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Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking Information243The rich and varied wildlife of this vastand fascinating country presents achallenge to any wildlife enthusiast. Upuntil now most travellers have concentratedon northern India. This Naturetrek holiday,however, will introduce you to the tropicalsplendour of the Nilgiri and Cardamon Hillswhere the wildlife of the subcontinentflourishes in national parks of outstandingbeauty and solitude. These hills, togetherwith the Western Ghats which extendnorthwards to Bombay, bear the brunt ofthe south-west monsoon. The result is afertile, tropical land, markedly different fromthe north. The culture, too, is unique. Adifferent language, Malayalam, is spokenand there is a notably more relaxed attitudeto life. Since the beginning of civilisationKerala has supplied spices to the world,and this trading history has fostered anun-lndian diversity of religions within thestate: as early as 52 A.D. Christianity is saidto have arrived here.The flora and fauna of southern India bearmany striking similarities to those of thetropical Indo-Malayan realm, despite theirseparation by thousands of kilometres.Bio-geographers talk of mountaincauseways, long since eroded, over whichthe Indo-Malayan forms spread. Theisolated fauna has evolved a number ofunique species and subspecies which wewill make particular efforts to find during ourtour.Bangalore is our point of entry into India.From here we drive to the historic city ofMysore for an overnight stay and somesightseeing before we drive south toNagarhole National Park. In this vastlandscape we are able to experience thesounds, sights and exhilaration of a southIndian jungle -unchanged since timeimmemorial. We will stay at the Kabini RiverLodge. With its gracious old-world air andsplendid lakeside views, it is a trulydelightful setting from which to commenceour wildlife exploration. We will travel injeeps out into the surrounding grasslandsand forests to watch Elephants and Gaur(the Asian bison) and with luck we may seea Sloth Bear or a Leopard, both of whichare quite common. In the large forestcompound which surrounds the lodge, wecan walk in safety and look for some of thebird specialities.Our journey now takes us upwards to theold British hill station of Ootacamund at2,600 metres. It is here that we will searchfor the endemic birds of the Nilgiri Hills:Nilgiri Wood Pigeon, White-belliedShortwing, the beautiful Black and OrangeFlycatcher and Nilgiri Laughing-thrush.From Ootacamund we continuesouthwards. We pass through the city ofCoimbatore to Annamalai Sanctuary. Set atthe foot of the Cardamon Hills, Annamalaiinspired many to write enthusiastically of itsbeauty and splendour. Forests of teak androsewood give way to rocky precipices andgrassy ridges. This is one of the bestplaces to see two endangered primates:Lion-tailed Macaque and Nilgiri Langur. Wewill search for them, and for the birdspecialities: Malabar Pied Hornbill andWhite-bellied Treepie. The high tops areinhabited by the endemic Nilgiri Tahr (aspecies of wild goat), but as they are hardto see here we will stop at Munnar on theway to Periyar. Above the tea plantations ofMunnar is a small reserve where the Tahrare easier to see and where we willhopefully find two more endemic birds,Nilgiri Pipit and White-breasted Laughing-thrush.Periyar Tiger Reserve is justly one of Asia'smost renowned sanctuaries. Although theconstruction of a dam in 1895 floodedsome of the best forest, it has benefited thesanctuary in helping to protect thesurrounding forest and by providing aconstant water supply for the largemammals. It has also made Periyar one ofthe most picturesque sanctuaries in theworld. We will explore the sanctuary byboat, but our aim is also to spend time onfoot in the heart of the jungle -an excitingconclusion to our wildlife tour of southernIndia. We will then spend a night aboard ahouseboat cruising Kerala's backwaters,before a final two nights in Kochi (Cochin)to relax and sample the cultural andhistorical delights of this colourful port.For those with time to spare we stronglyrecommend our Andaman Islandsextension. These unspoilt tropical islands,over 1,600 kilometres from the Indian coast,hold an outstanding collection of endemicbirds and mammals in their denserainforests, and offer excellent snorkellingfrom their many coral islands. We will makethe most of this tourist-free environment, torelax, swim and enjoy a unique naturalhistory. NICOBARISLANDSANDAMANISLANDS(EXTENSION)(EXTENSION)BAY OF BENGAL PORT BLAIR ANNAMALAISANCTUARYMUNNAR PERIYAR TIGER RESERVE KOCHIOOTACAMUND NAGARHOLE SANCTUARY MYSORE BANGALORECHENNAIMUMBAI Outline itinerary Day 1Depart London. Day 2Bangalore.Day 3Mysore. Day 4/6Nagarhole NationalPark. Day 7/8Ootacamund. Day 9/10Annamalai Sanctuary. Day 11/12Munnar. Day 13/15Periyar Tiger Reserve. Day 16Houseboat, Kerala'sbackwaters. Day 17/18Kochi. Day 19Fly London.ExtensionDay 18 Fly Chennai. Day 19/22Andaman Islands. Day 23Fly Chennai. Day 24Arrive London.AccommodationComfortable tourist hotels andsimple forest lodges, all withprivate facilities. FoodAll included in the price.GradingDay walks only. Grade A.FocusBirds and mammals. LeaderM.S. Sudheesh, Dilan Mandana orSaravana Kumar.Single room supplement£795 (extension: £395). Web quick search: IND34Cardamon HillsThe National Parks ofSouthern IndiaA 19-day wildlife holiday to the Nilgiri and Cardamon Hills, and the National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries of Nagarhole, Annamalai and Periyar.Saturday 10th November - Wednesday 28th November 2012 Cost: £3,495Andaman Islands extension: to Monday 3rd December 2012 Cost: £1,695Saturday 9th November - Wednesday 27th November 2013 Cost: £3,495Andaman Islands extension: to Monday 2nd December 2013 Cost: £1,695Nilgiri TahrMalabar Pied Hornbill

Kazakhstan lies at the heart of CentralAsia, across the Old Silk Road, theancient trade route that linked Chinaand the West. It is a massive country, halfthe size of the United States or the wholeof western Europe! Yet with a population ofjust 17 million, mostly concentrated in thecities, this is a land of vast open andunpeopled spaces. Great stone and sanddeserts - the Kara Kum, Kyzyl Kum andTau Kum - and wide grassy steppesoccupy the great majority of the country,interspersed with such great inland lakesas Lake Balkhash and the Aral Sea. Indramatic contrast, along the south-easternborders of Kazakhstan stands the mightyTien Shan mountain range, the 1,610-kilometre spine of Central Asia andnorthern extension of the Himalaya whichwaters flower-filled alpine meadows, lushforests of Tien Shan Spruce and lowlandriverine Turanga forest, and feeds the greatlakes and inland deltas to the north.Kazakhstan's flora - consisting of over6,000 species - is interesting and varied.Its alpine and bulbous plants areparticularly special, and one of thehighlights of this tour will be the widevariety and colourful displays of wild tulipsthat we will find in bloom in the meadowsand mountains. It was only during thesecond half of the 16th century that Asiantulips found their way to Europe, and themajority of forms in cultivation around theworld today were originally obtained fromGreig's and Kaufmann's Tulips, both ofwhich we will see in their meadows oforigin during this exciting tour. Indeed, aswe journey westwards from Almaty acrosssouth-eastern Kazakhstan, amongst abewildering variety of other beautiful springflowers, we will hope to see up to 10species of wild Asian tulips.We will begin our tour with a scheduledflight to Kazakhstan's former capital,Almaty. Built as a Russian military outpostin the latter part of the 19th century, andformerly known as Verny (meaning Faithful)and more recently Alma-ata, present dayAlmaty is a pleasant and abundantly leafymodern city with a fabulous backdrop,nestling as it does beneath the snow-covered peaks of the Trans Ili range of theTien Shan Mountains, amongst whichstands Mount Talgar (5,017 metres). Westay for two nights in a modern hotel in thecity and, after breakfast on the firstmorning, drive to Lake Kapchagai on theRiver Ili (which originates in China),approximately 80 kilometres north-east ofAlmaty. In this arid area we should findsuch tulips as Tulipa albertii,T. busheanaand T. behmiana as well as the attractiveIris tenuifolia and Corydalis karelinii.Thisarea is also rich in reptiles and hopefullywe will see Horsfield's Tortoise here.Leaving the luxury of the Astana Hotelbehind, we spend two nights in simpleaccommodation close to the wonderfulMerke Gorge, breaking the long drive fromAlmaty with frequent botanical stops alongthe way. A picnic lunch will be taken at theKurdai Pass, where we should find theendangered Berberis relative, Leonticeeversmannii with its showy yellow flowersand distinctive divided glaucous foliage.This site is a tulipophile's delight as weshould encounter Tulipa kolpakowskiana,T.ostrowskiana and their hybrids, providing atapestry of yellow, orange and red flowers.We may also find the unusual leaves of T.regelii which flowers very early, as well asa couple of iris species. Merke Gorge is situated in the KirghizAlatau mountain range, its steep slopescovered by clumps of ferns (Ceteraxofficinarum,AspleniumseptentrionaleandCystopteris fragilis) as well as relict IronTree (Celtis caucasica). The highlight here,however, is likely to be Zinaida's Tulip, anendemic species of the Kirghiz Alatau.We will now drive to Aksu Dzabagly NatureReserve, the oldest reserve in Central Asiahaving been established in 1927. Duringthe journey we will stop to explore both theKuyuk Pass and the Syrdarynski Karataurange where Greig's Tulip, the largest andmost spectacular of the world's wild tulips,will be in bloom. We will pass riverineforests where the relict species Fraxinuspotamophila, numerous Eremuruslactiflorusand the very beautiful Alliumkarataviensemay be found. A simpleguesthouse will be our base during our 6-night stay in Aksu Dzabagly. From it we willexplore the Aksu and Boroldai Gorges; thelatter displaying an unrivalled density ofGreig's Tulips, the former offering suchunusual or endemic plants as Korolkowiasewerzowi,Rhinopetalum stenantherumandScilla pushkinioides.We will also soakin the delights of the distinctive CentralAsian open forest comprising suchspecies as Pistacia vera,Crataeguspontica,Pyrus regelii,Vitis vinifera,Sorbuspersica,Prunus sogdianaand Padusmahaleb, plus one of the rarest plants ofthe Tien Shan, the endemic Thesiumminkwitzianum.Next, we will drive to the Saryyaigyr Gorgefor a 2-night stay. Situated in theKarzhantau range, the steep slopes of thisspectacular gorge will reward us withthickets of Ferula tenuisecta,F.penninervis,Prangos pabularia, andpatches of forest consisting of thebeautiful 'weeping' form of Juniperussemiglobosa. The population ofKaufmann's Tulips will be our mainattraction here - with over 10 differentforms in bloom!Finally, we return by overnight sleeper trainto Almaty for some final and rewardingbotanical exploration in the alpinemeadows of the adjacent Trans Ili range,before our return flight to London.Tulip Meadows ofKazakhstan & the Tien Shan MountainsA 16-day botany tour of the steppes and Tien Shan Mountains of Kazakhstan, with particular emphasis on the wonderful spring display of wild tulips. Saturday 13th April - Sunday 28th April Cost: £2,995Outline itineraryDay 1Fly Almaty.Day 2Almaty.Day 3/4Merke Gorge.Day 5/10Aksu Dzabagly NatureReserve, Tien ShanMountains.Day 11/12Saryyaigyr Gorge,Karzhantau Ridge.Day 13Drive Shimkent.Overnight train toAlmaty.Day 14Big Almaty Lake, TienShan Mountains.Day 15Almaty.Day 16Fly London.AccommodationComfortable hotel of internationalstandard with private facilities,Almaty; simple guesthouseselsewhere with mostly sharedfacilities.FoodAll included in the price. GradingDay walks only. Grade B.Easy/moderate.FocusPlants, with particular emphasis onthe wonderful display of wild tulips. LeaderNeil Anderson.Single room supplement£150.Web quick search: KAZ04244Call now or visit www.naturetrek.co.ukfor your free Trip ItineraryCHINAKAZAKHSTANILI RIVERKYRGYZSTANLAKE BALKHASHTAMGALYTAS GORGEMERKE GORGEBIG ALMATYLAKEALMATYCHARYN RED &CHARYN YELLOWCANYONSSARYYAIGYR GORGE& KARZHANTAU RIDGESHIMKENTAKSU DZABAGLYNATURE RESERVEALAKOLLAKETulipa greigii, view towards Tien Shan MountainsTulipa albertii