Wildlife Group Tour

India group tour - Lions and Leopards of West India

14 days

from £6,295pp
  • Visit Gir National Park - the only place in the world to see Asiatic lions
  • Photograph blackbuck and nilgai against the savannah landscapes of Velavadar
  • Witness the largest gathering of demoiselle cranes on the planet at Khichan
  • See the leopards of Bera and the flamingos in the Little Rann of Kutch

Join our journey from the thriving city of Mumbai to historical Jodhpur, exploring the colourful western states of Gujarat and Rajasthan along the way. With wildlife as the key focus, visit national parks and reserves such as those at Sasan Gir and the Rann of Kutch, in search of the rare Asiatic lion and the elusive ghudkhur (Indian wild ass). 

The lions of Gir national park are the only remaining wild Asiatic lions on earth, something not to be missed. Discover Gujarat’s thriving populations of leopard, sloth bear, wolf, and blackbuck, and the wetlands of this state support huge congregations of birds, making the bird watching here excellent. For birders, there are several regional endemics and globally threatened species to seek out. 

After exploring Gujarat, cross the border into the northeast state of Rajasthan. From here explore the remote region surrounding Bera, one of the best places to see leopard, who make their homes in the caves of the Aravalli hills. Phalodi, near Jodhpur, brings the wildlife experience to a close with the spectacular show of the migratory demoiselle cranes. 

The experience offered on this group tour is not solely about the wildlife. Visit the famous blue city of Jodhpur and meet the Rabari tribe who live in the surrounding villages. Learn about the Maldharis of Gujarat and the Rabaris of Rajasthan who have lived for many years amongst the predators of lion and leopard respectively.

WHY TRAVEL WITH KARTIKEYA SINGH? 

Exceptional guides are the first essential component of a successful wildlife holiday and in Kartikeya Singh, Steppes Travel is confident we have found just that. With over 300 days filming under his belt with the BBC, and over a decade of field research specific to Gujarat, monitoring the ecology of both Gir National Park and Little Rann of Kutch, Kartikeya is a confirmed expert for this tour.

WHY DOES THIS TOUR OFFER VALUE FOR MONEY?

Aside from our expert Kartikeya, the major draw of this tour is the excellent chance of seeing lion, leopard, nilgai, blackbuck, wolf, striped hyena, flamingo, and ghudkhur, plus large gatherings of marsh harrier and demoiselle cranes in an unrushed manner. Local lodge owners are key exponents of conservation in the regions you'll visit, none more so than Shantrunjay Pratap, the owner of Bera Safari Lodge, Shantrunjay is a passionate conservationist and a major reason why leopards have survived and thrived in Bera. There will be plenty of opportunity to meet with these conservation champions.

Where possible we have secured accommodation offering a high standard of comfort, including the Raas in Jodhpur, Taj Gateway in Sasan Gir, and the Lalit in Mumbai with all meals included. There are wonderful dining opportunities to be had, including the Taj Umaid Bhawan Palace at Jodhpur, lunch with a backdrop of the Mehrangarh Fort whilst dining at Raas, and al fresco bush style evenings arranged whilst on safari. 

WHAT IS THE ACCOMMODATION LIKE IN WEST INDIA?

During this tour, you will stay in a carefully selected range of small lodges in Gujarat and five-star properties in Mumbai and Jodhpur. The comfort of both the Taj and the Lalit will ensure the tour starts with a soft landing. Generally, Gujarat hotel standards are lower than the more visited areas of India with limited choice and availability. We believe we have confirmed the best available and we are confident the owners have a commitment to conservation tourism. Whilst at Bera, there will be additional comfortable tented accommodation aside from the five permanent cottages. We appreciate there may be a preference for accomodation type so please request on booking this tour.

HOW FIT SHOULD I BE TO ENJOY THIS TOUR?

General overall fitness is required. The tour covers a lot of ground and there are two long road journeys, which are unavoidable. During the jeep safaris both in Gir National Park and Little Rann of Kutch you need to be comfortable getting in and out of high clearance vehicles.  

IS THIS TOUR SUITABLE FOR SOLO TRAVELLERS?

Our group tours are perfect for solo travellers, as travelling as part of an organised group provides security and peace of mind. We handle all of the arrangements for you and there will be a local tour guide on hand throughout to provide advice and help if needed, as well as the expertise of our tour experts.

Due to the remoteness of certain elements of this tour the accommodation whilst in Bera is a small lodge with only five rooms and three tents, therefore, we must cap our single supplement to a maximum of three places. If you are willing to share, we will always do our best to match you up with another solo traveller of the same sex so you do not have to pay for a single room.

DO I NEED A VISA FOR INDIA?

All visitors need a visa to travel to India. There is now a provision for an online e-visa for citizens of certain countries, including the UK and the visa must be obtained before arrival in all circumstances. Tourist visas issued in the UK have six months’ validity from date of issue.

WHAT WILL THE WEATHER BE LIKE IN WEST INDIA IN DECEMBER?

Warm sunny days with cooler nights. December has average temperatures sitting at around 30 degrees, dropping to 14 degrees at night. December is a good time to see the wild Asiatic lions of Gir and the migratory birds of Khichan. 

WHAT IS THE FOOD LIKE IN GUJARAT AND RAJASTHAN?

Both regions have a distinctive cuisine.  Gujarat cuisine offers a wide selection of vegetarian dishes and often served on a lovely silver platter. A combination of different spices is used in cooking and this is what makes Gujarati food truly exotic with sweet notes dominating many dishes, such as Gujarati Kadhi (curry). Another traditional dish is the Gujarati thali, consisting of roti, dal, rice, and Shaak (a dish made up of several different combinations of vegetable and spices).

Most of Rajasthani cuisine came to fruition because of the arid conditions. It comprises food and recipes which can last for days and even years. Dal baati churma is the state’s classic signature dish, a hard unleavened bread cooked in the desert areas. Rajasthani traditional sweets are delicious with Malupa being a must-try before leaving this region.

CAN I EXTEND MY STAY IN INDIA AFTER THE TOUR?

Yes, this can easily be arranged at the end of the tour. Private travel arrangements with a car and driver will be provided and a private guide arranged for sightseeing. From Mumbai, you can easily reach the beaches of southern India. If the Golden Triangle is on your wish list then travelling from Jodhpur allows a short extension to visit the Taj Mahal and Jaipur.



Departing on:
  • 29th November 2019

For a detailed itinerary or to book your place on this tour, please contact us.

STARTFINISHPrice Excluding Flights £Flight cost fromSingle SupplementTour ExpertStatus 
29th Nov 2019 12th Dec 2019 £ 6,295 £ 650 £ 1,825 Kartikeya Singh Available
  Click here to see what is included/excluded

what is included

  • Accommodation on double or twin sharing at hotels mentioned in the itinerary
  • Air-conditioned transfers between all cities
  • All meals- breakfast,lunch and dinner
  • Gratuities for guides and drivers
  • National Park Entry Fees to include one still camera per person
  • Return airport transfers included on suggested British Airways arrival and departure only
  • Services of the tour leader from arrival in India until the final day in Mumbai

what is excluded

  • Additional airport transfer fee if arriving independently of the British Airways suggested flights.
  • Any alcohol or soft beverages not mentioned in inclusions
  • Any private arrangements and extensions
  • India Tourist Visa Fee
  • Travel Insurance

TO ALLOW FLEXIBILITY, OUR GROUP TOURS DO NOT INCLUDE INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS AS STANDARD. WE CAN ARRANGE INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS ON YOUR BEHALF AND THE ABOVE IS AN INDICATION OF COST, BASED ON RETURN FLIGHTS DEPARTING FROM LONDON. ALL INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS FROM THE UK ARE ATOL PROTECTED.

Itinerary at a glance

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Day 1

The remainder of the day will be at leisure. If time allows a city sightseeing tour can be arranged


A welcome dinner is included


You will be staying at The Lalit Mumbai, half board

Day 2

Fly Mumbai to Diu


Foreign Nationals Consuming Alcohol in Gujarat
It is possible to purchase alcohol as a foreign tourist in Gujarat. The hotel has a Stay Certificate that you complete in order to purchase alcohol from the "liquor" shop. Some hotels have these shops inside. You will need to present identification and temporary visitor proof - i.e. flight tickets. There should be a gap of 10 days between 2 purchases. Taj Gateway has their own shop, it shouldn't take more than 10 minutes. Note if you purchased alcohol at duty free it will need to travel as hold luggage between Mumbai and Gujarat and retain the receipt until it is consumed entirely. The bottle will need to remain sealed until arriving into resort in Gujarat. Here you will also need the permit to drink alcohol.


Transfer to Gir National Park
You will be met on arrival at Diu airport and transferred to Gir National Park. Situated 90 kilometres from Diu, the journey takes approximately three hours, reaching the lodge this afternoon. There is time to relax and enjoy a sundowner before a welcome supper organised at the Taj.

** Please bring your own alcohol from Duty Free as Gujarat is a dry state**


Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner is included


You will be staying at The Gateway Hotel Gir Forest, full board

Day 3

Two Full Days on Safari - Gir National Park
Over the next two days there will be morning and afternoon game drives to maximise the chances of lion sightings. As dawn breaks leave for the jungle in an open top jeep. The morning safari returns at 9am. There is time to relax and eat lunch before setting off again. The afternoon safari departs at 3.30pm returning at sundown. Meet with the group for an evening dinner and opportunity to talk with the lodge naturalists and the tour leader, Kartikey about the sightings of the day.

Many come to Gir because, outside of Africa, it is the only place with wild lions. Established in 1965 the national park has a lion breeding programme which has been a success with near on 600 lions recorded. The national park is teak wood dry forest and dominated by grasslands, and lions will roam freely early mornings and evenings. There are eight safari routes within the park, although most overlap with each other, with different entry and exit points. They're randomly assigned by the computer (along with a driver and guide) on the day. This park is easily accessible to the locals, and many domestic tourists will visit. They may not observe wildlife etiquette as well as international visitors. The forest department uses trackers inside the park to spot the lion and inform others. This isn't ideal but spotting a lion is still a mesmerizing event. There are also leopards, wild board, jackals, peacocks and spotted deer.


Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner is included


You will be staying at The Gateway Hotel Gir Forest, full board

Day 4

Culture Visits in Gir National Park
During your stay there is an opportunity to visit forest villages made up of nomadic Maldharis and Siddhis of Abyssinian origin. The latter came to India during the second millennium AD as slaves, sailors, mercenaries and merchants. Strikingly different from other tribes anywhere else in India, they have retained their music and dance heritage and perform a kind of music called Goma, which has African origins.


Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner is included


You will be staying at The Gateway Hotel Gir Forest, full board

Day 5

Morning Game Drive and Transfer to Velavadar
Take a final game drive this morning, returning for breakfast at the lodge before departing for Velavadar. The drive is approximately five hours.


Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner is included


You will be staying at Black Buck Lodge, full board

Day 6

Game Drive at Velavadar National Park
After an early breakfast depart the lodge for a full day exploring Velavadar National park. Travel by open top jeep so bring a scarf and hat to protect yourself from dust and heat. Return later to the lodge for dinner. The national park was formerly the private grassland of the Maharaja of Bhavnagar, where he would hunt blackbucks. Now it is the best national park to view this graceful animal running through the grasslands. Sightings of wolves, hyenas and jungle cats are not uncommon.

Velavadar is famous for its elegant black buck and a host of other wildlife species. The unique grassland ecosystem of Velavadar National Park is vital in supporting herds of antelopes and in conserving other important local species such as wolves, foxes, jackals, wild boars, hares and the very rare and endemic lesser florican (a bustard). The florican used to be widespread but its range has contracted and numbers have plummeted in recent decades. Today, the largest population survives here in Velavadar. The local avian cast is diverse including larks and sand grouse, but it is towards dusk that Velavadar takes on another significant role as the roosting site for harriers. Raptors that have been out hunting during the day return here to sleep in safety, these are mainly Montagu's and pallid harriers and sometimes their numbers exceed 2,000 birds making this the largest known harrier roost in the world.


Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner is included


You will be staying at Black Buck Lodge, full board

Day 7

Morning Game Drive and Transfer to Little Rann of Kutch
After breakfast, take a morning jeep safari into Velavadar National Park before continuing onwards to Dasada, approximately a four-hour road journey. En route visit the Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary, the largest wetland sanctuary in Gujarat. Here you can see waterfowl, marsh birds and encounter flamingos.


Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner is included


You will be staying at Rann Riders, full board

Day 8

Little Rann of Kutch Sanctuary and Tribal Villages
Travel across the desert by jeep today into the Little Rann of Kutch in search of wildlife, returning to the lodge for lunch. Later this afternoon depart for the Rabari and Bhairwad tribal villages near Dasada. As the temperature cools in the late afternoon continue the jeep safari into the Little Rann of Kutch.

Dasada is the gateway for the Little Rann of Kutch. This small town is approximately a three hour drive away from the biodiversity hotspot. Dasada is an ideal base to explore the culture, weaves and handicrafts of the Kutch district.


Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner is included


You will be staying at Rann Riders, full board

Day 9

Morning Safari and Transfer to Bera - Rajasthan
Take a final safari this morning into the Little Rann of Kutch before leaving Gujarat. Arrive into Rajasthan later today, after a long drive of around seven hours. There will be a stop for lunch en route. On arrival check into the lodge.


Bera Safari Lodge Accommodation
Bera Safari Lodge has five permanent cottages and there will be three additional well equipped tents available for the group. The tents will have en suite facilities with showers and comfy beds. Please state at time of booking if you have an accommodation preference.

Until recently Bera was an unknown part of Rajasthan, gaining recent popularity due to its amazing leopards sightings. The backdrop of the Aravalli Range with its scrub land vegetation and small hillocks with caves, provide the perfect setting for leopards. The Rabaris live amongst the leopards and leopards often frequent local temples.


Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner is included


You will be staying at Bera Safari Lodge, full board

Day 10

Two Full Days of Leopard Safaris
The backdrop of the Aravalli Range, with scrub vegetation such as cactus and Keekar and small hillocks with caves, provide the perfect setting for leopards. Like Gir, where the Maldharis lived amongst the flourishing lion population, in Bera, it is the Rabaris who live amongst the leopards. The human/animal conflict is inevitable in both scenarios.

The best time to see the leopards is morning and late evening. Outside of these times visit local villages and take easy walks in the nearby hills. Whilst at Bera it may be possible to see nilgai, jungle cat, crocodiles (at Jawai Bandh Dam), osprey, black shouldered kite, sarus cranes, Asian openbill storks, black ibis, ruddy shelducks, pelicans and more.


Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner is included


You will be staying at Bera Safari Lodge, full board

Day 11

You will be staying at Bera Safari Lodge, full board

Day 12

Drive from Bera to Phalodi


Visit to Khichan
In the evening there will be a visit to Khichan to watch and photograph the demoiselle crane gathering.

Phalodi became a trading centre on the caravan route through the Thar Desert on the land crossing from North Western India into Central India.

In recent years, Phalodi has become famous for its proximity to Khichan, the wintering grounds for a protected flock of Demoiselle Cranes. This elegant bird is the smallest of the world's crane species, and it gathers each winter in Khichan to avoid the harsh winters of its Mongolian and Tibetan plateau breeding grounds. The visiting birds, encouraged by local religious beliefs, have turned into a wildlife spectacle with as many as 9,000 birds gathering each winter.


Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner is included


You will be staying at Kurja Resort, full board

Day 13

Morning Visit to Khichan
After breakfast there is an opportunity to revisit Khichan to photograph the demoiselle cranes before continuing to Jodhpur, a drive of four hours. Oblivious to all, the cranes complete their early morning feeding and then alight on the sand dunes in large numbers. As they turn to face the sun, their tie-like black chest feathers contrast magnificently with the blue winter sky. A short while later they depart in different directions in small family flocks.


Orientation Visit to Umaid Bhawan Palace
Spend some time exploring Umaid Bhawan Palace, one of the world's finest and most perfectly preserved Art Deco buildings. Built in the 20th century, this huge building is divided into three sections. These constitute a luxury hotel, royal residence and museum showcasing the history of the Jodhpur Royal Family.


Spend Half a Day Exploring Mehrangarh Fort
Visit the magnificent Mehrangarh Fort, which perches on a 150-metre-high bluff and is one of Rajasthan's most formidable strongholds. Building began in the 15th century by Rao Jodha but the fort has been enlarged by subsequent rulers over the centuries.

Featuring vast stone walls that appear to rise without interruption from the rock below, this imposing structure is decorated with lace-like carved red sandstone. Inside, explore the Marwar School Miniature Paintings in the fort's museum, as well as the recreated medieval walled garden. Afterwards take a tuk tuk through the old blue city to explore the winding lanes and see the decorated city water reservoirs, bangle makers and other local traditions.

The former capital of the state of Marwar, the majestic city of Jodhpur was once a key member of the powerful Rajput alliance of principalities. The mighty Mehrangarh Fort epitomises this power and towers over the city, standing upon a steep-sided plateau.

Lying beneath the fort, Jodhpur's old city is a maze of medieval streets, littered with glittering blue houses. Traditionally built to denote the homes of members of the highest caste, it is these colourful structures that have led to Jodhpur being known as the 'Blue City'.


Breakfast, Lunch and Farewell Dinner is included


You will be staying at Raas Haveli, full board

Day 14

Fly Jodhpur to Mumbai


A wash and change room will be provided this afternoon. Dinner will be provided at the hotel.


Board your flight for your onward journey home or continue with private arrangements in India


Breakfast and Packed Lunch


You will be staying at The Lalit Mumbai, full board

Accommodation

Below you can see some of the wonderful places we recommend you stay on your journey.

RAAS Haveli

RAAS Haveli

Raas Boutique Hotel is a glorious little hotel lying at the foot of the mighty Meherangarh Fort in the heart of Jodhpur's Walled City....

View Accommodation

The Gateway Hotel Gir Forest

The Gateway Hotel Gir Forest

By the edge of the Gir Forest and Hiran River in the far western state of Gujarat, this modern four star property offers an outdoor pool, spa treatments and a fitness centre, an open-air library lounge and is the best available place to stay in Gir at the moment....

View Accommodation

For a detailed itinerary or to book your place on this tour, please contact us.

Destination Experts

Our experts have unrivalled firsthand knowledge of India

Joe Parkes, Travel Expert

"It was extremely helpful to work in conjunction with Joe and his much more up to date knowledge of India and arrive at an itinerary which we were happy with. We enjoyed the whole trip and probably what made it special for us was the fact that all the arrangements worked so well and we really didn’t have to worry about anything at all. Even when we decided to make a small change it was dealt with efficiently and promptly. We can't think of anything that would have made our trip more enjoyable."

"The service from start to finish has been excellent. Joe was very quick to respond to any queries and put together an excellent itinerary at short notice."

"A pleasure to deal with Joe. Efficient, helpful, knowledgeable and fun!"

Read More

Kate Hitchen, Travel Expert

"Kate was calm and bent over backwards to accommodate my jitters about going to Kashmir in the light of tighter FCO guidelines just a few days before our departure. She was absolutely correct in advising against what I thought we should do. Several times during the holiday we said that, 'Kate was dead right about that!'."

"We asked for a rather particular kind of Indian holiday. You delivered it in full. Highlights? Honestly, each day was a highlight in itself. "

Read More

For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.

Tour Expert

Kartikeya Singh

Kartikeya Singh
Kartikeya is a keen photographer and naturalist. He has worked as a consultant with award-winning BBC series- Natural World and Planet Earth - with over 300 days of filming under his belt. His guiding skills have been nationally recognised with an award given for the Best Lodge Naturalist in 2010. In the capacity as a researcher, he has written for many publications, as well as eight years of field research including the Earthwatch research team. Specific to Gujarat, he has worked for many years in the field or research and education, monitoring the ecology and biodiversity of both Gir National Park and Little Rann of Kutch. This makes Kartikey the perfect expert for this tour.

Enquire about this Wildlife tour:

Group Size:

Min 6 / Max 13

Tour Expert:

Kartikeya Singh

Departure Date (S):

  • 29th November 2019

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