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The mighty Himalaya exerts itsinfluence over every aspect of the floraand fauna of northern India andnowhere is this better exemplified than inthe three areas that we will visit during thistour: the floodplain of the BrahmaputraRiver in Assam, the former hill station ofDarjeeling and the pristine montane forestsof Bhutan. Each destination is fascinatinglydifferent from the others but the triocombined together produce a birdwatchingand wildlife tour par excellence.Our holiday begins in Kolkata, located ineastern India on the banks of the HooghlyRiver. From here we fly to Paro and enterthe tranquil 'Land of the Thunder Dragon', a mountainous country of boundless andbeautiful rhododendron and oak forests,where remarkable dzongs and the culture,architecture and dress of a proud Buddhistpeople characterise a rich and unspoiledHimalayan kingdom where wildlife abounds.A 2-night stay in the high valley of Paroallows us to explore this historic valley thatsits beneath snow-capped Chomolhari, oneof the highest of Bhutan's Himalayanpeaks. Here we will visit the huge RimpungDzong, the National Museum and theimpressive ruin of Drugyel Dzong, and wewill climb through beautiful forest to thespectacular Taktsang Monastery (or Tiger'sNest). An early morning drive will then takeus to the Dochu La, a high pass clothed inwonderful oak and hemlock forest wheremany rare birds may be found. From herewe descend to Punakha, the old capital, fora 2-night stay that will allow us to enjoy itsmagnificent riverside dzong and make visitsto Tashithang and Jigme Dorji National Parkin search of such rarities as White-belliedHeron and Blyth's Kingfisher.At Gangtey Gompa the peaceful ProbjikhaValley holds an upland mire famed for itswintering Black-necked Cranes. We aremost likely to see these endangered birdson the November tour, though on bothtours we will encounter the wealth ofinteresting birdlife to be found in thesurrounding high temperate rhododendronforests. We will spend our final night in thispeaceful and magical kingdom in thecapital Thimpu, before a scenic drive takesus to the town of Phuntsholing that spansthe Indian border with Bhutan. Our next destination is the former colonialhill station of Darjeeling. Situated at 1,980metres, the town is full of character andcommands magnificent views of theHimalaya, in particular the world's largest(and third tallest) mountain, Kanchenjunga.Whilst here, we will have ample opportunityto enjoy the birds of nearby temperateforests, and we will also see at first handthe processes involved in producing thefamous Darjeeling tea. The historic town ofDarjeeling, with its bustling streets,contains many a reminder of its 'glorydays' as a summer resort for the Britishduring the time of the 'Raj', amongst themthe world-famous narrow gauge railwaywhich laboriously loops its way up to thetown from the steamy plains.A short flight from Bagdogra will take us toGuwahati in Assam, from where we willdrive to the southern edge of KazirangaNational Park. We stay here for amemorable four nights at the comfortableand evocatively named Wild Grass Lodge,from which we will undertake dailyexcursions into the reserve by jeep and onelephant back.Kaziranga is a 430 square kilometre park,consisting of broad tracts of tall elephantgrass interspersed with evergreen forests,shallow lakes and reedbeds. It is probablythe best place on Earth to observe the veryrare Great Indian One-horned Rhinocerosand it is possible to encounter as many as40 of these prehistoric-looking beastsduring a day in the field. Indian Elephantsare also plentiful and herds of wild WaterBuffalo watch our progress with an air ofbellicose suspicion. Grazing Sambar, HogDeer and Swamp Deer add to the diversityand provide prey for the Leopards andTigers which roam the park, although amidso much cover they are always hard tosee. Continuing our exploration we maydisturb sounders of Wild Boar, sendingthem crashing through the undergrowth,and maybe chance upon some of the moreelusive residents such as Gaur, LeopardCat and Sloth Bear, whilst the rare CappedLangur, Assam Macaque and HoolockGibbon form a trio of primates that inhabitthe woodlands. Despite the profusion ofmammals, the birdlife is not eclipsed and atremendously diverse bird list featuresmany rare or local species such as BengalFlorican and Adjutant Stork. A short flight from Guwahati or Jorhat will take us back to the bustling city ofKolkata, testing our abilities at mountainidentification as we fly parallel to the greatHimalayan massif, passing several of theworld's highest peaks.For tour members wishing to postpone theirhomeward flight, we recommend a post-tourvisit to the Sunderbans, the world's largestdelta and mangrove swamp, renowned forits waterbirds and man-eating Tigers!India - Assam, Darjeeling & BhutanAn 18-day holiday exploring Kaziranga (the finest of India's national parks), the magical kingdom of Bhutan and the charming hill station of Darjeeling, plus an exciting optional extension to the Sunderbans.Sunday 4th November - Wednesday 21st November 2012 Cost: £3,995Sunday 24th February - Wednesday 13th March 2013 Cost: £3,995Sunday 3rd November - Wednesday 20th November 2013 Cost: £3,995Sunderbans extension available on all tours Cost: £695Outline itineraryDay 1Depart London.Day 2Arrive Kolkata. Day 3/4Paro. Day 5/6Punakha. Day 7Gangtey.Day 8Thimpu.Day 9Phuntsholing.Day 10/12Darjeeling.Day 13Fly Guwahati; drive toKaziranga.Day 14/16 Kaziranga National Park.Day 17Fly Kolkata. Day 18 Fly London. Sunderbans extensionDay 18Transfer SunderbansNational Park. Day 19/21Sunderbans NationalPark.Day 22Depart Kolkata.Day 23 Arrive London. AccommodationComfortable 5-star hotel in Kolkataand simple but comfortable hotelsand lodges in Kaziranga, Darjeelingand Bhutan, all with privatefacilities.FoodAll included in the price, except formain meals required in Kolkata.Allow £20.Grading A. This is a wildlife tour thatincludes no strenuous walking(other than optional walks inBhutan). Most excursions will be byjeep and three trips will be onelephant back in Kaziranga.Focus Mammals, birds and local culture.LeaderTshewang Norbu, Dilip Saini, ManojSharma, Sither or Sujan Chatterjee. Single room supplement£695 (extension: £175).Web quick search: IND05238Call now or visit www.naturetrek.co.ukfor your free Trip ItineraryBURMAKAZIRANGANATIONAL PARKBRAHMAPUTRARIVERDARJEELINGBAGDOGRABAY OFBENGALBHUTANINDIAASSAMKOLKATASUNDERBANSNATIONAL PARK(EXTENSION)JORHATGUWAHATITIBETPAROPHUNTSHOLINGView from DarjeelingSwamp Deer

Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking Information239This is a tour with a difference - aluxury sightseeing tour by trainadding a largesse of comfort, style,culture and sightseeing opportunities to aNaturetrek wildlife tour to some of India'sbest Tiger Reserves. We begin in India'scapital, Delhi, from where we'll spend aday birdwatching in Sultanpur NationalPark, a seasonal wetland attracting awealth of waterbirds and passerines. Wewill then board the luxurious 'RoyalRajasthan' train for a 6-day railway journeythrough the splendid state of Rajasthan, amagnificent land of former princely states,majestic forts and palaces, diversecultures, varied arid landscapes andvibrant colours. The Royal Rajasthan takesus back to those pre-independence daysof regal splendour, when the rulers ofthese princely states travelled by train intheir own luxurious individual railwaycarriages - the first 'palaces on wheels',that introduced the concept of luxury traintravel to India. The Royal Rajasthan isexquisitely constructed, furnished andequipped, following in the footsteps of thefamous 'Palace on Wheels'. Gold-embossed carriages with ornate ceilings,liveried attendants, luxury private bedchambers and bathrooms with running hotand cold water, a library, restaurant carsserving sumptuous Indian and Continentalcuisine, and a well-stocked bar are notnormally available on train journeysthrough India! However, on this tour we willenjoy the best of facilities as we travel,largely during the hours of darkness,allowing us to stop and explore duringeach day.In Jodhpur we will visit the clifftopMehrangarh Fort, one of India's largest,and Jaswant Thada, a royal memorial builtin white marble. In Udaipur, the romantic'City of Lakes', we visit the 16th centuryCity Palace and stunning 'Garden ofMaidens' (Sahelion ki Bari). We will alsovisit the gigantic 7th century Rajput fort atChittorgarh, filled with beautiful templesand other fine monuments. Stopping atSawai Madhopur, we'll disembark to enjoya morning game drive in RanthamboreNational Park, hopeful of a Tiger sightingand other wildlife. Then we will exploreJaipur, 'the Pink City', and have a chanceto visit Hawa Mahal (the Palace of Winds),Amber Fort, the Observatory built by thefounder of Jaipur and the city palaceresidence of the Maharaja of Jaipur. Finally, we will visit the famous Hindutemples at Khajuraho. It was in 1839 that aBritish army engineer stumbled upon acomplex of the most remarkable Hindutemples, constructed between 950 and1050 AD by the later kings of the Chandeladynasty. Lost for centuries in remotejungle, these magnificent examples ofIndo-Aryan architecture had escaped thedestruction that Moghul rule inflicted onvirtually all other Hindu monuments innorthern India at the time. Today,Khajuraho's temples, boasting exquisite(and many erotic) carvings, are listed as aWorld Heritage Site. We will leave the Royal Rajasthan train inVaranasi, one of the oldest continuouslyinhabited cities in the world. Here we willenjoy some sightseeing before flying backto Khajuraho and travelling to nearbyPanna National Park. This park of 543square kilometres, consists largely of drydeciduous forest and boasts great scenicbeauty through its combination of rollinghills and plateaux, grassy meadows,gorges and waterfalls. Passing through thepark, the River Ken allows us to enjoywildlife-viewing, abundant waterbirds andmany large Marsh Mugger crocodiles byboat. Primarily though, we will explore thepark on jeep tours, and sometimes onelephant back, encountering abundantSpotted Deer, Sambar, Nilgai, Wild Boarand troupes of Common Langurs, the more elusive Chinkara and Chousinghaantelopes and, with luck, Dhole (Wild Dog)or even a Leopard! Panna also offers amost varied birdlife, with PaintedSandgrouse, and a wide variety of owlsand nightjars likely to be among thehighlights.We next take a long drive, through thefarmlands, villages and hills of MadhyaPradesh, to Bandhavgarh National Park,where we will spend three nights.Bandhavgarh, in the Vindhya Hills, is oneof the very best parks for consistent Tigersightings. It lies in a region steeped inhistory and, in the heart of the reserve,towering 800 metres above the forest,stands the ruin of the magnificent hilltopfort of ancient rulers. Today, thispicturesque park is a haven for Tigers, aswell as for other mammals such asSambar, Spotted Deer, Common Langur,Rhesus Macaque, Wild Boar, GoldenJackal, Jungle Cat and, with luck, perhapseven a Leopard, Dhole or Sloth Bear, notto mention a wealth of birdlife.It is likely that a Tiger sighting will beamong this holiday's highlights, but it isequally likely that the visit we make toAgra, to enjoy the fabulous Taj Mahal andsome of the city's other magnificentMoghul monuments, will rank alongside it!(For those wishing to extend this holiday,we offer a 4-day visit to Corbett NationalPark and Tiger Reserve.) India - Tigers, Taj & Luxury Train!A 15-day holiday including a 6-day sightseeing tour of Rajasthan by luxury train, plus visits to Ranthambore, Panna and Bandhavgarh National Parks as well as the magical Taj Mahal in Agra.Friday 9th November - Friday 23rd November 2012 Cost: £4,995 Friday 8th March - Friday 22nd March 2013 Cost: £4,995Friday 8th November - Friday 22nd November 2013 Cost: £4,995Corbett National Park extension available on all tours Cost: £850Outline itineraryDay 1Depart London.Day 2Sultanpur; overnightDelhi.Day 3/7Royal Rajasthan (luxurytrain).Day 8Varanasi.Day 9Panna National Park.Day 10/12Bandhavgarh NationalPark.Day 13Bandhavgarh; overnighttrain to Agra.Day 14Agra; train to Delhi.Day 15Fly London.Corbett extensionDay 14Uchagaon.Day 15/17Corbett National Park.Day 18Delhi.Day 19Fly London.Accommodation5-star hotel in Delhi; comfortablecabin aboard the Royal Rajasthanluxury train; and lodges elsewhere.All rooms have private facilities.FoodAll included in the price, except formain meals in Delhi.GradingA. This is a sightseeing and wildlifetour that includes no strenuouswalking.FocusIndia's culture, history andmonuments; luxury rail travel; birdsand mammals.Leader (From Khajuraho) Chandra Hada,Dilip Saini, Bunty Mandhayan orSaravana Kumar.Single room supplement£1,495 (extension: £315).Web quick search: IND42Taj MahalTigerSapphire Room, the Royal Rajasthan trainTIBET NEPAL NEWDELHIAGRAJODHPURUDAIPURJAIPURRANTHAMBORETIGER RESERVEKOLKATABAY OFBENGALINDIAKHAJURAHOVARANASIPANNATIGER RESERVEBANDHAVGARHTIGER RESERVE(EXTENSION)(EXTENSION)SULTANPURNATIONAL PARKCORBETTNATIONAL PARK