Hall of private audience) located in the upper levels furthest from the entrance. Jaleb Chowk is the first courtyard entered through the Sun and Moon gates and is the site of former grand military displays. The second courtyard is located on the lower levels near the entrance gates and is home to the 27 pillared Diwan-i-Am (Hall of Public Audience) where the emperor heard petitions from his subjects.






The third courtyard is dominated by the decorative Ganesh Pol (Elephant Gate) which leads to the emperor’s private quarters.




Above this gate is the Suhag Mandir where ladies of the royal family used to watch functions held in the Diwan-i-Aam through latticed marble screens.




This level has two buildings separated by an ornamental garden. The Diwan-e-Khas (aka Hall of Private Audiences) is where the Emperor conducted government business. Its also known as the Sheesh Mahal or Mirror Palace because the walls are covered in Belgian glass mirror work.




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The opposite building is the Sukh Niwas where the Emperor spent time with his ladies.








The fourth courtyard, the Palace of Man Singh and the zenana were built in 1599 and form one of the oldest parts of the fort. The central pavilion is where the queens used to meet.








Overwhelmed by opulence and many Alice-in-India moments, we made our way back to the Nahargarh or Tiger Fort which straddles a ridge in the Aravali Hills overlooking the Jal Mahal in Man Sagar Lake and Jaipur.






The Tiger Fort was built in 1784 by the Maharaja of Jaipur as a retreat in the hills above the city and also formed part of the city's defences.








The Tiger Fort has a different style of stepwell to the one at Amber as well as an attractive, simple palace with a zenana of 8 identical rooms, one for each of the Maharajah’s wives. This restored room gives an indication of life at court for the royal women.






The palace is beautifully decorated and features many ornate doorways and frescoes. 




After lunch we made a brief visit to the Jantar Mantar, an astronomical courtyard before moving on to City Palace where we visited the textile museum, and the halls of public and private audience.




These 4000 litre, sterling silver water carriers were commissioned by the Maharajah to carry sacred Ganges water to London when he attended Edward VII’s coronation.




The exit gate is both decorative and defensive with brass anti-elephant spikes and blue tiles.




The final stop was at the Royal Gaitor, where a memorial chhatri to each Maharajah has been built at his cremation site. It was a peaceful area and contained some outstanding architecture and decoration.
























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Tomorrow we will drop by the Palace of the Winds, walk through a flower market and stop at the Albert Hall Museum for a view of the Indo-Saracenic architecture before departing for Ranthambhore.





Stepwells are wells or ponds designed to manage seasonal fluctuations in water supply and are accessed by descending steps to the water level. The steps give both easy access to the water and assist in maintaining the well. The lower levels of the stepwell provide a cool place during the heat of the day, and covered stepwells were especially popular in summer.  Stepwells were often the social centre of the village for women who are the main water bearers and also doubled as sites for religious ceremonies. They are common in western India and whilst having a practical purpose are often very decorative and may also function as temple tanks.


Panna Meena Ka Kund in the village of Amer, near Jaipur.




Tiger Fort, near Jaipur - This stepwell is unusual because of the lack of symmetry in the steps.




Bundi – the Raniji Ki Baori or Queen’s stepwell




Mumbai – Banganga Tank is a cultural hub located in the Mumbai suburb of Malabar Hill and is part of a temple complex. The tank is fed by a spring despite being located close to the sea.




Dalautabad Fort reservoir – was built to convey water to the fort complex in this arid region. The reservoir was filled by a siphon from a distant river.







Edited by Treepol
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Day 14




A photo stop at the Palace of the Winds was the first call today followed by a walk through the wholesale flower market in the old city, where shoes, string, fruit and veg are also sold.




The flowers arrive tied in large squares of material and are then unloaded by women labourers.








The Albert Hall Museum on the outskirts of the main city is a famous example of Indo-Saracenic architecture.




The drive to Ranthambhore took 4 hours including a short walk through a village before we arrived at Ranthambhore Kothi.








There was enough time to explore Ranthambhore Kothi before dinner and I found White-bellied Drongo and Common Tailorbird in the garden.










Tomorrow we are searching for tigers in Ranthambhore NP.








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Excellent photo and descriptions from Jaipur, now I don't have to include it in my report :)  Just kidding, we seemed to have gone to some different places. We didn't do the Tiger Fort, and I have a ton of photos from the Jantar Mantar, which was one of my favorite sights. I'm surprised you included no photos from there. But you are much better at recounting the history than I am (were you a teacher, per chance?) 


Looking forward now to the Ranthambhore section!


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Your report continues to be fascinating and enjoyable.

Most of our trips to India have been culturally focused rather than wildlife. It has so much to offer, and you show it so well.

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@janzin I will be looking out for Jaipur in your TR! We had a fleeting visit to the Jantar Mantar, looked at one of the giant instruments and then went to the palace. I regret not taking a photo of the back of the Palace of the Winds from the Jantar Mantar, didn't think of it at the time.  I did train as a teacher but gained very little classroom experience before seguing into the library world. 


@TonyQ thank you



Day 15




Today is the first of 2 days in Ranthambhore NP using our all day permits with guide Raj and driver Lokesh. Raj is an excellent guide, possibly half tiger himself! He has an in-depth knowledge of the park, its tigers and their habits. We left the lodge at 6 am and arrived at the Zone 2 gate 5-10 minutes later. Sonja Gandhi’s daughter is visiting the park today so the Forest Department staff are in full VIP mode. We were second in the queue and headed straight to Zone 5 where the almost full grown son of Krishna had made a kill the previous day.




Raj is keen to get back to Zones and 2 and 3 after a stop at the rest camp where we are dive bombed by Rufous treepies, Ranthambhore’s answer to Yellow-billed kites and seagulls.




A sambar fawn grazed by the roadside and a White-throated Kingfisher perched over a forest pond.






Common langurs were catching the morning sun.




A brief stop at the lake was rewarded by Common Snipe, Woolly-necked Stork and Ashy-crowned Lark-finch.








Chinkara grazed amongst the trees.




We returned to Ranthambhore Kothi for lunch at 1215 and left at 2 pm once again queuing at the Zone 2 gate. 






Back inside the park a Great Cormorant, a Darter, White-breasted Waterhen, Indian Moorhen and Asian Openbill and Grey Francolin all stayed close to the lake.












A Great Thicknee rested in the sun, and these langurs were keeping a close watch on a 2 week old baby.






Grey Francolin fossicked by the roadside and Raj found a sleepy Spotted Owl.






Down at the lake young sambar are testing their strength and an Intermediate Egret fished in a pool.






A Ruddy Mongoose was the last sighting today.




There were no tigers this afternoon despite looking for Arrowhead and her cubs. Ironically, we saw a young female tiger called Sultana outside the park on the return to Ranthambhore Kothi where she caused great excitement for locals and Forest Dept. officials.

Ranthambhore Fort


The fort dates from the mid-tenth century and changed hands numerous times before being passed to the Maharajahs of Jaipur in the 17th century. There are four temples within the fort which are still in use.




The surrounding area is now Ranthambhore NP, a former hunting ground of Jaipur royalty. It’s a very scenic park, with vine-covered ruins, broken walls, abandoned palaces, rustic cupolas and fortified gates - I was expecting Indiana Jones to swing by at any minute. This serene ruin is a former hunting palace.




The pink lakeside building is a former Forest Dept. Rest Camp which closed in 1992.
















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Your TR continues to delight @Treepol, and I'm pleased that you've had a good dose of Indian culture already this year because our trip in November (Inshallah) will be a bit light on that.

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@Soukous a wildlife focussed trip is perfect, fingers crossed.


Day 16




Today we are going into Ranthambhore for the full 12 hours. Raj has worked out a strategy aimed at finding Arrowhead and her sub-adult cubs so we are the first vehicle to enter Zone 1 and after a short drive we encounter the family padding down the road.






Painted Spurfowl are oblivious to the excitement.












The tigers walk through the park to the main road where a noisy traffic jam develops.




Back in Zone 2 the first lake is peaceful as chital and Red-Wattled Lapwings breakfast together.




The muggers are heading for the island to spend the day sun-baking. Black-headed ibis, Painted Stork, Little-ringed plover, Great Egret, Grey Francolin, langurs and a herd of chital are on the move.










The Indian Flying Foxes aka Greater Indian Fruit Bats settle in for their ‘night’.




Spotted Owls rest at a day roost and a cheeky Oriental Magpie Robin checks out the vehicle.






Black Stork are preening but an Indian Scops Owl called it a day.






It’s 10 am so we have to head for Zone 6 until 2 pm, collecting lunch at the gate where Rose-ringed Parakeets and Jungle Babblers drink from a puddle.










The day is very hot and not much is moving. An obliging Indian Roller and a chinkara family ignore the heat whereas a Crested Serpent Eagle and Nilgai seek the shade.










A juvenile Pond Heron poses near a river.




The Sambar are feeding on water weed in the lake bordering Zones 2 and 3. A pair of redshanks are feeding closer to the shore. 










We make our way slowly around the lake being overtaken by Canters and other jeeps, when on a quiet stretch of uphill road Raj says “tiger on the road” and there is Arrowhead on patrol.






We share this amazing sighting with just one other vehicle. Lokesh parks where we can watch her strolling downhill towards a resting male sambar. Once he gets the tiger scent he jumps up, surveys the scene, lifts the front foot and then gives the alarm call – taut, terrified, trembling.






Arrowhead saunters down to the lake and drinks while every chital, sambar and wild boar eye is fixed on her.




The wild boar are the first to cut and run while the chital make sure they have an escape if needed. The Sambar are poised for flight.






Raj told us this morning when we found Arrowhead in Zone 1 that she would be patrolling her territory and would be down near the lake later in the afternoon which is exactly where we found her. His knowledge of the tiger's routines and territory worked to our advantage today. Raj is keen to use every second in the park so we drive by langurs and stop near the lake where a small flock of Yellow-footed Green Pigeons perch in a tree top and Grey Francolin peck for a final meal before nightfall.






Further along the shore a Eurasian Thicknee and an Osprey catch the last of the sun. 






Our last Ranthambore sighting is this glamorous peacock at the gate.





In the zone


Ranthambhore is home to 65 tigers in an area of 1400 sq. km. so chances of a sighting are extremely good. However the park operates on a zone system which means most visitors are allocated a zone for a standard 4 hour game drive in either a Gypsy or Cantor. Zones cannot be crossed as there are locked chains at the ‘borders’ and every vehicle is fitted with a GPS.
We purchased 2 full day permits allowing us free transit between zones, up to 12 hours in the park, including a precious 4.5 hours between 10am and 2.30 pm when half-day vehicles had left the park. Unfortunately, in October 2019 the Forest Dept. ruled that all vehicles must leave the prime tiger ranges in Zones 1-5 and spend the 4.5 hours between 10-2.30 in Zones 6-10 or leave the park completely.


There is a long corridor between Zones 2 and 6 so you either stay in Zone 6 or exit the park from there, drive through the old part of Ranthambhore town and return to the Lodge for lunch which defeats the purpose of the all day permit facility. Alternatively, you collect lunch at the Zone 6 gate and stay in that zone until 2.30 pm when it’s permitted to re-enter other zones.


We didn’t see much on either day in Zone 6, although there is a tigress there with a litter of 3-4 month old cubs. For me, it was a slow 4 hours with lunch in Zone 6 on the second day and a bit of a chore doing the 40 minute drive back to the Lodge for lunch on the first day. Based on my experience neither option is ideal, however for anyone with limited time and a hankering to see tigers the full day pass is a good option.
Ramthambhore, Raj and Lokesh certainly delivered for us with good sightings of 5 separate tigers and 2 lengthy sightings of Arrowhead.  Ranthambhore guides are very focussed on tigers, almost one-dimensional. If you are keen to see other mammals, birds and reptiles be sure to let your operator and guides know – and keep reminding them!







Our tiger fest is over and tomorrow we are leaving for Bundi, an off the beaten track city with a mostly untouristed old town overlooked by an impressive palace and fort.










Edited by Treepol
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Really enjoying this report @Treepol, it's nice to see Arrowhead doing well and her cubs so big! As others have said I appreciate all the cultural information, I'm sure our return trip to India will have more cultural aspects to it. 

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Well you did great with Arrowhead and the cubs, and it seems your guide gave you lots of great opportunities for birds and other mammals as well.


We had the same frustration with the change in the full-day permits, of course, although we never bothered to go back to the lodge for lunch. That seemed like too much time wasted. We spent one lunch in zone 6 with 0 sightings, the other two days we ate our lunch in the vehicle outside the gate of zone 3 so we could be in first-ish. Anyway, more on that in my report :)


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You certainly enjoyed some great sightings in Ranthambhore @Treepol. Sorry you didn't have any luck in zone 6. Last time in I did find it a bit tedious, but we did see tigers and it was nice to be free of the other vehicle for a while.

It may be just my monitor, but your photos from the latest post look much darker/more contrasty than those in previous posts. Did you do something different?

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@Zubbie15 I had trouble thinking of those almost full grown tigers with Arrowhead as her cubs. You will be spoilt for choice when planning a trip around India's cultural sites, there is so much to do and see.


@janzin We did have 2 good views of Arrowhead, and the ginormous "cubs". Raj certainly knew her routine and found her in Zone 1 early in the morning based on late reports from the day before. He also knew her patrolling routine which allowed us to intercept her as she made her way down the road and through some light vegetation.


Day 17




The 3 hour drive through rural India to Bundi was interesting with many camel carts, cows, mustard crops and birds on wires - Hoopoe, Indian Rollers and kingfishers to name a few. We arrived in Bundi and were delighted with our heritage accommodation at the Dev Niwas.










Shankar took us for a delicious masala chai at a tea stall near the Dev Niwas. The chai wallah ground the spices and brewed the tea while we watched, it was such a magical and mysterious performance that I expected him to produce a white rabbit from one of his many containers of special ingredients.




Here is the recipe:

Milk at a rolling boil, ground pepper, bruised cinnamon, whole cloves, crushed ginger, black tea leaves, bruised cardamom and copious amounts of sugar (I counted 8 heaped teaspoons).


We ate lunch at the rooftop restaurant which had spectacular views across to the palace and then met the guide who took us through the town to the palace, local market and stepwell.




Rao Raja Ratan Singh, a warrior loyal to Emperor Jehangir commissioned Bundi Palace in 1607. The palace seems to sprout from the hillside and was home to members of the Bundi royal family until 1948. Kipling mused that Bundi Palace had been built by goblins rather than men.


Its a scramble up to the palace over worn, steep, slippery cobble-stones.  Sadly, the palace has fallen into dis-repair and the magnificent frescoes for which it is famous are damaged and faded.




The entrance is through the Hathi Pol or elephant gate, here are external and internal views of the gate.






The Hathi Sal or Elephant Hall faces the Emperor’s private apartment across an inner courtyard.




The entrance to the apartment is flanked by niched paintings and entered through a grand door inlaid with ivory.








The Emperor’s bedroom is decorated by once dazzling art miniatures many with a war theme.




The view over the town from the Emperor’s courtyard.




The entrance to the Chitrasala is as ornate as the open galleries within depicting court life.






The ornate entrance to the Phool Mahal or Flower Palace.




After this overload of rich art we picked our way slowly and carefully downhill towards the old town, walking through the fruit and veg market to the Raniji ki Baori or Queen’s stepwell which has 110 descending steps. The water was surprisingly clear and we could see another ornamental gate below the surface.




This penguin in the grounds of the stepwell was a real surprise.




Dinner this evening is in the rooftop restaurant with a birds-eye view of the floodlit ‘hanging’ palace.






Tomorrow we are off to the white lakeside city of Udaipur.












Edited by Treepol
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@Soukous our posts crossed in the ether.


I can't think why that would be except that the midday light was harsh, maybe thats it. We were unlucky in Zone 6 because some people saw a tigress with cubs the same day we were there,  just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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2 minutes ago, Treepol said:

@Soukous our posts crossed in the ether.


I can't think why that would be except that the midday light was harsh, maybe thats it. We were unlucky in Zone 6 because some people saw a tigress with cubs the same day we were there,  just in the wrong place at the wrong time.


Yes, you're probably correct; the harsh midday light could account for it. Nice pix all the same.

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