Corbett’s Hidden Gem: Vanghat Lodge May 23, 2017

Vanghat Lodge is a paradise for nature lovers

Does waking up to nothing but the sounds of birds, the wind in the trees, and the rush of a pristine mountain river appeal to you? If you dream of an unspoiled wild safari holiday in India, consider Corbett National Park and staying at the hidden gem, Vanghat Lodge. It’s one of the stops on the Himalyan Elements tour, and will give you one of the most unique tiger safari tours of India available.

 

Himalaya elements Mantra Wild

Photo Credit: Mariellen Ward

Room to breathe. That’s the first thing I thought when I arrived at Vanghat Lodge near the Jim Corbett National Park buffer zone.

No roads, no power lines, no connectivity. Nothing but pure nature, fresh air, thick forests, a sparkling river, and the seen and unseen presence of birds and wildlife. Room to breathe, space to unwind, and all the wonders of nature to absorb.

Vanghat is a very special place. Located deep in the forests of Uttarakhand, adjacent to the Corbett buffer zone, you have to trek in two kilometres to get to it. Past tiny villages of thatch roof cottages, and across the Ramganga River by makeshift river, the adventure begins even before you arrive.

Mantra Wild Safari Vanghat

To cross the Ramganga, you sit on a small wooden raft buoyed up by tires, and people on either side pull you across with an attached rope. It’s ingenious, low-impact, and fun … and it sets the tone for the adventure you will have.

Vanghat Lodge Mantra Wild

Photo Credit: Mariellen Ward

From the rocky river side path, you can’t even see Vanghat Lodge, it is so well immersed into the landscape. Formerly a small village – that’s where the name comes from – owner Sumantha Ghosh kept one of the original stone buildings when he developed the site several years ago.  He added four thatched roof cottages, a dining room, and a residence for staff and volunteers, ensuring that all the buildings were spaced apart to allow privacy, and the movements of animals.

Elephants are known to walk through the property, once knocking down the roof of the well, and many other birds and animals can be spotted without venturing off the lodge grounds. By the fire one night, we saw a porcupine ambling along. Not far from the property, we saw tiger pug marks. Other animals that have been seen on or near Vanghat include sambar deer, wild boar, and sloth bears.

 

I sat on my verandah reading a book of stories by legendary hunter, conservationist, and author Jim Corbett – for whom the park is named – and watched a flock of rose-ringed parakeets play in the trees. The forested hills and valleys around Vanghat, adjacent to the buffer zone of Corbett tiger reserve, are just as rich in wildlife and birds. There are an estimated 600 species of birds in this region of the lower Himalayas, and Vanghat is a popular spot for birders.

 

Vanghat offers safari tours, but they are not the usual. In fact, Sumantha Ghosh likes to say that he wants to “un-four-by-four” people. In other words, he wants to get people out of jeeps and walking in the forest.

 

Mantra wild Vanghat Lodge

Photo Credit: Mariellen Ward

When I was there, we went on a five-hour long walking safari across the river and into the park’s buffer zone. We walked up hillsides, along ridges, through heavily forested areas, and to a cascading waterfall. We stopped for tea, put our feet in the waters of the cold, clear stream. We saw langur monkeys, sambar deer, Himalayan goral, more birds than we could count, and lots of signs of the big cat, the tiger: pug marks, scat, and clumps of hair.

 

Back at the lodge, we gathered for lunch in the open-air dining hall and feasted on local specialties and an array of chutneys, pickles, and jams made by a local women’s cooperative. Part of Vanghat’s commitment to being eco-friendly and responsible includes supporting the local community, as well as working to preserve the pristine environment.

 

There are so many ways that Vanghat demonstrates this commitment – from hiring local staff, to heating water with a wood-fired boiler; and from using traditional building methods and natural materials, to helping to end a destructive fishing practice along the Ramganga River.

 

The result of this holistic approach to conservation, and creating a sustainable eco-lodge, is the beauty, peace, and abundance of nature and wildlife you will experience when you are here.

Interested to visit this amazing place? Contact us today to put together a walking safari holiday t o this beautiful part of India.

Written by Mariellen Ward.

BIO

Mariellen Ward is a Canadian travel writer and digital storyteller. Her award-winning blog Breathedreamgo.com is one of the world’s leading travel blogs about India. Mariellen is an advocate of female solo travel and responsible travel. She has been blogging since 2005 and splits her time between Delhi and Toronto. Though Canadian by birth, Mariellen considers India to be her “soul culture” and has spent many years immersing herself in the culture. You can also find Mariellen, as Breathedreamgo, on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Wildlife Safari Review: Tiger Safari Tours in the National Parks of Madhya Pradesh May 1, 2017

Guest post by Mariellen Ward

Taking a tiger safari tour in India is a great way to experience the natural heritage of the country. A wildlife safari holiday, such as the Wild Heart of India small group tour, can give you one of the most exciting wildlife experiences on the planet: seeing a tiger in the wild!

 

At first, the only sounds you hear as you drive through the wildlife parks of central India are bird songs and the vehicle’s engine. Herds of graceful spotted deer nibble on grasses in the rolling meadows. A family of wild boar suddenly scoot out in front of you.

Tiger Safari Tour Mantra Wild

As you enter the forests thick with sal, bamboo, and other native trees, glossy grey langur monkeys scamper along the road. Colourful parakeets dart through the air to land in the branches of a tall tree and Indian rollers swoop in playful arcs.

Wildlife Safari Holiday Mantra Wild

Indian Roller

It’s all very peaceful, an idyllic paradise. The natural beauty and pristine wilderness lull you into a gentle and restorative reverie.

Mantra Big 5 Wildlife Safari

Photo credit: Keith Davey on Mantra Big 5 Safari Tour

 

But suddenly, one of the guides picks up a distant sound. At first, you don’t hear it. The driver stops and turns off the engine, and the guide jumps up to listen more carefully. This time, you hear it too – a kind of high-pitched shriek. It’s the alert call of an animal, often a deer or monkey, and it can only mean one thing: tiger!

wildlife safari holidays mantra wild

Along with spotting pugmarks and the informed knowledge of guides and naturalists, animal alarm calls are the best way to track the big cats in India’s tiger reserves. At the sound of the alarm calls, especially if they are consistent, the chase is on.

Mantra Big 5 Widllife Safari

Tiger pugmarks

Everyone sits down in the jeep-like vehicle, and the driver races towards the sound of the alarm calls – park speed limits permitting, of course. The excitement and tension rise as all eyes and ears strain to catch a glimpse of sinewy stripes.

With luck, you will see one of these magnificent creatures emerge from the undergrowth. And you will be thrilled. Tigers electrify the forest, and everyone who beholds them. For many, it’s a life-changing experience.

Wildlife Safari Holidays

 

There are about 50 tiger reserves in India, and some of the best are in the central state of Madhya Pradesh. Among the top are Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Pench, and Panna. The tiger reserves of India are administered by the National Tiger Conservation Authority and their practices are helping to save the wild tiger from extinction. India is home to about 70% of the world’s wild tigers. In 2006, there were 1,411 tigers – which increased to 1,706 in 2011 and 2,226 in 2014.

 

Top tiger reserves of Madhya Pradesh

 

Kanha National Park is the largest tiger reserve in India, with a core area of 945 square kilometres. It’s considered one of the best managed parks in India, has won many awards, and is a prime destination for many safari tours. The park is well known for having a significant number of Bengal tigers and for rescuing the Barasingha (swamp deer) from near extinction by creating a breeding program. It is also home to many species of animals and birds – there’s always a lot to see in Kanha, even if you don’t spot a tiger or leopard.

Wild Heart of India Mantra Wild

Kanha National Park

Bandhavgarh National Park is about a four or five-hour drive from Kanha, and is equally good for spotting tigers. It’s smaller, at 400 square kilometres, but it has one of the best tiger densities in all of India. Bandhavgarh is also a very beautiful park, with a hill-top fort, striking cliffs and some amazing vistas and vantage points. Photographers tend to love Bandhavgarh. About 22 species of mammals and 250 species of birds have been recorded in this park.

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Bandhavgarh National Park

Pench National Park stretches along the southern boundary of Madhya Pradesh and is named after the Pench River that meanders through it. Pench is famous as the location that inspired Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. The park is a good place to spot leopards and many birds, including migratory birds drawn to the waters of the wide and shimmering river. It’s rich in wildlife, birds and plant life, with more than 1,200 species of plants recorded. Pench tiger reserve has highest density of herbivores in India.

Leopard hiding behind fallen tree trunk at Panna National Park

Panna National Park is another important tiger reserve in Madhya Pradesh. It’s located just a short drive from the UNESCO World Heritage site Khajuraho in the northern part of the state. The core zone is 543 square kilometres of very picturesque scenery owing to the Ken River, deep gorges, lush greenery and cascading waterfalls. Wildlife sightings are common in Panna as the park is rich in many animals including tigers, leopards, sloth bears, wolves, blue bulls, foxes and many others. The park boasts one of the highest densities of the gorgeous Paradise Fly-Catcher.

India wildlife holidays

Panna National Park

Would you like to visit one of these national parks?

Wild Heart of India Small Group Photo Safari tour will be visiting some of these parks

Mantra Big 5 Private Tour visits Pench, Bandhavgarh and Kanha National Parks.

More info? Contact us at info@mantrawild.com.au

BIO

Mariellen Ward is a Canadian travel writer and digital storyteller. Her award-winning blog Breathedreamgo.com is one of the world’s leading travel blogs about India. Mariellen is an advocate of female solo travel and responsible travel. She has been blogging since 2005 and splits her time between Delhi and Toronto. Though Canadian by birth, Mariellen considers India to be her “soul culture” and has spent many years immersing herself in the culture. You can also find Mariellen, as Breathedreamgo, on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

 

The Ultimate Foodie Tour: Old Delhi Heritage and Food Walking Tour April 10, 2017

Written by Julie Miller

There’s nothing quite like the aroma of Indian street cuisine, the heady mix of spices tantalising the senses and triggering the appetite. But like many other travellers to India, I’m often hesitant about eating street food, with fears of the notorious ‘Delhi Belly’ tempering my gastronomic adventures.

Old Delhi Walking tour

The solution to this is local knowledge; and when it comes to food, there’s no one more informed than our guide on Mantra Wild Adventure’s Food and Heritage walking tour of Old Delhi. Not only is Ramit a passionate historian, but he’s also the ultimate foodie – enthusiastic and perpetually hungry. Over the course of several hours, he’ll lead us to his favourite street stalls in Chandni Chowk, with the aim of proving to us that food purchased in this ancient marketplace is not only safe to eat, but also innovative and delicious.

 

First stop on our walking tour is a stall called Manohar Dhaba, which has been selling the curiously named Japanese Samosas since 1949. Unique to this vendor and made from a secret recipe, these samosas are created from 60 layers of pastry, an explosion of spiced peas and potatoes in a crunchy casing that costs just 8 rupees (around 15c) each.

Mantra Wild Heritage and Food Walking Tour

Mantra Wild Heritage and Food walking tour Old Delhi

 

Many of the stalls in Old Delhi date back to the 1800s, handed down from generation to generation. The famous Paranthe Wali Gali (Paranthe Alley), for instance, was originally known for its silverware shops, before a string of paranthe walas moved in during the 1870s. During its peak in the 1960s, there were 20 restaurants in this tiny laneway selling versions of the fried North Indian bread – only three remain, each one crammed with diners eagerly devouring the crispy flatbread, prepared in a street-front wok and served with dipping curries and condiments.

Sweet treats are also high on every Indian’s agenda, with one of the most popular a sticky curl of fried dough called jalebi. The oldest and most famous jalebi wala, dating back to 1884, is called – surprise, surprise – The Old and Famous Jalebi Wala, with the sticky pretzels whipped up before your eyes in what amounts to an amazing display of culinary street theatre.

Old Delhi Heritage and Food Walking tour Mantra Wild

As the midday heat bears down on us, Ramit hails a bicycle rickshaw to hasten our progress through the increasingly chaotic Chandni Chowk. Instead, we find ourselves trapped in a claustrophobic traffic jam, cheek to jowl with dozens of other bicycles as well as bullock-drawn carts, honking taxis and garland-decorated trucks using their size as leverage. It’s hilarious, but also rather terrifying – and we alight 20 minutes later outside the Old Delhi Spice Market, grateful for our lives and ready to continue our walking tour.

Mantra Wild Old Delhi Heritage and Food Walking tour

 

The spice market – the oldest in Asia – is both a visual and olfactory delight, pungent with the aromas of ground turmeric, cumin, nutmeg and nuts. There’s even a section dedicated to chilli, bags of fiery red peppers stacked to the rafters setting me off in a fit of sneezing.

Old Delhi Heritage and Food Walking Tour

 

But Ramit isn’t done with feeding us just yet. Despite our protestations that we are fit to explode, he promises one last snack that we won’t be able to resist – a dessert called Mango Kulfi. Stepping into an unmarked, near-empty concrete space in a nondescript back alley, we are presented with slices of frozen mango, stuffed with a creamy filling thickened with rice flour.

Old Delhi Walking Heritage and Food Tour

 

It’s a veritable taste sensation, sweet and cooling and the perfect epilogue to our eye-opening, mouth-watering and belly-expanding Indian food tour.

Our Old Delhi Heritage and Food Walking Tour is AUD$150 per person in conjunction with a Mantra Wild Holiday package.

Have you been to Old Delhi? Tell us about your experiences in the comments.

 

 

 

5 Authentic Ways to Experience Incredible India September 29, 2016

We recently hosted a webinar with Travel Industry Network for our lovely travel agents, and I really wanted to share this valuable information with you. These are my 5 ways to experience India in an authentic way. It’s also how we craft and create amazing India tours for our clients. We don’t just create India tour packages, but we create experiences that transform and changes lives.

Enjoy this webinar, it’s about 30 minutes.


Experience Authentic India with these tours…

Wild Heart of India Safari Experience (Walking tours, Village experiences, Wild India, Small Group tour)

Delhi Foodies Tour (Walking tour, Cooking experiences, food food food!)

Punjab Farmstay Rural Experience (farmstay, authentic food, farm tours)

Kerala Backwaters Tour (farm kitchen experience, authentic Ayurveda and unique hotels)

Interested to know more? Contact us today.  We would love to hear from you!

Reena xx

 

 

Birdlife of India on an Indian Wildlife Safari September 1, 2016

This is the final post by our client Keith Davey, about his experience of the birdlife of India while on our Mantra Big 5 Private Tour in February 2016.

There are 1300+ species of birdlife in India. This compares with about 800+ species in both Australia and the United States of America. India is a bird-watchers paradise, and the best places to see them are in India’s magnificent national parks. One of the best ways to observe and photograph the wonderful and colourful Indian birds is to go on one of the Mantra Wild Safari and Adventure Tours.

The easiest birds to observe are the water birds, since they congregate near lakes and rivers where they can feed on the abundant fish or other aquatic life. Because they are in open spaces they are more easily seen and photographed. Water birds are often larger than forest living birds, with the exception of the carnivorous hawks and eagles.

 

Mantra Big 5 Safari Tour

 

Our naturalist drivers were well aware that we would find water birds on almost every body of water we came across. There were only a couple of water locations where there were no birds at all. Most lakes, swamps and rivers have an abundance of water birds which kept Pat and I busy taking great photographs.

 

Mantra Big 5 Birdlife Mantra wild

In India we saw geese, daters, egrets, cormorants, herons, kingfishers, lapwings, pelicans, ducks, storks and a variety of migratory waders. Some were similar to the types that we would find in Australia, others were very different.

The Great Cormorant seemed familiar, as did the Oriental Darter and the Intermediate Egret.

Mantra Big 5 Wildlife Safari

The Great Cormorant

Mantra Big 5 Wildlife Safari

Oriental Darter

Mantra Big 5 Safari Tour

Intermediate Egret

The two herons were similar to those found in Australia, with interesting differences. The Swamp Heron was like a tubby Hight Heron while the much larger Grey Heron is more stocky than our herons.

Mantra Big 5 Safari tour

Swamp Heron

Mantra Big 5 Wildlife Safari Tour

Grey Heron

But the Spot-billed Pelican was a bit smaller and more marked.

Mantra Big 5 Safari tour

Spot Billed Pelican

The Kingfishers are brilliantly coloured, swift fliers over water. The White-breasted Kingfisher and Stork-billed Kingfisher are very attractive.

Mantra Big 5 Wildlife Safari Tour

White Breasted Kingfisher

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Stork Billed Kingfisher

The cute Red-wattled Lapwing was seen in every national park where there was water and was also common on waterways at the small nearby towns. It soon became a firm favourite.

Mantra Big 5 Safari tour

Red Wattled Lapwing

We only saw the spectacular Bar-headed Goose at Kaziranga national Park in north-east India, because there was so much water there in large swamps.

Mantra Big 5 Wildlife Safari tour

Bar-headed geese, Kaziranga National Park

But the Indian water birds that intrigued us most were the storks. We photographed six varieties.

One was the the Black-necked Stork, that we in Australia call the Jabiru.

Mantra Big 5 Safari tour

Black-necked stork

But the other storks were new to us. They ranged from fully black to fully white in colour, with intergrades between. There was the Black Stork, the whitish Open-billed Indian Stork, the red-faced Painted Storks and the Wooly-necked Stork.

Mantra Big 5 Wildlife safaris

Black Stork

Mantra Big 5 Wildlife Safari tour

Open-billed stork

Mantra Big 5 Wildlife Safari and birding tours

Painted Stork

 

Mantra Big 5 Safari tour

Wooly-necked stork

But the stork that appeared to be demented was the Lesser Adjutant. It was a big bird that seemed to have an evil glint in its eye as it searched for aquatic prey.

Mantra Wild adventures birding tours

Lesser Adjuntant

The forest or jungle-living birds were no less interesting. None of them seemed familiar to us and some of them may be endemic to India. The western and central national parks were all dry to moist deciduous forest where the trees had large leaves that fall during the summer. Some parks had numerous clumps of bamboo for the animals to hide. Most birds preferred to perch in mid- to reasonably large-sized trees. But the Junglefowls and Peafowl preferred the ground.

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Peacock

The Red Jungle Fowl was so similar to our domestic chickens, you could easily see where they were first domesticated.

Mantra Big 5 Safari Tour Mantra Wild adventures

Junglefowl

The largest aerial birds of the forest were the two hornbills. The most common was the Grey Hornbill. We also saw a few Great Hornbills, a most spectacular bird.

Mantra Big 5 Wildlife Safari tour

Grey Hornbill

Mantra Big 5 Birding tours

Great Hornbill

Two drongos caught our attention. The more drab Black Drongo with its scissor-shaped tail and the very long tailed Greater Racket-tailed Drongo.

Mantra Big 5 Safari tour

Black drongo

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Racket-tail Drongo

There were two parrot-like birds. The most common is the Alexandrine Parakeet and the Plumb-headed Parrot, both which perched in the highest branches of tall forest trees.

Mantra Big 5 India Wildlife Safari birding tours

Alexandrine Parakeet

Mantra Wild Adventures Birding tours

Plum – headed Parrot

Then there were the numerous other birds, such as the red-vented Bulbul which was in every national park we visited, but was also common in the flowers of the wonderful lodges where we stayed.

Mantra Wild Adventures Mantra Big 5 Safari tour

Red-vented Bulbul

We photographed the cute little Bushchat in Corbett national park, sitting on a termite nest on our way to see the tiger and boar crossing the duty riverbed.

Mantra Wild Adventures Wildlife Safari and Birding tours india

Bushchat

 

The iridescent Oriental Magpie Robin darted in and out of the bamboo.

Mantra Big 5 Safari tour

Oriental Magpie Robin

Or the Scarlet Minivet that preferred more dense vegetation in the trees.

Mantra Big 5 Safari tour

Scarlet Minivet

The most strange bird we saw was the Sirkeer Malkoha with its contorted posture while it was singing. It is in the cuckoo family, but doesn’t lay it’s eggs in other birds nests.

Mantra Big 5 Wildlife Safari tours

Sirkeer Malkoha

One common bird in the central Indian national parks was the Rufous Treepie. It is attracted to the places where humans were eating their lunches at remote ranger stations inside the national parks.

Mantra Big 5 Safari tour

Rufous treepie

A loud knocking on tree wood attracted our eye to the Lesser Goldenback Woodpecker with its spectacular red hat.

Lesser Goldenback woodpecker Mantra Wild Adventures

Lesser Goldenback Woodpecker

But the bird that both Pat and I feel in love with was the very pretty Indian Roller, a bird common to many national parks that we visited.

Indian Birdlife Mantra Big 5 Safari tour

Indian Roller

The major group of birds that was most spectacular and impressive was the the carnivorous owls, hawks and eagles. By far the cutest birds of the Indian jungle were the little and not so little owls. One particular favourite was the tiny Jungle Owlet, perched at the entrance to its nest in a broken-off tree limb.

Mantra Big 5 bird life safari tour

Jungle Owlet

The other cute owl was the Scops Owls. This pair looked so cute together.

Mantra Big 5 Safari tour mantra wild adventures

Scops Owl

Another cute owl was the Indian Eagle Owl. Their diet consists of rodents and small birds of the forest.

Mantra Big 5 Safari tour

Indian Eagle Owl

A larger owl was the Brown Fish Owl.

Mantra Big 5 Wildlife safari and birding tours

Brown Fish Owl

Now we come to the eagles and buzzards. One noteworthy hawk is the Crested Eagle Hawk with its spectacular-looking head feathers.

Mantra Big 5 Wildlife safari tours india

Crested Hawk Eagle

The most common eagle that we saw in a couple of national parks that had large bodies of water was the Grey-headed Fish Eagle. It most always sat on a perch, overhanging the water, scanning for prey. We were lucky to see a large juvenile sitting in its nest in a tall tree, looking out for its parents to return with fish food.

Mantra Big 5 birdlife

Grey headed fish eagle

We only had rare glimpses of the largest of the eagles. We were able to quickly photograph this Buzzard Eagle as it soared overhead. Photos like this quickly highlight the disadvantages of self-focusing cameras, which never quite make it before the impressive birds soar off.

Mantra Wild adventures Wildlife safari and birding tours

Buzzard Eagle

India is a bird watchers paradise. There were birds everywhere we travelled. They never ceased to impress us with how colourful or interesting they were and we enthusiastically took their photos whenever we were able.

Written by Keith Davey. Photos taken by Keith and Pat Davey.

Who are Keith & Pat Davey?

Mantra Big 5 Keith and Pat Davey

Keith & Pat Davey

I have always been a keen nature photographer. When only 8 years old I taped a magnifying glass to my Kodak box brownie to photograph insects and flowers.

In 1964 I was the naturalist for the Leyland Brothers “Down the Darling” river expedition. This was followed two years later when the Leyland Brothers crossed Australia from Steep Point in Western Australia right through the middle of Australia on the “West-East Crossing Expedition”. I have authored five books on Australian wildlife, “Australian Lizards”, “Australian Marsupials”, two books on Australian Desert Life and a “Photographic Guide to the Seashore Life of Australia” which is used as a text in marine courses throughout Australia. I was also Head of the Instructional Media Unit at the University of Newcastle for more than twenty years.

 Pat was the first female cine-camera operator in a television station newsroom in Australia at NBN3 Newcastle in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Pat is also a keen photographer.

Keith and Pat Davey travelled on our Mantra Big 5 Safari Adventure Private Tour . For more information on this tour, contact us  so that we can get you started on your own customised India adventure!

The Cultural Side of an Indian Wildlife Safari Tour By Keith Davey August 8, 2016

Our lovely client Keith Davey, so kindly wrote three trip reports of their Mantra Big 5 Tour. This report is on the cultural aspects of their India Tour. Their final post will capture India’s bird diversity in the coming weeks. 

 

Although the Mantra Big 5 Adventure concentrated on visiting some iconic Indian National Parks, there was also a cultural part where we visited places that had a fascinating history, full of beautiful historical buildings and edifices. This started on the morning after we arrived at New Delhi.

 

On the first day we went on a tour of New Delhi, led by Aditya. We visited Qutub Minar, built by Qutub-ud-Din Aibek in 1199.

 

Qutab Minar Mantra Big 5

Qutab Minar, Delhi

Here is the famous Iron Pillar, noted for its rust-resistant composition.

Mantra Big 5 Mantra Wild

 

 

Mantra Big 5

We then visited the Mogul Emperor Humayun’s Tomb. It was commissioned by his son Akbar in 1569-70.

 

Mantra Big 5 Mantra Wild

Humayun’s Tomb on Mantra Big 5

Indian Wildlife Safari with Mantra Wild

 

 

Due to the rapidly approaching India Republic Day, we were unable to stop near the War Memorial Arch, because all roads to it were blocked off by a huge military presence and Delhi police.

 

But we were able to drive past the President’s palace, Parliament House and Government buildings.

 

Mantra Big 5

 

A reverential moment was visiting Raj Ghat, the cremation site and tombs of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru.

 

Indian Wildlife Safari Delhi Tour

 

If you go to Delhi, be certain to book onto the Old Delhi Walk and Food Tour. Mr. Ramit Mitra was our guide. Unlike more slender Indians, you could see he was a connoisseur of Indian food. (You can read about this tour review in the Sydney Morning Herald!).

Indian Wildlife Safari Mantra Wild

 

We were soon walking down narrow, dark alleys, into places that Pat and I would have never be game to go without a guide. We didn’t have large dishes, just many small tastings of some very interesting Indian and Muslim foods. One proud chef pointed to his chicken dish and said, “I’ve used 52 spices in this dish”. It was powerful stuff.

 

Mantra Wild Old Delhi Food and Heritage Walking Tour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mantra Wild Heritage and Food Walking Tour Old Delhi

 

Pat purchased a bunch of bananas, but a mischievous macaque came up behind her and stole them, with lots of local laughter. Pat wasn’t convinced that the monkey and the banana-seller didn’t have a partnership going, as she purchased a second bunch for our dinner.

 

Mantra Big 5 Old Delhi Walking Tour Mantra Wild

 

Mantra Wild Indian Safaris Cultural tours

 

I  must mention the quality of the accommodation that was included in our Mantra Big 5 Adventure. Luxurious on every scale, far in excess of what we would have expected. Both Pat and I found that having up to five waiters around us was a bit unnerving at times. We’re not that used to restaurants, but are more of the fast-food lot. Being Aussie’s, we wanted to help out by taking our soiled dishes and cutlery to the serving benches. We soon realised that this was not what the serving staff wanted us to do, so we soon refrained.

The Alsisar Haveli, a Heritage Hotel in Jaipur was magnificent. It was like being transported back through time to the era of the Raj.

 

Alsisar Haveli Mantra Big 5

Alsisar Haveli

 

Mantra Big 5 Jaipur Mantra Wild Mantra Big 5 Mantra Wild

 

 

The dining halls were all grand and sumptuous. We had not expected to stay at such lovely accommodation.

 

The Corbett River-Creek Resort and Spa was located in an extremely scenic area, surrounded by steep mountains and alongside a spectacular river.

 

Corbett Rivercreek Mantra Big 5

Mantra Wild Mantra Big 5 Corbett

 

 

At Jaipur, the Capital of Rajasthan, we visited both the Presidential Palace and the Astronomical Observatory. Jaipur is known as the Pink City, a colour associated with hospitality. All the city walls were painted pink in preparation  for a visit by Britain’s Prince Alfred in 1853.

 

Jaipur city tour Mantra Big 5

 

 

The Astronomical Observatory is the home of the world’s tallest and most accurate sundial. It casts a shadow that is accurate to within two seconds.

Mantra Big 5 Indian Safaris Jaipur city tour

 

We also visited the Chand Baori Stepwell, built by King Chandra of the Nikumbah Dynasty in the 8-9th Century for his bride and himself to escape from the summer heat. The steeply stepped construction led down to a permanent source of water where he and his wife could always get fresh water for drinking and bathing.

 

Mantra Big 5 Jaipur City Tour Mantra Wild Adventures

 

The sculptures reminded me of those at Angkor Wat, Cambodia. Sadly, the ones here had been defaced.

Mantra Wild Adventures Jaipur City tour Step Well

 

A highlight occurred at Corbett, the little village surrounded by Jim Corbett National Park, the first national park declared in India. We had two to three hours to spare, so Girdhari Lal, our driver, guide and good friend suggested that Pat and I might like to visit a Hindu temple. Pat had mentioned a few times that we would like to see a temple if our busy schedule would permit.

Corbett Mantra Big 5 Temple visit

 

The Garjia Devi temple is built on a huge rock siting on the river Kosi. Devotees reach the temple after climbing several flights of stairs. The temple attracts thousands of devotees from across the globe. We also visited the smaller temple alongside.

 

Mantra Big 5 Corbett Temple Visit

Mantra Wild Adventures Temple Visit Corbett

Newly-wed couples coming to Corbett must seek the blessings of the deity Garjia Devi. While talking with two newly wed couples, we were blessed by a local holy man and he tied some sacred string on our wrists. It was a sacred, moving and never to be forgotten experience.

Mantra Big 5 Temple Visit

 

Throughout India we were approached by many locals with the statement, “Ha, Australians, how’s the cricket going?” Our trip coincided with a set of cricket matches between India and the Aussies. Pat and I don’t normally follow cricket, but we soon learned that if in town, we needed to watch the evening news and be ready to answer any question about cricket. As we drove past every small town, on a bare patch of earth nearby, many young boys were playing their national game. It seemed to Pat and I that there are five religions in India, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhism, Sikhism and Cricket.

Mantra Big 5 Indian Safari Mantra Wild

Breakfast at dawn, Chitvan Jungle Lodge, Kanha National Park

 

When we went out on the jeep safaris into the national parks, on many days we were the only foreigners there. Quite a few times at park resting places, locals would come up to us and request that they take a photo of us and their friends and relations. It was always obvious that the Indian people went out of their way to ensure that we were having a great time.

 

Mantra Big 5 Mantra Wild India Safari

 

Mantra Big 5 Mantra Wild India Safari

Keith with a group of travellers

 

When Pat and I signed up to do this tour with Mantra Wild Expeditions we had no idea what a personalised tour was. We had been away about ten times before to overseas countries with different tour groups in parties of up to 15-20. But this trip was designed just for the two of us. We need not have worried. At every airport and at hotel reception at the start of every day someone was there to meet us. The evening before, the driver would tell us what time someone was going to pick us up the next morning. We never missed a beat on our journey. While travelling our driver would always be pointing out things of interest with great pride.

 

Every luxurious room we stayed had a refrigerated bottle of water waiting for us as we arrived. In every car we travelled, with the exception of the jeeps, the driver had a bottle of fresh water for each of us ready for our journey. Pat and I did find the true Indian food to be very spicy, but we coped. Some bigger restaurants in our accommodation did tone down the spices for their European guests.

 

Mantra big 5 Kaziranga Indian Safair

Infinity Lodge, Kaziranga National Park Assam.

Mantra Big 5 Chitvan Jungle Lodge Indian Safaris with Mantra Wild

Chitvan Jungle Lodge accommodation, Kanha National Park.

 

In each car we travelled, including the twelve jeep safaris, Pat and I were the only passengers in the vehicle. This made our wildlife photography much easier since we didn’t have to elbow others out of our viewpoint.

 

Every person we met on our journey went out of their way to ensure that we had the most amazing experiences. The absolute highlight is that neither Pat nor I became ill from the water nor the food, so we never had to miss out on going to see wonderful things each and every day of our Mantra Wild Big 5 Adventure

 

Who are  Keith & Pat Davey?

Mantra Big 5 Keith and Pat Davey

Keith & Pat Davey

 I have always been a keen nature photographer. When only 8 years old I taped a magnifying glass to my Kodak box brownie to photograph insects and flowers.

In 1964 I was the naturalist for the Leyland Brothers “Down the Darling” river expedition. This was followed two years later when the Leyland Brothers crossed Australia from Steep Point in Western Australia right through the middle of Australia on the “West-East Crossing Expedition”. I have authored five books on Australian wildlife, “Australian Lizards”, “Australian Marsupials”, two books on Australian Desert Life and a “Photographic Guide to the Seashore Life of Australia” which is used as a text in marine courses throughout Australia. I was also Head of the Instructional Media Unit at the University of Newcastle for more than twenty years.

 Pat was the first female cine-camera operator in a television station newsroom in Australia at NBN3 Newcastle in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Pat is also a keen photographer.

Keith and Pat Davey travelled on our Mantra Big 5 Safari Adventure Private Tour . For more information on this tour, contact us  so that we can get you started on your own customised India adventure!

Why Travel to India For Wildlife Safaris? July 15, 2016

India Wildlife Safaris – Don’t compare it to African Safaris…

We recently presented a webinar with The Travel Industry Network on the topic of Wildlife Safaris in India.

When most people think of travelling to India, the Taj Mahal or Rajasthan may come to mind.

However, India is home to extraordinary wildlife and wilderness areas, seven of these regions have been declared UNESCO Heritage sites given their intrinsic value and unique biodiversity.

Most of these places are accessible for that India Wildlife Safari experience.

 

TOP 10 MUST SEE NATIONAL PARKS IN INDIA

 

In this short webinar, you will learn about:

 India’s biodiverse hotspots,

What is the difference between an African and Indian Safari experience?

India’s Big 6 animal (Africa is only home to the Big 5)

Why it’s never been easier to travel to India

Our amazing “Wild Heart of India Safari Experience”

AND Why you should book with a company like ours. 

So, grab yourself a cuppa, and enjoy this short webinar on Wild India 🙂

Wild Heart of India Webinar

Did you know about India’s amazing wildlife? If you were to go on an India Wildlife Safari, what would you love to see and experience? Tell us in the comments below.

Five bucket list luxury palaces in India June 14, 2016

When you think of luxury, do you think of India?

Well you need to!

Late last year, we moved to India for 6 months. We decided to start of our stay in India with a bit of luxury.

Having travelled in India in many different ways i.e. as a backpacker, in B&B’s, all category star hotels, it was time to treat ourselves.

We spent 6 nights in 3 Palaces. We were totally blown away.

India knows how to do luxury too well!

While we stayed in India, we also visited a couple of other palaces.

From my own personal experience, here are my five bucket list luxury palaces in India

#5 – The Oberoi Raj Vilas, Jaipur

bucket list luxury palaces in India

I stayed here a couple of months ago, and it blew me away.

Firstly, the service is 2nd to none. The lovely general manager, greets every guest personally at breakfast. I was very impressed.

I was not used to my own personal butler. That was a treat. When he brought my bags in, he asked if I wanted my bags unpacked and clothes hung up. I did declined. It was only a night stay, but thanks for asking!

The room was heavenly.

This was the doorway to my room!

This was the doorway to my room!

Oberoi Rajvilas room

My gorgeous bed!

The food is amazing. The outdoor restaurant is stunning. Every detail is looked after.

The most special part for me, apart from my spa treatment, was the morning puja (prayer) at their 280 year old temple. The priest is the 5th generation in his lineage looking after this temple.

 

bucket list luxury palaces in India

#4 – Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur

Many of our clients have this palace on their bucket list. Made famous, in James Bond, Octopussy.

The Lake Palace was built between 1743 and 1746 under the direction of the Maharana Jagat Singh II  of Udaipur, Rajasthan as a winter palace. It was initially called Jagniwas or Jan Niwas after its founder.

Taj Lake Palace has been called the most romantic hotel in the world.

bucket list luxury palaces in India

Situated on Lake Pichola, it is breath taking to look at.

The highlight for us was the check in. Taking the boat from the wharf to the hotel, I felt like a princess.

The rose petals falling on you when you enter the hotel – magic.

We recommend a lake view room. I loved sitting on my day bed, looking out onto the water, and the historic sights along the lake.

Morning yoga on the roof top is an experience. What a view!

bucket list luxury palaces in India

 

We have a special Taj Hotels offer for travel up till 30 September, 2016. 

#3 – Leela Palace, Udaipur

If you’re open to other options in Udaipur, Leela Palace is another beautiful option.

Situated on Lake Pichola, most of the rooms offer views of the Lake and the beautiful Lake Palace.

We recommend a Lake view balcony room.

bucket list luxury palaces in India

 

And if you’re after some extra indulgence, visit their spa which has been rated one of the best in the world.

#2 Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai

This hotel, would have to one of the most famous iconic buildings of Mumbai.

bucket list luxury palaces in India

 

We were lucky to spend a couple of nights at The Taj Mahal Palace.

We had our own butler which again, was fantastic.

Every detail was catered for. For example, our laundry was delivered like a a beautiful gift to ready to unwrap.

A small gift in our room. on our departure.

I had a broken heel, and the butler organised a carpenter (?) to fix my shoe! A solution to every problem.

The restaurants were beautiful. Food was again a highlight.

#1 Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur

There is something special about this place that will hold a special place in my heart (as well as my husbands!)

Where do we begin?

Let’s start with the check in.

Rose petals as we enter the palace. We are shown into the main the lobby area which is just spectacular!

Glass of champagne, and then the show begins.

Beautiful Rajasthani dancers enter, and perform for us, with live music featuring tabla players.

I took a short video, finishing off with my teary husband, Nick in awe. Watch it here.

bucket list luxury palaces in India

 

The Palace is home to the current royal family and they reside in a sectioned off area of the palace.

I would describe our experience as one where we felt like we were staying with family.

Staff were excellent, attentive and friendly. Food was heavenly, and our room was beautiful.

The hotel has been awarded #1 Hotel in the world by Trip Advisor Travellers Choice Awards, 2016.

This was the best hotel experience ever for us!

There are of course many other gorgeous palaces and resorts to stay at in India. This my top 5.

Would you like to experience staying at some of these hotels?

We have a special offer at the moment….Take our Luxury India Palaces Tour

For AUD$3,999 per person (twin) if you travel before 30 September, 2016. 

Package includes:

8 Nights / 9 Days staying at The Imperial in Delhi, Rambagh Palace in Jaipur, Taj Lake Palace in Udaipur & Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai.

Daily breakfast + 1 lunch in Delhi

Private guides in Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Udaipur & Mumbai.

Domestic airfare from Udaipur – Mumbai

private vehicle with driver

+ much more!

Tell us your favourite India Palaces or which one you would love to stay at in the comments below!

Reena xx

 

Trip Report: Indian Wildlife Safari – Mantra Big 5 Adventure April 29, 2016

Written by Keith Davey (Mantra Wild Adventures Client)

Photo credits: Keith and Pat Davey.

Mantra Big 5 Wildlife Safari

 

I had always imagined that jungles were tropical rainforests, filled with tall evergreen trees, dripping with moisture like you would find in the Amazon. But when Pat and I toured through the Indian jungles, I was in for quite a shock.

 

Mantra Big 5 Wildlife Safari

 

Mantra Big 5 Wildlife Safari

Bandhavgarh National Park

 

India’s jungles are more like open forests, mid-sized trees with broad leaves and bamboo thickets, behind which many Indian animals shelter for cover.

 

Mantra Big 5 Wildlife Safari

Bamboo forest cover

 

Jungle descriptions include dry deciduous Sal forest or Teak and bamboo deciduous forest in the north-west and central India.

 

Mantra Big 5 Wildlife Safair

 

But in far north-eastern Assam, nestled under the Himalayas, there was a lot more water and this was reflected in the greater number of species and animal numbers than the more dry regions of north-western and central India.

 

Mantra Big 5 Wildlife Safari

Kaziranga National Park

 

In mid-winter, the central national parks were much drier than I would have imagined, almost semi-arid in some western places.

But it was the variety of Indian animals that was so impressive.

As we entered each National Park, we told each of the driver-naturalists that we weren’t only interested in seeing Tigers. We wanted to see, observe and photograph all types of Indian wildlife, because every type was new to us.

 

Mantra Big 5 Widlife safari

Keith discussing Widlife

 

Some naturalists are just Tiger obsessed, so we had to keep telling them that Tigers were great, but we wanted to see everything else as well. Most driver naturalists were absolutely wonderful and really went out of their way to showcase what wonderful animals India is blessed with. (Reena: Government guides/naturalists in most parks are allocated on rotation to jeeps. We always appoint a driver/naturalist to accompany our clients and they are of a very good standard 🙂 Unfortunately Tiger crazy tourists have focussed heavily on tiger tracking, and this impacts the way government naturalists work. ). 

Well, that was until we saw our first Tiger. We had not been successful in seeing a Tiger in the first three national parks that we visited, so were starting to feel a bit downhearted that maybe Tigers weren’t that easy to see at all.

At Kanha National Park, early in the morning, as mists were swirling around low-lying area and the lakes and ponds, our driver came to a stop near a natural lake. “We’ll wait here for ten minutes’” he said. We were the only people there. Right on ten minutes a magnificent male Tiger, Bheema broke from the foliage and strode along the bank, then down to the water for a very long drink. Our view was magnificent. Pat took video while I just kept taking photos.

 

Mantra Big 5

 

Half an hour later, just up the road about half-a-kilometre we were again blessed to see a female Tiger, Chotta Mata, or Little Mother walking towards where we had seen Bheema. Maybe she had something on her mind, since it was the Tiger mating season.

 

Mantra Big 5 Wildlife Safari

Tigress at Kanha National Park

 

Pat and I were fortunate to be visiting Indian national parks at the same time as the parks and forest authorities were conducting the largest tiger survey held so far.

 

Mantra Big 5 Mantra Wild

 

Forest rangers, national parks staff and researchers were in the forests counting pug (foot-print) marks, scats (droppings) and making camera and human sightings.

 

Mantra Big 5 Widllife Safari

Tiger pugmarks

 

Counters were on the backs of elephants, in jeeps, peddling on bicycles or on foot gathering the data.

 

Mantra Big 5

 

So far the data has not been fully analysed, but early findings point to an increase in the tiger population.

 

Mantra Big 5 Wildlife safari

 

We only saw a fleeting glimpse of a Leopard once, but saw many Jackals sitting beside or running along the road before us. They weren’t worried by our presence at all.

 

Mantra Big 5 Mantra Wild Wildlife safari

 

The most numerous mammals were the different types of Deer. In western and central India the most common, to abundant deer were  Chital (spotted deer).

 

Mantra Big 5

Spotted Deer

The second most abundant deer were the larger Sambar. They did not have the spotted markings.

 

Mantra Big 5

 

In north-eastern India the Hog Deer and Barking Deer were common. We saw a very rare albino Hog Deer that was fortunate to be able to survive in the wild. It’s poor sight would be helped by it living with others in a herd.

 

Mantra Big 5

Albino Hog Deer

Barasingha, or Swamp Deer seemed common in moist places across India. Deer shed their antlers annually, while Antelope keep theirs.

 

Mantra Big 5

 

The most engaging animals were the monkeys. Their behaviours are so like ours, it is easy to have a real connection with them.

 

Mantra Big 5

 

The nurturing of the young ones, and the grooming to remove ticks and other parasites was cute.

 

Mantra Big 5

 

The removal of ticks served more than just a social activity, as ticks can kill the host, so must be removed.

Black-faced Langurs and both Rhesus and Assam Macaques were all just so appealing.

 

Mantra Big 5

 

Another really cute animal is the Indian Otter. You just have to see one to instantly fall in love.

 

Mantra Big 5

 

Another large mammal was the not-so-cute Boar. We couldn’t tell them from the pigs that villagers kept as food. We saw plenty of Boars in all sorts of habitats, but they did seem to have a preference for wet places with lots of mud.

 

Mantra Big 5

 

Another water lover is the Indian Buffalo, another animal that has been domesticated to help farmers plough their fields and cart goods hauling a rickety trailer behind them.

 

Mantra Big 5

 

The largest mammal of the jungle has also been domesticated to help foresters to push and gather timber. It is the Indian or Asian Elephant. At Kazaranga national park we were chased by a young male, which was quite exciting and dangerous.

 

Mantra Big 5

 

A Mahout master will look after an Elephant in a shared relationship for most of their lives. Here a mahout is trying to improve his mobile phone reception by standing on his elephant’s back.

 

Mantra Big 5

 

The most primitive wild cattle are the Gaur, and they are really bulky animals. You wouldn’t want to anger a Gaur.

 

Mantra Big 5

 

But the most amazing large mammal in India has to be the One-horned Indian Rhinoceros. It is  found in North-East India, Northern India and Nepal.

 

Mantra Big 5

 

There are about approx 2,500 Rhinos left in the wild and half of them are protected in Kazaranga National Park. They are endangered because poachers kill them to cut off their horn and sell it to Chinese apothecaries for “traditional medicines” such as sexual enhancers. One killing occurred in early April 2016.

 

I expected to see more snakes, but didn’t see any. I would have really loved to have seen a Cobra, but it wasn’t the right season, since they only emerge from shelter during the warmer months. We did see a Mugger Crocodile, that is almost as large as a saltwater crocodile.

 

Mantra Big 5

 

One cute reptile was the little Indian Roofed Turtle. They get this name from the little peaked shape on the rear of their shells.

 

Mantra Big 5

 

As a wildlife photographer and naturalist, it was just wonderful to see so many different varieties of animals in large National Parks where Indians now realise that their animals are unique and certainly worth caring for and protecting.

 

Mantra Big 5 Wildlife Safari Mantra Wild

 

The enthusiasm and dedication of the ranger-naturalists, the forestry workers and the drivers to protecting their animals was truly heartening.

Both Pat and I really enjoyed visiting the great national parks in India to see the wonderful animals that live there. It was a life-changing experience.

 

Keith and Pat Davey travelled on our Mantra Big 5 Private Tour in January/February, 2016. Contact us today  for more information. 

Interested in Wildlife Small Group Tours?

Wild Rajasthan: Leopards. Tigers and Forts next departure date is 21 November, 2016. (Early bird offer applies till 30 May, 2016)

Wild Heart of India Safari Experience departs 31 October, 2016. (Early bird offer applies till 30 May, 2016)

Have you been on an India Safari? Tell us about it in the comments below.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Visit Madhya Pradesh.. March 27, 2016

I have recently returned back from India after living there for 6 months.

When I think about my travels through India, there is one state that truly stands out.

It’s the Central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

OK, so it is known for being the Wildlife and ‘Tiger’ state of India. However, this much more that you can see here.

I quite like the term “Heart of India”. This I feel truly represents what this state has to offer.

Here are my 10 Reasons why you need to really see this part of India.

Reason # 1: Abundant Wildlife and National Parks

Madhya Pradesh is home to India’s best National Parks. Many travellers and wildlife lovers visit this region in search of the Tiger and to experience Indian Wildlife Safaris. However, there is much more to see than just the top predator.

We recommend visiting lesser known national parks like Satpura National Park. On our recent visit to Satpura National Park, on our Wild Heart of India Small Group Tour, we had 2 amazing sightings of Sloth Bear. On both occasions, it was a mother and 1-2 cubs.

 

The unique aspect of Satpura National Park is the Denwa  and Tawa River system. It acts as a natural buffer area to the core area of the National Park, isolating it from poachers and further development.  It is home to many migratory birds, resident birds, reptiles and mammals.

Here are just some of the sightings captured in 1 week by guests and Naturalists at Reni Pani Jungle Lodge in Satpura (we love this place!)

Animal Sightings at Satpura National Park.

Animal Sightings at Satpura National Park.

 

More popular national parks like Kanha, Bandhavgarh and Pench National Parks, all have something unique to offer.

Tiger Cub taken at Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve by client Walter Shepherd.

Tiger Cub taken at Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve by client Walter Shepherd.

We also recommend Panna National Park. I visited this Tiger Reserve in 2007. Sadly at this time, there were only 2 tigers left.

Rampant poaching and park mismanagement meant that a few months after my visit, there were no tigers left. Fast forward to 2016, and this national park has better management systems in place and is home to 26+ tigers.

To enhance your experience further, stay at TOFT (Travel Operators for Tigers) recommended lodges.

Their aim is to “to advocate, plan, support and fund the protection, conservation and rewilding of natural wilderness and their wild inhabitants, especially tiger habitat, through the clever and wise use of nature tourism, using better visitor guidance, more community involvement, targeted green investment and enhanced governance and monitoring”.

Reni Pani Lodge in Satpura National Park

Reni Pani Lodge in Satpura National Park

As a member of TOFT, we use lodges and camps that are aligned with our values and vision of preserving these pristine environments.

Our Recommendations:

Satpura National Park: Boat Safari for bird watching, night safari for nocturnal animals, village visit, jeep safaris – leopard sightings are common, walking trek, stay at Reni Pani Jungle Lodge

Pench National Park: Stay at Jamtara Wilderness Camp away from the crowds and main park gate, village visit and bird watching walk to Jamtara village, jeep safaris, nature walks.

Kanha National Park: Market visit, nature walk into the buffer zone, stay at Sher Garh  tented camp a boutique lodge next to Kisli gate.

Bandhavgarh National Park: Tiger spotting while on jeep safari, village visit, stay at Kings Lodge (and prepare to add on a few kgs, the food is great!).

Panna National Park: River safari to spot crocs and birdlife, jeep safaris, day trip to Khajuraho and nearby village Panna. Stay at the luxurious Taj hotel Pashan Garh and indulge in a luxury safari experience.

Or take our Wild Heart of India Safari Small Group tour  to experience an Indian Wildlife Safari first hand 🙂

Reason # 2: Kama Sutra

What does Kama Sutra have to do with Madhya Pradesh?

Madhya Pradesh is home to UNESCO Heritage Site in Khajuraho.

The Khajuraho temples were built during the rule of the Rajput Chandela Dynasty between 950 – 1030 AD. Only 20 temples remain and they fall into three distinct groups belonging to 2 religions – Hinduism and Jainsim.

 Kandariya Mahadeva Temple

The temples are decorated with erotic sculptures  which are said to be among the greatest masterpieces of Indian Art.

Khajuraho temples mantra wild

 

Khajuraho is easily connected by air, and train.

Our essential elements experience, takes you there.

Reason #3: Taj-ul-Masajid, Bhopal

Taj – ul – Masjid literally meaning, “Crown among Mosques”.

Taj Ul Masajid is a mosque situated in Bhopal, India

Taj Ul Masajid is a mosque situated in Bhopal, India

My guide explained to me that this is the largest Mosque in India. I was a little dumb founded, as I thought Jama Masjid in Delhi was the largest, to which she replied, “No, that is the biggest!” There is apparently a difference, which I am still trying to work out.  🙂

Taj-Ul-Masajid was built during the time of the 11th ruler of Bhopal, Nawab Shahjahan Begum (1868-1901).

Stunning to look at – the arches are in sequences of three with spherical domes.

Bhopal is easily connected via air or an early morning train from Delhi – Bhopal Shatabdi, gets you into Bhopal by  early afternoon.

Reason #4: Noor – Us – Sabah Palace, Bhopal

So you have been to Rajasthan and stayed at some amazing palaces.

What I love about Bhopal is there are some beautiful palaces that one can experience.

Noor – Us – Sabah Palace is situated on a hill top overlooking the city of Bhopal.

“Noor Us Sabah” meaning “The Light of Dawn” was built in the 1920s’ by H.H. Hamid Ullah Khan, For his eldest daughter abida Sultan.

Noor Us Sabah Palace Mantra Wild Wild Heart of India

 

We recommend either staying here or having a cup of chai while watching the sunset. (This is an alcohol- free hotel)

Noor Us Sabah palace sunset

Reason #5: Jehan Numa Palace, Bhopal

Another gorgeous palace in Bhopal, this is my hotel of choice in Bhopal.

Jehan Numa palace Wild Heart of India Safari tour

once you enter the hotel gates, you step back in time. The British Colonial, and Italian Renaissance architecture and feel is what makes this place unique.

What is more appealing about the Palaces of Bhopal, is that the Nawab Begums of Bhopal were female and they they ruled between 1819-1926. Each ruler, succeeded by her daughter. They were influential and charismatic rulers. My kind of women!

Jehan numa palace Wild Heart of India Mantra Wild

Reason #6: The Heritage of the Old City, Bhopal

The Old City of Bhopal is not as chaotic as Old Delhi, however it has its own charm which is steeped in a colourful history.

The best way to experience this part of the city, is on a Heritage Walk through the Old City. Fascinating.

Bhopal Heritage walk Wild Heart of India Safari

 

Bhopal heritage walk mantra wild heart of india safari

 

bhopal heritage walk wild heart of india safari mantra wild

Reason #7: The Great Stupa, Sanchi

The Great Stupa in Sanchi is the oldest stone structure in India and was built during the time of Emperor Ashoka in 3rd Century B.C.  The centre of the Stupa houses Buddha’s relics and it is an important pilgrim site for Buddhists around the world.

 Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh, India

Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh, India

We highly recommend visiting The Great Stupa with a guide. Each archway tells the story of Buddha’s life and you can really appreciate the history of Sanchi through their eyes. Or, sit and meditate and look out at the horizon. Either way, you will be touched by this place.

Reason #8: Bhimbetka Rock Shelters

This place would have to be one of my most favourite parts of Madhya Pradesh (Very close 2nd to the National Parks!).

Rarely included in itineraries by travel companies, this place must be seen.

The Bhimbetka rock shelters are an archaeological site of the Paleolithic, exhibiting the earliest traces of human life on the Indian – Subcontinent, and thus the beginning of the South Asian Stone Age.

Some of the Stone Age rock carvings found among the Bhimbetka rock shelters are approximately 30,000 years old with rock art dating back to 10,000-15,000 years. The caves also deliver early evidence of dance.

Here are some photos of my recent trip on our Wild Heart of India Small Group Tour in January.

Bhimbetka Rock Shelters Wild Heart of India

 

Bhimbetka Rock Shelter Wild Heart of India Mantra Wild

Bhimbetka Rock Shelter

Reason #9: Tribal History and Culture

When you visit Madhya Pradesh, especially stepping outside of city areas, you will step back into time and see tribal villages very much unchanged for thousands of years.

The main tribe of Madhya Pradesh is the Gond tribe.

We recommend visiting the Tribal Habitat Museum in Bhopal to learn about India’s tribal culture which makes up approximately 9% of the population.

What I love about this museum, is that it is open air and created by the tribal communities around India. You can visit examples of what their homes are like, made by the local tribe. Highly recommend the visit!

Tribal culture wild heart of india mantra wild

Or visit neighbouring tribal villages with our naturalist on our Wild Heart of India Small Group tour!

tribal kids wild heart of India safari mantra wild

Reason #10: Udayagiri Caves, Vidisha

Udayagiri caves feature some of the oldest Hindu cave temples. They were carved and completed under Chandragupta II, Emperor of the Gupta era, in the late 4th and 5th century AD. It is one of India’s most important archeological sites from the Gupta period.

The site is notable for its ancient monumental sculpture of Hindu god Vishnu, in his incarnation as the boar-headed Varaha, rescuing the earth symbolically represented by Vhudevi clinging to the boar’s tusk as described in Hindu mythology

Udayagiri caves Wild Heart of India Safari tour

 

Have you been to any of these places? If so, tell us in the comments below!

Would you like to travel to these areas?

Wild Heart of India Safari Experience (Small Group Tour) will take you to most of these places. Next tour dates, 1 November, 2016.

Mantra Big 5 (Independent private tour) takes you to India’s national parks in Central India.

Mantra Essential Elements Private tour takes you to Khajuraho + other amazing places.

Sign up to our list to receive a voucher off your next tour. 

 

Reena xx