Back in 2006, we visited 5 of India's National parks: Kaziranga National Park in Assam, Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand, Keoladeo National Park and Ranthambhore National Park in Rajasthan, and Bandhavgarh National Park in Madhya Pradesh. This article describes our tour of the national parks of this magical country, along the tracks of Kipling and Jim Corbett.

Our Arrival in Kolkata

We had a typical arrival in India from Europe. We took the Paris to Mumbai to Delhi flight,  where we used a large heap of our vouchers. And then onto Kolkata. 

It seems that nothing moves nor changes in Kolkata. There are always as many ricksaws, auto-ricksaws, bikes, cars, trucks and buses as in our previous visits to India. I like this city where one sees the print of monsoon on the walls. Two days to walk amongst the Bengalis is always a friendly experience.

Kaziranga National Park in Assam

 Elephants Kaziranga National Park By kmahaldar
Twenty-two hours of train and another six hours of bus travel later we landed in Kaziranga National Park in Assam, which classified as a World Heritage site by UNESCO. We stayed at the Haranya Lodge there, and found it to be a clean and nice place.

We were at Kaziranga National Park for six days of morning and evening safaris in the three parts of the park. It was the beginning of the tourist season so there weren't a lot of people. We prefer the quieter times because we found the Indian animals are even more shy than their African cousins.

Fauna presents in the park

The Kaziranga National Park boasts approximately:

  • 1,500 Rhinos
  • 1,200 Elephants
  • 1,000 wild Buffaloes
  • 86 Tigers
  • 100 Leopards
  • Hyenas
  • Jackals
  • Chital deer
  • Sambar deer
  • Munjac deer
  • Rhesus Macaque
  • Commun Langur
  • Pythons
  • Cobras
  • and about 350 different species of birds

Day One - Western part in the afternoon

Animals seen: Rhinos, Elephants, Munjacs, Langurs, Macaques

 Sunset in the Kaziranga National Park By kmahaldar
Five Minutes after our first entry into the park we saw our first two Rhinos. It's always a good start when one of the major animals of the park welcomes us. In this case, it was a female Rhina and her calf. The elephant grass in this season was very high, approximately 2.5 meters high. Thus I was only able to get a few pictures with my Canon 20 D, given the bush condition.

Only a part of the park is accesssible in this period of the year. They usually rebuild the tracks after the monsoons, which were heavy this year. In each part of the park only about 25% of the tracks were open. It is nevertheless largely sufficient to see a lot of animals.

We saw about fifteen Rhinos that day, a herd of Elephants, two Buffaloes, several Munjac deer, as well as Langurs and Macaques. I took about 250+ photogrpahs in all. It was necessary from day to day to note what was on the CompactFlash cards.

We found this park to be the most professional of all the parks, in terms of the Park Rangers.The best success of animal protection in India is with the protection against the extinction of the Indian Rhino. It was the centenary year of the creation of the park, so there were new uniforms and rifles for the guards. This park was was included in the Project Tiger initiative by the Indian government. It was the only park where we saw active anti-poaching patrols at work everyday, as well as the head chief of the park inspecting them.

Day Two - East part in the morning and Western part in the afternoon

Animals seen: Rhinos, Elephants, Buffaloes, Sambar, Chital, Munjac, Langur, Eagles and Water birds of all kind.

A good bunch of Rhinos (only two in pictures though!!), twice a herd of Elephants refreshing themselves in the river, three Buffaloes, a female Sambar, a heard of Munjacs and one small herd of Chital, Langurs, two Indian Fish-eagles and a lot of migrating water-birds, including a colony of pelicans. No Tigers and no Leopards, though. 

Day Three - East part in the morning and Central part in the afternoon

Animals seen: Rhinos, Elephants, Buffaloes, Sambars, Chitals, Munjacs, Langurs and Macaques, Indian Monitor Lizard, Eagles and Water-birds of all kind.

Finally! I got beautiful pictures of Rhinos with the good light, a herd of Elephants in the river, three Buffaloes in the mud, three different types of deer from afar, both type of monkeys acting the fools as usual,and birds from far.We met and spoke with the head chief of the park who had authorized us to enter the park earlier the next morning, which is a very very big privilege. Thank you!!

Day Four - Central part in the morning and Western in the afternoon

Animals seen: Rhinos, Elephants, Chital, Munjac, Langur, Eagles and Water birds of all kind.

Thanks to our early entry, 0600 instead of 0730, we could see from a very, very near a large male Rhino and a young one just waking up. What a great show in a foggy morning to see these prehistorical monsters grazing 3 meters from us. We also saw a young Indian Monitor Lizard taking in the first sunbeams. In the afternoon we saw other Rhinos, but not from very near. Also caught a sight of Elephants bathing.

Day Five - East part in the Morning and central part in the afternoon

Animals seen: Rhinos, Elephants, Buffaloes, Sambars, Chitals, Munjacs, Langurs and Macaques, Eagles and Water-birds of all kind.

Like the days before, this day was full of far-off Rhino sightings, two Elephants by the river, Buffaloes in water and mud, three type of deer, both type of Monkeys and lot of birds.

Day Six (the last day) - Already the last safari in Kaziranga, central part in the morning

Animals seen: Rhinos, Elephants, Buffaloes, the paw print of a Tiger, Chitals, Munjacs, Langurs and Water-birds of all kind.

We saw some Rhinos, one of which was very near, our last herd of Elephants and Buffaloes, Chital and Munjac deer grazing quietly, a heard of langur and a lot of migratory birds. We missed a chance at seeing a male tiger in the afternoon - his pugmarks could be seen by the tracks of our jeep. The rangers told us that a large male had passed just 15 mins before along the track. And just as we were exiting the park we saw a beautiful Rhino near the gate, who seemed to bidding us "Farewell, and see you soon".

Varanasi, my favorite city in India

 Varanasi By n kumar
Another six hours of a bus journey and twenty-three hours of train travel later, we were in Varanasi, our favorite city in India. 

We arrived in Varanasi with a major concern: in the middle of the night, during the journey across Bihar, my wife's backpack, which was chained and padlocked under her bed was stolen. All her clothing, shoes, a large bag of medicine we'd brought for a local hospital, and large bag of toys to give to a poor family were gone. Sometime, this happens in India!

We for eight days in this city that - I say it one more time - we love. We stayed in two different places, first three nights in Maruti Guest House in Assi Ghat, and then another four nights in Ganpati Guest House in Meer Ghat. 

What happiness it is to find yourself in this city that is full of contrast and so full of life. What pleasure it wasof walking evrey morning on the Ghats to take picture of these nice Indian people.

Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand

After an overnight train journey into Delhi, we had a car and driver take us to Jim Corbett National Park. 

Fauna present in the park

The Corbett National Park boasts approximately:

  • 135 Tigers
  • 100 Leopards
  • 800 Elephants
  • Sambar deer
  • Chital deer
  • Langur
  • Macaque
  • 10 To 30 Sloth Bears
  • Otter
  • Python
  • Cobra
  • Gavial
  • Crocodile
  • Monitor lizard
  • and about 280 species of birds

The dream of many of the visitors to Indian national parks is to see the Bengal Tiger right in front of them. It is also the dream of all Indians, which leads an over-crowding in these national parks where the tigers live, like Corbett, Kanha, and Bandhavgardh. Moreover to make matters even worse, the parks have authorised the entry of a too large a number of cars.

Day One - Bijrani Gate

Animals seen: Elephants and a Tiger!!

 Tiger by the Bijrani Gate By tripsammy
We stayed in Ramnagar, about 2 km away from the Birjani gate on the east side of the park. The first afternoon safari was done from this gate. As usual after the entry, a troop of Elephants wished us  welcome. We stayed with the elephants for more than 45 minutes. After a little bit, a wave of excitement sweeps through the jeeps around us; a tiger was sighted! Everybody speeds to get a glimpse of the Tiger!

We arrived to the dried up bed of a river where about fifteen jeeps are trying to put themselves in the best possible position to see a beautiful male tiger laying down more than 200 meters from them. What madness it was to see all these people getting down from the jeeps, which is prohibited, jumping from jeep to jeep and shouting instead of keeping silent and still. 

Finally, aggravated by the noise and the madness of the vehicles moving all around, the tiger went up a hillside and disappead from sight. Our driver, a thorough and calm profesional (I was lucky to have the very best one) manouvered our jeep on the expected path way of the tiger. After about 10 minuted of waiting, there it was about 10 meters in front of us! Unfortunately, we were not alone and the other jeeps hustled, they overtook us and made the majestic King of the Jungle flee for good into the thick forest. Result of this cacophony: two very good pictures of the tiger!

Day Two - Morning by the Bijrani Gate and afternoon by the Jhiona Gate

Animals seen: Chitals, Sambars, Langurs, Macaques, King Vulture, king-fishers and many birds. 

No tiger on this second day but great pictures of deer and monkeys as well as a King Vulture (a vulture with a red head), the track of a very large python crossing the road about fifteen to twenty minutes before us.

Day Three -  Morning by the Jhina Gate and afternoon by the Bijrani Gate

Animals seen: Chital, Sambars, Langurs, Macaques, King Cobra, Kingfisher, pugmarks of a sloth bear and a King Cobra fleeing ahead of our approach, and many birds. No tigers, Elephants or Leopards, though.

The following day, we visited the winter house of Jim Corbett in the morning about twenty-five km away in Ramanagar before going back to Delhi.

Thus stay at our second park was not all that it could have been. In order to take full advantage, it would have been necessary to stay at the north of the park, in one of the luxury lodges, to have access to the gate that goes towards Dhikala in the center of the park. The center is where you find Gavials, Crocodiles and the other headliners of the park. It was my fault. I wanted to save money and so we stayed in Ramnagar.

Keoladeo National Park in Bharatpur, Rajasthan 

Fauna presents in the park

  • Sambar deer
  • Chital deer
  • Blue Bull (Nilgai antelope)
  • Langurs
  • Mongooses
  • Jackals
  • Stripped Hyena
  • Python
  • Cobra
  • Water snake
  • And 430+ species of birds

 Inside Keoladeo National Park By Theon
Some sad news relating to this park: the female tiger that had fleed Sariska National Park and settled in the this park, died of disease in July 2005.

As is our usual custom in Bharatpur, we stayed in Ashok and Indu's place at the Safari Guest House. This guesthouse is not expensive and really clean, with one calm and laid back environment.

This park is universally famous for its migratory birds and other residents, who come from three continents: Asia, Africa and Europe. You can visit it by foot or bicycle. A family of Siberian Cranes came to spend the winter there, which I was lucky to see from very close: a the mother, father and baby family. This time I didn't see any pythons because it was too cold, so they didn't leave their burrows.

I got nice pictures of male and female blue bulls in the marshes, and of Sambars, as well as a few birds and one colony of 3.000 stork.

Udaipur and Jaipur

 Lake Pichola in Udaipur By Jorge Reverter
After 8 days in Bharatpur,we went to Udaipur and Jaipur by car from my friend Raju's company. Two days of rest and shopping in Jaipur (Raju showed us around his city) and stayed at Maharaja Hotel in a very nicely decorated suite. We discovered that it is in Jaipur that Indian traditional puppets are manufactured, and brought back 19 pairs from there. We may decide to resell some one day.

Departure early to join Udaipur 350 km from there. We take the national highway with 2 times 2 ways, that it surprised of being able finally to exceed the 60 Km/h, we will make even 100!!!. Arrival at the beginning of afternoon, we stayed in Kankarwa Haveli on the edge of the lake in front of the famous white marble palace used for the James Bond film : Octopussy.

 Udaipur is a very touristy city but still entertaining, thanks to its lake and its palaces.We visited the city palace, took a boat trip on the lake and went shopping downtown. We also considered bringing back a pup that we met downtown, but considering the French administrative formalities, we gave up on the idea.

Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan  

Fauna present in the park

  • Tigers
  • Leopards
  • Sloth Bears
  • Sambar deer
  • Chital deer
  • Blue Bulls (Nilgai Antelope)
  • Indian Antelope
  • Langurs
  • Crocodiles
  • Pythons
  • Cobras
  • Over 250 species of birds

 Tigers in Ranthambore By kartikp
At 06:00 AM we started towards Sawai Madhopur, the closest city near Ranthambhore. We arrived there around 06:00 PM just after night fall. Ranthambore National Park was in the midst of a rise in poaching at the time, with the number of tigers falling to about 22 and that of the bears to about 10. One week before we visited it, 5 people in the park had been arrested for poaching.

The park can be visited only in Canters, which is a truck carrying 22 noisy tourists, or in a Jeeps that seats four visitors. The Jeeps are more expensive and usually cater to the luxury hotels lodges. I had a friend at the park, who is naturalist guide, so we were able to get a jeep during the four safaris we made.

The park is divided into a series of paths numbered 1 to 12. For every trip, each vehicle is allocated a path, which they must stick to. I found the best to be paths 5 and the 6.

Day One

Animals seen in the morning: 2 tigers, Sambars, Chitals, Langurs, Blue bulls and a lot of birds, one of which was a king vulture with red head.

We entered at 06H30, the temperature of the night was still cold : 6 °C. After checking in inside the park we went directly to one of the lakes of the park where a female tiger and her two 18-month cubs had taken up residence for the last few days. After about five minutes, one of the cubs (the male) emerged out of the tall grass and posed right in front of the our vehicles. His sister then came to join him, and the two of them stayed for a short moment before they returned to the safety of the grass and waited for their mother. I got off 2 or 3 good pictures. A great start to the tour.

We left to explore road 6 until about 11H00, when we had to exit the park. Sambars, Chitals, Blue bulls and Langurs all posed for our photographs, as well as a King Vulture with red head, which did not fly away from it's tree even as we approached.

Animals seen in the afternoon: 3 Tigers, Sambars, Chitals, Langurs, Blue bulls, Crocodiles and a lot of birds.

We entered at 02 PM, it was around 26 °C, much better than in the morning. In a curve of the road on Road 6, we saw the same female tiger and her two cubs that we had seen in the morning. We got some superb pictures of the animals without any other vehicles around us. The rest of the afternoon we followed Road 5 where Sambars, Chitals, Langurs, Blue bulls and other birds give us some beautiful pictures, as well as some crocodiles.

Day Two

 Chinkara deer in Ranthambore By kartikp
Animals seen in the morning on Road 6: Sambars, Chitals, Langurs, Blue bulls and a lot of birds.

This morning we saw lots of tiger pugmarks, but no visual contacts. That's no problem, as once again we saw Sambars, Chitals, Langurs, Blue bulls and lot of birds.

Animals seen in the afternoon on Road 2: Sloth Bear, Tiger, Sambars, Chitals, Langurs, Blue bulls, Crocodiles and lots of birds.

Road 2 is not famous for tigers but the forest is very nice there. After half an hour we saw emerging into our sightline a male Sloth Bear which crossed the road in front of us at full run!!! Brilliant! W didn't get a picture, but what a sensational feeling!

After a long curve in the thick forest we saw a large male tiger stretched across the road. We were absolutely alone for more than an hour with the King of the Indian forest. He scratched his head and changed positions less than three meters from us!!! I took more than 200 pictures and a lot came out superb.

As we returned home, we saw Sambars, Chitals, Langurs, Blue bulls and lot of birds. We saw fresh pugmarks of a male Leopard that had crossed our road earlier, but we didn't see it.

Ranthambhore, never disappoints me. This was the fourth time that I was there and it has always been superb and magical. It is my favorite park by far.

We departed late evening to get back to Jaipur, then took a night train connection the following day onto Agra. Following that was another train journey to Umaria in Madhya Pradesh, which is the nearest railway station to Bandhavgarh National Park.

Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh 

Fauna presents in the park

  • Tiger 60 including 20 in the tourist zone
  • Leopard about 30
  • Sloth Bear 15 To 30
  • Sambar deer
  • Chital deer
  • Macaques
  • Langurs
  • Pythons
  • Cobras
  • Over 250 species of birds

We arrived in Umaria at 06 AM, where a car from the lodge we stayed at (Nature Heritage lodge) took us to the park. We left our luggage at the hotel and we had our first safari. The weather was very cold at night and in early morning in December in that part of India.

More than 90 jeeps were authorised in this small park, which was madness. The park is virtually dedicated to the tiger, which means to say that the drivers of the jeep and the gaurds are obsessed with showing visitors a glimpse of tigers in order to get a good tip in return. They hardly stop for the other animals at all!!! Moreover, since 2002 it is not possible to take an elephant ride in the morning as you could in the afternoon, as the elephants are used only for "the elephant circus". There are three elephants, which take turns showing four people at a time the tigers that located in the forest during for 3 to 4 minutes. 12 euros per person, so it is big business, as in Pench and Kanha.

Animals seen 1st day in the morning: Langurs, Chitals, Marabou Storks

We stopped at a point in the park with hope of seeing a tiger, but didn't see one. We only saw the pugmarks. We did see a few Chital, Langurs and some Marabous.

I had to ask the driver to stop, so I could take some pictures.

Animals seen 1st day in the afternoon: Langurs, Chitals, Sambars, Marabou Storks and some birds.

Same circus as in the morning.

Animals seen 2nd day in the morning: 3 Tigers, Langurs, Chitals, marabou Storks and some birds.

After a race with several jeeps we stopped to await our turn for an elephant ride: over to a spot where a female tiger and her 2 young cubs about 15 month old were located. After 45 minutes of waiting it was our turn. We are with an Indian tourist and his 8 year old son. We saw these three tigers but because the father and the kid were moving all over the place, we didn't take any good pictures. The ones my wife took were all fuzzy because the kid wouldn't stop pushing her to see the tigers.

Animals seen 2nd day in the afternoon: Langurs, Chitals, Sambars, Marabou storks and some birds.

I explained to our driver that we are also interested in the other fauna in the park, and that we were not here to see only the tiger.

Animals seen 3rd day in the morning: 5 Tigers, Langurs, Chitals, Sambars, Marabou Storksand some birds.

 Tigers in Bandhavgarh By Shivaram1970
We arrived at a concentration of vehicles awaiting their turn for the Elephant Circus. There I had purchased 2 turns for the price of one this morning. I spoke with a Kenian of Indian origin who was a biologist and a naturalist. He explained that it is to go on the last elephant ride, where you can tip the mahout (100 rupees: 2 euros) and stay longer in the park. We both climbed onto an elephant, and he prevented two Indian tourists to join us.

Right after the first turn we stayed for about 7 minutes near a female tiger and her four 18-month cubs eating 2 Sambar deer; got to see them again the second time around for another 15 minutes!!!. Unfortunately the biologist left the park the very same day, and he invited us to Kenya where he works for the national parks and the conservation of the vultures in Africa.

Animals seen 3rd day in the afternoon: Langurs, Chitals, Sambars, Marabou storks, King Vulture and some birds.

Just a King vulture with red head, but not many things to see.

Animals seen 4th day in the morning: Langurs, Chitals, Sambars, Marabou storks and some birds.

This morning I told the driver that I didn't want to do the elephant circus, so we turned in the park to see other animals.

Animals seen 4th day in the afternoon: Langurs, Chitals, Sambars, Marabou storks, King Vulture, some birds and also parasitic lianas on trees.

We decided this afternoon to take pictures of the forest and especially of a parasitic species of liana which makes nodes around other species of trees. The driver and the guide did not understand our passion for this species, but it was splendid and we appreciated the spectacle.

Animals seen 5th day in the morning: 3 Tigers, Langurs, Chitals, Sambars, Marabou storks, King Vulture and some birds.

This morning good luck was with us. We entered the park and after 20 minutes along one of the roads, we saw a female tiger and hey 2-year old. The cubs were already male and were already larger than their mother. They walked right in front of us and stopped at the edge of the road. We had 8 minutes of pure happiness alone with them before the other cars with their noisy tourists arrived. Three of them overtook us and put themselves between the tigers and us, shouting "Tigers, Tigers". The 3 tigers promptly ran into the forest. Whore of morons who do not respect anything!!!. I wanted to feed them to the tigers in punishment.

Animals seen 5th day in the morning: Langurs, Chitals, Sambars, Peacocks and some birds.

We didn't get too see much because there were too many jeeps and the dust and noise scared everything away.  

Animals seen 6th day in the morning: 2 Peacocks!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The roads which we took into the park were designated to us every morning at the entry by one of the persons in charge of the park. This morning for my 6th day they gave me Road B, where we didn't see any animals. I threw and told the driver and to the guide to take me back to the hotel. We decide not to make the afternoon safari, as it was too much.

My assessment of Bandhavgarh National Park 

2 full days are largely sufficient to visit this small park. To see the tiger there it is necessary to take an "elephant circus". The famous French photographer Francois Savigny at the time of his last stay in this park was fired off by the director!!!!!. He asked to be able to have as before an elephant the morning and the afternoon to take his pictures of the tigers. Not possible now even for profesional photographers, therefore they do not come any more in this park.

In hindsight, it wuold have been better do stay longer in Ranthambhore than in Bandhavgardh. As it became known that the foreign tourists pay 10 times more than the Indians, one expects nothing more than this elephant circus . Kipling and Corbett must be turning over in their graves!!!.

My assessment of the five National Parks 

  • Kaziranga National Park in Assam: 9 out of 10. The park is very well preserved, with lot of animals, and really professional guards and guides.
  • Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand: 6 out of 10. Too many authorized vehicles.
  • Keoladeo National Park in Rajasthan: 9 out of 10. A paradise for bird-watchers.
  • Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan: 9.5 out of 10My favourite park, with very profesional guides, and lot of animals to be seen.
  • Bandhavgarh in Madhya Pradesh: 2.5 out of 10. My disappointment of the trip. The guards and guides are obsessed with showing vsitors tigers and are not professional.