South India & Gujarat (23n/24d)

Elephant Stables at the Ancient City of Hampi - a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Elephant Stables at the Ancient City of Hampi – a UNESCO World Heritage Site

BEST TIME TO RUN – JANUARY TO MARCH: This tour is designed to highlight the history, culture and nature of Southern India and Gujarat.

Day 01 : Arrive Bangalore
Upon arrival at Bangalore international airport out ground staff will meet and assist and transfer to the hotel in Bangalore city.  Bangalore is a big city and a hub of IT. It is also the capital of Karnataka state with a population of 8.426 million (2011 Survey)

Day 02: Bangalore to Hampi
In the morning free and after an earkly lunch start the sightseeing tour of the metro city. Later check out of the hotel and board an overnight train to Hospet.

Day 03: Arrival Hospet and transfer to hotel.
Arrive at Hospet and upon arrival transfer to a hotel. After breakfast and wash and change depart for Hampi and full day exploring the UNESCO world heritage site……the capital city of the famous Vijaya Nagar Empire. Hampi  – The first historical settlements in Hampi date back to 1 CE. Hampi formed one of the core areas of the capital of the Vijayanagara Empire from 1336 to 1565, when it was finally laid siege to by the Deccan Muslim confederacy. Hampi was chosen because of its strategic location, bounded by the torrential Tungabhadra river on one side and surrounded by defensible hills on the other three sides. The site is significant historically and architecturally. The topography abounds with large stones which have been used to make statues of Hindu deities. The Archaeological Survey of India continues to conduct excavations in the area, to discover additional artifacts and temples. Hampi is located within the ruins of Vijayanagara, the former capital of the Vijayanagara Empire. Predating the city of Vijayanagara, it continues to be an important religious centre, housing the Virupaksha Temple, as well as several other monuments belonging to the old city. The ruins are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, listed as the Group of Monuments at Hampi. The name is derived from Pampa, which is the old name of the Tungabhadra River on whose banks the city is built. The name “Hampi” is an anglicized version of the Kannada Hampe (derived from Pampa). Over the years, it has also been referred to as Vijayanagara and Virupakshapura (from Virupaksha, the patron deity of the Vijayanagara rulers).

Day 4: Hampi to Hassan
After breakfast drive to Hassan. The drive often passes through small towns and villages……interesting tea stops and change to mix with the locals. Upon arrival at Hassan transfer to the hotel and later visit the famous sites of Belur/Halebid and Sharavanabelogola. Hassan, the main city in the Hassan district, which has an area of 6814 km2 dates back to the 11th century, during the Hoysala dynasty, which lasted from the eleventh to the fourteenth century. Their capital was at Dwarasamundra (Dwaravati-pura), the ruins of which are still to be seen scattered round the town of Halebidu. The earlier kings were of the Jain faith, but the finest temples were dedicated to Shiva by the later monarchs in the dynasty. While the Hoysalas were at the zenith of their power, much of southern India was under their influence. Belur is one of the famous tourist place near Hassan. Belur was the early capital of the Hoysala Empire. With Halebidu which is only 16 km away, this is one of the major tourist destinations in the state of Karnataka. The main attraction in Belur is the Chennakesava temple complex which contains the Chennakesava Temple (dedicated to Chennakeshava, meaning handsome Vishnu) as the centre piece, surrounded by the Kappe Chennigraya temple built by Shantaladevi, queen of king Vishnuvardhana. Shravanabelagola is one of the most important Jain pilgrim centers. It reached a peak in architectural and sculptural activity under the patronage of Gangas of Talakad. The 57 feet monolithic statue of the Bhagavan Gomateshwara Bahubali is located on the Vindyagiri hill. It is considered to be the world’s largest monolithic stone statue and was erected by Chavundaraya, a general of King Gangaraya. The base of the statue has an inscription in Prakrit, dating from 981 AD. Every twelve years, thousands of devotees congregate here to perform the Mahamastakabhisheka, a spectacular ceremony in which the statue is covered with milk, yogurt, ghee, saffron and gold coins. The next Mahamastakabhisheka will be held in 2018.

Day 5: Hassan to Coorg
After breakfast drive to Coorg via the interesting country side. Upon arrival at Coorg transfer t the hotel.

Day 6: Coorg
Our visit to coorg is to witness its natural beauty and taste the delicious food that is is popular for. A coffee plantation trek will be organized today with a local guide and we will learn about the flora and fauna culture of coorg. Kodagu, also known by its anglicised former name of Coorg, is an administrative district in Karnataka, India. It occupies an area of 4,102 square kilometres (1,584 sq mi) in the Western Ghats of southwestern Karnataka. As of 2001, the population was 548,561, 13.74% of which resided in the district’s urban centres, making it the least populous of the 30 districts in Karnataka.Kodagu is well known in the world for coffee and its “brave warriors”. Madikeri is the headquarters of Kodagu. The district is bordered by Dakshina Kannada district to the northwest, Hassan district to the north, Mysore district to the east, Kannur district of Kerala to the southwest, and the Wayanad district of Kerala to the south. Kodagu is home to the native speakers of Kodava language. According to Karnataka Kodava Sahitya Academy, apart from Kodavas and Kodava Heggade, 18 other ethnic groups speak Kodava Takk in and outside the district including Iri, Koyava, Banna, Madivala, Hajama, Kembatti, and Meda.Though the language has no script, recently German linguist Gregg M. Cox developed a new writing system for the language known as the Coorgi-Cox alphabet, used by a number of individuals within Kodagu. Lately, some organizations including the Codava National Council and Kodava Rashtriya Samiti are demanding Kodava homeland status and autonomy to Kodagu district.

Day 7: Coorg to Kabini
After breakfast drive to Kabini and upon arrival at Kabini transfer to the forest resort.  Kabini Forest reserve is the south eastern part of the Nagarhole national Park.  The Nagarhole ecosystem supports the highest density of herbivores anywhere in Asia. Studies carried out in Nagarhole show that the estimated mean number of large herbivores in Nagarhole is 108 animals per sq km. Large herbivores are defined as ungulates and primates weighing more than 5kg and in Nagarhole these comprise of – Muntjak, Chital, Sambar, Four-horned antelope, Gaur, Wild pig, Asian Elephant, Common Langur and the Bonnet Macaque. This translates into a biomass of 14746 kgs per sq km. This is comparable to the Masai Mara in Africa, which has a biomass of 19200 kgs. Of these herbivores, the Chital, Sambar, Gaur, Wild pig, Muntjak and Common Langur are preyed upon by the Tiger, Leopard and Wild Dog. These herbivores are classified as principle prey species and occur at a estimated mean density of 91 animals per sq km. The prey species can be further divided on the basis of body weight into small (Langur,young Chital and young pig ), medium (yearling and adult Chital, adult pig, yearling and young Sambar and young Gaur), and large (adult Sambar and adult Gaur) and studies show that Tigers preferentially selected large prey, Leopard medium and small prey and the Wild dog medium prey. Because the availability of prey in the appropriate size class is not a limiting resource in Nagarhole, selective predation has facilitated large carnivore co-existence in the park. The principal reasons for large carnivore coexistence in Nagarhole as opposed to the African savanna are ecological factors such as adequate availability of appropriate sized prey, dense cover and tree density which is absent in the African savanna and the fact that behavioral factors such as habitat specificity, choice of hunting sites or inter-specific dominance play a relatively minor role in Nagarhole.

Day 08 : At Kabini
At Kabini morning and afternoon park excursions with guide and naturalist sighting it numerous flora and fauna. Overnight at a resort in Kabini.

Day 09: Kabini to Bandipur
After breakfast we leave for Bandipur National aprk. Upon arrival at Bandipur transfer to the wildlife resort. Bandipur National Park, established in 1974 as a tiger reserve under Project Tiger, is a national park located in the south Indian state of Karnataka. It was once a private hunting reserve for the Maharaja of the Kingdom of Mysore. Bandipur is known for its wildlife and has many types of biomes, but dry deciduous forest is dominant. The park spans an area of 874 square kilometers (337 sq mi), protecting several species of India’s endangered wildlife. Together with the adjoining Nagarhole National Park (643 km2 (248 sq mi), Mudumalai National Park (320 km2 (120 sq mi)) and Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary (344 km2 (133 sq mi), it is part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve totaling 2,183 km2 (843 sq mi) making it the largest protected area in southern India. Flora: Bandipur supports a wide range of timber trees including: Teak (Tectona grandis), Rosewood (Dalbergia latifolia), Sandalwood (Santalum album V), Indian-laurel (Terminalia tomentosa), Indian Kino Tree (Pterocarpus marsupium), giant clumping bamboo (Dendrocalamus strictus), clumping bamboo (Bambusa arundinacea) and Grewia tiliaefolia. There are also several notable flowering and fruiting trees and shrubs including: Kadam tree (Adina cordifolia), Indian gooseberry (Emblica officinalis), Crape-myrtle (Lagerstroemia lanceolata), axlewood (Anogeissus latifolia), Black Myrobalan (Terminalia chebula), Schleichera trijuga, Odina wodiar, Flame of the Forest (Butea monosperma), Golden Shower Tree (Cassia fistula), satinwood (Chloroxylon swietenia), Black Cutch (Acacia catechu), Shorea talura , indigoberry (Randia uliginosa) Fauna: Bandipur supports a good population of endangered and vulnerable species like Indian elephants, gaurs, tigers, sloth bears, muggers, Indian rock pythons, four-horned antelopes and dholes.

Day 10 : At Bandipur
At Bandipur morning and afternoon park excursions with guide and naturalist sighting it numerous flora and fauna. Overnight at a resort in Bandipur.

Day 11: Bandipur to Wayanad
After breakfast leave for Wayanad and upon arrival transfer to a serene resort overlooking the banasura reservoir. Stay here at a beautiful resort with unbeatable scenery.

Day 12: At Wayanad
Boating , Kayaking and Tea garden trek is the order of the day at Wayanad……one of the most beautiful spots in south India.

Day 13: Wayanad to Calicut to Ahmedabad
Wayanad to Calicut drive and flight to Ahmedabad via Mumbai. Essentially a transit day. After breakfast leave for Calicut and upon arrival transfer to the airport for flight to Ahmedabad. Since there is no direct flight between the two cities we will have to go via Mumbai. Arrival at Ahmedabad, Meet, Greet & transfer to hotel, check in to hotel, rest of the day leisure. Overnight stay Ahmedabad.

Day 14 Ahmedabad – Nalsarovar-Dasada/Bajana
Early morning drive to Nalsarovar (65 KMS / 1.5 Hours); Between October to March, the sanctuary is home of groups of native and migratory birds with 250 species passing through the park. The lake is a paradise for birdwatchers; especially in winter when it attracts more than 100 species of migratory birds. Around the lake are the habitats of the endangered Saras crane & globally threatened predators…. are seen in the fields. Flamingos, storks and spoonbills are frequently seen feeding in the swallows along with the Marsh Harrier, Grater Spotted Eagle & the threatened Pallas Fish Eagle. Ducks, geese, Pelicans and flamingos are best seen early in the morning and before sunset. Later drive to Dasada / Bajana (80 KMS / 2 Hours), Check in to hotel, rest of the day leisure, Evening safari in Little Rann of Kutch – This is one of the largest wildlife sanctuaries in India, spanning some 4950 sq km in area, and comprising a range habitat from saline desert plains, arid grasslands, rocky and thorn scrub to lakes and marshes. Wild ass sanctuary – The sanctuary is well known for its group of the stale joke brown Asiatic (Wild ass), which does not live elsewhere in Indian lowlands. We can see in Little Rann of Kutch blackbuck (Indian antelope), Nilgai or blue bull (India’s largest antelope) and the graceful Chinkara (Indian gazelle) are other mammals. The main carnivores of the Little Rann of Kutch are the endangered Indian wolf, desert fox, Indian fox, jackals, desert and jungle cats, and a few hyenas; also we can see during the visits flamingoes, pelicans, ducks, cranes and storks. Evening dinner & overnight stay Dasada / Bajana.

Day 15: Dasada – Full day birding and wildlife sighting.
Morning & Evening safaris to Little Rann of Kutch to visits more Birding. Evening dinner & overnight stay Dasada / Bajana.

Day 16: Dasada – Bhuj
Morning drive to Bhuj (300 KMS / 6 Hours), upon arrival in GBhu8j check in to the hotel and later drive to FRB office to get permits to visits remote areas for birding. Later drive to Chari Dhand (100 KMS / 3 Hours), Dhand stands for big, shallow pond of rainwater. Chari Dhand is the  biggest Dhand of Kutch among three dozen Dhands. Chari Dhand, a lake near Fulay village, is a birdwatcher’s dream destination. It is 10 sq KMS, lying between the Banni grassland & Dinodhar Hill. More than 50 species of water birds can be found here, including the scarce Indian Skimmer & Dalmatian pelican. Enjoy a bird watching tour to the marshlands of the Chari Dhand where more than 50000 water birds, 55 different animal species, 32 species of raptors and various 30000 birds have been recorded. This lake is visited by large flocks of Demoiselle and Common Crane, said to be a large share of the world population, and equally impressive flocks of myriad duck species. The mix of grasslands, scrub and wetland also make this a heaven for raptors with the Tawny Eagle and Greater Spotted Eagle, Imperial Eagle and Steppe Eagle wintering in the Banni area. Endangered species like the White-backed and Long-billed Vulture are seen in the Banni area. White-napped Tit is a vulnerable species of the Banni region. Best is to stay at Nakhatrana (Bhuj 65 KMS / Chari Dhand 35 KMS), otherwise drives to Bhuj (100 KMS / 3 Hours). Overnight stay Bhuj / Nakhatrana.

Day 17: Bhuj – Naliya
Early morning drive to NALIYA BIRD SANCTUARY (Bhuj – Naliya 100 KMS / 2.5 Hours, Nakhatrana – Naliya (50 KMS / 1.5 Hours) Proceed to NALIYA bird sanctuary. This is important point of Kutch for the great Indian Bustard Sanctuary at Lala near Naliya in Abdasa Taluka. It extends 20 sq km of area and is very interesting for birdwatchers. It is the only sanctuary in India where three species of bustard can be found, the endangered Great Indian Bustard is resident here and the endangered Lesser Florican breeds here during the monsoon months, and the near-threatened Macqueen’s Bustard is a winter visitor.Here we can also see scarce Great Indian Bustard and a variety of birds including Black and grey Francolin, Spotted and Indian Sand grouse, quails, shrikes, coursers and plovers. It is also an ideal point for bird lovers as scarce species like Stoliczka’s Bush chat and White-napped Tit can be found. This sanctuary is vital for praying birds like majestic eagle. The sanctuary enlarges north towards the stream of Jakhau besides the coast of Kutch where big group of flamingos, Harriers, Eagles, Jungle cat, Chinkara, herons, egrets, sandpipers & many other birds can be seen. We can find birds like Flamingos, Harriers, Eagles, Herons, Egrets and Sandpipers as well Desert Cat, Chinkara,. Evening dinner at hotel, Overnight stay Bhuj / Nakhatrana.

Day 18: Bhuj / Nakhtrana – Naliya Bird Sanctuary
Full day birding at Naliya Bird sanctuary visits of remaining area. Evening drives to Bhuj (100 KMS / 2.5 Hours) because from Bhuj – Jamnagar will be near. Evening dinner at hotel, Overnight stay Bhuj

Day 19: Bhuj to Jamnagar
Morning drive to Jamnagar (265 KMS / 5 Hours), Check in to hotel, Evening visits of Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary – Its provides a refuge for more than 220 species of resident and migratory birds, including globally threatened species such as Dalmatian pelican, Asian open bill stork, Black-necked stork, Darter, Black-headed ibis, Eurasian spoonbill, and Indian skimmer, and provides birdwatchers with a delightful chance to sight rare birds in large numbers. The Indian Skimmer is a delightful bird to watch with its striking red bill and black-head standing out against its predominantly white body. A unique feature of the Indian Skimmer is its bill that has a longer lower mandible than the upper one enabling it to feed while flying over the surface of the water with only the tip of its beak skimming the surface, a graceful sight to behold. This protected area packs in an incredible diversity of ecosystems into the relatively small area of 6 square km. The bird sanctuary is unique in having fresh-water lakes on one side of the road bisecting it and salt water marshes on the other. The sanctuary is an important strong hold of Sarus Crane. The sanctuary has resident populations of Comb Duck, Spot-bill and other ducks and also attracts large flocks of migratory ducks like Pintail. It is an important site for the Baer’s Pochard. The Black-necked Stork nests at Khijadiya. This is also one of the few sanctuaries in peninsular India where the Crested Grebe breeds. Khijadiya is also the breeding area for a number of wading birds. As a visitor, keep in mind that conservation in any area is a difficult process. Evening dinner at hotel, Overnight stay Jamnagar.

Day 20: Jamnagar to Sasan Gir
Morning drive to Gir National Park (220 KMS / 5 HOURS), Check in to hotel. Sasan Gir is well known as the remaining habitat of the Asiatic Lion. The 1412 SQ KM Gir wildlife reserve comprises deciduous forests, evergreen & semi evergreen vegetation, thorn scrub & grasslands. Sasan Gir also has a large leopard population. The sanctuary also has a booming population of Sambar and Spotted Deer, Chinkara gazelle, Nilgai and chowsingha, the world’s only four-horned antelope. In Sasan Gir we can see attractive birds like the Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Painted Sand grouse, Tree pie, Hoopoe, etc. Crocodiles are seen at reservoir and at rivers flowing through the sanctuary. Asiatic Lions are less sociable than their African counterparts and differ in appearance by having shorter manes and a prominent fold of skin on the underside. Sasan Gir lions are purely predatory, never feeding off carrion as do African lions. As 350 lions and more than 300 leopards has been counted in Sasan Gir during the last census.. Evening dinner at hotel, Overnight stay Sasan Gir.

Day 21: Sasan Gir
Morning & Evening safari to National Park, Evening dinner at hotel, Overnight stay Sasan Gir.

Day 22: Sasan Gir – Velavadar National Park
Morning drives to Bhavnagar (250 KMS / 6 HOURS), Evening leisure at hotel. Evening dinner at hotel, Overnight stay Bhavnagar.

Day 23: Full day Velavadar
Morning drives to Velavadar, Velavadar National Park is a 65 KMS from Bhavnagar. The 34 SQ kilometer Black Buck National Park covers the highest concentration of this Indian antelope anywhere in the country. It’s famous for its blackbucks, which support impressive spiraling horns- as long as 65 cm in mature males. Nilgai, jungle cat, and Indian fox are frequently seen while touring the park. Birdwatchers can spot rare species like the Stoliczka’s Bush chat and a large root of harrier-hawks. We can go into park with our own car, as this car we can use it to explore the park. Velavadar is also one of the few national parks in India where the Indian wolf is proliferating successfully. Evening dinner at hotel, Overnight stay Bhavnagar.

Day 24: Bhavnagar to Ahmedabad
Morning drives to Ahmedabad, (200 KMS / 4 Hours), Later connect a flight to Mumbai / Delhi.

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